Growing Together: How the SBA helped West Oakland Auto Repair Start & Scale
Before Jose Carrazco started West Oakland Auto Repair, he never pictured himself as a business owner. After immigrating from Mexico in the mid-1990’s, Jose found himself working at a meat processing facility in Austin, MN, while fixing cars on the side. Eventually, Jose would start working at a local auto body shop, where his passion for working on cars started to take off. Jose was raised to work hard, and he made an effort at the time to learn as much as he could in order to do just that. “I had never thought about starting a business at that point. It wasn’t even crossing my mind.”
Signing a lease on a location and jumping into car repairs full time would prove to be successful. Jose officially started West Oakland Auto in 2012, with his father and nephew as his only employees. “We started with family, and up until today, it’s still a family business. We’ve grown together in this.” By 2017, the repairs were steadily coming in, and the business was quickly outgrowing its original space. With the help of the SBA and its community partners, Jose was able to get connected with the right resources to help his business start and scale.
The SBA has been able to provide assistance throughout West Oakland Auto Repair’s history – especially during periods of growth. At the start of the business, employees were using hand tools and a floor jack to complete repairs. West Oakland Auto Repair receive their first microloan through the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, which contributed towards equipment. The benefits of having a lift were noticed just one month after purchasing, as jobs were being completed at a much quicker pace.
West Oakland Auto Repair received an additional SBA microloan through SMIF for the purchase of a larger facility. In addition to their own equity, SMIF, Home Federal Bank, and Austin Development Corporation awarded them funds for the building purchase, repairs, equipment, and a paint booth. The new location more than doubled the size of West Oakland Auto Repair’s facility, where they can now accommodate eight cars instead of three.
During the pandemic, West Oakland Auto Repair also received assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Several community partners have contributed to helping the business grow through challenges and answer questions, including the Southeast Small Business Development Center.
Just this year, West Oakland Auto was recognized as the 2023 SBA Minnesota’s Minority Small Business of the Year. Today, West Oakland Auto Repair is as busy as ever, and Jose and Cecilia continue to invest in growing the business. What started as a side job working on cars has turned into an incredibly successful, family-owned venture with a great reputation for quality service. “I never thought we would get this far, but 11 years later, here we are.”
While the business shows steady signs of continued growth for the future, Jose prefers to focus on today. “The best you can do to plan is have high goals, and work on reaching them. It’s important, but personally, I don’t plan too far ahead. I focus on today.”
Jose’s advice for others looking to start a small business is parallel to the advice he gives his children as they start to consider their futures. “Follow your dreams, do what you want with your life, because you’ve got to love it. If you work hard, and you use the resources you have, you can succeed.”