We had the good fortune of connecting with Paul Jeffrey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Paul, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Growing up in Detroit, my blue-collar Dad said many times, “son, I don’t want you to grow up to take a job. I want you to grow up to create a job.”
As a youngster, I didn’t know what my Dad was talking about, so those words just fell somewhere in the soil of my mind.
After high school, I joined the army and rose to officer ranks. Later I studied Industrial Design, which included interning in France. Soon after, Ford Motor hired me as a concept car designer. The pay was good, and a privileged, suburban lifestyle of comfort and ease began.
That all abruptly changed five years later after I attended a lecture urging Black men to take responsibility for our dysfunctional communities. It was there that I heard for the very first time in my life, this profound fact; the ghetto is and continues to be because of brain drain.
Integration and Affirmative Action siphoned the talented 10th from the community – educating and channeling many of the best minds into the corporate and suburban melting pot. The unforeseen effects left the masses of extended families, in inner cities all across America, to aimlessly wander without sufficient knowledge, leadership, and organization.
Suddenly realizing that I was apart of the 10%, those childhood words spoken by my father sprung up. Within days, I quit Ford and started down the path of working for myself.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I design and manufacture custom high-end furniture and cabinetry for those above my paygrade. Although that sounds sexy, the path here was paved with blood, sweat, and buckets of painful tears. I sought a warmer climate to fulfill my Dad’s assignment. I chose LA and within four months of arriving with my new bride Renee, I lost in a risky business deal that Renee was opposed to, nearly six figures. All else was taken soon after.
Traumatized, we spent the next seven years reeling. I remember going to the grocery store just after my son was born, with a Ziploc bag full of pennies, nickels, and dimes. Despite the suffering, I was not turning back.
In 2002 however, worsening conditions did force my worn-out family and me to Phoenix, seeking refuge in my in-laws. Although help came, my marriage didn’t survive.
While stocking shelves at Walgreens, I had a chance encounter with an engineering student who had basic woodworking skills. Together we rented a 14’ X 14’ aluminum Cube storage shed, in the impoverished section of west Phoenix. With a few very worn, pawnshop power tools, some held together by duct tape, we intended to make cabinets and furniture as a side hustle, to engage the housing boom that was driving economic growth at that time.
In 2005 Walgreens fired me for refusing a promotion to store manager. Although my family really needed that additional income, that salaried position posed a threat to my side hustle hours. I could not take that job.
But I would take a commission-only, outside design/sales position at California Closets.
We got a break when I met the daughter-in-law of the founder of Bashas’, a large grocery store chain. She wanted solid wood office furniture, but at that time, California Closets only worked in laminates. When I informed her that we just started a woodworking shop, she gave us the job.
Only Divine assistance allowed us to pull off this job because we knew next to nothing about high-end woodworking. We had ten more years of struggle to endure before becoming skillful at transforming raw materials into expressive narratives of our client’s personality and values.
Purpose alone kept us going.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I just discovered a little French spot in Scottsdale called Merci. So tasty that this café will be my go-to for my next out-of-town visitors. And then we’re off to Sedona and the Grand Canyon for their spiritual qualities. Given our times’ confusion, a quiet space to commune with nature and our own thoughts, I believe it is necessary to reassess our life’s course.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I liked to give a shout-out to my parents, who are the foundation that my success rests on. My Dad is a world-class figure drawer and painter. However, he could not dedicate the time required to advance a career in the arts because he was a single parent of two boys. So he poured his vision into his children.
He eventually remarried a devout catholic when I was 11 years old. She insisted on being called Mother. Mother was a strict disciplinarian. Her work helped prepare me to stay on the path to where I am now, despite its difficulties.
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