Intergenerational Q&A with Michael Cammarata, Co-founder and CEO of Schmidt’s Naturals
I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Cammarata, Co-founder and CEO of Schmidt’s Naturals, the fastest growing plant-based personal care company. Cammarata is on a mission to change the world through health & wellness, and innovations that impact the environment. He reflects on the intergenerational relationship that’s influenced his entrepreneurship, business and life the most. Below is our conversation:
1) Intergenerational relationships traditionally focus on people who are “skipped”, non-adjacent generations like grandparents and grandchildren. Have you had someone in your life from a different generation who greatly inspired you?
I was incredibly close to my grandpa. In my youth, I struggled with Dyslexia, which as you can probably imagine makes everything as a kid much harder than it already is… learning, fitting in, etc. My grandpa motivated me to do things differently; not to accept the traditional way of things and to be innovative
2) What is something you enjoyed doing with the person? What did you learn from him or her?
My Grandpa lived such a full life. Even before I was born, he had an amazing work ethic to follow. Something that always made me proud was his time served in WW2 on the USS Hornet. He used to skip lunches to help his fellow soldiers, draw Disney characters for them to send home to their families. Not only did his work ethic move him up the ranks, but his drawings received recognition from Walt Disney, who wrote him a letter thanking him for his service.
When I think about our time together, what stands out the most is gardening. My Grandpa grew his own herbs, veggies, and fruits. He taught me how to plant seeds, nurture, and grow different plants… dig in and get my hands dirty. I felt a true sense of accomplishment and ownership seeing something come to life from start to finish. Not only did these serve as great business skills that I still carry with me today, but those early days in the garden have given me my passion for sustainability and bettering the earth.
3) How has this relationship continued to impact you? Is there something you do or a motto you follow in your personal or professional life that came from that intergenerational connection?
My Grandpa’s mentorship and guidance has shaped my entire career… my curiosity in business, my founder’s mentality, and as an entrepreneur to be different and take chances. The motto: Never live outside of your means.
4) Is there someone in your life now from a younger generation in which you have a special reverse-mentoring relationship? What types of experiences do you share together?
There’s no one in particular that I share this bond with from a younger generation. However, the reverse-mentoring dynamic hits very close to home. My Grandpa suffered from a stroke and I spent a lot of time during his recovery helping him relearn basic skills and functions. It felt surreal having the roles reversed. This experience, and my relationship with him overall, has greatly influenced my spirit in wanting to help others and give back
5) How do you encourage intergenerational relationships in your family, business or community?
I’m passionate about bettering the world… but I know I can’t do that on my own. I realize that the power to make serious change is in the hands of the next generation. I’m not talking about Millennials… I mean Gen Z. It’s their time. With Schmidt’s, I hope to reach them in ways that influence them to make better choices for the world as a whole. Through Schmidt’s I want to give Gen Z the platform to inspire change. It means a lot to me when I can help someone on the business track or getting started in a new career with some sage advice. Younger and younger, kids are starting to do amazing things. Smart & world-changing ideas don’t discriminate against age or schooling — and I want to help empower them on their path to greatness.
6) Is there a book, movie or piece of art that has reminded you about the importance and power of intergenerational inspiration?
Hands down… Jane, the documentary about iconic environmentalist and researcher Dr. Jane Goodall. I’ve grown up in awe of her. She proves, across age, geography, race, we can all come together and have the power to change the world. Bringing that same intergenerational influence to Schmidt’s, we partnered with Dr. Jane Goodall to spread awareness about wildlife and environmental conservation, as well as give back to the Jane Goodall Institute.
7) How can our readers follow you and learn more about your work?
Follow the impact Schmidt’s is making on the world at @SchmidtsNatural on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and blog, The Natural. Subscribe to its podcast, We Tried Wellness. I recently shared my entrepreneurial journey on the show, listen here.
And to stay in touch with me, follow @MikeCammarata on Twitter and Instagram.
It was a pleasure to interview Mike Schmidt because I am a big fan of Schmidt’s Naturals! I regularly give these wonderful products as gifts to my multigenerational family members because they are high quality — and work extremely well. It was a joy to learn more about the impact his Grandpa had on him, especially because gardening was a featured theme in our monthly How2Guide series. For readers who are interested, click here to download a Free How2Guide Sample.