Mariam Kinkladze and George Papanastasatos were tired of compromising.
While studying at Columbia University, Kinkladze could not find a single healthful energy solution—every option was filled with sugar and chemicals. Meanwhile, Papanastasatos was instrumental in the launch of several natural beverages, but none were quite in synch with his philosophies.
That’s when fate stepped in: the two met, fell in love and ultimately created, Organic Gemini, a fair trade, organic, certified GMO-free energy drink.
Here, Kinkladze and Papanastasatos dish on why the company’s trademark slogan, “Focus & Finish,” is also their shared personal mantra:
Live The Process: What inspired each of you to get involved in the holistic food industry?
Mariam Kinkladze: As a person in the community and a human on this planet, I think we all stop at least once to think about what we can bring forth in a positive way: holistic food is both pure and positive. The inspiration—along with the desire to develop a holistic energy drink—came while in school at Columbia University, when I realized that all available energy solutions in the market come with an unavoidable compromise: the intake of a high amount of sugar, along with artificial, genetically modified and lab-made ingredients.
When I met George, he was planning to take some time off from New York on a six-month trip around the world, the first stop being in Sydney, Australia. George’s expertise lies in the natural food community. On his journey, he took his passion for a healthy, balanced lifestyle and the homemade energy drink blends he was preparing for his friends.
George Papanastasatos: I was always passionate about organic food and beverages—actually, more about the beverages than the food! Since 2007, I have launched several startup beverage companies within the natural food network both as a partner and as a consultant. While designing sales strategies and marketing plans for products that I didn’t fully believe in personally, I realized the importance of working out my karma and not just chasing the dollars. As soon as I had my thoughts clear, I knew exactly what I wanted to do; everything seemed to fall into place. I randomly met Mariam, who was ready to launch an organic energy drink, and the rest became our history.
LTP: How did you come to create Organic Gemini?
MK: Organic Gemini was a progressive concept—it still is actually. We dabbled with the idea of bringing pure ingredients from around the world to people who may not have the knowledge or resources to get them on their own.
GP: Bigger than that though, we thought about how these ingredients can benefit people specifically. We look for simplicity, mixing of pure ingredients, no additives and no compromises. For example, the organicguarana extract in our Guarana energy drink is a sustainable farming product and is fairly traded from Brazil.
Creating Organic Gemini has opened a lot of creative doors for us. It's not always easy, but we’re always having fun! Doing what you love is never tiring. We can’t all save the world, of course, but we can surely contribute a bit of goodness, and that’s what we’re trying to do. It just makes sense: not everyone can afford to take the time to research or scout out the healthiest option, and that’s where we come in. Being involved in the holistic food industry allows us to share the wealth that’s all around us. We educate people and that teaches us too. It’s a rewarding cycle.
LTP: To what do you pay the most attention when sourcing your ingredients?
MK: Because life is about connection and appreciation is built through understanding, we like to be able to say we’ve shaken the hands of the hands that helped raise our ingredients. We meet and get to know our growers so
that we can understand the life and community around what we're putting into our bodies. It would be ideal to do that with everything we consume. Can you imagine the awareness it would bring?
GP: I am fortunate enough to have experienced the taste and flavor of real produce. Growing up in Greece, it was impossible to ignore the smell of a fresh tomato salad on the kitchen table, even while I was sitting in my room at the other end of the house. Living in New York, the fruit and vegetables available are not always appetizing—you cannot tell the difference between eating a tomato or a cucumber! Even the best organic varieties available are not close to what they used to be or are supposed to be. While sourcing vendors for our ingredients at Organic Gemini, we asked only for organic, fair trade growers who don't believe in the use of genetically modified seeds. All Organic Gemini products come certified organic and are USDA, non- GMO project verified as well as fair trade. It took a lot of research and some serious traveling in order to finalize our suppliers, but we are now proud of each one of them.
LTP: You both travel quite a bit to far away places: what are your tips for staying physically and mentally balanced when on the road?
MK: As far as staying physically balanced, two tips by which we both abide when traveling are to stay hydrated and to stretch daily. The world throws constant curveballs, so it’s best to try and control what you can actually have control over.
GP: We always pack our own breakfasts and snacks. Breakfast is essential and carrying the right snack will help maintain a healthy diet, regardless of the destination. Never eat airplane food! And of course: Dream! You never know what beauty will come when you travel somewhere, and it’s best not to premeditate. If you keep your dreams open, everything that comes to you is almost serendipitous.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
MK: Right now, happiness looks like George’s hands on my belly, feeling the early movements of our son. Yes, that’s happiness.
GP: Happiness to me is continuously evolving with each day. Sometimes it’s the warm colors in the sunset on a different coast. It looks like creation on
any level. Most of the time, it’s in the kind of body language that can’t be defined by words.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day?
MK: Being able to stay focused and finish all tasks that occur in our busy lives—that’s living the process! Starting something isn't necessarily the problem for most. Inspiration is everywhere and passion is driven from our core. We launch ideas every day—brilliant, groundbreaking ones—but how many times do we leave knots untied? On more occasions than not, our dots remain only half connected. With this realization, we trademarked "Focus & Finish" as a personal reminder of how important it is to follow through with something you start. It's up to you and you only.
GP: "Focus & Finish" started as a joke between Mariam and me, while brainstorming for the best launching strategy. Entrepreneurship is like going on an adventure. We are using "Focus & Finish" as a reminder every time things don't go as planned. It's like the Steve Jobs quote about connecting the dots: “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” We cannot tell the future, but we can trust that by staying committed to our core ideas and vision we are going to finish! It works for us and we wanted to share and inspire others.