Northern Virginians of the Year 2017: Steve Gotschi

I strongly believe that a company should give back to the community they serve,” says the founder of DryHome and Loudoun Lyme Run.

Steve Gotschi
Photo by Jonathan Timmes

Thirty years ago, Steve Gotschi was homeless, living in his truck and repurposing laundry from his trash bags of belongings as blankets.

“I guess I’m too proud of a guy to ask for help,” he says.

Eventually, Gotschi was hired by a roofer who was looking for a roommate. Today, he is a homeowner in Leesburg, father of four, owns a roofing company in Sterling and manages an annual Lyme disease charity run.

“People, they always talk about rock bottom. That was my rock bottom,” Gotschi says, who worked his way out of six weeks of homelessness. “I never considered myself smarter than anyone else, and I think in business, a lot has to do with working hard and timing.”

The son of a Swiss father and Peruvian mother who met when they were studying English as immigrants, Gotschi grew up in nearby Vienna and developed an interest in construction in high school. In his early 20s, he held three jobs simultaneously: working on roofs, delivering pizza and loading UPS trucks.

Money was tight, and Gotschi had no health insurance; he was forced to pay for his first son’s birth out of pocket. He needed a stable job to gain custody of his young son from his then-girlfriend and decided to bet all his chips on roofing. With no formal business training, Gotschi opened DryHome Roofing and Siding in 1988. “I was a sponge,” he says, often turning to business colleagues and trade magazines for management advice.

About 10 years ago, Gotschi’s wife was suffering from chronic fatigue and pain that doctors struggled to diagnose. After she ultimately learned it was Lyme disease, Gotschi responded by creating a fundraising event for awareness and research, the Loudoun Lyme Run.

“She went to 10 different doctors who had no idea,” Gotschi says. “I didn’t want to see anyone else going through what she went through.”

With more than 1,500 runners and walkers from 15 states in the 2016 event, the Loudoun Lyme Run is now the largest of its kind in the country and perhaps the world, Gotschi says. Since 2011, it has raised more than $250,000 for the National Capital Lyme Disease Association, and Gotschi hopes it will eventually go national.

DryHome now grosses $4.5 million per year, and for more than a decade, it has donated a free roof to an individual or organization in need. The Free Roof for the Holidays program began when Gotschi donated the labor on a roof for one of his son’s Boy Scout troop house.

“The following year I just said, ‘You know what, this is such a nice thing.’ We decided just to pay for the materials and labor from then on,” Gotschi says.

“I strongly believe that a company should give back to the community they serve,” Gotschi says. “It also builds character for my kids. They see the hard work, and they see what becomes of it.”

(June 2017 Northern Virginians of the Year)