Dean Sparks spent two tours in Iraq, working as security for transport trucks. After spending from 2002 to 2006 in the Army, the Dos Palos native came back to Merced County, ready to go to work.
He saw a booming real estate business, construction companies popping up right and left, and developers building everywhere. He decided to start a graphics and printing business that catered to those businesses.
He opened his business, BrightDart, in 2007. That's when the real estate boom went bust.
"It all stopped in 2007," Sparks said.
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But Sparks has hung in there by branching out a bit.
"We're evolving, sharpening and honing our services," the 27-year-old said.
Sparks now does a lot of direct mail printing, but he also does business cards, magazines and all types of printing.
He is branching out into same-day and next-day service, and plans to work with businesses in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.
"I'm working with some shippers that other people aren't utilizing," Sparks said. "It's allowed me to do a lot more."
Although some of Sparks' business is outsourced offshore, he has his own graphics person working for him, and can design items like business cards or logos from the ground up.
He also has printing presses at his El Portal Drive business, although he does send some items out to be printed.
Although Sparks got into his business at a bad time, he thinks the economy has started to turn around.
"I think the people who were going down have gone down," Sparks said. "Now whoever is left is going to grow. The competition has been taken out."
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.