When Kamal Yadav came to the United States from India in 1961, he had never seen snow before. Working toward his master’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Missouri, Yadav stepped out of his apartment early one snowy morning during his first semester and didn’t make it very far before slipping and hurting his back.
The injury forced Yadav to miss several classes, which caught the eye of his PhD advisor George B. Garner. Garner found where Yadav lived and went there right away to check on him. Yadav appreciated his advisor’s visit – and was shocked when Garner offered to have Yadav stay with him and his family.
“I was so overwhelmed by Dr. Garner’s generosity,” Yadav said. “I always felt like I was crowding Dr. Garner and his family. He never felt that way. He always told me that when there is love in the house, there is plenty of room. If there is no love in the house, a huge mansion isn’t enough space.
“He was and continues to be my mentor and a source of inspiration. I learned so much about life from Dr. Garner.”
Yadav has followed in his mentor’s footsteps throughout his career, especially when advising the next generation of entrepreneurs. Yadav founded Chemco Industries, Inc., a green, industrial cleaning chemical manufacturing company based in St. Louis, in 1975 after receiving his master’s and PhD from Mizzou. He was able to bring back repeat customers due to his great customer service – and a solid product. He eventually landed contracts with the federal government, which opened numerous doors for his growing company.
“It was very easy to bring back customers, as my product literally goes down the drain,” Yadav joked. “I did pride myself on providing a great product and great treatment of our customers.”
Yadav sold Chemco in 2017, and has continued to mentor numerous individuals, including multiple millionaires.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping young people start and develop their own businesses,” said Yadav, who is known to many by the nickname Doc. “People are very apprehensive to go out on their own. They go to work, they earn a paycheck and go home – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But taking that big risk and moving from an employee to an employer is life changing.
“My advisees still visit me at least once a year to chat with me. I get a kick out of it, and I always love the conversations. I get asked quite often what I’ve been doing since I sold my company. I’m honestly living the dream.”
Yadav was a 2019 College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) Column Award for Distinguished Alumni recipient, representing the Department of Biochemistry. The Column Award is the only award specifically for alumni presented by the college. The awardees include one graduate from each of CAFNR’s six divisions, reflecting the six historic columns at the University of Missouri.
“I’m so thankful for my time at the University of Missouri,” Yadav said. “MU will always hold a special place in my heart.
“This was a great honor that I’m very appreciative to receive. I met so many great people during the event, and I’ve continued to stay in contact with several of the other awardees.”
Yadav had only $15 when he came to the United States. He made the difficult decision to leave behind his wife, Sudha, and his son, Sam, in hopes of obtaining a doctoral degree while in the U.S. – a degree that he noticed all of his bosses in India had obtained. Yadav quickly learned that America held a wealth of opportunities.
“I was fortunate to receive a great education from MU and I went to work like crazy,” Yadav said. “My philosophy has always been, ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’ Things have definitely worked out – but it has taken a lot of work to get to this point.”
Yadav authored a book in 2010 on how to tap entrepreneurial spirit, “The Formula of Financial Freedom: How I Turned my $15 into Millions as an Entrepreneur.”
“My goal is to encourage those who have an entrepreneurial spirit,” Yadav said. “I want them to gain confidence and grow. Much like how Dr. Garner took me under his wing, I truly enjoy engaging with young entrepreneurs. It’s so rewarding to see them succeed.
“I owe so much of that desire to help others to Dr. Garner. He has been an incredible friend throughout my life.”