OAKHURST – Ashley Kruser may be one of the youngest entrepreneurs in Oakhurst.
The 20-year-old managing partner at Sierra Global Tech graduated two years ago from Minarets High and is already running her own local business.
Kruser’s family has lived in the area for four generations and Ashley decided to launch her store, in part, “because I didn’t want to have to move somewhere else to work. I love it here.”
So with a little help from her family, Kruser tried to figure out what the town was most in need of and hit on the idea of creating a small business center catering to other small businesses and individuals wanting to get their ‘to do’ lists done locally.
“Living up here, it’s not like the city,” Kruser said. “I noticed there were a lot of things we didn’t really have.”
So Kruser designed a store with a myriad of services and products under one roof and opened Sierra Global Tech in July of last year.
The store, located off Road 426 next to Camarena Health, has been a hit with locals, which has allowed Kruser to steadily expand her inventory and menu of services.
Open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sierra Global Tech processes passport applications and rents post boxes. They also offer a full range of shipping, printing, document shredding, copying and graphic design services; make signs and banners; offer computer and internet terminal rental; and stock office supplies, batteries, greeting cards, lottery scratchers – even gag gifts. And they can transfer your home movies, photos and slides to DVD.
The young entrepreneur said she actually started off focusing the business around Live Scan services.
“Live Scan seemed like a great opportunity for us,” Kruser said. “The sheriff’s department has limited capacity and you need to make an appointment to get it done there. So we decided to rent a little office and that’s really how Sierra Global was born.”
Aside from the Madera County Sheriff’s substation, Kruser says Sierra Global Tech is the only store in town offering the increasingly necessary fingerprinting process now required by many public and private employers. Individuals seeking concealed carry permits and those wanting to work or volunteer at hospitals, schools, senior centers and daycare facilities also must undergo Live Scan fingerprinting.
The business has also carved out a niche as the only place in Oakhurst offering DMV vehicle registration and title transfer services.
“It’s so much more convenient than driving into Madera and having to wait in line,” said Kruser, who charges an additional $27 to handle the paperwork.
Kruser is a notary public and has become an expert key cutter too. And she’s hoping to one day offer Western Union money transfer services at the business.
“Ashley is not a normal kid. She has a work ethic unlike any I’ve ever seen in a kid her age,” said Crystal Hays, a longtime family friend who has helped Kruser get the business off the ground. “She is like a sponge. She just drinks all of this stuff in and learns new things so quickly.”
At one time in her life, Kruser thought about going into art or the theater.
“But when reality set in after high school,” she said, “I figured those things probably wouldn’t allow me to be financially successful and get some of the things in life I really wanted.”
Now, less than a year into her adventure in entrepreneurship, Kruser said the business is gradually becoming profitable.
“The experience of learning a bunch of new skills while helping people get the things they need done” has been very rewarding, she said. “When someone comes into the store, whether we have what they need or not, we will do our best to get what they need.”
On a busy Friday morning this week at Sierra Global, a steady procession of customers came in to pick up mail, get some copies made, ship a package or have a few house keys cut.
“We’re slowly building our numbers,” Kruser said. “Word of mouth has been the best way to get the news out about who we are and what we do.”
Kruser considers Sierra Global “a family business” and said she is very grateful for her “auntie” Crystal’s support.
“In learning how to run the business, Ashley has gotten a lot of family support,” said Hays, who is a partner at Sierra Global and has been friends with Kruser’s mother Joy since both women were three years old.
Hays’s daughter was also involved initially in Sierra Global’s launch but has since moved out of the area. Hays runs her own tech consulting firm out of a small corner office next to Sierra Global and often makes herself available to help Kruser at the counter when the store gets busy.
And as busy as Kruser stays running Sierra Global, the energetic 20-year-old still finds time to take business classes at Oakhurst Community College Center.
“Right now I’m studying accounting,” she said.
“I couldn’t be more confident in her capabilities,” Hays said. “I’m there to support her when she needs me but Ashley is definitely running the show.”
Sierra Global Tech’s motto — “Let us help you get your stuff done!” — is a reflection of Kruser’s positive, can-do exclamation-point outlook on business — and life.
“I just hate the word ‘can’t,'” she said. “I like to say what we do here is help our customers kill their ‘to do’ lists. And, when they’re done, we can also shred the lists for them,” she joked.