Blair Kellison entered the health and wellness industry to promote the organic-food movement. He joined Traditional Medicinals, headquartered in Rohnert Park, 11 years ago as chief executive officer. “At Traditional Medicinals, I get to be part of a truly innovative social business model, which promotes social and environmental sustainability,” he says. Kellison grew up in Indianapolis, Ind., and currently lives in Petaluma with his wife, Laura, and their two daughters. He enjoys spending time with his family, whether it’s watching movies, playing games, hiking or biking.
What’s your favorite Traditional Medicinals tea flavor?
If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Spend more time with my wife and daughters.
During family movie night, what snacks are a must?
What’s your favorite food to cook?
Pizza on the grill is my best dish. But, you really don’t want to eat anything I cook, unless you’re my kids and you have to.
What remedy for curing the common cold works best for you?
TM’s Gypsy Cold Care and TM’s Breathe Easy together every four hours—it’s an herbal version of Sudafed.
What was the most recent compliment you received and savored?
A thank you for career advice from someone who said I was able to identify and articulate his skills better than they could themselves.
What books have made a big impact on you?
I learned more from the seven Harry Potter books than most any business book. Professor Dumbledore is a profound wizard with words to live by. There are 300,000 books on leadership listed on Amazon. Don’t bother to read any but these four: The Goal (a true classic that is 30 years old); Good to Great and Built to Last, both by Jim Collins; and The Invisible Leader, which is about having purpose to be the leader of your company. I remember everything about these four books, but can’t remember anything about the other 100 I’ve read.
What’s one of your hobbies?
Any kind of exercise: hiking, running, biking, skiing, swimming. And I love to juggle with my daughter.
At what time of day do you feel your best?
Early in the morning.
What is your favorite style of music and how often do you listen to it?
I’m 57 and I still love 70s light rock—I run to it thinking somehow I’m still 18 years old! (I can hear my family cringing now.)
Of all the tools and gadgets you own, which one do you most enjoy using?
My iPhone, of course.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was always curious about how everything worked. At every step of the way my primary goal was to learn. I never set out to be a CEO, that’ for sure. I interviewed for a marketing position in my late 30s and the recruiter said the company was also looking for a CEO, and I’d be better suited for that position. I said, “Really?” I’ve been a CEO for 20 years now and enjoy it and feel lucky and honored to be in that role.
How many foreign countries have you visited?
Sixteen. Italy is my favorite as my mom is 100 percent Italian, and I have so many relatives there. Cuba was the most interesting, and the Cook Islands are most special because my wife, Laura, and I honeymooned there.
What’s a favorite memory with your grandparents?
My grandfather was born in Italy in 1891 and lived there until he came to America at age 30. His stories of growing up in that time period and in that country intrigued and amazed me my whole life. He never went back. He died at 99. That same year, I turned 30. To honor him, I went to Italy on my own to meet his extended family and they gave me a hero’s welcome—I was the closest they had come to seeing him since he left—it was one of the greatest moments of my life. I have returned many times over the years and now know many of his relatives quite well. It would make him happy to know that.
If you could look into the future to find out one thing, what would you want to know? Did we have the courage to address climate change with the magnitude of effort that is needed?
If you could own any sports team, which one would it be?
A minor league team of any kind—those are the hardest working athletes in any sport—they literally chase their dream every day.