A New Spin on agriculture: Kenehans diversify with Chem-DryWritten by Saige Albert
Laramie – Paul and Nell Kenehan began raising cattle when they were young and didn’t even know each other. Years after they met, Paul and Nell leased the ranch Paul’s folks owned near Laramie and took over raising commercial cattle when Paul’s parents got older and thought about retiring.
Paul and Nell eventually bought the ranch in January 2015.
“I grew up on this place,” says Paul. “We’ve always had cows.”
Their commercial cattle are an Angus-cross cow/calf herd. They start calving their own cattle in mid-February, continuing calving until the end of May with a herd of leased cows.
“Most of our calving of the leased cows is in April and May,” he continues. “This is the first year we’ve taken on leased cattle on a seasonal basis, but with the opportunity to lease good ground and add to our program, we had to take the chance.”
Their cattle weigh around 1,200 pounds.
“A good cow can wean as close to her body weight as possible with the least amount of input and less feed,” Paul says. “They have to keep in good condition through the winter, so they don’t have to fight to survive.”
He adds, “We are an old-school operation. Everything we do is done on horses. We run very traditionally.”
Adding an enterprise
While the cattle are run traditionally, the Kenehans have taken a less than traditional route to diversify their operation.
“Nell and I purchased Chem-Dry several years ago,” Paul says. “At the time, Nell was working as a nurse, and I was driving a school bus. We were trying to make our operation work financially, and this opportunity opened up a doorway to work for ourselves.”
Previous owners of the business offered the Kenehans the chance to buy them out.
Paul notes, “It is a sound business that has been in place since 1977, when it was founded. Franchises are individually owned by people in the community under the parent umbrella company.”
Chem-Dry, a company focused on cleaning carpet, upholstery, tile and stone, utilizes natural products with no soaps or residues.
“Chem-Dry is an environmentally clean company,” explains Paul, noting that the process is “Green Certified.” “The solutions we use don’t contain phosphates, detergents or toxic chemicals.”
The cleaning agent they utilize is similar to sodium bicarbonate, and the cleaning process uses only about 25 percent of the water that other cleaning companies utilize.
“In our cleaning process, we inject the bicarbonate at 250 degrees into the items we’re cleaning,” Paul explains. “When we heat up the soda water, it bubbles faster, which pulls the dirt out.”
After the dirt is removed, continued bubbling of the cleaning compound allows carpets to dry more quickly. In fact, Paul says they can clean a house in less than three hours, and floors are typically dry an hour later.
“When we clean, we remove 98 percent of allergens from carpets and upholstery and 89 percent of airborne bacteria,” he says. “Overall, this is a good, clean product that is good for our environment.”
Diversifying the ranch
Chem-Dry provides the Kenehans the chance to grow their ranch while also diversifying the operation.
“We are able to really balance the two operations,” Paul says.
Chem-Dry is a seasonal business, he continues, adding that the busy times at the ranch are opposite the demanding periods for Chem-Dry.
“During the winter months when we have to spend more time with the cows and calving, Chem-Dry is traditionally slow,” he explains. “In late April, May and June, as summer gets here, Chem-Dry goes really strong.”
By the time they are transitioning to fieldwork, the cleaning business slows down.
“Our ranch and Chem-Dry have really fit together like a hand and a glove. We didn’t think it would, but we have made it work well,” Paul says.
Paul also comments that he enjoys owning Chem-Dry because of the benefits they see through working with the people involved.
“The franchise owners we know are a lot like the farmers and ranchers I’ve met in the ag industry,” he says. “We are a team and a family. When someone needs help, the others are always there with suggestions.”
The company has 3,500 franchises in the U.S., with a network in more than 50 countries worldwide.
He also notes that they are working to promote a positive image for their positive product.
“Chem-Dry is similar to ag in a lot of ways,” he says.
Paul also notes that they can take a more hands-off approach to Chem-Dry since they have trustworthy employees who are actively involved.
Since first purchasing the business, the Kenehans have expanded to include new territories, and they have built strong relationships with the agriculture industry through the company, as well.
They clean a number of guest operations and ranch houses, as well as urban homes and businesses.
“As a producer in the agriculture industry, one of the things that stands out in my mind is that we are concerned about keeping the land, as a whole, safe and clean. We are concerned with what we put into our animals, and we want to keep our ranch business as green as we can,” Paul says. “With our cleaning company, we do the same.”