When Jose Carrazco first opened West Oakland Auto Repair in Austin, MN, all he wanted was to keep himself employed doing something he enjoys. Now, 11 years later, the U.S. Small Business Administration has named him the 2023 SBA Minnesota Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year. 

“We were just a couple guys who were trying to keep busy and create their own employment,” Carrazco said. “We kept growing as time passed by. When we talk to other business owners and our friends and I see their reaction, it’s like, ‘Wow, this has got to be big.’”  

Carrazco first immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in the 1990s. He lived in Iowa his first three years in the country, and then moved to Austin in 1999 where he did construction jobs, spent a stint at Quality Pork Processors, and worked at a body shop before beginning to work on cars more in his free time. As his knowledge base grew, so did his interest in becoming a mechanic.

“Once I start working on it, I dedicate to it,” he said. “Here we are right now. It takes dedication to do things you want to do and if you want to be successful.”   

In 2012, Carrazco stepped out on his own and rented a facility to open West Oakland Auto Repair. His only employees at the time were his dad and nephew. His dad still works for the shop, as does Carrazco’s wife, and over time they added eight part- and full-time employees. Carrazco credits his team’s hard work and their transparency with customers for much of his shop’s success. 

When a customer brings their car in for work, Carrazco and his team take the time to explain what needs repairing and why, along with any potential negative consequences if the car goes unrepaired.   

“Once we find out what’s going on with the vehicle, we’ll take videos and pictures and show them what’s going on with it. Or while in the middle (of the repair), we’ll bring them in and show them what we’re replacing. That way we can create trust with everybody,” he said. “Having the right team will make a difference.”   

With no business experience when he first opened, Carrazco wasn’t sure how he’d even pay the shop’s rent. But customers were so impressed with his work, they kept coming back. 

By 2016, he was already looking to purchase a building to house the shop. During the buying process, he procured a loan but came up a little short. That’s when he reached out to the Development Center of Austin (DCA) for support.   

“We were finally able to move into our new place in 2017, and with that came the addition of a professional paint booth, one that we got thanks to funding from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF),” he said.   

SMIF is the organization that nominated Carrazco’s business for the SBA’s Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year Award.   

When it comes to the business side of his shop, Carrazco said he’s always been willing to ask questions, especially once he discovered the business resources available to him through organizations like DCA, SMIF and SBA.   

“We have always went and asked questions about the finances,” he said. “We got help from these foundations, and it’s probably the greatest thing we have run into.”  

Carrazco also isn’t afraid to ask questions of other business owners, even if they are considered competitors.   

“Help is always out there. If I need to ask or stop into another shop, that won’t stop me, I’ll go right in and talk to someone,” he said. “That has opened up a lot of doors to me. I don’t look at others like competition. If I don’t know something, I’ve got to go ask.”

We thank the Austin Daily Herald for reprint permission.

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