My Library and Courses
Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Reinvent Your Life

Gary Walls' poor health forced him out of teaching so surprisingly he became an entrepreneur who built a strong company.

Key Question:


Gary had to re-invent his life.  He was happy coaching but his health wouldn't allow him to be around all the germs that young people bring into school.  He had always loved cooking up dishes and sauces made of local fruit so he started a business to share his creations with others.  

Search for more on the topic of startup and start a business and click on the question for more answers.

Think about it

What would you have to change to start your own business?  Do you have savings?  Would your family provide positive emotional support?

Clip from: Trailblazer Foods

Portland, Oregon: Employing over 60 people, in this episode we take you from the source -- beautiful berry fields throughout Oregon -- to the finished product. For his success in building a business and for championing the export of Oregon's wonderful fruit, The Small Business Administration named Gary Small Business Person of the Year for Oregon.

Sometimes our show becomes a tribute to a life well lived. When we taped this show, Gary had physical limitations. He paced himself. But in August 2001, Gary died and left this wonderful legacy to his immediate family, his family of employees, his family of customers and suppliers, and his largest family, the world. Surely you will see why by tasting value, you also have an after-taste that profits many. For Gary Walls, it is a taste that is tangibly intangible. It may first be in the taste of the berry; it is also in a taste for life's greatest blessings.

Trailblazer Foods

Gary Walls, Founder

17900 NE San Rafael
Portland, OR 97230
503 666 5800

Visit our web site:

Office: 503 666 5800

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1985

Reinvent Your Life

GARY: I had been a teacher, trained to be a teacher and a coach, and I had done so for 20 years. At the end of my 20th year of teaching, I had a kidney failure, and my sister was nice enough to give me a kidney, loan it to me. And two years later, I had a transplant, and it gave me a new opportunity in life. And being on rejection drugs, it was difficult to go back to teach because of my immunity and being around people. So I expanded on my other sideline, which was growing berries and making jellies and jams, and I began to expand this business of Trailblazer Foods in the last 12 years.

HATTIE: You have to take medication for the kidney transplant to keep working. What are some of the downsides of that?

GARY: I've never thought too much about the downsides because the upsides are so tremendous. I mean, the upside is I'm here, we have a business, I have a wonderful family. I have a great life. That's the upside. The downside is that you tend to get skin cancers; you have a very low immunity and tend to get infections, tend to be tired sometimes. And so there are side effects. But, I mean, I think all of us need to look at the positive side, and the positive side is I have 12 years of a gift of life that I would not have had. I have a business; I have wonderful people working here. And everything about my life is great.

HATTIE: So you were doing the thing you loved, teaching and coaching, and the doctor said, `You can't do this anymore.'

GARY: Right.

HATTIE: What was your first thought?

GARY: My first thought, I was very depressed. I loved teaching, I loved coaching. I loved working with kids and young people and hoping that something you did made a difference in their life. I also was realistic to know that I had three sons, they were going to be going to college and that I had to move into another direction and not be thinking in a negative way but thinking in a positive way, what is it I like to do. And I like to work with berries; I like to do this kind of a business. And so I moved into that type of thing and put my energies into a positive approach to what I wanted to do.

HATTIE: But you didn't go get a job.

GARY: No, I never have had a job. I've always just been paid for what I like doing, and, you know, teaching was--people say, `Well, that's a job.' And I can say, `It's not a job if you like it and you get paid.' So I've really never had a job, 'cause I've always liked what I've done. But, no, I didn't have a job, but I had a dream and had an idea and I believed in what I did and my family believed in me because I think over the years the things I have done in terms of my work have been successful. And so they believed in me, and it made it easy in support for me to continue on.

Not a member yet? Learn!  Be empowered! Join us!