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Pasadena’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 Pasadena’s gems below.

Stephen Scott Day

Last year when the pandemic was first kicking off and all these film projects were getting shut down or delayed, I like a lot of other people started considering other ways to make a living. And honestly, other ways to stay creatively satisfied. I started working on an animated series that could be produced largely by myself but also I could build a remote team if I needed. But then I got to fiddling with game development and that really took over my life. I started a YouTube channel sharing all my experiences and everything I learned, talking about some of the games I made by that point. I was also taking some online courses for copywriting, thinking I could maybe supplement income by writing copy, something I was already doing unofficially and figured I could take it a little more seriously. Read more>>

Yuya Parker

Art was an important part of my upbringing. My mother was the owner of a store that sold beautiful art and textiles, and my grandmother was skilled at traditional calligraphy and ikebana (Japanese flower arranging). I enjoyed photography when I was young but originally planned on studying landscape design. I moved to Los Angeles to begin my college studies, and that’s when my passion for photography became clear. I got excited about photographing all of the colorful and delicious baked goods I would see around Los Angeles, and in the process, I started to get a lot of positive feedback about my photographs. I decided to study photography and enrolled at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. I now have a career in photography that I love. I’ve recently done photography for companies including Starbucks, Smirnoff, and Airbnb. I’ve also photographed for many companies that are doing exciting and innovating things. For example, I recently worked with one company that makes reusable shopping bags from ocean waste and another that makes cat treats from lab-grown meat. Read more>>

Shanelle Dandy

I am an author, entrepreneur, realtor, and mother from Pasadena, California. Growing up was a bit rough for me. I wasn’t afforded the luxury of growing up with both parents. At the age of 3, my mother passed away, and shortly after, my father went to prison, so the average upbringing was not my reality. Once my father was released from prison, life changed for the better. Within a year, my father built a business, and we went from sharing a room in my aunt’s home to buying our own. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a businesswoman. Seeing my father build a foundation from scratch and becoming a mother to my son, Desmond, were vital moments in my life. I currently reside in the Inland Empire, helping homeowners and future homeowners in Real Estate. I launched Shanelle Sells California in 2018 after passing the Real Estate Exam. Working as an assistant under top producing Realtors sparked my interest, and my Real Estate career started to blossom from there. Read more>>

Tora Woloshin

I was born in LA and raised by my mother in Arizona as her only child and met my father when I was seven. My father and I always had a back and forth complicated relationship and my mother is my best friend who has done everything and anything to support me. I grew up doing 4-H and being around animals and horses. I had a few traumatic experiences growing up. At 13, I experienced the death of a loved one for the first time and took it pretty hard. She was a dear friend of mine whom I had spent most of my childhood in a dance program with. Soon after that, when I was 14, I was raped by my first real boyfriend. At 15, I put together my first band. We played alternative rock music and toured. I then got my GED and auditioned for American Idol. Around that same age, I got my first jobs; one at a music store and the other as a cook in a cafe. I began dating a guy who played guitar and I started another alt. rock band and toured again. Read more>>

Saidy Yu

Since the age of eleven, the beauty life chose me. I remember getting into trouble over hiding and playing makeovers with my little sister Stephaine and my cousin Teresa in San Francisco. I would always get into my mother’s cosmetic bag. I would love to read her fashion magazines. I always admired my mother’s beauty growing up in the 90’s. It was that very moment I knew I had to be a beauty artist. I come from very humble beginnings I have a big Mexican family that keeps me grounded most importantly. I was taught from an early age that you can’t accomplish anything without hard work. I am a licensed professional with so much experience tu sabes sazón. I won’t throw out any names or brands. I just know that I worked for some of the best artists, companies and apprenticeship top-line beauty artists. I feel so grateful for all the opportunities for every experience in my beauty journey. Looking back into my story, all the things I’ve ever been through have taught me a lesson have shaped me into the artist I am now in present time. I currently own my business a high-end loft salon. Read more>>

Waldo Yan

For more than two decades, I watched my parents operate Tasty Food, a Chinese restaurant in San Gabriel that, like so many of the city’s best restaurants, kept a dream alive in a new land by recreating memories of home, now thousands of miles away. I saw the woks red with every order. I heard the knives gliding along the chopping block. But for the most part, I waited for the keys to rustle in the door back home. Running a mom-and-pop restaurant is hard. The hours are long and non-negotiable. Cooking can become little more than a means to an end. But embedded in the struggle is a beautiful driving force. My fondest childhood memories are of Tuesday nights. That was when my mother, after a full day’s work, would prepare a meal for the family to enjoy together — the purest way she knew how to communicate her love and care. Read more>>

Mara Chhea

The Chheas Kitchen started last year in September to be exact in the test phase but officially to the masses in October. I actually got laid off from my close best friend’s startup technology recruitment firm. We were technical recruiters with huge brands recruiting engineers into the top 10% of talent in startup land. Being let go at a company, I saw myself building to a multi-million company and having to let that go? It was a lot for me to unpack as a young adult. But, I am thankful for all this because The Chheas Kitchen was born bringing Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp into my home and my communities homes one colossal shrimp at a time. I definitely went through a spiritual awakening, I started to do all my passions again and connected with my creative nature. I’ve been cooking since I was 12 years old but in an Asian household, it was never seen as a career choice because of its unlivable wages and culture. So I took the traditional route, got a healthcare degree and got recruited to be in sales and it was game over after that. I stayed in mostly business development and recruiting most of my corporate career. Read more>>

Robert Lo

Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, boba tea shops were the go to spot for all students. As we spent most of our time hanging out at these boba shops, I dreamt that one day I will be able to open a boba shop to serve the students of the community. After leaving a career in the medical billing field, we found a sushi restaurant that was for sale that is located fairly close to a few schools. We opened our doors in November of 2014. We were struggling for the six months since we opened when it was near the holidays and most people were at the mall or shopping outlets. Near the middle of 2015, we started to gain the attention of more people in the community. Even to this day (August 2021), we still see guests from when we first opened in 2014, and that really touches us!!. Read more>>

Melinda Duong

I started baking in 2004, 11 years old me just loved to bake and my family wasn’t big on sweets. I would buy those preshaped cookies and bake cake mix cupcakes to bring to my middle school friends. During college it was the same, I would bake for my roommates and people around my apartment complex. I just had a need to bake and was glad for anyone to try my baked goods. Fast forward to November 2020, I was 27 years old & just had my first baby in July. I was working a full-time job 8-5 pm while taking care of my daughter Ivy. After a long day, I felt like I needed a break & started to get back into baking. I would stay up late researching and testing different recipes. I first started with making ube brownies, they’re our best seller. I would test different ways of making them, such as various temperatures, using melted VS chilled butter, amount of ube flavoring until I was able to perfect it making them lightly sweetened, fudgey & just enough ube taste. Read more>>

Abby Harned

We (Abby and Jason Harned) met while studying in the college of agriculture at Cal-Poly Pomona and we dreamed of starting a small, organic farm. While living and working in Orange County, we purchased 20 acres of bare land in Redlands (Abby’s hometown). After building our straw bale home, we began planting our first crops in 2008. At 2 acres, we realized we had struck a good balance of work for our small family. Our two kids are now 12 and 15 and they are a tremendous help after growing up with planting, cultivating and harvesting on a small scale. We now operate a 30-member CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and attend one farmer’s market in Redlands. Read more>>

Kurman Lam

I started writing songs when I was a senior in high school. It started with just two tunes. I wrote about a girl who didn’t like me back, and I performed it in front of my schoolmates. It was one of the proudest moments in my life, and in hindsight, it kicked off my career. After a few months, I finished my first 15 songs which I considered making them into my first album. They weren’t great, but I thought I have reached the limit of my writing skills. I never did pursue that album, and after starting school at Pasadena city college, I began to think outside the box. As a Jazz major, I was inspired to mix the basics of pop music with classics, creating a sound I did not think was possible. I wrote 60+ songs that year and was constantly rethinking and reorganizing my setlist. At the end of the year, I chose 12 songs that fit the same storyline and style and created “my hours in her life.” Read more>>

Gabriel Garcia

Unlaced originally began as a podcast years ago. After a lengthy hiatus, we returned to the Youtube platform in 2019. With a change in mentality and aspiration to succeed, we wanted to bring a holistic approach to our channel that consisted of great and intentional branding. Once our new logo was created, we knew that we could go beyond the realm of simple “merch” for the podcast and could really tackle the world of streetwear. Immediately we knew we had to be different and bring a fresh approach to an industry full of amazing and talented brands. This is where we decided to really stick to our roots as sneakerheads and create an outlet of apparel that is influenced by the prolific world of sneakers and its intricate impact within pop culture. We all grew up in the era of graphic-heavy streetwear and because it was what we wore day in and day out, Unlaced began to organically shape itself into this embodiment, if you will, that pays homage to the founding heavyweights of this now extremely popular subculture-gone-mainstream. Read more>>

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