A Colorful Passion
By Shweta Karikehalli | Photography by Mary Grace Johnson
Lisa Waterfield is many things — a mother, a small business co-owner, a problem solver and a nature lover.
Originally from Alexandria, Va., Lisa relocated in 1996 to Central New York to be closer to her family. Since then, she’s spread her wings as a wild bird enthusiast. Lisa and her husband, Adam, own Wild Birds Unlimited in Fayetteville, which has helped bring song, color and life to local backyards for the last 11 years.
Prior to moving to the area, Lisa worked for a public accounting firm and government health care contractor. When her daughter, Sarah, was born, Lisa became a stay-at-home mother, and taught Sarah how to identify different wild birds in their backyard. Their un-manicured, vivacious backyard was the perfect habitat for unique species of birds and other fauna to make their homes, and the Waterfields welcomed all of them.
“We discovered that when you offer everything they need to live — shelter, water and food — they feel welcomed, so they stay, and they imprint on their young to stay,” Lisa said. “If you’re dedicated to providing what they need, it really does bring beauty and entertainment to your backyard.”
Lisa never thought she would be the co-owner of a wild bird supply store, but when she and her husband saw Wild Birds Unlimited was for sale, they realized it was an opportunity to combine their interests with a business venture.
Initially, Lisa worked from home, doing paperwork and bookkeeping. As her daughter grew, Lisa began to work in the store and take on more responsibilities.
These days, Lisa has hit her stride as a small business owner, juggling many different roles at once. Much of her day is spent talking to customers about birds they’ve seen or want to attract in their yard.
“My favorite part about owning the store is being able to solve my customers’ problems, such as their issues with squirrels getting into the bird feeders,” Lisa said. “Seeing our customers thrilled because a suggestion we gave them worked makes me happier than anything.”
She notes that it hasn’t always been easy to balance work-life with home-life, and admits to feeling the societal pressures that working women sometimes face. However, outside help from family and friends has helped ease the burden, she explained.
“I think any woman that works has a certain sense of guilt. I felt guilty when I was home and things were falling behind at the store, and vice versa,” Lisa said, explaining the importance of a good support system, and referencing her father’s help in particular. “It is hard, but you just have to choose what needs to be done every day, and realize that there is always tomorrow.”
For Lisa, work-life and home-life do overlap, in a sense, since she and her husband co-own Wild Birds Unlimited. It’s not always easy to run a business with your significant other, but Lisa and Adam have a cohesive partnership, which has helped project the business forward.
“I like the fact that Lisa and I have the ability to spend time together and collaborate. We both have different interests and focus in the store, and I think we bring out the best in each other,” Adam said. “Working together allows us to nurture and grow our business. We share together in the store’s triumphs and challenges and that only brings us closer.”
Lisa is most inspired by seeing wildlife attracted to her yard as a result of products from Wild Birds Unlimited, she said. She recalls the time she saw 50 cardinals in a tree one winter, and how humbling it was to see the bright blue plumage of an indigo bunting. She’s even seen a pileated woodpecker in her yard, which was especially remarkable since these large birds are fairly elusive in upstate New York. She’s always had a strong fondness for the natural world, but believes her appreciation and urgency to protect nature peaked when she moved to Central New York.
“I’ve always loved nature, and I love living in such a wild, beautiful area,” Lisa said. “I even believe that our working at this store has instilled a deep love of nature in my daughter, who is really interested in all things environmental.”
As for future plans for Wild Birds Unlimited, the Fayetteville location keeps the Waterfields more than fulfilled, Lisa said. They had considered opening another store in Clay, but for now, their focus is to fine tune their current store, provide the best possible service and help others appreciate nature just as they have.
“We want to grow the business, to make our customers happy,” Lisa said, “to show them that there is beauty in their backyard and that we are here to help enhance it.” SWM
Wild Birds Unlimited is located in Towne Center, 314 Towne Drive, Fayetteville. For more information, visit fayetteville.wbu.com.