J.R. Demby, 52, isn’t one for standing still, but now, armed with state of the art technology and his woo-woo stick, he’s on a mission to conserve energy — not his — yours.
He’s the owner and driving force behind the Demby Group LLC, a company he formed in 2008 to help Kansans reduce energy loss and save on utility bills.
Born in De Kalb, Miss., Demby says the state was horribly depressed socially, economically and educationally. He’s grateful his parents had the foresight to leave in 1969 to seek a better life for the family.
After graduating from Lawrence High School in 1975 he had fun traveling a five-state area with a photography business. He then worked as a dispatcher with the Lawrence Police Department until his imagination was fired by a “60 Minutes” program about Arizona real estate.
“They mentioned real estate agents, and I thought having the job title ‘agent’ was the coolest thing ever,” he says. “I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
He joined Stephens Real Estate until Maupintours advertised for “adventurous” travel agents. He applied, was accepted for training and traveled the world.
“It was amazing,” he says. “I got to stay in the world’s best hotels, saw some really exotic places and met people from totally different lifestyles and cultures. I had conversations with one of the directors on the Manhattan (atomic bomb) Project and with Germany’s Chief Justice. It was a real education.”
Demby knew life doesn’t last forever and decided he needed to choose between gallivanting and stability. “Despite seeing so many beautiful sights, I decided Lawrence is the best place in the world,” he says. “I decided to settle down here and make a meaningful contribution.”
He returned to work at Stephens Realty for 13 years, then started his own company, The Buyers Choice.
In 2008, after nearly 30 years in real estate, he decided to do something different.
“Armed with my resume and dreamer’s view of the future, I searched for other jobs,” he explains. “After eight months and many sleepless nights, I accepted no one was hiring.”
Fate intervened. He ran into his longtime friend Rod Bremby, secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
“During a two-hour conversation with Rod my eyes were opened to the enormous opportunities in the energy world,” Demby says. “I came away with a better understanding of what each of us can do to make our homes and businesses more energy-efficient and comfortable. The conversation convinced me I could play a role in energy conservation.”
Demby obtained state and national certification as an energy auditor, started his new company and now offers domestic and business energy audits, including leak and moisture investigations.
After several close encounters with unidentified creatures in tight crawl spaces, Demby takes his woo-woo stick along on the job.
“It’s actually a 12-foot telescopic fishing pole,” he says with a laugh. “When something comes at me, I sling it out and scream ‘woo-woo-woo’ at the top of my voice. It clears a path.”