We had another awesome opportunity to sit down with a couple of local Ganjapreneurs, Kaine Marzola and Mario Gonzalez, Owners of Veteran’s Vitality CBD brand! In this interview they share their amazing and inspirational journey, as well as what it takes to be a successful Ganjapreneur.
Veterans Vitality products are designed to help our heroes, their families, or anyone deal with problems like anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, pain, inflammation, and much more. The endocannabinoid system in our bodies helps to govern our nervous system and consequently our moods, memories, and sensations. CBD helps by stimulating and binding to certain receptors in the body triggering homeostasis. Try some Veterans Vitality products asap and enjoy the interview!
Tell us a little about yourself!
Kaine: I was born and raised in Las Vegas Nevada. I am a twin and first generation born American, my parents migrated from Brazil. My older sister just made the cover of Las Vegas Magazine for being in the top 100 Lawyers. I went to Las Vegas High School and was very active in sports. I had a teacher in high school that wasn’t very nice to me, I came into class one day and saw him crying and didn’t think much of it. He rolled a television out and said “what I am about to show you guys is going to change your lives forever.” That day was September 11, 2001. My dream was always to be a professional fighter but after that day I decided to put my dream on hold and I joined the 5th Infantry of the Marine Corps a year later.
Mario: My name is Mario Gonzalez. I grew up back east, primarily Connecticut and Rhode Island, and moved to Las Vegas in 1989 and attended one year at Western high school and have now been in Vegas 30 years.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur in the cannabis space?
Kaine: In 2011 I had just been honorably discharged but I was having a hard time. In 2009 I had been diagnosed with severe PTSD and I was prescribed a bunch of different medications. Before I knew it I kept getting injured and I felt like I was losing small pieces of myself until I was completely gone. I was up to 255 pounds and I didn’t know what to do anymore. One day I called my brother because he was the only person I could trust to tell him that I was considering taking my own life. I wanted to end my mission because I was so far gone that I could barely get off of the couch because of all the physical and mental pain that I was suffering from. My brother kept me on the phone the entire time reminding me of all the things that I had accomplished: over 2,000 combat and humanitarian aid missions, accommodations and medals that I had earned. He drove over to my house and told me that if I didn’t open the door, he would break it down, and come in and kick my ass. That was the darkest moment of my life, on the phone with my twin brother who went through a lot of the same experiences that I had. I opened the door for him and he ended up taking me to a martial arts gym, he already had gloves ready for me. He rolled a joint and we smoked, it was the first time I had smoked because of all the medication I was on. We smoked and trained for about an hour, and by the end of training I had connected with something that I hadn’t felt in at least 10 years. I felt like I was still here, and that the hero was still in this body and I had a very clear image of myself, being on billboards all over Las Vegas with title belts around my waist. I knew that if I could see that image in my mind then I could make it happen. It wasn’t about proving people wrong but it was about doing it for myself and for guys that don’t have that opportunity anymore. Within a year and a half I had lost 100 pounds, I was on 24 billboards around Las Vegas, and I had a title belt wrapped around my waist. I realized that I don’t know how much time I have left on this planet, but I want to be able to help as many people as I can, and now I feel like I have a vehicle to do so through my CBD company.
Mario: I came to be an engineer in the cannabis industry a couple years back when I learned more about the benefits and impact. My good friend Levi who is involved with Pharma Xtracts was seeing from his consumer using the power of CBD. My background is in nutricueticals for close to 25 years and started my other company, Americare Inc, almost 20 years ago offering a wide range of all natural Holistic products for everything from weight loss to arthritis to anti-aging, anything geared towards improving quality of life. When I saw the impact Pharma Xtracts was making on a large scale I knew I needed to get involved and help get these products in as many hands as possible. Eventually I became the wholesale director for Pharma Xtracts, a title I still currently hold. About 6 months ago I partnered with a dear friend Kaine Marzola, who is a Marine veteran who suffered from severe PTSD and overcame it with the power of cannabis. He was able to get off the opiates and psychoactive pharmaceuticals that were being prescribed by the VA. When I saw the impact it made in his life I asked him if he would like to join forces and that is when we created Veteran’s Vitality a premium CBD company offering a variety of products at deep discounts to our veterans and first res ponders to help as many as possible.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Kaine: I wanted to be a professional fighter from the time I was six years old.
Did you ever see yourself working in the cannabis industry?
Kaine: Not when I was younger no, but once I felt the power of cannabis I knew that I was going to be a warrior for the plant for life.
As an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry, what is your greatest fear?
Kaine: I do not have any fears. I use moments of fear to be fearless. In the cannabis space however, in the beginning, I was worried about what my friends and family would think. Will they label me as a hippie or a drug addict? But I realized that this plant has a bad rap, and it isn’t what everyone said it is. I have been through enough in my life to know what is real and what is not, and I believe that the benefits of cannabis are real and I am ready to stand in front of it and fight for it.
Mario: My greatest fear as an entrepreneur in the cannabis world is the inevitable and upcoming changes to the regulation of CBD and hemp based products both on a state and federal level.
How do you think being involved in this industry has made you a better person?
Kaine: Being a part of the cannabis industry is like a family and a culture. Every cannabis event that I have gone to, from Culture & Cannabis to other events around the country, promote cannabis in a way that provides education as well as awareness about healing through cannabis. I believe that cannabis is not just about getting high, but it is about healing and being a community.
My goal with Veteran’s Vitality is to create that culture and community, because I want it to be more than just a CBD brand.
Do you think being in the cannabis industry has hindered you in any way?
Kaine: No not at all. If anything I feel like I keep linking up with so many other superheroes in this community.
How have your motivations changed since you first started your company?
Kaine: They haven’t changed, if anything they have just gotten more intense. Before I was just a guy winning fights then getting a microphone with a brief few minutes to try to say what I had to say and then trying to promote my brand through social media. Now I feel like I have the right platform to spread positivity through Veteran’s Vitality.
How do you describe your job?
Kaine: I would describe my job as helping people.
Mario: My job title is President/CEO of Veterans Vitality and Americare Inc.
Tell us more about your products!
Kaine: They are sourced from Nevada, Oregon, and Colorado. I’m not a huge science guy so I can’t explain the science behind everything, but I do use all of the products myself. My partner and I sought out the best sources we could find, so that I knew I would feel comfortable giving these products to other people in the community as well. Without a doubt, after all of the CBD products I have tried, I believe that our products are very far ahead as far as price and potency. I want everyone to know that Veteran’s Vitality provides top shelf products at affordable pricing, and that it is not just for Veterans. Everyone can use Veteran’s Vitality because I feel like if one person is affected, then it affects everyone around them as well. We are all on our individual journeys, but we are all still connected in some way.
What do you typically tell people when they ask you what you do?
Kaine: I tell them that I am a professional fighter, a motivational speaker, and entrepreneur, a mentor, a coach, and a friend.
Mario: I normally tell people that I am own a Health and Nutrition company that markets products nationwide.
How do you find inspiration?
Kaine: I find inspiration through gratitude. Everyday I wake up and it’s like a new beginning, it’s a new life in itself and it’s an opportunity to do more for myself and for those around me. Everyday that I wake up I am grateful for still having breath in my body because I do not question it anymore. I went through a really long time in my life where I questioned everything. I was upset at God, and at America, and at life in general because I was misunderstanding myself. Once I realized that I have been through so much, from being shot at to being blown up and losing friends right next to me and me having to pick up their bodies, at such a young age, I did not know how to deal with it. I learned that in some situations you cannot just survive, but you have to thrive and you have to be one step ahead. Those experiences can take a lot out of a person after a while, so now I try to live only in the present moment and to be grateful for my experiences.
What does a day in your life consist of?
Kaine: As soon as I wake up I give my gratitude to my divine, and I give myself personal time to work out or train before I give anyone else time. I practice yoga or mixed martial arts or meditation, just some form of therapy. I use that time to put my intentions out into the universe in a meaningful way, and then I go attack the day with positivity.
What does a day in the life of Veteran’s Vitality look like?
Kaine: We are constantly creating. We have only been around for 4 months but actually live for about one month and things are moving extremely fast. We are always learning and growing and although I do not have all the answers, I always trust in my intuition to guide me throughout this process.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Kaine: When I see other veterans struggling, whether it’s from opiates, different vices, or mental illness, when I can reach them and connect with them and to just see the transformation that they go through from using these products, I feel very rewarded.
Mario: The most rewarding part of what I do is seeing my products helping people to achieve improved overall well being.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement so far?
Kaine: Becoming the co-founder of Veteran’s Vitality, because I feel like I now have a vehicle and a platform that I am able to use all over the world in order to save lives.
Mario: My greatest achievement is being awarded small business man of the year in 2003 by the congressional committee in Washington Dc and also given the position of state chairman by the Republican party for the State of Nevada serving that position for 3 years.
Can you describe the most exciting minute of your cannabis journey?
Kaine: I think it was that first time that I smoked with my brother after I got out of the marine core. It is the moment that I am most grateful for because it helped me realize that there was another option for me. It was a moment of hope that turned into a reality and it helped me to take one day at a time in order to achieve my dreams.
Mario: My most memorable experience in my cannabis career was when a friend of mines 4 year old son was having a severe seizure and we administered CBD and the seizure stopped almost instantly. His son has continued to use our products and went from having seizures on a weekly basis to not having a seizure in over a year! The most exciting moment of my journey thus far is when our veteransvitality.com website went live.
What do you feel is the most important reason for your success?
Kaine: I feel that it is all of the supportive people around me, because you can’t do everything by yourself.
Mario: The single most important reason for my success is determined persistence and will to succeed, my mind is going 24/7 looking towards our tasks at hand it never shuts down.
How do you expect to see the cannabis industry in the future?
Kaine: I think that there is definitely already a shift happening as far as the stigma and society’s view on cannabis already. I think that we are all moving to a more holistic wellness approach as a society, and I see a more accepting and understanding culture developing.
Mario: I would like to see the industry and cannabis become more and more widely accepted allowing the masses to have alternative choices to alcohol and opiates that are safer with no where near the side effects and damage that are caused with the latter.
What is your favorite cannabis brand right now?
Kaine: I enjoy a lot of different brands, but overall I do not think that there is a cannabis product I have tried that I do not enjoy. At the end of the day it’s all the same plant and I connect with it. I think that it’s not just about smoking but it is about having that connection with yourself and being able to get the most out of it.
What is your biggest struggle about being in the cannabis industry?
Kaine: It is definitely the stigma that is still attached to cannabis. Some people, instead of having their own opinion based off of their own experience, they will immediately write you off or judge you based off of misinformation.
How did your friends and family react to you being in the cannabis industry?
Kaine: At first they would look at me a little differently because they were still attached to the other side of that stigma. Once they saw everything that I had accomplished, and they saw me being vocal about all the benefits I had felt from cannabis, they definitely gained a new perspective.
Mario: Being an entrepreneur has had a positive effect on my relationship with my family and friends in some cases providing a workplace environment and or the tools necessary to achieve their success.
Have you managed to introduce any of your family and friends to cannabis?
Kaine: Yes, a lot of them that were originally on the other side, but now they are all believers.
What would you be doing right now if you were not here with us?
Kaine: I would probably be smoking!
If you had to choose one thing, what do you think you are the best at?
Kaine: Overwhelming people with positivity.
If you never had to work again, what would you do?
Kaine: I would definitely have like a little UFO that would fly around and drop off little packages of Veteran’s Vitality all over the world to people who need it.
Mario: If I could be anything but an entrepreneur it would have either been in law enforcement or a stock broker on the NY stock exchange both of which I considered as I matured into adulthood.
If you had to give a first time entrepreneur a piece of advice, what would it be?
Kaine: I would tell them to not be scared of failure and to take action because the reward is always worth the risk. Any action that you put out into the world receives a result, so if you are out there taking positive actions, you will get positive results. I think that it is also important to ask for help if you need it. There are so many other successful people in the industry and it is always good to ask them questions or share ideas with them in order to learn.
Looking back on your career in cannabis, if you could do anything differently, what would you do and why?
Kaine: I wouldn’t change anything because I do not like to force anything. I like to let things unfold naturally because I feel that things always end up better that way.
Mario: If I could go back I would have liked to have served my country in the military for at least 4 years and then continued my journey in life.
What do you consider to be success as an entrepreneur?
Mario: To be successful as entrepreneur for me is to create a business model that is both successful and has the longevity to continue on well beyond my lifetime.
How is running a successful business different than what you thought it would be?
Kaine: I feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I don’t think people really understand how much time that you have to put towards your business or your dream in order to actually manifest it into a reality.
Mario: Running a successful business I never realized the amount of time that is required to do so, sometimes it can be overwhelming. There are weeks I put in 70 to 80 hours. Over the last 21 years I have only managed to take one vacation that was a week long, don’t get me wrong I do enjoy short 3 to 4 day getaways but for the most part I am always all hands on deck.
Do you have any life hacks that help to keep you focused and productive?
Kaine: Yes, gratitude. I feel that forgiving yourself and forgiving people around you for misunderstandings or mistakes allows us to keep moving forward. I understand that I cannot control anyone or force anything so forgiveness and gratitude allow me to focus my energy in a positive way.
Mario: A life hack that has worked best for me is to take my attention deficit disorder and use it to my advantage to multitask and oversee all departments within my companies and over 75 employees.
Has being an entrepreneur been different than you thought it would be?
Kaine: It has been completely different. I thought that I was going to come in and just kill it and that everything would be so easy. But it definitely take a lot of work and I understand that there is no boss ahead of me, this is partly my company, so there is really no set schedule. I just try to meet as many people as possible in order to get my message out there.
Mario: As an entrepreneur its hard for me to understand people that do not share in my vision and or settle for mediocrity and have no drive to better themselves.
How would you like people to remember you and your company?
Kaine: I would want them to remember be as being one of the most positive and genuine humans that they have ever met. I would want people to remember Veteran’s Vitality as being a brand that even in some of the darkest times, we as a tribe, are open minded enough to band together in a fight to save lives. There are so many people that are suffering and losing their fights with opiate addiction and we believe that CBD has the ability to help people with those struggles. I want us to be able to make a direct impact on the lives of veterans and anyone that can benefit from cannabis.
Looking back on your career so far, what is one thing you wish you had understood better?
Kaine: I wish I had understood the importance of social media better, and how much that having that following can help your business grow.
What popular industry or life advice do you disagree with?
Mario: I strongly disagree with the pharmaceutical industries careless regard over medicating and being the main contributor to one of our greatest crises of our era in relation to opiate addiction.
What systems have you set up in your business to help it grow?
Kaine: We have implemented an affiliate program to help veterans and other patients to offset their personal cost for products since there are currently no insurance plans or other options to receive CBD products at a discounted price because of federal regulations. We wanted a way for people to benefit monetarily through sharing the message and benefits of CBD and Veteran’s Vitality.
What are your favorite ways to compensate people?
Kaine: I like to give people my undivided attention. I think that some people will see me online or see my fight videos and think that I am some kind of celebrity who is unattainable to speak with but that isn’t true. I will give anyone my undivided attention and share my time with them if they are reaching out because I believe that every connection we make has a purpose. I like to provide encouragement and education for anyone in the community that is interested in our message.
Do you have any advice for fellow Veterans?
Kaine: Never give up and do not run from the pain, if anything embrace the pain until it becomes power. If you give me at least 1 percent of your trust I will earn the other 99 percent of it by direct example. I will never tell anyone to do something that haven’t personally tried myself, so I would tell them to give me an opportunity as well as to try alternative therapies that are available to them.
Are there any organizations or resources that you would like to mention for anyone that does not know how to go about seeking help?
The Veteran’s Transition Resource Center. They are a local non-profit organization that helps veterans get their benefits as well as offering free classes and education.
Veterans For Entheogenic Therapy. They provide education and awareness about plant-based therapies as well as ways for veterans to learn other means of coping. I work with them to mentor veterans that have been diagnosed with severe PTSD as well.
Here’s where you can find out more about Veteran’s Vitality!