Developer Kennis Ketchum makes a habit of visiting every job site that her company, Portfolio Development LLC, undertakes, and she always brings along her pink hard hat, a gift from a contractor on her first job. Those who know Ketchum appreciate her attention to detail, whether it’s selecting multifamily sites located near schools and pecan orchards or working with her contractors to get the lighting just right. Her philosophy of building something she would personally live in shines through. “All I do now is multifamily and mixed-use developments, which I love,” said Ketchum, who is the president of Portfolio Development. “Development is the best. You get to create from scratch; not many people can envision something and actually see it happen.” The Dallas native has been professionally active in commercial real estate since 1983, but that wasn’t her intended career when she graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in psychology. Her plans to become a social worker were thwarted by the job market, and instead she landed a job at a commercial real estate firm. In 2001, she was finally able to scratch her entrepreneurial itch when she started Portfolio Development. Her niche is bringing multifamily and mixed-use developments to cities such as Temple or North Richland Hills, where quality products are welcomed and often badly needed. “We spend inordinate amounts of time looking for sites that make sense, working in second-tier markets because they really need the projects,” Ketchum said. “The city is welcoming you with open arms.” Her company—which is moving from Dallas Parkway to Uptown in late October—is deliberately small, with just two employees, and chooses only a few projects a year. “Part of that is because a woman tends to get more into the details of projects than most men, and it shows,” she said. “How many guys spend their weekend shopping for a rug for the clubhouse? I even use coupons for things.”
Ketchum’s zest for life spills over into other areas, as well. One of her favorite places to travel is San Pedro in Belize, but she always is heartbroken by the number of stray dogs on the Caribbean island, where she was told that the animals were poisoned once a year in efforts to control the population. Ketchum began working closely with the island’s new veterinarian and the SAGA Humane Society. She’s helped coordinate fund-raisers and matched funds to educate the locals about spay and neutering options and to make it affordable for them. She’s been known to rescue a dog from time to time in Dallas, but feels she can really make a difference in San Pedro and maybe help replicate the efforts in other locales. When she’s not saving animals, Ketchum is indulging in another passion for good food and wine. She and friends have created a Suburban Iron Chef competition where two chefs, using a budget of $100 or less, must create a buffet for 10 using a surprise ingredient. Judges are impartial and the parties often draw a crowd of up to 100 foodies. The idea has even morphed into a Suburban Iron Woman competition with the ultimate goal of motivating 50 ladies to focus on fitness. She’s dabbled in writing, penning a book about her father, a World War II pilot who later took her along when he flew in air shows. Ketchum is also involved with the Rotary Club in the Park Cities and Commercial Real Estate Women—Dallas, where she is chairwoman of CREW’s community projects committee. Her leadership in CREW and in the community hasn’t gone unnoticed, said Alison Amis, managing director of CREW Dallas.
“Kennis is dynamic because she manages a great balance of work as a successful business owner, and she leads a full personal life,” Amis said. “She gives back to her community, she’s a risk taker, and yet she manages risk with a very high attention to detail and organization. She’s a big role model for young women.”