Te’Lario Watkins II is all about growing, and he’s wasted no time doing just that. Only a few years after trying out his first mushroom kit, he and his family are running a business out of their home, selling shiitake and oyster mushrooms at local farmers markets, grocery stores, and even a hospital. And he’s written a book. Word is spreading fast about this young mushroom farmer and his family, and Skype helps them spread that word—and keep Te’Lario in touch with mentors who help him succeed as a young entrepreneur.
When Te’Lario was seven years old, he experimented with growing plants in Cub Scouts. He thought it was incredibly interesting—and didn’t want to stop. The seed was planted, so to speak. “I wanted to grow something in the wintertime,” he says. So, he asked his mother, LaVanya, what they could grow during that season. She had a solution: mushrooms. They can grow even when it’s cold and dark.
They purchased a grow kit from Back to the Roots and grew so many mushrooms that they couldn’t eat them all, so they decided to take some to a local farmers market. They needed a vendor’s license and insurance, so they thought, “Why not just make this a business?” Te’Lario was proud to be a Tiger Cub Scout, so from that they derived the name. And Tiger Mushroom Farms was born.
Now that the farm and the business are in full swing, Te’Lario and family are focused on networking. They understand the importance of this crucial side of any modern business. Skype provides a great platform for them to connect and network—and for Te’Lario to receive advice and encouragement from mentors who inspire him.
“The first mushroom I ever grew came from a mushroom kit. My parents bought it from a company called Back to the Roots, in California. I loved growing the mushrooms and wanted to work with the company,” says Te’Lario. “I interviewed for the Brand Ambassador position by Skype. Now I’m their Junior Brand Ambassador. We have used Skype to talk about growing my business and about speaking engagements.”
He recognizes the importance of face-to-face interactions, which is why he uses Skype video calling to connect with fellow mushroom growers, entrepreneurs, and mentors. “I just love being able to see my mentors and their offices, or wherever they use Skype,” he says.
He’s even made a television appearance thanks to a preliminary interview over Skype. “For my first interview with the Steve Harvey producers, I did it on Skype. I talked to the producers and then showed them where I grow my shiitake mushrooms. They were amazed!” says Te’Lario.
And the producers were right to be amazed. In just a few years, Te’Lario’s mushroom farm has really taken off. The book about his incredible journey, Te’Lario’s Amazing Mushroom Farm, describes the hard work he and his family put in to grow their business into the success it is today—and Te’Lario hopes to do a Skype book talk about it someday, to inspire other children to achieve their dreams too.
Part of Te’Lario’s formula for success is that he sets his goals high, and with good advice from inspiring mentors, and the help he gets from his loving and enthusiastic family, he can afford to set them high. “My goal is to expand my business,” he says, “and sell my shiitake and onion soup mix all over the world.”
To anyone who believes in values like dreaming big and setting your goals high, Te’Lario is certainly an inspiration. With his family, and with the mentors he connects with over Skype, Te’Lario and his amazing mushroom farm continue to grow.
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*Images courtesy of Tiger Mushroom Farms.