Kern Schumacher and Morris Kulmer have had the entrepreneurial spirit since their early childhood.
Kulmer bought used cars for $50 when he was in high school, later selling them for $75 to support himself.At age 12, Schumacher bottled and sold rubbing alcohol to drug stores. When someone from the Food and Drug Administration found out that a 12-year-old kid was selling this to drug stores, the federal government shut down his operation.
At age 16, Schumacher started buying and selling railroad ties, grossing approximately $50,000 in sales in less than one year. Shortly thereafter, Schumacher took on a partner who was more than twice his age.
Today at age 50, Schumacher is chairman and chief executive officer of A&K Railroad Materials Inc., which he founded in 1958 as A&K Ties. The company was incorporated in 1966.
Kulmer has been Schumacher's partner since 1969. Kulmer, 52, operates as A&K's president and chief operating officer. The two men met when Kulmer came to Utah to establish the first regional distribution center for General Electric's major appliance division.
They became very good friends almost immediately, and Schumacher offered Kulmer a job. When he decided to accept the job, Kulmer's boss at GE asked him if he had lost his mind and offered professional counseling.
Together they run one of the leading suppliers of new and relay rail in the United States. A&K maintains the largest inventory of rail and track materials in the nation.
Kulmer gives all the credit for the company's success to Schumacher.
"I've got the best partner in the world. It's easy to be successful when you create an environment where people can be a part of a winning team," Kulmer said.
"Kern's the entrepreneur; I just let him do what he thinks is best for the company, and he's usually right."