There are very few minority owned furniture design studios in the country and one of them is Ali Sandifer Studio in Detroit, founded by husband-and-wife team Andre Sandifer and Abir Ali. They craft a unique brand of modern furniture using domestic woods harvested from sustainable forests.
Launched in 2003 in Michigan, they moved to Chicago in 2006 and returned to Michigan in 2011. “After I graduated from graduate school I realized quickly I did not what to work in an Architecture firm and I had a passion for making furniture,” explains Sandifer. ?”My love for furniture design started in graduate school during a class where we had to make a piece of furniture that was not functional.”
While Sandifer had a passion for furniture, there were of course challenges to starting up the business nine years ago. “The challenge of starting a business for me was the start-up cost,” he says. So to fund the startup, he reached out to family. “I borrowed money from my Mom and sister to start the business and my now-wife and business partner put in money as well,” says Sandifer.
And while some would think business would be greatly affected by the Detroit financial crisis, Ali Sandifer Studio has continued to thrive. “Actually, Detroit has been very good to us since the push to rebuild Detroit has begun,” explains Sandifer. “A lot of our retail sales are from outside of Michigan and the U.S.” ?Sandifer says there is still much opportunity in Detroit. “I think the business climate is growing for furniture makers, the interest in ‘handmade in America’ is growing,” Sandifer points out. “I think Detroit is growing at a nice pace, but I think we have to push the idea of supporting local businesses.”
According to Sandifer, he is looking to expand the business. “We are looking to add to our current line and we are exploring furniture from the perspective of being an art piece,” he says. ?”And we are in Artprize.org this year.” (Artprize is an international art competition.)
Sandifer’s biggest business lesson? ?”That it is very difficult to do things alone!”