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Blue Collar Millionaires: Climbing to wealth one rung at a time

Even from a young age, Glenn Fedale Jr. knew how to make profits go through the roof.

"When I was like 9 or 10, I started buying sodas at the local market," Fedale recalled. "I'd get a pack of 12 for $3.00, and I'd sell them for 50 cents each in front of my house. I'd make a $3.00 profit, and that was big money for me."

Growing up in Wilmington, Delaware, the oldest of 10 siblings, there was a constant need to hustle. Fedale's father worked as a print salesman, and his mom stayed home to raise the large family. His parents lived paycheck to paycheck. And while the family never wanted for food on the table, they also never had a lot.

"Clothes were always hand-me-downs from older cousins. Sneakers were always worn till they had holes in them," he said.

Yet it was this lack that drove Fedale to want more.

"I always wanted to develop a freedom from financial worry. ... I was always coming up with something new to make money," said Fedale, whose personal net worth is currently estimated at $60 million.

Well before Fedale's profits went through the roof, though, he went onto the roof—literally.

I just wanted to get ahead. There's nothing more uncomfortable than just getting by. And so to get ahead, you got to try harder than anyone around you.
Glenn Fedale
owner and president of G. Fedale Roofing & Siding
Glenn Fedale, owner and president of G. Fedale Roofing & Siding

When he was about 12, Fedale started cleaning gutters. "I was making $25 dollars a house, and I could do three houses a day. Sometimes I'd have to lug that giant ladder half a mile or more to get to the house, but as long as I'd make $75 that day, I didn't care," he said.

At 14, Fendale said he went to work for his uncle John, who had a small roofing company. He said the job was brutal, working all day during the summer in over 100-degree heat, tearing off roofs and putting them back on. However, there was one thing that did appeal to Fedale: his uncle's lifestyle.

"He had a decent house, a motorcycle, a truck, and he was doing maybe one job a week and sometimes not at all during the winter months. I thought if I could get more people under me, then maybe I can have even more money. Maybe ... have a lifestyle that was even better than his."

When Fedale was 18, he started night school at Delaware Technical Community College, where he studied accounting and business management. He worked during the days roofing, while supplementing his income on weekends cleaning hospital floors. "I just wanted to get ahead. There's nothing more uncomfortable than just getting by. And so to get ahead, you got to try harder than anyone around you," he said.

Sweat equity

After working for D. Shinn, a commercial roofing company, for four years, Fedale decided it was time to start his own business.

"I had worked my way up through the ranks, so I knew all aspects of the operations," he explained. "I was scouting jobs, doing the blueprint takeoffs, ordering material, finding the labor, setting the cranes up. … All this stuff, and I got the real know-how on how to bid on jobs and make a profit."

With D. Shinn he was doing mostly commercial work, but for his own business, he decided to start out by turning instead to the residential market. His first client: his girlfriend's mom, now his mother-in-law.

"I can remember the endless hours he worked from sunup to late in the night sometimes, and the off night he was compiling estimates, typing them up and mailing them out as well as billing for the business," said his wife, Laura, adding, "He was always working on something to further his business."

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The first year was challenging, working long hours to drum up business and struggling to get paid. But it was worth it—Fedale's sweat equity generated roughly $350,000 in gross earnings for the first year.

After the first year, the company consistently grew 20 percent or better annually. By its fifth year, the company was earning roughly $4 million. Today the earnings figure has reached $16 million and is still growing, Fedale said.

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That success has allowed Fedale to expand his investing beyond the roofing business and grow his net worth to $60 million.

"As you develop more, you see more opportunities arise," he said. "There's an excitement to watching a new business grow, whatever the business. It's a new challenge, and you never know what doors will open next."

Starting in the early 2000s, Fedale began investing in real estate—he had 20 rental properties by 2008 and now has more than 150 rental and commercial properties. He said roughly half of his $60 million net worth is from real estate, 30 percent is from the roofing business, and the rest is spread across a number of additional investments he has made.

A family man with three kids, Fedale counsels his own children on the art of the hustle that has served him since he was a kid selling soda cans and cleaning gutters and hospital floors.

"I tell my kids to work harder and smarter than anyone around you. Whatever it is you're interested in, just don't set limits. Always strive to do better and you will," Fedale said.

Tune in Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. for "Blue Collar Millionaires" on CNBC.