As the CEO and President of Neptune Wellness Solutions, Michael Cammarata takes to heart the company’s mission of globalizing sustainable innovation and making trustworthy wellness products more accessible. While Michael has been at Neptune’s helm, the company has expanded its offerings in cannabis, nutraceuticals, personal care & beauty, and organic food & beverage products. He is an advocate for plant-based, cruelty-free solutions, and a pioneer in sustainable leadership.
Before stepping into his current leadership role, Michael served as co-founder and CEO of the natural products company, Schmidt’s Naturals. During his tenure, Michael led the start-up to a successful acquisition by Unilever.
Michael has received numerous awards and recognitions throughout his career. These include: Top 25 Biotech CEOs of 2021, 2017 Executives of the Year, and the Entrepreneur 360™ 2017 Award.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I’ve always been passionate about finding greener, healthier, better ways. I believe that humans aren’t just inhabitants of our planet, but also its protectors with a responsibility to choose natural ingredients and products that inflict the least amount of harm on our Earth. I wanted to shift my career into partnerships with businesses that also reflected these values and are driven by positive social impact. This led me to the wellness space, where I’ve focused on sustainable, natural, cruelty-free products. The opportunity to lead a CPG wellness company furthers my mission, and I’m proud of my company’s dedication to environmental responsibility.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I don’t insist on a strict daily schedule because adaptability and flexibility are crucial in this line of work. Every day looks a little different. When I start my work day, I take a few minutes to assess what’s currently happening at Neptune, check on the progress of our various projects, and then I go from there. I let the company and its current needs dictate my day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have a tendency to overthink things but try to combat it by just putting one foot in front of another and executing. Step one for me is to check in with a trusted team member about their opinion of the idea. I believe that if you can convince one person of the value of an idea, it’s possible to convince millions.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Eco-consumerism and its associated push to get to net zero carbon emissions. I really think we have the potential to get there, as long as we make conscious efforts to change our approach to consumerism.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur and CEO?
Batching my daily tasks by similarity. Less switching between dissimilar tasks means that I am better able to focus on what I’m doing. I try to avoid multitasking because it’s really just rapid task switching, which I find unproductive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
A few years back, I came across the saying: “Stop giving other people power over you.” I love this advice because it’s broadly applicable to so many aspects of life, whether personal or professional. It’s important to establish healthy boundaries, stay true to your values, and avoid dwelling on the negative influences of others.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Dyslexia is a superpower. It may be labeled as a disability, and it can surely make certain tasks more challenging, but speaking as someone with dyslexia, it can also empower people to embrace different ways of thinking. It can give a unique perspective that enables you to see things differently than most people. I wish more people could see the positive potential in diagnoses of “disabilities.”
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Listen. It really is that simple. You have to take the time to listen. And not just with your business partners and employees. It’s important to truly listen to your consumers in order to fully understand not only what they want, but why they want it. When you can understand the people you’re serving, you’re able to put your company to work making their lives better.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Diversify, diversify, diversify. When you see an industry shifting, you have to shift and diversify with it. That may mean diversifying your product offerings or your employees’ skill sets (or your own skills). For example, early on in my career, I realized that my company wasn’t as successful as it should have been because our marketing was subpar and didn’t resonate with consumers. Making that shift into more comprehensive, responsive marketing allowed the company to break through this obstacle.
Additionally, you need to adapt to the market. If you’re still selling VHS tapes in the era of streaming services, your company will fail. You need to evolve to reflect new realities in the industry and new consumer expectations.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Fairly early on during my tenure at Schmidt’s Naturals, we struggled to develop an effective marketing strategy. We sent out daily emails to no avail. We finally realized that what we were doing wasn’t working, and it was time to try something new. We stopped, listened to our consumers, and collected data. That allowed us to understand our consumers better. We adapted our marketing strategy accordingly, and it helped the company’s growth. It all boils down to taking the time to listen.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Cannabis-based vitamins. At Neptune Wellness, we’re all about evidence-based formulations, and scientific research has established that cannabinoids have amazingly impactful properties, such as antifungal properties, and the ability to calm the mind and minimize stress. Currently, we don’t yet have the scientific research necessary to determine how cannabinoids may positively affect a person’s calcium uptake and so forth. Once the body of knowledge is expanded in the field, I’m confident that we’ll find cannabis-based vitamins in the supermarket.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
New AirPods! Can’t live without them.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Voice to text and text to speech software. Having dyslexia, it’s more efficient to both dictate and listen to audio rather than handling written texts. Plus, the auditory learning style suits me.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Jane Goodall’s “Harvest for Hope: A Guide for Mindful Eating.” Full disclosure: Jane is a family friend, but I’d recommend this book even if she wasn’t. Unlike a lot of doom and gloom literature out there about the environmental catastrophes that humans are instigating, Jane’s book is both inspiring and actionable. You’re left with the message that individual choice really does make a difference, and that each of us as human beings can indeed save ourselves (and save the environment from ourselves).
What is your favorite quote?
“Never let fate determine your path.” This is something my mother once said to me. Your fate is beyond your control, but fate is not something that you have to believe in. My mother believed that nothing was truly out of our control. We can each create the paths we want in life. Even when things seem to be spinning out of control, we can always find a way to get back on track. This quote helped me develop confidence that has bettered both my business and my personal life.
- Each of us must make choices that reflect our responsibility for our planet.
- Take the time to actively listen to others, rather than simply waiting for your turn to speak.
- Turn your so-called disabilities or perceived shortcomings into superpowers.
- The decisions you make determine your fate.
- Diversify and adapt, but stay true to your values.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.