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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.

Tyler Garrett

I first moved to LA right before I went off to boot camp for the Air Force Reserves. When I got back to LA after all my training, every day felt like a vacation and I got wrapped up in that mindset for a few months. I was staying on my friend Robyn Kinney’s couch for a while before I got my own place and that’s when things started shifting for me. I moved to a cute studio off Obispo Ave in Long Beach and I really loved my studio, minus the terrible parking situation. Fast forward to a few months later, I fell into a severe depression. I did not want to wake up most days and even when I did I just had the hardest time. Nothing excited me, I missed that vacation feeling, and I was fed up of working to come home to basically just go back to work. Although I was only 27 at the time (I am now 31 as of April 2021), I felt like I was going through a midlife crisis. This depression led me to finding ways to improve myself and evolve into the best version of me. Read more>>

Lindsey Machado

Although my background and education is in something completely unrelated to design, I’ve always loved anything to do with home decor, remodels or improvements. My whole life, I would constantly rearrange my rooms, redecorate and take so much pride in every space, even helping friends and family along the way. Of course, that also included loving anything HGTV or home-related as entertainment! Then what seems like a lifetime ago, my young family and I were on the hunt for a new home, and I had what felt like an epiphany. I was floored at the condition of some of the houses we looked at: construction and repairs aside, it was like many of the sellers were never even told the difference that preparing their home for sale could make for their wallets. I began toying with the idea of becoming a home stager to help people with the selling process and ended up enrolling in and passing a strenuous home staging & redesign certification course. In 2016, my company Designed With Grace & Joy was born, named after my two precious daughters — Kaylee Grace and Izabel Joy. Read more>>

Ke Yang

I was born and raised in Wuhan, China. From a fair young age, I always kinda know I want to do art-related stuff. My dad told me when I was five, I couldn’t stop doodling on my textbook or even on wall in our house! They never erased what’s on that kitchen wall. I know, parents’ love! I guess that’s when they noticed my interest and brought me to summer art camp. And when I was in middle school, my dad brought home a bunch of DVDs of Miyazaki’s films. I remembered pulling so many all-nighters trying to watch them all. Growing up with Pixar, Gibli films and manga, I know I’m definitely an art nerd! But it wasn’t until high school, when I had to choose a career path, that a thought came to my mind. ‘Yah, maybe I can be an artist’. My dad, knowing I spent way too much time watching animation, brought me some in-depth detail about animation art programs. I was blown away by how fun it looked.  Read more>>

Lauren and Kelly Collins

After graduating college as D1 track and field athletes, Kelly and I both pursued individual career paths that required a lot of travel. We went from working out 3-5 hours/day as athletes to having to fit a quick 30 min workout in before work, in our hotel room, or at the end of our day before running to a client dinner. We knew we needed to find a way to design workouts that were quick and efficient but NOT boring or else we wouldn’t stick to them. We began sharing the workouts we created with one another throughout our travels, and out of that, the idea of SISSFiT was born. We knew we weren’t the only women struggling to get an effective workout done in a short period of time and we wanted to share this with as many women (and men) as we know! We started with downloadable PDF guides and finally launched our app, FASTER by SISSFiT in February 2020. Read more>>

Lily Truong

Our story started the moment we got Odin in February 2020, one month before everything suddenly went downhill for many households, including ours. Jose (my boyfriend) and I were both in really promising places with our jobs at the time, and we were both very excited for our future. We already had our cat, Rikku, but we knew the only thing missing was having a dog in our lives. The country went into lockdown in March 2020 & we both got laid off shortly after. We were doing everything that we needed to do to survive because the last thing we wanted to do was get rid of Odin & Rikku. We’d be okay with cup noodles for lunch & dinner as long as they had everything they needed to stay healthy and well-fed. We struggled and we had to sell a lot of things in our house to sometimes make due, but we stuck it through. Even though our household took a hard hit, there were still some amazing things that happened in 2020 for us. We were welcomed into an amazing, loving community full of like-minded dog people. We connected with many friends from around the world and helped us in our journey. Read more>>

Kiana Hanaoka

Ever since I was little, I’ve always appreciated the simple things in life. It might have had something to do with growing up as an only child; I always had to get creative and find simple ways to keep myself entertained. I’ve always enjoyed being creative both in and out of the kitchen. I’d always see my mom in the kitchen cooking and I would go to the backyard, pick some flowers, cut them up, and arrange it on a plate, pretending to create my own dishes. Fast forward to today, I still love cooking. And even more than that, I love creating simple (aesthetically pleasing) dishes that everyone can make and enjoy at home. Read more>>

Christine Li

Growing up, I have always considered myself a creative person, taking interests in classical literature, writing, filmography, and of course, photography. Growing up in an Asian household, I have also felt torn between pursuing a practical career and one that was more aligned with my passions, which ultimately shaped the path that led me to where I am today. I studied English at UCLA, took a few film classes post-graduation, and self-published a romantic poetry book. In between, I worked in various office jobs (insurance, marketing, recruiting, etc.). However, at the end of the day, photography was one passion that I continued to return to, after it had all with all started with a Sony Cyber-shot that my parents gifted me with when I was in high school, thus allowing me to document my travels and capture countless wonderful memories. Read more>>

Tatiana Dumitru

I was born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, where I worked as an accountant. However, my dream job was always something that would let me get creative and think outside the box. So, after I moved to the Los Angeles area in 2012, I started thinking more seriously about pursuing this dream. I started out as a freelancer, and later on I started building a team of specialists from all over the world. In 2019, I was able to launch my own branding and design agency, PreTee Creative. I’ve had a lot of success so far (both as a freelancer and as a brand specialist) – I’ve worked with small start-ups and Fortune 500 companies and landed features online and in print. While I do love branding and everything creative, what I love – and do – best is develop brand names. After working with 100+ companies to build brand names, I realized I had a knack for creating meaningful, unforgettable names that stand out in key markets. Read more>>

Rey Romero

Las Palmas is a passion project between my dear friend – Sam Gill, and myself – Rey Romero. We met in San Francisco and worked together for a couple of years. One day, Sam came back from spending a weekend in Palm Springs and wondered why there wasn’t a production brewery anywhere in the City of Palm Springs. He suggested we move down and open one. Three years later, here we are. Read more>>

Ed Lee

As kids, my brothers and I grew up in Brasil living above our family restaurant. After we moved to OC, we all had to work. Of all my brothers, I worked the most at my parents’ Chinese restaurant. I was also the only one to work in my eldest brother’s law office and also in the surf industry. In 1988, I was deciding whether to go to law school or start a business. I went on a surf trip to clear my mind and when I came home, I knew I wanted to start a business. The only thing I knew well was surfing and the restaurant business. I convinced my parents and older brother Wing and (later on) my younger brother Mingo to open a restaurant. That was how Wahoo’s Fish Taco was born. Today we have 55 stores nationwide and 1 in Tokyo, Japan. After 2018, I started two other ventures without my brothers: Toast Kitchen & Bakery in Costa Mesa (which is a brunch forward restaurant) and Fill Bakeshop (which sells mochi donuts and mochi cookies) in Costa Mesa. Read more>>

Lili Montes

My entrepreneurial journey began in 2010 at the age of twelve when I invented Catchy Kahootz, a clever little gadget that kept my keys attached to my cell phone. During this time, my parents lost their home during the Great Recession, and my parents could no longer afford to pay for my favorite sports, volleyball and soccer. Determined, I proposed an idea to my parents; what if I made money myself? My parents supportively agreed. I started a babysitting and math tutoring business while selling Catchy Kahootz to friends and family. Within three months, to their surprise, I was able to pay my parents the money to play both soccer and volleyball. Over the next few years, I had grown my business from merely selling to family and friends to selling at local boutiques, sports booths, and even on my website. Catchy Kahootz was doing great locally, but it was time-consuming. After being invited to audition for Shark Tank, Catchy Kahootz was at the point where I needed to scale to the next level but would need to drop everything to make it happen. Read more>>

William Kwak

All throughout high school and college, although I was working out and was relatively in decent shape, I completely disregarded my diet, sleep, and mental health and it wasn’t until my first week of working in the corporate world that I knew I need to make a change. If my lack of focus at work wasn’t a sign that I needed to make a change, the 4 cups of coffee in the morning just to make it through to lunch definitely was. Being so tired and lethargic at work made me re-evaluate my diet and sleep habits. I realized that I couldn’t continue living off the dollar menu at fast-food restaurants, nor could I continue sleeping at 4am as I had done all throughout high school and college. These bad habits that I’ve built up throughout the years were finally catching up to me and it was having a huge toll on my health and performance at work. When I realized this, I had all this motivation to put in 100% of my effort and change everything all at once. I began working out more frequently, meal prepped and brought those meals to work, and was sleeping at 10pm every night and I felt amazing. Everything was going according to plan until my motivation began to run out and I was back to my normal terrible habits within a few weeks. Read more>>

Yuriko Hasegawa

I came alone to the USA from Japan in 1994 and my plan at the time was to live here for five years. However, I felt the weather and culture were suitable for me as if I belonged here. Therefore, I decided to stay here until I found the true reason as to what called me to the US. During my time here, I had the opportunity to babysit one of my friend’s children. This experience reminded me of how I always dreamt of becoming a preschool teacher when I was young. I started as a small in-home daycare in West LA in 2000. We moved to Las Vegas before settling in Orange County, where we Set up our Current Daycare in Irvine, CA, in 2005. In the same year, I had my first child and met Montessori education, and completed the Montessori teacher training program at UCI. Tampopo Club Day Care is a leading provider of high-quality childcare focusing on early childhood education based on Montessori principles. We also emphasize Japanese culture, tradition, and education. Read more>>

Beth Kirby

The idea for Sunshine + Clementine (formerly SunshineBakes) came after my first son was born. I really wanted to change my work structure to a new vision for the future. As a professionally trained and educated pastry chef who ended up working in the corporate world, I dreaded going back to the long work week, commute and leaving my new baby. I was determined to find work that I loved while adjusting to my new family. For several years I had been making wedding cakes and specialty cookies on the weekends while I held my full-time job but I was always thinking, why not make baking my full-time job? HELLO…beyond perfect!! SunshineBakes was created…the perfect outlet for my passion and love of baking all while making my own schedule to include time with my other love my family. My husband, Steve does the accounting along with several other behind the scene jobs and I have an assistant who is amazing. Our business has always specialized in hand-decorated custom cookies and it makes us so happy to provide sweet, beautiful treats for all occasions. Read more>>

Laura Green

Photography always started as a hobby for me. I was shooting ridiculous photos of my friends back in the days of MySpace when it was only about having a new profile photo. We just enjoyed dressing up in our most ridiculous fashion and pretending we were part of America’s Next Top Model. Over the years, people saw my work, and I started getting jobs on the side. My degree is in filmmaking & video production, which isn’t too far off from photography. Because I went to art school, I had a diverse background in video, photo, editing, design, and color theory—all of this sort of plays together in how my work is shot today. I never intended to be a photographer, but as the rise of social media began to play such a dominant role in advertising, it just became an avenue of creativity that I could also pursue a career in. Present-day, I shoot personal work and social media content for personal brands, professionals, small businesses, and restaurants. I’ve expanded my largely dominant portrait portfolio to include things like product and food photography which has been a unique, creative challenge. I am always learning & growing to be the most well-rounded photographer I can be, which makes it a career I can be passionate about for a long time. Read more>>

Connor Shambrook

When I was four, I began piano lessons with my brother and sister. After the first few years, my siblings quit but I was not allowed because my parents and (and grandparents who sponsored my lessons) saw potential and told me if I quit, I could regret it. Looking back, they were definitely right because music has become my greatest passion and without those years of music education, I may have never found it. I was very emotion-driven and still am, so playing piano gave me the ability to turn those emotions into something potentially beautiful; something I could be proud of. At the age of twelve, after taking lessons for about eight years, I wrote my first original piano piece and my first original song. Over the next few years, I wrote a bunch of songs (many of which I am VERY embarrassed over) and played in bands, realizing my love for performance as well. Through playing these shows, I met a few people who began hiring me for toplines and BGVs for all sorts of projects. Read more>>

Michael Shehata

Founder of Therapeutic Builds. Back in the summer of 2009, I was completing my volunteer hours at a pediatric clinic in order to apply to Occupational Therapy school. For those that don’t know, Occupational Therapy is a form of therapy that works with all ages across the life span to assist them in living as independent as possible whether their form of disability is due to an injury, illness or developmental delay. So after a few weeks into volunteering, I noted all kinds of wooden made products for kids used by the clinic to treat fine motor delays. Having grown up around tools and exposed to the hobby life of a handyman, my dad, I came up with an idea to one day make my own custom wooden products to improve the life skills either lost or never gained due to a disability using my training as a future occupational therapist. Read more>>

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