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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.

Tracy Blom

I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a little girl. I would dream up entire stories, staple them together and give them to my parents. Since my early years, I’ve kept dream journals which is where you can find nearly every idea for the books that I’ve written. It took me some time to figure out why I was having dreams like this— dreams that appear as a movie with an entire storyline attached, but once I figured out what they were intended to be, I went on to create children’s books, chapter books, young adult novels, and a paranormal thriller. Read more>>

Nancy Garcia

Both Kulture and Kolores are owned by husband and wife David and Nancy Garcia. We both come from migrant families and have always been inspired by our hard-working parents, who immigrated from Mexico in search of a better future for themselves and their children. Growing up, we both worked in the fields harvesting different fruits and vegetables. The long workdays in horrible working conditions is what fueled us to get a higher education and to follow our dreams, and pick a career that we enjoy and love. As long as we love what we do, it will never feel like work. Read more>>

NyQuinn

I’ve been singing since I was old enough to talk, but I used to have crippling stage fright. It always made me sad the thought of never being able to perform in front of people. But one day, when I was about 20 years old, I decided to start singing at open mic nights. It took years for me to finally get to a point where I was comfortable being up on stage and singing in front of people, but fast forward to now, I perform in front of people regularly, and I even get paid for it. Read more>>

Jerlicia Hobson

I’m a self-taught, professional makeup artist with 8 years of professional experience. Starting off at an HBCU, I had no intentions of doing makeup professionally. Since the launch of my makeup career, I’ve hosted several sold-out makeup classes, worked on tv shows, travelled internationally for clients, and went on 2 tours. I’d say this career chose me, and I’m enjoying the journey. Read more>>

Magaly Rodriguez

My name is Magaly Rodriguez, I’m from Chicago, IL, and 2021 in March, I started posting videos of behind the scenes of being a Medical Assistant on TikTok from my job. After posting my 3rd video on TikTok it went viral, and it got over 4M views and over 1M likes. After reaching 50K followers, I knew I had to do something with my account if I wanted to continue and grow. I kept doing content and eventually moved to Los Angeles, CA to pressure a new career for Digital Marketing after my passion for social media started to growing. I moved to LA 2021 in Oct to pressure a new carrier as a digital marketer. Read more>>

Ben Cope

I accidentally ended up in LA sometime in early 2005 as a photo assistant and lighting tech, working in the fashion/entertainment side of commercial photography. I had never really planned on being on the West Coast, but the opportunity presented itself, so I went with it. Over the first few years, I worked back and forth between LA and NY assisting different photographers and then decided to settle in here in LA. Once settled in DTLA, I worked with friends to build a creative company and produced fashion events in Downtown as I built my own commercial career as a photographer and director. Read more>>

Youn Chang

I have always been passionate about consumer products that offer an elevated customer experience. I worked at Apple and Glossier before founding OJOOK. When I had my daughter in 2018, it triggered me to really think deep about the meaning of my career in conjunction with raising my daughter who is half Korean. I really wanted to make sure what I do will pass down my Korean heritage to her and make her proud. So, I started working on bringing earth-friendly oral care with Korea’s treasured bamboo salt ‘Jukyeom,’ hoping to inspire the US market with Eastern wellness philosophy. Read more>>

Mickella Rumbolt

My name is Mickella Rumbolt, and I am the owner of Chosen Designs, an urban Christ-centered clothing and accessory brand representing positivity through inspirational fashion and community events. Being born premature with undeveloped lungs and a dock in my heart was something that always made me who I am. I always asked myself, what can I do for God to make a positive impact, and how can I make a difference in my community with the skills I have? I had a passion for fashion and always believed that I was chosen for greater things. Which is how, in 2018, Chosen Designs and recently Chosen Cares, our community outreach initiative began. Read more>>

Ariel Josée

I grew up an East Coast girl in a small town in Southern Maryland. While I don’t remember the exact moment I discovered I could sing, I always knew that it would be a part of my future. The only problem was I hated singing in front of anybody. I was so shy and already my own worst critic at a young age…and I wouldn’t change that even if I could. It helped me work harder to not only become better at singing, but it also helped me land some really great acting roles in and out of school when I was first starting out. It pushed me to always put out my best work, and that allows me to look back on my younger years and still be so proud of my performances. I put that same care and attention to detail into everything I put out to this day. Read more>>

Mimi Daraa

My story began back in 2016 when my husband and I decided to start a home decor business using our combined passions of quality crafted pieces, originality, and social good. We would draw funky designs for rugs and pillows and have them handwoven in Morocco by a cooperative of women. We sold huge rugs in markets, and getting them into taxis, set up, and broken down was nothing short of spectacular! We began experimenting with making candles to cover our booth costs and offer our customers smaller items that were more affordable but still took you on a journey to a faraway land. Read more>>

Johnathan Chriest

Often times musicians can point to their parents’ love for music as a defining factor of their early taste. I don’t really have that experience. My family listened to music, but it never felt like a definitive part of my childhood experience. I wanted to be in band in middle school, but we couldn’t afford to rent the instruments. Eventually, my mother went in for a “First Act” guitar from Walmart, and after I played that for a while and seemed more seriously into the guitar, I got a few better guitars. I eventually settled on acoustic guitar and got into finger-picking style. Read more>>

Erika Guerrero

Boots And Wicks started in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic. It was inspired by my dog Boots. I created this brand to fund his vet bills as we found out about his heart murmur. The love we got from the small business community and all our customers and supporters is why we are still here today. At first, it took a lot of trial and error. I really wanted to focus on a clean brand, affordable yet with great quality. After research and a few batches, we finally found the wax that works for us, found clean fragrances and wicks. By clean, we mean non-toxic, which is our main focus. We believe great things take time, but passion and dedication is everything. Post Pandemic was a challenge; juggling a 9-5 and a small business was a new thing for us. However, we are still here and constantly coming up with new drops and exploring our creativity through candles. Read more>>

Cedric Ih

I come from animation, I used to be a digital artist, and we opened an animation studio in Paris with some friends that became one of the major studios in France. I continued working in commercials for a few years and then decided to move to L.A. Of course, the goal was to move to cinema, but something called life and covid happened.  So, I moved on to a new project which was teaching French, and I created in 2022 my own French school with a new concept and vision which is to only teach to speak French, not write it. Read more>>

Jarrett Camp

For me, art was always a part of me. Before I could walk and talked, I was creating. It all started when I was 18 months old with my dad drawing in front of me. I took the pencil out of his hand and started drawing. However, what was impactful was when I found out from Ms. Olson, my art teacher, that I had dyslexia, and I started to use it in my artwork. I’m always have struggles as an artist. One of biggest struggles in studio practice funding and project funds for me. I have a solo that I really want to accomplish, but without funds it is almost impossible. Another is dealing with dyslexia in outside world of art. Read more>>

Lisa Hsieh

I started Mien when I was pregnant with my son. Realizing that there was a lack of versatile, well-made clothing in organic fabrics for pregnant people, I launched a collection with four styles that can be worn before, during, and after pregnancy. I worked with a local fabric mill to develop my brand’s signature fabric – a substantial and soft knit jersey that’s made of 100% GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton. The collection is then cut, sewn, and dyed in custom colors I designed in Los Angeles by small, family-owned factories. Read more>>

Lindsay Stovall

I’m a multi-disciplinary artist from the East coast. I’ve been drawing and painting for almost all of my life. During my school career, I would spend most of the time in the back of class drawing. The switch to music and video came in college when I took a video class where we had to conceptualize, shoot, edit, and create sound design for video pieces, and I was pretty much hooked from there. I spent the rest of my schooling and after studying video and sound. Music was such a crucial part of where I received visual ideas from, so I basically made experimental music videos around the sounds and songs I would make. Read more>>

Dan Cantrell

I began composing music when I was 11 years old as a way of dodging reading my music assignments. I’ve always had that notion to create something new that speaks to my heart and expresses what I have to say as an individual rather than follow a formula. With the help of many amazing teachers and inspiring friends, I learned that composing and improvising was a way of turning aversion into intention and weakness into strength. I discovered that composing and improvising was a way of finding deep and genuine connection across art forms and musical genres. Read more>>

Jessica Broome

My first job after college was as a Peace Corps English teacher in Cape Verde. I had a great experience, but I knew I didn’t want to teach when I came back to the States. I was inspired by my Peace Corps exit interview to look for any jobs involving surveys or interviewing and ended up working for a criminal justice non-profit, conducting interviews in jails and prisons around New York. After that, I segued into working in the Research and Insights departments of a few major PR agencies before hanging out my own shingle in 2008. I was a solopreneur and digital nomad for 10 years before finally settling down in Brooklyn and starting to hire employees and grow my business. Read more>>

Mayola Charles

I am currently the Creator Social Impact Partnerships Lead at Meta. I have spent the last 10 years working at the intersection of art and activism with a focus on amplifying visionary and trailblazing voices in entertainment and culture to spark positive change in and make a difference in our communities.  I got my start working within the nonprofit and public sectors – I believe the diversity of my experience has significantly impacted my career trajectory. Read more>>

Lisa L. Baker

My career began in financial services. I spent 30 years in corporate America, working my way up the ladder into one leadership role after another at some of the world’s biggest companies. I eventually realized that what I valued the most during that time were the opportunities to mentor women who were coming up behind me.  These were employees who had incredible potential, who were maybe being overlooked because of their gender or color. I knew – because I was just like them once – that with a little coaching, they could go so much further. Being able to give them the guidance, sponsorship, and helping hand that I wish I’d had in my early days felt like a true calling. Read more>>

Niki Kuti

My journey as a Healer date back to 2006, where I became a Certified Wholistic Wellness Practitioner. I was asked by Queen Afua (Author of Sacred Woman) to work with her at her Wellness Center in Brooklyn, NYC, called ‘HEAL THY SELF’” a staple in the community for many, many years.  You could say this was the year I showed up in public as a healer. Integrating was natural and easy. It was the perfect environment as it was established and the clients already knew what to expect which allowed me to be myself. Read more>>

Josiah Jones

I feel like my friends think of me as the art-obsessed marketing guy that shit-posts ironically when he has time. They aren’t far off. My interests and passions have evolved over the years, and I’m happy to say I wake up every morning excited for what I get to do every day. I’m in a constant pursuit of doing what I love better every day. In general, that consists of helping artists, communities, and businesses realize and utilize the power of their creativity and unique experiences. Read more>>

Kenya J

I first began dreaming of becoming a Fashion Designer through arts & craft projects as a child with my aunt. I realized at a very young age that I was extremely creative and really good with my hands. As a teenager, I began teaching myself how to sew, deconstruct, and reconstruct garments and accessories. In high school, I was convinced that my future would be within the creative field. However, I ultimately decided to pursue a more “secure” profession and therefore decided to continue my education as a Behavioral Science Major. Read more>>

Linda Kaye

As mentioned in my February 2022 interview, I began my professional life in the 1970s by pursuing a career in acting. After 10 years of frustrations, I simply quit – due to both a lack of financial stability plus the depression from my failed career. This would result with my time in therapy to search for a new meaning to my life and to also hopefully discover a new career path. The therapy worked, and I would go on to college to obtain degrees in Psychology and Social Work. After an exciting and wonderfully successful 30-year career in the social sciences, as well as in teaching at the USC School of Social Work, I found my way back to the stage. However, this time the stage would be poetry. Read more>>

Arean Alston

I was born in Nashville but raised in the soulful city of Memphis, Tennessee. My mom basically raised my brother, sister, and I as a single parent, but she would later marry and have help as we got older. She worked as a church musician and a piano teacher, and whenever she had to go somewhere we had to be with her. I was always around her, and the other musicians or singers at the church, school, or anywhere music was playing. I remember being baptized at my grandfather’s church when I was four years old, and that’s also where some of my earliest musical memories began. Read more>>

Diana Rosario

I got started with my business during the covid-19 pandemic. During that time, I was struggling with unemployment due to being laid off from the company I was working with. As a result, to that, my mental health was compromised, and I was not in the best state of mind. I was having a hard time coping with my anxiety and depression. At that point, my self-care became more important than ever before, and I had found strength in practicing yoga, meditation, and crafting. I found so much joy and fulfillment being able to create new cricut projects and express myself using color with my tie-dye projects. Read more>>

Masha Titova

After finishing my BFA at Massachusettes College of Art & Design, I moved to Los Angeles to work for Yeezy and BCBGMaxazria. As a production manager at Yeezy, I was working long hours traveling to manufacturing facilities. In the middle of a 109° day, wires digging in and boob sweat and all, I took off my bra at work. Bra in hand and annoyed, I set off to create lingerie that doesn’t distract me from my busy life. In 2019 I through my life into TITOV, a luxury lingerie brand. TITOV’s focus is on inclusive sizing & creating custom, one-of-a-kind pieces for those looking for something different. Read more>>

Matt Bissinger

I’ve long had a passion for art and design, which ultimately led me to open my business. However, my path was not a straight line. Out of school, I worked for nonprofits for many years before deciding to open a small store with a friend. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I learned on the job and enjoyed the challenges that come with owning your own business. In 2013, we closed that business, and I took what I had learned and went off on my own. Since then, I’m continuously learning and growing. My taste and style has expanded and changed over time with influences from countless talented colleagues and friends. The business has adapted to our customer’s needs and a large percentage of business now occurs online. Read more>>

Sophie Mo

I am a London-based illustrator, designer, and a tattoo artist. Born in Lithuania, I have moved to the UK about ten years ago to pursue a career in arts. After graduating with a first in BA Illustration & Visual Communication at Westminster University, I was fortunate enough to work and try myself in various roles within creative industry – digital design, print, all kinds of media assets, book illustration, digital art working. I have also have had a tattoo apprenticeship in my first year of living in London (which was brief, but leaving it was a right thing to do at a time), but glad I got to try myself in graphics and build a portfolio and a clientele as an illustrator first. Read more>>

Joy Ira

My mother, daughter, and I started as Church volunteers by rendering services in the Ministry as choir members. Back then, my daughter was 7 years old, and I never thought that she had a natural talent in singing. We wanted to be a part of a great community that will help us in our spiritual journey. One day, my daughter was asked to sing the Psalm in front of the many parishioners attending the Sunday Mass. I could humbly say that they were amazed with her voice and recommended that she needs to enhance and cultivate her talent. Read more>>

Matthew Orlando Miller

My story begins on the South Side of Chicago. I truly believe I wouldn’t be who I am today without the influence of the city of Chicago and the impact of my family, friends, and role models. I was raised to view situations through a lens of curiosity and seek to find answers to concepts I didn’t understand, but that allowed me to connect with individuals from various walks of live and overall appreciate the subtleties that make us all unique, so I take that approach with me as a creator and ultimately as a person. Read more>>

Sophia Dubuisson

Looking back on my childhood I did not have much of an artistic background. Throughout my younger years, I enjoy drawing amongst other things. It always surprises people when I told them that I used to play soccer, swim, and even do Judo. When I reached high school that’s when I started spending more time drawing and developed a liking for Art. My parents signed me up for an after-school program that would change my life… ”le centre d’art” was a couple of blocks away from my school and I would walk there every Wednesday and Friday afternoon to my classes that I enjoyed very much. I rubbed elbows with talented Haitian and international artist that inspired me to keep going. Read more>>

Ericka Spradley

I know a comfort zone when I see one because that’s where I stayed for most of my career. I thought I was growing which couldn’t have been further from the truth! I was committing career insanity – doing the same things with different employers and expecting different results, unfortunately for many years. I knew a career change would offer work-life balance, but I had a slight problem. I craved this “new career”; this “next level” however, I couldn’t articulate the title of my new position nor which industry it would be in. Read more>>

Linh Tran

I was born and raised in Vietnam, came to the US for college in 2013. Before college, I wasn’t that exposed to film and other kinds of art form. When I was in college, I sort of stumbled into theater and from there, realized that I love storytelling. I got a BA in Film Studies before getting an MFA in film & TV from DePaul University in Chicago. I have made several shorts and a feature film while also working as a freelance film and commercial editor. Read more>>

Natasha Marburger

I run the Los Angeles International Film Festival (LAIFF), which has been running for 3 years. The mission is to showcase films at the same time as AFM in Santa Monica. I am also the Festival Director of the London Independent Film Festival, and I am also a Producer, so I understand filmmaking and am able to put together festivals/events that are truly beneficial. Having an event at the same time as AFM within walking distance allows filmmakers to attend both events. I am also able to invite industry professionals who are around. Read more>>

Cahlik Douglas

Well, to think about all of the events in my life up to now, I would say it’s definitely been a journey full of fortunes and misfortunes. Despite how young I am I had to wrap my head around the fact of I started out as a just photographer back in high school. Before Fashion came, I was a straight technical photographer learning a camera from inside and out. Then you get into the perspective that to be a good photographer, you must know the basics of camera work you learn that every camera you touch comes pretty easy. Read more>>

Jody Miller

It seems I’ve always held a camera in my hands since I was about 9 years old and was gifted a Box Brownie from my parents. Since my parents were both fine artists, I started out by drawing and painting, and now when I make an image, I think with a painter’s approach to the subject. Photography has always been the medium that speaks best for me, so I have always been a fine art photographer. I got serious in 1982 when I was accepted into Ansel Adams’ workshop in Carmel and studied with some of the great photographers of the day. It was a turning point that focused my desire to make more and better images every day. Forty years later, that desire has never flagged. Read more>>

Kangan Kapoor Malhan

Born in India, grew up in London & Amsterdam, then moved to Dubai, followed by Los Angeles. Currently living in London, optimizing my extensive knowledge of art and the art network I have built to expand the Arushi Gallery’s presence in the UK & EMEA region. Whilst I was in Los Angeles, I was intrigued by Sellout work and his iconic ‘LA’ hand, His work was a symbol of truth for so many Third Culture Kids, an amalgamation of cross-cultural experiences, bridging countries and remixing pop cultural references together. Read more>>

Sammy J. Watson

A number of years ago, I decided to try and figure out my anxiety, depression, and anger. Coincidentally I also started working and writing my own music for the first time in my life. What spawned was an accidental memoirs/documentation of the process. As I dove into myself amidst the music, I had all kinds of thoughts emerging and swimming around in my head. A “KaleidosCope” of turmoil, voices, and emotions if you will… These fueled the inspiration and creativity. They became the forefront of my emotional Palate, and this album became a canvas for me to experiment and purge. Read more>>

Rachel Nicole Radewahn

My story? That’s a question. I spend so much of my time obsessing over how to tell other people’s stories it’s always interesting to share my own. Mine was ordinary and also unordinary, just like my art. I picked up a camera when I was old enough to hold one, and ever since, you won’t find me without at least a phone camera within reach. Maybe it’s a flaw to not ever really be able to disconnect, but it makes people really happy, especially me. So that’s why I chose that for me; it’s a flaw that worked out in the perfect way. Read more>>

Becca Suh-Hee Han

Although there were always clear signs that I wanted to be a filmmaker, it wasn’t until college that I truly realized it. I was a 20-year-old student working as an additional production assistant the first time I found myself on a professional film set. While working in the Assistant Director department, I fell in love with process of creating “movie magic” and transitioned to become a special effects technician (and eventually worked as an on-set foreman). Read more>>

Michela Melone

I was born and raised in Italy in a multicultural household. My mom is Brazilian, and my dad is Italian. I started dancing when I was 6 years old, and I booked my first professional dance job when I was 11, dancing for the Global Destination for Shoes (GDS) in Düsseldorf, Germany. In Italy, I worked for Metropolis dance company and Gruppo E-Motion, and I had the opportunity to dance in several important theatres throughout Italy and for the TV show Capodanno 5. I graduated from BYU-Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in dance with an emphasis in choreography and performance with honors from the National Honor Society Of Dance Arts (NHSDA). Then, I moved to Los Angeles, where I now work as a professional dancer, choreographer, and actor. Read more>>

Smiley Jonez

My name is Smiley Jonez, born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa. I recently relocated to DTLA. I am a musician/stylist with two companies; one is Smiley Timez Records LLC where I help develop new artists and plug them into the music industry as well as provide them with distribution if needed… on the stylist side, my company is called Burning Guitars Inc. where I am focused on changing the fashion world as we know it to an all-inclusive runway experience for all walks of life. I travel the world creating one of one looks for various celebrities as well as styling them as well as travel the world doing various different fashion weeks. I perform as the models walk which creates a cohesive fashion and music experience. Read more>>

Jenaé Kama

I’ve always been interested in human behavior and understanding the full spectrum of human emotions. I can remember being a child, and the first time I learned that someone could cry from happiness, thinking that was strange. During my childhood, my mother was very open with her emotions and was intentional about making sure my sister and I grew up with a high level of empathy. I also lost my father at a young age, and as painful as it was, I learned a great deal about the spectrum of grief and joy, and my interest in human behavior became magnetized. Read more>>

Edward Carreon

I began my career with a personal project in Mexico which got me my first newspaper job working for the Anaheim Bulletin, then the Orange County Register, and finally, the Torrance Daily Breeze, where I was laid off in 1994. That was a fortuitous tragedy because it launched my freelance career, and hated working for the Breeze. That is when I became the New York Time’s main freelancer in Los Angeles. Read more>>

Joshua Boone

I started doing photography professionally after I enrolled in college. My best friend Zach Chavis was the photo editor for Old Dominion University newspaper and encouraged me to pick up a camera. My first event I photographed was a college soccer game, and I immediately fell in love with the camera. The way it felt in my hand, hearing the shutter go off, and reviewing the final product. All of it grabbed my interest, and during that time, it honestly was more of a release therapy for me. I loved the idea of being able to capture people and freeze that moment in time. Read more>>

Laura Schaack

I’ve been obsessed with tattooing since I can remember. I started planning my first tat well before I was of legal age to get one, but for me, it was never a thing to look badass or tough. I though it was an exceptional thing to wear art on your body, something that lives with you always, that you can’t take off. It’s not like a clothing style or a framed art piece you can switch out, but it has to be something that is so intimately ~you~ that you want it to become part of the skin you live in (essentially) forever. Read more>>

Leandro Taub

When I was 7, I insisted to my mom that I wanted to be on TV. She took me to the only TV channel that we had in Bariloche (Patagonia, Argentina). Don’t know how, but I ended up singing that type of song that children sing when there is no adult around. The TV host got very nervous and stopped me in the middle of the show. But I was not going to give up. Sometime after, my uncle decided to do a TV commercial for his restaurant (where my nickname was the name of a sandwich I don’t like). He let me be the protagonist. I had to eat ice cream and say that I love to eat in his restaurant. The director made some takes, and it worked out. I loved it. I wanted to do it more. Read more>>

Pilar Freeman

Believe it or not, I started out as an actress in music videos. That was a big thing back in the day. I was an aspiring makeup artist and actress and was signed to an agency that would send me out for jobs. Some paid well, some didn’t, but it was so fun!  Through my exposure and connections, I made working in the entertainment industry, I started booking makeup jobs, and going out for auditions for acting gigs. However, my makeup career seemed to be taking off more than my acting. I still desperately wanted to pursue being an actress but was struggling to book any jobs. Read more>>

Lisa Pfeiffer

I have been on my own since I was 16. I knew from a young age that nobody was going to make life happen and it was up to me to create a life. I also want to help women find love for themselves in every way possible. I started practicing skin care with a plastic surgeon and dermatologist and I realize very quickly that there had to be a better way to take care of skin that wasn’t abusive or invasive. Through trial and error, I came up with the Peaches facial and this facial has served me well for almost 4 decades. Read more>>

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