Austin Daily Herald: Achieving Significant Outcomes through Small Business

On Tuesday morning, Jose Carrasco and his wife Cecilia Cefuentes Rodriguez were recognized as the 2023 SBA Minnesota Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year. The couple attended a small ceremony where they were awarded the Business of the Year standing with SBA District Director Brian McDonald. This followed an earlier recognition when Carrasco, owner of the West Oakland Auto Repair Company, was named the 2023 SBA Minnesota Small Business Award Winner.

Carrasco immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the 1990s. After several jobs, including working in construction and quality assurance in pork processing, he worked in a body shop where his interest in becoming a mechanic grew. In 2012, Carrasco opened his own business. Initially, he rented facilities and employed only his father and nephew. Today, the West Oakland Auto Repair Shop has eight full and part-time employees.

Carrasco credits the shop’s success to his team’s hard work and transparency with customers. They explain what repairs are necessary and why. If necessary, they take pictures or videos to show customers what’s wrong with their vehicle. Carrasco stresses the importance of building trust with customers.

Although Carrasco lacked business experience when he opened his shop, the quality of his work impressed customers, spurring his success. In 2017, he moved the shop to a new location with the help of funding from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF). They also provided a loan during the purchase process.

Carrasco emphasizes the importance of asking for help when it’s needed. He sought resources from the Austin Development Center (DCA) and the SBA to help him understand the business side of his store. SMIF nominated Carrasco’s business for his SBA Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year Award. Carrasco has not let the lack of experience in business stop him from asking questions and seeking help. “Help is always there,” he says. “It’s opened a lot of doors for me. I don’t look at other people in a competitive way.”

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