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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.

Dustin Wright

I grew up and graduated high school in a small coal mining town in Eastern Kentucky. In early September 2001, I was a college student pursuing a Criminal Justice degree. After the attacks on our country, I joined the United States Army as an Infantryman with the intent to deploy to Afghanistan, that never happened. I was assigned to a unit that deployed to Iraq for the initial invasion and over the course of my career spent over 41 months in support of the War on Terror in various locations and assignments. Unfortunately, I was forced to medically retire from service in 2014 due to injuries received during my time in service. Read more>>

Sydney Rogers

Going back to when I was little, I started baking and cooking with my parents when I was about 7 years old and I immediately fell in love. Over the years, I have learned a lot from both of them and also taught myself quite a bit from reading recipe books or watching food-focused shows like Iron Chef. I have always felt like food is an amazing thing for many reasons; for example, it can be a comfort item for people that makes them feel good and you can bond with others over food. I believe food is a form of art and I love being able to be creative when I cook or bake. Read More>>

Emily Schoolcraft

I am originally from Bellflower, CA a suburb of Los Angeles. Moving to Texas wasn’t something I ever thought would happen but in 2017 I found myself in San Antonio and honestly, next to the birth of my children, it’s been the best thing to happen to me. My parents had moved here earlier that year for my dad’s new job position and myself and my then ten months old son followed shortly after. In 2018 I met my husband, whom also had a son, and in 2019 we had our youngest son together. We moved to Cedar Park that same year. When we moved to Cedar Park, we decided that I would stay home with our three boys because daycare was just too expensive and me staying home just made the most logical sense. I was happy to stay home but I had had a job since I was 16 so being a stay at home mom was very, very different for me and I’d sometimes find myself needing something more. I had tried out different hobbies, seeing if I could find something I’d be passionate about but nothing really stuck. Read more>>

Robert Visitacion

I was born 1963 raised by my grandmother… My mother was a backup singer for Jerry Lee Lewis back in the day. And was on tour a lot. So my single grandmother raised me. We lived in government-assisted apartments. And at 13 years old wanted to take Kung Fu because I used to like Bruce Lee. But we didn’t have money for lessons… So I would collect Coke bottles for a month or two till I had enough money to pay for a month of lessons. Then I would take what I learned and come back to the apartment and work on my heavy bag that I bought. And that cycle continued until I met my instructor/fight manager Carroll Baker. We hit it off and the rest of history. Read more>>

Kyle Woods

I made the shift to photography as a profession much later in life. I worked in the biotech field for many years and six months after I moved to Austin to take a job with major competitor, I fell out of love with what I was doing and decided to go back to school. I didn’t care much for photography as a kid, probably because my mother was always taking pictures of our family and she would load us up in the car, dress us in matching outfits and drive us out to a field of bluebonnets once a year, and I was over it. As I got older and she got this cool new Minolta, I started becoming more interested in the technology of the neat autofocus system and started to play around with it. Read more>>

Kelton Anderson

So I went to college for two years and dropped out due to not having enough finances. I became homeless living with friends and eventually on the streets. I had a friend that was a girl from college that called to ask if I was ok, and when I explained how my cousin had turned her back on me, she took me in. From there, I started searching for a job eventually finding one months later after searching daily. With the interview being on my birthday, I knew that God had a plan for me. I was searching for a job offering $16.00 an hr but I had to settle for $12.50hr because this is the opportunity that presented itself to me. When I got to the interview, the manager informed me that the wage had just changed to 16.00hr the day before my interview. I got the job. Read more>>


I think like most artists, I showed interest in drawing as a kid. Copying cartoon/comic book characters, doodling in textbooks and going way overboard on Birthday cards. It was pretty apparent from an early age that I had little-to-no interest in any other curriculum and remember thinking that being a professional artist as a ‘grown-up’ sounded awesome. Throughout my teens and twenties, I worked regular jobs, partied a lot and drew as a very back-burner hobby – mostly for fun at home, my friends, bands and a few local businesses. Selling the occasional drawing for pennies here and there. Read more>>

John Zapata

My journey began at the beginning of the pandemic. We were sent to work from home and had to stay home for 30 days to try and get everything under control. During that time, I received a promotion from Nikon on accessing their photography masterclasses for free for 30 days to try and encourage folks to stay home. I had a Nikon D5100 my dad gave to me to record interviews for my Media company, The Devil’s Mic. I had the camera for a few years but never had any interest in figuring out all of the buttons, settings, etc., because I didn’t really have the time or motivation to do so. But, when I received that email I figured I could watch the videos whilst working from home. I guess you can say I got paid to learn how to use my camera, lol. Read more>>

Pake Stephens

A horse ranch in South Texas is not the first thing that pops to mind when one sees me, but that’s where I got my start. From those humble roots, I have traveled far and wide, being fortunate enough to graduate from Texas A&M University and to see a fair portion of this ever-shrinking Earth. It is from my travels that I gained a love for adornment; every culture has its own unique form. My creations are largely constructed from rarefied and vintage materials that I collect from equally unusual origins. I amass odds and ends from antique shows, junk shops, estate sales, old warehouses, gem shows, foreign destinations, and from the natural world around us. Read more>>

Martin Eason

I got my start in Decatur, Illinois at Taters Family grill. As a busboy, I remember walking through the kitchen and seeing all the guys in the back playing with fire, having fun, and just looking like rock stars. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a chef. From there, I did a short stint in culinary school and since then, I’ve helped open three restaurants, a hotel, a casino, and conference center. I’ve worked for famous chefs and done corporate catering for companies like Dropbox, Indeed, and Yeti. Somewhere along the line, I found time to start my own catering company. Read more>>

Onda Stereo

The band came together at the beginning of 2020; however, the journey began earlier when Raúl (drummer from Chile) and Jorge (bassist from Chile) were still members of a tribute to the Chilean rock band Los Prisioneros. When this project came to an end, they started thinking about forming another tribute band, this time to the most influential and popular rock band of Latin America: Soda Stereo, from Argentina. It was then when Raúl contacted Fernando (guitarist from Argentina), at the time versioning rock songs from Argentina in an acoustic duo, tempting him with the idea of forming a Soda Stereo tribute band. Still, the new band needed to find a singer (ideally playing rhythm guitar) and a keyboard player. Read more>>

Adam Von Rothfelder

When I started STRONG coffee company, it was from a place of necessity. At the time, I was a retired pro fighter and union electrician turned personal trainer and gym owner. I was working 12+ hours a day at the gym and bartending on the weekends. To wake up early for my clients and feel ready, I had a coffee concoction that I would whip up in the kitchen, walk to the gym and greet my morning client. They would generally smile and ask where their coffee was. I would smile and give them the recipe AGAIN, and yet they would never make it themselves.  Read more>>

Chris Cox

A fortuitous shift at a now gone brewpub downtown led to my meeting the folks who were on a popular public access show in Austin called “The Reel Deal” that reviewed new release films in a conversational humorous style. Making a plea to take the place of a departing member, I joined their crew for several years. It was beginning to build a fan and friend base that would grow more when the host of the show developed us into animated shorts on the web that ended up getting to sold to a company in NYC and it became in 2007 the popular website where I voiced the character of “Cyrus” and did thousands of reviews, podcasts, created new shows, did flash animation, and wrote news stories and reviews. Read more>>

Blayr Barnard

My great grandfather started share cropping in Coryell County over 100 years ago. My grandfather and father moved from share cropping to farming to ranching. My father, David S Barnard, was the CEO/President of National United Bancshares (which had a branch in Georgetown until it was merged with Bancorp South). My Dad started ranching “stockers” (young yearling calves) when he was 12 years old with his first lease place and his first loan. He grew from that to an operation of about 6,000 head and 3,000 acres from then until his passing in 2018 at the age of 73. Read more>>

Sloan God

Since I was in elementary, I was involved in choir. So initially, my first love was singing. Growing up in an environment which was predominantly Caucasian middle class; being the tall dark kid who could sing had its perks. Nonetheless, once I graduated from high school, I graduated and attended a junior college near Dallas called Navarro College. The culture of other black males residing from DeSoto, Longview, and Mesquite; I began to catch the lingo. It almost felt more comfortable than ever before. Being white washed to save me from the bad stuff our parents worried about did nothing but heighten my curiosity. Granted my curiosity got me in a lot of trouble, exposed me to things that eat me up everyday, and sent me to dark places.  Read more>>

Adrian Escajeda

Who is Adrian Escajeda? The building blocks that comprise my composition are individual stories that have built my character. The story of how I became an award-winning photojournalist, college dropout, and business owner with a degree in film is as complex as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, every hurdle I have faced and my love for creating meaningful stories and content has prepared me to tackle a multitude of roles. I never back down from a challenge and I have learned from my failures to become better at what I do. Read more>>

Caitlin Cash

I’m the founder and maker of Kinship Milk Tea. I fell in love with milk tea while working in South East Asia in 2013. I was teaching English, and every day I would grab a milk tea from the 711 or the local boba shop. When I moved back to Austin, I really missed having milk tea in my daily routine – it’s truly the best. I figured that I had two options – drive to a boba tea shop or make it myself every time I wanted one. Read more>>

Rachel Turgoose

I was born in Philadelphia and raised just outside of it. My grandfather was a professional jazz pianist, my grandmother was an opera singer, and my mother is a classically trained vocalist. Music runs in my blood. I started playing clarinet at a young age and began playing saxophone and flute during my undergrad (Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, B.S. Music Education in Dec 2010). Kutzown University (2004-2010): I was originally accepted into Kutztown for Fine Art (emphasis on drawing) but quickly realized it was not for me. In the middle of my second semester as a Fine Art student during my Drawing II class, my teacher took a few drawings from the class and put them on the board, including my own. Read more>>

Atticus Lite

Picture this: a single 21-year-old photography school dropout spending more money on concerts than food wondering where to live— Austin, duh! Fast forward to today. I’m almost 30, I have the best partner, cutest 18-month-old baby girl and I’ve built my photography business from the ground up. Check, check, and check! Getting to live in my favorite city, pursuing my passion at the very same concert venues I would be at instead of in class, and loving every minute of my life. Read more>>

Trinity Johnston

Trinity started acting in Austin, TX when she was five years old and hasn’t stopped. Her passion for musical theater, TV and film has earned Trinity a Best Actress Award through the Austin 48hr Film Project and Best Young Adult Actress Award from Broadway World Austin for her role as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. At the age of eight years old Trinity was cast as Alice in a modern-day interpretation of Alice in Wonderland for a professional theater in Austin. She performed in over 50 shows and definitely got the acting bug. One of her favorite theater roles was when she played Fan in an Equity Musical Production of A Christmas Carol at ZACH Theater. Read more>>

Whitney Washington

I started BookQueen Whit as a way to get away from my daily routine. I used to enjoy reading as a child, but as an adult (in my early twenties), I realized that I had completely quit when life events got in the way. I was preoccupied with other things in life, and reading took a back seat. That was until I read Ruth Ware’s Into the Dark, Dark Wood, and I was captivated. I continued to read thrillers and other horror novels. Over the years, I’ve broadened my reading horizons. I now like reading social justice books regarding the plight of Black-Americans, as well as memoirs and works by a plethora of authors. Read more>>

Jared Zuckerman

Since a child, I have always had a passion for food. I found myself in the kitchen often learning new recipes. I specifically loved to bake. Years later, after building a successful but unfulfilling 7+ year career in banking, I took the plunge and went from banking to baking. I started a bakery that was inspired by the cheesecake my mother would make when I was growing up as a child. Specializing in cheesecake the bakery was born in Brooklyn, NY. After catering for many events including fashion week, I shortly realized wholesale would be the future of the bakery. As I shifted from a retail space to wholesale that’s when my journey took an unexpected turn into the successful and fulfilling career I have today, Food and City was born. Read more>>

Darell Dansby

I grew up in Louisiana, where I started wrestling in high school. After high school, I joined the Army and continued wrestling in the Army. I fell in love with working out and strength-based sports since I was at least 15. When I got to Ft. Hood, there wasn’t a wrestling team but I heard there was a powerlifting team. I tried out for it and made the team in 1997. I finished my eight years in the Army in 2001 but I kept powerlifting until 2010. I went to school and got my first personal trainer certification. Read more>>

Michelle Maldonado

I was born in Norwalk, Connecticut on January 21st. It was mostly just me growing up, as my mom was still in school and worked full time. I had to grow up pretty fast and was really independent at a young age. My poor mom, I’d get in trouble a lot… like almost every week something I did lead to a meeting in the principal’s office. She got us through though. We moved to Texas in the summer of 2008, and not too long after my beautiful little sister was born. I’d say my mom is a pretty shy person, and I grew up to be the exact opposite. Throughout my time in school, I’ve always enjoyed being in the spotlight. I performed in small plays and did some public speaking. I was also in the drumline and became the drumline captain my junior year of high school. Read more>>

Shaina Hedlund

I’ve always had a love of movies since I was little so studied and received my BFA in Interior Design in hopes of one day working in the industry. Eventually, I slowly started researching for local productions filming in the area on craigslist because I didn’t know how to get started. Answering the production calls for volunteered time led to me finding out that there was a film industry in Texas that I never knew existed. Slowly working many…many free gigs led to getting various positions in the art department on low budget/indie films, which then led to me slowly gaining more confidence in my work to progress into union projects and larger budget films. Read more>>

Amberlee Martin

I could try to be brief, but my story into photography is fairly long, but also fast as so much happened in such a short span of time. I’ve loved photography and aesthetic styles and looks since I was a kid. Design, poses, colors and scenery have always caught my eye. I’ve always had a bit more attention to detail than most of my peers. It truly started in 8th grade when I joined my Junior High Journalism class and became the photographer. I was also very socially awkward -and largely still am- and I found the camera as a very useful tool to come out of my shell and become more comfortable with people. Read more>>

Brian Cole

My story starts with family. I’m a third-generation photographer following in the footsteps of my father and his. Growing up, our family business was a local portrait studio and that’s where I got my start. My real dream at the time was to be a musician and I spent the next 10+ years splitting my time between photography and music but once I had a family of my own, it was pretty clear that my days of touring and dreams of rock stardom had come to an end. Read more>>

Adriana Garcia

I started my small business in Colombia on 2015. After three years, I moved to the United States, specifically Austin, TX. I continued with my business in the United States. Step by step, my business developed by creating more innovative ideas for bakery. Read more>>

Jillien Brown

I’ve known for a long time that entrepreneurship was in my future. Basically from the time that my first daughter was born. I was raised in a home where my mother was always working, putting in 60+ hours a week, and really exhausted when she was at home. My dad worked odd hours too, so while I understand that works for many, I wanted something different for my family. I worked for the State but wasn’t happy and began to think of how I could change my situation. I soon became pregnant with my second daughter and it was then that I decided to start my own business, doing something I enjoyed. Read more>>

Nyeka Arnold

It all started with a PROJECT. I TAKE PRIDE in being an Austinite! I love my city and my people. This is where I was taught to survive and live. As a Black Baby, Woman & Mother, I was born in redlined disenfranchised communities. A Place where it was death, poverty, and love at the same time. The main thing I focus on is the love. The love came from the resources and the resources came from the people and the people came from the city! You get where I’m heading? Yes, I’m a project baby! I love being a project baby! It’s a beautiful thing. Read more>>

Kelsey Stone

The three of us formed Tejas Destructors after meeting and working at Kelsey’s late father’s Abatement and Demolition company here in the Austin area. After working there for some time, we were eager to form our own company and drive a new era of construction. We opened shop in May 2021 and we have been grinding in this energetic and competitive market since! We have achieved our WBE and HUB certifications, which is a huge accomplishment for our business in this short period of time. We take pride in being one of the few woman- and minority-owned construction companies in Texas. We’re the new generation of Abatement and Demolition contractors and we’re excited to be here! Read more>>

Cathy Maxwell

When I was in my mid-twenties, I made a list of the twenty-five things I wanted to do with my life. I was feeling directionless. No, that isn’t the right word. I had a toehold in broadcasting in a position that could lead to an interesting future, but it wasn’t for me. The list became my action plan. One of the items on it was to write a book. I had no idea what sort of book or how to even start but the idea was there. Read more>>

Oksana Adams

Most of my friends call me “Ox”. It all began when I graduated college and joined the workforce. I went to Texas State University to study Health Information Management. I loved what I studied and I was enjoying the new job I started fresh out of school, but I knew that I wanted something more. I’ve always been a creative who loved the beauty industry. Hair, makeup, nails, etc. — I was always super girly and into it all. I started in healthcare because I enjoy helping others and I knew that I could bring that energy to my new beauty endeavours. Now, I chose lash extensions honestly because I didn’t know much about them! I knew it’d be a challenge but I was willing to learn something completely new and make it my own. So I went back to school, earned my license in lash extension application and started all over! I took a chance and now I have been doing lash extensions for over a year and I absolutely love it. Read more>>

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