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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.


Like most people, I always had a love for music. I first found out I had a talent for it, however, in the summer going into 7th grade. My friend put me on to Joey Bada$$ and Capital STEEZ. From there, I was hooked. I started diving deep into Hip-Hop, learning everything from the history of it in the South Bronx to newer people like Kendrick and Cole. This was fascinating to me because as a child, I mostly listened to either radio hits or popular music from TV shows and movies. Once I became a Hip-Hop nerd, I started freestyling with my friends in school. It then went from something fun to something I really had a passion for. One day I decided to buy a microphone and I began recording myself rapping at home. I dropped a few songs and got the attention of a former classmate who was in the early stages of building a collective. I joined the collective and grew with the members in it for a while. Read more>>

Douglas Shea

Singing and making music in general was always my favorite hobby growing up. I’ve been singing since I was 3 or 4 and wrote my first song in 4th grade (a love song to be exact). I never really saw music as a career option though, until I received guidance from my entrepreneurship professor my junior year at USC. Instead of following the 9-5 trajectory laid out in front of me, I started thinking much more deeply about what was actually important to me and two factors stood out. Music, as you could guess, jumped out immediately. I met my current manager pretty quickly and from there started writing a lot and working with a producer, AZU, at night after class. After a big learning curve and some stumbling, I had my first three songs. I was pretty proud of the way they turned out, but I felt like something was missing. Read more>>

Jonny Cota

I got my start in fashion design while I was performing as a stilt walker in a San Francisco-based circus troupe. I was surrounded by all these amazing costumes and characters and it really inspired me to start designing costumes for the cast. My costume business, SKINGRAFT, launched in 2005 but soon turned into ready-to-wear collections and in 2008, I opened my first brick and mortar in downtown Los Angeles and rebranded as a fashion line, leaving costuming behind. Since then, I’ve opened four stores, showed seasonally at NYFW and most recently, I was cast on, and won, Making the Cut, the first fashion design competition on Amazon Prime Video. Read more>>

Skyler (Cakes) Sawyer

My career began in 2017, I began organizing and hosting my own shows. The exposure offered me the opportunity to work with artists from LA, thus beginning the start of my Los Angeles journey. I made the move to Los Angeles, California in September 2019; enrolling myself into the Los Angeles Film School for a Bachelor’s in Entertainment Business and propelling myself into my modeling and music management career. I began working in the underground hip hop and rap scene; working as a contracted transitional artist manager that has resulted in a signed deal for her artist 10 cellphones. Read more>>

Christopher Cargnoni

In early 2017 I started to realize there was a lot more younger people owning dogs. At that time, I’ve always only had a family dog, all the benefits none of the full responsibilities. But I noticed these younger people around my same age were taking on the full responsibilities of owning a dog. So I started to research the pet market, and everywhere I looked there were major publications saying “Millennial generation is shaking up the Pet Industry!”. So I became very intrigued and it triggered my passion which is brand building, specifically in niche categories. So I tried so hard to find a pet brand that would match my specific aesthetic or vibe per se. Read more>>

Tim Kobza

I am a Los Angeles-based guitarist, recording artist, session musician and music producer, I divide my time between composing, producing, performing, and teaching. My style ranges from rock, jazz, blues, acoustic music to pop, R&B and electronic sound design. I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. Seeking a musical education, I moved to Denton, Texas to attend the world-renowned North Texas State University. There I received an undergraduate degree in Jazz Guitar performance. My career as a performer has taken me around the world. Read more>>

Roslynn Alba Cobarrubias

In elementary school, I fell in love with music. I used to record the radio for the Top Ten songs and play them for my classmates at lunch. I was obsessed with MTV & BET and loved programs like Yo! MTV Raps or MTV News. Whenever they would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my heart would want to say “in music,” but my mind would be fearful of my Filipina immigrant mother who worked so hard to get here and I would say, “lawyer.” It wasn’t until I bought my first turntables I high school the passion became real and we started going to LA record shops like Fat Beats or Stacks religiously or hip hop clubs like UNITY, Lotus or the Pea Pod every week that I knew it’s all that I would ever want to do. Read more>>

Sandra Kim

I was born and raised in LA but left to pursue my culinary passion and spent the past 13 years in NYC. I’ve built unique and wonderful relationships throughout my journey in New York, but it was especially during my years under the mentorship of Chef Dan Kluger and the late Chef Floyd Cardoz that I became dedicated to using high-quality natural ingredients because of their beneficial properties in cooking for the body. I worked to support local farmers, artisans and brands who mindfully grow or create ingredients and products with care towards the environment and our communities. It started with the food and drinks, then expanded to all things related to the overall dining experience. Read more>>

Jenny Brew

I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, a very hot, beautiful city near the Mexican border, in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. It sits in a basin surrounded by mountains and is one of the only places on earth where Saguaro cacti – the tall guys with the arms – grow wild. A great place to grow-up, it has amazing sunsets, a world-class research university, and great food, arts and music scenes, with architecture showing a strong Mexican and Spanish influences. It’s got a bit of Wild West lore too – go to Hotel Congress and you can see where Dillinger was finally nabbed by Federal agents. It’s a diverse community—earning the name “The Bay of Tucson” after the 2016 Presidential election—a small blue haven in a sea of angry red. Read more>>

Wyatt Woodley

Growing up an hour from Oakland and San Francisco, I was blessed to be surrounded by a ton of different cultures from a young age. Some of my first memories are of me at like two years old beating paint stirring sticks on the toilet seat treating it like a drum set. I would sit in front of the TV mimicking any musical acts on the screen for hours on end always fantasizing of just making music every day. At 3 and 4, I got brought onstage at music festivals to play with this band called The Doobie Brothers. My parents were big on music and concerts at the time and any concert I went to I had to take my ukulele so I could play along in the crowd. I guess they just saw me and brought me onstage. The rush of a crowd of people watching me while doing my favorite thing in the world was infectious. Read more>>

Vivianna Hernandez

Something Good was created by my wife Mariana and I in 2007 while I was attending culinary school. During this time, I became classically trained in many kitchens of top chefs from Orange County to Beverly Hills to the Westside. After honing my craft, I decided to put myself out there and begin doing Pop-ups. In 2015, we had our first pop up event at The Wall Farmers Market in the LA Flower District and the Historic Downtown Farmers Market where we sold Pork Belly Sandwiches and fresh Coconuts. During this time, we had been offered a pop up residency at the patio of a Hollywood bar called The Three Clubs. In those two years is where we built a following in the Los Angeles area for our Tater tots and our Sliders on Hawaiian Rolls. Read more>>

Narine Avakian

I was born in Beirut, Lebanon to Armenian parents. Various forms of art were my source of oxygen as a child. With the encouragement of my parents and aunts, my brother and I spent the better part of our childhood at Levon Shant, a cultural center that became our second home. If I wasn’t at school, I was at Levon Shant. I’d start dance lessons on the first floor, then haphazardly throw on sweats over my leotards and climb up to the third floor for music theory classes. There aren’t many things in my life, I try to avoid like the plague, but this class was one of them. My brother is the music aficionado; I couldn’t play a musical instrument to save my life. Thankfully, I was an acceptable alto every time I made my way onto the 5th floor for choir rehearsals. Read more>>

Soma Chhaya

I am an actress and singer of Indian descent. I’m was born and brought up in the suburbs of Toronto, Canada. I moved to DTLA with my family almost two years ago to pursue my career further. I knew I wanted to be an entertainer since I was little. I grew up watching Bollywood movies and musical theatre. When I was 10, I had too much stage fright to sing in front of people so I opted for acting instead. I got bullied a lot in middle school, it was a really tough time for me. I switched schools countless times to escape it. But the only cure was for me to build my strength and courage from within. Acting gave me the confidence I needed. It taught me to trust myself. It gave me a community of acting friends. And gave me validation that I was good at something. Read more>>

Indica Tudor

I had always wanted to help and inspire people, when I was younger, I always gravitated towards creative outlets that helped me grow through whatever bad things were happening in my life. When I was 20, I received a scholarship to Barbizon Modeling and Acting School and did amazing the first two days, I even received won star of the week for my runway walk. The next day I received a call stating due to me being a medical marijuana patient and needing to medicate to be able to make it through school even though I followed all the rules they terminated my scholarship and said if I could find a different medication or would stop then I could return. I never wanted to be turned away for the medication that saved my life and keeps me walking daily. I wanted to market myself and be honest, hoping the world would accept me for me. Read more>>

Doyin Adewole

My professional career began by investing in high schoolers education, where I was fortunate enough to facilitate a missing, yet otherwise necessary link between children seeking to find meaning in life, and having an educator who was relatable and cool enough to convey the message of how vital an education would be to their collective future. When my time at the high school ended, I transitioned back to Los Angeles and into the world of corporate communications at Hulu. While corporate America presented many rewards and challenges, I still possessed an undying thirst to express myself through art. Read more>>

Tamera Hill

I started writing, producing, and directing stage plays and touring them mostly on the West Coast in 2006. I’ve worked with some awesome talent on stage, Tommy Ford (RIP), Tony Grant, Brely Evans, Chad Shepherd, Wrekless Watson, and Ptosha Storey to name a few. It’s been an amazing journey. From the beginning, I was always interested in film. I threw my hat in the ring of screenplay writing in 2014. I wrote a script called “Never Heard,” that was released nationally in theaters and is now on Netflix. I became interested in directing film after seeing the process on the set of Never Heard. I began to visit as many film sets as possible and sat under the mentorship of professionals. Read more>>

Elixir Hipster

I started my creative career unbeknownst at this venue spot that used to be called “the bottega” in Downtown Detroit. I performed at this event held by a good friend DJ Stacye, a poem and that really kicked off everything for me. I helped my friends at the time throw music showcases, open mics, and backyard events. We didn’t charge much to get in, nobody paid to perform, you just had to be talented as fuck. A lot of these instances of just being around a lot of creative people put me in rooms and spaces where I was USUALLY represented, but I found in most of those spaces where I felt “acknowledged” as a creative, I didn’t feel represented as a woman, also a BLACK woman. So I found myself in a situations where I would always have to speak up for myself, so this forced me to always rebrand, redirect my creative freedom, and protect my intellectual property. Read more>>

Nisey Rashad

I’m originally from Atlanta, GA. I started using music as a form of communication. I had an interesting upbringing that kind of hindered my sense of self. No matter what I accomplished, I either wasn’t enough or too much. I learned how to blend in the background. Then people started to notice my taste in music and film. Eventually, I wrote some music and released it. I started performing and directing. Life leads me here. Read more>>

George Duchannes

Duchannes creative started out six years ago as a passion project. Have grown from working for free news outlets to now working for the most prestigious magazines in Southern California. Read more>>

Eyeris Balam

Mayan descent, born and raised in my native land of El Salvador and migrated to USA in 1987. I attended F.I.D.M. soon after I graduated from H.S. in 1996. I started my business in 2005, motivated by wanting to aid my husband with rent and bills since we both decided I would be a stay home mom and care for both of our kids. I started making bibs and as people began giving me positive feedback, I made more and soon after, I found myself being invited by many local community events. In 2013, I was invited by Knott’s Berry Farm to participate in their Xmas Craft Fair. The following year I was invited to their Boysenberry Festival and Knott’s Scary Farm. I committed to Knott’s for five years. Read more>>

Mike Flynn

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. Short stories and poetry was an escape and allowed me to expand my imagination. I never thought it would lead to a career as a storyteller, but here we are. It also went hand-in-hand with my love for film and television. When I got to college, I knew I wanted to embark in a career in storytelling but had no direction. I spent the summer after my freshman year in the library devouring books on screenwriting because I remember what the written word did for me as a kid. It was then that I started writing every day. From there, I held internships in college at various studios, production companies and, through a strong support network, found myself in TV writer’s rooms in Hollywood. Read more>>

Francisco Haye

I started playing the piano and drums at a pretty young age; probably around 4 or 5 years old. I think growing up in a musical household where both my parents were musicians definitely played a role in that. My dad taught me classical piano and how to play pieces by composers like Beethoven, Chopin, and Bach. Learning how to play music in that style helped me to build a strong foundation that would help with my experimentation in other genres later on. Also, growing up in Brooklyn, NY with my father being the musical director at church, I’ve always been surrounded by not only a lot of cultural diversity but the artistic diversity of New York. Read more>>

Ingo Raschka

I grew up in NYC and was lucky enough to have parents who know enough about art to have been able to tell me how animation worked when I was very young. But we didn’t even own a television until I was around eight, and even then it didn’t have cable and could only play VHS tapes. I was only allowed to watch things on fridays when we would go to the video rental place and check out a tape to watch in the evening. Some favorites were Magic School Bus, Dexter’s Lab, Scooby-Doo and the other HB cartoons, and this really odd warner bros film called the “Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner Movie” where Yosemite Sam goes to hell and makes a deal with the devil to trade his soul for Bugs’s. Read more>>

Chef Joe Sasto

Prior to relocating to Southern California, Joe Sasto dove head-first into the restaurant industry by mentoring under some of the Bay Area’s most acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs. Early in his career, Sasto found it difficult to get a foot in the door in the culinary industry after forgoing the traditional path of culinary school. Joe spent his undergraduate years at University of California at Davis, largely sustained a driving passion for food, which he found at a young age while cooking by his mother’s side. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 2010, Joe helped open a restaurant in Ukiah, earning a swift education in the business, its pitfalls, and a newfound passion of the restaurant world. Read more>>

Pedro Paulo Araújo

My story starts in Brazil but takes off in 1998 when I move to Mozambique at the age of six with my family. Since then, I moved around from one country to the other, spending a maximum of four years in each one, and because of the nature of my father’s work, most of these countries were third world countries, where, at the time, there was no access to cinemas. Still, madly in love with storytelling, and films, my eyes drifted towards what I had—excellent music TV channels where I would spend hours watching music videos from around the globe. So, a few years later, I pack my bags from Venezuela, where I had just graduated and set off to LA to go to film school. What I discovered was an incredible and diverse group of people who like me were excited and interested in everything film-related. Read more>>

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