Initially, Edi went into sales after he finished his degree. As time progressed, he transitioned into banking and got his MBA. Then, in 2015, he left it all behind to open his own company. At first, it was Cali Green Turf, with a goal to save millions of gallons of water and address the deep drought California was in.
But he quickly opened his mind to the idea of developing an entire arsenal of sustainable solutions to help Californians feel empowered to save the planet. Thus, Cali Green Life was born: turf, solar, paint and water filtration, with infinite possibilities to grow.
It was like going into instant battle, with uncertain finances and an uncertain future, but a conviction that he was doing the right thing, and an ability to think on his feet and make immediate tactical changes.
“As a business owner … if you remove that element of physical danger and put it to a sense of survival, it’s no different,” said Edi. “You have to constantly be looking and forecasting and make tactical moves. There’s no excuses. You take a hit, you take a hit.”
That’s why a sense of conviction is so important.
“(Whether in the military, or as an entrepreneur, you must) go into battle with the concept that you’re going to win,” said Edi. “We don’t go into battle with the concept that we’re going to lose. As long as we’re living in integrity and that’s the spirit of who we are… I am 100% committed to winning this battle without any ounce of doubt. Nothing’s guaranteed, of course. But that type of mentality that you’re going in for (an end result) makes you feel that you really are exploiting every possible resource, whether it’s mental, psychological or emotional, to come into something and truly believe it. You really have to be centered in yourself to make sure that you can execute at the most optimal level.”
The Importance of a Plan
Because Edi moved into business ownership with such a sense of urgency, he admits to having made a few mistakes. It’s resulted in more skirmishes and small fires than he might have envisioned, and a little bit of working finagling plans in hindsight—the Marine Corps concept of “Adapt, Adjust and Overcome” has been a business-saving mantra—but it’s all been worth it.
When he sees the gallons of water he’s saved, or the smile on kids’ faces who play on the turf; when he meets payroll and knows that he’s employing others (including fellow veterans), he knows he made the right decision to leave his safety net of the bank behind.
If he had to do it all over, he might have taken a little more time to develop the plan from the outset, rather than cobble it together during operations.
His best advice to others who want to follow in his footsteps: Plan!
“I underestimated the power of planning,” he said. “The Marines, when we go to combat, we create an entire mockup of the area and we rehearse it and who’s going to be where at what time. I think that’s what I would do. You hear it all the time. ‘You need to get your business plan together.’ And here I did it the other way around. Starting a business is just like no different from going into combat. You’re going to take some hits if you don’t plan, and you can never overplan or get too much feedback from other Marines—in other words, other business owners—who can show you some light.”
One of Many
On Why Veterans are Twice as Likely as Non-Veterans to Go Into Business for Themselves
Edi’s story is not uncommon. Veterans are twice as likely as the general public to go into business for themselves, and a full 10% of small businesses are owned by veterans.
Going into battle does feel a bit like opening a business.
“There’s a sense of a safety net that you release,” said Edi. “It has to take a lot of courage and determination to see it through. I think that’s probably the most critical attribute or metric that other veterans see. They have the courage to face difficulties. They have the tenacity to push forward with everything that they have. They have the ability to be optimistic and to work hard. I think that is why a person who’s been in the military and has been through Boot Camp, they sit there and they look at a business venture and they say to themselves, ‘You know what, I know that the odds are against me. Because they are. But somehow I’m going to figure this out.’”
It’s a sense of letting go and trusting in hard work and strategy that is empowering.
“Those core values and the discipline that you learn is truly what gives you the chip in your should to say, “F— it, just go for it.’”