November 30, 2023

Turlock’s Just Us Photography & Design was the winner of the Stanislaus Equity Partners brand-new Micro Business Development Hub Pitch Competition.

Described as Stanislaus County’s spin on the hit television show “Shark Tank,” businesses from around the county have an opportunity to share their vision with the community through creative sketches and presentations in hopes of getting extra support from the organization and their partners.

“This year was the first time doing this cohort, so it was really a pilot program for us to learn and identify the areas where we can improve on and better serve our community,” said Monica Vergara, the small business services manager for the Stanislaus Equity Partners.

Vergara shared that the mission of the organization is to connect, neighbors, resources and opportunities so that local small business can thrive. She explained that the Micro Business Development Hub and its Pitch Contest is as a unique and fun opportunity to accomplish those goals.

“We developed a six-month cohort in partnership with Valley Sierra SBDC,” Vergara said. “We invited businesses to join that were either in concept or already in the works to start establishing their business.”

According to Vergara, there were 10 to 15 businesses who volunteered to be a part of the new program earlier this year. Before being able to pitch their business ideas to a group of judged in August, they had to complete a six-month cohort in partnership with the Valley Sierra Small Business Development Center, where they had to complete a number of assignments.

“We ended up identifying participants who completed their business plan, they had to have identified their members, get familiar with their financials and other things like that to prepare a solid pitch to the judges,” she explained.

After the six-month cohort, there were five business left standing to pitch their businesses on Aug. 30 at the Weave Center in Modesto.

“What was really great is that we had a business from all around the county participate. Businesses from Patterson, Riverbank, Turlock, Modesto and Ceres. It was a very diverse group and it was really great to see,” Vergara said.

The first-place winner of the pitch competition, Turlock’s Just Us Photography & Design, received $1,650 for their small business and will continue to receive technical support from the Stanislaus Equity Partners’ small business services as they continue their entrepreneurial endeavors.

While they are only weeks removed from wrapping up the first pitch contest, the Stanislaus Equity Partners are already looking forward to the next one.

“Now that we have gotten through the first one, we have really high hopes for 2023,” she said.

Beginning Oct.1, small businesses in Stanislaus County can start applying to be participate in next year’s cohort to begin the qualification process for the second ever pitch contest. According to Vergara and City of Turlock Economic Development Director Anthony Sims, there are plans to host the next competition in Turlock.

“To have the winner be from Turlock is truly great and really shows just how much potential this city and its business owners have,” Sims said. “This is their first experience with the MicroBusiness Hub, and after evaluating it, there are plans to be another one… I’m always begging Monica to host the next one in Turlock.”

Vergara encouraged anybody interested in learning more or participating in the next Micro Business Development Hub Pitch Competition to follow Stanislaus Equity Partners on Facebook at @StanislausEquityPartners and on Instagram at @stanislaus_equity_partners. Just Us Photography & Design will share their story and experiences at the pitch contest in Wednesday’s edition of the Turlock Journal.



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