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South LA’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 South LA’s gems below.

Shardel Hodge Matthews

I was born in Culver City and raised in West Athens with my mom and older brother. I was the baby of the family due to having an older sister on my dad’s side. My mom was an amazing independent woman who, although I still don’t know-how, was able to give my brother and I the world. We were cultured and traveled all over the world. She made sure that we learned compassion and empathy for others. I saw my dad and older sister bi-weekly on the weekends. Growing up was culturally interesting for me. My mom is West Indian from Anguilla, BWI and my dad is West African from Cameroon. I was born a first-generation American. My parents had different experiences growing up that led them to America for a better life and they had high expectations for me. My mom made sure that I had everything I needed to make it to whatever goal I wanted for myself. Of course, as a kid, I just wanted to be like her. Read mroe>>

Edward Hurtado

I started making music professionally during the pandemic back in 2020. I had released my first single “Now or Never” on all streaming platforms and a few weeks after that, my single got a slot on one of The Game’s mixtape series “Game Time” Vol 2. After releasing a few singles after that, I released my EP “I Am Edward Hurtado” featuring The Game and Fat Joe. Read more>>

Lissette Roca

I grew up in NYC and enlisted in the US Army after High School. I spent five years active duty and 3.5 years in the Reserves/National Guard. After my enlistment was over, I struggled to find a job. I basically hopped around from job to job for years. I moved to LA to help my brother expand his business to the west coast. That lasted about four and half years and I decided to move back to NYC. I always had an interest in programming so I decided to teach myself software development. I did some freelance work for a while building websites and I really enjoyed it. After some studying and a great opportunity with a job that provided a little OJT, I landed a job as a software tester for Barclays, then moved on to be a software developer with USAA. In the middle of my transition to USAA from Barclays, I went through one of the toughest times of my life. I was struggling with every aspect of my life at that point and tried everything I could to get myself back on track. Read more>>

Tiaunna Koonce

As a child, I would watch my mother glamorize her client as a professional hairstylist. They would leave feeling beautiful and that’s what inspired me to start my journey as a stylist. It took a while but later I obtained my cosmetology license. I noticed the older generations having a hard time being transported to hair salons. So I decided I’ll be the one to make it easier for them and I came up with the idea to open a mobile hair salon that comes to you. It has an added wheelchair lift, I can accommodate all including those with special needs. Read more>>

Arpege Lundyn

It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly how I got to where I am today, yet, without knowing the specifics, I always knew I would get here. I had many interests growing up and I was fortunate enough to have parents that were supportive in all of my dreams. They told me I could do anything, so I wanted to do everything. With all the options I saw available to me, my most prominent influence was in creation and art. It was the most abundant life source you could find in my home and I knew it had to be a part of me forever. My first love has always been dance. I know I wouldn’t be here today if not for it being my main source of light. As a shy child, it allowed me to open up and express different sides of me. From there the inner creative was unleashed. I started singing and acting in elementary school, teaching myself guitar and dabbling in music production in middle school, and by high school I started visual arts, editing, and directing. Read more>>

Karla Paola Moran

I started of at age 15 I fell in love with makeup, I always had the upper hand I loved to draw makeup is like the same art, when I turned 16 I started working at the mall as a salesperson / Makeup artist I work there for two years got a lot of skills to work with different skin type, I decided as 17 years old almost 18 I wanted to put my own business, so I did as a young woman it was a bit hard at first didn’t know much didn’t have free time as other teenagers. I was seeing other teenagers out partying on the weekend mean while I was at my shop all day, now that I had been in business for five years so worth every tear every stress now that I’m 23 and fully booked started teaching makeup classes added more services like eyebrow threading, eyebrow lamination, hair extensions, hairstyles. I love what I do I make people feel extra beautiful! Read more>>

Sophia Flot-Warner

I’ve had a passion for acting since before I knew what a passion was. I watched shows as a child that other children did not. PBS, Dr. Who, Star Trek, Jacques Cousteau, relishing that sense of adventure and wonder. As an adult, I began dabbling in church and community theater and my love for the art of acting grew. I gave it up for a while for what I believed were religious reasons, but had it given back to me through a church drama ministry. I worked at the University of Houston for 11 years and did plays here and there for quite a while. My daughter went off to NY to study musical theater and God said let’s take your acting career to the next level. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant at the time, but a few months later I was on my way to LA to pursue my acting career. It’s a whole story in itself the way God lined things up for me. Read more>>

Keira Leake

I’m 29 years old I live in Los Angeles California. I am a Dancer/Nail tech who loves and enjoys what I do. I started dancing in high school and stopped for a minute until I graduated and started back when I got to college I went to El Camino College in Torrance for dance in 2013 and just continue to dance I’m trained in modern hip-hop jazz etc. In about 2016 is when I started to do nails I started off doing my own nails and after perfecting my craft I decided to go to school to get certified to become a nail technician in order to work in a shop or open up a shop and take more clients. As of today, my nail business have grown it will continue to grow as long as I can continue to put in The work and that also goes for dance as well although my business and career is going well deep down inside I know that God has something better for me so I’m always striving to push for the best And always willing to unlearn to relearn to grow. Read more>>

Cynthia Scheines

Dr. Cynthia Scheines earned her D.D.S. degree (1997), her Master’s in Periodontics (2001) and her Ph.D. in Dentistry (2005) in Argentina. She earned her certificate in Periodontics at the Oregon Health and Science University, Portland in 2015 and was awarded her Board Certification in 2016. She has been in private practice and active in teaching for the past 20 years. An Assistant Professor in Argentina, she continued to teach while in Oregon and was an Assistant Professor at the Department of Periodontics, Oregon Health & Science University relocating to California in 2017 to become an Assistant Professor at the Advanced Specialty Education Program in Periodontics, School of Dentistry, Loma Linda University, CA where she still currently teaches part-time. Read more>>

Anahi Ibarra

I grew up between the streets of Injustice and Community. Right where beauty and struggle meet. I’m from an area known as South Central, Los Angeles. I was raised by a single mother in a multi-family household where we were often 10-15 people deep living in two-bedroom apartments, all too familiar with food and housing insecurity. Drug abuse and domestic violence were my childhood companions. You see, there is a certain duality that comes with being from a place like South Central. I could talk all day long about the trauma and hurt that comes from the death and violence in our community. I could talk all day long about the history of redlining and how it perpetuates the injustices that we see till this day. I could talk about our underfunded schools, the policing of our neighborhoods, the racial profiling, the lack of resources. I can talk all day long about the stereotypes and how they hurt. Read more>>

Jennifer Laird

VICI Wellness, Inc., is a women-owned and operated company run by Jennifer Laird and Kymbirley Brake. They have worked with one another for over eight years and started VICI Wellness in 2018. Jennifer was excited when she first learned about topical patches and has been in the topicals business for 8+ years. She has strong beliefs in natural remedies and healing as her first option and wished to bring that to the table through education and products to consumers. Kymbirley is a single mom with a special needs child. Her daughter, Lexi, suffers from Dandy Walker Syndrome, Autism, ODD, and epilepsy. Kymbirley helped start Vici Wellness to create a trustworthy brand to help others overcome pain, anxiety, and the overall stress of life. Her vision for Vici Wellness is to help create a lifestyle of unique health and wellness products that are multifaceted with their functions. She also is the founder and CEO of a 501(c)3 non-profit, Kiley Alexis Benefit, which helps low-income families with special needs children. Read more>>

Kenia Parada

My name is Kenia Beatriz Parada, I am 26 years old and my birthday is August 18! I am a Leo and I’d like to think I am where I am because of my ambition and positivity. I like to train my mind to always think of the best outcomes when it comes to my business. I started liking makeup at the age of 13. I was so young and at the era shaving your eyebrows and painting them dark black was the thing! I was growing up in my early teenage years in Lynwood, CA and in that pretty brown house on Euclid st. I decided to shave my eyebrows off one day during my shower. I came out terrified because I looked so funny, I knew for a fact my mother would kill me and so she nearly did. She couldn’t believe what I did. Can you imagine that, your 13 years old daughter coming out of her bath with no eyebrows! Hilarious right. Well after that day I started exploring makeup products to now create brows for myself. Eyebrows led to experimenting with eyeliner and mascara and there began my journey with makeup. Read more>>

1 Comment

  1. Jane

    October 9, 2019 at 03:32

    JBalloonFiesta is a hand made shop run by an great woman with an amazing story

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