Drexel Chemical Coompany
Robert Drexel Shockey grew up on a tobacco farm in Kentucky. After working for various chemical companies — including the FMC Corporation — he decided to start one himself. Operating out of his family home’s back bedroom, he founded Drexel Chemical Company in 1972, producing agricultural chemicals with a commitment to keeping costs low for growers using new technologies and production processes.
“He’s always had an interest in agriculture,” says his daughter, Leigh Shockey, who is now CEO. “I think at some point he just decided he wanted to strike out on his own, having that entrepreneur type personality.”
Her father began by developing plant growth regulators, chemicals that in small amounts promote and influence the growth, development, and differentiation of cells and tissues. His dedication to quality and meeting his customers’ bottom line proved successful, and the company expanded to produce everything a grower might need for a healthier, more bountiful crop.
“In Memphis we have seven sites on Presidents Island and one other facility,” says Shockey. “Then we have sites in Tunica, Mississippi, and Cordele, Georgia. We also have a warehouse where we hold goods for Central America and Guatemala, so we’ve grown quite a bit,” Shockey says.
Drexel Chemical now owns the rights to approximately 500 product labels: 240 EPA registered agricultural chemicals and 260 other specialty products. The company accommodates customers in every capacity, with the ability to sub-register labels with the EPA, design labels in any language using a company’s name, logo, and address, and create a whole line of products specifically for any company. Also a major supplier in the international agrochemical market, Drexel custom-formulates most of its labeled products to meet specific needs.
Shockey serves as chair of the Tennessee District Export Council. Her commitment to her community is reflected in the many organizations she’s currently serving or recently served as a board member, including the Greater Memphis Chamber, Orpheum Theatre, Med Foundation, Liberty Bowl, Girls Inc., and Leadership Memphis. She is a past president of Memphis in May and the Small Business Exporters Association. And she is a member of the Tennessee Economic Club and the Society of International Business Fellows.
With a degree in international business from the University of Tennessee at Martin, Shockey says she ran Drexel’s international department for about 20 years, before moving to the CEO position. “I’ve always worked really closely with my dad, so I think it was just a natural progression. I don’t know that I had a choice,” she explains. “My father taught me to work hard, be fair, and treat both your customers and employees well.
“The funny thing is,” she adds, “my sister is the one who went to school for agriculture, and here I am.”
Name: Leigh Shockey
Company: Drexel Chemical Company
Address: 1700 Channel Avenue
Services Provided: Manufactures and distributes more than 300 different agricultural chemical product labels including growth regulators, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, adjuvants/surfactants, and micro-nutrients, available in various formulations
How Long With Company: 28 years, 8 years as CEO
Number of Employees: 250
What makes a good CEO: “Being able to hire and retain good people is key.”