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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.

Stevie Mackey

Well, my journey started in church as a child, singing in a choir, and at home singing with my family. At about 18 I realized I had a special ability to mimic different voices and to help people to know their voices. So I took it seriously, went to school for music and began vocal coaching my friends, and other professional singers began to reach out. I used Instagram and other platforms to grow my brand and business to what it is today by posting videos of my voice lessons and Taco Tuesday music parties. Read more>>

Melissa Akkaway

When I moved to LA, I began working at Asia de Cuba restaurant and basically wanted to learn the restaurant industry from inside and out. I worked in various positions from the front of the house to the back of the house. It was an exciting time to work there as it was one of the hottest restaurants around and of course was located inside the Mondrian Hotel. After this experience, I had always loved fashion. I wanted to open a retail store that was a “one-stop” shop. I wanted to fill it with brands of various price ranges and of different categories. I opened my first store on Melrose in 2008, yes not a great year to open but I did and was there for 5+ years. I then moved the store named Beckley after my grandmother to 3rd Street and Crescent Heights. The store was booming and we launched our own label called Beckley by Melissa. This was carried on Shopbop and Neimans after several years I felt really burnt out. Read more>>

Michael Jacobson

I was born in raised in LA. I was lucky enough to have all of my training and education in Southern California which I’m grateful for since this is the community I treat today. I’m a second-generation dentist and got into dentistry right around the time my father was retiring as an orthodontist. I remember growing up and helping him out at the office sometimes, the part that stuck with me was that he always treated his patients as family members. This is why all of his patients loved him. It was very important for me to continue this feeling for my patients. One of the benefits of having a boutique is the fact that I get to know my patients very personally since I am not rushed and we are always seeing one patient at a time. So many patients come from other offices and appreciate this because they feel like elsewhere they are just treated like another number. Read more>>

Jaimie Geller

I come from a fashion background, and my husband is a 3rd generation jeweler. When we had our first son in 2007, we decided to leave our jobs and work for ourselves and came up with the concept of Jaimie Geller Jewelry. We wanted to be able to provide our small town in Pacific Palisades, CA with all of their jewelry needs. We aimed to make a mini jewelry department that carried all the best jewelry designers, but also a place to have custom, bridal and jewelry repairs. We combined our strengths and started with a small private office in 2007. By the end of 2008, we had a lease for a retail storefront and we opened (just as the stock market crashed) in December of 2008. It was a great time to open a luxury fine jewelry store (lol), but the good news was there was only one way to go (up). And between 2008 and 2014 we welcomed two more sons, and we grew our business as well. Read more>>

Natalie Cargile

I’m the Founder and Creator of The CONNECT Network TV®. I’m a producer, television director and on-air host…. and I can’t forget to mention – a Howard University Grad! (HU – You KNOW)! For the last three years, I have partnered with major TV networks like FOX, ABC & The CW Networks to broadcast my self-syndicated talk show – “The CONNECT Show”. Each week we use our media time to promote women in business & female entrepreneurs that are out here doing it BIG! We amplify their voices while promoting and marketing their products and services to millions of viewers each week on Network TV. After working for an ABC affiliate for several years as Morning New Anchor in Texas, I eventually decided entrepreneurship was my greater calling. I initially launched The CONNECT Network® as a membership-based business for women in business & female entrepreneurs. Read more>>

Daniella Algarate

My father, Gonzalo Algarate, was born and raised in Montevideo, Uruguay. He moved to the United States in 1980s. He began working as a studio manager for Artist Robert Graham, where he was trained in the art of sculpting, lost-wax process, and bronze patinas/finishes from the year 1984 until 1997. During those years he worked on various civic monuments, including but not limited to: The Olympic Gateway, The Joe Louis Memorial, Charlie Parker Memorial, Source Figure, Duke Ellington Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, and The Great Bronze Doors of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. In 1997 he decided to open his own shop under the name GA Designs where he branched out into metal fabrication, creating custom handcrafted furniture and architectural elements for a variety of Los Angeles-based interior designers, architects, artists, etc. but, unfortunately, had to close shop in 2008 due to the economic recession. He continued to work on his sculptural art as well as paintings and participated in smaller projects until 2018. Read more>>

Adriana Senior

Step into any second-hand bookstore and it will become quickly apparent that traditionally, book publishing was centered around male authors. In literary fiction, that is no longer true. But in business books, men still dominate the conversation. Considering that a quick google search reveals that 31% of small businesses or franchises in the US are now owned by women, and women in corporate leadership positions continue to rise, I believe it’s time for women to claim their share of voice in business book publishing. I founded my book coaching practice because I’m passionate about elevating women’s voices and enabling them to share their stories and their expertise. I work with business leaders and entrepreneurs to take their book from idea to manuscript to a finished product in the hands of readers: I coach authors through the process of writing and editing their manuscript, finding the right path to publishing their book and developing a solid marketing and publicity strategy. Read more>>

Jacqueline Tapia

I am a first-generation Mexican American. I am the eldest of four kids. I am the first to attend a University (USC) and attend graduate school (Golden Gate University School of Law) in my family. I became a lawyer in 2000. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis on or about 2004. I have a learning disability. I got married in 2007 and have a beautiful ten years old daughter. I have had many ups and downs, traumas and hiccups along the way but I always continue to survive and thrive through the grace of God. After practicing for 17 years, I had a calling where everything changed for me. I dived really deep in personal development and started shifting my career into transformational life coaching. I have built transformational experiences such as retreats, masterminds, courses such as the Amiga Way Academy and many more experiences like TEAM (the empowered amiga movement). Read more>>

Siffat Haider

The story goes back to my early 20s. I’d struggled with my immune system for as long as I could remember, and decided I’d had enough when I fractured my rib from a chronic cough and was prescribed codeine by my doctor. I wanted to find a sustainable solution which I just wasn’t getting from alopathic medicine. So I decided to explore the holistic route, reading everything I could find from Functional Medicine practitioners, NDs and other wellness professionals. As I started to integrate herbs, minerals, and vitamins into my life, I started to notice huge changes in my immune system. From there, I started to make different concoctions for my digestion, anxiety, and other day-to-day issues. Coming from a beauty background, I noticed a huge white space in wellness, whereby the category was incredibly complicated for consumers to navigate. Read more>>

Kyle Perera

My family runs the label Cleopatra Records and after high school, I started working for the company right away. I wanted to see utilizing the infrastructure we had, and how modernized as a label we can become. Once my dad started signing more urban acts I saw this as a good placeholder to reach out & discover new talent and go up with them. Read more>>

Cooper Mcdonnell

My story as an artist has taken many turns and only continues to do so as I progress in my work. I get inspired by an idea and embrace change as that idea continues to evolve over time. Ceramics and art have literally always been a part of my life. At a very early age, I was introduced to ceramics by my grandfather, Ken Price. During my visits at his studio in Venice, I would experiment with clay beside him and watch as he created some of the most incredible sculptures I have ever seen. Though I dabbled alongside him each time I’d visit, it wasn’t until years later that I decided to make a career out of clay.My career as a ceramicist truly began when I moved back home to Malibu after graduating from CU Boulder with an art degree. Unsure of life’s next steps as a post-grad, I followed the lead of many of my peers in LA and became a production assistant. Though I continued to make art in my free time and between jobs, I found myself longing just for more studio time. Read more>>

Yonathan Napoleon

I am a former NCAA athlete who graduated from Drew University with a business degree then went on to live in London pursuing my postgraduate degree in Management & Marketing. I was able to play professional basketball in England whilst I was studying. Growing up in Los Angeles, I was exposed to a world of opportunity. It was inspiring growing up in a city that, while sometimes difficult to navigate, provided multiple paths towards a greater purpose. During the Covid-19 pandemic, my partner Dennis Ashley and I spent much time bouncing around ideas and brainstorming different business plans on how we can be a vessel of support to creatives in Los Angeles. After much back and forth, we landed on the concept of a “Culture Summit”. Through our S.N.O. (Summers.Never.Over) company, we specialize in one day pop-up events that brings together clothing brands, music artists, and photographers/painters under one roof to all showcase their work and talents. Read more>>

Mah Gomes

Originally from Brazil, moved to Los Angeles in 2020. Graduated in Law back home in Brazil but I’ve always been into the beauty industry. I got here to do a cultural exchange where I’d live with an American family, but after just a few weeks it gone wrong and I saw myself with no place to go and no one to help me, with only $100 in cash. I’ve always been a faithful person and I’ve always believed in God’s plans, I was sure I wouldn’t go back to Brazil because it wasn’t time yet, I had no idea what I’d do in that situation but I knew God was going to help me figure it out. Fortunately, God put angels in my life to help me and in a short period of time I was living in an apartment, working and happy. Read more>>

Lauren Elizabeth Harris & Katie Royer

Katie: Until I worked in the death industry, I didn’t know there was a “busy season.” It’s right after Christmas, in January and February, after everyone has hung on, intentionally or not, to see their families. Then there’s a lull until the spring. I was a funeral arranger in Los Angeles for seven years, kind of by accident. I answered a Craiglist ad (I talk about this more in an essay for HuffPost) and found that I liked driving around delivering ashes, and witnessing parts of life that most people don’t see. I liked the fact that it was flexible for auditions, that it paid cash, and that every day was a different story. Read more>>

Mack Johnson

Well. I’ve always loved building things… taking things apart, putting them back together. Maybe my first serious go at that came around the age of 13 when I took apart my dirtbike so that I could paint it black. When my Dad saw the bike laying in pieces across the garage floor, he looked at me very sternly and said “you better put it all back”. And you know what, I did. I’ve always been fascinated with the way things worked, and even more so, figuring out new ways of doing things. So it didn’t take long to figure out that Editing was going to be a perfect career for me. Professionally, I started shooting and editing wedding videos while living in Australia (on and off for about four years). You learn a lot in that run-and-gun style of work. Read more>>

Best Kept Secret Mgmt.

Well we are a multi-platinum mgmt company that manages some very credible talent from producers to artists. We have grown a lot and we’re very grateful for it, we don’t take anything for granted (try not to at least) but we didn’t just start in this position so it all started with a vision. I always knew it’s who you know more than what you know at least that was my mindset so I was networking like crazy via trips via social media mainly just being very passionate and persistent. I started with only one producer back in 2018 and put all my energy and resources into him. We saw our first success in 2018 with being part of the movie soundtrack Creed 2 starring Micheal B Jordan from there we started getting more recognition and some more placements that ended up going platinum RIAA. Then I started a company at the start of 2019 in Jan. where I started signing more producers to the company and I added a new partner to the team so I could manage to take on the producers we were starting to sign. Read more>>

Peter Heck

Born and raised in southern Germany, I live alternately in Hamburg/Germany and Los Angeles. It all started with a small Voigtländer camera my father gave me when I was 10 years old. I was immediately hooked and dived in into this world of light and shadow. Later, assisting well-known international photographers and the influence of the Californian lifestyle shaped my photography style and brought me an international photo reputation and awards. On one side, my photography is inspired by subculture, music and garage scene and, on the other side, it is shaped by the high standards of international advertising photography. The spectrum of my work ranges from cool precision to cool Rock’n’ Roll. Always connected with a boundless passion for the people around me. Read more>>

Jason Lai

Jason Lai received his Bachelor of Arts in Business Marketing and Communications from California State University, Fullerton in 2006. After studying for three years of business he realized that he wasn’t fulfilling his creative mind and decided to enroll himself in the Interior Design program and received his Interior Design certification in 2006. Jason’s role as Principal Designer/owner is influenced from over 20 years experience in the design industry, 12 years owning his business JL Interiors. He has mastered an array of styles; from contemporary to traditional and anything in between. If you show him an inspirational image and dream big he will make it reality. He is a driven and focused designer that brings his style to life while still thinking about resale value and keeping in mind his clients goals. JL Interiors is a LA-based creative/diverse firm that specializes in residential interiors. JL Interiors empowers homeowners to design their dream home that they can be proud of! Read more>>

Debbie Hennessey

I’ve always been obsessed with music, particularly singing. I was lucky to be exposed to a wide variety of music when I was very young, mainly via AM/FM radio. You might hear rock, pop, soul, and country within an hour. My parents had a record player, but the two albums I played most were Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison and Live at San Quentin. I was seven, which is funny to think about now. Then my grandmother bought me a small record player, and I would buy singles. Fast forward to my teens and twenties, I took the usual route of being in bands, some original, some Motown cover bands – those were fun, and I did a lot of demos. But it wasn’t until I moved to LA that things began to come together. It was a combination of timing, location, and people. Read more>>

Amy Russo

Obsessed Jewelry is breaking the traditional retail mold by cutting out the middleman and selling directly to you! Eliminating that retail mark-up allows us to bring you unique, beautiful, sexy pieces all at wholesale prices. Our jewelry is designed with diamonds, 14k gold, semi-precious stones and sterling silver pieces. It gives us great pleasure to provide these unique gems at affordable prices. Our Pacific Palisades home is our newest retail location after being in the Malibu Country Mart for the past four years. After surviving the fires, floods, construction and covid in Malibu we decided to give our home community of the Palisades a try. With our built-in customer base from malibu, and our hefty following due to the originality of our luxury items combined with the lower price point has made us a desired destination. Read more>>

Jewelry Plug

We created Jewelryplug for the contemporary woman. To promote diversity both in jewelry and owner. Accessories are often forgotten about but imagine having a piece that is affordable, fits you well and can share with friends and family. We curated our pieces with some of the best vendors and designers all over the world and we delivered it at the tip of their fingers. We hope to build more traction and help women feel beautiful one piece of jewelry at a time. Read more>>

Leba Sherman

Leba is a mother of three, who is slowly losing her vision due to a rare genetic disorder called Stargardt’s Disease. Since her diagnosis, Leba has courageously pivoted her focus and outreach to helping bring awareness and sharing her positive outlook on life, even while facing adversity. She hopes to make a difference with her one-of-a-kind Braille patches. Thank you for supporting Touched by Elle and making Leba’s dream a vivid and fulfilling reality. “You don’t need sight to have vision” Read more>>

Natalie Brunell

My story, like that of so many Americans, is one of the immigrant’s journey. My family left Eastern Europe in the early 1990s in pursuit of the “American Dream,” and the hope of access to economic opportunities. My parents grew up under the oppression of communism and valued the ideals espoused by the American Dream: that if you work hard and prioritize education, you can come from any background and any social class and make something of your life in order to provide a secure future for your family. But in many ways, I think the American Dream has been hijacked and is in desperate need of resuscitation. My family came to this country never asking anyone for assistance, worked hard, played by the rules, and just a few years after acquiring enough money for a down payment on their first townhome, my parents went under financially in the 08’/’09 financial crisis. Read more>>

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