Jeff LaBerge is an experienced finance and business development specialist with over 15 years of experience in renewable energy, agriculture, private equity and healthcare. His areas of expertise include project development, financing and business strategy.
Jeff is the CEO and co-founder of Viaspace California, Inc. Under his management, the company was one of the first to legally plant hemp in California. Viaspace already has 105 acres of high CBD hemp settled with plannings to rapidly expand in 2020 and beyond.
Viaspace is currently growing over 100 acres of hemp in Imperial California. LaBerge and his team have plans to expand to thousands of acres. Through their breeding and genetics program, Viaspace California is producing feminized hemp steeds containing high CBD content. This makes it ideal for growing in the low desert and other climates. Future plans are building a state of the art, GMP certified CBD extraction and manufacturing facility.
Besides LaBerge’s position at Viaspace, he also serves as an advisor for Yellowtail Ventures. Yellowtail Ventures is a business consulting firm assisting the renewable energy, agriculture and healthcare industries. Jeff provides operational and strategic advisory services connecting to the creation of proton therapy treatment centers. He consults the company egarding opportunities in the proton therapy market. He composed IPS’s business model involving the development, ownership and operation of proton therapy centers.
LaBerge also consults for D3 Renewable Technologies Corp., a renewable energy development firm focused on biomass and other waste conversion projects. Jeff presents project management and development solutions for biomass, waste-to-energy and other related project ventures.
Where did the idea for Viaspace come from?
Like many things in life, the idea came by chance and completely by surprise. Actually, it was the biproduct of a blown deal in a completely unrelated industry. I was working on an energy project in the Imperial Valley, California and happened to meet two of my current partners in a meeting. One was an agronomist with significant hemp experience and the other was a tech and ag executive in Silicon Valley. Soon after, the energy project was shut down, but the three of us keep in touch and put together a business plan. Over the course of a year or so, everything came together and we planted our first crop in April of 2019.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days are spent either in the San Diego office or in the Imperial Valley, at the farm or in meetings. Our team is scattered across California; I am in San Diego, our farming and agronomy team is Imperial Valley and our other executives are in Northern California and Colorado. A typical office day starts with a morning update call with the team. I then address any critical action items immediately after the call. After that, I am on the phone or returning emails for a lot of the day. I do my best to block off some time each day to work on or at least think about the big picture business plan. On days that I travel, I try to book calls so my drive time is as productive as possible.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I wish I could say that we have a hardwired process for bringing ideas from start to finish, but it doesn’t always happen that way. In my experience, good ideas can easily fall through the cracks if they are not acted on immediately, so one thing we do is make sure all ideas are written down on an action items list. After that, they are emailed to the team, along with the appropriate next steps.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The entire CBD industry really excites me, especially its application toward pain relief. I have had chronic back problems since high school and can tell CBD is the one thing that has really worked for me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I would have to say writing things down or taking notes. When you are working in a small company, there are always multiple things happening, so its easy to forget about the small stuff. I am a compulsive note taker and have found that fewer things slip throught the cracks if they get written down.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to take chances early on. It is easy to get complacent in a job or business, but when you are young is the best time to take some calculated risks.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Honesty. Honesty is not always appreciated, it may even turn people off. However, in most cases honesty pays of and people appreciate it in the long term. Being honest sets you aside from others.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Be persistent and tenacious. I cant remember an idea or business that worked perfectly the first time. Good ideas rarely do, otherwise, everybody would do it. If you don’t have the persistence and tenacity to keep going, you will never be successful.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Investing time in identifying the right people is key. When you have limited resources, everybody has to be pulling their weight, so finding good people that can handle multiple jobs is a must. Growing a business is process, we continue to grow.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have had many failures, so its hard to pinpoint just one. However, in general, I would say the greatest lessons that I have learned from failures is knowing when to cut your loses and move on. There have been several occasions when I refused to accept failure and instead of focusing my energy on something else, I wasted valuable time on trying to resurrect it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
An user-friendly system to keep and recover notes. I keep notes on a daily basis on my laptop, phone or old fashioned pen and paper. But it can be a struggle to keep these notes central and organized. A system that stores and systematically organizes notes would be great.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
That would be a pair of binoculars. They allow me to see the entire field without having to walk up and down the rows, which can be extremely time and energy consuming, especially in the 115 degree heat.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Hubspot tracks all my communication and allows me to leave notes about a meeting, phone calls etc. Because I communicate with so many people on a daily basis, it can be hard to keep track on what has been said and agreed on. Reading through the emails and notes in a single overview reminds me of the status of contact.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business” by Clayton M. Christensen
This book explains the rules for capitalizing on disruptive innovation.
What is your favorite quote?
“Just win baby!” – Al Davis
I interpret this quote to mean, don’t complain or give excuses about your situation, just find a way to get it done.
- To be productive, always keep in close contact with your team, especially if you are in different locations.
- Always write down good ideas as well as small task to ensure they don’t slip through the cracks.
- Be persistent and tenacious, but know when to move on as well.
Viaspace website: www.viaspacecalifornia.com
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.