Daniel's family smiling
Daniel Griffes, ’09, never thought that his childhood pastime, working on carpentry projects with his mom, would lay the foundation for his future vocation as a tiny home builder. His father, a chiropractor, funded their remodeling endeavors, and by the time Griffes was in high school he knew how to solder pipes, and run electrical wires, with an overall grasp of how to build.

Growing up, Griffes considered missionary work to be the calling for his life. At 13-years-old he participated in a short term mission trip to Mexicali, Mexico, with Azusa Pacific University, an enriching experience that influenced future acts of service. Griffes attended community college before taking a gap year to live in Guatemala for six months. During that time he lived with a local pastor, studied Spanish, and lived in a rural area gaining experience in different kinds of missionary work, including serving at an orphanage and teaching English. After working at youth camps, he was certain that being a camp director was his calling because of his love for creating a positive impact in children’s lives.

While deciding where to earn a bachelor’s degree, Griffes was drawn back to APU because of its inviting community. His sister had also decided to start her freshman year at APU at the same time that Griffes transferred in.

“Touring APU was awesome. We could tell that everyone we met loved being there,” he said.

Griffes chose to study sociology, which he thoroughly enjoyed because of the ways in which the class content stretched his mind, leading him to frequently reevaluate his worldview. “I grew so much as a sociology major as I started learning how to best love people who think differently than me.”

Looking back at his college days, Griffes fondly remembers working in the Center for Student Action (CSA) (Now the Office of Service and Discipleship). “I truly found my people there. Working together and going on mission trips was the highlight of my APU experience,” he said. “I’m a strong believer that you’ll find what you’re looking for.” Griffes also discovered fulfillment trying new things, since he had space in his schedule to take several electives. From ceramics to leadership classes, Griffes made the most of his time at APU by diving into each opportunity he could find.

After graduating, Griffes was the interim operations director in the CSA, and led numerous global engagement trips. Two years later, he embarked on an adventure with his siblings. They drove from California to Argentina, spending three months traveling throughout Central and South America. Griffes spent a few more years committed to missionary work. His personal journey took him in a different direction though, and he returned home to reconsider what he wanted to do with his career.

Griffes reentered construction work as a hobby, and became involved in a new church. He lived in a house with four friends across the street from his pastor. He also met his future wife, Olivia Rodriguez, who lived just down the block. Their young adults church group often held dinner parties and they spent time in the same circles. Griffes found out that Olivia graduated from APU in 2012 with a degree in nursing. They never met each other as students, but she lived in the same hall as Griffes’ sister. After dating for one year, Griffes proposed, and the couple got married in 2015.

Griffes’ started his business, Venture Tiny Homes, in 2020. Prior to launching his company he worked in construction, honing his skills as he remodeled kitchens and bathrooms. Griffes had earned a contractor’s license before the pandemic, and planned to teach high school shop classes. However, when his wife learned she was pregnant, Griffes decided he needed a career with more flexibility for fatherhood. Unsure of what the future looked like, a friend of Griffes asked if he could build a tiny home in his backyard. His friend had already created the design plans, so Griffes gathered some guys he knew and started building.

“After spending a few months on that first tiny home I knew this was exactly what I was made to do,” he said.

Since then, Griffes has hired four employees, who are as passionate about construction as he is. Throughout the past four years, they have worked together in backyards, a borrowed space, and are now working in their own warehouse in Camarillo. His company has built more than 10 tiny homes so far. “This is the first job where every Friday I’m excited to return to work on Monday,” Griffes said. He enjoys working in one place consistently, and is proud of the team he’s created. As a boss, Griffes uses what he learned as a sociology major to better understand where people are coming from, and applies organizational skills to develop plans for projects.

Something that sets Venture Tiny Homes apart from other companies is the aspect of customization. “We learn new things with each home because we like to include customers in the design process, to offer them something unique,” Griffes said. “We’re affordable and high quality for a tiny home business.” Griffes’ coworkers have grown in their skills, to the point where Griffes is able to do more of the design, marketing, and sales work, while the building process is in good hands.

As for his family, Griffes is now a father to three beautiful children: Sierra (age 3), Jet (age 2), and Everett (4 months old). “They are the absolute joy of my life. Being a dad is the best,” Griffes said.

Griffes’ roles as a father, husband, tiny home builder, and Christian come down to serving God by building a life he loves, one he’s excited to wake up to every day, and one that touches lives in unexpected ways. Reflecting on his life, Griffes shared that the most important thing he’s had to learn is that no matter what he does, God loves him. “I struggled for quite some time, feeling like a failure at times or like my missionary work was not enough. Over time I came to realize that God is okay with me just being myself,” he said. “Now I can confidently say that I’m valued. I’ll always strive to keep growing as a person, but I now have the assurance that I can be a tiny home builder for the rest of my life. I get to do what I love, and God loves me.”