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West 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 West LA’s gems below.

Leslie Daniels

I moved to Los Angeles as soon as I graduated college and began acting right away! I spent my first couple of years mainly focusing on training and preparing myself to be the best I can be in terms of skill. I started out training with Katt Shea (the casting director who gave Leonardo DiCaprio his first role) and then trained with Lesly Kahn (comedy queen) and, finally, completed all the courses at Upright Citizens Brigade (improv nerd over here). There were a couple acting classes I tried here and there that I discovered didn’t work for me – you have to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t in this town – but the three that I mentioned helped me out a lot as an actor! Read more>>

Abbie Schiller

Growing up with a much older father, I was always aware of how short our time on earth is. Every birthday, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, I would wonder if it would be our last together. That perspective shaped my priorities and how I spent my time. I really became intentional about my days and wondered what my legacy would be. At age nine, driving home from carpool, I used to yell out the car window to people in LA “Do you like your life?” And of the people who answered, most said “No!” This was so tragic to me. With such a short time to live, why not love your life? Cut to 15 years later… After a big career in public relations, I started a family-focused media entity, The Mother Company, with the mission of Helping Parents Raise Good People. Read more>>

Justin Prough

I’m an artist, designer, builder, surfer, and 5th generation Californian, who grew up a skate/surf rat between his grandmother’s home in Corona Del Mar, where she taught me to bodysurf before I could complete sentences; and my parents’ home in Santa Cruz, where surfing and skateboarding are a way of life, and the visuals of Santa Cruz skateboards is endemic. I graduated with a BA in Studio Arts from the land-locked University of Redlands, where for four years, my hunger for the beach was replaced by an obsession with arts, design, and technology. Read more>>

Salvador De Leon

My name is SAL, owner of Breathe By SAL. My journey started off in therapy, and the reason it started there was because I knew I needed some help. I woke up one day not feeling like myself and it continued to linger. Constantly asking myself, “why am I feeling like this?” Almost crying every single day trying to figure it out. I truly felt alone, and that’s when immediately I checked into therapy. So first day of therapy, I was really anxious and scared because I didn’t know what to expect. My nationality is Hispanic and not a lot of Hispanic’s go to therapy to express themselves. Read more>>

Scott Stevens

The Hero Workshop started a little over four years ago. My family had just moved to Culver City from the Bay Area, and the move was especially hard on our eight years old son who had to move away from his group of friends. About three weeks after we moved here, he broke his arm which meant that he couldn’t play during recess with the other kids. I was worried about him being able to make friends at his new school. So I made up a few fliers issuing a Call to Adventure so he could invite some kids from his new school to play Dungeons and Dragons. The first day we had about five kids show up to play. Read more>>

Lauren Brim

I began working with babies and moms as a doula in NYC almost two decades ago, but it was after attending a birth where a baby’s head was injured by forceps delivery that my career path changed. I had heard about Dr. Gillespie’s work with babies from a colleague and flew out to the east coast that following weekend to learn craniosacral fascial therapy to use on this injured baby. Since that weekend I have worked with hundreds of babies and I am proud and honored to help babies feel better, eat and digest and thrive better with the help of bodywork. I also love seeing parents smile with delight when their baby is now happy or sleeping better or doing better at breastfeeding. Read more>>

Matt Manasse

I am originally from Erie, PA and my whole life until the pandemic was all about tennis. I went to HS in Florida to pursue my dream of becoming a professional tennis player. Before playing collegiately at USC and Purdue. That being said, I knew during college that a career in professional tennis as a player wasn’t in the cards for me. Like many kids obsessed with Entourage, I decided I wanted to be a sports agent. I ended up getting a job at Babolat (tennis racket manufacturer) in Marketing/Scouting but I wasn’t quite fulfilled—I missed being on the court. I then began a 7-year career in collegiate and professional coaching. Read more>>

James King

Growing up, my interests were always creative based and I challenged myself to not only chase those aspirations but to strengthen the core belief that you’re capable of anything you put your mind towards. Throughout my years of growth, my interests also matured as well. I grew up around music and art, which naturally developed my tastes & persona into what I’ve grown to be today. I picked up a digital camera at age 13 but would always use my family’s collection of film cameras as experiments. Most of the time wasting film and tape. I remember my first camera: an HP 2.1 megapixel point and shoot, fitted with a 512 MB SD card. What a time. Read more>>

Greg Hatton

The story of my love for images starts with the photo albums that I found in my home as a child. From the start, I was captivated when looking through photos of my family members. I saw them at different points in their lives, placed in very different surroundings to what was around us at the time. The images always came with stories that explained what I was seeing and I loved that. Storytelling grew into a big thing for me. Read more>>

Edward Auslender

I was born at UCLA in 1961 and my mom kidnapped us when I was one year old. We were on the run all over Europe and North Africa until we settled in France about seven years later. The one constant up until then and from then on has been piano and music in general. In Monaco, I got to witness all the orchestra rehearsals for the ballets, operas and symphonic concerts. Then my mom and stepdad would have the most famous musicians over for dinner, as guests that is! And they would all encourage me to sit at the piano and improvise for them. Read more>>

Ryan Shah

Just like with most things in life, nothing good or worthwhile comes easy. Going into UCLA as a Neuroscience major on the pre-med track was definitely an uphill sprint. When I realized that my interests were aligned elsewhere, it was initially difficult to accept that fact since I was out-of-state and came to UCLA to eventually go to med school and become a doctor. But I believe that everything happens for a reason and looking back, it’s crazy how life has a way of figuring itself out and coming full-circle. Read more>>

Maddalena Bearzi

I have been fascinated with animals, and wildlife in general, since I was a young girl. I followed my wildest dreams and became a field marine biologist and a conservation advocate for whales and dolphins. As a scientist, I hold a Ph.D. in Biology and a postdoc in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles, and I am the co-founder and President of the nonprofit Ocean Conservation Society. I have studied marine animals in the wild for over 30 years and published two books on nature. I also work as a photojournalist for several publications, including the National Geographic. Read more>>

Jora Nelstein

Reflecting back from where I am currently at, I’ve seen an upward curve. Painting in a studio still feels so luxurious, in comparison to me having painted outside and on the small corners of wall space I would create in the apartments I lived in. I am a Dutch artist living now in Los Angeles. This is the place I have been the longest, but I carry elements of the different places I’ve lived with me. The Netherlands, Suriname, New York – they can all be seen and felt in my art. Read more>>

Lauren Leung Cramer

I started Bead Salad somewhat accidentally in January of 2021. At the end of the previous year, I had begun making jewelry with the intention of crafting gifts for my friends as well as using up old beads from discarded childhood hobbies. Ironically, the momentum of this process led me to buy more beads, and at a certain point I decided to bite the bullet and start an online jewelry shop via Instagram. Read more>>

Brea Weinstein

I am a 32-year-old living in LA, who is one of the millions of people who live with a chronic illness. At nine years old, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. Due to my illness, I had difficulty gaining weight. I was so thin that my classmates teased me and called me “skinny bones Jones.” I remember having a ton of stomachaches growing up, but nothing that was too debilitating. The moment that I fully understood how awful having Colitis is occurred four years ago at the age of 28. Read more>>

Sarah Ford

At 19 years old, while attending nursing school, I discovered my passion for skincare and decided to leave the nursing field to enroll in school for esthetics. While pursuing my career in esthetics, I was diagnosed with PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome). Soon after, I was also diagnosed with a medical-mystery digestive condition called “leaky gut”. During that time, I fell into a deep depression – I gained 50 lbs, my hair started falling out and I had painful cystic acne all over my lower jawline. I was truly lost. Living in a state of desperation, I resorted to Google for answers. Read more>>

Rana Wilson

My path towards stepping into my greatest contribution – that of a Conscious Money Guide and CPA – started over 20 years ago. I initially chose to be a CPA because I did not want to live the life of a starving artist. I knew I was an artist and meant to do something more meaningful in life, however, I just did not see how one could get paid well doing what they love. As I embraced the life of a traditional corporation accountant, I also began exploring meditation and spiritual teachings. Read more>>

Myles B Stephens & Maximillion Justice

Max was in his freshman year and I was in my sophomore year at NYU when we decided we wanted to work together to create our own sneaker business. We didn’t really know how we were going to do it, we just knew that between the two of us, we could make something kinda cool. We started sketching ideas, thinking about materials and enrolling in all the fashion classes we could find. Slowly but surely, we met the right people and the right professors who challenged us creatively and encouraged us to keep going. Read more>>

Raymond “Mister Live” Stone

I’m a born entertainer. It’s my life purpose to remind people to have FUN by giving them this youthful infectious energy I possess. I one of those guys that has been thru it all and now, finally has found his own. Read more>>

Lotem Porat

I am a native City of Angels “valley girl”, born and raised in Los Angeles. My parents grew up in Israel; my dad was born there and mom was born in Morocco and raised in Israel. I grew up speaking Hebrew and attending Hebrew School all the way from Mommy and Me until grade 6. My parents came to California on their honeymoon and stayed. Growing up, my sister Noie and I learned many of the Jewish traditions and spent summers visiting our extended family in Israel. Since I was six years old, I also celebrated Christmas, as my stepmom came from a Catholic family. Read more>>

Nicholas ‘Lush One’ Hyams

Am more often known as Lush One. I am born and raised on the soil of West Los Angeles & have been a hip-hop artist, event curator, and battle rap host since the late 90s. I started off doing homemade recordings on four track tapes and tagging the block up with spray cans and streakers and wound up touring the world of my talent and supporting my family off of it as well. I took a very abstract and unique path in life which often confused others but I never let that deter me. At this point, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Read more>>

Elicica Morris (she/her)

I’m a CODA (child of Deaf adults) and grew up in a predominantly white, suburban town outside of Boston, Ma. Deaf culture is an integral part of who am I and the foundation of the collective I created. When I started practicing Asana – one of the eight limbs of yoga – many years ago, I noticed that I was often the only black person in many yoga spaces and these were the only spaces that existed at the time. I even recall asking myself, “Is this for me?” Despite the lack of representation, I continued to show up to my mat and practice in these yoga spaces. I decided to get my yoga teaching certifications to facilitate the exploration of yoga and I immediately started teaching Asana to deaf and hard-of-hearing children and teachers. I realized then that many yoga spaces are either inaccessible (in every definition and manifestation of the word), lack diversity, or a combination of both. Read more>>

Lee Broekman

I started out in political communications – working in local, state and eventually international politics – going from City Hall in Los Angeles to the European Union in Amsterdam. After years of bridging gaps between stakeholders, creating consensus and collaboration among constituents, speaking in public gatherings and press conferences, managing campaigns and producing media segments, I realized that I enjoyed the communication aspect more than the political part of my various positions. I was presented with an opportunity to go into academia and started teaching college courses in communication and media. I discovered a passion for teaching and for developing curriculum that would be inspiring, interesting, relevant and personal for my students. I put more than 15 courses into rotation, ranging from topics such as ‘News and Public Opinion,’ ‘Children, Adolescents and the Media,’ ‘Popular Culture: L.A. as Laboratory,’ ‘Public Speaking, Public Performance,’ ‘Communication and Society. Read more>>

Rich Trapp

We’re a small team with big dreams, surfers and parents with active lifestyles. We started Nu Bloom because we had a problem, we couldn’t sleep. We came up with a ‘Nano’ hemp extract that combines CBD with Melatonin, Valerian and L-Theanine but at micro-doses. We didn’t want to blast our system with too much of anything. And it worked. We then found that people needed help with stress, sore muscles, PMS and more so we came up with a whole line of Sprays & Topicals to fit all the needs of our customers. Read more>>

Lisa Ing

As a small business owner and self-taught designer, my body of work has been influenced by my background, upbringing, and everyday life. Born to Chinese parents in Cambodia, my family and I came to the United States as refugees during the Khmer Rouge regime. We first arrived in Wisconsin and later settled in California when I was three years old. I grew up predominantly in the Echo Park and Venice areas. As the youngest child, I had a lot of hand-me-downs, but that never really bothered me. I was happy spending my days making art and playing outside in the sunshine. LA’s great weather and relaxed vibe allowed me to develop a love affair with art, nature, and philosophy early on in my life. My mom was a talented pattern maker and seamstress and could make just about anything. I remember going fabric shopping with her as a kid to pick out what I liked, and I’d get compliments at school whenever I’d wear a dress she made me. She taught me how to sew at a young age, and I credit my appreciation of quality, textiles, and craftsmanship to her. Read more>>

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