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Someone You Should Know: Refusing to fail to keep the family business going

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 4:00 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Failure is not an option for the president of K & J Trucking, Shelley Schipper.

“There were people betting that I wouldn’t be able to make it. I had people come into my office and say if you’re here next year, we’ll do business with you. But they just expected me to fail. I don’t know if that was because I was a woman or if I was second generation because both of them are difficult,” Shelley said.

Her mom and dad started K & J Trucking in 1979. When Shelley was 29, her dad died suddenly.

“He had unknowingly to me done a really good job of training me,” she said. “I think the nice thing about youth is that you’re not really smart. I don’t think I understood what it meant.”

She’s kept the company running since 1991, growing it to about 110 trucks and ignoring the people all over the nation who doubted her.

“I would often go with my husband and they would just talk to him. They would never talk to me, and so we would kind of joke about that,” Shelley said.

She said South Dakota has supported her much more than any other state. K & J Trucking is mostly a refrigerated carrier, working with clients like Smithfield and Tyson. Shelley’s two sons, Dan and Josh, hope to keep the family business going.

“It’s always been home for me, but oddly enough, when I was growing up, I never thought to work here as a career. I wanted to be a musician. I wanted to be a Harley mechanic. I wanted to work on pickup trucks,” Dan said.

But his heart led him back home.

“It’s hard to walk away from family. It’s hard to walk away from this place that you just grew up at. Every weekend you’re here. This is a constant,” he said.

K & J Trucking was recently recognized on a national scale. The company was nominated as one of the “Fleets to Watch” by the Truckload Carriers Association. Staff hoped to get into the top 20 of “Best Fleets to Drive For” but they said they’ll try for that next year.

If there is someone you think we should all know, please email a nomination to news@dakotanewsnow.com.

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