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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.

Britta Barts

I started my real estate career working for Hilton Hotels when I was 25 as a real estate paralegal. I had experience working in law firms but I didn’t have a lot of experience for this particular type of work. Suffice to say, I knew I was a hard worker, I could learn what needed to be done, and I got my foot in the door. I didn’t realize I would spend close to 10 years of my life working for Hilton in different roles. While working in legal, I earned my MBA at Loyla Marymount’s fully employed program, so I was working days and I’d go to school at night. Read more>>

Ashton Steele

I started out taking senior photos for my friends towards the end of my time at Baylor University. After I graduated I continued pursuing my photography business and eventually branched out into wedding photography! I definitely think it’s hard to have a photography business in the age of Instagram. As well as there just being an opportunity with social media for so many creatives to showcase their work! It’s hard not to compare yourself to others sometimes, but you just have to remember YOU are nobody else! Read more>>

Sean Whitmore

The year was 2012. Freshly graduated from high school in 2011 wondering what I wanted to do with my life as I sat in my first class at a community college. I soon realized that this wasn’t the place for me and fell in love with Tomorrowland Music Festival after movies. At this point, working at a gas station (QuikTrip) I knew that video would be my future and career. Fast forward 10 years I have dove into pretty much every aspect of it from large-scale music festivals to wedding videography, all the way to large commercial work. Read more>>

Samantha Skul

Well, I’m not even sure where it has all started. How did I get to Austin? That’s where I’ll start. In 2016, I started attending this church, Red Rocks because I was looking for peace and purpose so I thought going back to church was a great idea. I’d like to point out the only reason why I choose Red Rocks was because the year before my ex-boyfriend (who later I had to get a restraining order against) brought me to our friend’s baptism service. I decided on March 1st, 2015 that I wanted to mark my life so I got baptized; at that time I didn’t know what it was for, but I knew it was God. Read more>>

Mike Michaels

There were multiple influences and interests that came together that resulted in my current work, The Eureka Room. It’s been an almost ten years journey at this point but here’s some of the main influences. I am a big roadside attraction fan. When I travel, I like to find the most interesting and unique experiences a place offers. I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of interesting stuff and a lot of it has been very influential. I’ve always wanted to create one of my own. For the last 16 years, I’ve published a wall calendar showing when events happen in Austin, so I have a pretty good idea of what types of things Austin has in abundance and where there’s opportunity for more activities and events to establish themselves. Read more>>

Cassie Baker

I’ve been a musician my whole life, drawn to sounds, ways they can be manipulated, and used to express emotions and thoughts. I grew up with an amazing instructor in school, who taught and inspired, and I carry that passion with me now with my students and projects. I grew up with undiagnosed neurodivergencies. This made staying on a career trajectory extremely difficult. and, after my first unsuccessful try in music school, through the years I have been a server, a salesperson, a live television A/V tech, a bicycle taxi driver, brand ambassador, and many more things, but through all of these, I remained a musician. Read more>>

Cherri Maley

I fell in love with the world of weddings back in 2006 while planning my wedding. Fast forward eight years and we now live in Wimberley, TX. I met with my entrepreneur grandmother to discuss how we could combine our current vacation rental business to add weddings so we started searching for property. We fell in love with this property because of the expansive lawn along Cypress Creek with beautiful trees. We are now a wedding venue and boutique inn with 11 suites, two cottages, and an open-air ballroom that hosts weekend guests and wedding experiences for guests from all over. Read more>>

Dan Dowdy

Dan embodies the great American story. Starting with running a service truck, Dan worked his way to owning and operating a successful, multi-million dollar home service company. Today Dan is known for building self-operating businesses with a great culture. Here are a few of Dan’s accomplishments: Second Generation Master Tradesman Home Service Business Owner Certified John Maxwell Leadership Coach, Speaker and Trainer Certified Enneagram Coach and Trainer 20+ years of leadership experience in the Trades. Read more>>

Donte Shepard

I’m originally from Dallas, Texas. I’m a professional DJ, a Real Estate Agent, and a corporate Sales manager. I also volunteer, serve and mentor youth/young adults. This includes, when the schedule allows, doing motivational speaking to students, speaking on virtual panels and at leadership events. I’ve been a professional DJ for the longest, over 17 years. I’m a graduate of the University of Texas with a degree in Radio-Television-Film focusing on media studies. I’ve traveled to spin in places like New York, New Jersey, Mississippi, Mexico and Jamaica. Read more>>

Margarita Aguilar

From Austin, Texas. I am a mother of two beautiful children and a wife of a loving and supportive husband. Growing up, I would see how hard my parents worked. They would always strive to do as much as possible to give my brother and me the best they could. My parent’s work ethic has always been something I have admired. They taught me to challenge myself and overcome any obstacles that come my way. In 2021, I decided to make a career change and work for myself after working ten years in the Bank industry. Real Estate has changed me and helped me grow in every aspect of my career. Read more>>

Ruby Sulter

I started with a local screen printing contact from my Dad, a box of printed comfort colors logo tees (that I sourced using a reference from my 8th-grade History teacher), and a website I designed on wix. This Thursday I launched our first officially custom-manufactured summer solstice collection to over 150 people. Taking a step back that growth is absolutely insane, and it’s nowhere near the end of where B.D.F.O. is going to go. It has definitely not been a smooth road to get to where I’ve gotten B.D.F.O. today and the road ahead probably isn’t much smoother 🙂 Read more>>

Linda Trinidad

Ever since I was little, I had a strong desire to make art. I recognized that through art, I could express myself more clearly and confidently. I remember getting into discussions with my teachers because the way I took notes in school were through illustrations and they couldn’t understand me. Growing up I used to participate in the school events making handmade decorations and I fell in love with making art. I continued to learn more about art, its history, the different methods, prominent artists, and basically anything that I could find. Read more>>

Danny Kievit

From a young age, I had a passion for food and relationships. I’m a chef with woo and an insatiable desire to create experiences and impact people’s lives through food. I got my 1st job as a dishwasher on lake Travis at Vincent’s on the Lake. I moved into the kitchen quickly and never left. I got a business degree in management and entrepreneurship from UNT and then returned to Austin for culinary school. I worked all over Texas but started my ascent in Austin. I worked at Jeffery’s, castle hill, reeds supper club, Mrs. B’s, Trulucks, and Moonshine Grill. Now I am a personal chef. I’m on my 3rd year in business with my business Leave it to Kievit. Read more>>

Karen Atkins

I created The Original Worm in 2013 Wormwide Products LLC, is an Austin-based startup featuring its debut product, The Original Worm. I created and began marketing The Original Worm in 2013 which was a culmination of my life’s activities and experiences. At a very early age, I was involved in sports including gymnastics, soccer and dance. Later, I competed in triathlons, running and open water swimming competitions. My current activities include boxing, rowing, running, weight lifting and yoga. Read more>>

Adeline Bearry

I was born from a 37 years old professor who married a 20 years old student; a beautiful woman I have the pleasure of calling both my mother and biggest teacher. My father and mother divorced when I was young, and while my mom suffered from addiction issues as I was growing up, my father married another woman (who happened to be another one of his students!). My mother ended up with a five years prison sentence; in the meantime, both me and my step siblings suffered the collateral damage that came from my father’s new marriage. Read more>>

Precious Effiong

This journey started about ten years ago. I was born and raised in Nigeria where hair braiding is a lot more prevalent than it is here in the U.S. Back in high school, I would braid my friends’ hair and it was always fun to bring creative styles to life. As time went on, I got more practice and have learnt how to accomplish many more styles since then. From the onset, my passion has always been to make people feel beautiful while showcasing the many capabilities of our natural hair. When I got to college, I started to really build up my clientele and at some point I decided to establish an online presence which required me to think of my brand as a whole. Read more>>

Adriana “Liz” Villa

At a very young age, I started to love the beauty industry. At age 12, I was researching which school I’d attend, living in a small town maybe about 45 minutes out of Austin it’s hard finding exactly what you’re looking for. My goal was to become a professional makeup artist but when I started experiencing facials and lash extensions, my desire to be an esthetician grew. Thanks to Yannelle Vidal she helped inspire & motivate me to accomplish my goal. Melluzi Academy is more than what I’d hope for, staff & students are so helpful & supporting. Read more>>

Cynthia V Hernandez

Crazy! My passion for hair started back in high school in 2015; girls would ride my bus just to get their hair done in my mom’s restroom of an apartment we had. It wouldn’t even be me watching videos; it was me making my ideas/visions in my head come to life! I finished HS my junior year and started cosmetology three days later. So while my original class was taking finals I was finishing beauty school! It’s been a great journey as this is something I’m extremely passionate about. Anything hair related Im here for it, no joke!! Read more>>

Amelia Floyd

I am President and co-founder of the Engage and Heal Foundation. We are challenging communities to erase the stigma of mental health by shattering the silence and building a bridge for those who feel unheard and disconnected. Engage & Heal Foundation began in the Lake Travis community as the Erik Hanson Memorial Scholarship. Erik was my daughter’s best friend who died by suicide in August 2018. Erik was an Eagle Scout, cadet in the Corps at Texas at A&M, 3-year varsity swimmer and varsity football player his senior year at Lake Travis High School. Read more>>

Ross Gilham-Jones

So you’ll never believe it but the very first object I held was a Field Hockey stick – clearly, I was born for the sport. My Dad flew in from India on the day I was born and brought back a mini slazenger hockey stick, not flowers for my mom but a stick for me. So the saying “ever since I was born” I have actually played the sport couldn’t be more true. I grew up playing with my Dad and by the time I was 11 we both played in the same team, for the Folkestone Optimists in England. What an absolute dream it was lining up next to my Dad. Read more>>

Alisa Maxime

I am a contemporary artist and fashion illustrator based in Austin, TX. I believe it is best to get to know each other through life stories so let me share with you mine. When I was a little girl, I always noticed the beauty in moments, objects, and places where others, to my surprise, did not. Even before I allowed myself to dream of becoming a professional artist, visual beauty guided me in my life. Drawing visual stories in every school notebook and creating dresses together with my designer grandmother are my most precious childhood memories. Read more>>

Josie Gardner

After a few avenues of degree plans my freshman year of college I decided to go to the career counseling service at my school. I took several tests and eventually decided to make the switch to pursue an Event Management degree at Texas A&M. I later freelanced with a wedding photographer which led to experiencing my first exposure to the dreaminess of weddings and specifically the florals. My interest in gardening and being outdoors seemed from childhood.  Read more>>

Loni Lilley

I graduated college in 2014 with a degree in Graphic Design. I was bouncing from job to job doing freelance work, and it was exciting at first, but I felt like something was missing. So I started my online teaching certification and now I am going into my 8th year as an art teacher. When COVID hit and teachers began working from home, I bought myself an iPad and Apple Pencil as a birthday gift. I wasn’t feeling the spark with my personal art anymore and was searching for ways to feel creative again. Read more>>

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