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Hidden Gems: Local Businesses & Creatives You Should Know

Every day we have a choice. We can support an up and coming podcaster, try a new family-run restaurant, join a boutique gym started by a local fitness champ or we could keep giving away our money to the handful of giants who already control so much of our commerce. Our daily decisions impact the kind world we live in; if we want a world where small businesses are growing and artists and creatives are thriving then we should support them with our time, money and attention. We’re proud to highlight inspiring creatives and entrepreneurs each week in Hidden Gems series.  Check out some of our latest local gem features below.

Jazeera Aitzhanova

The spirit behind the endeavor of Humming Cup Tea came to life when I moved to Austin, Texas from Kazakhstan. Teatime is a big part of Kazakh culture. People often meet for a cup of tea to spend time together. I noticed that life in the US is much faster. People prefer drinking coffee and rarely take time to pause. Extremely demanding lifestyle and a fast paced environment often leads people to stress and depression. So, I wanted to share about tea’s health benefits with others. There is plenty of research showing that drinking tea can actually improve your health. From the beginning, tea was sought by the Chinese primarily for the health benefits it provided. Eventually, tea drinking spread to the rest of the world. When I just moved to Austin it was very hard to find a good quality loose leaf tea in stores. I only found tea packaged in tea bags. According to tea grading practices tea bags contain the lowest grade of tea also called ‘tea dust’. So I decided that I want to start a company and provide people with access to higher quality loose leaf teas and educate them about tea’s health benefits for their mental and physical health. Read more>>

Girls on Fire ATX Sam and Esther

Girls on Fire ATX started all over a simple phone call. Samantha and Esther are both in the service industry as bartenders at your local favorite bars. Esther had called Sam one day to talk about putting together a botox party/event and it blossomed into so much more. We’re both on a spiritual journey to help better ourselves and those around us and we wanted to share that with as many people as possible, so we thought why not start a podcast and help other service industry people and empower the women around us. Read more>>

Mary Spradlin

Lone Star Oaks was inspired by two friends of 29 years that shared a dream of weddings and parties with a commitment and passion to provide their guests with the warm feel of the Texas Hill Country. These two women drew this venue up on a yellow pad and then handed it over to their contractor to bring to life. Every detail painstakingly thought out to make sure each and every wedding would flow smoothly. There were numerous shopping trips to pick tile, fixtures, and those gorgeous doors and mirror for the bridal suite from Europe. Every item in the venue from door knobs to chandeliers was hand picked by Mary and Janna. Mary, Dave, Janna, and Roger worked for over a year clearing land and trimming trees. They built fences, tables, outdoor bar, dance floor, benches, and strung lights all so the venue would be perfect for each couple. They were there every single day during construction to make sure everything was just right. Read more>>

Selima Harbison

I’m a proud second generation Austinite who was blessed to grow up during the good old days when life in Austin was much simpler. Being an ADHD kid raised by hippie parents I was encouraged to pursue a vast array of interest, but being in nature is where I found solace. Eventually, I caved to societal pressure and studied Psychology at the University of Texas. Although, I loved and valued my education getting a degree was never my goal. My plan has always been to learn as much as possible about as many topics as possible. During this time I was living in South Austin right as the Grow Food Not Lawns movement was really taking roots. Myself and our neighbors were ripping out our water loving Bermuda grass for a more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative….. fruits, veggies and herbs! Once I discovered organic gardening and permaculture it was like nothing else mattered. I took as many classes as I could at local nurseries, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and local community gardens. I was a woman on her path to soul work. Read more>>

Chris Fuller-Wigg

I am happy to expand on any parts of this that you desire 🙂 I was born in Galveston, TX lived in that area most of my life, and moved to Austin in 2008 for college at UT. When I graduated my #1 goal was staying in Austin. I started working at a tech consulting company since 2012. I am the Vice President services at this company, Motiv. Software Consulting by day, sanctuary runner by night. In 2014, I moved to Barcelona and played a year of professional volleyball for FCBarcelona. I checked that box off of the bucket list and moved back to Austin in May 2015. My desk waited for me and I picked up where I left off at Motiv. The following year I met my wife, Angela, and we bought our first home together in Sept. 2016. Below is a blurb from our website 🙂 Love fuels the sanctuary and love started the sanctuary. We (Angela and Chris, co-founders) and our four dogs closed on our first home in 2016 in South Austin. One week after moving in we rescued our first farm animal residents, Bertha and Cookie, a mother/daughter pair. The party really started not long after when we rescued Doya the Pig! Our dream had been realized and our passion ignited. We began rescuing more animals and building the family you will find on this page today. Read more>>

Ashley Brinkman

There’s one quality that I have had from a very young age–and that is drive. I have always been a hard worker and ambitious, determined to grow, never stop learning and become a better version of myself–and that still lies true in my late 30’s. I majored in Advertising at Texas State University, interned in the Big Apple and accepted a position right out of college out of state. I thought Advertising would be my forever career and really enjoyed the combination of creativity backed with data. I worked at an agency after college but found the “cubical life” a quite dull one. I wanted to work with people more, face more challenges, and essentially able to work for myself, hone in on my marketing and creative skills and help others. After a year stint in Kansas City I moved back to Texas, started working on my Real Estate license while working another job in the middle of a global crash; however I held strong and kept working hard as many things were changing dramatically in the housing market at that time. I started as an assistant to a Realtor. Read more>>

Jolene Madewell

I’ve been a musician since first grade, and became a more serious flute player in high school. As a sensitive, introverted human, I found so much joy, energy, and belonging in playing music, and I loved all the opportunities that came with it. My confidence flourished, and I ultimately decided to major in music at the University of New Hampshire. At that time, I had the opportunity to learn about Body Mapping and the Alexander Technique; two body awareness techniques that help musicians understand their own anatomy to perform with exceptional freedom of expression while also preventing injuries. It transformed my playing dramatically, and my enthusiasm for playing and teaching only grew further. I went on to graduate school at Florida State University for a Masters in Music Performance, and started a blog called Practice Room Revelations. This was also around the time Instagram was just becoming a thing, and I started sharing flute-related content related to my favorite awareness-based techniques. Starting a digital presence while still a student helped me build a foundation that helped me when I graduated and moved to Austin. Read more>>

Kyle Ligon

For most of my life I lived with a fixed mindset, defining myself as inherently good at some things and inherently bad at others. I didn’t think it was possible to significantly improve my weaknesses in a meaningful way and was scared to test areas in which I considered myself good. This had me terrified of failure because failure signified an innate shortcoming that, in my mind, I would never be able to overcome and would therefore define what I was capable of. To give a rather innocuous example of this, for a very long time, I was unwilling to try to water-ski because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to. It wasn’t that I was just embarrassed about the possibility of not getting up out of the water; it was that I considered myself a fundamentally athletic person and if I failed at something like water skiing, the way I saw myself or the way other people saw me may change. How off-base and entitled was I?! With literally zero experience at water skiing, I expected to be good the first time I tried? This was my mindset when I, along with my business partner, started our gym back in 2012. Read more>>

Tess Wieloszynski

I have always been an “art nerd” and entered college as a freshman painting and drawing major. That same freshman year, I fell head over heels for graphic design and never looked back. Design started as a spark in me and very quickly grew into a fire that has yet to stop burning. Once I graduated college in 2012, I moved to NYC and was determined to work in any and all aspect of design that I could. This led me everywhere from working as an art director at Topps baseball cards to designing packaging at Estee Lauder and as a marketing designer at Physique 57. The common thread in all of my work was having a strong eye and furthering my education in branding design and strategy. I moved to Austin in 2016 and was following two passions at the time, one for design and one to be a fitness instructor. Turns out that design fire was still the stronger flame and while I loved teaching fitness, I found myself once again working in design and marketing. I evolved from a personal trainer and nutritionist at TrainLifeFit (fitness studio in Mueller) to their Creative and Marketing Director. Fast forward to 2020 when I started Seabiscuit Creative. Read more>>

Vincent Roazzi Jr

I am an event, travel, commercial, and wedding photographer and videographer based in Austin which is the first place I’ve called home for a long time. I got started doing street photography in New York City with my best friend. I would do it as a hobby outside of my sales job with a little point-and-shoot camera I bought online. I never thought it would lead me to doing photography as career that would be a hilarious thought because it was such an unattainable dream job. I was in my 20’s and at that time I would do anything to go to a free concert. Sofar Sounds NYC had just launched which was a secret concert series from London that I was not cools enough to be a part of. One day, I saw on their Facebook that they needed a photographer to fill in, and I thought, ‘let me just send them a message and see if they respond even though I don’t have a professional camera.’ They said yes to me shooting, and I freaked out a bit because I had two days to find a professional camera and learn how to use it. Read more>>

Raf Robinson

My background in hospitality dates back to junior high when my father opened his first jazz club in San Antonio, TX. While attending college at UT Austin, I worked in bars downtown to pay for school. After graduation in 2003, I decided to open my first bar with a friend, Firehouse Lounge. I helped open multiple hospitality businesses between 2003 and now, including a coffee shop, brewery, and restaurants in Austin. I met my business partner Mark Avalos on a snowboarding trip back in 2008. In 2013, Mark invited me to help him grow a bbq food trailer business called SLAB BBQ. I loved the hip hop-themed concept and heard great reviews regarding the food, so I was all in. We opened our first brick and mortar location in 2014 off Burnet Rd and hope to open our 3rd location in Cedar Park this spring. I love this city and how the community supports local business. I believe it’s truly the heart of Austin. The spirit of entrepreneurship flows freely in every corner of the city from tech to the arts. Read more>>

Britt Von Bossy

So happy to be here with Voyage again… It’s been about two years since we last chatted! A lot has changed; I started shooting film photography in Dec 2019 & have steam lined my way through many successful shoots & events, all while managing safety during a pandemic. I currently shoot on a few different Canon cameras on a 35 mm medium. I would say the name Von Bossy describes my style of work, “the life of bossy “. Very flirty, feisty, and raw. There is no experience needed to shoot with me , I’ll make your experience effortless while We create art. Read more>>

Jessica Allen

I started working at the age of 13. Babysitting or helping other homeschool moms clean their house and hustling. I’m the oldest of 8 kids, so you can say I was born a leader I guess. When I was in high school I was VERY shy and insecure. I came from a home that wasn’t safe, with parents that didn’t support any level of independence. Growing up in such a restrictive environment created a coping mechanism for me was to hyper-focus on my career and work. So, that is what I spent the next 14 years doing. I quickly became a manager as a vendor in the healthcare area, managed a team of 90 employees across 2 states. When I took the job as District Manager in my early 20’s I was flown to their corporate office because I was so young. I went through the entire executive team for my interviews before getting the job. By the time I left that job, I had one of the most profitable districts in the nation and was the youngest District Manager of Operations as well. I actually started traveling my last year in that position to other districts helping my peers make their territories better and more efficient. Read more>>

Seda Allen

The beginning of my journey started when I arrived in Texas and encountered mosquitos for the first time. I had an immediate allergic reaction to the bites and tried every natural, over the counter, and even prescription medication available to get relief, but to no avail. Forced to take this into my own hands, I pulled from my Turkish shamanic upbringing combined with additional research and created my first batch of NoMo mosquito after bite lotion. The result was instant relief. This accomplishment stirred something in me and made me want to learn so much more about skin care and natural healing. I decided to take courses in skin care and received my certification which helped me build a solid foundation to grow my passion for creating more diverse skin solutions. It is my belief that mother nature has already provided everything we need right here on earth and my goal is to combine the correct organic ingredients to bring relief and create beautiful skin. Read more>>

Kiko Villamizar

Kiko Villamizar Born in Miami to Colombian parents was taken to Colombia as a child and raised on a coffee farm where he learned Colombian folk music through oral tradition with his family. He studied jazz in Miami, and then began traveling, collecting melodies and rhythms that make for a genuine world class fusion of Colombian rhythms. Kiko’s first album, “La Remolacha” was released in March of 2015 on Peligrosa Records. It is a beautiful collage of Latin American and Caribbean rhythms. The softmore release “Aguas Frías” (also on Peligrosa), transports you to the Colombian Andes and Caribbean with traditional Afro-Colombian drums and the Indigenous Colombian “gaita” flutes meshed with a full psychedelically electric ensemble. This eight piece carries the traditions of their ancestors while staying relevant in any modern setting. 20 years of trajectory, two world tours later, and a third on the way, from Viena or Bogotá, to Berkeley or New York, Kiko’s stories are always received with standing ovations and hip shaking workouts. Read more>>

Zaid Gallo

I started my business, 7th Street Candle Co, because I wanted to make something with my hands that could go out into the world and be enjoyed by someone. One year, my girlfriend and I made some candles to give to friends as gifts for Christmas. Flash forward three years and now we’re business partners and we do this full-time! We’ve come a long way since our very first batch – pouring tens of thousands of candles and teaching dozens of workshops all around town. Audrey Jahanian is my co-founder. Both of us have found lifelong inspiration in nature’s bounty. I’m a gardener who loves growing food and medicinal plants. She’s an artist and her work has always incorporated botanical and landscape elements. Making candles is just another outlet to express the joy that we find in nature. We think about things very differently and that just helps to create more unique fragrances. And the menu is always changing and expanding. The last thing I want to add here is that good smells are really the best! We have five senses total, and smell is perhaps the least appreciated. Read more>>

David Ventura Garcia

Initially, me and my co-founder, Jeremy Fowler, wanted to create a for-profit venture and tried to shop around the idea of a mobile studio for hire with another associate whose father could potentially fund the operation. But for whatever reason, that idea didn’t seem to gain any traction when we pitched it. And the feeling I had was that familiar sort of dread when you know that you have such a fantastic idea but it’s just far enough out there that it’s difficult for potential investors to really get the true spirit of it or to see it as a profit-making machine. And so one night, the idea popped into my head to flip the script and turn the structure into a nonprofit organization which just sounded like the perfect idea from the moment it entered the ether. This idea immediately transformed from being a vehicle that could generate revenue into something deeper- into one that embraced the spirit of preservation and collaboration. Up until that point, Jeremy and I were already jaded by the industry, and so we thought “Wouldn’t it be great to be a part of a corporation that wasn’t driven by the bottom line but instead by the creativity of music and sound and the belief that we all deserve the chance to heard?” And the answer to that question developed into Transient Mic. Read more>>

Andy Comer

In 2015, life was good. I was living the dream in a small town about an hour east of Dallas. Married with three daughters, we were happy and comfortable. We had no reason to change and no reason to rock the boat. But comfort is not a good reason to keep plugging along. God was calling us out of our comfortable life to take a step of faith into the unknown. We decided to move to a place we had never been to start a new church. Instead of moving directly to Central Texas, we moved the opposite direction to Central Arkansas. There we would serve on staff at a church called Antioch Conway. This church had a desire to send an entire team to start a new church in Georgetown, TX. It was a bold move, but one we were all eager to take. In the summer of 2017, my family along with twenty-five other adults relocated to Georgetown to begin serving our community. We served strangers at the park, teachers at the schools, and our neighbors next door. We began building relationships with people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Read more>>

Billy Fairley

I started, “Divine Culture Clothing,” back in September 2014. I got the inspiration from the artist Shepard Fairey. But I wanted to create a brand that could last, so I began doing research on how brands survived, & at the time I kind of bounced ideas of off a guy named Ryan, who is the owner of Kong Screen-printing, about why I wanted to create a brand. He posed one question that always stuck with me. The question was, “Why does the world need another t-shirt?” Now in the beginning I didn’t know why someone would need another t-shirt, & I lost faith in creating the brand, but as I spoke to my rabbi one day he asked what is the reason for wanting to make my brand, & I told him I want to educate people on culture & their histories in an artistic & appreciative manner, & that was the moment I fully realized the scope of what I wanted my brand to be about. From there I spent countless hours on studying cultures across the world, & taking inspiration from their achievements, & accolades & I began to create designs that focused on appreciation, achievement, & expressive tones. Read more>>

David and Alyssa Aguilar

Along with many other people, 2020 was a difficult year. From losing our jobs (twice) to family members passing, there were many hoops we had to jump through. Though times got hard, many close friends would encourage us in our resilience and perseverance to push through. With that encouragement, we decided to finally place a bet on ourselves, gather all of the talents we have accumulated throughout our careers, and to see if we could make something out it. After some research, we realized that finding a social media agency that is personable, willing to help the little guy, and affordable, was not an easy feat. We started Meek Monster Media, with the hopes of helping other small businesses that have a great story, but just don’t have the resources to tell it. Our tagline is “Helping People Who Help People,” and we aspire to live up to that with every client we help and project we create. Read more>>

Ramjaane Joshua Niyoyita

I am an actor comedian from Rwanda Kigali but now living in the US. In 2010 after graduating in Uganda Kampala, I went back to my country Rwanda and I started a TV show (The Ramjaane Show on Lemigo TV). My goal was to put a simile to the Rwandans’ faces after the what happened in 1994 Tutsi Genocide. During that journey that is where I discovered the need of the community and started a non-profit organization called Ramjaane Joshua Foundation. I came to the U.S in 2016 and when I arrived in Austin, I met a lot of people from Africa who were struggling to speak English, don’t know how to drive, don’t know to use computers, etc.,, since most of them has been in refugee camp since they were young, then I decided to continue what I was doing back to Africa and I started to helping them to integrate into American society by teaching them computers, driving lesson, translation/interpretation, completing applications ..etc.. As a comedian whom they knew back in Africa on Tv and YouTube, I stared also to do comedy shows in order to entertain them and also know more about them. Read more>>

Meredith Johns

I grew up in a family of artists painting and sculpting throughout my childhood. After earning a degree in Advertising I worked as a graphic designer briefly, but quickly discovered that I wasn’t happy behind a desk.. After volunteering on a zombie movie, I knew I had found my calling. I left my budding graphics career and started Hawgfly Productions, Inc. about a year or so later with my business partner Carolyn O’Hara. Hawgfly turns 17 this year and I couldn’t imagine my life any other way. Read more>>

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