Don’t try to learn everything before acting on a good idea. If you have an idea that you think is good, just do it. We have all heard about “analysis paralysis” and I believe in avoiding that wholeheartedly. No one can do everything in any business, so don’t quit because you don’t possess all the necessary skills yourself.
As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Xavier.
Ryan Xavier is a lifelong Angelino, and Founder Galora Home-Grown Sharing www.GoGalora.com. Galora is a free website platform that connects people to trade anything that is homegrown or homemade. Ryan uses technology to return to a simpler time of community connections, neighborhood sharing, and real food from real people. After COVID impacted his first business, Ryan began Galora to help connect people to their neighbors who are growing healthy foods. People are now sharing everything from avocados to zumba classes on Galora, in 13 states and 9 countries. This interview is a deeper look at the reasons behind the project, and the film that is being made about Galora.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?
Sure, I was born in Mexico and grew up in Los Angeles. I was always a big movie buff and I was active in theatre and commercials for many years. After school I worked for the airlines, and later I started a property management company in Europe which was crushed by Covid. But for almost 20 years, I was living and traveling around the world where I picked up on how different cultures interpret the meaning of food and community. Galora, and the documentary we are making unite everything that is important to me: food, health, community, environment, and global thinking. This project has given me an opportunity to help create a stronger community, locally and abroad.
Can you share a funny thing that has occurred in the course of your making your film?
Gladly! We have had a lot of fun making this film, partly because everyone just seems so happy to have anyone new to talk to because of Covid. Despite the need to see people, our subjects are not actors so they are a little nervous about being on camera, but by the end they often don’t want us to leave and they try to make us stay by showering us with gifts. Remember, the people we are interviewing are real members of the Galora home-grown sharing site, so they are avid gardeners, wine makers, bakers, professional musicians, and even marijuana growers, so it can be pretty fun when they try to woo us into staying. We have often left with big smiles and handfuls of treats.
The Galora site is all about trading your stuff with neighbors, so everyone is creating listings of what they grow and make. If they want, your readers can just log in to search near them on the map, and see what cool stuff their neighbors are offering to trade.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
GoGalora.com is full of interesting people excited to trade their stuff — We have tons of fruit and vegetable growers, and people offering homemade bread, wine, sushi, ice cream, soap and candles, soul-food, dimsum, 4:20 edibles, photography, language practice ,swimming help, yoga tutoring, massages, silk rope skills, Koi-fish, and even a guy that will help you if you have an iguana problem (apparently this is a thing in Miami). All of this and more is being traded, and rarely is money exchanged.
Here are some of the most interesting people I’ve interacted with because of this:
Danny is a pianist that played with Steppenwolf that helped us with the Galora jingle and movie soundtrack, and is a master cannabis grower.
Thuy is a nurse and an amazing gardener who grows bananas, tomatoes, moringa, herbs, and goji berries, but is mostly known on the site for her passion fruit listing.
Kevin is a talented pastry chef that waited for 15 years until he finally found an affordable source of passion fruits (see above), to make his amazing creme brulee.
Jaype is a skilled gardener who is trying to help people grow their own food and strengthen their community ties by sharing his urban garden mentoring skill on Galora.
I could go on forever, there is so much goodness happening!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
The Documentary of course! The working title we have is “Galorious Sharing: The Making Of A Home-Grown Fruit-ure”. It is a series of real-life member testimonials, woven together by narration. Early on, it became pretty obvious that the far-reaching implications of the home-grown sharing platform that we were building could be best illustrated by letting the members tell their own stories about their trades and the people they met.
It has been very moving and I have gotten goosebumps at least once during every interview. People have been truly affected by their experiences on Galora and are sharing what it has meant to them during Covid to meet strangers that behave more like friends. It is deeply rewarding as an entrepreneur and filmmaker to capture those moments on camera. This might even become a series because as Galora spreads, stories will become more diverse and we could end up filming all over the world. Who knows?
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
I chose the name “Galora” for our sharing website because it is the word that some indigenous North American tribes use for the sun. This is meaningful because sunshine is the source of all life on earth and nourishes our plants and bodies, but also because native people related to the earth in a way that can teach us how to be better stewards of our planet. Their symbiotic coexistence with plants, animals, the air, and our water sources deserves our respect and emulation. The Galora team has a profound appreciation for the original inhabitants of our land and we hope our site can make it easier for us to live in greater harmony with our environment.
Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?
Currently, monetary wealth can influence how long you will live, what diseases you will get, and even if you have a higher chance of being incarcerated but we hope that Galora can help to dance money of some of that power. We believe that everyone has something to offer, regardless of the size of their land, or the amount in their bank account. Everyone can create a share-listing for things, or even skills they possess, and trade them for things they want and need. The Galora platform is designed to remind people that sharing of ourselves can become a new kind of currency and a way to make stronger bodies, spirits, and communities.
We work to ensure that Galora gives young people a platform to express their individuality in healthy and productive ways. We have a member named Opal that is only 16 years old and is popular for the challah bread that she makes and trades. We hope to welcome more young people and to help give them a sense of purpose. The choices these young Galorians make later in life could be influenced by the positivity they feel on our site, and might help to keep them on a healthy path.
We are also implementing a feature on the platform that allows members to collect money for their offerings and to immediately donate that to a worthwhile cause. The power of this change is hard to imagine now, but I think that in the next ten years, millions of dollars will have been directed towards projects that make the world a better place.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?
After my previous business flatlined because of Covid, like most people I found myself with a lot of extra free time. To keep myself busy, I went through the language learning phase, the bread making phase, the exercise phase, and the netflix phase. But eventually I stopped trying to distract myself from what was happening in the world and I started thinking about how I might do something positive.
I started gathering big bags of fruit from some of our backyard trees and I shared them with friends. At some point, it occurred to me that there were thousands of homes like this in my city, and that there really wasn’t a good way for people to share or give away the extra food. That is when Galora was born and I started spreading the idea of better sharing. Within a few weeks, I had spoken to a thousand people and they all said some variation of “yes, please, build this!”, so it became clear that I had no choice. It seemed that for some reason or another, I was meeting a need and there was no turning back.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Yes, a very special young woman named Jewell. This is a powerful story, so I think it’s best to let her speak here. This is what she shared:
“At the end of March of this year I was diagnosed with a large brain tumor and told I would have to have emergency brain surgery to remove it. Unfortunately after surgery the pathology came back as stage 2 brain cancer.
I found Ryan and Galora and have been feeling the love from my local community in a way I never expected. All of a sudden the people I’ve met are asking how to help me if I need anything and if they can bring me free backyard produce. This has changed my life so much for the better, reminding me that the community is a real living breathing thing and that the people in it have the capacity to care for someone in hard straits, even if they have never met before. Thank you so much for this community of wonderful people.”
Despite what she is going through, Jewell is very strong and incredibly resilient. She told me about her grandmother who survived Auschwitz and dedicated her life to telling the story, so I can certainly see where Jewell got her fortitude. Not surprisingly, her medical bills are staggering, but Galora members have donated to her Go-Fund Me and are helping a little to lighten the burden. Hearing what Galora has meant to her has made it all worthwhile for me.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
Yes, individuals can share the message with friends and use the Galora site to share. People are social beings and it is in our DNA to tell other people about things that could help or harm our community. So, if your readers agree that there is a need in the world, locally and globally, for a better way to access food and share resources, then I hope they will tell others and get involved.
Galora empowers communities to turn their skills into food and social connections, which is nothing new, it is just a return to a system that was the norm much longer than money. The net result is a more self-sufficient society, and one that has strong roots of identity, pride, and mutual empowerment.
Local governments could support and reinforce some of the Galora success stories by sponsoring local fruit shares, empowering home-based merchants, and by helping the community to find the ideas and services that are often next door. If the past is any guide, stronger and more independent communities could lead to a healthier society overall with less need for government help.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1: Don’t try to learn everything before acting on a good idea.
If you have an idea that you think is good, just do it. We have all heard about “analysis paralysis” and I believe in avoiding that wholeheartedly. No one can do everything in any business, so don’t quit because you don’t possess all the necessary skills yourself.
2: Prepare to Improvise:
Instead of worrying about all the things that might happen, put your focus on being present and calm whenever adversity does arise. If it doesn’t, great! But if there are problems, you won’t be disappointed and can’t be discouraged.
3: Everything in life is negotiable.
I was trained from an early age to believe that all problems have a solution. Make this part of your thinking now and you will find that there is very little cause for fear or worry, both things that cloud judgment and sabotage progress.
4: Find experts, don’t try to become one.
Don’t try to do everything yourself, instead, find capable people to support you.
5: Share your ideas with people you admire (and see if they offer help).
Find people you know that have some experience with what you are trying to do, or that may know someone that does. Never ask anyone for help, but simply tell them your idea. If they understand and believe in your vision, they will want to help and will find a way. Just tell them, let fate handle the rest
6: Bonus answer: Not everyone will see your vision, it’s up to you to seek those that do, the rest will come around eventually.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I would tell young people to imagine that they live in a small village and that they are responsible for clearing the brush away from the huts because if they fail to do this, a brushfire could destroy the village. Even if it can be hard to see in a city, young people should remember that we are all responsible to each other in similar ways. Our communities and the environment are sensitive and beautiful things, and each of us has the power to care for them.
I encourage everyone to start small because little changes in how we eat and shop can lead to major changes if enough people participate. Galora makes that first step easy, so consider sharing your backyard bounty or skills with others. That will mean that less food is transported in polluting trucks and stronger bonds can be made with the people that live around us. The change can begin with you, so don’t wait, your town and our planet needs you to lead the way.
We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Yes, I have two dream collaborators. Jason Mraz and Arianna Huffington.
Jason Mraz, the talented singer, musician, philanthropist, (and professional organic avocado and coffee bean farmer) is someone I admire and with whom I would love to collaborate. We have all heard his top hits like “I’m Yours”, and “The Remedy”, but the songs “Back To The Earth”, “The World As I See It”, and “Love Is Still The Answer” are so incredibly meaningful to me that they have become the inner soundtrack to my Galora mission. Jason is a true dreamer, a lover of life, a celebrator of equality, and a proponent of real food. I hope that if Jason hears about Galora, he might see the similarity of our visions and let us use one of his songs in the movie.
Arianna Huffington, the bestselling author, businesswoman, and Greek (I’m a major hellenophile), is also a big inspiration to me. The tendency of entrepreneurs to overwork can undermine the dream you are building and her to maintain a healthy work/life balance is helpful. Building Galora is a labor of love, but even that type of endeavor, (and maybe especially that kind) can easily draw you into endless working days and nights. She is also an investor and advisor in tech startups that are trying to make a difference, and I believe in partnering with people who are passionate for positive change. I would love to work with Arianna to spread the idea of trading local food and skills among neighbors, in a way that is still an important part of daily life in many countries (like Greece!).
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Gandhi said that “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” I think this quote is particularly important to self-starters like me and fortifies us to be brave enough to take the first step into some unknown endeavor and not to be afraid to be the first to do something.
As Galora started popping up across the country, and now the world, I celebrate those early members that create random share listings where there is no one remotely near them on the map. That is a huge leap of faith, and kind of like joining an empty dating site. But the act of being first is a testament that they share my vision for a renewed sharing economy, and that they are willing to wait for others to join them or to actively help bring them to the site. I think Ghandi would have approved of positive steps like these and it’s encouraging to me each time I see it.
How can our readers follow you online?
Galora is on Instagram where our members are sharing real-world stories from their trades and we are posting short clips from the movie on our website. Check us out a @galoralocal and our spanish version, @galora_pueblo
But most importantly, readers should just create a free account on www.GoGalora.com and share something with their community. If you GROW anything, MAKE anything, or DO anything that makes people smile, you should be on Galora.
This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!
Thank you, and Keep on Sharing!