“Birding Business” By: Zach Smith
If there is such a thing as reverse empty-nest syndrome, then Mel Toellner — or Bird Man Mel as he’s known to friends, family and viewers of his YouTube channel — probably has it. Since last summer he’s stepped back from his companies’ day-to-day operations; his son, Grant, and daughter, Becky, have taken the reins of different sides of the businesses he built from a few seeds. He’s neither sad to walk away nor concerned for the transition for a few reasons. His business was built on a passion for birding, and that passion was shared with the family. Mel’s kids were born into it, the same way he was.
Mel fledged his family business sense by helping his father with his company, Toellner Tire Co., in his native Bunceton. Later, he’d find his wings as a manager of sales, development and distribution for Ralston Purina. But like so many of the birds he loves to watch and educate others about, there was something instinctive calling the young entrepreneur. Tiny seeds planted by Boy Scout merit badge work, watching the geese in Rochester, Minnesota during trips to the Mayo Clinic with his father and a birding summer camp scholarship given to him by a member of the Columbia Audubon Society all germinated in Mel’s garage in Mexico. There, the idea for a birding store that would one day grow into a company supplying most of the same kind of businesses in North America, was hatched.
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