Turlock’s Cherish and Joshua Jackson have always had a knack for creativity and bonded at church helping out with weekly productions. For the past five years, the couple have used their passion for photography, videography, graphic design and marketing to help friends and acquaintances with their own needs. Just a year ago they made their business official and called themselves Just Us Photography & Design.
“It really started just as a hobby with wedding and real estate photography,” Joshua said. “Then we just realized that companies were struggling with creating content for social media and marketing purposes, and that’s where we came in because we had the cameras and the equipment. Last year we got serious and decided to quit our jobs and start our company. We just risked it ourselves.”
Since starting their business, the couple have been honest in their evaluation, sharing that the experience has been full of ups and downs.
“We were very young when we started and we were both self-taught,” Cherish said. “Experimenting alone was fun but challenging.”
Joshua explained that it opened their eyes to the financial commitment required, the paperwork required with government agencies, and the amount of time it takes to do the bookkeeping to run a business smoothly.
“I grossly underestimated how hard it is to run a business,” joked Joshua. “A valuable lesson is that even if you get bogged down in the day-to-day work, just focus on the next right thing… Sometimes the next right step is to ask someone for help. Not being afraid to ask for help is crucial.”
Joshua explained that at one point the company’s future was up in the air. Faced with the uncertainty, Just Us reached out to Monica Vergara, director of small business services and community outreach at Stanislaus Equity Partners, among others. Vergara and her team were just starting the Micro Business Development Hub pitch competition and encouraged the Jacksons 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 across the county will have the opportunity to share their vision with the community through creative sketches and presentations, hoping to gain additional support from the organization and its partners.
“When we got connected, it was the perfect timing,” Vergara said. “It was also a chance for us to see how the pitch contest and the cohort would work.”
Cherish believes it was a perfect time for the company as well as they weighed future plans and career goals.
“We sat down and talked and that’s when we realized we didn’t have a solid plan,” Cherish said. “We’ve always talked about where we want to be in five years, but nothing has solidified.”
When it came to presenting their business, Just Us impressed the judges with their unique comedy skit. At the end of the day, they beat four other companies to win the first-ever pitch contest and earn $1,650 for their business and Stanislaus Equity’s ongoing technical support.
“It might not seem like much, but that support really goes a long way,” Cherish said. “Eventually we ran out of business cards and other materials for flyers as we really pushed to spread the word in the community. When you first run a business you don’t realize how these little things can add up… It’s been really good to work on ourselves in the cohort and in competition. It was really good to invest in ourselves.”
Joshua explained that winning the competition made him feel like all the ups and downs were finally paying off.
“I was kind of emotional because it was the first time I was 100% committed to something,” he said. “The win made me feel like we finally got something to show for our hard work and I really realized that we have people who love us and support us.”
Now a year under its belt and with the added backing of Stanislaus Equity Partners, Just Us has quickly entered talks of becoming a full-fledged marketing agency specializing in helping local organizations with web design, online promotion and elevation of overall presence to support the network.
After reflecting on their journey, Joshua also recognized the importance of collaboration in entrepreneurship.
“I want to inspire others to get in touch as well,” Joshua said. “As the pitch competition encouraged and showed everyone, collaboration matters. So if you see this, please feel free to contact us for a cooperation. We are all in this together and working together can lead to great things.”
For more information about Just Us Photography & Design, visit www.justusphotographyanddesign.com. Anyone interested in learning more or participating in the next Micro Business Development Hub Pitch Competition, follow Stanislaus Equity Partners on Facebook at @StanislausEquityPartners and on Instagram at @stanislaus_equity_partners.