Raffi Sarian

Founder of Raffi Makes

Raffi Sarian was born in Hollywood, California and raised in Glendale, California. In his youth, Raffi was a member of Homenetmen Ararat, a community organization centered around athletics and scouting activities. Later, he also became a scouting leader and a board member.

Raffi Sarian attended Cal Poly Pomona where he earned a degree in Computer Information Systems. During college, Raffi found employment as a freelance web developer and worked on database management. After graduation, he became an insurance agent for Farmers Insurance before taking a position as an insurance broker with ISU Insurance Services.

Currently, Raffi Sarian lives in North Hollywood, California where he is in the process of launching Raffi Makes, a freelance woodworking and catering business. Outside of work, Raffi enjoys snowboarding, watching football games, and film photography.

Where did the idea for your career come from?

The idea came from my notion to merge my dual passions of food and woodworking. I was also inspired by YouTube stars and personalities who left their day jobs, started their own businesses, and managed to support themselves with content production. I’m not planning on going into that area right now, but that’s where the idea for Raffi Makes came from.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day starts with dropping off my son at daycare, then planning out the rest of the day. I like to end each day with a plan for the next day, so I have an idea of what it will look like when I wake up in the morning. Whether it’s shopping for my next catering gig, building something in the workshop, or getting stuff organized for my next project, I like to know what the day looks like and what I have planned.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I like to work with my clients to come up with a plan. If it’s a woodworking project, I’ll usually 3D model it for them so they have a visual idea of what it’s going to look like. Then, I’ll go through multiple iterations with the client to make sure the final product is what they truly want. If they need any sort of design help or they don’t know exactly what they want, I might give them some suggestions and go from there. This also applies to creating a menu for catering.

What’s one trend that excites you?

One trend that excites me is the massive and continually growing amount of information that is now on YouTube. The ability to find information about whatever topic you might be interested in is readily available and free for most people, which is enlightening and very beneficial. I enjoy learning and improving myself. Having YouTube as a resource has been amazing, and I love the trend of higher quality production and more time and effort going into these free videos.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

My ability to focus on a specific task makes me productive. Even if it’s a task that I’m new to or that I’m not well-versed in, I know how to do the research. I can learn everything that I need to about the topic so I can do what has to be done.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Start sooner. If I’d had the foresight five or six years ago, I would have loved to start this business then. By now I could be five years ahead of where I currently am.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Sardines are delicious. A lot of people I know don’t like them, but sardines are delicious and under-utilized. A high-quality sardine can be just as decadent as Chilean sea bass or any other kind of high-end seafood.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Keep adapting. Learn more about your craft, better yourself, and eventually that wealth of knowledge will spill over into everything you do.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Word of mouth is by far the most effective method I’ve observed for attracting new clientele. In the beginning, I did expect it to help me grow my business, but I didn’t think about just how much it would help. The results have been undeniable.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

So far, I’ve had a couple of woodworking projects that didn’t work out the way I wanted them to. Obviously, each was a learning experience. I’ve learned from my mistakes and, in each case, I was able to remake the project better, faster, and more cohesively. The practice definitely helps.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Find a niche market within your community, whether it’s with friends or family, but something that most people would be outsourcing. Once you identify that niche, step into it and give it everything you have. It could be your contribution to your community and the key to creating a circle of influence.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently spent $100 on a new knife. The efficiency and quality that you get back from a well-made tool or product pays for itself. Set yourself up for success with a good quality tool, whether it’s for woodworking or cooking or what-have-you, and it will help you achieve your goals.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I have a website and that’s where I point prospective clients to if they want to research my business or gather any information. I use it to show off my portfolio and give clients a better idea of what the scope of my work is.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

There is a book that I first read in middle school and read again recently. It’s called The Giver and it was written by Lois Lowry. Upon re-reading it, its message is the same as I remembered from when I was young, and I felt the same way reading it again. It’s a powerful book, full of good reminders to think outside the box.

What is your favorite quote?

It’s a quote by Vincent Lombardi and it says, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”

Key Learnings:

  • A good quality tool can make all the difference in one’s work.
  • Take advantage of resources like YouTube to learn and grow your craft.
  • Set aside time each night to make a plan for the next day.