101: Blair Kellison: Paying it forward with the CEO of Traditional Medicinals

Blair Kellison

Blair Kellison, CEO of Traditional Medicinals, is a self-proclaimed “MBA Granola-head”. In 1995, Kellison, a former CPA with Ernst & Young and Brand Manager at Nestle, walked into 19th Street Natural Foods Co-Op in Los Angeles and his life was forever changed. He realized that just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that you like it, so he took a 70% pay cut and went to work for a vegetarian food company that he believed in. 

Kellison became conscious of the fact that the highest and best use of his talents were to get these wellness products introduced to the public. Marketing something he believed in was what drove him to transition to the natural foods space. Blair was tired of mediocrity and says, “Once you get yourself into a meaningful job you can’t go to something that’s not meaningful ever again.”

On this exciting episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, Blair Kellison, CEO of wellness tea company, Traditional Medicinals, shares his thoughts on pursuing a career of purpose and meaning. Blair brings us through his journey of working for some of the largest companies in the world to working for smaller companies that offered him purpose and meaning. He tells us about the importance of great stewardship and servant leadership as companies transition from founders to non-founder CEOs. Listen in as he discusses brand authenticity and equitable supply chains in the tea industry. Blair’s story should remind each and every one of us that our WHY should be more important than our subject matter, title, or paycheck. Are you ready to be challenged and inspired? Let’s go!


What You Will Learn:

Blair discusses the dynamics of TRANSITION between founders and non-founder CEOs. Founder must let go while the new CEO must realize they stand on the shoulders of all the work that’s come before them. The focus for the new CEO should be on Respect, Stewardship, Servant-Leadership, Trust, Honor and Integrity.

Blair shares his KEYS to SUCCESS in building a world-class team. People want to know work for a company that knows its WHY. Blair believes that workers are most engaged when their skills and passions are aligned. Having a forward-thinking, sustainable business model that is enriching the world is attractive to workers.

Blair talks about BRAND AUTHENTICITY versus the competition. Traditional Medicinals, the 4th largest and also the fastest growing tea company in the United States, has gone from being on the shelves at funky, local food co-oops to Safeway, Target and Walmart. Everyone in the tea space has come out with a line of wellness teas to compete with them, but consumers recognize their AUTHENTICITY and WHY above the competitors.

Blair believes that consumers today should demand that every product they buy is coming from a company that has an EQUITABLE SUPPLY CHAIN. The company focuses on connecting “both ends” of the supply chain – the family who’s growing the lemongrass in Guatemala and the lady buying it at Whole Foods in America. Traditional Medicinal invests $2M annually in their supplier communities including 5 schools that they own and operate in growing regions.

Blair gives advice for young people on living a PURPOSEFUL LIFE. Get out of your comfort zone, do things by yourself, travel, find ways to figure out who you are and what’s important to you. Align what you do with your career to what you like/are passionate about. It’s not about subject matter expertise, it’s about personality: Courage, kindness, humility. 

Climbing the Corporate Ladder:

Blair Kellison has had the fortune of working at one of the largest financial services companies in the world (Ernst & Young), the largest food company in the world (Nestle) and in several entrepreneurial environments. He learned how to run a business from these experiences, but he didn’t learn about authenticity, purpose or personality. He didn’t learn servant leadership. The WHY wasn’t strong enough.

Finding a Better Ladder:

In 1995, he made the best decision of his career by taking a pay cut and trading in the corporate life for a business development position at a mission-driven, all natural food company. He made this move to align his skills and experience with his passion for living a healthy lifestyle. For Kellison, the last 20 years working for mission-driven, health and wellness companies have been the highest and best use of his skills and experiences.

His focus now is on being a humble, servant leader working in service to the organization. As CEO, it’s not about how smart he is, it’s about making smart decisions and providing strong leadership. He is able to make smart decisions by hiring people who are smarter than him in their areas of expertise and then listening to them.

Kellison is passionate about helping others find their passion by encouraging them to align their passion and their skills.

Links to Additional Resources:

E-Learning Course

Be sure to check out Mark’s new e-learning course here. Mark has a free PDF that gets you started. He’s also got an assessment tool designed to help you achieve your goals.

Free 10 Question Assessment: https://www.findingyoursummit.net/assessment/test?id=1