Mark Walinske – Margo + Lola

So, what’s your story?

I grew up in Michigan and mainly in an area that was also home to Hemingway. When I wasn’t sailing, windsurfing or skiing, I was flyfishing. For over 50 years I’ve been seduced by flyfishing having started at age 10 under a larger-than-life grandfather who insisted I try it. Having moved to Minnesota in my early adult life and also having had a cabin in Wisconsin for many years, the Driftless region was always familiar to me as a fly angler.

Tell us about what you do for work or your business, and how long have you been doing this?
For over 40 years I’ve been deeply involved with start-up and turnaround businesses challenges having been a 4X CEO, 6X Board Member, 12X executive and consultant to over 36 companies. I’ve started companies including a successful non-profit and had for +10 years been imaging an “adventure based” business that my wife and I could collaborate around given our respective strengths and interests.

We opened Margo+Lola in mid-2022 as a boutique and beautiful place to teach flyfishing and be a convenient gathering place for business meetings and social get togethers.


Tell us about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career with your business.
Having worked with dozens of tech or health-based organizations and various non-profit organizations, the non-profit (CycleHealth) that I founded and eventually sold to the 5th largest YMCA in the US and Margo+Lola, have been the most significant embodiment’s of success given the impact they’ve had on people.

Tell us about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive.
Perspective and context are the “things” that afford me the ability to work more effectively. The word “no” is also a strategic element that is often overlooked by many people I’ve managed or consult to. Too often, people can’t seem to see the difference between productivity and activity because they’ve not discerned what should be an outcome.

Tell us about one person that you’ve met, that stands apart from the rest, or has influenced you while here in the Driftless.
The six neighbors surrounding our School have been influential because they’re simply nice people filled with integrity. They’re trustworthy, they’re interesting and they’re kind. What else is there?

How would you describe yourself?
Adventurous, standard-setting, curious, creative, industrious, playful.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
Not messing up our four kids too much as they make their way to adulthood.

Have you read any good books?
Yes. I have four next to me at all times. Everyone should read Sapiens and Das Kapital.

Who is your personal hero?
Duane Abata, Dave Stark, Elmer Miller and Joel Johnson.

Do you have a life philosophy that you live by?
Be kind and regularly ask if you own things or if things own you.

What do you like most about yourself?
I’ve been blessed with self-esteem and strength to help others.

If you could change the world, what would you change?
Greater acceptance of our differences.

What do you think is the meaning of life?
Love the Lord God with all your heart and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Do you prefer working alone, or do you like working with others?
Yes (that’s a joke)

What’s something that no one would guess about you?
I’ve had a FM radio show for four years and I’m only left-handed when I write.

What is your deepest belief about life?
Love is a verb

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
On a river

If you could be doing anything, anywhere right now, what and where would it be?
Exactly what I’m doing now.

What’s the one thing you wish you could have a do-over for?
Avoid my 1st wife.

What’s one thing you’ve had to overcome in your life?
Lots of little things.

How do you handle being in a bad mood?
Get fresh air. Its the cure for everything.

Who is the most important person in your life?
Marcia, my wife.

What did you learn about yourself from any of your previous relationships?
Don’t lose your identity to anyone.

What is your favorite music?
70s rock, alt, jazz

If you weren’t here running your business or doing the work you do, what would you be doing instead?
College professor

What is your favorite season in the Driftless & why?
Fall, the colors and temperatures

Tell us of an experience /memory you had with Driftless lakes, rivers or waterways?
Every time I step into a river with a guest of our School. It’s always a different river every day.

Is there any place in the world you have been that reminds you of, or is similar to the Driftless?
Parts of Europe, parts of Northern CA, parts of British Columbia, parts of Northern MI

What are some of your favorite places to eat here in the Driftless?
The Kitchen Table, Prescott

If you were to tell a friend to come and visit the Driftless Area, and they ask “Why” … What would you tell them?
It’s the “wine country” equivalent for world class flyfishing

Are you a Cat or Dog person?

Are you an Early Bird or Late Owl?
Neither, I’ll stick with Monkey

If given the opportunity, would you go to outerspace?

What color socks are you currently wearing?

What skill or instrument would you like to learn or play?
Sculptural welding

What 1 message would you put in a bottle?
Love is a verb

Tell us a short joke or punchline.
Why did the raccoon cross the road? Cause it could.

I Would Rather …
Live on a small boat

By – Mark Walinske