Blomquist is most recognized for his time as chief executive officer (CEO) of Spectrum Organic Products Inc. (Petaluma, CA), one of the leading producers of organic culinary and nutraceutical oils and essential fatty acid supplement oils in North America.1 Blomquist worked for Spectrum for 16 years in various positions. He was hired in 1989 as the director of sales and marketing, and in 1994 he became the president and chief operating officer (COO). In 2002, he became president and CEO.
Blomquist compares his time as COO and CEO of Spectrum to conducting an orchestra (oral communication, April 16, 2009). “Like a conductor, you have to make sure that each employee is playing their instrument to the best of their ability, and it also has to be in harmony to make beautiful music,” said Blomquist. “Employees achieving the most they can in their position is the key to having a successful organization.”
“He has the ability to conceptualize solutions to complex problems and develop a systematic blueprint to implement necessary changes,” said fellow Board of Trustees member Morris Shriftman, CEO of Mozart Inc. in Petaluma, California (oral communication, May 8, 2009). “Neil is an astute businessman in all the traditional ways. Beyond those, he has the gentle touch of a compassionate human being, and he brings those qualities to his leadership in ways that get the job done while empowering, supporting, and nurturing talent in others.”
At Blomquist’s current consulting company, Sustainable Solutions LLC, he mentors the leaders of young companies, helping them create their own harmonious, well-structured organizations. He assists companies with their business plans, finances, marketing, management, and often, after his consulting-role is finished, serves on their board and continues his support. In fact, he’s so popular as a consultant that he doesn’t even have a website for his business. He finds he gets plenty of business from word of mouth.
Jeff Nibler, COO of the sustainable seafood company CleanFishTM, met Blomquist 3 years ago when he began consulting with Sustainable Solutions (oral communication, April 20, 2009). Blomquist still advises him today and also serves on his Board of Directors. The areas Blomquist has helped him most, said Nibler, involve increasing employee efficiency as well as setting and obtaining goals.
“Neil is very low-key, non-imposing, easy to work with, and confident,” said Nibler. “He’s also very experienced in this market and has a personal passion for health and wellness that drives an individual to be just as passionate.”
ABC has benefited from Blomquist’s advisory role for the past 3 years. Many often ask him why he’s on the board of a nonprofit focused on medicinal herbs when he’s not necessarily a plant expert and has no formal training in any medicinal plant-related disciplines (he earned a BA in business administration and economics from the University of South Dakota in 1973). Though he is a long-time herb user and has a large amount of self-taught knowledge, his answer is that nonprofits, in particular, have to operate with higher-than-average business sense.
Blomquist said he hopes to see herbal medicine become more mainstream and more widely accepted amongst consumers. Blomquist himself has been committed to the movement for a long time and reflected fondly on the early 70s, when he and Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC, preached the benefits of herbs to those who weren’t quite as receptive as today’s consumers. Blomquist said, “Though there has certainly been a transformation, this movement is still in its infant stage compared to where it could be.”
“I had gotten to know Neil during a retreat of some friends in the Idaho mountains, and I was impressed by his clarity, sense of organization, and his basic gentleness,” said Blumenthal. “Soon after I had learned that Spectrum had been sold to the Hain-Celestial group, I invited him to serve on the ABC Board of Trustees.”
Blumenthal noted that, as a precondition to his acceptance, Blomquist visited the ABC headquarters, met ABC’s employees, and learned more about the organization’s people and programs. “He did his due diligence on us, and then, after consulting with his wife Monica, he accepted our offer,” said Blumenthal. “He had offers from other organizations, and I feel deeply fortunate and grateful that he made a commitment to help expand and promote ABC’s nonprofit educational mission and projects. Neil knew that ABC’s mission is an important component of the natural living lifestyle, and that herbal medicine is an inexorable trend that will continue to grow and help shape American culture in a positive and sustainable way.”
“Mark’s ever-expansive vision for ABC is well complemented by Neil’s grounded and decisive leadership,” said Drake Sadler, co-founder and chairman of the board for Traditional Medicinals®, an herbal tea manufacturer (e-mail, August 16, 2009). “Neil’s values, integrity, and work ethic are very much aligned with the tremendous good work accomplished at ABC, and his presence adds a most valuable asset to the organization. Cultivating the right directors and advisors is critical for any business, and ABC has proven again that it can attract the professional talent needed for good governance and guidance.”
Blomquist is more than just a plant-savvy businessman; he’s also a man of many hobbies—past and present. In 1974, he rode a motorcycle from Oregon to Montana to visit his future wife Monica—and ended up staying for 11 years and having 2 children.2 Though now he says he’s more of a golfer than a biker, he’s enjoyed an array of activities including skiing, hiking, fly-fishing, white-water rafting, and carpentry. He even built the first house that he shared with his wife, a 1,200 square-foot and 6-room building. A little-known talent of Blomquist, according to Shriftman, is his cooking expertise, especially his use of herbs: “Neil understands the origins of food, its growing and cultivation, and has a reverence for the land,” said Shriftman, alluding to Blomquist’s childhood farming experiences.
Blomquist’s other career experiences include 6 months spent as a professional fisherman, a year as a journalist for the Beaverton paper in Oregon, and years as a natural food store owner. In 1976, a year or so after his unplanned relocation to Montana, he and his wife, along with another Montana couple, opened Cup of Sun, a natural and specialty food retailer in Kalispell, Montana, which they operated for 10 years.
“He is a trusted friend and great consigliore on many different levels—because of our many shared intellectual, cultural, and industry interests,” said Shriftman. “The longer I know him the more I appreciate the depth of his character and integrity.”
- Neil Blomquist joins ABC Board of Trustees. HerbalGram. 2006;71:10.
- Siguel E. Interview: Neil Blomquist, president of Spectrum Naturals (SN), Inc. Essential Fats Web site. Available at: http://www.essentialfats.com/blomquis.pdf. Accessed April 15, 2009.