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The Valley’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 the Valley’s gems below.

Brooke and Jacob Town

We met over 20 years ago at The Cracked Crab restaurant in Pismo Beach. We grew up on the central coast and in 2001 we decided to move to San Francisco to attend culinary school and Art school. Being immersed in the SF food scene was inspiring, challenging and offered endless opportunities to learn. Read more>>

Sky Directs

Sky Directs, is a native to Los Angeles, Ca. At a very young age, he expressed leadership and directing. By age 18, Sky was the director and editor of the hit reality show “Life After B2K” for the worldwide known group B2K. Read more>>

Ydaiber Orozco

I was born and bred in Caracas, Venezuela. After obtaining a degree in Hospitality, I came to the US and pursued a career in the Hotel Management industry for many years. While working in hotels, restaurants, and other corporations I was also performing. I was doing theater, commercials, and indie film. Read more>>

Matthew Paetz

Your power is in your story. I lived many lives, none of them I’d describe as normal. After growing up in small rural town in Indiana, I moved across the country and across the pond. There’s not much that I’ve not seen or done in my time on this earth, I have been blessed with experience, friends, flaws, and successes. Read more>>

Shequeta Smith

My first foray into the world of entertainment began in college, at NC State University. I was really into music, so during my sophomore year, I joined the Def Jam street team and interned as their college rep. I interned with Def Jam until graduation. During my internship, I began writing an entertainment. Read more>>

Joylynn Ross

Becoming the CEO & Founder of Path To Publishing, a full literary service provider for writers, authors, entrepreneurs, and CEOs, has been a long journey–almost two decades to be exact. The journey started with me, first, becoming a reader. One day I got my hands on one of my auntie’s grownup books. Read more>>

Tiera Gray

I rejected entrepreneurship, thinking it just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t until I started realizing the value I brought to organizations and the resources I was able to provide friends and family in my network when I began to considered it a possibility. Then, last year there was a viral post going around that said black women. Read more>> 

Troy Slaten

I began working at the age of five. My grandmother met a talent agent while playing cards at a casino in Los Angeles. She convinced the agent to see me. The agent signed me up and sent me on an audition for a commercial. I booked it. My very first audition, no experience. Read more>>

Pete Salgado

The eldest of three raised in San Fernando by a single mother, a dreamer at an early age but was taught the value of education and hard work. Attended SF Mission community college while working full time at In & Out Burger stand with dreams of leaving the small town. Read more>>

Lucius James IV

I am a Photography/Filmmaker and my brand is LAVASA STUDIOS and it means Los Angeles, Vegas, Atlanta, San Antonio. I grew up a military kid because my mother was in the Air Force so I have moved frequently. I was born in Riverside. Read more>>

Kyle Colucci

The way, way back starts in a small, rural town in Northern California called Valley Springs – one of those towns where people ask, “Where are you from?” and you’re like, “You’ve never heard of it” and yet they insist you tell them the specific name [that they’ve inevitably never heard of]. Yes, one of those small towns. Read more>>

Sydney Scotia

When asked what lead to my passion for the entertainment industry, I have to go back to my early dance training. I was shy as a child except when I was on a stage. In 2008, Olympic gold medalist, Olga Korbut, took me with her and two of her gymnastic students to Hong Kong to perform. Read more>>

Jeanette Benitez

It all started with a class assignment in the fall of 2018 to capture my neighborhood on one b&w 36 exposure film roll. When I went out to photograph, I felt very limited to what I call home. I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and went to school in Van Nuys, Valley Glen, and Northridge. Read more>>

Rich Van Tine

I was born and grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York, which a little over an hour upstate from NYC. It’s a fairly small city that mostly thrived off the IBM tech plant and has been mentioned in an episode of FRIENDS and SEX IN THE CITY. Growing up, there wasn’t too much going on in town besides convincing your parents. Read more>>

Kaya Dzankich

I grew up in rural Oregon, surrounded by nature and animals. Since day one, drawing has been my passion and my comfort. As a kid I loved to draw dragonflies, honey bees, butterflies and, to date myself, E.T. When we weren’t inside drawing or building Lego, my younger sister, Angie, and I was outside exploring, building forts. Read more>>

Devon Mares

My name is Devon Mares and I created ‘Coach Kody” and Building Blocks Entertainment in 2017 with the help of my friend, Jared Oluwa. Born and raised in LA, we both began professionally teaching in 2010. Jared was a preschool teacher at the Charles Drew Development Center in Compton. Read more>>

Nichola Mottram

To take you way back to the beginning, we are going to go back to freshman year in high school. At this point, I had no interest in makeup, to be completely honest. I was an athlete and found that I never had any use for it since I was always playing soccer. Read more>>

Todd Pritchard

I picked up the guitar when I was 13 and started to take it more serious in my later years of high school. Went to college for music education and after some field experience, I couldn’t see myself teaching in the school system long term. Ended up moving to Philadelphia doing gigs and teaching on the side for a few years. Read more>>

Joshua (B’kem) Nwosu

In Los Angeles, California I started my instrumental journey of playing the drums which in turn kick-started my musical career. At first, I didn’t take it quite seriously, I went by a variety of names. First as Megaman, turtle (not by choice), tragic, however. Read more>>

Akeem Mair

Akeem was born on Friday, September 16, 1988, in Pasadena, California, at the Huntington Hospital to entrepreneur Erol James Mair and Queen Alice Mair, a public service professional. Akeem was named after Eddie Murphy’s character, Prince Akeem, from the 1988 box office hit Coming to America. He is the oldest of four siblings. Read more>>

Maria Guzman

I just knew I wanted to do start something for myself and my family. So I started sewing makeup bags. I had taken some sewing and pattern making classes before but quit for some reason. I always knew I wanted to do something with sewing. Read more>>

Ronald Johnson

It all started in prison (5 yrs state – 6 yrs federal) I started working out three times a day. I got out started a rainy in the park a friend of mines Greg Parker (real estate investor) let me use one of his buildings to run fitness classes out of it. I then went to community college to further my education and became certified as a personal trainer. Read more>> 

Armin Nasseri

I have been a fan of stories and visual arts since my early childhood. I am a first-generation Iranian-American that grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. My father is an architect and a talented painter and I would be exposed to his paintings that he would have on a canvas in our household. Read more>>

Christian Thurston

My journey began with my pops, Mr. Choc from The Beat Junkies, and my mother. They met when they were teenagers in Bakersfield, California. They had me in 1991 and shortly after we moved to Los Angeles because my pops began a career in Radio as a DJ at Power 106. Read more>>

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