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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.

Shanina Madrigal

My family moved around a lot when I was younger, and this meant always being the new kid at school. I was insanely shy as a child and was definitely bullied for it. You’d think the mean kids would leave the quiet kid alone, but for some reason that just made me an even bigger target. I was constantly being told that there was something wrong with me because I wouldn’t talk. Kids would pretend to be my friend only to lock me in the bathroom and abandon me. I was definitely left with some deep emotional scars, feeling like I was nothing, like I couldn’t just be myself. Art was my way out of that darkness. Read more>>

Jonathan Julio

I am 43 years old. Born in San Jose, CA. My parents are both from the Philippines. They moved to California in the mid-70’s. My father was in the navy so we traveled a bit. We lived in Oahu-Hawaii, Japan and California. I am a father of two amazing boys. (Ages 5 and 2) I met my wonderful wife in Munich, Germany. Viola Weckbach Julio. I am very lucky I found street skating (inline) in the early 90’s. In the mid 90’s inline skating was at its highest point in popularity. The extreme sport of inline skating was at its early beginnings but widely popular globally. Read more>>

Phil Lee

The story of my photography career starts in the Summer of 2016. After graduating from college, I took about a year off to find an answer to the question a lot of people seem to ask in their early 20’s: what do I want to do? Though I had a degree in Sociology with intentions to pursue law, I had a gut feeling it wouldn’t be what I wanted to spend the rest of my life chasing. Around that said Summer, I picked up a filler job to pass the time, pocket some cash, and hopefully find an answer to that question I was asking myself. Read more>>

Mai-Han Do

Growing up in an Asian household influenced my art. How so? With the new generation of developing new ideas with colorful attitudes, there are still some traditions valued in modern art today. As an artist, sometimes the mixed lifestyle of adhering to traditional values and balance with modern ethics was a challenge. During the transformation, there were everyday arguments and secret rebellious acts my siblings and I shared here and there as an everyday lifestyle. Nevertheless, in result we agreed our ideas are different but share one rule in common: keep busy. The to-do list will never be empty because there are just so many things to accomplish whether big or small. Everything is a goal, and my goal is to become an inspirational animator and an imaginative artist. Read more>>

Don Nguyen

Creativity has always been a part of my life. Growing up, I played the piano (like many other Asian kids) and the electric guitar. But it was never enough to simply learn and play others’ songs, so I began songwriting and recording music. Toward the end of high school, I realized that I could use YouTube as an outlet to express my creativity. I created a YouTube channel with my cousin, Brian, and under the moniker DoubleTake, we started making music videos. YouTube was my first real experience branching out of my comfort zone. Read more>>

Alfonso Ramirez

Ever since I was a kid, I had been fortunate enough to know what I wanted to do with my life. Unfortunately, I lived in a place in where the resources that could help me get started on that dream were scarce, close to none-existent or unknown to me. I grew up in the city of Guadalajara in Mexico in where most of my days were divided into going to school, playing some sort of sport (soccer dominated that section often), learning the electric keyboard and English. However, I remembered always having this urgency to make time or use the little breaks I had in between activities to daydream about stories that I could write and turn into movies. I would pace endlessly in my room (I still do) – bouncing from one wall to another – imagining characters played by actors I admired, dealing with situations that created suspense, laughter, tears, etc. Read more>>

Chris Bjerre

I was born in South Korea and adopted by Danish parents when I was a couple of years old. I have been drawing since before I could walk and have spent countless hours doing pencil renderings of my favorite Sunday morning cartoons and comic books. As a teenager, I kept drawing and thought that I would eventually become an illustrator or a painter. But after high school, I got rejected by my Design school of choice and I had to recalibrate my mental career path. Not knowing exactly what else to do at the time, I randomly signed up for a two years multimedia design course at a trade school. Read more>>

MeMe Thepratta

As a young mom at 17, I really didn’t have a modern women role model. I found the motivation in my kids to progress in life – starting with going to college right after HS and obtaining a degree in business. Throughout my whole young adult life, I’ve always wanted to own my own business and/or be an advocate somehow but life always got in the way and I just didn’t know how to get there… My self-esteem was low, but I knew I could do more and be more with the little resources given to me. Two children later, a new husband (insert laughing face) and many jobs – doing well at the most current one, but always wanting something more. That something more has come into the form of starting a business/organization for women by women. I’ve always been that friend most would come to for life, legal, and business advice. Read more>>

Angelica Mendoza

I was born in Mexico City. I came to the USA when I was seven years old. Growing up was a bit challenging for a child whose native language was Spanish. At that time, we did not have enough bilingual classes to help us. I grew up with a single mother of four. My mother would work seven days a week from sunrise to sunset to be able to provide food and housing for us. I learned at a young age how to resilient and lead by example for my younger brothers and sisters. I learned what it meant to have a strong work ethic and never to use current circumstances as a barrier to obtaining a bright future. Read more>>

Naz Tadjbakhsh, Ph.D.

When attending college, I initially wanted to be a teacher. I am an inherently curious person who loves to learn. I believe that this has something to do with why I have always been attracted to doing something related to teaching and helping others. During my third year of college, I began volunteering in an elementary school. This was when I realized that I absolutely loved teaching. At the same time, however, I did not feel in my heart of hearts that teaching in a school setting was “it” for me. This caused me to research and explore other potential career paths, which was ultimately how I discovered the field of Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology. Read more>>

Keisha Tates

I am a country girl from Houston, TX who grew up in a small family with my mom, dad, and a younger brother. I entered straight into corporate America at the age of 19 and grew deep roots with the Fortune 5 company, United Health Group, as an Operations Director and Client Management. The young age that I entered corporate America came out of a mix of necessity and opportunity. The necessity came from being given the privilege to raise my 3-year-old Goddaughter. I worked for United Health Group as a contact center representative and made my ascension of the corporate ladder quick by becoming a team leader, special project trainer, regional supervisor, acquisition liaison manager to Operations Director. Although I loved managing and developing leaders in the corporate world. Read more>>

Arlette Madenlian

My story begins the night my family and I fled on a small fishing boat bound for safety… I was born in Beirut, Lebanon to Armenian parents. In 1976 during the Lebanese civil war my family and I escaped in the middle of the night on a fishing boat bound for Cyprus. We found refuge in a convent and then later moved to Athens, Greece. Few months later, we permanently migrated to Australia where I grew up and then life brought me to California. I am extremely grateful and blessed to have experienced the best of the world and its cultures which helped shape the person I have become today and most importantly the positive influences it has had on my work. Read more>>

Brea Holmes

Holmes is a St. Louis native who moved to Riverside, CA to pursue her career as a Costume Designer. She attended Woodbury University in Burbank, CA receiving her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Fashion Design with an emphasis in Costume Design in 2016. Since graduating, Holmes has worked on numerous projects in Theatre, Film, and TV. In addition, she has been a Costume Designer for every medium from music videos to feature films. She has also had the pleasure for working for companies such as Tidal, Universal Music Mexico, TNT, and Lionsgate. Read more>>

Janay Frazier

It was 2015, I was a full-time interior design student and a full-time bartender. I had a project where I had to create and design a unique restaurant experience. At that time, I was thinking a lot about my end goals. I had been bartending for four years and knew I didn’t want to be in my 40s behind the bar, but I loved the creative freedom I had by creating drinks. While I was brainstorming ideas for my project, I thought of an alcohol-infused ice cream shop. Read more>>

Helene Kay

I’ve always been weird, and for a while, it was hard not having a place to channel all that awkward energy. Luckily, I had one of those inspiring English teachers, like in every teen movie. Freshman year in high school, Mr. Jones came up to me and told me about this new theater club they were starting called “Comedysportz.” I showed up, and something just clicked. Suddenly, people liked what I had to say instead of cringing from second-hand embarrassment. Senior year I was in a journalism class, and my teacher told me to stop writing jokes in my articles because “We weren’t writing the script to Letterman.” Read more>>

Ricky Casioce

I started off playing the saxophone when I was about ten years old and the band teacher, Mr. Watts walked into my classroom inviting more students to join. At first, I was not interested, but then I realized I could get out of class and be with my friends, so I did it. My first choice was going to be trumpet, but because my friend chose saxophone and I knew my cousin had a saxophone that I could borrow, I knew this would work better for me. Read more>>

Christian and Richard Trujillo

This takes us back to 2014 when we had started with the idea. It all began with a bunch of friends of ours making a truck club, which at the time it was called v8ghts. We try getting trademark because they had convinced us to make shirts and did not meet the requirements. One of our friends told us to not quit and keep pushing forward and to kick it up a notch on the name. That was then when the term Cruel came up aka messed up from the USPTO and Revolve to never quit and retry again until you actually get it done. Read more>>

Brittany Rolstad

I am an artist of Korean and Caucasian descent with an absolute love of anything deemed “cute.” I’ve lived in California my entire life, born in Long Beach and raised in the Bay Area, to currently residing in Orange County. Like a majority of artists, I started to focus on art at a young age. Always drawing, even when teachers would mark down my assignments because I’d drawn in the margins of them. This only continued through high school. Read more>>

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