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Downtown’s Hidden Gems

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 downtown’s gems below.

David Merrell

I started my business 32 years ago now, in 1989 in Orange County as a caterer. I was self-taught (all aspects of the product and industry, and as an owner). I was also self-funded. Started my career off with some early contracts for some high-profile events like The Reagan Library Grand Opening. This catapulted my company to high-profile social events in Los Angeles as well as celebrity personal catering and moved my operation all to Los Angeles. 9-11 was a profound change for my company, For the “industry”. All catering events and celebrations shut down for a short period of time. Read more>>

Elizabeth Harrington

I began working in leadership roles within small businesses after studying business and graduating from university in 2012. I absolutely loved working for local organizations because I could be part of something that brought a positive impact to my community. To work with individuals and organizations that inspired creativity, contribution and growth meant and still means the world to me.Although I enjoyed working for small businesses and its owners, I knew I wanted to expand my reach. So, in 2019 I began looking into business consulting and at the end of the year, I started my own firm, Your Story Consulting. Read more>>

Anne-Aurelie Pillet

I go by Lili. I’m a French Costume Designer living in Boyle Heights in LA. I grew up in Dijon, Burgundy with three siblings. I studied classical music and started to play an instrument from the age of seven. I was lucky enough to be exposed to operas and ballets from an early age which made me want to build a career in that world. After graduation, I did a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design. I was fascinated by fabrics, colors, materials, shapes and how to combine all of that to tell a story. After my Bachelors, I did multiple competitions and got accepted in the National Theater School in Lyon, France. Read more>>

Iassac J

When I am asked the question, how did you get here my first response is hard work but, when I sit back I realize it was because of the innovative and guidance of great people. I was fortunate to have a childhood that challenged me to be focused and creative. I have always loved entertainment and fashion and Fitness. Since we now live in a new world of technology, you can combine them. My life in Fitness opened my eyes to the world of possibility in human growth. So business is develop the balance Bespoke lifestyle. Read more>>


As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had so much love and life in me. An imagination wider than the average child. I’m sure I adapted that growing up and loving Barney so much! Yes, that purple dinosaur was my first bestfriend. He taught me imagination and to never limit your love nor light, your imagination can take you anywhere if you just believe. Growing up the only child, my imagination was sometimes the only thing I had to entertain myself. From making up dances with my cousins, writing plays for the children on my nanny’s block to perform, or just playing in clothing playing America’s next top model, I’ve always dreamed big! Read more>>

Mark Spratley

Left college (ECU) and came back to Jersey to pursue the music and figure out life. I was working with certain artists at the time that were from NJ, I was doing my thing with them but still working a part-time job. I felt it was time to move on and expand. From there, I moved out to Jersey City, started to have my own artists and branch out into the industry as a writer, publicist, manager, event curator and more. I came into the game doing everything, maybe not all at once originally but everything seemed to just make sense. It was for a purpose whether it was to open a door, make life easier or help an artist. I was powering up by all means whether it was on the marketing side, my influence or anything else I needed. Read more>>

Jada Jones

Music was very much in the background of my life up until college. I actually lettered in choir in high school, but still, it was just something I did as an elective. It hadn’t become a passion of mine yet. I wrote and recorded my first song in 2014 and called it “Ollie” because the guy playing the guitar was named Ollie. I used the mic on my Apple earphones. Horrible quality but it got the job done. When I got my first refund check, I bought an actual mic, my mom was not a happy camper, but the rest is really history! I’ve been in love with putting sounds and words together ever since. Read more>>

Herry Kim

I am an artist and a researcher who likes to imagine and contribute to a better future. I am a curious individual who tries to keep up with the latest technology while maintaining a distance from it. These days I am excited about how the shift of control that will be realized with the iteration of decentralization technology will also bring about the shift of our framework of interpretation of our world. I studied Painting and Sculpture in South Korea. Read more>>

Mary Bellamy

I can’t remember a time in my life where art wasn’t a part of it. As a child growing up in Los Angeles County, I loved watching the Saturday Morning cartoon block and rapidly devouring cartoons, comics, and all they entail. I knew from an early age that I loved animation and cartoons. However, while growing up I was more focused on schoolwork. Still later on, I was drawn back into the art field after watching countless anime shows with female leads and I knew that I wanted to be a part of the popular art world and that I wanted to create my own things especially for girls. That like the Japanese anime series girls could be the main characters. Read more>>

Selin Camli Anjel

Let me begin by saying that I am both an immigrant from Turkey and a New York transplant who grew up in deep curiosity about how it would be to live in Los Angeles, experiencing a city culture that is entirely different than the ones I knew. Growing up in Ankara and Istanbul, I spent a considerable amount of time in LA visiting family. I was around 12 and listening to the sound of the waves in Venice, wearing a light jacket on a supposedly cold day, when I got obsessed with the idea of making this city of glorious sunsets my home someday. I made my big move to the US in 2012 to receive my Master’s Degree in Visual Art Administration from New York University. Read more>>

Rodney Yehuda Masjedi

Almost 12 years ago, I was a real estate broker working in Downtown LA. I was miserable. I dreaded going into work and stifled creativity. One day I had enough. I rented a basement space in the heart of DTLA and began manifesting an idea to create a bike shop that was truly experiential. The base was a long rectangle. I carved a track into the floor and painted a path. Customers could try bikes out on an indoor track that resurfaced nostalgic memories of riding as a child in a fresh and new environment. I went to trade shows in Asia to source my own bikes. Read more>>

Crystal Ward

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a natural leader and someone who genuinely cares about people and wants to see them succeed. I left high school and went to college to pursue a degree in teaching for that reason. Teaching would allow me to use all of my strengths. It would give me a place to build and guide and support students at a critical time in their life (high school) and hopefully make a difference in their future. It was an easy choice as a direction for me. I had some inspiring teachers and mentors who changed my life, and I wanted to do that for others. Read more>>

Neisha & Gary

We are a husband and wife team living in the Southern California mountains. Gary has been in the vintage clothing industry for over20 years. Neisha has always worked in creative fields, from skincare as an aesthetician to fashion design in the Los Angeles women’s contemporary market. In 2011, we left our stable jobs and started our own company, Foundation Vintage, selling heritage and bohemian vintage & designing a line of hand-dyed, natural indigo clothing. We wanted to build a business based on ethics, respect and transparency alongside like-minded entrepreneurs/small business owners that are about community instead of competition. We started small at flea markets and pop-ups around Southern California and eventually started showing at higher-end markets (like A Current Affair) and opened a showroom by appointment DTLA while living in Mt. Washington on the eastside of LA. Read more>>

Rik Dobson

My artistic journey began with visual art. From a very young age, I loved painting, especially oil painting. The first artist that deeply inspired me was Monet. The way he interpreted nature in such a surreal way transported me to another world. Later on, I was captivated by the music of video games. Adventure games like King’s Quest, Quest for Glory, and Prince of Persia introduced me to eastern music. I was mesmerized by traveling to faraway lands like India and the Middle East, where I met magical beings and heard glorious music. The music was eastern and 8-bit. Now I see that’s where my passion for fusing electronic music and eastern music began. When I was six years old, my dad brought home a BBC Micro computer, and I began programming and making my own games.  Read more>>

Tatum Langton

It’s funny to be asked when or how I got started as an actor because I first fell in love with acting when I was 12 and had a speaking part in the school play. I grew up in Utah though, and my parents were not the artistic type – they didn’t really know how to assist with that hobby. So, I revisited acting in high school and college and did some local projects and community theater after college, but it wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles that I felt I really “got started.” Actually, if you really want to know the journey of how I got to where I am today, you should see my one-woman show REDEEMher (shameless plug). Read more>>

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