CEO and Entrepreneur Michael Cammarata On His Journey to Acquisition, Despite Dyslexia

Michael-Cammarata
Michael Cammarata, CEO of Neptune Wellness Solutions and the co-founder and former CEO of Schmidt’s Naturals.Courtesy Image

When he was a kid, Michael Cammarata, who is now the CEO of Neptune Wellness Solutions and the co-founder and former CEO of Schmidt’s Naturals, enjoyed playing video games. It was the Sci-Fi strategy game StarCraft that paved the pathway to his success, and the reason Cammarata made his first million dollars at the young age of 13.

“My neighbor introduced me to StarCraft, a strategy-based video game when I was only 11 years old,” he says, adding that the game inspired him to learn how to “program and build” things, including his first computer. “I soon started spending 40-80 hours a week playing the game, building websites, software programs, and message boards.”

The Long Island native, who will turn 34 by the end of this calendar year, fell deep into the digital world, creating websites geared toward videogamers and eventually hosting his own servers. His new hobby provided a positive outlet from the negativity he faced at school. “I was a misunderstood kid,” he explains. “Dyslexia put me behind my peers. My teachers often told me that I wouldn’t succeed. I was told my problem-solving processes were wrong — even though my answers were always right. That kind of treatment can alienate a kid and break his confidence.”

When Cammarata was 12 years old, he learned his older brother was hiding secrets from their parents, so in exchange for $2,000, he agreed to keep his mouth shut. He used the money to launch his own web hosting company, EzzHosting. However, when his sites hit five million unique daily visitors, and he began to monetize them, his brilliant plan was exposed. “By 13,” he says, “I was a millionaire.”

The businessman didn’t stop there. Before turning 25, he was onto new ventures, moving from technology to entertainment and signing the boy band, Big Time Rush (a foursome of teen heartthrobs including Kendall Schmidt, James Maslow, Logan Henderson, and Carlos Pena Jr.), who went onto star on the Nickelodeon television series of the same name.

Fast forward to 2013, when Michael, tired of the services industry, founded Random Occurrence (formerly KM Organics Fund), a venture capital firm, to invest in companies he was passionate about. In 2014, after meeting his future business partner, a Portland mother selling homemade all-natural deodorant in a jar at farmers’ markets, he said: “My advisors — and some of my friends — said I was crazy, but I saw potential.” After looking
in other brands, Michael invested in Schmidt’s, formed the company Schmidt’s Deodorant Company LLC, and started as CEO and co-founder in 2015. “At that time, the brand only had 5 SKUs, but I knew with a little capital and good leadership, we could do it. Consumers wanted natural deodorant, and the industry was ripe for disruption.”

Within two years of his investment, Michael had completely reformulated and rebranded the product into a stick which eventually hit the shelves of Target, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Urban Outfitters, and Costco, and most recently, pop star Justin Bieber partnered with the brand for a sensitive-skin version of Schmidt’s deodorant called Here + Now. His startup was acquired by Unilever in 2017.

“As an entrepreneur, one must always approach new ventures with an open mind,” Cammarata, who became President and CEO of Neptune Wellness Solutions this July, told Entrepreneur.com. In his first quarter as CEO, Neptune, a hemp processor specializing in wellness products, acquired SugarLeaf and has become one of the largest cannabis extractors in the U.S.

As Cammarata looks toward the future, he hopes to continue making progress with like-minded individuals. “I’m passionate about bettering the world,” he says, “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.”

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