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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.

Michelle Lanh Suggs

When I was about 12 years old I fell in love with fashion and makeup. I was never allowed to wear makeup so I would put on white eyeliner and lip gloss when I went into school and wiped it off before I came home. One of my older cousins was a gogo dancer at the time and I would go to their house just so I can watch her get ready. She would always give me a single MAC eyeshadow or a brush to grow my collection. I kept practicing to the point that I never went to my own prom or homecoming because I was doing everyone else’s makeup and nails. Fast forward to my freshman year of college; I started my own YouTube channel where I quickly learned that brown and black girls were happy to see someone that looked like them. I realized what I’m doing is more than making people look ‘pretty.’ I am an ally, a friend, mentor and everything in between. I’ve had the pleasure of using my talent to raise breast cancer awareness, empower the less fortunate to envision success and bring joy to those who need it most. Read more>>

Jessica Baker

From small-town Seneca, Missouri I’ve always let my curiosity and spirit for adventure propel my way forward. It’s how I found my way to the great state of Texas in 2012. If we haven’t met, the first thing you’ll learn is that I have a colorful background in cheerleading, sports, and events. In fact, it’s shaped my career, my creativity, and my passion for hard work. And if you know me, you already know I’m a lifelong cheerleader. Soon after I learned how to run, I learned to cheer; on the sidelines, competition floor, and professionally. I cheered for teams, for friends, and for myself. I loved it. I loved the challenge, teamwork, leadership, and impact of spirit. After cheer — I coached. And learned the importance of mentorship and consistency. Coaching became my passion, so I switched my major from Biology to Marketing & Business with the dream of someday opening my own competitive cheer and gymnastics gym… but little did I know I’d be led down a different path after graduation. Read more>>

Amanda Allen

I was working as a bartender in a small town in WA state. I’ve worked in coffee off and on through my adult life, and on a recent visit to Texas noticed the lack of 1. Good quality coffee and 2. easy to drive thru coffee stands. Now this was a couple years ago and I will be the first to say Texas has stepped up its coffee game and I am thoroughly impressed. But it started me on a journey to explore more in-depth, of owning my own stand. I went to several roasters before settling on Texas Coffee Traders and Independence Coffee Company. My reps have worked tirelessly with me as I have turned down multiple styles of coffees, syrups, sauces, etc. I had a vision and I knew what I wanted, and I wanted exceptional coffee that reminded me of home, and showed Texans how wide the world of coffee truly is. We started our little mobile coffee trailer in Georgetown Texas and have just recently moved to Buda where we will open in the next couple of weeks alongside some killer food trucks, a WWII museum and put mini golf. This opportunity fell into our laps and we are off the rails excited to move forward on this new chapter of our journey in coffee Read more>>

Spenser Judd

I went to Cal Poly from 2015-2019 and received a degree for broadcast journalism. During my college career, I was a DJ for the campus radio station and often went out to document live shows throughout California. Being a musician myself, I’ve always been inspired to draw crowds and capture the moment. Music journalism seemed like the best option for me to stay present so I created the idea for Clear Vision Collective alongside my friend Danny Loveless, another journalist from Cal Poly, during our experience at Desert Daze 2018. Ultimately we decided that we wanted to create a multi-media platform that could act as a space for independent artists to bring their visions to fruition through collaboration. Within the past two years, we’ve grown into a globally functioning platform for creatives. As journalists, we continue to capture concert footage and write articles. As musicians, we release music on a variety of streaming platforms as well as physical cassette tapes. Read more>>

Gabe Baldwin

Wildfires have been playing for almost nine years now. My previous band had broken up a year before that, and I had decided to start doing a solo songwriter thing. I made a bunch of demos and home recordings, and it wasn’t long before I wanted to play out and start working with a band. I started playing with Chris Heckendorn, who was drumming while I had a loop pedal and some pre-recorded keyboard stuff, and we played one show like that, and decided to recruit some other players, and we tried out some people to no avail. I decided to put out an ad, and luckily for us Johanna Heilman answered. We clicked on our first meeting, and we had our first “practice” at the Recording Conservatory of Austin, where one of our friends was working on an Audio Engineering degree. Then we asked Aneil Naik if he was interested in playing bass, and that’s been the band ever since. We had a preconceived notion of what we were going to sound like back in the early days. We wanted to be “Americana-gaze”, but after a year or so, we let go of trying to sound like some genre band, and just started leaning into what felt natural. Read more>>

Tiffany Rothe

I believe, I was destined to be a fitness and motivational coach. My mother had a stroke and became paralyzed on one side of her body when I was ten years old. Without being fully conscious of it, I lived through the prices you pay when one does not prioritize health. It was not just her body; it was her self-esteem and self-confidence that took the biggest blows. Everything is connected our minds, bodies, spirits and what happens to one, happens to all. Years later I became a fitness and mindset coach to help people TRAIN their Minds, WORK their Bodies and LIFT their Spirits. I have made it my life’s work to teach people, especially women, how to feel confident, self-loving and strong from the inside out. Read more>>

Brittany Bygrave

My experience with beauty started in a complicated place. I’ve dealt with eczema, dry skin, and acne-prone skin all my life. After wastefully buying products, to attempt to treat my skin, nothing worked. It wasn’t until the clean beauty and DIY shift in the industry when I started to see the change in my skin by doing thing differently. My entrepreneurship journey started in college, at North Carolina A&T when I was creating DIY products for myself. At the time, there were no products readily accessible to students on campus. My friends and family tried my first formulation of the product and loved it. Fast forward to senior year, I was selling to my community, and retailing in a local black-owned beauty supply store in Greensboro, NC. Now, I am two years post-grad and relocated to Austin, Texas! I’ve rebranded Butter’d Bodycare to change the way we live through beauty. We audited our entire operations to encourage sustainable practices, and alleviate a plastic-free beauty world. Our mission is to bridge the gap between our skin barrier and the environment. We do this by creating non-toxic, eco-friendly body care products and environmental advocacy. Read more>>

Mark Vlaskamp

The Folde was founded in Austin in 2017 by three college roommates who realized they wanted a service that didn’t exist. “It didn’t exist! And, we wanted it – so we made it. An all-inclusive laundry service that at the click of a button could handle the abuse we put our clothes through on a daily basis. It needed to be somewhere between an old-school laundromat and the trendy, new delivery service apps you see everywhere these days.” “We wanted it to be a quick & convenient service that we would use. But, we needed it to be the quality of service that our moms would use” co-owner Mark Vlaskamp explains. For us, the newfound free time was about spending time with each other. But, the motivation for using the service varies in The Folde’s customer demographic – ranging from homeowners with large families to single young professionals. Regardless of the reason, The Folde is proving the be a favorite service for people looking to lighten the load. With other chores like grocery shopping, dog walking, and lawn care available at the click of a button. Read more>>

Ignatius Mwela

COMETRY is a collection of slam poets and stand up comedians that use art to facilitate meaningful conversations. Our programs G.R.A.V, on becoming a gravitational leader, and E.M.O.J.I., on social and emotional well-being, have been performed at hundreds of schools, universities, and corporations across the country. We believe art has the power to change our world and our communities, and we use laughter and thought provoking poetry to create a safe environment for tough and necessary conversations that cultivate a happier world. Read more>>

Paige Turner

I started my career like many other writers: with an internship opportunity and a lot of ambition. Although I was born and raised in Austin, I went to college at the University of Central Arkansas and was living out of state for four years while getting my BA in Mass Communication. After graduating in 2013, I moved back to Austin to start grad school for journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and began my search for internship opportunities with a local publication. My first real Austin writing gig was as an editorial intern for TRIBEZA, a popular local print magazine and website known for covering some of the city’s rising artists, luxury news, and cultural happenings. I had a few articles published in the summer issues of 2013 and got some great experience while I was there. After that internship finished, I applied to tons of well-known Austin media organizations, magazines and publications to continue polishing my writing chops and to hopefully make a career out of my passion. Read more>>

Samantha Miller

I’m an Austin native! My paternal Grandmother Collette was a huge influence on me musically when I was growing up. My Grandma was the coolest, she played guitar, banjo, piano, you name it and she sang in multiple polka bands. She was the one that gave me my first guitar, and also got me on stage for the first time singing with her and her polka band. I now realize that she taught me a lot of music theory as well which allowed me to engage more deeply in music learning and exploration. I started singing in choir in school when I was in 4th grade, and I think once I started, I never really looked back. These two journeys were largely separate, although they happened at the same time. When I was in middle school I started writing music, and in high school, I received songwriting awards through the Austin Songwriter’s Group, won the Old Settlers’ Music Festival Youth Artist Competition in 2006, and performed regularly in Austin and the surrounding areas. Read more>>

David Castro

For three years, I ran a music venue out of my backyard called The Bird Barn Austin. It was started to raise money for my mother’s dialysis appointments and with the cancellation of South by Southwest, all of its planned shows and incoming revenue evaporated. Adding insult to injury, I had my motorcycle stolen early on in the pandemic, so I ended up buying a 1994 Dodge Ram 250 van. “I realized I have this van, all this equipment from Bird Barn, what can I do?” And so, I got a generator, and I said “we can do mobile shows anywhere.” So I became A mobile audio production company that offers event coordination services for Austin. Read more>>

Candace Poindexter

I’m the owner of Poindexter Confections. As a little girl, I looked forward to Saturdays at my granny’s house. She would make these gigantic homemade biscuits that would melt in your mouth and she would always have her favorite cake available after our big breakfast! That pineapple coconut cake was the talk of the town. I just remember how her baked goods always put a smile on our faces and how good everyone felt after eating and I wanted to make people feel like that! From the age of 12, I always had some type of business, from making earrings to baking cakes. She was an always will be the reason why great tasting cakes are my top priority. I have a cousin who also has a bakery back home because of these very same reasons. I’m originally from Memphis, TN and I moved to Texas seven years ago on nothing but faith, hope and a prayer. I had three small children at the time and was told that it was not a smart decision to make such a big move without a support system or family in place here. Read more>>

Akki Brathwaite

When I moved to Austin in the summer of 2015, I was forced into freelancing after having trouble finding a job. I started making art and sewing in the times I wasn’t working. In 2017, I decided to start selling my work at markets and on Etsy. I’ve made and sold hundreds of mini-paintings, stuffed animals, doodles, hoods, and other small items since then. In the process, I met other incredible artists, makers, community builders, and multi-faceted creatives. It taught me the importance of community, and I am very grateful for the friends I’ve made through art. I took a short hiatus while juggling multiple jobs over the last two years, but am now focusing on creating again. Read more>>

Freerunner

The band Freerunner, based out of South Austin, started in 2014. Songwriters Matt Live and Todd Siff met in their neighborhood, when Todd went to grab a food delivery at the front of the complex. Matt happened to be there at the exact moment and a conversation began. A few days later, their musical journey began. They got together and shared their original songs. Soon, they started writing songs together. From there, they began performing these songs at the Posse East open mic on Tuesday nights. It was here that they met Freerunner’s original band members- Corey, Zeke, and Julia. After a few weeks of rehearsal with the new members, Freerunner began playing shows throughout the Austin area. Their upbeat and positive shows, which featured a good amount of crowd interaction, gave way to more opportunities, including the chance to record their debut album. “B Sharp” was recorded at Jackrabbit Studios in 2015. Read more>>

Scott Hopkins

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve taken an unusual route to get where I am today. Although I was obsessed with music since I was a kid I was never serious about playing an instrument until I was 21. Basically I got bored one summer day in my old hometown of Abilene Texas, so I walked into a music store and came home with a cheap Gibson electric guitar and a little practice amp. I had trouble with it at first, not being able to easily play chords because of my beefy clumsy fingers or even tune it right. But after a few months, I just started just making up my own riffs and got into it. From there, I immediately started making hissy home recordings on a boom box, covering Ramones songs and coming up with some original experimental/punky stuff. Just creating my own crude amateurish music, and playing it for a few friends, felt revolutionary to me. I got so carried away that I seriously thought about immediately dropping from Angelo State University to be a rock star! I was hearing a certain “sound” in my head that I knew I had to be able to create someday, with enough time and effort. Read more>>

Yaroslava Kozachok

I started working as a tailor for a couple of local companies. I was sewing pretty much all kind of stuff from bags and personal accessories to wedding dresses. Even though I dreamed of a job like this since being a kid, cloning the same item hundreds of times was unacceptable. That was a routine I could not tolerate. There was no space for creativity, for freedom, for self-expression. It pushed me toward starting my own small business. Mint Fox as a brand started around 2012. It slowly evolved and grew into studio of individual design that produced one of a kind garments, uniquely created for every customer. Aside of sewing on demand we created our own collection of underwear. Things were going well until I had to leave it all and move to a different country. Here in US I had to start everything from scratch. It took me about three years to settle both physically and mentally. Despite the fact that I love living here, I am still missing some small things. As most of the girls I am into fashion. But retail mass market is designed in the way that every item will fit majority of people. But is it a real fit? We are all made different. Read more>>

Lionell SIR SMITH ~ SSML

My music journey begin with my family Christian Band “JOY”. We self-trained our ears for music, writing, and song arrangements. My cousin produced our first independent full album, a few years after we all graduated from Reagan HS in Austin, Texas. We traveled locally, in the state, out of state and appeared on BET on an international syndicated gospel show. This experience birthed within us, a greater opportunity to further our music career and fine tune our individual creative talents. From there, I launched into my solo career, became a minister of music at a local church in Austin, TX. I also begin to provide fundamental vocal lessons or vocal coaching for beginners or those who needed help to prepare for their musical presentation. To date, I continue in these endeavors and will be soon launching a Fine Arts company and release studio albums of my latest music. Read more>>

Isabel Meijering

I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Biomedical Sciences from Texas A&M Corpus Christi and was on my way to pursue Veterinary school. I got into my dream school but, before going, I realized it was not my passion after all. I was personally a patient and huge fan of acupuncture, herbal and energy medicine and chose to pursue that instead. I quickly applied for my Masters at AOMA Acupuncture and herbal medicine school here in Austin and the rest is history. Throughout my first few years at AOMA, I was really drawn towards cupping and body work and pursued additional certifications for both of them. Last July, I started my business for Tuina (Asian bodywork) and cupping. I began traveling to patients during COVID-19 while taking my licensing exams. After passing all of them, I opened up my own office this April! I am so excited to be here in Austin, providing acupuncture, cupping, tuina, microneedling and herbal medicine. Read more>>

Catenya McHenry

SoleMate Sox was born from pure frustration. As a single Mom of three children, who are now teenagers, I couldn’t understand the mystery of single and missing socks on laundry day. Nearly everyone I know that wears socks has lost them somewhere along the way and they can relate to the phenomenon of single socks. I thought it astonishing that the sock industry is a multi-billion dollar industry producing millions of pairs of socks every year but there’s nothing to keep them together? That fact blew me away, so I set out to find a solution. I searched the mall, online, and anywhere I could think of for some kind of gadget that kept socks together. I had even seen life hacks where some would use clothes pins and safety pins to keep them together but those ideas weren’t enough. Early on, I didn’t know that person was me and I didn’t know that I could be the inventor- the thought had not crossed my mind until it did. What I did know was that I’m a problem-solver and I work on things until they are solved, sometimes to my own detriment but I knew this problem was something that scores of people experience, so like most entrepreneurs, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Read more>>

Laura Kirtan Marcotte

I have been working in personal growth for nearly 20years. I started with personal healing. After losing a parent at 17 to addiction I had a lot of trauma and despair to process. Living in Northern California my therapist, a recent Berkeley grad introduced me to many practices that blew my mind. Guided meditation, breathwork and coping skills that were positive. This was in the 80’s and I was curious and excited to learn. This began a journey inward. When I moved to Austin I took yoga teacher training to meet like minded people and go further with my understanding of yoga. It was a great experience. I began to practice yoga and meditation daily. When the training was complete I had anxiety about teaching but I faced that and began teaching weekly classes. I loved turning the light on for others. Seeing people relax and feel excited and empowered is magical. I have been blessed to witness that a lot. I taught yoga and meditation in schools, hospitals, substance recovery centers and of course yoga studios. Read more>>

Andy Macintyre

From when I was just a small kid I’d always been obsessed with Music. It didn’t matter if it was coming out of some fancy Hi-Fi system, or a radio, or a live musical instrument. Music always pulls my attention – even if it’s not my favorite song I’ll still listen to it. My Grandparents had a late-70’s reel-to-reel system that I loved listening to but I also loved watching the machine work. It was quite entertaining to a six yrs. old because not only was the music coming out of the speakers it was also coming out a very large tape deck that would slowly spin and rewind quickly! I loved the sound of the transport motors revving up as the tape would rewind or fast-forward… oh! and Tape produces an interesting smell as it sheds its particles when the machine spins at high speeds. Early on I figured out that if I put my finger on one of the reels and applied pressure it would augment the music’s speed. I’d do this when nobody was looking, but I didn’t understand that adults could also hear the speed change. I thought I could pull one over on them! After several trials of Piano and Trumpet lessons I found the guitar. Read more>>

Jade Walker

I grew up with an artistic mother who supported art making as a way of life, so my journey started young. Making art feels like a thing I have always done. My grandmother and mother should have been artists. And were… although would not consider themselves so. They shared with me the love of color, art materials plus gave me all the space I needed to explore. As a teenager, I worked at a vintage store in Ybor City, FL which sparked my attraction to fabrics, clothing and honed my talent for management. Each summer I returned to help run Uptown Threads and learn a bit more about how garments shape us. I could run my fingers through bin of clothes and pull out the Lillie Ruben circa 1946 with my eyes closed. I received a BFA from The University of Florida and then followed that up with an MFA from The University of Texas at Austin. Art school gave me the tools I needed and a deep respect for the artists that came before me, especially women that were pioneers in the field of sculpture. My time in school also provided me a community of fellow artists that still fill my circle Read more>>

Lauren Diamond

My biggest passion is music. I play guitar, piano and ukulele. I was residing in NYC for 11 years and performing at a ton of live music venues before moving to ATX. During this time, I received my Master’s Degree in Post Secondary Education. I was initially going to get my doctorate degree to teach in a college setting and instead I found my love for working with children. I get a deep joy in teaching them my biggest love and believe that they could achieve the message I’m teaching them with the joy that comes out into the classroom. Currently, I’m releasing my 6th Music Video called “I Love.” My music can be found on all digital platforms including: Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora Radio, SoundCloud, CD Baby, etc. When I’m not teaching, I’m learning, practicing, performing or surrounding myself with loved ones. One of my proudest moments was being a part of a compilation record known as “Occupy This Album,” which includes many well-known names such as: Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, Third Eye Blind, and many more. I wrote the song about the struggle of the 1% of the population who barely get by to make it day by day. Read more>>

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>>

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