To celebrate the big changes going on here at Evelyn’s Leaf Solution, we thought we’d take a few moments to chat with Evelyn Robins, founder, inventor and CEO, the most trusted name in gutter protection. When I sat down with Evelyn, the first thing I noticed was her exuberance. She has this way of lighting up a room. She laughed constantly. Smiled constantly. Joked constantly. She told the story of her business with such passion and genuineness and excitement, it was like we were discussing her child.
Interviewer: So, could you maybe talk a bit about how you got started in the gutter guard industry?
Evelyn: Well, it’s been an adventure that much is for sure. How I got into the gutter business was that my husband was working for a company hanging gutters in Richmond, Virginia, and, when that company got into some financial problems and decided to lay him off right before Christmas, we decided to go into business for ourselves.
Interviewer: What year was that?
Evelyn: The year was 1981.
Interviewer: That sounds like a pretty gutsy move.
Evelyn: I guess so. Thinking back I guess it was. But at the time, you know, we were just so excited. It was the most exciting time of my life. We bought ourselves an old, beat up bread truck and a gutter machine and, well, people just took to us. We were doing all the work together, just me and my husband. And so it didn’t feel like work. Not really. It was just… it was so much fun. We got to spend the whole day together. We laughed and laughed. At the risk of sounding corny, it was gorgeous. It really was.
Interviewer: Why do you think the customers went with you guys, this tiny mom & pop upstart, as opposed to one of the bigger companies?
Evelyn: I think it came down to the fact that what we cared the most about was our customers. We went the extra mile. Y’know, we did the small things that everyone else was charging an arm and a leg to do. We’d clean off the roofs, or fix a little chimney flashing—little small things that folks who can’t climb up on a roof can’t do. I think because of that people realized they could trust us. And, from there, y’know, it just became word of mouth. We never did any advertising—people just called and called. Eventually it was too much for us to handle by ourselves and we had to get a secretary. Someone to answer the phones—I never expected it. It was… I guess you might say it was unbelievable. I mean, we never in a million years expected it to happen.
Interviewer: But you didn’t stop though. I mean, within the span of a decade you wound up becoming the biggest gutter company in Virginia. What’s that stat—you were selling 3,000 feet of guttering per day, which, over the course of ten years, if you laid it out in a straight line, would've stretched from Virginia to Colorado?
Evelyn: That’s what they say. But truthfully, I don’t gauge things like that. For me success is making sure my customers never have to climb up on their roofs and fiddle around with their gutters ever again. If they’re happy, that makes me happy.
Interviewer: Looking around this facility, seeing how far everything has come, it kind of baffles me to think you didn’t just have this result in mind from the get-go?
Evelyn: No, more so it all just sort of happened. But it took a long time. We took things day by day, puzzled the pieces together as they came, y’know? It was like, something would come up—a crisis, a fork in the road, whatever you want to call it—a big decision would have to be made and right at that moment a new door seemed to open up and we would be like, “Oh, so that’s what we’re supposed to do!” And that would be the next step. We’d just pass right on through. It was like it was meant to be, it really was.
Interviewer: Can you give me an example?
Evelyn: Well, so in the mid-nineties, I had bought into a franchise with a prominent gutter protection company. My customers were wanting gutter guards and, at that time, these guys had a reputation for selling the best products out there. However, as time went on, it became very obvious the product wasn’t working. The mesh was failing. And we were constantly having to go back and fix things for people. I made some suggestions as to how to correct the issue, but no one wanted to listen. They weren’t interested in fixing the problem. I had no idea what to do. It was a horrible, horrible time.
Interviewer: Because you were coming from this grassroots, small-business background of trust and integrity and—
Evelyn: Exactly! It was terrible. A crossroads. I felt like I was compromising my customers.
So I had to get out of that. I knew there was a better way. So I sold my share of the company—
Interviewer: Just like that!?
Evelyn: Like that. [Laughing, Evelyn snaps her fingers.] I started over. We set to work designing a brand new product. A product that would work the way it was meant to work, something we could get behind and feel good about promoting.
Interviewer: And that’s how Evelyn’s Leaf Solution was born?
Evelyn: Exactly. We wanted to design something brand new. So we dug in. And we did the research. We were the first gutter guard company in the world to develop and effectively integrate stainless steel mesh into our design. And that was a big thing. But we knew we could do even better than that. So we worked and we tested and we worked and we tested and, eventually, what we came up with, amongst a multitude of other things, was our patented, triple-dip diverter system.
Interviewer: If it’s alright with you, I’d like to rewind a quick second. Did the decision to take the time to develop Evelyn’s Leaf Solution, did that have an effect on your business? I mean, when you debuted the new product, did your previous customers just automatically come back?
Evelyn: Pretty much. Certainly a lot of them did.
Interviewer: Why do think that was?
Evelyn: I don’t pretend to know about these things. But, I think it had to do with the fact my customers have always come first. Always. I mean, you treat people like you’d hope to be treated yourself. Y’know, like, if you’re dealing with an older couple, you think of them like, ‘what if these folks were my mother or father, how would I want someone to treat them?’ Treat your customers like that and they don’t have a reason to go anywhere else? You build a relationship. And they come to trust you. But to answer your question: when people heard that we were back in business, they started hunting us down. Immediately. It was amazing. It really was. Made you feel like you were doing something right, like you were doing your part.
Interviewer: Talking with you it’s obvious you really care about what you—
Evelyn: I love my work. I absolutely do. Always have, pray I always will.
Interviewer: Well, it definitely shows. So, if I asked you to break out your crystal ball and peer down through the smoke and mist, could you give me a hint as to what the future hold’s for Evelyn’s Leaf Solution?
Evelyn: [Laughs.] That’s good. First things first: we’re growing. And we’re going to continue to grow. I want every customer in the United States who has an interest in gutter protection to have access to Evelyn’s Leaf Solution. To make that happen, we’re in the process of revamping our website and just about everything else. We’re constantly researching new opportunities and devising new technologies and brainstorming about how we can make things better in general. You might say we embrace a model of constant evolution. We don’t like to stand still, you know? That’s no fun. But listen, really, when it comes it, I’m excited. I’m real excited. 32 years in the business and it feels like we’re only just getting started. Our goal is to continue to bring our customers the best, most effective, most durable gutter protection on the market. The sky’s the limit. We’re always getting better. We’re aging with grace.