Getting to Know You: Raffi Sarian, Catering and Woodworking Business Owner

Born in Hollywood, California but primarily raised in Glendale, California, Raffi Sarian spent much of his youth as a member of Homenetmen Ararat, a community-based organization focused on scouting activities and athletics.

As the years passed, he took on more responsibility in Homenetmen Ararat, eventually becoming a scouting leader and a board member.

Raffi attended California State Polytechnic University, Pomona where he earned a degree in Computer Information Systems. While in college, Raffi worked as a freelance web developer specializing in database management. After graduating from college, he accepted a role as an insurance agent for Farmers Insurance before becoming an insurance broker with ISU Insurance Services.

Now a resident of North Hollywood, California, Raffi Sarian is currently focusing all his effort on launching Raffi Makes, a freelance woodworking and catering business.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

I enjoy woodworking and building different projects, and I’ve also always had a love for food. These two passions inspired my idea to launch a business that encompasses both.

What defines your way of doing business?

Precise attention to detail is very important to me. I also want to get the highest quality output from the materials that I use, whether it’s with food or woodworking. I just want to get the most value from my raw materials without creating excess waste.

What keys to being productive can you share?

I would say that acquiring knowledge is a key to my productivity. I’ve done a lot of self-teaching over the years when it comes to cooking and woodworking, and that has helped me to advance my abilities very quickly and efficiently. Because of that, I feel like I’m more knowledgeable in these fields than most.

Tell us one long-term goal in your career.

I want to be able to have my own space to work with wood and prepare for my catering jobs. I’ll admit it’s sort of an odd combination, but I’d like to split a warehouse down the middle and use that space for both elements of my business.

How do you measure success?

Success is having a client who is genuinely happy with the product that they receive. I want to keep all of my clients as happy as possible with their transactions.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

Committing time and effort to a project means more than simply producing flashy items. Putting the time and effort into creating the best product possible is much more important than having expensive materials or an exotic or interesting commission. Even with inexpensive materials or a run-of-the-mill job, it’s the amount of time and effort that goes into the preparation for any project that makes the end product special.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?

Practice at all levels. In woodworking, start off with something simple like a small table or a bench and work your way up to more difficult projects. With food, start with a sandwich or something before you attempt more complicated dishes. Slow and steady practice makes perfect.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I enjoy snowboarding and watching football. I also enjoy film photography. That’s actually a new hobby I’ve picked up over the last couple of months.

How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

I don’t allow my time at work to affect my family time. When I’m off the clock, my full attention is on my family. From my perspective, it’s really just as simple as that. Of course, being able to make my own hours is helpful in that respect.

What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

The hardest obstacle I’ve overcome professionally has been starting the business itself. I’m still navigating the process, and it’s a big undertaking. Collecting the tools and materials, acquiring the space to perform work in, and conducting the research necessary to effectively start the business has been somewhat of a challenge, to be sure.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

One of my role models is a YouTuber named Benjamin Uyeda. He’s a maker in a general sense, so he does concrete work, woodworking, and all sorts of things like that. Actually, he’s the one who inspired me to start woodworking in the first place. I also find his business sense, his commercial savvy, and his outlook on life in general quite inspiring.

What is one piece of advice you would like to leave our readers with?

If you don’t know the answer to something, ask a question. Ask many questions, if need be. Utilize your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors as knowledge resources—you never know who knows what about a given topic. You may be talking to an expert on a specific topic that you require information on without even knowing it. And without bringing up the topic on your mind or asking that initial question, you might never find out.