Bob Kulp grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, and he credits his early experience with shaping his views on recycling and sustainability. He is the founder and owner of Kulp’s of Stratford, LLC, a roof-contracting firm located in Stratford, Wis. The company has carved out a niche for solar projects and converted all of the eligible vehicles in its fleet to run on compressed natural gas (CNG).
Kulp, who grew up with a Mennonite and Amish background, said he became a workaholic at age 13. He always found great satisfaction in building and creating things, and thought the construction industry would be a good fit for him. In the mid 1980s, Kulp decided to make his own reality when no one was hiring in his area. “With my dad encouraging me, I started out with Conklin Coatings and branched out from there. I brought people on the team that had expertise in areas that I didn’t,” said Kulp.
Kulp’s of Stratford has been in business since 1985, working on all types of roofing, interior and exterior building envelope projects and spray foam insulation. The company also designs, supplies and installs building integrated photovoltaic roofing systems under the brand Marathon Solar Roofing. The amount of solar work the company does has grown in the past few years and it now accounts for about 5-10 percent of the company’s revenue. “Solar has contributed to our roofing business in ways that are not just volume-related,” said Kulp. “It has been huge from the public relations aspect within our community and has contributed 10-15 percent of the volume beyond what the actual solar is, just because we are seen as a leader in the industry in our area.”
Kulp noted he has always been attracted to green products and environmentally friendly work practices. “Growing up in an Amish culture, we were always into recycling and used to using everything that we could to be the most beneficial,” said Kulp. “You can say it has always been a part of my DNA.”
What attracted Kulp to solar was that it made financial sense. “Conservation and sustainability are part of a good business practice,” he said. “What we did to get started was send out a questionnaire to our e-mail database. We had quite a few responses back from people that were interested in hearing more about solar initiatives, and at that point we knew there was some interest out there so we hired a guy that had a deep industry background in solar renewable, and he headed up the solar initiative for us.”
Kulp noted the company has garnered some positive PR since incorporating solar into its offerings. “The last three years have been really been good and profitable from a couple of different angles. The fact is it created a buzz within our community and it actually got us Small Business of the Year award from the Wausau Area Chamber of Commerce. It is those kinds of initiatives that put us on the map,” said Kulp.
Wisconsin CNG Initiative
Kulp Energy Solutions is a leading advocate for the build out of CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) fueling stations and CNG vehicle use in Wisconsin. Frustrated with rising gasoline costs and the inability to predict budgets for his fleet, Kulp decided to take a good hard look at alternatives. CNG seemed to fit his company’s needs.
“With no fueling facilities in our area, I decided the best way to proceed was to get others on board and start the dialogue with stakeholders in our region,” said Kulp. “We held four public meetings in the last 14 months with average attendance of 85 people and were successful in getting two fueling stations in our area. One of them is a small public access fueling station Kulp’s built, primarily for our own fleet.”
The primary goal of the meetings was to bring unbiased information from numerous sources that have been involved in the CNG industry or have an interest in having CNG vehicle and fueling options available in Wisconsin.
Kulp noted that natural gas vehicles (NGVs) can have a positive impact on America’s air quality. Vehicles are typically converted to be bi-fuel, meaning they can run on CNG or gasoline. “New pickups are being produced this year directly from the factory from Ford, Dodge, and GM. Most vehicles can be converted, but the older the vehicle, the less miles are put on, or the higher the gas mileage, the less sense it makes to convert a vehicle,” said Kulp.
“The compressed natural gas for fleet is a way that businesses can protect their cost for transportation and can make you more profitable going ahead,” he continued. “So why not put that money in your pocket something towards something that can make you more profitable and viable in the future?”
A Striving Company
Kulp’s of Stratford has completed several projects that involved doing work on the most complex roofs in the market, including several courthouse domes, the tallest building in Central Wisconsin, a Monticello replica, as well as designing steeples. “We also once removed a steeple on a church because of structural concerns, rebuilt the underlying structure and reinstalled the steeple,” said Kulp.
Despite the economic downturn, Kulp noted the company has had its best year the last three years. “We have gotten into markets that we hadn’t tapped before, trained employees to be better equipped for the changing times, focused on relationship selling, invested in sales training, etc.,” he said.
Kulp credits a dedicated team of management and field personnel all singing from the same sheet of music for making his company successful. “We keep each other in check and have the right people on the bus and in the right seats,” he said. “We are building a great company by nurturing a wholesome and rewarding work environment for accountable and productive team players, ensuring that our clients get great results and the best customer care. We seek God’s help to positively impact our community through this mission.”
“We’re continuing the concept of conservation, renewable and sustainable alternative energies,” Kulp concluded. “The future is bright as it has ever been in that aspect of our business.”