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Our Management Team

Garden geeks, free-thinkers, Harley riders, dog lovers, and deeply devoted, well-trained, passionate people.

We consider ourselves very lucky indeed to be able to work with such an awesome and eclectic group of professionals. Take a read through the bios of our talented management team to get a little more up close and personal with us.

 

Drake Sadler
Co-Founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Visionary Officer

In the early 1970’s, Drake Sadler was a community activist who believed that empowered people could change the world for the better. His mission was to promote the knowledge of Traditional Herbal Medicine, while creating fair and equitable trading relationships with the mostly impoverished people around the globe who collect and grow medicinal plants. For the past four decades, Drake has guided Traditional Medicinals through a time of incredible change, leading people to a newfound respect for herbalism.

As Drake said recently: “With the support of our health conscious consumers and the introduction of organic agriculture, we have developed a unique business strategy which reduces poverty and hunger, rebuilds families and restores their self-sufficiency, and provides economic stability in the rural indigenous communities where our herbs come from. Herbal experts from Traditional Medicinals are constantly working to improve herb quality and social conditions in these communities, but it isn’t necessary to travel to distant native villages to see that the entire planet desperately needs new social business models which are non-exploitive, free from discrimination, environmentally sustainable, nurture our spirits and serve humanity.”

Traditional Medicinals has pursued the rigorous process of getting nearly every product certified organic, and many also certified Fair Trade and now Fairwild. We’ve also built strong relationships with supply partners that affect real change.

For Drake, Traditional Medicinals is a vision realized, and after all these years, the ideals he started out with remain fundamental to the core values of the company.

 

 

Blair Kellison
Chief Executive Officer

Blair is our first non-founder CEO, which means he’s had some big shoes to fill. He took the reins from co-founder Drake Sadler in 2008, feeling called to apply his business talents to products he deeply believes in.

A former CPA with Ernst & Young, Blair received his MBA from The University of Chicago in marketing and finance, and worked as a brand manager at Nestle Foods. In 1995, he took a 70% pay cut and a huge risk that would become the best decision of his career—leave his business development position for a mission driven, all natural food company called Fantastic Foods. That bold move started him on the path of working in what he most believes in: mission driven, health and wellness companies.

Blair has a history of strong leadership in companies whose mission is to bring health and wellness to our lives. He was CEO of Alternative Medicine, a multi-media publishing company. During his five-year tenure he transformed the company from an unprofitable fledgling organization, into a high growth and profitable enterprise. Before joining Traditional Medicinals, he co-founded and helmed Natural Snacks.

Blair had been drinking Traditional Medicinal teas for many years, but it was not until a visit to the company that he realized the extent of our commitment to our employees, to our farmers and collectors around the world and to instituting sustainability and social responsibility into every aspect of its business—from field to manufacturing.

Citing our reinvention of the standard business model as inspiration, Blair is excited to inherit nearly 40 years of commitment to product quality and consumer trust, and looks forward to continuing the company’s fulfillment of its mission: connecting people to the power of plants.

 

 

Matt Crum
Vice President of Marketing

Matt came to us in the fall of 2011 with a Harley, 20 years of consumer packaged goods marketing experience and a love of good California wine. A seasoned professional who honed his marketing chops during a lengthy stint at Kimberly-Clark, Matt worked on world famous brands like Kleenex, Scott, Kotex and Depend. While at Kimberly-Clark, Matt also worked internationally in the Asia-Pacific region, started up the Marketing Center of Excellence, and led sustainability efforts for the Family Care sector. After K-C, Matt joined a start-up tissue company, Oasis Brands, and led efforts that drove 10x revenue and market share growth of the fledging Paseo brand in less than two years.

Seeking a high growth opportunity with an ethical, mission-driven company, Matt landed here at Traditional Medicinals, where he has led a transformation of the Marketing function and of the Traditional Medicinals brand. He’s also become deeply fond of our area’s wild fennel plants (always making sure to grab a handful while biking the local trails). When he’s not motorcycling, you’ll find Matt running, hiking and biking the trails and roads of Sonoma County, tasting wine, and enjoying a hot yoga class (not in that order, of course).

 

 

Katie Huggins
Vice President of Technical Services

If you want to understand Katie’s basic approach to life, all you need to do is read the bumper sticker that says, ” I am a tree hugging dirt worshiper.” Her interest in plants began in childhood, when she would spend time visiting the various plants in her backyard. Eventually, she went on to study plants through the lenses of a variety of scientific disciplines and through her work in the natural products industry.

Katie has been with us since 1997 and is definitely one of our preeminent herbal experts, as well as a key member of our management team. She has been responsible for developing our Quality Control testing laboratory and testing programs, as well as growing the QC department from a staff of 5 to 12. She’s been instrumental in our work to transition to mostly organic, pharmacopoeial ingredients. She’s also devoted time over the past number of years to an agricultural study of senna (the primary ingredient in our popular Smooth Move teas). Prior to her work with us, Katie spent a decade in the natural products industry at Celestial Seasonings and 4 Health.

Katie brings an exceptional level of knowledge and passion to her work in Technical Services, where she oversees our Quality Control, Legal & Regulatory, and Research & Development Departments. Katie’s advocacy for plants—whether that shows up in a commitment to pharmacopoeial standards, rigorous quality control processes, rational formulation approaches or sustainability efforts—has fundamentally influenced the culture of our organization and we are very grateful for her contributions.

When not in the lab, you can find Katie working in her organic garden, which she aspires to turn into a small scale farm, where she grows herbs, vegetables, flowers, fruit and nut trees on her urban lot.

 

 

Josef Brinckmann
Vice President of Sustainability

Having a conversation with Josef is like reading an encyclopedia, a map of the world and a compilation of medicinal plant history all at the same time. An extremely knowledgeable and dedicated professional, as well as one of our key herbal experts, Josef has spent the past 33 years working in the global herbal medicinal products trade. Currently serving as our VP of Sustainability, he spent the previous 15 years overseeing our Research & Development Department, where he was responsible for formulation and scientific substantiation of our products.

Josef is very active in the herbal industry and his work with medicinal herbs extends beyond the confines of our tea company. He is an Advisory Board member of the American Botanical Council (ABC), Advisory Board member of Biodiversity Watch Journal, Advisory Committee member of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP), Contributing Editor of HerbalGram (Journal of the ABC), Editorial Board member of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (JACM), member of the Medicinal Plant Specialist Group (MPSG) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC), member of the Medicinal and Essential Oils Crops Germplasm Committee (MEO-CGC), and member of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) Dietary Supplements and Herbal Medicines Monographs Expert Committee.

Josef brings an intense rigor to his work and is a passionate champion for Traditional Herbal Medicine (THM) practices as well as sustainability initiatives. These, among many of his contributions, have had a deep and lasting influence on our culture.

 

 

Janine Levijarvi
Vice President of Human Resources

Janine is a special force here at Traditional Medicinals and has, occasionally, been described as the “Keeper of the Vibes.” While the title was given jokingly, there is an essence of truth to it, in that Janine does her best to create an atmosphere where employees feel honored and respected. As she says, “It is essential that no matter what an employee may do each work day, that he or she feels their contribution is essential to the overall success of our products.”

Janine has been with us since the early 1980’s. She was drawn to the company out of her own deep belief in the time-honored tradition of using plants to restore health and vitality, which has worked wonders for her, then and now.

Her Human Resources philosophy is to cultivate a work environment that fosters employee development, teamwork and safety. She is involved in all aspects of Human Resources from job recruitment to wage increase guidelines, from guidance in the application of employment policies to interviewing and employment offers. Janine is one of those people that others just feel comfortable with, and you can often find her with her door closed, having a private chat with an employee who may need a listening ear.

When Janine first started her career with us, she envisioned working in a place where she could love her work and work for what she loves. While Janine’s greatest day-to-day rewards come from working with wonderful co-workers, she also experiences the deeper rewards of participating in meaningful work.

One day, while out in our herb garden, Janine was reminded of the gentle power of plants and plant-based products by the buzz of the hundreds of bees as they rushed from the fragrant blossoms of lavender, sage, rosemary, yarrow and hyssop. These realizations, along with helping to create a work place in which ecology, sustainability, mission and values shape the work experience, are Janine’s greatest accomplishments.

 

 

Gary Gatton
Vice President of Sales

Gary leads a life on the move. A born traveler, Gary loves being out on the road (or the tarmac, or the trail, or the open sea). In addition to the fact that he and his wife have moved 11 times since getting married, he travels well over 100 nights per year—which pretty much sums up his dedication to our purpose.

Gary started with us in January, 2013. After spending more than 25 years cultivating sales experience at national food and consumer goods companies, including a 10-year stint selling Kashi brand in the U.S. and Canada, Gary found he wanted to use that experience for a more purpose-driven business in the health and natural foods sector. Seeking an opportunity to help build and grow a business while maintaining the highest social and environmental standards, he believes that he could not find a better example than here at Traditional Medicinals.

His past positions have included leading Kellogg’s global Walmart business, leading sales for Canada and running Trade Marketing and Shopper Marketing. He has also held several positions in sales for both Procter and Gamble and Pillsbury.

In addition to traveling, he enjoys running, reading, time at his lake cottage and a nice warm cup of herbal tea before bed.

 

 

Jane Catelani Howard
Chief Financial Officer

Jane’s not your typical accounting type, except when she says things like, “numbers are our friends.” She’s energetic, enthusiastic, and eclectic, with prior experience in operations and marketing, as well as public accounting and finance. Jane is passionate about driving positive change, not only in our Finance department, but throughout all of our systems, and she’s a big fan of efficiency. We love her business acumen and her common sense approach, as well as her sense of humor. (For example, when we were discussing a new women’s tea to alleviate PMS mood symptoms, she suggested calling it ‘WHAT Mood?!”)

Jane came to us in 2013 ready for a change, seeking balance in her life. She wanted to work for a company that wasn’t merely driven by stock market dictates — one that matched her philosophy of doing the right thing for the customer and making a difference in the world. When she was growing up, her close-knit Italian family grew chamomile in their garden, so before she accepted her position with us, we had to pass a taste test – and yes, the Traditional Medicinals chamomile tea is as good as Jane’s Mom’s home-grown tea.

When she isn’t working or volunteering at her daughters’ schools, you’re likely to find Jane with her family. They love to travel to national parks, camp, whitewater raft, snow ski, and figure skate at our local ice arena, Snoopy’s Home Ice.

 

 

Scott Nakashian
Vice President of Operations

Throughout his career, Scott has worked to make people healthier. Prior to joining us in November 2013, he spent twelve years in the pharmaceutical industry. Early on, he managed the global supply chain of Novartis’ oncology portfolio. He went on to the global manufacturing group, where he worked in both clinical and commercial manufacturing roles, including head of manufacturing at the San Carlos site. Scott’s areas of expertise are in lean manufacturing, quality systems, global supply chain management, and the operational aspects of product launches.

Joining Traditional Medicinals was a great way to continue that work, and he was especially drawn towards our focus on sustainability. He is proud to inherit a “green” factory in Northern California that produces much of its energy needs through solar power, and to be part of an organization that effectively balances operational improvements with sustainable initiatives.

While Scott comes to us from the Garden State, he never was much of a grower until he arrived in California. Now that he’s out west, he enjoys growing vegetables and citrus trees in his small garden (which seems to take over more and more of the backyard each season). No stranger to hitting the books, Scott received an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and a BA in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland – making him our resident “rocket scientist”.

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