Waxahachie businessman John Raftery and his wife, Michelle, made a trip of a lifetime Wednesday. The two traveled to the White House, where they were invited to sit with first lady Michelle Obama during the president’s address Thursday.

Raftery recalled the whirlwind trip that began with a phone call Tuesday.

“I received a call from a lady named Coleen from the White House saying that the first lady had invited us to accompany her at the president’s address,” Raftery said. “When she asked if I was interested, I said ‘definitely.’ ”

The Waxahachie couple left Wednesday for Washington, D.C., where they stayed about two blocks away from the White House that night. The next day at 4 p.m. they met up with about 24 other people who were invited to the event, representing a wide variety of Americans, including a firefighter, teacher, small business owners, construction workers, veterans, students and CEOs and the leader of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

“We had an opportunity to mix and mingle for a while and then took a tour of the White House,” he said. “And we spoke with Mrs. Obama briefly and met the president and had photos made with them.”

Raftery, who served with the 1st Marine Division, left the Marines Corps in 2003 and enrolled in the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans, a program designed for veterans that teaches them business skills. Raftery graduated from the organization at Syracuse University, from where he graduated in 2007.

Two weeks later, he started Patriot Contractors, a construction firm specializing in interior and exterior architectural specialties, located at 1600 E. Main St., Suite 200, in Waxahachie.

“In the four years since we started, we’ve tripled revenues each year and have tripled our staff,” Raftery said. “We’re a multifaceted company that works with organizations like the Veterans Administration, Corps of Engineers and the Marine Corps. We also do finish work for general contractors, including floors, hardware, restroom partitions – we’re finishers.”

A native of Oklahoma City, Okla., Raftery came to Waxahachie in 2003. He received a degree in accounting from Dallas Baptist University and his wife, Michelle, has a master’s degree from Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie.

“We started our company out in Midlothian in 2007, on 9th Street,” he said. “After we doubled our business in two years, we moved our operation to Red Oak. We grew some more and then this location came open here (in Waxahachie).”

In regard to the subject of the president’s Thursday night address, Raftery shared a few thoughts on the state of the economy.

“I think action does need to be taken – any economic situation is going to have challenges,” he said. “Tax breaks will definitely help small businesses.”

He said he thinks more focus should be placed on veterans’ entrepreneurship, equipping them with skills to start small businesses.

Asked to share a few bullet points concerning his secret to building a small, thriving business, his answer was simple.

“Do you see those plaques on the wall behind you?” he asked, pointing to two plaques, one that bore the words, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” and another one with the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” “That applies to anything in life, but especially in business.”

His other two bullet points include hard work and helping others become a part of the team.

“There are continual challenges in a business and the challenges grow and change as the business grows,” he said.

For information about Patriot Contractors, visit the website at www.patriot1.com/ or call 972-775-4440.

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.