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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.

Jaida Blessing

Well, it all started with a powerpoint. Yep. When I was around 12 or 13,, I made a powerpoint trying to convince my mom to let me become a model. I’m not entirely clear on why because back then I was a huge tomboy, but it just felt like the right thing to do. Alongside that, I wasn’t doing too well in the confidence department, so I thought maybe it could help. My mom got a friend of her’s—a friend of ours, to take some professional photos of me to submit to some agencies and the rest is really history. After some time of doing photoshoots, being conflicted with my self image and finally coming to love myself at least a little, I got invited to New York Fashion Week. Read more>>

Lezeh Foy

The Idea of Zein Boutique balloons was born when I was planning my intimate baby shower during the height of Covid in 2020. I had always seen pictures of gorgeous balloon arrangements and really wanted one for my event. Due to Covid, my sisters, Olivia, Doreen and I decided to take time out to learn how to build garlands so we could do it ourselves and reduce our exposure to Covid. After this event, friends and family started inq uiring about the balloons and encouraged us to make a business out of it.  Read more>>

Adam Siegel

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and from a young age always seemed to find myself making movies. After producing countless short comedy videos on various camcorders over the years, I moved to LA in 2007 to chase my filmmaking dreams. Starting out, I worked as a Production Assistant on commercials and independent features, before becoming an assistant at Paradigm talent agency, assisting agents who represented the best DPs, editors, Production Designers and Line Producers in the world; in the process, forging creative contacts I work with today. Read more>>

Anne Rossi

Born in Paris (France) I have French Letters, Design and Law backgrounds… we are far away from soap making you would think and you’re totally right. To make it short, the word that describes myself the best is Creativity. First, visual creativity: Photographing, drawing, painting; Second, manual creativity: Cooking. I love to work with my bare hands on raw materials or ingredients. To touch, knead, mix and create something aesthetic, something real good or something simple but each time unique. Read more>>

Sheeba Lee

My name is Sheeba Lee and I am currently located in central Austin on S 1st and Barton Springs rd across Ladybird Lake from downtown. This is my 3rd time living in Austin and I still absolutely adore this city. Originally I am from the Eastcoast, born in Ft Lauderdale, FL, then Munich Germany for a few baby/toddler years and eventually growing up in Frederick, MD. I frequented New England, MA and NH mainly because my parents and extended family is from that area. I also ended up living in both places so I consider NH/New England to be my roots home. Read more>>

Whitney Nelson

My story involves a circuitous path and the ability to think outside the box, be creative and reinvent my life along the way! I have always been a creative person, whether with my hair and my clothes or how I expressed myself through art and music, so it’s interesting to look back over my life and see that creative thread running through my entire adult career. I graduated high school and got my barber license so I’d have a good job while in college, where I planned to study interior design. I cut hair at a top salon from age 19-22, honing my craft and building up a client list before starting college.  Read more>>

Eduardo Sanchez

I’m a 27 year old just trying to make it. My passion for music came from the loss of my son. I was able to cope with my loss by expressing my feelings through music. I started in 2017 and since then have managed to start my own business and quitting my 9-5. Scratch My Glass Sandblast is more than just custom glassware designs. We have upgraded to digital designs, window decals, custom t-shirt printing and also a main sponsor of Shadowfest (an art/music festival started by $ithgangProductions). Because of my love for music and being an independent artist, I wanted to start a way for other “underground” artist have a way to showcase their talents. I got together with 2 of my good friends and we started Shadowfest. Read more>>

Rogelio Adame Govea

In 2019 I graduated with my associate’s degree in accounting but quickly noticed the job wasn’t for me. So I decided to take the risk and focus on my passion for photography. So I started doing freelance work on the side, and went to school at Austin Community College. During my time at ACC, I studied photography and video. I specialize in event photography and videography. While studying photography, I developed skills in Fine art photography. During my time at ACC my work was exhibited at The DPP Exhibition (The Department of Professional Photography at Austin Community College). https://www.behance.net/thedpp Read more>>

Megan Zwack

I grew up in a very unenlightened and depressing German Catholic rural area and was raised in a home characterized by alcoholism, abuse, and chaos so I was very lost as a young, empathic, sensitive, and creative person. My childhood dream was to learn how to sew and have a design brand, but with my background I didn’t have the tools to do that at the time. I went on to become a young single mom, and life was about survival and getting by as a mother of two in my twenties and early thirties.  Read more>>

Keayanna Anderson

I have always had a passion for people, finding new ways to help them and making a difference in their lives somehow. It’s something that I honestly feel like I was born to do. I was born and raised in Austin, TX however, before attending high school at LBJ, I moved around quite a bit as a kid(in and out of state) and always felt like I had issues connecting with people and creating lasting bonds. A big part of that was because of the experiences I’ve had with bullying and self-esteem.  Read more>>

Matthew William

The nicest thing anyone has ever said to me was “You’ll never amount to anything.” Even though it was said in judgment and hate, I responded with a resolve to prove them wrong. While I’ve had some really high achievements, been awarded, and there’s plaques on the wall, I found that I still need to prove it to myself. The best decision I’ve ever made was to first ask God for help; second best, take a step of faith, think bigger, and take action. I’m still looking for my limits, wondering how far can I go, and finding out what I am really made of. I’m on a journey to find what’s possible for me. This is what led me to acting. Read more>>

Shawnene Vance

I got started working in retail working at Kmart for 15 years. I learned a lot about retail, marketing, and customer service, in which I started as a stock person, and merchandiser, and then got promoted to run a few departments such as kids/ babies, health and beauty, and menswear department. Almost at the end of my era of working there, I started working with many sales and marketing companies part-time being a merchandiser. Once Kmart had closed, I was already working as a team lead merchandiser for other companies such as Footprint, and Acosta Sales and Marketing, but then had changed my position to part-time with Kmart.  Read more>>

Zach W. Lambert

I was born and raised here in Austin. I grew up in church, but never really bought into it. In fact, I was the one constantly asking questions, voicing doubts, and pushing back against any rules I considered unfair. This posture led me to be kicked out of Sunday school classes, church youth groups, and a private Christian school all before I turned 14. I spent most of middle and high school playing sports, smoking weed, and trying to figure out who I was. Read more>>

Dharam Khalsa

Born and raised as a Sikh in Austin Texas, living abroad in an Indian boarding school in my youth, and in NYC as a young adult while pursuing a professional skateboarding career. After sustaining a life altering injury a few years ago, I had the good fortune of being given a camera. All of my time and energy spent pursuing a skateboarding career is now filled with this new gift. Inspiring me to shift my perspective on life, literally and figuratively, through the lens of my camera. Read more>>

Gianne Darla Villaverde

I was born in the Philippines and came to Austin when I was about 8 years old. I had been singing since I was 5 and I used to sing at weddings a lot. My grandma was my manager at the time and I learned a lot of foundational skills from her. Skills such as knowing how to control your vocals, knowing when to use your chest voice, breathing from the diaphragm and etc… During my adolescent stage, I lost touch of singing. I didn’t sing for a long time! I was at a really confusing stage of my life come Sophomore year of college so I took a leap of faith and traveled to LA for some time. Read more>>

Shatoria Christian

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1982. I grew up with my three sisters and my mother in a drug and abusive home, and finally, after being molested at the age of seven and moving too many times to count, I was sent to live with my grandparents in 1992. My fifth elementary school, fourth grade, in a small town that I come to love later in my life. I didn’t know how to read or do how to do math. My grandparents were hard on me with school and just being better in life; however, I have learned that they loved me and knew I had greatness. Love and confidence were something I didn’t have for myself. Read more>>

Hannah and Rachel David

Growing up, our mom loved taking photos during just about every moment you can think of, big and small. Learning how to ride a bike? Click. Falling off said bike? Click. Picking up a bouquet of flowers at Trader Joe’s? Click. Moving into our first college dorm room? Click. Sharing fried ice cream from our favorite Thai place for the thousandth time? Click, click, click. The list goes on, but you’ve probably lived through what we’re describing—it seems to be an almost universal childhood experience.  Read more>>

Emily Young

My story is definitely about the classic small-town girl who took a huge leap of faith and started a new life in a big city. I’m originally from Sunapee, New Hampshire, a tiny 3,000 person population town where everyone knows everyone, and there were only like 40 kids in the public school graduating class. A year after graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in English/Journalism, I knew I couldn’t stay where I was any longer if I wanted to achieve my dreams. So I packed up everything I owned in my Honda CRV and drove over 2,000 miles away from home to begin my Austin, TX adventure – alone. That was almost 5 years ago now. Read more>>

Michele Blackledge

I honestly never thought I could paint anything that another individual would want to buy. I didn’t take art classes throughout my life but I had always wanted to try painting to expand my creativity. Late 2021, I started having moments of intense depression, worse than I had ever had. I have dealt with. I had dealt with depression for a majority of my life due to many different situations that occurred that I did not deal with properly at the time. During this really dark period in 2021, there were days when I did not want to get out of bed at all and would cry or get angry at the smallest thing. I knew I needed to do something but with the insurance I had at the time, I would not be able to afford visits to a therapist. Read more>>

Michael Kallstrom

My personal journey began when I was 4 or 5 years old. My dad would travel to the Southwest a lot for work and he would always bring back a stone with the Native American legend behind it. I was definitely that kid that would pretend to have superpowers or magical abilities growing up, so I began collecting the stones and learning about their metaphysical properties. As I grew up, my collection and interests evolved to include the more scientific aspects of crystals and minerals as a hobby. Read more>>

Aria Tempest

So I’ve been finding ways to create since I can remember. From drawing on myself, to the walls, to spilling cereal or sugar on the floor purposefully so I could make art with it. I imagine I was a lot to handle as a small child. I started taking up drawing as quickly as I could, surrounding myself with scattered paper at most times as a kid. Around the age of 11 I started finally doing digital art, and I don’t commonly go back to traditional.  Read more>>

Jodi Brownstein

I fell in love with making jewelry at the very early age of 8. I even started selling to local shops at that age, and having jewelry parties for friends and family. My Mom and Grandmother would take me to the Gem show in Chicago every year to find unique beads, which really fueled my love, and I was always exploring and experimenting with using unexpected things to make my jewelry. Throughout all phases of my life, I continued to make and sell jewelry on the side, even while studying photography and Fine Arts at the University of Colorado.  Read more>>

Jacob Alan Jaeger (Not Yaeger)

Born in Freeport Texas, reared in Angleton Texas. Been in Austin 19 years and am still here through sheer tyranny of will and the grace of God. Full time musician. Puro pinche Tejano. The only hell my mama ever raised. The road has been anything but smooth peanut butter. Countless hurdles, innumerable challenges. Existence, in and of itself, is a struggle fest. Navigating the night life, the rising cost of getting by, crippling self doubt… the list goes on and on. Read more>>

Jay & Jen Bachman

en and Jay have worked in the service industry for around 30 years. We moved to Wimberley in 2008, built a catering company, a BBQ joint, and were fortunate to purchase Wimberley Cafe in 2018. We have 2 kids: William, 14, Brooke, 11. Jen also taught & coached at the High School until 2017. Jay is also a managing chef with Mercy Chefs, a 501c3 disaster/ humanitarian relief ministry. Read more>>

Yoshida Kirkwood

I moved to Austin in 2000 after graduating from a graduate health program and getting married the following month. I felt like I was finally on track with my life goals and could finally start to live. Soon after, I started my first job post-graduation and we were buying our first house. I was involved in local community service organizations and found a church to call home. I was on track and checking off goals on my “Live My Dream” checklist. Read more>>

Ginger Rodriguez

I’ve been writing music since I was a kid, and I’ve only just turned 21-years-old, so I feel like I still have so much life to live, but I think the unique life experiences I’ve had so far have shaped my journey and perspective, not just as an artist, but also as a person. However, I feel that my interest in music and self-expression wouldn’t have developed in the way that it did if it had not been for my early life circumstances. When I was an infant, both of my birth parents struggled with substance abuse and troubles with the law, so at only a few weeks old I was taken into foster care. Read more>>

Amada Martinez

Can I begin by thanking Voyage Austin for this great opportunity. My journey started a few years back. We all begin somewhere. I established a small business as a makeup artist. It was just an idea, but very soon, Amada Marie Premier Glam Studio expanded and provided a safe and fun environment for all upcoming artists. I continued with the studio for years until I received an opportunity to grow in the business industry. Besides working in my studio, I was working for a title company. I gained all my knowledge there and decided to invest more time into it. Read more>>

Benjamin and Rachel Moody

Blue Goggles Films officially started in 2008 when we (writer/director Benjamin R. Moody and producer Rachel Moody) moved to Austin, but we had actually started working together on a creative project the year before. We were developing a web series that had an interactive website component to it. It was sort of a natural evolution when we started working together on the project. We had been dating for a couple years and the project involved storytelling and filmmaking (Ben) and tech (Rachel). While that project never panned out, we realized it was fun working together and we made a good team because our skills complimented each other. Read more>>

Magdalena Ristau-Hardin

My story with food doesn’t start the same way as many of the books that I’ve read about other female chefs. I didn’t grow up on a farm or bake pies with my grandma. One of my earliest memories of food is around age 10, when a neighbor noticed that I hadn’t eaten in a long time and bought me a meal from Wendy’s. That same year I tried to make my mother and grandmother eggs because they were both sleeping in late, but I turned the wrong burner on and cracked all the plates my grandma had on the back stove. In my later teens when I was living with my dad and uncle, I started cooking small things for them with boxed or canned ingredients. Read more>>

Gillian Navarro

I transferred to the University of Texas at Austin during my sophomore year. I came in as an English major because I thought I wanted to be a writer; as it turns out, I did, just not that kind of writing. Before applying to UT, I was advised by a friend that I should get into journalism; the first thing that came into my mind was becoming a newscaster, which is just something I did not want to do. So therefore, I chose English. The classes were exciting, and I learned a lot from them, but it didn’t feel right. I still felt like that wasn’t my path in life.  Read more>>

Gudelia Ugarte

Can I begin by thanking Voyage Austin for this great opportunity. My journey started a few years back. We all begin somewhere. I established a small business as a makeup artist. It was just an idea, but very soon, Amada Marie Premier Glam Studio expanded and provided a safe and fun environment for all upcoming artists. I continued with the studio for years until I received an opportunity to grow in the business industry. Besides working in my studio, I was working for a title company. I gained all my knowledge there and decided to invest more time into it. Lately, there has been a high demand for Vehicle Registration in the area. Sadly many, especially in the Hispanic community, have been involved in fraud. My idea was to create a business that provided a safe, fast and easy process for our customers. Read more>>

RAH

My name is RAH. I’m an MC & artist who was born in Columbus, Ohio. My family and I relocated to Texas more than a decade ago. During my time in the lone star state, I’ve chased my dream to be one of the greatest to ever pick up a microphone. Along the way, I’ve won many rap competitions, opened up for legends, and sold out of my ‘Chosen’ series of mixtapes. This year, my goal is to grow my label and brand Only Fam to a globally recognized entity and drop my best project to date “Internet Maccin” this summer along with expanding the team with other talented creatives. Read more>>

Armando Orduña

My history of community service to Houston stretches across twenty-five years. In my professional career, I served as a bilingual teacher and administrator in Houston schools at times when more bilingual Latino campus representation was needed most. Specifically, I served in secondary schools in Greenspoint, Denver Harbor, and Eastwood supporting families of newly arrived immigrants, emergent bilingual students as well as students from Houston’s historically marginalized Latino and Black communities. Read more>>

Kenzie Tomaselli

I’ve always loved traveling. Whether across Texas or across the world, I look for every opportunity to visit and explore new places. I’ve been so fortunate to see many places- 15 states, 12 countries, and counting! With all of the trips, I got into the habit of sharing pictures, locations, and details from my adventures on Instagram. I quickly realized that my friends and family were enjoying the content and even asking for tips. Read more>>

Kristina Marquez

My name is Kristina Dacumos Marquez and I co-own Street Sweets with my brother, Ralph Marquez. Before I started baking, I was working in the Clinical Research industry for nearly 7 years. I realized I was really unhappy working but found my job ideal because it provided stability, security and a career growth that I felt I was working towards. After returning from a trip to Hawai’i in April of 2018, where I worked a retreat with my cousin as a sous chef, I realized that I wanted more and I knew something had to change. That experience helped me expand my mind to other opportunities. Read more>>

Sean and Alex Hutchisson

SEAN: I’ve always wanted to open my own business. My mom loves to tell the story of my elementary school shoeshine hustle. I used to charge teachers $3 per pair. After I moved to Austin in 2011, I got a job managing the detail shop at a local full-service car wash. Over time, I realized that that there really wasn’t any more room for growth, and I felt like I could provide a better level of service branching out on my own. Read more>>

Eileen Dover

My drag career originated in Houston, TX (formerly by another name: Chlöe West) about 7 years ago. I grew up on a prairie in the middle of nowhere, Texas in a graduating class of less than 100 people. I always knew coming from “nowhere” meant that I was going to make sure I go 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 in life. Drag has definitely exceeded the expectation of taking me somewhere more than what I imagined and day dreamed as a young gay boy in the middle of a prairie.  Read more>>

Lara Brown

My love for great beer happened when my ex-husband got stationed in Germany. I fell in love with European beers and missed them greatly when I moved back to the states. Found our local homebrew store and started with really simple homebrew kits and moved up from there. In 2019, I was asked by the owner of that homebrew store if I would be interested in buying the store. I knew I had to, I jumped at the opportunity and July 1, 2019 I became the proud new owner of Black Hawk Brewing Supply. Read more>>

Brian DiFrank

I moved back to Texas after a two year stint in Crested Butte Colorado in January 1993. I worked for a little speaker company called Dana Audio. I built the speakers, manned the phone and shipped the mail orders. The company was sold a year later and I then went to work for High Fidelity as an installer. After being denied a raise from the whopping $6.50 an hour (a tenth of what they were charging) I left and started my own company. Read more>>

Stephanie King

Years ago my dad had just gifted me with a digital camera, and at that time my sister was engaged. She asked if I would take their engagement photos, and to be honest, at that time I did not think of photography as my passion, or something I have always wanted to pursue. I just thought “hey now I have an excuse to try out my new camera”. So I took their engagement photos in a small little town in Texas. Then I thought to myself, “Wow! This was actually so much fun”. When I went home that evening, I went through the photos, and was actually very happy with the way they turned out.  Read more>>

Jack Holt

I founded and led three b2b tech companies in Austin over the past 20 years. Linkedin Premium, Porsches, conferences—you get the picture. My job fulfillment came from working with good people, some of whom became life-long friends. The work was valuable, sure, but the product was…boring. Fun? Nope. In the 3 years before the founding of Jinx, we had dealt with the swift decline and death of my parents, combined with what was fast becoming my first failed company.  Read more>>

dani hurtado

I’ve had a fire for creating and expressing myself since I was a little girl. I grew up in a creative environment, with my mom being a fashion designer. I would watch my mother work on the most gorgeous dresses and see her relationship with artists of all mediums (singers, actors, models, etc.) I think that having this around me allowed me to nurture my passion of being an actor. I’m so grateful that I’ve been given permission to pursue my dreams relentlessly since day one. Read more>>

Dexas Villarreal

Welp, Jon and I I’ve been in a band for nearly 20 years. So I guess when we were kids we just decided we wanted to play some rock ‘n’ roll. It’s been a bumpy ride with a bunch of twists and turns to get where we are today, but it’s been a fun journey nevertheless. Oof, too many mention. As far as running out gas, being broke, mental health, health issues. All the day to day jazz, just with whole lot of rock music in between. Read more>>

Diane Purcell

After graduating University, i was in a local camera shop purchasing darkroom equipment when i met Architectural Photographer, Greg Hursley. i went to work for Greg and he taught me how to photograph a project for multiple uses. after 6 years with him, and with his support, i went out on my own taking what i learned from him and incorporating the knowledge he shared with me into my own adventure forward. Read more>>

Gracyn Applegate

Gracyn Applegate Photography was born out of, quite frankly, quarantine boredom. I’ve always loved taking photos of my surroundings, but it was never with anything more technical than my iPhone. At 18, upon graduating high school, my parents gifted me with my first — and current — professional camera. With nothing to do that summer due to Covid-19, I began making plans with my friends to photograph them (from a safe distance of course!) to build my portfolio. One thing led to another, and people within my Dallas community started requesting my services for payment. Read more>>

Shelby Bella, Vicky Nonon and Kolby Breedlove

Fresh Take Studios is a commercial photography studio based in Austin, TX. We provide mission-based brands with fresh & innovative photo concepting, styling and custom set design. We are a small, yet mighty team of three women who have a passion for elevating brands through the art of visual story-telling. Read more>>

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