students touring Paul Rene’s studio and manufacturing facility
Rebuilding America requires sacrifices and self-reliance
Its campaign season and those who seek to lead Americans through a period of decline and anxiety know what’s on the voters’ minds.
Paul Jeffrey, a local furniture designer and manufacturer and son of a Detroit auto factory worker believes that if America is to be great again, politicians will not make it so. “When we use the word ‘again’, it means we should be looking to history to see what early conditions existed that seeded greatness.”
When the waves of early European immigrants came to the shores of America, they were poor and no jobs were awaiting them. Coming for a better life meant they were betting on themselves. Jeffrey strongly believes in self-reliance. “When the stomach is bothered by hunger and one has the knowledge of self, the greatest of odds can be overcame.”
Jeffrey is sympathetic to the social movements taking place in every major city across the country. “The anger and frustration from being sold out is easy to understand. My contribution is to pool the humble resources at my feet and create a better condition.”
It’s easy for a politician to remind voters of the history of struggle at the root of the immigrant experience. However, it may be political suicide to say to Americans who expect a degree of ease, that self-reliance and sacrifice are required to reverse our national slide.
In 2002 Jeffrey hit rock bottom after his first attempt at entrepreneurship failed. For 7 years, the former Army officer and well paid concept car designer For Ford Motor Company, fell into poverty, drug use, jail, utter self-doubt and the social isolation that comes from being viewed as a loser. One year later he hobbled from LA to Phoenix to start over. After a chance encounter with a Mexican immigrant, the duo rented a 14’ X 14’ Cube storage box in west Phoenix. With a few well-worn pawn shop power tools, some held together by duct tape, they started making furniture.
12 years later Paul Rene Furniture and Cabinets has become a beacon of inspiration. As many Americans are today struggling to survive, Jeffrey says another renaissance period is needed to teach the profound principle of struggle. “Struggle is necessary and key to self-development and self-elevation. Only when we push back against our hardships and trials can our hidden talents surface and our ingenuity activates.”
Struggling through his many years of financial hardship and self-doubts of beating the seemingly improbable odds of a becoming a furniture manufacturer, Jeffrey studied the history of Henry Ford to build up a positive mental attitude. Above his drawing table hangs a picture of Steve Jobs. “History shows poverty and want were starting points for many of the great ones. Just knowing that comforted me as I persevered through the character development process necessary to rise from the grave I was in.”
Jeffrey recently moved his residence to the heart of south Phoenix. As Paul Rene has grown, he purposefully keeps their studio and manufacturing facility in the so-called ‘hood’. He believes his story can serve as a powerful reminder and example that were all innately equipped to challenge and beat, when faced, all threats to our progress and security.
Paul Rene gives tours of their west Phoenix facility to inner city high schoolers, to expose them to the manufacturing bedrock that produced a strong America. They are also developing plans to open a school.
Woodworking is no longer taught in public schools. And trade and vocational schools have nearly all disappeared from urban landscapes all across America. Jeffrey says he feels compelled to teach his craft and the wisdom he’s gained from his fall and rise again. “Perhaps I was destined to suffer what I suffered, because I am to teach others who find themselves in a seemingly permanent hole, how to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.”
Jeffrey is no stranger to teaching. He taught at his alma mater, the famed auto design school in Detroit; College for Creative Studies. He hopes to locate his vision for a design and woodworking school at the historic and long shuttered George Washington Carver High School in downtown Phoenix, starting in the fall of 2016. The school will target high school age students and training will initially be offered as after school and summer programs.
A crowd funding campaign is soon to be launched to help defray the costs of school supplies and design and wood working tools, for the off site training facility.