Darrell Jobe understands the value of second chances.
A former gang member who spent time in and out of jail as a youth and young adult, Jobe capitalized on the opportunity to truly change his life, personally and professionally.
Now, as CEO and founder of Vericool, Jobe spearheads a company that is working to transform the packaging industry, with an eye on helping the environment, by manufacturing fully recyclable and fully compostable coolers and shipping materials.
But the Livermore-based firm also has an eye focused on helping society in another way, by providing employment opportunities for those among the most in need of such a chance -- formerly incarcerated men and women.
"I had to dig very deep to make those changes," Jobe said during a phone interview this month. "When I came out (of jail), I had to fight for those opportunities. And there are so many others who don't have that opportunity to fight."
Jobe's is a story becoming more and more well-known across the Bay Area and the nation -- look no further than the Forbes' profile article about Jobe and Vericool earlier this year.
Faced with a tough childhood in Richmond, including time in juvenile hall, Jobe found himself in jail staring at the real possibility of a five-year prison sentence. As a 23-year-old man with a young daughter and son on the way outside those walls, Jobe decided it was now or never.
"I just told myself I couldn't be this person I was becoming, that I had become," he recalled. "So I made a lot of promises to God, sitting in that jail cell."
"And luckily for me, the judge showed me mercy," Jobe said. "The judge said there's something about this kid; 'I believe in him and I want to give him another opportunity.' And with that alone, I took a six-month sentence, and I came out with a whole new game plan of never to sell drugs, never to steal or cheat -- never to be part of that lifestyle ever again and only do good with my life."
Jobe, who had little formal education beyond childhood, was searching for a career when he found the packaging industry.
He remembered having a friend whose father had a $6 million house with fancy cars and a spread-out estate in Diablo Country Club.
"I had to ask her what her father did, and she told me he sold boxes," Jobe said. "I'm like, what kind of boxes did he sell? And she told me, 'Cardboard boxes.' And I started laughing."
He remembered joking with her, "You mean with cocaine in them? You're not selling cardboard boxes and getting this kind of house. And she's like, 'No, really.'"
And that was Jobe's introduction to the packaging industry. He said he spent six months trying almost every day to get an interview with the friend's father, to get a job with the company.
"It was so far-fetched," he added. "It didn't make any sense to me in my mind that I'd ever get that opportunity, but something deep inside just said, 'Darrell, don't stop.' And I would dream about it, and dream about it."
Jobe said that amid his persistence, the man helped get him an interview with another packaging firm. He seized the opportunity, and has never looked back.
"I doubled my territory's sales in that year," he recalled about that first job.
Jobe would soon move to a family-owned company based out of Gilroy, working there for 14 years until venturing off on his own. About a decade in, Jobe was in position to purchase a share of the company.
From there, looking to expound upon his own original ideas for packaging, Jobe branched out to form his own company: Vericool.
Founded in 2015, Vericool develops coolers and shipping materials for industries such as pharmaceuticals, health and meal delivery, as well as for personal use, that are recyclable and compostable.
"It allows for consumers and B2B (business to business) to replace EPS/Styrofoam in a cost-effective way without compromising performance. You eliminate pollution with the environmentally friendly option. Your customers are a part of it, the business is a part of it and it protects our planet," Jobe said.
"It's a no-brainer," he added. "You don't really see much innovation coming out of packaging. So to be the company that's bringing so much of this to the market is pretty exciting."
But these days, almost as innovative as its products is Vericool going out of its way to provide employment opportunities to formerly incarcerated people. Company leaders estimate that over the years, they've hired 75 men and women looking for that second chance after time behind bars.
"It's very important to me because I come from that world ... The unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated men and women is at 28% nationally," Jobe said, adding:
"When someone in prison has done their time, they're excited to get out and believe that they're going to have an opportunity to excel and create a new life.
"But when they come out, they realize that it doesn't work that way. That when you turn in your resume, your resume automatically gets kicked out because it has 'felon' or it has 'incarcerated' -- it has these signature rejection stamps on them because of your past.
"I believe the true way to reducing crime and recidivism is by giving people opportunities."
* Vericool is headquartered at 7066 Las Positas Road, not far from the Greenville Road intersection.
* Jobe came to know Livermore as an ideal company location after living there for five years. He and his family now reside in Pleasanton.
* Turned 40 years old earlier this month.
* In his down time, Jobe says he enjoys golfing, especially at Castlewood Country Club.
* Jobe and/or Vericool have won other awards in recent years, including the Small Business of the Year from State Senator Steve Glazer, #Gamechangers Award from Innovation Tri-Valley and a StopWaste Business Efficiency Award.
* A man of faith, Jobe said, "I live my life like this -- Luke 12:48, 'To whom much is given, much will be required.'"