An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Sports and Exercise — Testing your body and mind in sports and exercise make you practice Grit without the consequences of failing in life. If you test yourself in basketball, soccer, boxing, or martial arts, you’re putting your body and mind under pressure and desensitizing it to pain, failure and overthinking.
As a part of our series called “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jorge Olson.
Jorge Olson is the co-founder and CMO of two publicly traded companies, Hempacco, ticker symbol HPCO, and Green Globe International, ticker GGII. Mr. Jorge Olson was born in Tijuana, Mexico, without running water or electricity, hurdling buckets of water across a block several times per day. Now, Olson is the author of business and inspirational books, as well as an authority on consumer packaged goods, beverages, and wholesale distribution. His partners are super-entrepreneur Sandro Piancone, Cheech and Chong, James Linsey, and Rick Ross.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about the events that have drawn you to this specific career path?
The business path was chosen for me out of necessity, you see, when you don’t have water or electricity and you see your mother and grandmother work all day, your brain starts thinking of solutions. At first, my solution was to go to school and be a CEO. I know, a long shot for a kid growing up in Barrio Cuatro in Tijuana, but in my brain, the way out was to be a CEO. Why a CEO? Because the poles to bring electricity to the house cost $1,000 each, and I also had to pipe water in, as well as pavement for the ugly dirt street. When the minimum wage is sixty dollars per week in Mexico, I figured a CEO could make enough money to bring utilities to the house.
Besides channeling CEO energy, I also started exploring the art and science of influence, which later fueled my love affair with marketing. After I made it to VP of marketing and later CEO of software companies, I decided to go solo and pivot form corner office executive to start-up entrepreneur. My first company was a wholesale distribution and consumer goods company in San Diego with five hundred accounts, most of them convenience stores. The best practices from software, jumping into consumer goods and twenty-five years of experience prepared me to launch two public companies with my partner Sandro Piancone. They are called Green Globe International Inc., ticker symbol GGII, and Hempacco, ticker symbol HPCO. Sandro and I rang the closing bell at Nasdaq last September.
Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First, can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Oh wow, I’ve had some interesting experiences. From growing up in a bad part of town in Tijuana, half a dozen kidnapping attempts, commuting four hours to college, and seeing my mother studying in the middle of the night at candlelight to finish her degree. I will elaborate on a more recent story, which is a pandemic story that nearly ended our idea of disrupting tobacco’s trillion-dollar industry before we even started.
My friend and co-founder Sandro Piancone and I started a brand of hemp smokables called The Real Stuff, selling CBD-rich smokables targeted at early adopters of hemp cigarettes. I developed the entire experience myself, from the box to the branding, it’s my baby. Sandro and I incorporated it under the name Hempacco and got ready to go out and visit distributors to get sales and book investor meetings for our funding. After the very first meeting, the pandemic hit and we couldn’t get any appointments, since travel was banned. We almost closed the company before it even got started.
To survive the pandemic, we decided to start selling white-label and private label hemp cigarettes, but nobody wanted to travel to our San Diego manufacturing facility to see us and see our factory. These moments are when entrepreneurs have to think out of the box. For us, we started online video marketing, and I recorded daily videos of manufacturing and product development. My main platforms were YouTube and LinkedIn — I used YouTube because of the Google keyword and ranking, and LinkedIn because C-level decision makers are active on LinkedIn. Sandro and I also invented a Hemp Expo in San Diego, and to our surprise, we got buyers to fly in and visit us. They always told us “I wanted to meet the crazy video guys in person.” Our videos were quirky, funny, and informative. This is how we survived the pandemic.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I don’t expect things to be hard. I always keep a positive attitude. However, the road to success is often sprinkled with obstacles of all shapes and sizes. Taking HPCO and GGII public with Sandro was no exception. Mindset is key for executives and entrepreneurs, and our mindset is always to jump, dig under, and sometimes go straight through obstacles. When Sandro and I sit down to discuss all the problems and the crazy things that happen to us, we never complain. We always laugh and make a plan to overcome them.
The drive to continue when things get hard is not natural. You need to cultivate it and change your perspective on problems, business, and life. For me, it all started in my childhood. When you have to haul buckets of water more than a hundred yards multiple times per day at ten years old, you start building grit. Tough times can take you down or they can develop a drive to succeed. I’ve always felt like an underdog, especially in business. Coming to the USA as an immigrant wasn’t easy. I had to live in a self-storage, I got deported, and I even spent the night in a classroom because I didn’t have two dollars to get back home.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
After cultivating grit for years, my businesses were a perfect outlet to unleash it. GGII and HPCO are by far both mine and Sandro’s largest undertakings. For starters, it’s not normal to have two publicly traded companies, especially when one owns the other one, as GGII is the major shareholder of HPCO.
Grit allows me to see large problems as a personal challenge and a privileged opportunity. In other words, I use perspective when using my Grit. My new problems are overcoming the public markets, naked shorts, getting funding, and increasing sales. Before, it was surviving the pandemic while staying safe. All of these problems are wonderful, especially when my old problems were getting deported, helping my mother and grandmother get out of poverty and retire, and to bring electricity and water to our rural house in Tijuana, all while staying safe from kidnappings, narcos, and violent crimes. In my mind, my current problems are a privilege, and I can’t wait to tackle new, hard problems as an entrepreneur, and as my life long calling as a missionary. My missionary work started when my mother would take me to orphanages at five years old, and now, I would like to bring shelter, clothing, and food to all of the orphanages in my home city of Tijuana.
Based on your experience, can you share your “5 Things You Need To Know To Develop More Grit”?
Here are 5 Things You Need to Know To Develop More Grit, from Jorge Olson, co-founder and CMO of Hempacco, ticker symbol HPCO, and Green Globe, ticker symbol GGII:
- Change your mind — Start by changing your mindset. Positivity has to be your modus operandum.
- Read 52 books per year — this will start changing your mindset and give you more confidence in your decisions.
- Sports and Exercise — Sports and exercise are some of the most important things you can do to develop grit.
- Develop an Exoskeleton
- Don’t Overthink, Just Overact
Here are some examples:
1. Change Your Mind — Start by changing your mindset, or the way you see yourself and your environment. Mindset is the way you perceive reality, so change your reality by changing your mind. How do you do this? You start by understanding that your mind is elastic and can change. Your brain is filled with webs of connections between brain cells, and they can change and mold your thinking and emotions. Let’s hack your brain by giving it new information. In the next point you’ll get one way of doing it, with books, and then with sports and exercise, but if you’re not convinced this is what you want, you’ll never change your mind. Change your mind in success and failure, money, relationships, and everything that makes you and others better. Start with language, remove “no” and “can’t” from your vocabulary. Instead, think and talk about what needs to happen to achieve the goal or idea.
2. Read 52 Boks per Year — This comes out to one book per week, and yes, you can read more than that. Is it possible to do this? Do you have time? Yes. Reading and studying is a priority and a must to achieve grit and bend your mind. The other grit developing points all depend on bending your mind to your will, and for that you need lots of information. Fortune 500 executives reed at least one book per week. The most successful entrepreneurs, artists, and the smartest people I know read at least one book per week, probably more. The other points in this exercise allow you to grow your mind, however if you have a bigger brain, you need to fill it, and waiting around for experience will not do it.
3. Sports and Exercise — Testing your body and mind in sports and exercise make you practice Grit without the consequences of failing in life. If you test yourself in basketball, soccer, boxing, or martial arts, you’re putting your body and mind under pressure and desensitizing it to pain, failure and overthinking.
4. Develop an Exoskeleton: When you want to scale your business you’ll fail multiple times, you’ll be rejected, and you’ll hit several walls. This is a normal process in scaling fast, and the faster you scale your business, the tougher you need to be. You need to develop thick skin, so think if it as turning into an exoskeleton. You can’t take things personally, and you can’t let your emotions lead the way to success. Your emotions have a place. They are the fuel that propels you forward, not the one that wants to fight back or give excuses.
5. Don’t overthink, just overact — Life is not perfect, and you shouldn’t try to be either. Accept your behavior and that of others and work with it; apply this to business and in life. I see a lot of paralysis by analysis in business and in other achievement goals like writing a book or changing jobs. In business, if you want to grow exponentially, get investors, or go public, you can’t overthink, you can’t control. You have to have a “good is good enough” attitude and move on to the next goal or problem. The great Steven King says he’s never published a book without mistakes; this single sentence helped me publish and edit more than fifteen books. I always tell potential authors “It’s not how many books you write, it’s how many you publish.” At the moment I have five unpublished books, and it drives me to do something about it.
You want to open or grow a business? Go ahead and do it, develop Grit with the steps above, and get the confidence you need to get investors and grow exponentially. Do you want to write a book or become an artist? What’s stopping you? I bet it’s all in your mind, so bend it!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people in my life that helped me that we can chat about forever. From my mother to my wife, teachers, business partners, and friends. One of my friends would lend me money for college, another would take me home from San Diego State to Tijuana, and the list continues. However, when it comes to Grit, Christian Hoffman gave me a truckload of it in a very short amount of time. My friend and mentor Christian hired me out of Tijuana and took me to Germany, showed me work ethic, and Grit, as a matter of fact, he’s the toughest person I’ve known in my life, a larger than life six foot four German, an executive in a software company, former butcher, and business superstar. He catapulted my business career from poverty to CEO in less than a yar. How is that possible? Well, this is why he’s the man!
I met Christian in San Diego while teaching him Business in English in a language school, and we became great friends. After hanging out for a summer, he offered me a job in Germany. This was my shot, and everything else I’ve done was a result of that shot. This was not only an incredible opportunity to work, but to fulfill my lifelong dream of traveling in Europe.
“You’ll be the first one in and the last one out,” Christian told me. I did everything he asked in the business and exceeded his expectations when I came back to the USA and broke the software sales record in my first quarter. He exceeded my expectations in everything, including monetary compensation. Christian gave the shot to make my dreams come true, retire my mother and grandmother from working all day, and even allowed me to travel. To top it all off, he gave my wife and me, both working for him, brand new company cars and a company apartment in Germany, and then in Coronado and in La Jolla in San Diego.
My friend Christian died in his early fortys, a tragedy for his family. My wife and I called him one of our best friends, and sixteen years later we’re still grieving. I still get tears when thinking or talking about Christian.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This is the best question ever! I believe entrepreneurs have an obligation to leave the world better than how we found it. This can be making a difference in your family, company, community, and yes, why not, the world. My partner and I are serial entrepreneurs, and we’re also social entrepreneurs, we take on projects that have the potential to change the world.
Sandro and I currently run several companies, two of them are publicly traded under HPCO and GGII. Hempacco (ticker HPCO) is changing the world by disrupting tobacco’s $1 trillion industry with smoking alternatives to nicotine tobacco. We want to help tobacco smokers switch to better smoke. However, this is not the only impact. Our products are biodegradable, including the filter. Cigarette filters are some of the largest contaminants to our land and oceans. We’re a green company and want to pressure the entire industry to think before they contaminate.
Our other company, Green Globe International (ticker GGII) has the mission to help people look and feel better inside and out. We manufacture nutritional supplements and beauty products with GGII.
I feel an enormous responsibility for my employees. I want to make a difference in their life and the lives of their families. I try to be a mentor and offer a great place to work.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, let me tell you about three different projects I’m working on:
- Writing books
- Disrupting tobacco
- Feel and Look
Writing is my calling, and I’m publishing books that can help people in all facets of their life. This includes entrepreneurship, motivation, and inspiration. I write both fiction and non-fiction books in Spanish and English. My new book is Build Your Beverage Empire, third edition, my next books are on Wholesale Distribution, Leadership, and a couple of novels.
Disrupting Tobacco’s $1 Trillion Industry
We’re Disrupting Tobacco with smoking alternatives to tobacco nicotine, and we’re doing it by manufacturing hemp cigarettes in many cannabinoids, hemp blunts, cones and tubes. We’re also Disrupting Tobacco by using all-natural and biodegradable ingredients, including the cigarette filter, as assistant filters are some of the worse contaminants in the world. We’re doing this with our company Hempacco, Co. Inc, publicly traded under ticker symbol HPCO
Feeling and Looking Good
Our new line of nutritional supplements and beauty care products will be out this month. We’re working to develop the highest quality products with top-notch ingredients, like the products you find in the most expensive department stores, but at a fraction of the cost. For example, a moisturizer that runs $150 to $250 will be available for $15 to $30.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Be kind. This is one of the most important things you can do for your business, customers, and employees. When you hire, hire kind people, and use kindness in all of your thoughts and your actions. We’re here to make a better world, and it’s not going to happen if you don’t change your employees’ lives.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As a child I wanted to be a missionary. I still do, however, when I asked myself this question, the same question you asked, I realized I could influence more people with my writing and speaking, like we’re doing right now. The mission is to build kind and responsible leaders because I think if we can make better leaders, we can bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people. I don’t just mean political leaders. I mean leaders inside the family, in businesses, schools, and even sports. My definition of leadership must be Karma. Leadership Karma means to think of the benefit of others before your own. Simple, but we haven’t been able to do it consistently as humans.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Change your mind. Start with changing your mindset, and the way to look at yourself.
When I was twenty my uncle Miguel sat me down for a quick five-minute chat that changed my perspective on life and catapulted me into a self-help phase that lasted fifteen years to complete the first phase. I’m now on my second phase.
My uncles and I were at their house ready to start our weekend carne asada or Mexican BBQ. “I’m picking up my best friend,” I told my uncle and went over to my old three-hundred-dollar car, and the car didn’t start. I tried my best with my lousy mechanical skills, but couldn’t get it to start. I started to come apart, and when I came back into the house my uncle gave me a glance and asked what happened. “The car didn’t start,” I said in my best non-upset voice. My stomach hurt, my temperature was raising, and I was thinking of twenty things that I should have done to prevent this, my anger increasing by the millisecond.
“You look terrible,” said my uncle, sit down and take a deep breath. Turns out I was pale and my demeaner was off. Now I know I used to internalize emotions, and my uncle immediately saw that there was something wrong. “The problem is not the car, you’re the problem,” he said. “Your reaction to a little adversity is extreme emotions, and you’re only twenty years old. If you think you have problems, you’re mistaken, you don’t have problems. If you continue with this attitude, you’re just not going to make it in life.”
I listened, I mean I really listened, carefully, to my uncle’s statement, and decided that minute I would not get angry and not let my emotions get the better of me. On the contrary, I decided I would always have the same level of happiness, in good times and in bad ones. This is how I started on my self help and self-development phase. I started with information. I knew I didn’t have the tools, so I read a book a day on self-help, communications, inspiration, and latter in business.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m very active in social media. I use it to communicate with others and share my experiences in life and in business. My handle is almost always Jorge Olson, so when you type that on your TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube you’ll find me on the spot. I use all of my social media accounts professionally, so feel free to connect on any of them, ask me questions, send me videos or business ideas.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
You’re so welcome.
Jorge Olson Of Hempacco and Green Globe International On The Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.