I had the pleasure of interviewing Nate Masterson, the CEO for Maple Holistics, a company dedicated to all-natural and cruelty-free personal care. Backed by an education in Finance, Nate has been able to pursue both his professional and leisurely passions by working with Maple Holistics on becoming a leader in e-commerce. Originally from Riverdale, New York, Nate now works for Maple Holistics at their headquarters located in Farmingdale, New Jersey.
1. Can you tell us about your journey to becoming CEO?.
Growing up in New York City, I had front row seats to the non-stop world of business. As long as I can remember, I was always drawn to the excitement and infinite potential that being a big-time CEO had to offer. This ultimately led me to get my Bachelor’s in finance, which is when my journey took a sharp left turn. After my graduation, I decided to take a year to travel the world and learn more about myself and the planet.
My travels eventually led me to Asia and I was amazed by what I saw. While I was blown away be the sheer natural beauty, my experience in the inner cities changed my life forever. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw in the major manufacturing hubs in many parts of Asia. The astonishing contrast between the impeccable natural sights and adulterated industrial areas was simply indescribable.
This completely reconfigured my ambitions and led me to where I am today. I decided to start a company that could offer more sustainable alternatives to the already established health and beauty brands. My hope was that consumers would be interested in eco-friendly products as long as they were high-quality and affordable. However, finding the perfect balance of these three factors took me several years until I finally launched my first product, Maple Holistics Degrease Shampoo.
Since then, we’ve seen such a positive response from consumers who are looking for responsible haircare and beauty products. Our collection now includes several shampoos and conditioners, essential oils, massage oils, and moisturizing creams. It always makes me laugh when I think how different my life would be if I never went on that trip. At the end of the day, you can’t put a price on being able to wake up knowing you’re trying to help make the world a better place.
2. What is your definition of success?
For me, success means being able to wake up every morning knowing that our products are being used every day to help people look and feel healthier. I was nervous about starting my company because I’ve always been afraid that I would sacrifice my integrity for success. I always imagined the business world being ruthless and unforgiving, but I’ve met so many genuine people who share my goal of making a positive impact on society. Success is in many ways incalculable and completely subject to each person. One of my biggest goals in creating Maple Holistics was to set up a business model where all parties involved feel good about being a part of it. Besides for responsibly-manufactured products, Maple Holistics is committed to ensuring affordable costs, sustainable production, and overall customer satisfaction.
3. Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Some of the best moments for me where during the initial production stage of the company where some of us were personally testing our shampoo and conditioners. Although we had a general idea as to what our ingredients were going to be, the exact amounts still had to be tested. For example, we wanted to personally try out our cruelty-free pet shampoos to make sure they were tear free. As it turns out, our first couple of attempts caused some unpleasant reactions until we finally got the right blend. I also remember having pretty long hair at the time and it had an unusual reaction to one of the trial shampoos. My hair became so puffy that I looked straight out of an 80’s glam metal hair band.
4. What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?
Our biggest failure was not properly understanding market trends and how to anticipate them. E-commerce can’t succeed if you’re not willing to stay vigilant with your customer strategy and market research. Nevertheless, we were persistent enough to take these failures and learn from them. Failure is an inherent component of business, but the ability to bounce back and adapt is what ultimately turns a good company into a great one. Instead of languishing in rejection, it’s crucial to take these failures and make them into opportunities for growth. This led to our push for social media listening to gain an edge on the competition and stay relevant in the fast-paced global economy.
5. What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At Maple Holistics, we are particularly dedicated to our customer relationship and willing to adapt to our consumers’ wants and needs. In addition to monitoring social media, we are constantly running Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs to effectively address the questions, comments, and concerns of our clientele.
We recently launched our most comprehensive customer outreach program to find out how to improve our collection of products. After hearing countless responses, we developed a more diverse line of shampoos and conditioners to suit a wide variety of hair types.
6. Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Yes, and we’re really excited about it. While we’ve been almost exclusively selling our products on Amazon, we are now working to significantly expand our market reach. Besides for working with other online distributors, we are also making big moves to get our products on shelves at some of the most popular brick-and-mortar stores across America. We realized that making it into the top retail stores can do wonders for brand recognition and is a major factor in being
7. Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is doing to become more sustainable? Can you give an example for each?
Our team recently launched a recycling program to expand our conscientious production and do our part in protecting the environment. In order to take a step in the direction of sustainability, we offer our customers the option to return six empty Maple Holistics bottles in exchange for a free bottle of shampoo. Similarly, our customers also have the option to exchange these bottles for a donation to an eco-friendly charitable organization. Sustainability is a major concern for us and we are constantly looking for more ways to update our manufacturing process to become more environmentally-friendly.
8. What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
It’s no easy task to inspire employees. Therefore, it’s crucial for companies to find new and exciting ways to boost morale in the office and to create a workplace culture where everyone feels invested in the group’s success.
One of the most effective ways of accomplishing this is by establishing camaraderie within the company. In order to be successful, employees at all levels of the business need to feel as if they are an important and appreciated member of the team. For this to be effective, it’s necessary to bring the office together, recognize their achievements, and incentivize further growth.
Furthermore, by acknowledging each employee’s role, business leaders can communicate that each team member has something unique to offer, and there’s no better feeling than that.
9. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been blessed to have such a great support system, but I couldn’t have made it this far without my mom. My mother has always been my number one fan while providing some of the sagest advice I’ve ever received. She always used to tell me to focus on the journey, not on the destination. What my mother meant by this is that it’s not about the top of the mountain, it’s about the climb up the mountain that matters when it comes to your career. In the immediate sense, there is only so much you can do in order to further yourself professionally. Focusing on the end game, or your ‘dreams,’ can serve to dissuade and deflate you when it dawns on you how relatively far you are from achieving all of your goals. By taking things on a day-by-day and week-by-week basis, it becomes easier to make deliberate progress without getting tripped up by things that are out of your control.
This has helped me in the sense that as far as getting too wound up in great ambition, I was someone who struggled. By learning and understanding that I need to focus on my short term, achievable goals that I can influence now, I’ll have a much easier time progressing in my career.
10. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
One of our main goals at Maple Holistics is to illustrate the possibility for companies to adopt sustainable manufacturing procedures. Although the initial costs of becoming sustainable can be high, it is most certainly worth it in the long run. While these costs are what primarily keep small businesses from responsible production, we believe we’ve found the best path to become a financially successful and sustainable company.
Additionally, we’ve adopted a healthy and effective approach to diversity that shows the importance of having a team with a variety of backgrounds. Diversity is a crucial component of success, but not in the way you might think. While many companies tend to focus on diversity just for the sake of being inclusive, diversity actually offers several critical advantages to businesses looking to prosper in today’s increasingly competitive market. In reality, by employing a staff with a wide-variety of backgrounds and distinctions, companies are better equipped to handle adversity by incorporating different outlooks and approaches.
11. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?
A) How to get out of a slump —
The first thing to do is address why you are feeling in a rut and then resolving your feelings will be much simpler. I’ve found that one of the best ways to combat feeling stuck is to mix things up at work. For some, this can mean taking on different projects or responsibilities, while for others it can mean going out to lunch or seeking advice from a trusted colleague.
Sometimes all you need to get out of that pesky slump is to rekindle your flame of inspiration. This can be done by revisiting old memories or thinking about what got you on this path in the first place. For others, especially in the marketing field, it’s helpful to look around the world for how others are revolutionizing the industry. While many of us get stuck in our inner circles, it can extremely beneficial to branch out and search for ways to become the next trailblazer in your area.
I remember being in such a slump that I was ready to totally give up on the business. My best friend suggested that we go on a pollution field trip. His idea was that we would travel around to the region’s major watersheds and test for pollutants and contaminants. The trip was so enlightening and lit the fire back in me to make a difference. The results of our tests were astonishing. This simple trip was exactly what I needed for me to realize the need for more sustainable manufacturing and eco-conscious companies.
B) Don’t be afraid to seek advice — Entrepreneurs have a tendency to try and be self-sufficient but it often does more harm than good. Similarly, many people in high-ranking positions struggle to accept constructive criticism. Nevertheless, it’s so crucial to always keep your ears open to ideas and consider advice from a variety of trusted sources. Be it from friend, family, colleagues, or other company leaders, there’s so much to gain from getting advice from external sources.
C) Leave your emotions at the door — This is a golden rule with finances at large. Too many times, our emotions become the detriment of positive money-making practices. Know your “why”. Know your reasons for wanting to save money, and work to untangle it from your emotional process. This will help you gain broader judgement and make better decisions about money. Your emotions should serve you, not the other way around. It is not always possible, but work on it.
D) Providing quality feedback is essential — Your management staff undoubtedly have a lot on their plates. Without getting positive reinforcement regarding behavior and conduct which you approve of, and negative feedback about things you feel are not okay — your managing staff has no real way of knowing what you are thinking. Ongoing feedback is (part of) the glue which keeps close business relationships going within the corporate hierarchy. Work on your feedback skills, and learn the art of providing it constructively, as a means of increasing productivity and overall satisfaction among your subordinates.
E) Be aggressive when it comes to setting goals — This doesn’t mean you need to insist on getting there immediately, but most definitely aim high. The meta-goal is achieved by setting smaller goals and working towards them while keeping the larger target in mind. This can also make up a part of your company’s vision statement, since it is all about the future which is being built in the now.
12. 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.
Although energy tax incentives already exist, I think it’s important that we do more to incentivize producing and purchasing sustainable goods. In addition to tax credits and rebates, the public and private sectors need to find a way that makes going green more financially appealing. Ideally, eco-friendly products should be given precedence at every step of the business process. For instance, the government could expand their incentive programs to include encouraging and assisting retailers, shipping companies, and even advertisers for working with sustainable brands and products.
13. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s okay to lose the battle as long as you win the war –
Starting my own business has taught me many things, especially that it’s acceptable to lose battles, as long as you’re winning the war. On the surface, this business philosophy can keep you level-headed during times of adversity because it allows you to make calculated decisions with the long-term goals at the forefront of your mind. On a deeper level, this attitude can keep you from getting sucked into the trivial details of day-to-day operations when there are more underlying issues to be dealt with. Likewise, it’s far too easy to get caught up in the natural drive to continue building and developing instead of spending more time and energy on strengthening your foundation. Like any great business philosophy, this mentality is contagious and promotes a deeply-rooted commitment to a shared goal that can effectively motivate an entire team to give it their all. It can be extremely difficult to internalize this message, but I can safely say that I wouldn’t be where I am today, without it.