No. 1 Must-Have: Making an impact.
Estefania Roa, president and owner of L.B. Hall Enterprises Inc., and founder of Hola Happy Foundation, has spent her career building a ladder for those behind her and living by her one “must-have”: making an impact.
Roa’s background is different from many in the industry. She became a mom at 15 and never had the opportunity to get a degree. But she drove herself to take classes on everything from financials and insurance to administration, human resources and payroll, plus anything else she’d need to know to run a business. She is also a certified business and personal coach.
“[Becoming a mom] actually gave me strength and a reason because I had somebody that depended 100% on me moving forward,” Roa said.
Roa believes in the power of people sharing their own testimonials and accomplishments and leading by example. “I think that’s helpful in encouraging these girls to overcome the fear of a stereotype that has been created in previous generations,” Roa said, “by breaking barriers as women and not just speaking about what we’re capable of but showing what we’re capable of.”
Her foundation, Hola Happy, was founded with these goals in mind. “The foundation focuses on personal growth, coaching and mentorship, and it also encourages young generations to just find different pathways to improve themselves, and self-love, which I think is a very strong topic in this stage of life for younger generations.”
In Hola Happy’s five-year lifespan, it has granted educational scholarships to more than 10 single mothers and teenagers, opening doors to resources in Mexico, Peru and Colombia, according to Roa’s nominator Marie Lazzara, public relations manager for JJR Marketing. The foundation has also formed partnerships with mentors who provide coaching on different topics, and distributes books to girls in low-income neighborhoods in Mexico who do not or cannot attend school.
Roa has incorporated similar strategies in her work at L.B. Hall, including collaborating with local organizations to work toward diversity and inclusion, sponsoring scholarships and mentorships for underrepresented groups, and supporting training programs.
Of course, as the industry progresses, change can sometimes mean obstacles. Roa recognizes the new efforts to build sustainably as a challenge — making everything more expensive and requiring more research. Project delays and cost overruns have also been significant challenges she has noticed. And, like many following the COVID-19 pandemic, Roa has also been navigating the change to remote work. Though it has made planning, communication and execution easier, according to Roa, it has also worsened the labor shortage and made training that much more difficult.
One big hope that Roa has for the future of the industry is the improvement of cash flow, allowing subcontractors to reinvest money into other projects. “We’re right now waiting on a 60- to 90-day period for each project, and that’s the best-case scenario.”
As for her accomplishments, Roa has recently worked on many high-profile projects like museums, casinos, hotels and even some work on Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs, and she gained many important clients. However, she considers her biggest accomplishment to be her team. “They’re here all the time with me. They’re the ones who see my moments of frustration and suffering. And they’re the ones who have been here to celebrate my achievements, whether they’re small or big. That’s the treasure for me ... finding good people who care about me,” she said. “I could not imagine if they were not here.”
Even though Roa has had her share of challenges because of her age, gender, language barrier and education level, she says she doesn’t like to fixate on them — and she recommends others do the same. “There are different scenarios and situations I decide to put aside because I don’t like to victimize myself. I like to focus on what I can do to change that,” Roa said. “We must fight and try to see what is possible.”
As for how she would advise newcomers or emerging professionals in the industry, Roa simply recommends pushing through. “It’s not easy, but don’t give up. Just keep learning, keep showing up.
“It has taken me a great deal of focus and effort to achieve everything that I have. It has been a long journey, one that is still ongoing, and it’s in a face of growth and continuous growth that I had to bet everything on myself because at times there wasn’t anybody who would do that, who would believe that I was going to be able to make it,” Roa said. “So, I had to do it for myself.”