MDI Man’s Family Business Supports Next Generation

Doug Ernst
Western Region

David and Therese Walrath purchased a printing business almost 30 years ago in the county where most of her family lived and looked forward to supporting their young family of two boys through the American dream of owning their own business.

When the boys were very young, they would be paid a few cents to sweep up at the end of the day; over time, they were paid actual wages to help run the place.


“We went on deliveries, cleaned the bathroom for 20 cents, and as we grew older, got paid a fairly decent hourly wage to clean the presses,” son Nicholas recalls. “It was a good experience to see how a business runs, seeing the changes that happened in the industry and being part of that environment.

“I came in at least once every weekend with my dad, and would often stay late on Friday nights. I learned what it takes to get things done, which is so necessary in a small business.”

Through a consistent process of practicing excellence and being innovative, Walrath grew the small local business to have international and national clients in several smaller niche markets that kept the business thriving while other more traditional printers disappeared.

“We are the models for our children. They look to us when they are trying to see how to do their lives.”

“Two or three years ago I started thinking about transitioning,” said Walrath. “Our two sons had grown up in the business and had worked in it, so I asked them both if they were interested in buying it. Matthew said ‘no,’ and Nicholas said ‘not now.’”

A year or two later, Nicholas had married and was attending graduate school at the University of California at Davis.

Walrath told Nicholas he was going to start talking seriously to people about buying the business. Nicholas was a doctoral student at the time and said he would talk to his wife, and they might be interested. He saw profit-and-loss statements that were pretty impressive. Nicholas consulted with his wife Irene and came to a decision.

Said Nicholas, “I wanted to be a professor, was enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Davis, and was interested in teaching at the college level, but the prospects of doing that was not very promising and would have required a lot of moving around to multiple universities to land a tenure-track position, so it made sense to run a business in Santa Rosa.”

“Part of our decision was formed by knowing that we can have our children growing up where our families live. Both myself and Irene grew up in Sonoma county, and we have many aunts and uncles and cousins nearby.”

After a year of working in the business full time – Nicholas in management and Irene as bookkeeper – they choose to buy the business and run it themselves.

Now that he is no longer involved in running the business, Walrath says he plans to devote more time making a difference in our world.

“The boys grew up watching me in men’s work,” said Walrath, a member of MDI since the beginning, having served as a regional manager, division coordinator, division S1, training team member for Legacy Discovery and currently as team leader.

“The boys got trained in leadership in Boy Scouts, where they learned to stand in front of people and lead. They saw me in more than one men’s group at a time, saw I was concerned with the initiation of young men and went with me and other fathers and sons on trips together.”

“We are the models for our children,” said his wife, Therese Walrath. “They look to us when they are trying to see how to do their lives. The business has supported our family, but also provided the flexibility to do other things. It allowed David and me the flexibility to get involved with our community and to follow our interests in making the world a better place.”

According to Therese, her husband felt he could have the biggest impact working with men, and she was actually the one who introduced him to Robert Bly in the 80’s.

“It was hard at the beginning because he was gone so much and the boys were so small, but it clearly felt like something he had to do. To me, it was really changing his outlook by filling holes in his life that he needed to fill. It gave him a challenge that being married, having kids or running a business didn’t give him. He needed to be challenged in that way.”

It’s not hard to see that this family business has provided a support to David and Therese to successfully raise two young men who today are both business owners themselves, thriving in committed long-term relationships and successfully involved in raising their own families.

“It truly is an inspiration to know this man who has caused such a successful family, career and community,” said Bill Poon, who currently serves as Walrath’s division coordinator.  “He is admired by many in other men’s circles as well as in community organizations.”


1 thought on “MDI Man’s Family Business Supports Next Generation”

  1. One of the joys I see in David is in David’s watching Nicolas level-up the business and to innovate. The rate of growth and the nature of same has required David to be involved. Many men could not face having a son take-over and make-better a business, which had received one’s blood, sweat and tears. David glows with pride in seeing his son spread wings and soar. David is a tough task master. Anyone wanting to grow can benefit from such tutelage; the price is sacrificing ego. On the flip side, David has seen the depth and solidness of Nicolas and Irene’s commitment and has throttled-back ego and, in the process, gleans the joy of seeing his legacy expanding while he still breathes.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *