Urban Monk

I met this one dude,
In Sacramento California,
Called himself the Holy Spirit.

He taught me to:

“Father bless,
Holy fire,
Plead the blood of Yashua!” to everyone I meet and pass.

He reasoned it was the most effective thing we heaven-bound earthlings could do to open a little heavenly window to people.

I asked him what they call him,

“My name is God Bless”

Alas a man with his Saviour written on his forehead Revelations 22:4.

He taught me that all carnality is vanity,
and that the spiritual dimension is the true reality of all things –
Everything we see manifests from the spiritual realm.

He taught me how to fast by laying in the sun all day absorbing Vitamin D,
and told me all about his plan to impeach Governor Newsom.

He taught me how to read the clouds in the skies, the signs in the Heavens, angels doing war in the Second Heaven’s principalities.
He called out greetings to the angels, his brothers.

He taught me the difference between knowing the Bible,
and applying the Bible to every circumstance,
by letting the Word itself live within you as a a Holy purifying fire.

“Burn the carnal nature away. Kill the soul and flesh so that all that’s left is the Spirit. That’s what’s Holy – your Spirit. It’s your source of life from God. Kill the carnal nature every day and pick up your prisoner’s cross. Crucify in Christ.”

He taught me how he, as the Holy Spirit, looked at Yashua as his big brother,
Yahweh was his poppa – his own personal father whose bosom he slept in every night,

“My home is where I lay my head at night”

No matter if he was in a blanket wrapped up like a burrito on the sidewalk or park.

He didn’t need to read the Word every day,
because he lived it, and had it living inside of him.
He would close his eyes, pray in the spirit, moan, utter, speak in unknown tongues, interpret, for hours at a time and sometimes most of the day.
He would hear from God, knowing the intimate relationship between the Father, the Son, and himself – the Holy Spirit.

I once again asked his name.

“My real name is Tosaveus (Pronounced TOE-SAVE-EE-OUS)”

“What does it mean?”

“To save us.”


“Yeah, I’m the Holy Spirit. I told you already, I can’t tell you any more directly. I’m the angel from Revelations 22:6, the Holy Spirit himself. You say you hear the Holy Spirit in your head right? Ok, well why don’t you ask the Holy Spirit in your head if I’m the Holy Spirit or not. It’s called discernment of spirits, why don’t you try it? Instead of reading your Bible all the way to Hell, how about try an intimate relationship with the Yahweh and Yashua?”

Every day, religious carnal Christians would call Tosaveus a blaspheming heretic,
“I know for certain this man is NOT the Holy Spirit! I KNOW the Holy Spirit. And that’s NOT him!”, they would say.
Tosaveus would respond,
“You’re nothing but a Pharisee! You’re a coward, a part of the unbelieving, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, liars which shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death! I’m warning you, don’t blaspheme the Holy Spirit because it’s the only unforgivable sin!”

It made me wonder to ask him
“If the Holy Spirit came down as a man, how would he look like? Would anyone recognize him?”

He reasoned with me
“People can be demon-possessed right?”


“So why can’t people be angel-possessed if we’re under an ‘Open Heaven’ and there’s twice as many good angels as bad demons?”

“I don’t know, can people be angel-possessed?”

“What does this scripture mean? Hebrews 13:2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it?”

“I guess it means angels can shapeshift from spirit to flesh form.”

“And not only that, but Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. So when we die to ourselves and the Holy Spirit comes in, you’re a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. Your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. You will have your share of the fruit of the Tree of Life and the water of the River of Life and live 1,000 years reigning with King Yashua in the New Jerusalem.. Demons use human bodies as a parasite uses a host. Angels use human bodies as how God uses sacrifices, to uncurse and bless others in the spiritual realm. This is why John the Baptist is also called Elijah, the same Holy Spirit operated them here on earth Matthew 11:14. Angels are Holy spirits. Humans with the Holy Spirit are Holy spirits. And what does this mean? John 10:34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?. Everything is one. The I Am. Alpha & Omega. Beginning and End is all one in God. Glory be to the Father and the Lamb. God=love=Jesus=Word=Way=Truth=Life=Heaven=Holy Spirit=You=Light=I AM. Got it?”

I asked the Holy Spirit within me, my conduit to father Yahweh and big brother Yashua,
“Is Tosaveus the Holy Spirit, the Revelations 22:6?”

“Yeah, why not?”

You decide. Reap what you sow.

I wrote this poem out of my sort of understanding for how life is, you reap what you sow.

Manifestation of darkness
Manifestation of light
You decide
Playing amidst splendor Greater
Revealing to few’s sight
Creating, slowly, surely
A true God’s delight
On earth as is in heaven
Free becoming known
Finally rid
Of human’s meaning
Riches of sin
Let go
Like night breaking day
Sudden darkness
Never gradual
Upon meeting knowing
Counting down hours
Awaiting Shepherd’s return
For safe-keeping
Watch, eyes open
As day defeats night
Again and again
Like clockwork
Waking up from
Disillusion’s dreams
Nightmare’s fright
Forever pondering
Whatever’s truth
Magnetic shines alight
Thoughts, actions, words
Which are Greater
Attempting sensing
Heart’s soul
True mate
Does it exist
Swimming in a sea
Of mixed intentions
Attempting to go
One path
Our own
Yet washing up
Upon the will
Of greater force
Soggy and defeated
Inevitably playing
According to His plan
Whether knowing or not
Hoping after prayer
Of solid foundation
Upon elevation
Dry Holy land
Free of fire and water
Seeking our own heart
Next step after next step
Again and again
When will we learn
Faithfully waking required
Trust fall
Into unseen depths
Downward fall
Completing the above
Much stronger once seen
Relying on senses
One through five
Too weak
Signals unrecognized
Comparing fleeting dimensions
Unseen yet
Felt by the stopping
Fluttering senses which bend
Between each heartbeat’s rest
Unexplainable yet
Too shook to feign
Kept unknowing
Deadly kept secret
Worldly whispers won’t do
Waiting in vain
Ripple in stillwater
Truly no pebble thrown
Nor air blown once
Chanting awakened
Knowing above
After knowing below
Unleashing crows
Beside dead ghosts
In order to find order
Flying towards one
Inevitable point
Taken finally
To the skies
The abyss
You decide
Before finding knocking
At the door
Inevitable light
Being taken
To with which’s wish
Fallen or lifted home
Upon us all
Carefully tread
On eggshells
If not water
Else really reap
Whatever little or grand
Life’s seed being sown


The Treecup Manifesto

Aaron Watson and Hannah Phillips of Piper Creative have been doing some fantastic work for Treecup in creating our Kickstarter crowdfunding video. One of the deliverables that Aaron had asked me to put together was writing a “manifesto” for Treecup – that is, what Treecup has been, what it is, and what it will be.

“Boil it down to as few words as possible,” and with this advice I proceeded to think.

I wrote in my journal, freehanding, the story of how I started brewing tea with my mother and how it evolved over time. After a few pages of writing and finishing what felt to be like my “executive summary” all over again, I tried again.

This time, I should do it with fewer words, I thought. I proceeded to boil down the story to a page and a half when I decided I need to attack this manifesto from a new angle.

I put down my pen and, as I do, went to do something else.

A day passed by.

I come back to my desk, brought my journal out once again, this time several pages further than last time, yet with my bookmark still marked to the spot I had last finished writing my “boiled-down” manifesto.

Wow, I did need to attack this from a different angle. Ok.

As I do, and as I’ve been doing every day since August 1st, I prayed.

I wrote at the top of the next empty page, “Lord, please help me and allow me to write a good and accurate manifesto of my company’s development – Illuminate my vision,” exactly what came to mind to be prayed in this instance, at the very top of the page.

And the following came to me, what is now known as the Treecup Manifesto. It goes as follows:

Treecup is modeled after the Tree of Life. We give life by FILLING PEOPLE’S CUPS in three ways:

  1. Ancient healing teas that serve as Holistic medicine
  2. Create change within the CPG industry through transparency
  3. Reforesting Mother Earth starting in Haiti

That’s our mission.  It’s why we exist – to try to bring Good to the THREE sectors of society we touch.

It’s that simple. I think that it encompasses the past, the present, and the future all in a poetic and imagery-based way. Plus, now, when I see the Treecup logo I see the Tree of Life filling someone (or something)’s cup.

I love the world. The universe is so abundant, and I feel privileged to be nice to people – to show people my true heart and in turn see some of theirs. Perfect love – perfect light casts out even the darkest obscurities. And in this society we live in, it’s obscurity on obscurity so much so that we can’t even determine the gray from the black – the ambiguous from the evil.

This summer has been one of huge growth for me, Thank God. Times are a-changin’ and I’m manning up whether I like it or not. Part of that means finally meeting my spiritual path and living for greater purpose, a life of my own mental enlightenment, unfortunately just for me and no one else, I wish I could share this but all I can share are my words. Every one’s path is their own, every one chooses their own God.

This new life calls for a cross to be picked up daily, a bitter cup to be drank from – daily. From Mark the Shark to Mark the Apostle. Reborn, reincarnation – believe in that?

Thank you,

Mark S.

Coronavirus as a Catalyst for Springing into a New Era

We are living in one of the most amazing times in human history, and no one could have foreseen such a radical change to the way the United States population is currently operating at the beginning of this decade, just under four months ago.  The future is being developed and brought into fruition before all of our eyes.  We are on the cusp of a different era, indeed.  This is an era in which trends will already become known to us as they are concurrently being formed and utilized by other businesses and people – that is, we won’t know of what’s “new and innovative” in the world until it is quickly adopted by everybody, springing the innovation into all of our worlds. 

It is apparent from reading “Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era” that eras the world have previously experienced, which include the hunter-gatherer, agrarian, mercantile, and industrial era, have progressively gotten shorter in length.  This means that humans are exponentially developing through technologies and subsequent periods of change to areas that include culture, work, and living.  The fifth era, which has been developing parallel to industrial innovation over the past 50 years, will include internet and computer technologies that increase productivity and the spread of ideas/education/entertainment (as we have begun to see over the past 20 years).  As we trail on into this new era, my predictions for the trends springing out of these new times are as followed: the economies of different countries throughout the world will continue to be used to the advantage of businesses.  This means that companies will be open-minded and encourage hiring remote workers from countries with a favorable currency-exchange rate.  For example, this could look like businesses hiring Africans to work as a computer scientist on a remote team.  The capital expended on this team would be spent more efficiently because corporations need not own/rent a building for their employees to work at, their employees won’t have any commuting-associated costs (including their time), and most of all they can pay them a much lower salary that will still satisfy the African (or whatever economically favorable country they hire from).  Full workforces and teams will be made up of remote employees.  The smartest companies will not limit their talent-hiring pool to the city or country they are in – they will pick the best in the world and have all their work online.  This sort of activity will lead into much of the world having to assimilate to one language, the language of the country that is hiring, which will most likely be English (many countries already teach English as a second language).  I could see the most innovative companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook being the first adopters to this employment/business model.  These innovative companies are also the ones who crave diversity, a mix of perceptions/convictions – which serve to inform my prediction about the future of remote teams made up of people from all around the world speaking one language, English.  Thus, we will see a globalization like never before – a worldly economy very interconnected as we’ve never seen before.  Communication and shipments between countries will be easier and less costly.  International commerce will be a topic of discussion as it pertains to a company’s payroll.  Tech and internet startups will continue to be the most valued (only increasingly so), and we may see valuations so astronomical that they break records.  In addition to the previously mentioned forecasts, I also predict a shift away from the current computer/internet interfaces we use – someone will make a better-designed interface/computer as work and play continue developing into the fifth era.  To be blunt, Windows and Apple interfaces are “looks” of yesterday, and they will be replaced by more intuitive/efficient operating systems.  ESports and interactive video game adoption/usage will also grow concurrently in the entertainment industries.

Now, as for how Coronavirus plays into this fifth era we are moving in – we are seeing these changes to remote work VERY clearly and actively assimilating to them as a culture.  After this quarantine/outbreak, which’s effects will be felt at least the rest of 2020, people will come out of their dwellings with a new mindset about what sort of work is possible.  People will continue to stay at home, not wasting time getting dressed, packing a meal, commuting, and everything in between.  We are seeing the capability of anyone to be their most productive by working at home – particularly if that work is able to be done on a computer (which most work is).

In history, there is often times where change was ready to happen – the metaphorical arrow of change was pulled back onto its bow string, waiting to be launched – but it just took some sort of historical event as a catalyst to move things forward, and someone’s vision to give the bow and arrow direction.  This change into a fifth era was going to happen regardless of Corona or not, but now Corona has catalyzed and sprung us into this fifth era of the 2020’s.  And we will never go back.

How COVID-19 looks like 😮

A Closer Look at A.P. Giannini

Here is an essay entry from a prompt about Amadeo P. Giannini I wrote at Grove City College’s Entrepreneurship & Enterprise class. Enjoy.

A.P. Giannini, founder of Bank of America

A.P Giannini is “a man who attributes the magnitude of his achievements largely to the bitter fight waged against him by competitors” (Forbes).  Over a century later, the man who created the quickest growing bank in his time has now become the founder of the largest bank in the United States.  He is the ironic magnate – despite his rule over an increasingly might bank, A.P. lived his life by a simple philosophy, “I am not a millionaire, and I never expect or hope to be one.  I have no ambition to become very rich.”  This closer look at A.P. Giannini’s life attempts to look at causes to the epic effect of a man who helped make America.

            A person’s story does not begin merely at their exiting of a uterus.  Their story begins with the genes and DNA that had evolved over thousands of years to create a culmination of flesh, blood, and mysterious spirit referred to as a human.  Although A.P. Giannini was born a Taurus on the astrological calendar (a sign that has the distinct strengths of reliability, patience, practicality, devotion, responsibility, and stability with weaknesses that include being stubborn, possessive, and uncompromising), his story really begins with his ancestrally adjacent predecessors – his parents. 

Luigi Giannini and Virginia Demartini were adventurers.  Luigi had originally immigrated to California as a part of the gold rush.  After making some decent cash, he went back to visit his hometown of Genoa, Italy.  It was at this point that he met and fell in love with Virginia.  Just six weeks later, Luigi and a pregnant Virginia came back to California by boat and the newly built transcontinental railroad.  This impulsiveness shown by Luigi and Virginia depicts a strong sense of self-independence (a rare trait to most but a common trait to immigrants).

Being born on May 6, 1870 as a Taurus to two adventurers from a passionate Italian cultural heritage, A.P. “..has the ability to see things from a grounded, practical and realistic perspective.  Taurus’ find it easy to make money and stay on same projects for years, or until they are completed. What we often see as stubbornness can be interpreted as commitment, and their ability to complete tasks whatever it takes is uncanny. This makes them excellent employees, great long-term friends and partners, always being there for people they love” (Taurus Zodiac Sign Taurus Horoscope).

            A.P. grew up observing an era whence the economy was booming in San Jose, California.  Living within an Italian community of fellow immigrants and working on his father’s farm and hotel, A.P. had a hard-working role model… until one of his father’s co-workers shot him in the head over a single dollar.  The trauma undergone from being present and watching such an instance would have been mentally and emotionally debilitating to almost anyone.  Thus Giannini’s first major trial in life at seven years old.  The impact on the youngster’s mental health is undocumented.  His father figure was soon replaced when his mother married Lorenzo Scatena, another self-employed entrepreneur.  Virginia remarried in less than a year and A.P. began working for his stepfather at 12 years old.  This was no ordinary 12 year old, however.  From an early age, A.P. would sneak out of the house in order to get his kicks… in the form of hard labor. 

“In order to elude his mother, he got up and dressed very quietly, tip-toed downstairs in his stockings, and then put on his shoes on the sidewalk!” (Forbes).  He would wake up at midnight to go work, then went to school and did more work afterwards.  He ate dinner then did his homework and got just a few hours of sleep every night.  This activity was nearly inhuman, as if a God-given drive had to have been granted to Giannini.  As a teenager, he valued working over sleep.

In addition to this exceptional hunger to work and maximize his time, Giannini was very practical.  He realized that school was nearly worthless for where his talents lied and the plans he had for himself.  Dropping out after 8th grade, he took a short business college course and continued working in produce wholesale & distribution with his stepfather.  By this point in his youth, Giannini was tall, dark, handsome, and strong.  Perhaps his level of attractiveness had a positive effect on his confidence and belief in his accomplishing challenging tasks.  However, he did not coast through life with his natural talent and physically good looks alone.

A.P. was very business savvy – he would oftentimes find better deals, suppliers, or products to add into his wholesaling route in order to incur a greater profit and service for his patrons.  This shows that he had a good radar for opportunity.  At the mere age of 19, Giannini received a partnership stake of controlling equity in his stepfather’s business.  The belief, motivation, and reward by his stepfather allowed him to flourish as a young man.  He was free to progress and grow as a person.  There was no one holding A.P. back, but only encouraging him.

            Giannini prepared himself for his future banking industry endeavor through his 20’s, whilst working in the produce industry.  This is where he got his “10,000 hours towards becoming a master” multiple times over (Outliers, Gladwell). 

In his early 20s, he found the woman he would marry – Clorinda Agnes Cuneo, a Pisces (the ideal match for a Taurus).  Perhaps their high astrological compatibility made other parts of his life simpler and gratifying.  It seems that he had found the perfect woman for him on every relational level.  Clorinda was one year older than A.P., quite like how Westinghouse and other powerful industrialists preferred their women – older, mature.  Perhaps these women would have to have greater years of life under their belt to attract such brilliant men.  Giannini’s relationship with his wife would serendipitously turn out to be the seed necessary towards becoming a banking magnate.  Hardships continued to plague their family, however – only three out of their six children survived to adulthood, and those three additional catastrophic events added to the tough family struggles that A.P. endured.  In historical recollection of A.P.’s life, the details about the death of those around him is often overlooked.  In fact, of the five works I cited below, only one of them mentioned the details of the deaths Giannini endured.  Perhaps it is this constant reminder of death that had made Giannini realize the value of life and thus pursue efficiency in every task he set out to accomplish.  For the young man, if something was worth doing – it was worth doing well.

            A.P. later sold half his interest to his employees at the age of 31 in the most honest and fair manner possible.  His goal was retirement – to live a humble and relaxed existence.  He paid his employees with stake so they could reap the same financial reward and opportunity Giannini had experienced as well.  What was Giannini after?  Why did he sell his life’s work?  Why did he want to retire?  Perhaps Giannini lived not money, not a specific industry’s work, not for his or his family’s wellbeing – but for a challenge.  He made inconvenient challenges into opportunities to leverage himself towards growth.  The man played his cards beautifully even when he was dealt a bad hand – and this is what he received his thrills from.  Perhaps A.P. was addicted to facing and accomplishing a challenge.  Perhaps he received a high from being a career contrarian.

Giannini was frugal, nonetheless, a sign of his deep practicality and discipline.  Instead of stopping to eat during his workdays, he would eat crackers and cheese while he drove his produce carriage around from place to place.  I have heard it said that one of the most overlooked attributes of the financially successful is their frugality (with examples like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates in modern day).  Giannini fell within this group of the frugally successful.  He was a man who only took what he needed, keeping his salary lower than the typical executive and sometimes forgoing payment.  “The amount I made was ample to satisfy my family’s needs,” he said.  A.P. was not a materialistic nor money-obsessed man, but a man with a deeper “why” to his every so brilliant “how” as he went upon life with a champion’s work ethic towards building his businesses.

            Giannini’s marriage to Clorinda may have been a real match made in heaven and sent by God.  Whenever Joseph Cuneo, Clorinda’s father, died in 1902, A.P. took responsibility for the man’s holdings, which included shares in the Columbus Savings and Loan Society.  As a stakeholder, he was placed on the board of the firm where he observed a huge problem.  The organization was impractical because they would not give small loans out to people.  Giannini was angered and frustrated at this policy, for this meant that entrepreneurs and farmers did not have a good chance at starting/building their own business.   Having been in the overlooked clientele’s shoes, A.P. deeply sympathized.  He knew that the way to create something of one’s self was through hard work and opportunity.  He wanted others to have an opportunity for success.

What additionally fueled Giannini’s frustration was the presence of a quickly growing competitor to the business model of issuing small and democratized loans.  A.P. shows his contrarianism when face-to-face with incompetence here; he and five other directors resigned Columbus to found the Bank of Italy in October 1904 with a combined $150,000 in resources.  Bank of Italy would later become the Bank of America after dozens of years and dozens of nationwide acquisitions.  The bank opened directly across the street from Columbus in an old saloon.  A.P. was impatient (quite like Taurus’ are well known for) in the face of a huge problem that needed fixed as well as an itching for challenge that needed scratched.  He knew that, “crops come on the market at different times in different sections.  Growers in one district will be paying off loans at the time growers in another section will be needing funds.”  A.P. had understood this market concept that still rings true today from his experience being actively involved in the California’s socio-economic ecosystem as a teenager.

The phrase “little people” was used whenever describing the demographic Giannini originally aimed to service.  There were riches in the niches, but at that point, this sort of business thought was ahead of its time.  He would service customers of any demographic, however, never discriminating except for in the case of faulty character.  The man was fearless in his mission.  Perhaps at his onset, he wondered if he could make this into something big after all.  Although he was technically supposed to be “retired”, he could not sit still (literally and metaphorically).  A.P. would only sit for an hour a day and sleep very little at night (quite like how he did as a hustling adolescent).  Additionally, Giannini was a salesperson at heart – asking literally everyone and their mothers to open accounts with Bank of Italy. 

To compare and contrast the happenings of the times – there was another famous Italian man on the east coast who was a charming, handsome, and Italian “salesman” in the banking industry.  His name was Charles Ponzi.  Perhaps the charm and bravado that comes from having the passionate and romantic heritage of Italy allowed Italian men to (seemingly easily) gather people’s money.  Perhaps the Italian culture was a more enthusiastic one, a priceless differentiator when selling to the descendants of stoic European cultures.  Nevertheless, quite the opposite of Ponzi, Giannini did business the honest way with no shortcut nor scheme.  If Ponzi were an ethical businessperson, perhaps he would have rivaled Giannini in the banking industry. 

One instance that shows Giannini’s brilliant resilience and go-get-‘em attitude was the disaster of April 18, 1906 where an earthquake and huge fire destroyed much of San Francisco.  He had arrived at his saloon-turned-bank that morning to find the fire only one block away.  Immediately, he commandeered a garbage carriage and put all the money and gold into it.  He then transported the bank’s resources to a safe place (burying the liquid assets in his backyard immediately).  The brilliance and problem-solving nature of Giannini continued to show throughout the rest of his life – he understood that while all his competitors were literally in flames, he could service people with their capital and loans when they needed it most!  As such, he built a great public relation and trust with the community from that moment on.  He even set up his bank on a table at a dock until San Francisco’s condition stabilized.  It is unclear if, at this point, Giannini’s intention was to leverage his business to greater heights through his actions or if he just wanted to do what was right.  Though his intention is unclear, he nevertheless ended up benefitting from such a catastrophe.  The man’s quick actions and confidence seemed to have a touch equivalent to that of King Midas.

On top of his keen marketing approaches, A.P. was very efficient.  “I long since mastered the knack of thinking on whatever subject was in my mind whenever anyone started and kept on talking about something of no interest to me. I can let such a conversation go on at one ear and out at the other without ever interfering with my own mental machinery,” perhaps the man really was some sort of anomaly of a human being that could even multi-task his thinking during an engaged conversation!

A.P.’s momentum compiled and compounded.  In 1907, he anticipated a banking collapse and was quick to accumulate as much gold as he could (in order to retain his bank’s resource value).  Not only did he have a stake in doing well for his clientele, but he also had an intrinsic motivation to outcompete the other banks in the area.  Giannini wanted to be the top dog.  Following this crash, when the market was at a general low and Bank of Italy was at a high, Giannini purchased other banks.  Since he was successful against the other competitors in his market, the other banks (in a move of desperation) appealed to state legislature to limit branch banking.  The lobbyist-businesspeople lost the appeal.  Thus, throughout his 30s, A.P. built Bank of Italy to a healthy and growing state.  He hit his stride in his 40s and compounded his momentum all the way up until his death at 79 years old.

Another challenge that A.P. underwent included the passing of the McFadden Act in 1927.  The act sought to give national banks competitive equality with state-chartered banks by letting national banks branch to the extent permitted by state law. The McFadden Act specifically prohibited interstate branching by allowing each national bank to branch only within the state in which it is situated.  Although this stifling regulation within his industry made things more difficult for Bank of Italy, Giannini responded by exploiting a provision within the law to acquire more banks.  He strategically navigated regulations, seeing them as an opportunity for his firm and a barrier to his competitors.  An eternal optimist – Giannini rose to his greatest heights whenever challenged.

A.P. was continually trying to prove something to himself – that he could do “it”.  Whether that “it” was getting up at midnight to work and study all day, having the most successful produce business in the area, or operating the greatest bank in the U.S., Amadeo Pietro Giannini found amusement in chasing the next challenge.  “Work does not wear me out.  It buoys me up”, he would proclaim.  Throughout his second venture of Bank of Italy, he found motivation in his dream of making entrepreneurship possible throughout the United States.  A.P. was truly an “entrepreneur’s entrepreneur”.

During this closer look at A.P. Giannini’s life, we uncovered his circumstance pre-birth and during life.  However, his life’s story is incomplete until we look at his afterlife (if such a thing exists).  Was Giannini a Christian?  Moreover, was he a good enough Christian to enter heaven?  After this look into the eternally optimistic life of Giannini, biblical logic would reason that indeed he might now be in heaven.  If there is a heaven, Giannini is in charge of its bank.  

A mere mortal such as I, the author of this paper, am not the judge of who may enter celestial paradise.  Through research, nothing was mentioned of A.P.’s moral principles.  However, A.P. was a man of action – and his actions contained biblical principles clear and apparent. The man did not put wealth on a pedestal nor as a priority.  As we know, “it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 19:24).  Unlike other “men who made America”, Giannini was not a rich man – his wealth never surpassed more than $500,000 though he stewarded the resources of millions of people when they needed it most.

An epic effect of a man who sculpted the socio-economic United States as we know it now had to have had an amazing story.  Additionally, the man would have to have an amazing “why”, causing him to progress towards what resulted in a height of entrepreneurialism that could have only been dreamed of.  We now know that his chief motivator was an intrinsic craving to defeat challenges – both in business and in life.

Works Cited

Forbes, B.C. “Men Who Are Making the West.” Men Who Are Making the West, by B. C. Forbes, B.C. Forbes Publishing Co.

“Taurus Zodiac Sign Taurus Horoscope.” Astrology Zodiac Signs, http://www.astrology-zodiac-signs.com/zodiac-signs/taurus/.

PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/theymadeamerica/whomade/giannini_hi.html.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “A.P. Giannini.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 31 May 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/A-P-Giannini.

Gladwell, Malcolm, 1963-. Outliers : The Story of Success. New York :Little, Brown and Co., 2008. Print.

“A. P. Giannini.” Biography of Nellie Bly — Pioneer of Investigative Reporting, agilewriter.com/Biography/Giannini.htm.

Christopher Columbus and His Mysterious Family Tree… | My Italian Family | Family Tree, Italian Citizenship, Records & Trips, http://www.myitalianfamily.com/stories/tragedy-triumph-ap-giannini-and-his-bank-america.

“Giannini, Amadeo Peter (1870-1949), Banker | American National Biography.” (1830-1885), Writer and Reformer | American National Biography, 16 June 2017, http://www.anb.org/view/10.1093/anb/9780198606697.001.0001/anb-9780198606697-e-1000626.

Treecup Tea Interview Responses

Here are some questions submitted by one of the writers for my college’s newspaper called The Grove City Collegian. I figured that I spent quite a while replying to these questions, so I might as well use this as content for my personal site as well. So here goes:

Q: When and why did you want to create this business?

A: I officially began my bottled tea business on October 11, 2017.  I was a first semester Sophomore at the time.  I had been studying entrepreneurship for several years (in college and in high school), and knew it was my dream to create my own business.  I had recently come to the conclusion, at that time, that if I were to be successful in anything, entrepreneurship especially, it would have to stem from something I am passionate about.  Knowing this, I was living my life aware of any entrepreneurial ideas that may serendipitously come to me.  The idea came to me on Labor Day 2017, a few weeks before I officially incorporated as an LLC on October 11th.  I was sitting down with my mother for Labor Day lunch and she had made me a pitcher of my grandmother’s Peruvian Chai tea recipe – I had grown up drinking this tea and have fond memories of being in Peru for vacation and waking up to the delightful aroma of the tea (cinnamon, cloves, anise smell) filling the house, which was brewed by my grandmother.  On Labor Day 2017, I literally drank the WHOLE PITCHER in that one sitting and told my mom, emphatically – caffeinatedly, “mom, this tea is so good you could sell it”, and she IMMEDIATELY replied “well, you study entrepreneurship – why don’t you?”.  At that point, I felt a feeling of excitement come over me and the “lightbulb” went off in my head.  This was the idea I was looking for – something I was passionate about.  Something that was a simple product, a unique-tasting bottled iced tea.  So I told my mom to make some more of the tea, put it into empty milk gallon containers, and I would come back to college the next day and see if other people liked it too.  So, I came to college the next day with my gallon of iced Peruvian Chai tea and dixie cups and had people sample the tea and give me feedback – the feedback was great so I continued.

Q: IS there anything specifically that connects you to your Tree Cup product? i.e. tea was a special thing in your family; you’ve always had compassion for issues in third world countries. Basically why do you have a passion for your business?

A: Treecup now has 6 different flavors.  They are all delicious and I chose every single product offering myself.  For many of them, I walked around my tea distributor’s shop and simply smelled different mason jars of teas, spices, and herbs – and combined them as I saw fit.  This is how our best selling tea – Berry Jasmine came into existence.  The second best seller is Ginsyin and Yang, which I created from experimenting with a spearmint, ginseng, green tea, and lemon mix in my dorm my Junior year.  The Peruvian Chai is the third best seller and is, of course, my grandmother’s recipe.  The next best seller, lumberjack black, derives from my tasting an amazing Czech tea in a bougie Pittsburgh tea shop called Dobra tea – I wanted to find a tea recipe to replicate this epic tea I had in that shop, and I did. In the past (my freshman year), I had a small business that lasted a few months where I ordered bracelets from impoverished Dominican Republicans, whom I had met the previous summer from going on a mission trip, and sold them to church congregations.  I sent all the funds raised, which was about $2,500 in total.  The problem is I ran out of churches to pitch to, so the business was unsustainable – and I later found out that the person I had sent the money to was not using it for what he had promised.  So I stopped working with them, it was a heart breaking experience. Nonetheless, I’ve always loved cause-marketing because of three reasons: Firstly, it really helps out the world by leveraging the incredibly powerful and vast US economy to help third world countries – I think this is an amazingly powerful thing, in concept.  Secondly, I have purchased so many Toms shoes throughout my life and wore them with a sense of pride and as a reminder that I helped out someone with a pair of free shoes.  Nobody had done this sort of impact-model in food and beverage yet, and I recognized that.  Thirdly, I needed to work on an entrepreneurial venture that could have a larger, worldly, philanthropic impact in order to keep my motivation up.  In entrepreneurship you’re constantly working with little emotional reward until you finally get a payoff years later.  With my model, every time I sell a tea, I have a good feeling about it because I can envision the tree being planted.

Q: What keeps you working hard on this endeavor?

A: The biggest things are my business’ momentum to-date, my mother, my cause, and my career. Firstly, my business is like a heavy concrete flywheel that continually needs grown and pushed – but once you get it moving after a lot of hard work, it starts being able to keep generate its own momentum and the work you put in is much more effective, the work you put in is compounded by your business entity’s momentum.  It’s an amazing thing that a business is its own entity, like a living breathing human.  I love that it is constantly “alive”, in the stores and online, through social media and our website.  It’s constantly “working”, simply because I’ve built it up to this point.  Whole Foods has just placed their second order of our product, and it’s much bigger than their first order – this will continue and eventually we’ll be easily able to enter other Whole Foods Markets because of this momentum.  It’s a phenomenon I feel very privileged to see firsthand, and I’m glad I didn’t give up over the last 2 and a half years, because now I’m able to see that natural momentum making my business’ grow faster and easier.  In entrepreneurship, momentum is your friend. Secondly, I have had many doubts and have even wanted to quit a few times since I started.  The biggest moment of which was when we had to fully rebrand my business from “Te Amo” to “Treecup” due to a Guatemalan company already owning the trademark for “Te Amo”.  It took over a year to do a full rebrand and get my new bottles in from our manufacturer in China.  I was in despair quite a bit about my diminishing chance of success throughout that year.  My mother would constantly tell me , “NO, Mark we have to make this work because you want to be an entrepreneur”.  She always told me this, and she’s helped me every step of the way.  While I’m in college, she brews the tea after she comes back from her full-time job.  She’s amazing and is a miracle to my life, and my business.  She is the only other person with equity in the business (22%), so her stake also motivates me to make her work and investment pay-off.  I couldn’t have gotten this far without my mother. Thirdly, my cause, as shown above, and my formal partnership with Haiti Friends and their staff motivates me a lot.  It creates for a deeper purpose with my daily work.  It also helps to move my business forward, as our product’s chief differentiator. Fourthly, my career is that of being an “entrepreneur”.  I could’ve gone to college for simply “business”, or “marketing”, but I chose “entrepreneurship”, because that’s the dream. My parents immigrated from Peru in 1995, and as such I feel a responsibility as a first generation American to rise above and make my parents proud.  My parents immigrated because they wanted better lives for their children (my mother was pregnant with my older sister).  Thus, my parents’ pride is an end goal of mine with my entrepreneurial endeavor, and my life as a whole.  I find this comment in immigrants’ children – we have a different perspective from most Americans, who are fulfilled by having a standard level comfortable.  I want to go on to other industries and other businesses.  But, that won’t be for many many years – until I finish my work with Treecup by reforesting all of Haiti (120,000,000 trees planted).  I am interested in updating the standard education model in the U.S. into something more effective through a future entrepreneurial endeavor. I’ll end this section with this – I decided to study entrepreneurship knowing, my senior year of high school, that I must graduate into working for my own business I started in college.  I thought, and still think, that if you study “entrepreneurship”, and graduate to work for a corporation – that’s the definition of failure.  If someone studies entrepreneurship, they must graduate into the job role of entrepreneur.  I don’t think many, or any, of my peers have had this same realization/conviction.

Q: When was the moment when you thought “Hey, this is working”?

A: Honestly, recently.  When we entered the three Pittsburgh Whole Foods and they proceeded to put in a larger order, I knew we’ll probably end up being alright.  But, we are less than 5% through with growing the business.  We are just at the tip of the iceberg.  But my momentum from this Whole Foods deal will launch me into raising capital through angel investors.  I will say – we always made a profit.  I made sure we priced our tea and sold enough to make at least a 30% profit margin.  I never was OK with “breaking even”.  Also, I am a sales addict, which I can confidently say almost no one my age is.  Everyone is insecure about asking someone to purchase something from then – but it’s the most essential part of creating a business.  I learned how to sell from working as a Sales Representative for Cutco – people made fun of me when I worked at this place for two years, saying I was working for a “pyramid-scheme”, which wasn’t even correct, but those same people aren’t on my same level in sales skill.  I get a high from selling stuff, and when it’s selling YOUR OWN PRODUCT, it doesn’t even feel like work. Also, I set up often at local vendor shows and busy Pittsburgh sidewalks on the weekends.  This takes hustle.  But when doing this, I engage pedestrians with free samples of every tea flavor and tell them my story when they are tasting.  Their feedback is amazing – they love the cause, the fact that the tea is fresh organic, ethically sourced tea leaves brewed earlier that week, and my hustle.  We are in an age where everyone loves “Shark Tank”, so I give them a “Shark Tank-like” pitch to purchase bottles of Treecup – and they always enjoy it.  These people are walking to experience the city, and I give them a cool, different, and exclusive experience. People email me and message me through social media to give me positive feedback on the tea, even if they may have purchased months ago – and this always renews my energies and encourages me.  It’s a little nudge in the right direction.

Q: When did you initially contact Whole Foods- or what was the process that got Tree Cup in Whole Foods?

A: We received our bottles from Dongguan China on September 9, 2019.  I pitched them a week and a half later, on September 19th.  I had set up a meeting time with all three shops via phone call the previous week.  I went in with my Certificate of Insurance, my FDA-approved production certificate, and my Product/Price list.  I gave an epic pitch to each grocery buyer.  Whole Foods has an AMAZING culture of innovation, support of sustainability and the environment, healthy foods, and local products – so our product was and is perfect for them.  In addition, what really put me over the edge with each buyer was the fact my bottles are a biodegradable and BPA free plastic.  Each Whole Foods buyer agreed to personally sponsor my entry into the store on the spot.  It was a glorious day, and I thought I would be in store by December or January – turns out it took until February 24th. It’s a pretty great feeling having Whole Foods validate my business and product.

Q: What are your thoughts on this huge success?

Well, I immediately thought “we got to make so much tea now”.  We make the tea very manually.  Every bottle is brewed in 3-gallon pots on a stove top.  From there, we cool the tea by putting the pots into an ice bath and bottle the tea BY HAND.  From there, we label each sticker, add an expiration date, and attach a to-go sticker on the back.  It takes A WHILE to produce the tea – which is also why my mother, our production manager, is my greatest asset.  So, while it is great to get revenue back into the company, and to supply such a cool outlet like Whole Foods, it also means a lot of chaos and hard manual work. Also, now that we landed a great customer like Whole Foods, I must be proactive in ordering more bottles from China and figure out how to get my product shelf-stable at room temperature, so that our inventory and distribution can last much longer and can be produced in larger batches – thus having to produce tea less frequently.  It’s an amazing problem to have, of course, but a lot of work on my part will go into figuring out these problems.  I have no clue what to do about getting my product shelf-stable, so I need to first and foremost contact food science labs. In addition, my doubts about being able to attract investment dollars are much less prevalent in my mind now.

Q: Does this make your life different in any way- i.e. you’re busier; more money coming in; more free time?

A: I am definitely busier.  For example, over the next month or so I’m doing 15 sampling demos at the three Pittsburgh Whole Foods.  So I need to go home every weekend and promptly return to do my schoolwork.  We have some nice revenue coming in from selling so much tea now, but as I outlined in the above question, we will soon run out of bottles and have to order more ASAP.  Coronovirus WILL delay the bottles’ arrival and I’ll probably have to spend more too. Also, I’ve been in three local newspapers over the past two weeks.  So people I know have been contacting me, congratulating me.  It feels nice!  It’s amazing how many people come out of the woodworks when you finally get a bigger break.

Q: What are your plans for after college?

A: Entrepreneurship all the way!  I don’t want to have to work for anyone EVER again, instead I’d rather have people working for me.  I want to provide an amazingly innovative, hip, and philanthropically-centered culture for people who want to work for a company doing something good for the world.  I hope I get to stay in the Pittsburgh area.

Q: Where is Tree Cup going in the future? Anything we should be looking out for?

A: I would like to grow my online sales and launch on Amazon, becoming a predominantly business-to-consumer company.  I would like to also grow my distribution network as to be able to service several states within the next 2-3 years.  Eventually I want Treecup to be a national brand.  I have an odd and ambitious vision that in 10 years, news articles will be able to have as their headline, “The One Business that Reforested a Country: Treecup”.  I think this will happen because my business model makes sense and actually works.  It will take 120,000,000 trees to reforest Haiti.  Coke sells over 60 times that a year in American alone.  If they can do it, we can do it. I am also interested in adding a coffee to the Treecup line.  Haitian Coffee, in specific, is the best coffee I’ve ever had, and I believe could have a great place in the U.S. ready-to-drink beverage market. Inevitably, Treecup will have to merge with Coke, Nestle, or Pepsi in order to have access to the full array of distribution networks and retail outlets that each of these companies literally monopolize.  That is, they have exclusive contracts to be within many big-name stores.  We will be unwavering in our 1:1 buy a tea, plant a tree cause, however – this will never change.  Also, Treecup has transparent bottles, which is a metaphor for our brand as one of authenticity and transparency with our tree-planting cause.  As a part of this transparency, I want to have a Treecup staff member in Haiti shooting content videos of trees being planted EVERY DAY.  I want to constantly put out real and transparent content about our work in Haiti.  I believe this will be the greatest marketing for my brand.

Q: Where did you grow up, go to high school?

A: I moved a lot.  I lived in 6 different states and Peru as a kid.  I’ve lived the longest in Butler, PA.  I went to Knoch High School.

The Meaning of Life

Yesterday, I walked into the Student Union building at my college. Proceeding up the stairs to the second floor to do some recreational reading, I come about two friends who, coincidentally, had just mentioned my name seconds prior.

They said, “Mark! No way, we were just talking about you. We were asking one another ‘what’s the meaning of life’, and after talking for a bit and coming to no conclusion, we joked ‘I bet Mark would know’.”

I was flattered by the statement, but then immediately proceeded to quickly and deeply think of a simple answer to suffice their curious and kind statement directed towards me.

The first thing I said is “the meaning of life is to not think about it”, and later added “I think religion is a good and absolute answer for that question”. I wish I would’ve been quick enough to also add on Marcus Cicero’s statement on the header of this very website, “we are not born for ourselves alone”.

My friends seemed to consider deeply my two responses, although I know that they must’ve also pondered and arrived at, at one point or another in their lives, the answers I’d quickly polished off. My responses left me discontent with my own answer.

This forced me to think of the meaning of life – why we do all this. And to be frank, I still don’t know.

As such, I’d like to transfer this question to any of the few readers I have of this blog post – I’d like to ask, if you’re reading this, what do you think the meaning to life is?

Lets discuss in the comments below, and I’ll be sure to thoughtfully reply if you do happen to leave a response.


Mark 🙂

[VIDEO] Reforestation in Haiti

The Treecup and Haiti Friends team have been working in conjunction with eachother for over two years now!! My bottled tea startup has successfully planted over 14,000 trees in Haiti and we put together this video of our last visit to show you some of the landscape of Haiti firsthand. Enjoy 🙂

Note that some parts of the video have been sped up to shorten the video time. So, when you hear my voice super high pitch and quick, that’s why!



I recorded a music video in Haiti…

Upon arriving in the mountain-valley town of Deschappelles, Haiti, I immediately made my way to the local tennis court. It was there that I played doubles with some talented Haitian men. Pasky was one of those men.

After a few days of seeing me taking pictures and videos around town with my big fancy camera, Pasky and his friends had a proposition for me. He came up to me with a huge smile on his face and said, “Mark, will you please take a music video of me?”

I responded, “Pasky, you’re a rapper?!”

He said “Wi wi” (meaning yes, yes).

So, this is that music video.

We had a blast hitting up different spots around town and having random members of the community get involved and have fun. My personal favorite part of the video is the last minute, where the music fades out and you can only hear the raw noises of the excited Haitians. The country has an amazing culture, which can be represented by the film clip.

The day before I left, Pasky gave me a nice present. It turns out, he’s an excellent pencil artist as well! As shown by the portrait he created with moi as his inspiration.

I look forward to going back to Haiti and meeting my friends at the cement tennis court in the heart of Deschappelles.

My Time in Haiti (Part 2)

I’m currently in the airplane from Miami headed back to Pittsburgh.  It has been an incredible experience travelling to Haiti and subsequently to Miami with Edward, the director of Haiti Friends (our tree planting organization).  The two of us have become quite good friends, and I’m grateful to have him as my mentor / biz partner. 

Treecup Team

For the last 4 days in Haiti, my mother joined Haiti Friends for tree planting!!  It was awesome to see her grinning from ear to ear as she finally saw, in person, all the good we were doing. 

What blew me most away from my week in Deschappelles, Haiti (our tree-planting base) was the amount of work necessary to grow thousands of trees.  The staff works year-round planning logistics, budget allocation, educating the public about trees, planting the trees, weeding the nursery lot, watering the trees (during the dry season!), and finally their year wraps up with the culmination of all trees being planted in their chosen community.  It is a LOT of work, and I witnessed the dozen members of the HTRIP (Haitian Timber Re-Introduction Program) staff working HARD!

Treecup Nursery Crew

Every morning, I would get up and eat breakfast – fresh-made bread with a spicy peanut butter and coffee.  After that, I would gather my photography and film equipment and walk a couple of blocks down to the tree nursery.  There, I would proceed to observe and talk with the agroforestry technicians, the nursery keepers, and the tree experts alike.  I interviewed them, asking them questions like; “How do trees impact your life”, “what is the biggest issue in Haiti”, “what is your favorite type of tree”.  All the responses were different to questions like these.  However, the one similarity between all the interviews was the passion that the HTRIP staff had when speaking about trees and reforestation, or “debwazman”, as the locals call it. 

Three times during that week, I went on the long mountain journey to Decombe, a mountain village.  It took 3 hours on severely bumpy roads…. No, I cannot even call these roads “roads”, they were more like large rocks laid down to be just enough for an offroading vehicle to get up.  It was incredible, even though my spine still feels a bit compressed from bouncing up and down.  I got to know the people of Decombe quite well.  They were fascinated by my video and photography equipment, and they warmed up to me as I started playing with the children.  For example, we formed an assembly line to pass trees out of the car and onto a shades spot (for the trees to be planted later).  I was at the beginning of the line and would simply push the saplings into the chest of the kids for them to quickly grab them.  They quickly caught on to me trying to get them to go quicker and would push the sapling into the chest of the next young boy, or garcon, as they call it in Haiti. 

After a while, I brought out my harmonica and played a couple of tunes for them.  They went wild!!  Yay, I have fans!  The music in Haiti is extremely specific, an afro-Caribbean blend of groove and rhythm.  I believe that that was their first time ever hearing my American folk-type of blues Harmonica.

It took about 2 hours to empty the car from saplings.  During that time, I would stop to set up different sorts of camera footage and take pictures.  At first, the locals were a bit cold and apprehensive with me – the only “blanc”, or white guy (even though I’m Hispanic) that they’ve seen in a while!  But, after a while they were posing with huge smiles for the camera.  I’m extremely grateful to these amazing mountain people for allowing me to shoot some great content of them.

CEO with a tree

The content will be used for all it is worth.  I hope it lasts me a year but am not quite sure if it will haha!  Either way, it will assist in my goal of providing complete transparency to Treecup drinkers.