Greg GDiesel Santarsiero is a blue collar renaissance man driven to become. From the beard down he is dedicated bodybuilder, hip hop head, counter culture fashionista, sneaker aficionado; nestled snugly under a throwback fisherman hat is entrepreneur, published author and visionary. Pour it into a container labeled husband and father, flip the switch and get out of the way. After decades of changing the way nutritional supplements are marketed and building a cult following through the Go Hard brand, the patron saint of never giving up is ready for a real challenge. GDiesel is bringing common sense to workout nutrition. Time to study the G Code.
Greg you founded GCode Nutrition but you didn’t do it alone; how many other partners do you have?
Travis Poulsen, aka Dirt Malone, we founded Go Hard together, sort of off the grid in like 2012. Developed that brand and a lot of the work that we did there created the opportunity to launch, GCode. He’s the Art Director, helps me with every aspect of the business. Obviously, my friend Mark “Sko” Bernardi who does the SquadKast with us. Probably the next guy in line, just a brilliant dude, who has been my friend since seventh grade. We’ve made independent films together and have worked in every capacity possible with regard to creative and entrepreneurial stuff since we were in college. So, he is a big part of the brain trust and then Christian Coronato, Jerry Ryan— another of my oldest, truest friends; Anousone, we worked together as bouncers in Atlantic City in our twenties and he’s been one of my best friends ever since then.
And, then there’s, other athletes, other friends of mine, who’ve made huge contributions to the process along the way. So many that I would feel bad listing them all for you. When you’re gonna take on something as ambitious and potentially overwhelming as this without a ton of resources you have to depend on the benevolence of your friends. And those guys have been absolutely priceless.
And of course Tara is always there, behind the scenes, supporting me in endless ways in this endeavor. She powers the machine.
I want to go on record to say that I have a vendetta against Christian Coronato ’cause he embarrassed me at a bench press for reps competition in 2015! I will be revenged as they say on Vikings!
Well, I think a guy like Christian would be excited to know that someone was out there training with him in mind, with revenge in mind but, first of all, he’s an awesome guy. One of the better people I know, but in terms of the iron subculture and being a great bodybuilder and a great power lifter and really good at anything that relates to lifting weights. He’s just an impressive dude in general. So, there’s no shame in losing to Christian. It’s like alright, if we’re only really competing against ourselves and then in some competitive arenas we lose to guys who are really awesome— there are worse outcomes, you know what I mean?
Oh yeah! I drove home from Ohio with a serious low back pump after that like, “I’ma get that dude back ha ha! But you know I knew when I accepted the challenge to bench 225 for reps against Christian that I had little chance of winning. Still I don’t back down just because it looks impossible. I think that willingness to take on David vs Goliath challenges is a part of every entrepreneur’s DNA. What gave you the courage to step into what you knew would be an extremely competitive supplement industry?
Just not wanting to ever be the guy that after telling so many people to go for it, to follow their dreams, not wanting to be the one who didn’t follow through on his dreams. I didn’t want anyone to ever look at me like, you’re not practicing what you’ve been promoting for however long they may have read or seen anything I’ve put out there.
You mentioned the Go Hard brand, it definitely has your signature so if somebody sees Go Hard and didn’t know that you were involved with both brands they could almost believe one brand was copying from the other.
They definitely do speak to each other. Really G Code grew out of Go Hard. They were really just extensions of my own passions, my own viewpoints, my own perspective, my own aesthetic. All the influences that have contributed to sort of forming me artistically but even, just as a man in terms of my worldview.
So, with the development of Go Hard and then GCode later, it was important that those two brands spoke to one another because I see them as brother brands. But, in all honesty, Go Hard is sort of the father of GCode in that the seeds that were planted in Go Hard sprung forth and sprouted GCode.
And, the thing that strikes me about that is so many times, literally at least once a week, somebody who just owns a garage gym contacts me and says, “Hey could you help me find somebody to create a logo. I want to sell some t-shirts”. And, I’m like that’s exactly the wrong way to go about creating a brand. So, lets talk about that a little bit.
I mean, I don’t want to come across as a snob or an elitist with this sort of stuff right? ‘Cause I understand that everybody has different hopes and aspirations and different motivations for their entrepreneurship. But, to me branding is highly personal. Whatever it is that you’re really gonna pour your heart and soul into and share with the world needs to emanate from your core. It needs to spring forth from who you are as an individual.
I feel like someone needs to really examine who they are, really examine what their goals are for their pursuit, think about who they’re trying to reach in that pursuit, and then think of the branding that goes into it as being an extension of yourself. Like a superhero, you know where the “S” on Superman’s chest says Superman without seeing Superman, without saying the word Superman, right?
I would say that the S stands for hope but that would lead to a tangent. But you mean like the FedEx logo?
Exactly, and that sort of branding should really sort of speak to its audience and convey a certain feel, a certain vibe, a certain aesthetic. Like a brand’s logo, especially a brand that’s backed by someone with a very specific vision, that logo needs to say so much without having to explicitly say anything at all.
Okay, I mean that makes so much sense to me because before I started Garage Gym Life and then Garage Gym Magazine. I had a little thing I did in my garage. I wasn’t charging anything for it was just I had kids who come over to work out with me and I would take them to competitions. So, they go to power lifting competitions and anybody who’s ever taken a bunch of middle schoolers or elementary school kids somewhere, it’s like you need to be able to identify them from a distance. So, I said we need uniforms. So, we came up with this logo called Iron Journey. And, that logo then morphed into the Garage Gym Life logo.
What we’re talking about really is the evolution of a person. The past is all preface to the current moment. So, all of your tastes and your perspective, artistically, or in terms of branding, your philosophy— it’s all rooted in all of your past experiences.
For example, Sko and I collaborated on an independent film. We actually started writing it in college and instead of going to film school [when] we got out of school we decided we were gonna make a film called Rise by Sin. Okay so, we’re going to be out there in the world and we’re going to be representing this film trying to spread the word. So, I designed the first garment that I ever designed. And, it was a black t-shirt that said Rise by Sin in stacked old English font on the front. A black shirt with red font. And, that is the font that we use to this day on the G Code shirts. So, we made that t-shirt in 2003, and then we made the G Code t-shirts in 2017. So, 14 years later the influences and some of the artistic signifiers that were relevant to us fourteen years ago are still parts of what we’re doing now.
Yeah, you took Rise by Sin to a film festival did you not?
We did two films. The first one was a no-budget film whatsoever, but we got into several, small to mid- level regional film festivals with it. And, it sort of created the opportunity for us to make a second film, which we were able to do on a somewhat of a bigger level and do more film festivals and whatnot. And those sort of experiences helped us in a hundred ways moving forward with our other enterprises. And, that’s the sort of thing that we’re going to go back to eventually. At some point when the time is right.
Okay, what lessons did you learn from Go Hard that you were able to take to GCode?
One of the important things is that there needs to be an emotional component to a brand. I feel like our world is filled with many successful, faceless and interchangeable brands. And while those brands can be monetarily successful, they often times won’t gain the loyalty and allegiance of many people because they don’t necessarily speak to them on a level below the surface.
So, I think that one of the things that I learned in the process of Go Hard is how critical that personal connection is in appealing to someone’s values and aspirations. How important that is in building a brand, how important customer service is, and accountability. When you fuck up you own it and you hold yourself accountable for that, and then you make good. You ship the wrong size to somebody, the wrong shirt to somebody— the practice with Go Hard was always, “We somehow shipped you the wrong shirt. All right, well keep it. If it’s the wrong shirt and it’s not your size, then give it to somebody else and we’ll send you the one that you actually wanted. And if it is your size, all right well, wear that one and here’s another one and that one’s on us. And, I think people appreciate the sincere desire to do right by them.
Distribution is a big deal for any company with physical products. Do you use a 3PL company to fulfill orders?
Yes, not to get too inside baseball but the manufacturing company that we use to produce the product, had a connection with a company that does fulfillment. When we did Go Hard, we were shipping everything ourselves and if you’re going to grow, you have to go a route that includes fulfillment by an outside entity.
How did you decide to go with a pre-workout as your first product release?
It was born out of necessity. When the twins were born, I was trying to maintain that— at a certain point training becomes about more than just physical benefits. There’s a certain mental and spiritual aspect to it that you don’t want to lose and I needed something that would allow me to continue to do but not be so . . .
It had to be humane but effective!
Exactly! VICE is designed to enhance the training experience without taking away from the rest of your life. So it was born out of necessity.
So let’s explode the myth of the champagne and caviar entrepreneur lifestyle. Describe your daily routine.
Well, it can change from day to day but typically I wake up, catch a workout in my home gym and then from there I do whatever is required that day to move the brand forward. It could be visiting supplement stores, boxing up product samples to send to out—
I saw you guys were at the Olympia putting up flyers at 4AM before the Expo started!
Exactly! We were like whatever other supplement companies aren’t willing to do; that’s what we’re going to do. Be it a free supplement seminar or anything else to set us apart.
As a 90s hip hop aficionado I think you’ll appreciate this. I’ve found that “The Ten Crack Commandments” by The Notorious B.I.G. has some pretty solid business advice. What unexpected gems have you found in pop culture?
Definitely “real Gs move in silence with violence”. Also I’m a huge fan of the author Malcolm Gladwell—
His David and Goliath was awesome!
Yes! Also The Tipping Point. Not to be stuck on the concept of the 10,000 hours but just the idea that if you’re going to be good at anything it’s going to take time.
Is there a target audience that you feel is underserved that might respond well to what you offer?
Yeah, I think to some extent, I’m looking to target serious, driven people who train. But who train for reasons beyond the superficial. Of course we all want to look better and be stronger. Some of us want to get completely jacked. Some people want to compete in their specific arena of physical culture. But at the end of the day, to me it has always been about excellence on my own terms. I like to stand apart and do things my own way, I like to defy convention and circumstance and stereotypes. That’s who our brand is for, those who have the audacity to dare to be themselves and to dream of–and work toward, greatness, however they might define it. The common thread being a common devotion to the iron.
Stan Efferding mentioned in an interview some of the pitfalls any manufacturer faces when dealing with Amazon. Do you plan to take GCode to the larger retail platforms online like Amazon, Tiger Fitness, Bodybuilding.com or DPS Nutrition?
Of course we’d love to be operating on that high a level and hope to break through to a much broader audience in 2018. But more than the big boxes, I’m sort of old school. My dream is to have GCode in every real gym and supplement shop in the world, where real people go to buy their stuff. And to have meaningful relationships with the people who run those businesses— true partnerships.
How do you avoid using shady ingredients and cheap marketing tactics when the bottom line is a profitable business that can feed your family?
That pressure is very real, because ultimately the brand needs to be viable and robust. The tree needs to bear fruit. I carry that stress and anxiety every day. But I put my faith in the process. That if you do things the right way. And make effective products that are straightforward and honest. If you treat people with respect and kindness. If you walk to the beat of your own drum and don’t copy what somebody else is doing— if you really stay true. And if you can give people something real, something to believe in, in the end, the good guy can win. The underdog can come out of nowhere to defeat the giant.