I think a lot of first-time entrepreneurs and executives can fall into the “deer in the headlights” reaction. Stuck, frozen, motionless when confronted with adversity. DO NOT DO THIS. Keep your mind in motion, consider out-of-the-box alternatives and don’t be afraid to take advice.
As part of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Cammarata Co-founder and CEO of one of the fastest growing wellness brands, Schmidt’s Naturals and founder of venture capital and private equity firm, Random Occurrence. When Michael joined Schmidt’s with an infusion of strategy, expertise in retail and relationships, the brand was positioned for rapid growth and became a national retail sensation, ultimately leading to its acquisition by Unilever in 2017. As CEO, Michael continues to integrate innovations and grow the brand globally.
Jason Crowley: Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Michael Cammarata: I credit my success today to the approach I adopted early on in my career. I value new ideas and different ways of looking at problems and forming solutions. I suffered with Dyslexia as a child and it made it very difficult for me to learn in the traditional school system. This has ultimately shaped my founder’s mentality and my approach to problem-solving. When I was in my teens, I was introduced to the world of gaming and became obsessed with StarCraft. Gaming allowed me to develop strategy, make business connections, and influenced my career path into software and programming and eventually becoming an entrepreneur and investor. I got my start in web hosting, online advertising and generated 85M revenue by my mid-twenties. That’s when I discovered my passion for investing and growing companies to their highest potential — there’s no greater feeling in helping other entrepreneurs take the next steps toward success.
Crowley: Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.
Cammarata: I invested in a consumer electronics company that was re-selling high-end electronics. Little did I know at the time, this company did not have the right licenses to sell the sought-after electronics that consumers were looking for. In, what seemed like the blink of an eye, the company took a turn for the worst and started losing millions of dollars.
Crowley: What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?
Cammarata: When I invest in a company or create a brand, I want every team member to feel like they have ownership; that they feel involved. I’m not the type of entrepreneur to just give money and walk away, hoping for my return. I give guidance, apply strategy and work with employees on best practices. When the company succeeds… everybody involved succeeds. So, in the case of the electronics company, the “drive to keep going” was automatic. You don’t just shy away from problems. You face them head on and come up with solutions through trial and error. Make it work for your company.
Crowley: Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?
Cammarata: I think a lot of first-time entrepreneurs and executives can fall into the “deer in the headlights” reaction. Stuck, frozen, motionless when confronted with adversity. DO NOT DO THIS. Keep your mind in motion, consider out-of-the-box alternatives and don’t be afraid to take advice. When the electronics company was on the fast track to losing millions, I stepped in and took control of the company. Was it scary? Absolutely. But, by stepping in I realized that I was meant to be a leader. I learned how to break the channel system, and in turn how to protect the channel system when launching brands. I turned the company around to generate a 100-million-dollar diversion.
Crowley: Based on your experience, can you share 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Cammarata: My methodology is: detrain, empower and give guidance. I believe in molding a team that’s set for success — it’s the people you surround yourself with that will ultimately help you through adversity. Over the years, I’ve assembled a team of thought leaders and partners across R&D, digital marketing, legal, branding, packaging, supply chain, accounting, and more, who have dedicated their lives to learn and adapt when it comes to facing challenges in the workplace. By detraining and retraining your team you embed a framework for everyone to operate from. And, you want to empower and give guidance to your team to thrive and grow. Creating a culture within the company where your employees feel empowered to think strategically and make decisions is important not only for success, but during challenges too.
Crowley: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Cammarata: My family is my rock. They’ve motivated me to do things differently; not to accept the traditional way of learning when I was struggling with Dyslexia as a child, and still today as an entrepreneur. Having that unwavering support continues to fuel my confidence. You mirror who you surround yourself with. My friends and family’s support have definitely inspired me to be an entrepreneur that supports other entrepreneurs.
Crowley: Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Cammarata: Schmidt’s is steadfast in its mission to make quality, plant-based products accessible to everyone. We’ve expanded our product line to excite everyone in the family — from Kids Toothpaste to All Ages Deodorant. Now, at any age you can have access to quality, fun plant-based goods that work really well and smell really good. We also partnered with the Jane Goodall Institute for a special edition deodorant, Lily of the Valley. We are always striving to bring awareness to initiatives that we, and our customers are passionate about. Jane Goodall’s contributions to animal conservation and the environment are legendary — and through the special edition deodorant we are helping to spread that message to the masses.
Crowley: You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Cammarata: The movement that Schmidt’s has already created is one that I am proud to be part of. The passionate consumers we serve want to live a natural lifestyle that’s better for their overall health and wellness, and better for the planet. We are constantly and tirelessly working to bring consumers the next best in natural… whether that’s plant-based ingredients, cruelty-free technology, sustainable practices, etc. And, now we are working towards scaling rapidly around the world to provide even more access to our products to billions of people.
Crowley: Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?
Cammarata: It’s not enough anymore to just be a good business person, or smart entrepreneur. We as brands need to have purpose and a mission. We have a responsibility to magnify the voice and demands of our customers that will make a difference. It’s doubly rewarding to have a thriving business that people love while also making an impact on the world. Let’s use our influence to evoke change!
Crowley: How can our readers follow you on social media?
Cammarata: Follow @MikeCammarata on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Crowley: Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.