When I first met TerryJosiah Sharpe I knew that he had something very special in him. It was a couple months ago, and we were both at a Pineapple Project business accelerator event. Each individual at the event was asked to stand, introduce themselves to the group and say a little bit about their business. TerryJosiah stood, told everyone his name, and talked about a creative community that he had organized called Music. Life.Change. He said that he was working with creative people in the music and philanthropic space to affect positive change in the world. I was immediately intrigued.
After exchanging contact information and following up with each other, TerryJosiah and I have since sat down for coffee. We've discussed a number of things from his background in music, to his business model, and how he's evolving his company to reflect the gratitude that he feels and wishes to share with his community. Last Friday I had another opportunity to meet with TerryJosiah at his office in Mission Valley San Diego. This time we were going to talk about his whole story and learn how a background with the military, a love for music, and the power of gratitude can bring about meaningful change. Here's how our discussion went...
What was the inspiration behind you starting your own organization like The Gratitude Group?
It goes back to when I decided to join the military. I joined on 9/17/2001, six days after 9/11. I would’ve joined earlier, but all the planes were grounded because of the flight situation. So my flight out to join the army was delayed.
I remember laying on my couch that day and watching as the second plane hit. I thought it was a movie or something. Not real life. I was just a young kid living in California at the time. My mom called and said, “Turn the TV on. Something’s happened!” As I turned the TV on I saw the side of a building in New York on fire, and then I saw a plane hit it. That was the day I realized that I needed to do something.
I joined the military thinking that I was going to create change in a way that I wanted to create it. That’s not necessarily how the military works though. It took a little bit of adjusting on my part, because I wanted to do things my way. The military teaches you that you’ll have to do things their way. So after six years and two tours to Iraq, I honorably discharged. I decided that I would go out and do things my way. I went to college determined to learn as much as I could. I learned more about music, more about writing, and used all of that to formulate what I wanted in a business.
I originally started a business with four guys. It was a lifestyle business that helped the community. It was a brand, that stood for all sorts of amazing things. However, when you start a business with four guys that have never done anything of the sort before, and are all considered equal partners, then there’s no true lead. Since there was no true lead nothing ended up getting done. I felt it best to remove myself from that situation so that I could actually get things done. After about a year with that group I decided to go out on my own. I went back to the drawing board, and created Music.Life.Change. which is a creative agency that cultivates social revolutions through music, education and philanthropy.
What were the very early times of the business like?
I literally started everything in my garage. At first it was just me. I felt like I had great ideas, but we have this thing among my circle of family and friends - called “Creative Circles” where we come together and offer up ideas about whatever topic may be in the middle of the circle. It’s usually my family, my girlfriend, close friends and even my kids who have incredible input. When I presented the idea of my company I received some amazing feedback, and because of that I was able to really zero in on what the actual business was going to be.
It takes a while to figure out exactly what your company will be. To hone in on what the different elements will be, and how they will work together. With the help of my entire family, and close circle of friends I was able to accelerate the process of structuring the organization. We were able to do it fairly quickly. That was a year and half ago.
Even with all of the help from my circle, there were still growing pains. The first half year I was really stubborn. I wanted everything to be my way, as I’m sure a lot of entrepreneurs want. It gets humbling real quick when you actually start doing business. You realize that you can’t take it all on alone. I took a step back to focus on not dismissing the useful things that my friends and family were saying. Sometimes I would find myself doing something, and they’d say, “We told you to do that a long time ago.” So I started to take that input for what it was, and moved forward. I make sure to bring a lot of things to the circle while still maintaining the integrity of what I want to build within my business.
Do your friends and family still play a major role in how you approach the business?
They play a role in how we deliver content. I look to them to get opinions and reviews on what we put out. They’re a bit of a focus group. It’s one of the best gifts that an entrepreneur can have.
If we don't see the good, then we have to be the good."
What aspects of your background have helped you to succeed in what you do as an entrepreneur?
I feel like my childhood was a bit unstable, but other people would consider it “traumatic”. My real father was a pimp (or something like it). He used to abuse my mom but she finally left him after a day where he was hitting her and my sister stepped in and he ended up throwing her across the room. After that my mom had had enough, so we moved out and were on our own. It was my mom, my sister and I. We didn’t have a house to live in for a while. We traveled pretty often, I remember staying in auditoriums and various places like that. Eventually we ended up in some apartments.
There was a guy in our apartment complex that we used to call “The Candy Man” because he would give candy to my sister and I all the time - it was great! Slowly, but surely “The Candy Man” ended up being around my mom a lot more. My mom ended up getting pregnant, and then they got married. However, after they got married and we all moved in together he became really mean. He used to abuse my sister and I, and after a few years of beatings, I ended up being put into a foster home.
My mom and The Candy Man - who I consider my dad - had to go to court to try and get me back. There were reasons why he did what he did, although I sometimes wish he used better judgement. Don’t get me wrong though, we were bad kids, but we didn’t deserve some of the “punishments” we received. We came from toxic scenarios growing up. So when my mom married, and we had a step-father that was very into discipline and the church, it was something we weren’t used to. We were little kids who just acted on impulse. We didn’t understand that our habits were bad. We’d end up being punished, and those punishments were beatings. Inappropriate beatings. That’s why I ended up in that foster home.
Going through all of that as a child made me want to leave. I wanted a way out. When I graduated from high school the clothing company FUBU was really popular at the time. It was one of the hottest products out. It was “For Us By Us,” pro black, and I thought it was super awesome! It was a way to move past where I had been. In my mind I thought, “If they can make a clothing line I can too”. So I thought about putting together my own clothing company and then 9/11 happened. That’s when I decided I wanted to affect change in a larger way and joined the military. When I saw 9/11 happen it made me realize that if we don’t see the good, then we have to be the good. That’s been my mantra ever since. I believe that if you want good in our world, the only person’s hands you can trust to carry that weight are your own. That’s why I’ve created my business, and the backstory of what’s pushed me to do it.
What are some obstacles that you have faced in building your business and how have you overcome them?
One of my biggest obstacles has been the name of the company, and as crazy as it sounds we’re literally transitioning to a new name right now. It’s funny to think about.
I’ve always felt that I’m an incredible writer. When I was young my mom always told me that I had a prophecy over me to be a writer. I always wrote, poems, songs, stories...etc. In college I studied creative writing. My teachers told me my writing was great, but the one thing that I would always receive criticism about were the titles of whatever I was writing. My titles may have matched the content, but weren't very intriguing or attention grabbing. So when it came to the company - the challenge was, “How do I choose a name that will present my company to the public, and still represent everything that I want it to represent?” People need to see the name and know exactly what it means.
The original name was Music.Life.Change. I arrived at the name through The Trinity. I believe in threes. I love the number three, I love the symbolism behind three, and I wanted something that was represented in the name of my company. Having three different avenues through which I’m able to express myself was at the core of it. First is Music. I write music for artists all over the world, from a country artist in Texas to a Ukrainian Pop Band. So being able to do that has made “music” a main part of my business. Second is Life. I love to learn, and I truly believe that the illiterate of today are not those that cannot read, but those that are unwilling to re-learn. Education is critical, and since I believe “life” is a journey of continual learning it became another of the three pillars of the business. Third is Change. We believe in creating actual “change” in people’s worlds. It’s the philanthropy aspect of the business. Walking the walk of creating tangible changes within our community.
There was so much that went into the name Music.Life.Change, but eventually we decided that we wanted something more concise. That name has caused some confusion as to what it is our company does. That’s actually why we’re in the midst of changing our name from Music.Life.Change. to The Gratitude Group. The Gratitude Group is a name that showcases who we are. It’s a more simple title, and embodies what we truly believe in.
Where does your creative inspiration come from?
Music. Music has always been my saving grace. It’s crazy that, as wild as my childhood was, the one thing that has been constant throughout my entire life has been music. My mom is incredibly gifted with music. She’s the one that originally taught me. She taught me how to play music by ear, and never let me look at sheet music. She used to play something herself and then tell me to play it back to her. My sister and I used to watch “The Sound of Music” religiously. It’s an amazing movie! We used to perform all of the songs. Music was the best way that we could really show our creative side. If we didn’t have a way to express what we wanted to express we could always express it through music. If I couldn’t say it, write it down, play a sport hard enough, whatever...I could always get my feelings out through creating music.
Music in general is what I love, it’s my passion. I love music that has a message. It doesn’t have to be all cheesy or “corny”. Even if something sounds good and has a simplistic message it will resonate with me. People often times don’t understand how powerful media is, and music is part of that. They don’t recognize the messages they're listening to. Because of that, someone can listen to a piece of music and very easily be influenced by it without realizing it. So I’m very cautious of what I listen to for that reason, but I also love exploring various styles as well. There’s so much great music out there and I tap into everything I can find.
What are three things that you would tell your younger self to learn more about?
The first would be to learn more about gratitude. I feel like I’m solid when it comes to gratitude. I know how to be happy at any given moment. I can turn it on whether I’m sitting in the dumps or whether I’m sitting at the Ritz-Carlton. Being in a state of happiness is not determined by where you’re physically at. It’s determined by what your mindset is. I’d teach myself how to be in a happier place so that I wouldn’t make crazy, emotional decisions. If you learn how to control your reactions by having more gratitude you won’t make irrational decisions.
The second thing I’d teach myself would be to keep pushing. There are times in life where I think - based on pure human nature - we all get down on ourselves. We want to make rash decisions or try to feel sorry for ourselves for long periods of time. We go through depression or certain negative phases. So I’d tell myself to keep pushing through, because you are going to make it.
The last thing would be to keep focusing on music. Music is always going to be there...no matter what. There have been periods where I slowed down with the creation of music, but I never stopped finding new music to listen to. Music has always been around me, but there have been periods where I stopped creating. So I would say, “Keep creating”.
What are you determined to accomplish with The Gratitude Group?
To represent the positive balance that our world needs. The Gratitude Group is the brand that will do just that. It’s a collective community of people who are saying, “Hey! I’m a good person, and I’m going to do good things in the world to help bring about positive change”. Sometimes good people have to be reminded that they’re good people. We’re the brand that’s going to remind them.
How can aspiring entrepreneurs use gratitude to improve their ventures?
Gratitude is a life changer. It’s not just for entrepreneurs, it’s not just for students, or parents. It’s literally for everybody. If you hold onto what gratitude is, and start to feel the authority of gratitude it changes your life. All the things that you feel are bad aren’t bad anymore. All the things that make you feel down on yourself won’t carry the same weight anymore. It makes everything run smoother in your life. When things start to run smoother you start finding your direction a lot easier. Once you find that direction you find your passion, and passion breeds pleasure. But it all tracks back to gratitude.
How can our readers get involved with The Gratitude Group?
We have our second of four annual Gratitude Experience events occurring this coming Wednesday, September 21st. It will be held at The Pyramid Building at 7310 Miramar Road San Diego, CA 92126. We also have our Facebook page www.facebook.com/musiclifechange or we’re on Instagram at @thegratitudegroup. I’d be open to direct email as well. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the great things about being based in San Diego is having the opportunity to regularly interact with a plethora of innovative thinkers. The community of intelligent and business savvy individuals in this city is abundant. Understanding that these people are in the area, but may not have the entire toolkit for entrepreneurial success has driven a couple of forward thinking collaborators to create a unique growth and learning platform called The Pineapple Project. I'm lucky enough to call these driven and visionary entrepreneurs my friends, and was able to sit down with them to gain an understanding of what motivates them to help people become a better version of themselves. They are Chloe Hom Banales and Mike Sebastian, partner founders of The Pineapple Project, and here's what they had to say.
What is The Pineapple Project? How did you come up with the concept, and why?
Chloe: I always knew that I wanted to create something that would allow me to give back in a big way. The “Something” project has always been on my mind. I was searching the internet looking for inspiration, and I love pineapples. Especially what they represent when given as a gift. So essentially I chose The “Pineapple” Project as the name of what my future outlet for giving back would be. To elaborate a bit, when given as a gift, a pineapple represents the phrase “ You are perfect.” As a growing business it is our belief that no one is given a gift that they do not have the capacity to fulfill.
Mike: The Pineapple Project is an annual event committed to empowering people to take responsibility and create extraordinary lives. The event is aligned in personal development, entrepreneurship, and contribution. We’ll be hosting twenty smaller meetup events a year that are bi-weekly and geared toward more focused topics. These smaller events will lead up to a much larger event that takes place once a year.
What type of attendees are you trying to attract to these events?
Chloe: The people who are going to be attending these meetups are going to be entrepreneurs. They may also be intrapreneurs. They’re people who have the mindset in which they want to give back or they want to become more fulfilled in their jobs. They’re also people who are already contributing and love what they do. We're also going to be connecting with the young motivated people that have questions on how to really create and design a life that they’re passionate about.
What types of opportunities are offered to entrepreneurs through The Pineapple Project?
Mike: What we’re trying to do is fill in the knowledge gaps that people may have. If someone’s trying to start a business and has a great idea, but doesn’t understand how to do accounting, or doesn’t understand how to do tax laws that shouldn’t stop them from creating what it is their after. So we provide an easily accessible destination where they can go to learn these things.
The biweekly meetups are smaller and deal with more granular topics, while the big annual event will be the main goal and cover a broad range of topics. Attendees can come to the events and learn what they’re interested in. More importantly they’ll be able to make contact with experienced resources that they are looking for. These resources will be able to answer a question in 15 minutes that the attendee may have been mulling over across six weeks of searching.
After leaving an event our attendees will have connections with companies and individuals who have been there before.
Chloe: They’ll have the knowledge to move forward with their next step. It’s going to be a transformative event where you're doing the work then and there. When you leave you’ll have tools in your pocket, a mindset for tuning into people that you want to connect with, and a community of contacts to fall back on in case you need additional help.
What makes The Pineapple Project different than all the other business accelerators or entrepreneurship programs out there?
Chloe: One thing that we have been set on from the beginning is that it's not just about business. It’s about who you are as a person; your way of being in and outside of your workplace. We are going to be working with other local companies such as The Evo Room, who really bring experiential learning into the events. They’ll be present with us in April 2017 at our larger annual event, and possibly at some of the smaller upcoming meetups.
We’re also really trying to incorporate more than just what your business dreams are. We want to address who you are as a person with the relationships that are around you. Do you bring mindfulness? Do you bring your health into play? As you know, being an entrepreneur requires a lot of energy and fuel. Whatever you’re feeding yourself be it food, drinks, books you’re reading, or content on social media, you’re doing that everyday. What you feed yourself makes a big difference in how you approach your life.
What is the geographic reach of the program?
Mike: We’re working with content creators nationwide. The smaller meetup events and the larger event are local here in San Diego. Our goal is to attract attendees from across the entire United States so that they can benefit from the opportunity.
Chloe: We’ll be hosting meetups in the Los Angeles area before the big event in April as well. I fully expect people from everywhere to attend the event in April as we will be bringing in speakers from everywhere.
Are the two of you going to be running the events that take place outside of San Diego?
Chloe: One of the things that we believe in 100% is community and collaborating with others who are aligned in the same mission. When you’re an entrepreneur you’ll be more successful when you’re able to get yourself out of the way and do for other people. We all have the same intent, which is to make massive impact in a positive way. A perfect example is our meetup that took place on Thursday, August 18th. It was in collaboration with The Startup Garage and The Lifestyle Business Accelerator.
We were connected to Tyler Jensen, who’s an amazing San Diego-based entrepreneur, through Danielle Blum, who’s also a leader in the space with World Nativ. It’s not every man for himself, and should never be that way. That’s a big reason why The Pineapple Project is going to be putting together collaborative events. We won’t be sitting up there and preaching to you. It’s really about what we can all learn collectively. So we eliminate the middle man and provide access to experienced individuals as well as interactive learning.
What channels are you using to spread your message?
Mike: Meetup.com, Facebook.com, Instagram, and a whole lot of networking. Networking has been huge! Most of the people that we’ve come into contact with so far have been through a shared connection in the industry.
What challenges are you facing in growing your organization?
Chloe: I would say time management, but that’s a pet peeve of mine. Everybody has 24 hours in their day, and it’s really a matter of what you choose to prioritize within each and every hour. The two of us have our own businesses outside of The Pineapple Project that we’re also building. So it’s been a balance of work, life, health commitments, and even social life commitments. It’s very important to have those outlets where you put your phone away or you put your computer away, and just be with the person who is in front of you.
Mike: One of the prevalent challenges I’m seeing is narrowing the focus down to a specific group. Everybody wants to be better. We would like to make everyone better. But we want to answer the question of, “Who can we help with these activities, events, and programs?” We have entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and people looking to better themselves. How to define the audience, and who to say “no” to has been an obstacle that we’re working to manage better everyday.
What tactics and strategies have you utilized to overcome adversity in your entrepreneurial endeavors?
Mike: Asking questions. It’s take a long time for me to really learn that I can in fact do this. There are a lot of things that I run up against every single day that I have no idea how to get to the end of. However, I know that there is someone out there that does have the answer...that has been in the same situation, and can give some kind of advice to help me get to where I’m going.
Chloe: Yes, asking questions and asking for help, as well as acknowledging and embracing the journey. One thing I’ve noticed when this question is asked to entrepreneurs whether they’re already successful or just starting out, is that personal development is going to be key. Getting yourself out of your own way. That has been huge for me. I’ve invested a lot of time and money in myself through various books, various programs, and various training sessions that have helped me to grow into the type of person who can now take on much larger tasks. The person I was a year ago would not be able to do what I’m doing right now.
When our large event comes up in April, I’ll be an even more improved person. It’s exciting! It requires doing something that intimidates you everyday, really stepping outside of your comfort zone not just talking about it.
Where do you want The Pineapple Project to be in 12 months, and what will next steps be at that point?
Chloe: A year from now we will have had our first successful event. It will have been attended by successful entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and Olympic athletes who share their wisdom and address much of what we’ve talked about here today.
Everyone is given the opportunity to overcome adversity. Everyone who has a big dream is going to have big challenges to overcome. We’re moving mountains to make The Pineapple Project happen, but it’s great because we know that it’s only going to get better and better.
This time next year we’ll be preparing for our second annual event, possibly a two-day event. In addition, like we mentioned before, we also see the program spreading outside of San Diego empowering other individuals to create a similar structure and host meetups like ours. It’s a movement! We want people to understand that they truly have it within them to succeed. No matter what their socioeconomic background, education, or current status in life is they have the ability to get where they want to be. They just have to bridge that gap.
Mike: What I’m most excited about seeing a year from now is when the person who had a better idea and better capability to execute on it than I did comes back and says, “Hey! I wanna talk at your next Pineapple Project because you connected me with someone, and that enabled me to do what it is that I want to do.”
Be unapologetic when it comes to your dreams and where your vision lies.
What is the funnest part about being involved in The Pineapple Project?
Mike: For me it’s learning. Like Chloe has said, “Push yourself everyday.” We’ve done that a lot so far, and the movement continues to get bigger and bigger. With every “yes” we receive from contacts, and every lesson from self-educating, it gets better. The further and further I go makes me crave more. I want to know how far we can take this. How can it get any better!
Chloe: It’s the leaps, the leaps in progress. We don’t always know exactly what we’re going to do to get there, but we know where we will be. We’re doing whatever is required of us to accomplish the goals. Whether it’s jumping on a Facebook live video when I have no idea how to position it, or doing other things like that. Some of it’s going to be uncomfortable, but it’s not about always about me. Sometimes it’s about the person you’re interviewing on that live video, and the content they can deliver that going to help your audience. Your fears don’t matter. They’re very small when compared to your end goals.
The other fun part is the community. Surrounding yourself with a tribe who’s going to encourage your work and say, “That’s really awesome!” versus those who just say, “Oh ya that’s a neat idea.” You really have to be particular about who you spend your time with and who you choose to associate with. Even on social media. Unfriend people who aren’t contributing to where you want to go. Be unapologetic when it comes to where you want to be, and where your vision lies.
How can our readers get involved with The Pineapple Project?
Mike: Facebook is a great place to see what we’re up to on a regular basis. Instagram is as well. We are www.facebok.com/thepineappleprojectnow or www.instagram.com/thepineappleprojectnow on each of those platforms. The website is www.chloeatsalot.com/thepineappleproject, you can also always reach us via email at email@example.com.
Chloe: If people feel strongly about getting involved there’s a link on our website and we can touch base via email. We are always happy to give anyone an opportunity to exercise their genius, talent, or whatever it may be. We’ve even had a friend reach out and help us with our logo, and we really appreciate that.
If anyone wants to contact us directly go ahead and send us a Facebook request, but also send us a message. I love getting to know what people are up to. It’s what gets us fired up about all of this!
We're honored to bring the concept and message of The Pineapple Project to our readers. Thank you Mike and Chloe for sharing your vision with us. We look forward to the success of your program. Please let us know what you think of The Pineapple Project in the comments below!