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Conversations with Allan Ferraris

Today we’d like to introduce you to Allan Ferraris.  

Hi Allan, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I grew up watching my father build wooden furniture, like cabinets, tables, and shelves, and was impressed by how creative he was. My father was also an electrician, so he would always fix appliances or other electronic devices before buying something new. Inspired by my father, I took a few shop classes in school and loved being able to create something out of nothing, hoping people would like my builds as I did my father’s. In the Fall of 2019, my inspiration was ignited again by some wooden rustic American flags I came across. I watched videos on how these flags were made, bought some tools, and got to work. I made my first American flag for my brother, who is a police officer in Hawaii, and he loved it. As a Navy service member at that time, I thought to myself; maybe I can grow a business out of selling these flags. After putting pictures of my work on social media, I started getting orders left and right. With each project, I tried to perfect my build from the previous. Soon I expanded my skill to building other creations like personalized desk name plates, shadowboxes, tables, decorative wall displays, law enforcement and military plaques and gifts, and corn hole boards. Just a few months before retiring from the Navy after 24 years of service, my girlfriend, Jessie encouraged me to keep my business running after retirement and grow it here in West Michigan. Since then, we have taken on new challenges and have enjoyed expanding our business. So far, it’s been a great ride. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Though the ideas in my mind for my projects seemed perfect, what transferred to reality wasn’t always exactly so. I’ve made a lot of mistakes building projects, but I always looked at each failure as a lesson, something I picked up while serving in the Navy. One of the challenges with my business was trying to keep up with the timelines of my builds. This was especially difficult after long and stressful days of military work. But I would tell myself if building is something I love then I would have to make sacrifices just like in the Navy. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I’d say I specialize in making American Flag challenge coin holders which are popular with law enforcement and military members. However, lately, I’ve been building corn hole boards which have been pretty popular due to the time of the year. I believe what sets me apart from others is that I am a retired military veteran business owner in a patriotic community that inspires me to keep up with the American spirit of never giving up. I’m not a stranger to making mistakes but most importantly learning from them and growing as a person. 

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
I’ve learned from the military to not be afraid to ask questions because it’s better to ask and do the right thing instead of assuming you know how to do it and look like a fool. The military is big on mentorship, so my advice is if someone is great at their craft or inspires you to do yours, reach out to them and see if they would be willing to give you advice or teach you some tricks of the trade whatever your profession may be. What has also helped me is remembering the words of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

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Image Credits

Laura Hatcher Photography

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