We had the good fortune of connecting with Abbie Parra and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Abbie, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I can’t say it has ever been a “dream” of mine to start my own business. I didn’t grow up wanting to own my own restaurant or flower shop or clothing store or anything like that. I’ve always been one to enjoy being creative and crafty and doing things with my hands. In my childhood, arts and crafts was my favorite. In adolescence, I loved to draw and paint as a side hobby. As I got into my college years I started to drift from the creative side of things and didn’t pick it up again until I was well into my 20s. I acquired an electronic cutting machine and started making all sorts of things as a fun hobby. Very quickly I began to really see that my fun little side hobby could take me places. It was suggested to me time and time again to start an Etsy shop and sell some of the things that I was making online to others. While I was hesitant in the beginning, I jumped on the opportunity to start my own shop. It was a venture that I had never considered up until this point in my life and it was probably the best decision I could’ve made. In the short time that my business has been a business, I’ve experienced so much personal growth and made connections with some amazing individuals. My rinky dink little cutting machine introduced me to a whole world I didn’t realize was out there, and for that I am beyond grateful.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
By trade, I work as a microbiologist in an environmental lab here in the valley. I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Northern Arizona University and began my career in the micro field shortly after. My facility analyzes drinking water and wastewater sources from municipalities all over the state, and my department specifically tests for bacterial contaminants. While this does not sound exciting and seems far from appealing as a career choice, it fills my life with so much joy. Dealing with microbes and bacteria and conducting different analyses on a daily basis is incredibly thrilling to me, contrary to popular belief. I’ve always been a nerd at heart, ask anyone that has known me at any point in my life. When I got to college and began my higher education, this only intensified. While I’m in a position that I truly love, the road there was not an easy one. School came easy to me all the way through my high school years. As soon as I got to college, however, I began to struggle keeping my head above water. It took many long hours, overnights in the library, endless pots of coffee and cans of RedBull, but I did it. I got my $40,000 piece of paper. Immediately after graduation, I began a job in with a large manufacturer of medical devices. Needless to say it did not work out. In the short time I was there, I learned everything that I did not want in an employer and knew that I would not settle for subpar. It took some time, but I was able to find a job that checked all the boxes, and since then I haven’t looked back. The biggest lesson that I have learned in my professional career that has resonated into my small business is to never settle for second best and to always give 110%, no matter what. Prior to starting my STEM career, I worked many years in customer service within the restaurant industry, as did my father. It was through him and it was through my time in the industry that I learned what it truly meant to go above and beyond in the work that you’re doing. It goes without saying that you get out what you put in, I full heartedly believe that. I give my all in my career, and I’ve worked my way into a great position within my field that I couldn’t be happier with. In my business ventures, I have done that same. I have put my whole heart into my small side gig and intend to continue to do so. I have gone to great lengths to give anyone who buys from my shop or comes to me for custom work the best possible product and the best possible service, and, as in my career, intend to continue to do so.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There’s so many places I don’t know where to start… First: breakfast. I’m a HUGE breakfast food person, I could probably eat eggs and bacon for every meal of the day, to be honest. An underrated breakfast establishment has to be The Place in Glendale, right off 59th Ave and Bell. When I was living in Flagstaff, The Place was a huge staple in my diet (it shouldn’t have been by all means, but it definitely was). When I say they sell biscuits as big as your face, I really mean it. Everything I’ve eaten there is so incredibly good and so incredibly filling, it’s absolutely the best bang for your buck. Being the science nerd that I am, I love to go to the Arizona Science Center. It’s definitely more geared towards children but it’s still such an enjoyable experience, even as an adult. Also, sports. All the sports. Hockey, baseball, football, and NASCAR (yes, I said NASCAR) are HUGE in my house. We love going to all the sporting events that we can and when we can’t, we settle for whatever local dive bar we can. Which, speaking of dive bar, highly highly highly recommend Simpleton’s in Mesa. Cheap drinks, good food, and great company. Very much a hidden gem. I also love just about any place on the strip in downtown Gilbert; Postino has to be my favorite hands down. We love going before 5 for happy hour, because where else can you get a killer glass of wine for $5?? Another place I really enjoy going for a nice glass of wine is Garage East in the Agritopia community in Gilbert. Every wine on their list is made from locally grown grapes in Arizona and they all have such unique tasting notes. It’s a great place to sit outside, lounge, and sip on a good glass of vino. I could make a list a mile long of places I love to go here in the valley, but I’ll wrap it up with Fuzzy’s Tacos. While not a true local establishment, I’m a sucker for a good taco. Two grilled shrimp tacos and a frozen watermelon margarita from the Mill Ave Fuzzy’s location on any given night is the way to go, in my opinion.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are several people I would love to give my shoutout to, quite honestly, but I’ll limit myself to two. My mom would by far be the first. While we have many varying opinions and preferences when it comes to, most things actually, she has always embraced my viewpoints and valued the things that I like and enjoy even when she might not fully understand why. She has always said that I have “an eclectic soul” and has never once in my life meant that with any negativity. My mom has encouraged me from the get go to let my creativity fly and to express myself in whatever ways I want to (within reason, of course). She truly is and will always continue to be one of my biggest fans. The second person I want to recognize would be my significant other, Tanner. If not for him, I wouldn’t have made this leap in the first place. I’ve spent the entirety of our relationship supporting him and his hobbies and the things that he enjoys and when it came down to it, he did not hesitate to do the same for me. He has seen me through all of the late nights, all of the last minute trips to Michael’s, all of the experimental projects, the triumphs, the failures, and everything in between. He keeps me grounded, and while I may not always like it, he keeps me from being too high in the clouds. He is my person and my best friend, and I cannot thank him enough for everything he has done for me.

Website: Etsy.com/shop/AJandCompanyCustoms

Instagram: @ajcompanycustoms

Facebook: @ajcomapnycustoms

Other: Email: ajcompanycustoms@gmail.com

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.