As a first-grader, Te’Lario Watkins loved growing things, and he didn’t want to stop when temperatures dropped in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
After his herbs died, he wanted to try mushrooms, which could grow inside, in the dark, oblivious to the weather. His parents, both science majors, supported the idea. “When our kids like something,” says Te’Lario’s mom, LaVanya Watkins, “they know that we fully support it—but we don’t do anything halfway.”
Within weeks, the mushroom kit they established in the basement was thriving. It seemed to double in size each day, and that got the family’s attention. None of them had experience with fresh mushrooms, they say, but they quickly incorporated them into their diet—in tacos, omelettes, frittatas, and grilled cheeses. Looking for other ways to use their harvest, Te’Lario and his family launched Tiger Mushroom Farms in 2015. Te’Lario cultivated a local following, and before long earned attention from national media. “After I was on the Steve Harvey Show, it was getting really exciting,” he says. “I thought, I can go higher and do more with this. Instead of just a hobby, I can make it something I want to do for a living. This is just part of my career, though. I also want to be the president of the United States.”