Ky Enterprises delivers quality forage
Riverton – It is not uncommon for college students to work their way through school, but Kyle Thoman of Riverton is taking it one step further – running an entire business while attending UW. Now in his senior year, the ag business major is looking at expanding after graduation.
In 2009, Thoman entered the forage business when he acquired a hay share. He soon expanded, buying out the other shareholders and marketing his product in Colorado and Texas. The young entrepreneur focused on niche markets, selling to horse stables and goat and sheep operations.
Soon after, he established Ky Enterprise and Logistics, a collaborated marketing system that connects producers and consumers of hay and forage commodities.
Choosing the farm side
Thoman, the son of Bob and Kelly of Riverton, spent his childhood on the family cattle and sheep ranch and farms in Riverton with his 11 siblings. There, he learned the ranching and farming sides of the operation from his father.
“The farming side includes the hay production and repairing the equipment,” explains Thoman. “The ranching side is more about the cattle and horses.”
Thoman, the eighth child of his family, is currently the oldest to continue with the farming side of the operation.
“When my dad went out to work, he always took me with him. Consequently, I became pretty handy as a mechanic,” he says. “I take after my dad in that way.”
“I love to get right there in the field with the forage and do the mechanicing on the equipment,” he continues. “I find myself fixing the equipment a lot because it needs to be done, but I also like rebuilding vehicles on the side.”
With practice, Thoman has mastered the balancing act of running his business while enrolled as a fulltime student at UW.
“I started out in mechanical engineering because UW does not offer an agricultural engineering program,” explains Thoman. “We make a lot of machinery to fit the operation, and a mechanical engineering major did not match up with what I was doing on the farm.”
“I switched to agricultural business and finance,” he continues, “and that has really helped my business take off. I really enjoy it, and it comes naturally to me.”
His education from UW and work ethic instilled by his parents have helped Thoman be successful in his endeavor.
“For one person, it is a lot of work,” admits Thoman. “There are so many areas that need to be covered, from production to delivery, in order to be successful. It takes a lot of work and a lot of networks to get the hay from the field to the consumer. I need to have people that are willing to take hay whenever and for a good price.”
Long hours, busy days
Due to growing schedules, Thoman runs deliveries during the first few weeks of the semester to satisfy the demands of his customers.
“The first week of last fall’s semester was really busy,” he continues. “I would go to class in the morning, run to Riverton and load a truckload of hay, drive back to Laramie, go to class again and then drive the load down to Colorado Springs, Colo. I drove about 5,000 miles that week, but I managed to do it.”
Although harvest and delivery time keep Thoman on the road, it is also his favorite time of the season.
“The best part of the business comes near the end of summer when there is not as great of a push to get things done, and I can see all the money coming in. It is a de-stressor for me,” he says. “It is really hard to see much of my progress in the summer, but come fall, I can see the fruits of my labor.”
“The summer is so brutal that I look forward to going back to school,” he laughs.
Growing Ky Enterprise
This is only the beginning for the driven business owner. Although he has faced economic setbacks, Thoman strives to develop his business further. Even the unpredictable elements have not stopped Thoman’s success.
“The cold weather impacted us more than the drought because we irrigate,” says Thoman.
“The demand has kicked up because many producers raise their crops on dry land. They are suffering down there because people start speculating hay and increasing prices. I don’t do that,” he says. “I may charge more if I bring it in and stack it, but they are actually getting more bales. This keeps my customers happy and keeps them coming back.”
After graduation, Thoman is looking to strategically expand and diversify his operation.
“Some things are going to change,” says Thoman. “The 12 to 15 hour days got me where I am, but the business is at the point that it needs to start working smarter rather than harder.”
“We are looking at doing more in commodities and brokering to help relieve duties and make time for the important things in life,” continues Thoman. “I am looking at the possibility of getting out of direct production and contracting others to manage the hay products after they are produced. I won’t be the one cutting and baling hay, but rather the one managing the process.”
Kelsey Tramp is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.