As early as he can remember, Patrick Kelly wanted to build a business in produce. His dad grew avocados and traded orange juice out of San Diego when Kelly was a toddler.
“Since I was in diapers, I always wanted to be actively involved in my dad’s business conversations,” Kelly said. “Through the years, I would go with my dad to work throughout the country.”
In high school, he got his start filing paperwork, answering phones and picking oranges. When he wasn’t working for his father, he found ways to turn a profit by having car washes and running parking lots.
“My obsession with going to work with my dad, orange juice and fruit made it apparent that I wanted to work in the produce industry,” Kelly added.
After living in San Diego and Florida, Kelly moved to the San Joaquin Valley, where he truly fell for the industry, driving through the grape vineyards, citrus groves and the miles and miles of produce and agricultural land. His entrepreneurial spirit kicked into overdrive seeing all the potential opportunity. Kelly, his dad and brothers went to work for LoBue Bros. in Lindsay in the byproducts division.
Five years later, Kelly started Kelly Bros. Inc. in his Exeter, CA, garage in late 2010, where the company still operates, with juice and standard-grade citrus fruit being the foundation of the company.
In just a few short years, Kelly has built a network of growers and clients that operate year-round, adding grapes, stone fruit and pineapples to the list of commodities the firm handles.
Kelly Bros. has experience trading produce commodities to a large variety of processors and distributors throughout the United States.
“When I started Kelly Brothers Inc., I made a promise to myself to keep going to school,” Kelly said. “Owning my business has allowed me to join different non-profit organizations within the industry, travel internationally to learn about different cultures and globalization for the produce industry, along with taking classes throughout the day that are relevant with my everyday business activities. I thought it was appropriate to keep going to college to constantly learn more about the ever-changing world we live in.”
Education was more of a struggle than business. Out of high school, Kelly didn’t want to go to college. He couldn’t connect how his English and math classes had any relevancy with the business world he knew well. As he got into higher-level business courses, he handled it like his business of running logistics and day-to-day operations.
“Taking classes such as business law and economics helped me with understanding the economy and classes such as sociology helped me understand and react to people,” Kelly said. “When operating a business, you tend to do things your way and you like to keep it this way. College has taught me to look beyond what I think is right and open my mind to new concepts, ideas and reflect on decisions whether good or bad. Pursuing my education has fostered success with my business through strategic focus, goal implementation and innovative thinking.”
Kelly earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Fresno State in May and started on his MBA, while continuing to try to grow his business. His experience and education has led to a focus on higher grower returns by diversifying its products to several different markets with quality and integrity.
In addition to education and growing up in the business, Kelly credits his brothers for the success of Kelly Bros. Inc. He is the youngest of three, with brother Christopher serving as chief operating officer, and brother Brian handling customer service and supply chain management in Florida.
“Now even though I am 100 percent owner, I always look to my brothers and focus groups for knowledge and advice,” Kelly said. “We have focused our efforts on processing companies for fresh juices and fruit salads and have seen good success.
“We ensure successful transactions by diversifying our growing regions and managing product year-round for our clients,” Kelly added. “We understand our clients’ business models and have proven success through research and development, and year-round support. Growing Kelly Brothers over the last few years has truly been the experience of a lifetime.”