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ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Kyle Mitcheltree '17

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Posted on Tuesday, July 9, 2024

As a 29-year-old CEO, Kyle Mitcheltree '17 is carving out a name for his family business, Mitcheltree Brothers Logging and Lumber, and sparking innovation with unlikely business acquisitions in the process.

Recently recognized by Pittsburgh Business Times as a 30-under-30 professional, discover how Westminster's liberal arts education and Kyle's drive to learn helped guide this young entrepreneur to the helm of his growing company.

Did you always dream of working for the family business, Mitcheltree Brothers Logging and Lumber?

I’ve always been around the family business, working a variety of different jobs at the company through high school and during college. I started painting fences, weed whacking, mowing grass, jobs like that for my dad and uncle. At this point, I really didn’t know the lumber/logging business or the industry for that matter.

During college, I started brokering hardwood logs (facilitating deals between hardwood buyers and sellers) at the mill, and that’s when I got an initial taste of the actual business side of the industry. After learning about brokering, I moved to work in the industrial side of logging; lumber blocking – turning low-grade material into pallets and other useful items. 

Even through a good portion of my college years, I wasn’t too sure I wanted to work for the family business. I loved learning accounting, though, and so that’s what I pursued at Westminster. Into my junior and senior years of college, when I had hands-on experience in the mill and started to understand what it took to run it is when I started to think about staying with the company. Once I started learning about the industry, I liked it quite a bit, and I like the people in it, and I wanted to try to advance my knowledge of lumber and logging. In the meantime, I’ve also been learning what it’s like to run a company and manage employees, which is an entirely different element and skill set from the physical work.

How did your education and experience at Westminster help prepare you for all of the different hats that you wear as CEO?

Westminster and the people of Westminster encouraged me to be better and to do better. Being an accounting major at a liberal arts school, we did a lot of busy work and multitasking on a variety of projects, and that education helped prepare me for the multi-faceted business world.

Having the accounting background really helps me today with analyzing numbers and setting pricing for our raw material and finished product. I have a better understanding of what’s happening with costs in the course of production.

You recently have acquired a revenue stream that is rather unlikely for a lumber company to have on its portfolio. Explain the thinking behind the fireworks stand acquisition. 

My dad and uncle and I have always talked about selling fireworks as another revenue stream. So, what happened was the opportunity came about to sell fireworks on flea market property we own. Flea markets aren’t getting the crowds, i.e. revenue, that the markets did 10 years ago. In searching for additional sources of revenue for the property, we decided to add more structured buildings on site and try our hand at selling fireworks.

With the recent fireworks acquisition, what’s next for your company?

I’d like to stay curious in continuing to grow the company, but one thing that’s been repeated to me over and over, and I know that it’s true, is you have to have the right people in place working with you. I’ll always be looking, but learning from the last couple of Mitcheltree Brothers acquisitions; we’ll consider it if it’s the right time with the right people.

You and Mitcheltree Brothers have a connection to the Westminster Entrepreneurship Center. Can you tell us a little bit about that? 

One of the other kinds of wood products we work on, and it’s more of a side thing, but we do what we call live edge slabs. It's usually bigger, uglier pieces of wood or logs that we don’t really have a use for in our current production. We take the slabs and make them into table parts or we cut them for table tops. I had slabs listed online for sale and Westminster reached out to me, connecting me with a gentleman whose wife is an alum, who finishes and builds the tables. So together we contributed a walnut live edge table and a couple of other smaller stool tables to the Westminster Entrepreneurship Center.

Did you have any memorable moments/professors during your time at WC? 

Professor Jesse Ligo had a huge impact on my life as a result of my time at WC.

One other funny story from Westminster was that I had taken karate as an elective with Dr. Goldberg a semester before and I loved it. The next semester, I signed up for kickboxing, which I figured would be similar to my karate experience. Little did I know I signed up for cardio kickboxing. I was the only male in this exercise class in Old 77, and we listened to high-energy pop and hip-hop music while I worked out with my female classmates all semester long. There are (sarcastically) worse places to be for a college kid, and I was in great shape by the end of the semester!

What advice would you offer to college students interested in business and entrepreneurship? 

Find your passion and set goals in pursuing that passion. Connect with others who share your passion. Having a mentor in the same industry I’m working in helped me tremendously. It’s making connections with people in the industry, because you can’t do this job alone, that made the difference for me.

Connect with Kyle Mitcheltree on LinkedIn.