Janis Pusic started in the aggregate supply business when she was only 15 and working for her parents’ company. Since then, she has made a name for herself in the construction industry.
When Santa Clarita businesswoman Janis Pusic started Sand Materials and Aggregate Sales in the early 80s, she said that being a 19-year-old young woman in an industry largely dominated by men was difficult, but times have changed significantly since then.
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SM Sales is an aggregate supply, dirt import/export and trucking business operated out of their office on Sierra Highway. They serve the greater Southern California area.
Currently, they are working with Caltrans on the Interstate 405 project to add a 10-mile HOV lane to the Sepulveda Pass, and the LADWP project to build a reservoir at Griffith Park.
Pusic, who grew up in Sunland, learned the aggregate business while working for her parents’ Pacoima-based company.
“I started working with my parents dispatching trucks when I was 15 years old,” she said.
But when she started her own business a few years later, Pusic said that she ran into roadblocks.
“It’s been really challenging–I like the challenge–being a women-owned business, because I’m dealing with men,” she said. “A lot of men don’t like women on jobs. When I started in business I literally used to get kicked off the job sites.”
In the beginning, Pusic also said that companies were reluctant to contract with SM Sales, because she was so young, with very little background.
“(As a) 19-year-old girl, how was I going to get credit?” she said.
But in 30 years, Pusic has built a reputation for herself and her business. She said that her success is due in part to the fact that public agencies now must award contracts to minority-owned businesses for a percentage of every project.
SM Sales has established itself as a legitimate minority business, Pusic said, with certifications as a “disadvantaged business” from the City of Los Angeles and as a small business with L.A., Metro and the state Public Utilities Commission.
But, some companies that advertise as minority business are not all they seem to be, Pusic said.
“Some put the business in the wife’s name, but she’s out shopping and not involved in the business,” she said.
She also attributed her success to simple hard work and maintaining a presence at SM Sales, attending meetings and involvement with industry associations.
When asked what her advice would be for other young women looking to start in the aggregate or construction industries, Pusic said that certification is key.
“Get certified with the agencies,” she said. “My daughter-in-law to be works for a woman-owned company. I told her she needs to get certified.”
Pusic sees expansion in the future of SM Sales. She said that she hopes to break ground for a quarry in Palmdale before August this year.
She has a conditional use permit for the project and is in the process of getting funds.
For more information about SM Sales, click here.
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Source: Santa Clarita News