The Black Agenda

Shark Tank’s Daymond John makes young gardener’s dream come true at Walt Disney World

Since childhood, Te’Lario Watkins II has been behind Tiger Mushroom Farms, which cultivates gourmet mushrooms and sells dry mushroom products.

The young entrepreneur from Blacklick, Ohio started his farm business at age 7 when he came home from his first Cub Scouts project and was inspired to grow something of his own. With the support of his parents, he bought a few kits to start his first mushroom crops, a venture that would become Tiger Mushroom Farms.

“Eventually we had too many mushrooms to eat, so instead of letting them go to waste, we decided to sell at farmers’ markets, and that snowballed into having my own mushroom farm business,” Watkins recalled to Point Of Light in January. “Right now, I’m working on my seasoning, so I don’t have any mushrooms, but before COVID, I had about 100 pounds per week.”

Impressed by their son’s output, Watkins’ parents retired from teaching to help in the early stages as things began to take off. He subsequently met a fellow gardener and health department administrator, Ava Johnson, who became one of his mentors when he decided to expand beyond mushrooms.

In 2015, his mushrooms landed him on Steve Harvey’s daytime talk show. Harvey and Watkins bonded. Te’Lario told the host about his mushroom farm and asked for “a zillion dollars” to launch it.

Today, Watkins is also the founder of the Garden Club Project, a nonprofit that feeds people facing food insecurities within his community. His entrepreneurial moves would catch the attention of Shark Tank investor Daymond John, who met him at Disney Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World Resort and invited him to the taping of the Shark Tank show.

For Watkins, this unexpected gesture is a dream come true.

“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity; I’m very amazed, and I’m very happy. There’s just so many emotions I can’t really put them all into words,” said Watkins during a Disney Dreamers Academy interview.

Daymond John’s unexpected visit exemplifies the impactful mentoring program of Disney Dreamers Academy. The Academy, now in its 17th year, is an annual educational mentoring program hosted at Walt Disney World Resort that gives 100 black high school children and teens from disadvantaged neighborhoods hope and opportunity.

Abu Mubarik

Abu Mubarik is a journalist with years of experience in digital media. He loves football and tennis.

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