Ever wonder what it takes to leave the stability of a 9–5 behind, dive deep into the startup culture, and open your own business?
Enthusiasm, commitment, conviction, courage. The capacity to function on remarkably little sleep. An ability to face risk—and a temporary lack of income—without fear. Loads of market research. Networking and connections… That all matters.
BUT IT’S AN INTENTIONAL MINDSET OF SUCCESS AND SERVICE THAT TRULY MAKES OR BREAKS YOUR DREAM.
We sat down with Edi Santos, the visionary leader and founder of Cali Green Turf, to find out what keeps him motivated.
It’s been six months since Edi leased Cali Green Turf’s first office and began building his team. In that time, he’s installed high-quality American-made synthetic turf at dozens of homes and businesses throughout L.A. and Orange County, saving hundreds of thousands of gallons of water.
Small business isn’t in his vocabulary. It’s all about scalability. By year’s end, the Cali Green brand and lifestyle will extend to solar panels and environmentally friendly interior and exterior paint, and the future is without limits.
He’s not looking to serve the elite few who can afford going environmental at any cost. Instead, he wants to start a movement for the masses: a thoughtful approach to treating the earth and one another with kindness, starting right in our own backyards.
WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, HERE’S EDI!
JUST THE STATS…
Full Name: Edi Samuel Santos
Birthday: 1/26/78 (Ed. note: That makes him Aquarius, the water bearer. Coincidence?)
Where You Live: I’m in transition mode, but El Segundo, California. I’m hoping (to stay here).
Life Motto: Go for it.
Favorite Hobby: Running marathons.
Jobs You’ve Held: Dishwasher, Burger Flipper, Barback, Server, Law Firm File Clerk, Mall Retail Employee, United States Marine Corps Sergeant, International Marketing Sales Intern for Sony Pictures, Senior Account Executive, Commercial Loan Officer + Business Development Officer, Vice President: Small Business Banking, Entrepreneur, CEO + Founder, Dad
GETTING TO KNOW YOU, GETTING TO KNOW ALL ABOUT YOU
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Energetic, passionate, committed, motivated, (a man of) integrity.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE AS A CHILD?
Extremely curious about how things work.
WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF A PERFECT WORLD?
People living their optimal life that they dreamed as a child. A world where we’re using our intelligence to create solutions that can create sustainable living. Lots of love vs. hate. Communication. A lot of happiness. A lot of laughter. Harmony, you know?
WHAT IS SOMETHING NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I think that the biggest thing is that I genuinely love learning. I love reading. I am a big nerd, and a big geek and a big dork at the end of the day. I make the dumbest jokes in the world seem like the funniest sh*t in the world.
When you get my personality, who I am as a person, I’m all these things… I don’t take myself too seriously. I like balance.
WHAT DO YOU WISH MORE PEOPLE UNDERSTOOD ABOUT YOU?
I’m capable of so much. I figured out that my secret to being optimal is to really love myself as a child and care. Like I care for my children, I have that care for myself. I need to do everything in my power to make sure that the child inside of me, those dreams and those aspirations, are extremely important.
It’s only then that I’m able to love myself unconditionally and work as hard as I need to that I am able to help others in a very dramatic way. That’s what I wish people would get out of me.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Being patient to allow the universe to render the right people to be in place so that this vision that I have in my mind can render itself. I have to be patient.
WHAT DO YOU WISH MORE PEOPLE UNDERSTOOD ABOUT LIFE?
I feel that every human being is designed to help people. That’s where we get our fulfillment. When we’re helping and we’re being of service to others, that’s when we’re at the happiest.
When we’re able to help, whether it’s (helping many people) or just one old lady that’s crossing the street, it can be powerful. And by helping ourselves and loving ourselves first, we can directly impact a larger magnitude of people, or we can make a deeper impact on one person.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR?
Probably dying before completing my vision.
SHAPED BY EXPERIENCE
FOR BETTER OR WORSE, A FEW THINGS THAT FUNDAMENTALLY SHAPED EDI AS A MAN…
WHAT HAS FATHERHOOD TAUGHT YOU?
To be soft, to be gentle, to be a kid again, to revisit my childhood, to have empathy, to have understanding, to have patience.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM CHILDHOOD?
That life isn’t fair. (nervous chuckle) You know? (Edi was born to a 16-year-old single mom, and he didn’t meet his dad until he was 21. He spent his childhood bouncing around between relatives, sometimes living in a van. By the time he graduated from high school, Edi had attended 10 schools in and around L.A.)
It taught me that life should be fun. It taught me how to make friends. It taught me how to just have fun with people, how to really accept anyone and everyone. It taught me that there are no barriers from one person to the other. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you came from or anything.
You learn to just talk to people. “Hey! You’re a kid? You’re playing a game? Let’s all play.”
WHAT DID YOU TAKE OUT OF THE MARINES?
How to deal with fear, how to face fear, how to combat fear mentally. It taught me a mindset that is relentless, that’s committed. It taught me to have honor and courage. I have this (inner) warrior that chases me to move forward. (Ed. note: Edi was honorably discharged from the Marines after eight years. He served abroad in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is committed to helping veterans who suffer from PTSD as well as victims of war worldwide.)
YOU’VE EXPERIENCED YOUR FAIR SHARE OF HARDSHIP. WHAT PULLS YOU THROUGH?
I learned to just kind of stop, take a moment to meditate, and believe in something that is powerful and that has created this universe and realize that the solution is out there.
It’s not up to me to make the solution the way I want it. It’s not something to worry about. I’ve got to just let things be, let things render themselves, as long as I’ve done everything I can do in my power.
SWITCHING GEARS: PERSONAL TO PROFESSIONAL
LET’S TALK ENTREPRENEURSHIP
ON OWNING A BUSINESS
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT WITH CALI GREEN TURF?
When I first saw kids playing on the turf, having fun.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE WITH CALI GREEN TURF?
Creating an awareness to a larger audience what the core of Cali Green Turf truly is, our purpose.
It’s not based on making money, but more on our purpose-driven mission of helping people conserve water. Plus not everybody gets it that we’re veteran owned and operated.
WHAT HAS OWNING A BUSINESS TAUGHT YOU?
It’s putting all the theories that I’ve learned in college and through books into practice, everything that I’ve learned as a banker, being on the other side of the desk, thinking I knew what the client was going for.
Now I feel what it’s like to be in the driver’s seat and make my own decisions. I fully understand what it is to be in a leadership role.
WHAT DO YOU WISH MORE PEOPLE UNDERSTOOD ABOUT STARTING A BUSINESS?
I wish that people understood that it’s okay to make mistakes. Expect mistakes. Expect failure sometimes, but do everything you can to keep going.
To be successful, you have to be 100% committed without a doubt. You have to jump in the pool, like all the way in. The moment you pull back a percentage, or 20% or 50%, your (doubt) will increase.
Whoever goes into business needs to understand that they’re going to be leading people, and that one ounce of iodine in that water tank is going to kill everything. If there’s any ounce of doubt, you’ve got to really make sure that you’re in it for the long run. You’re going to get in there and you’re going to make it happen, no matter what. No matter how many problems and how many issues, you’re going to figure it out.
ON THE PURPOSE BEHIND CALI GREEN TURF
YOU’RE PLANNING A SUITE OF TURNKEY ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY BUSINESSES. WHY START WITH WATER?
The drought was a very big thing here in California. There had been a lot of talk on the radio and television and in the media about water, about the current drought, so that warmed me up a little bit. But, it’s also just the idea (of water).
When you start digging deeper, what does water represent?
Water represents life. Without it, we can’t live. We can’t do. We can’t be.
That’s what makes us different from other planets in the solar system, and in our universe, is that we actually have water. To me, that’s like the blood of our life.
The idea of being a (part of a) solution that goes towards something that’s so fundamental to life—it’s something that constantly empowers me.
WHAT DOES CONSERVATION MEAN TO YOU?
It means the conscious decision to be mindful of what we’re doing and how we’re using our resources. It taught me to pick up that piece of trash. It taught me to put it in the recycle bin vs. not. It taught me to think about where something comes from and what it took to create it. It taught me that there are certain limited resources. It just taught me that it’s basically a need to keep our house in order, to keep it clean.
WHAT DO YOU WISH MORE PEOPLE UNDERSTOOD ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT?
I don’t even fully understand it myself, but I wish people understood the direct correlation between their consumption—their everyday usage and daily decisions—and how it impacts society.
We have so much power at every new decision that we’re making, whether it’s a choice between getting another water bottle at the store, to watering the lawn for five minutes everyday, to paying the electric bill and just writing a check without even thinking. We can wake up and realize that these decisions that we’re making, without being consciously aware of them, directly correlate to the impact on the earth.
I think if all of us started to realize how the decisions are aggregate as a whole, it’s impacting our environment significantly. At the same time, we have the power to turn that around relatively quickly.
TO ROUND IT OUT, A BIT OF FUN
Ed. Note: To finish up the interview, we subjected Edi to a bit of word association. He was asked to say the first word that came to mind for several topics. One question stumped him. Would any of them stump you?
Marines: Hard core
Fatherhood: Ah… (long pause, searching for the right word to pick among the thousands swirling in his head) … fatherhood … um … umm … the best feeling in the world. You know? I don’t know how to explain that. It’s like the optimal … one word, huh? Precious. What about just the idea of something being precious to be a father? It’s such an opportunity. It’s such a precious thing. It’s such a benefit.