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Orange County’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 Orange County’s gems below.

Jade Venhaus

Hey, Beautiful Souls! I am Jade, your Mindset + Energy Coach, Reiki Master, & Sound Healer based in Huntington Beach, CA. I created Vibrantly Balanced because I know how it feels to want to heal your anxiety and stress – since I was struggling to manage my energy with the stress and anxiety of having 3 chronic illnesses, a job, business, and personal life. I went to Cal State Northridge and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Family & Consumer Sciences Education. But I ultimately decided to not teach in a school so that I could become a Certified Reiki Master & Sound Healer! Now a bit about my journey and what led me here… Read  more>>

Nhi Ong

It was 107°F degrees. I felt heat stroke setting in, but I COULD NOT turn on the A/C. With no job, a newborn baby, and very little money; cooling the air just wasn’t an option. I felt like a complete failure. I landed my dream job, North American marketing manager for an international company with a great boss who gave me the freedom to do what I do best; try new things and make them work to build sales and market share. I got married, bought a house with my husband and was thrilled to welcome my daughter into this world…and then, my world fell apart. Our company was bought out by a multi-national and they closed down our American operation. Overnight, I lost almost everything. A glimmer of hope came when my former boss and I decided to create a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) focused marketing agency together. The idea was ambitious…too ambitious. Read more>>

Helena Brana

I am a European Interior Designer and founder of Brana Designs, an interior design studio. Originally from Prague, Czech Republic, I was born into a humble and artistic family. My father was an architect (retired) and my mother is a painter. Living in Europe I had the opportunity to travel around the world extensively. The wide variety of natural world I enjoyed, combined with many styles of architecture I was exposed to later became the inspiration for my business. I studied economics and political science before eventually returning to my passion, interior design. I started to work as a designer in 2016 in Prague, where at that time, there was, and still is, a huge gap in the industry between interior designers and architects with limited market demand and opportunities for independent designers. Once I moved permanently to Corona del Mar, a beautiful community in Newport Beach, I soon noticed it was the complete opposite: architects and designers commonly collaborate & there are huge market opportunities. I also noticed quite a surprising gap for such market. Read more>>

LaDàna Drigo

My story began in The Commonwealth of Dominica (West Indies). I’m a proud Créole native and was raised in Guadeloupe: an island in the French Antilles. My family roots stem from Martinique and Scotland. I relocated later in my formative years to Fort Bragg. Yes. I’m a former military brat. Proud of it! My story centers on my (then) charity organization prior to it becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Myfairygodparents.org was born out of the fact that I had to send my daughter overseas due to us becoming homeless. It was a difficult situation for me and I take full responsibility for my financials not being what they needed to be. Just a little background here, while my daughter was overseas, I relocated from Charlotte, NC to the Washington, D.C. metro area. Read  more>>

Hai Nguyen

When I meet with clients, I can always tell they are surprised to see a dude. With the business called Elise Films, they were expecting to meet with a lady named Elise and they get me. I always have to tell them they are not being catfished. To explain this, let’s dive into my origin story. As long as I can remember, I’ve always been the kid who likes to save little keepsakes that link to a special moment or memory. Whether it be a toy action figure or a heart-shaped rock a friend gave me, I treasure these items because they have emotional value. When I began filming with my mother’s cameracorder at the age of five, I realize that memories can serve as a time capsule which can be shared and enjoyed forever. I was the oldest of 6 boys and we were raised by a single “tiger” mom — she was born in the year of the tiger as well as being a strict, no-nonsense woman. She taught us we can overcome any adversity through hardwork. Read more>>

Lucy Cano

Growing up I was always surrounded by various types of pets; from birds, bunnies to dogs. Over time my love for animals grew to a point of compassion and eventually understanding them. Later in life, I decided to volunteer at my local shelter and realized the limited amount of resources that were available. Then, the pandemic hit; and soon doors were eventually starting to close for volunteers. I couldn’t help but to feel saddened and helpless. Worried about all the pups, worried that things were going to get worse. I knew I had to do something to help and quickly! It was this moment that fueled a passion. The idea of Lovely Pawz was born, inspired by all those angels in the shelters. We wanted to create something fun for the fur babies and their humans. After much thought we felt there were multiple areas to contribute; from dog collars, bandanas, treats, toys and accessories. Monthly, we donate a proceed to shelters or rescue. Lovely Pawz has many future plans to flourish and make a bigger impact. Read more>>

Konstance Armstrong

When I was pregnant with my eldest son almost 16 years ago, I collaborated with a friend to organize my very first baby shower at work. After that, friends and family alike were eager to have me assist with their social gatherings. They complimented on how amazing and unique my birthday parties and baby showers were. That’s where I fell in love with coordinating all the aspects of special gatherings. Years later, as other coworkers started to have gatherings at work, I became the go-to person for all social gatherings at work. I love meeting new people, coming up with clever design ideas and even creating new decor pieces out of unconventional items. I never thought this could be a career choice because I already had a secure full-time job. When the pandemic hit, the gatherings at work came to a halt. I had no creative outlet and felt very trapped not being able to express myself creatively. Read more>>

Mark Ledbetter

My story of motivation and success actually begins at a very low point of tragedy in my life that occurred at the age of 19. I was a young, ambitious, and admittedly somewhat naive graphic design student just finishing my 1st year of college. I actually worked on campus as a receptionist for the student councilors & was beginning to become more well known around campus because of it. I was good at my job and I enjoyed assisting new students with the registration process. Sadly this all came to an abrupt end on November 15th, 2010. A day that would change my life forever. A day that began as any other at that point in my life; waking up late and rushing off to work and classes. However, I wouldn’t arrive to my destination that day. Instead, due to hazardous road conditions, my own lack of time management, and a single careless driver, I would spend that day with two fractured cervical vertebrae, a deflated lung, and receiving 134 staples to keep me held together. In layman’s terms: I flipped my car 6 times and broke my neck. Read more>>

Zahira Pivaral

It has not been an easy road to get to where I’m at. I’ve had to go through a lot of pain, hardships and lessons learned to be the REALTOR® that I am today. It’s those things that have made me get the drive, compassion, and desire to serve and help others in my career now. I chose to be a stay-home-mom for about 10 years while my kids were little. During the time of the 2008-2011 recession, we lost both our homes to foreclosure as my husband’s job was directly impacted. We basically became “homeless” for a few times and if it wasn’t for good friends who took us into their homes, who knows what would’ve happened to our family. During the years of the recession, there were hardly any jobs available so it was really rough to find a job for my husband and I. The amounts of stress, tension and frustration we were living took over our family and marriage! Read more>>

Paulina Toledo

I started as a blogger on August 1, 2008 when I was a dentistry student looking to put dentistry content that did not exist on the internet for students. By 2015, I started to make video content for YouTube, always with the aim of educating in oral health, for patients, students and dentists. To date, I continue to be moved by educating the entire population in oral health and bringing scientifically based dental educational content to the Internet and I love what I do very much. Read more>>

Omar Santana

My story as a coach or player developer, started when I was 4 years old and I started playing at the junior soccer academy in Mexico City that was part of the professional team my father played for in the 70s, Pumas UNAM. There, my love for the sport started growing as a young kid. Later on, I moved to the US when I was 16 and continue to play at the High School, College and club levels. In 2008 I had the opportunity to take over as a head coach of a youth team in San Bernardino. It was a U16 team that played at the Silver Elite level in the youth club. From 2008-2011 was head coach and assistant coach of a few different teams. However, I noticed something was a little bit off, the people in charge of the clubs, the directors, etc. didn’t care for the players as much as they cared for the business side of it. I was ready for a change. Read more>>

Magda Banach

Since I was a kid, I liked all creative activities – in elementary school art classes, as a teenager, I was quite intensively developing my passion in photography. I also remember that I loved to play The Sims! Life simulator itself didn’t interest me, I was more fascinated with the process of building and decorating houses in the game (I wonder how many designers found their passion for design this way?). As a child, but also nowadays, whenever I traveled, I was most interested in the architecture of the places I was visiting, and a trip to a museum or gallery was a must. Creativity, beauty, art – they have always been present and important in my life and therefore I felt that there must be a place for it in my career. Interior design became a natural combination of everything I mentioned. On top of that, for as long as I can remember I’ve been saying that I wanted to have my own business. That’s how I’m here – running my own interior design studio. Read more>>

Dmitriy Hanuka

In 2017, my wife was pregnant with our second child, while I was the director of product management for a memory card manufacturer. I had many great achievements at my job at the time: I directed the launch of dozens of innovative products, served as the products’ champion, traveled the country organizing tradeshows and visiting key clients, and collaborated with sales and marketing teams to get more business and brand awareness. All the hard work paid off as we were selling to Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and even landed one of our products into Apple stores. Although I was able to find success in this corporate environment, I was not happy with the corporate culture. Often the hard work of core employees was unrecognized, some undeserving individuals overstepped others to advance in the ladder, and worst of all, in the name of “maximum profits” many were victims to unfair layoffs. It was clear to me that this company was not motivated by moral values, and I was not in the position to steer it in the right direction. Read more>>

Lauren Ramos

I have been a licensed hairstylist for the past ten years. I graduated at beyond 21st beauty academy and when I started off in this business it was very hard & tuff to build my clients. Doing hair is very natural to me but I learned a lot in the salon when I came out. I also did volunteer work, I used to cut hair for $8 when I was learning men’s/women’s hair. There were many times when I wanted to quit. I thought this is too hard how am I going to learn this how am I going to get out there and have people trust me since I was also very shy. Thought time I learned, changed, and grown so much. I learned to build customer service and do amazing hair. Hair that makes people feel amazing and happy some people who are going through tuff times even depression and when they step out of my chair they are so happy I’ve had some in tears cause they felt so much better about themselves. I have met so many great amazing people and have great clients, I also got to be a product knowledge educator for two years with moroccanoil where I was going to different salons and teaching product knowledge to stylists. Read more>>

Kori Hayne

I began doing makeup on friends/family in 2014 and did my first wedding. I began working for Urban Decay Cosmetics and after that I transitioned to working for a bridal salon where I did in studio makeup appointments and weddings. In this time I decided I wanted to go to esthetician school – I struggled with my acne beginning in 6th grade. I knew amazing makeup started with good skincare. I joined a bridal hair and makeup team in Orange County whom I did countless weddings with while I was doing facials at Massage Envy Spa. From here I moved by myself to WA state where I worked for MAC cosmetics as a part-time artist at their pro store and I worked with another amazing bridal team who kept me very busy while I was there. I moved back to CA and worked for a medical spa in San Clemente full time and still continued doing makeup on the side. In Dec. 2022 I left the medspa I was working at full time and began pursuing my freelance makeup biz full time!! I am so passionate about makeup and making other women feel more confident with the power of makeup. Read more>>

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