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Small but powerful: The not so niche small business industry
Dezignz 1
Owner Luis Oliveira sits in his newest Dezignz showroom in downtown Turlock with his Modesto showroom manager Juli Freitas. While Oliveira has storefronts in Modesto, Los Angeles, and now Turlock, Dezignz is also his interior design firm that caters to residential and commercial clients.

Small business may be, well, small, but they are far from insignificant. In fact there are 28 million small businesses in the United States according to the United States Small Business Administration.

 “When we talk about small businesses in conversation at a policy level often times people tend to think of small businesses as a niche group and that’s not the case,” said Small Business Majority Project and Outreach Manager Mark Herbert.

The Small Business Majority is a national small business advocacy organization founded and run by small business owners.

National Small Business Week may have been May 4 to 8, but all month long local businesses and organizations are making efforts to bring attention to the businesses that serve as the backbone of many local economies. Over 100 small business owners across the country, from Fresno to Nebraska, convened in Washington, D.C. from May 11 to 13 as part of the Majority’s Small Business Summit to discuss issues unique to this industry.

While organizations like the Small Business Majority and U.S. Small Business Administration define small businesses as those with 500 employees or less, sometimes a small business can be a single person. Take Turlock inventor Juan Pineda Sanchez for example.

Sanchez invented the Master Locking Pliers, a hand tool that is both a pair of hand pliers as well as a screwdriver affording users the ability to perform multiple tasks with one item. Master Locking Pliers is a registered brand approved by the United States Patents and Trademark Office. With the tool’s recent three way ratchet upgrade and packaging for both women and men, Master Locking Pliers has been a project Sanchez has nurtured from a mere idea into a reality. He has presented and pitched his product as several expos including those for the As Seen on TV industry in Los Angeles and Response Expo in San Diego.

"I've been inventing for 25 years, but just because you’re an inventor does not guarantee you’re going to be successful" said Sanchez. “It takes a lot of thought, a lot of sacrifice, money, time and dedication, but it is rewarding.”

Like many small businesses pursuits, Sanchez has weathered difficult economic times. However, he is hopeful that his product, which is sold on, will continue to receive positive attention as he said it also shines a light on Turlock.

“Everywhere I go I represent my hometown of Turlock with a lot of pride,” said Sanchez.

Some recent hometown businesses in Hughson have utilized local resource money through the town’s Business Assistance Program.  The three new businesses include a  coffee shop on Santa Fe Avenue titled Perks Coffee Company, a Charles Street decor and flower shop Magnolia Farmhouse Market, as well as new hotdog and ice cream stop Shami's Dogs on Santa Fe Avenue.

Other than all three new businesses being located near the small town's historic downtown district, they each also took advantage of the City's $30,000 funding program to help kick start their business. The City of Hughson offers an array of assistance in the form of business incentives, loans for façade improvements, office space in the Hughson business incubation center, and supportive services through the Stanislaus Business Alliance and Hughson Small Business Development Center. The SBDC is a subset of the SBA and is committed to helping create success stories for small business owners, like those new to the Hughson community.  

“During National Small Business Week and throughout the year the Alliance helps foster the success of local businesses, enhancing the economic health and vitality of our region,” said Kurt Clark, the director of the Small Business Development Center. “Small businesses play an incredibly important role in our local economy.”

 While some business ventures like those in Hughson are just starting, others are expanding their offerings such as Dezignz. On May 1 owner Luis Oliveira opened his third Dezignz showroom in downtown Turlock. His two other locations include a Modesto showroom, which has been in business for five years, as well as a Los Angeles location that opened its doors six months ago.

With a specialty in reclaimed wood and rustic inspired décor, Dezignz is the manifestation of Oliveira’s creative eye. The unique items at Dezignz are in some ways a tribute to Oliveira’s agricultural background as a native of the Valley, but with a contemporary or modern twist.

 “It’s not ordinary, but extraordinary. His ideology when he goes to market is really unique,” said Modesto showroom manager Juli Freitas.

The new Turlock location will afford more foot traffic into Dezignz, but the décor items Oliveira is selling are only one part of his business — he also offers interior design services for residential and commercial businesses. Having redone individuals’ homes as well as businesses like Green Grub, which his sister owns, Oliveira said his favorite part of his job is seeing people happy, a remark likely shared by many in the small business community.

“You get to really know your clients, beyond just their taste, and become friends. You can really build great relationships,” said Oliveira.