“Entrepreneurship starts with putting yourself out there. Get out of your seat, get out there and swing the bat.”
President, Kem Krest Corporation
Amish Shah sees everything through the lens of entrepreneurism … even his grade-school history lessons.
“I remember when I was 7 or 8, learning about Havilah Beardsley and the first land contract for Elkhart,” he says. “That was the deal that began to drive entrepreneurship here. This became a land of trade and economic opportunity.”
For Shah, president of Elkhart’s Kem Krest Corporation, that perspective comes naturally. He grew up in an entrepreneurial family, and showed his own entrepreneurial flair early in life.
The story starts in the 1960s, when Shah’s father, a recent immigrant from India and a graduate of Fort Wayne’s Indiana Institute of Technology, was working in New York. He met a man who suggested they go into business together in the man’s hometown. So Shah’s dad soon found himself back in Indiana, opening an Elkhart aerosol and liquid packaging company that would grow into an enterprise earning more than $350 million in annual sales.
While he was building a company, Shah’s dad was also nurturing a young entrepreneur. Amish was a quick study. His first foray into profit generating came at the age of 7 or 8, when he would pick up apples off of the ground at an orchard near his house and sell them for 25¢ a bushel. A little while later, the discovery of a stash of old greeting cards sent him door-to-door in his neighborhood, selling them for $1 apiece.
A summer spent a short distance from a high school tennis camp launched his first business with employees, as he marshalled a sales force to set up lemonade stands on various corners near the camp. That venture earned him enough money to buy a bicycle he had been coveting. When he went off to boarding school, he joined forces with another opportunist to meet a need among their fellow students: The school required each student to wear a suit and tie every day, but most of the young men didn’t know how to do laundry. So Shah and his buddy launched a laundry service.
In that venture, Shah says he learned one of his best lessons: “Entrepreneurship starts with putting yourself out there. Get out of your seat, get out there and swing the bat.”
Shah went off to college and returned to Elkhart in 1996 with a finance degree from Indiana University. He thought it would be a short stop on the way to bigger and better things. After all, he already had been offered a job with Arthur Anderson in Chicago, but his dad convinced him to work in the family business for a while.
Now, almost two decades later, Amish seems to have settled in. After Kem Krest was bought by another firm in 2005, he stayed on as president and helped build it into a $100 million company … before buying it back with a partner, David Weaver, in 2009.
While he continues to lead and build Kem Krest – a supply chain service provider for the automotive, agriculture and defense industries – Shah also has branched out in new directions. Most notably, perhaps, he collaborated with school buddy Greg Gorman to found ESGI, a company that provides technology-based assessments for grade-school teachers from California to South Korea.
Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that he has become an advocate for budding entrepreneurs, leading the charge on Lemonade Day in Elkhart and supporting the Young Entrepreneur Program. It only makes sense for a guy who got his start selling apples off of the ground and lemonade on the corner.
Elkhart County, IN Entrepreneurs