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Through the lens of Just Us Photography & Design
Turlock business wins inaugural pitch contest
Just Us Photography
The team at Just Us Photography & Design in Turlock — Cherish Jackson, Adam Sharp, Joshua Jackson and Celeste Colantuono — is seeing their hard work pay off after winning the Stanislaus Equity Partners' Micro Business Hub pitch contest last month (Photo contributed).

Cherish and Joshua Jackson of Turlock have always had a knack for creativity, finding a connection with each other at church as they helped with weekly productions. For the past five years, the couple has used their passion for photography, videography, graphic design and marketing to help friends and acquaintances with their own needs. Just one year ago, they made their business official, tabbing themselves as Just Us Photography & Design.

“It really started just as a hobby doing weddings and real estate photography,” Joshua said. “Then we just started noticing that businesses were struggling to make content for social media and marketing purposes, and that’s where we stepped in because we had the cameras and the gear. Last year, we got serious and decided to quit our jobs and start our business. We just took a chance on ourselves.”

Since the launch of their business, the couple was honest in their evaluation, sharing that the experience has been full of ups and downs.

“We were really young when we first started out and we were both self-taught,” Cherish said. “Experimenting on our own was fun, but it was challenging.”

Joshua explained that their eyes were opened to the financial commitment required, paperwork needed to be submitted to government agencies and how much time it takes to bookkeep in order to smoothly run a business.

“I greatly underestimated how hard it is to run a business,” Joshua joked. “A valuable lesson is that, even when you are drowning in the day-to-day work, just stay focused on the next right thing to do… Sometimes, taking the next right step is asking somebody for help. Not being afraid to ask for help is crucial.”

Joshua explained that, at one point, the future of the business was up in the air. With thoughts of uncertainty, one place that Just Us turned to was Monica Vergara, the small business services and community outreach director for the Stanislaus Equity Partners. Vergara and her team were just beginning to launch the Micro Business Development Hub’s pitch contest and encouraged the Jackson’s to participate. The Micro Business Development Hub Pitch Competition is described as Stanislaus County’s spin on the hit television show “Shark Tank.” Local small 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.

“When we got connected, it was the perfect time,” Vergara said. “It was a chance for us too to learn how the pitch contest and the cohort would go.”

Cherish believes it was a perfect time for the business as well, as they were weighing future plans and career goals.

“We sat down and talked and that’s when we realized that we didn’t have a set plan,” Cherish said. “We had always talked about where we want to be five years from now, but there was nothing solidified.”

When it came to pitching their business, Just Us impressed the judges with their unique comedy skit. At the end of the day, they beat out four other businesses to win the first ever pitch contest and earn themselves $1,650 for their business and continued technical support from the Stanislaus Equity.

“It may not seem like much, but that support really goes a long way,” Cherish said. “At one point, we started running out of business cards and other supplies for flyers since we were really pushing to spread the word to the community. Running a business for the first time, you don’t realize how those small things can add up… It was really good to work on ourselves in the cohort and contest. It was really good to invest in ourselves.”

Joshua explained that winning the competition made him feel as if all the ups and downs were finally starting to pay off.

“I was kind of emotional because it was the first time I’ve ever put 100% effort into something,” he said. “Winning made me feel that we finally have something to show for our hard work and made me really realize that we have people who love us and support us.”

Now with a year under their belts and the additional support from the Stanislaus Equity Partners, Just Us has quickly become in talks about being a full-scale marketing agency, branching out to helping local organizations with web design, online advertisements and increasing overall presence on the web.

After seeing reflecting on their journey, Joshua also realized the importance of collaboration in entrepreneurship.

“I also want to inspire others to reach out,” Joshua said. “Like the pitch competition encouraged and showed everyone, collaboration is important, so if you see this, feel more than free to reach out to collaborate. We’re all in this together and collaboration can lead to great things.”

For more information on Just Us Photography & Design, head to their website at 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.