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Hidden Gems: Local Businesses & Creatives You Should Know

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 our latest local gem features below.

Heather Sandoval

Like many, it was luck I ended up in the Property Management industry. The spirit and energetic personalities of the management professionals is what initially drew me in – these people are having fun at work (?!?), they work hard, but also just have a lot of fun taking care of people and their homes. 20+ years ago, I leased my first apartment to my very first tour and I was hooked. Pretty quickly, you understand that this was more than showing apartments. We were running a business and you get to wear all the hats.  Read more>>

Brittany Holliday

When I was 18, I started my career in the car business. I moved around from Sales to Service to Management where most of my time was spent with brands such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche. But, I also spent some time at local shops, too.  Towards the end of 2020, I was exhausted. The dealership I was working at had us working 10-12 hour days with no time for lunch, I was juggling customers as well as washing cars (by hand) due to short staffing. So, I impulsively decided, “I’m going to be a real estate agent”. I signed up for the classes and it just didn’t interest me as much as I’d hoped. Read more>>

Sarah Harris

I moved here from MN in 2009. I had just wrapped up an apprentice program where I focused my craft on cutting and styling hair. I quickly came to find out that finding a salon that would let me focus specifically on cutting was not going to happen. So I went through another apprentice program for color and it just wasn’t my thing. When that wrapped up, I was like shoot. I need a job! At the time there was a men’s salon hiring downtown and I thought to myself this will work for now, men are mostly getting their haircut, I’ll work here and figure it out. Well, little did I know it was my destiny. Read more>>

Rachel Pizii

I was born and raised in Michigan. I originally went to school for early childhood education during the time in which our economy took a huge crash. I had a hard time finding a job so I decided to pack up my things and move out west for some adventure. In doing so. I landed a job at a resort spa which is where my love story with skincare and wellness began. After years of working concierge and management for various spas, I knew I was ready to advance and return back to school to become an esthetician. Read more>>

Jessi Park

I started in the insurance industry about 5 1/2 years ago. Prior to that, I had worked various office jobs with my last one being Marketing Director. I was let go of that job unexpectedly and as a single mom, I panicked and got on food stamps and employment. I reluctantly took an insurance job cold calling people over the phone, working commission only. As much as I hated the thought of being a salesperson, I felt like I had no other choice because I needed to provide for my children. I actually ended up being quite good at talking to people over the phone and slowly developed something called the Good, Better, Best method of selling. Read more>>

Neal Walia

Neal Walia is the son of immigrant parents who migrated to this country from India in pursuit of better opportunities for their children and their families. He was born and raised in an immigrant neighborhood in Seattle, Washington. At the age of 11, his father landed a new job in Denver, Colorado and moved Neal, his younger sister, Natasha, and his mom to Highlands Ranch. Neal grew up hearing of the journey of his parents from their beginnings as service industry workers to their current careers as educators, teaching him what is possible when all people are given the opportunity to succeed. Read more>>

RJ Hughes

I was a professional dancer in Las Vegas for nearly 10 years, most recently in the show Jubilee on the Las Vegas Strip. The show ended up closing after nearly 36 years and I needed a backup plan. The only thing I could think of was how much I enjoyed being in a hair salon with my mother and grandmother growing up and thought I might want to consider a career in the beauty industry. Read more>>

Jay Randolph

I fell into the cooking/restaurant world. It was a perfect fit in many ways – tools, lots of activity, creative but also very technical, craft like before craft was the catchword it is today. I dove deep. I spent my time off reading, eating at restaurants and trying new recipes and techniques. At home, I cooked and started building things, trying my hand at framing, furniture, and decks. I always had the building/making stuff as my “hobby” and cooking was my career. I started to have a good tool collection and pretty soon I was reading as much about building as I was about cooking. Read more>>

Amanda Maldonado

Hi, I’m Amanda, or Coy Ink – my business name & my creative alias. I’m an artist, creative/business consultant, and I teach workshops to help other businesses thrive. I started my creative business in 2018 after years of struggling with self-doubt and feeling like I wasn’t good enough to make art. So I decided to finally let go of the need for others’ approval and find the cure to stop being jealous of my friends who were making art – I just needed to get over it and make my own! Read more>>

Duncan Kirkwood

I grew up in Buffalo, NY in a very rough part of town. I was fortunate to go to a performing arts school which expanded my creativity and helped me to find their voice. After high school, I attended a Historically Black College called Alabama State University in Montgomery, AL. There I really discovered that I had greatness inside of me and that I had something special to offer the world. I can remember as a freshman after a lively debate with a professor named Dr. English, he pulled me to the side to ask me a question that would change the path of my life. Read more>>

Alyssia Richardson

Sustainability has always been an extremely important part of my life. When I became a small business owner, I wanted to make sure my offerings were environmentally conscious and affordable. In 2009, I began making clean, burning candles! It became a way for me to express my inner nerd because it allowed me to experiment with different formulations. It also became my meditation; and a way for me to advocate for and protect the planet. From there, my business has grown into what it is today. A composting center and boutique for low waste and intentional living! Read more>>

Dale and Dar Emme

The Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program® was founded in 1994 by the parents and friends of a bright, funny, loving teen, Mike Emme, who took his life when he did not know the words to say, or how to let someone know he was in trouble and needed help. The program began in response to heartfelt pleas from teens and adults after the death Mike Emme (17). Words said by his family – “please don’t do this, please talk to someone” were put on bright yellow paper along with phone numbers / who to call to get help. Read more>>

Thom Whitney

Musuji was formed in 2007 by Arnie Blomquist (VOCALS), Lucas Strickland (DRUMS), & Thom Whitney (BASS GUITAR). Since that time the band has had three guitarists, Pierce Strickland, Nate Huisgen and now Michael Zucker. MUSUJI has also added Ryan Eshcenbach to the lineup as a jack of all trades playing Saxophone, Percussion, and Drums. The band has long held the moniker ‘wild with madness’ which accurately describes the band’s musicianship, fluently shifting between serenity and the unhinged. Read more>>

Brad Jackson

I grew up just outside of Chicago and was always into music, in a band and loved hosting events. I went to school at the University of Iowa. Iowa is unique because it has one of the best student-run concert promotion organizations in the country called SCOPE. I quickly applied and once I was in, learned the ins and outs of talent buying, marketing, production, ticketing, logistics, etc. We were able to bring in acts when they were “up and coming” such as Kendrick Lamar, Black Keys, Childish Gambino and many more.  Read more>>

One Peace

My family has always been big on music. Sunday brunches, you would hear anything from Bob Marley to Korn. I didn’t actually get into hip hop until about 6th grade when a friend showed me the song Mo Murda by Bone Thugs. My mom and dad grew up in the hair metal era in California. They told me a story that they saw Mötley Crüe perform at a house party before they were famous. My dad shreds on guitar and both my big brothers can play drums, bass and guitar. Read more>>

Ke’lee Davis

Born and raised in California. Music became my home at a very young age. From singing in my grandparent’s church choir to playing the drums and more. Music has always been in my family for generations. My upbringing was brutal. Grandparents were pretty well off, but my mom wasn’t attentive to our needs and I never had my dad in my life. Saying that to say I struggled a lot in my adolescence years. Started stealing and doing anything needed to feed ourselves. (Me and my two brothers). Read more>>

Amber Brown

My love for beauty started in my teenage years. Thinking back on it, I remember as a teenager, walking into high school with long straight hair; having a quiet and shy personality, alongside with making phenomenal grades. Sadly, to express, during my teenage years was also a time that I was bullied for how I looked, the way I dressed and also for my long black hair. Regardless of being bullied when I was growing up, I believed that it was my expression of love and beauty that I had for everything that set me apart from the other students. Read more>>

Mel Streno, Alicia Goffredi and Jen Batson

Our roots begin at the University of Denver where we each earned our doctorates in clinical psychology. We landed at the same Denver-based partial hospitalization program and worked together closely for five years. We bonded over shared values, similar approaches to therapy, and created a strong friendship. We remained close through various life changes and after each of us started to grow our families, we felt ready to shift into roles where we could have greater flexibility. Since we get along so well, it felt natural to open a practice where we could still stand in each others’ doorway with a cup of coffee and chat about everything from current events to dinner plans. Read more>>

Jennifer Ceballos

I discovered at a very young age that I loved arts, music, books, and crafting/jewelry making. The mermaid persona has always been there even at a very young age I loved reading different stories about them. My dream is to have my own art/photography /makeup videos/crafting studio for my work at the moment, I work primarily in my home in a small space. I also work full-time as a hairstylist which helps pay for my craft and mermaid/makeup artist life. Read more>>

Analisa Cleland

I grew up in the insurance industry. I spent my summers as a teen working for my dad’s agency. I had no intention of going into this business. I graduated college with a biology degree and began working in the medical devices, then pharmaceutical sales. When I was on maternity leave with my second child, my position was eliminated. Rather than take a job that would have me away from my newborn for weeks at a time, I decided to transition into the insurance industry. Read more>>

Tyler Stanfield

I grew up in a small town in Colorado surrounded by music. I started playing piano at a young age. I really liked classical music. My old man is a musician as well, he showed me a couple of chords on the guitar when I was around 15 and I haven’t put it down since. I had a rock band in high school, and our first big show was at a talent show in high school in front of like 400 people. I loved it! I released my first solo album in 2010 but shelved my solo project to go on the road with a band at the time called Lost Point.  Read more>>

Kree Thawley

I’ve enjoyed tapping into my own and others’ creativity for as long as I can remember. I have always been awe-struck by the human capacities to be inspired, to make things, to share those things, and to tell a story. I believe this is a key part of what separates us from other species on our planet – to honor and tap into our creativity, in senses both individual and collective, is an inspiring facet of the human experience. Doing so can heal, empower, and connect. Read more>>

LaVon Williams

I founded The Lifestyle Brand Company Ltd. in May 2020 during the pandemic when the world slowed down. It was a hard time for many, especially for people of color. It impacted many of us emotionally and mentally. People were more conscious of social and racial inequalities. Buying fresh flowers and smelling the aroma of candles created a sense of calm, and that’s when I found my passion for handcrafting candles. Read more>>

Andrew Kamolvathin

I started cooking from a young age just with my family. I was always in a kitchen growing up with a natural curiosity. I got started by taking some cooking classes at the age of 13 and I was genuinely inspired as we learned new recipes every week and eventually that led to him having me com assist the teachers he had who were culinary students and Cordon Bleu and Johnson and Wales (in Florida). Read more>>

Dreka “MissDreeks” White

Dreka “MissDreeks” White is no stranger to the creative world, having spent 7+ years as a licensed clinical therapist and program manager, where she managed numerous marketing campaigns and promoted various community events. She has more than 22 years of marketing experience –having started her first business at the tender age of 13. MissDreeks’ varied background in marketing, psychology, and hair styling provided the perfect foundation for her to become a Social Media and Marketing Director/CEO and founder of her own company —MissDreeks’ Marketing Agency. Read more>>

Gabriel Patterson

Gabriel Patterson found his way to authorship through the microphone. Performing as Surpass Flavor, the emcee and author found much success collaborating in Denver’s Hip Hop scene. Releasing his first project in 1999, it received a radio play on Garth Trinidad’s KCRW program, “Chocolate City.” Next came a commercial for Winterfresh Gum, which aired on MTV in 2003, affording Patterson the opportunity to join the coveted Screen Actors Guild. From 2003 to 2008, Patterson immersed himself in Denver’s Slam Poetry scene, writing and performing poetry around the city. Read more>>

Tina Jackson

My business story is strangely serendipitous. I was five years old when my family moved to Littleton Colorado. One morning only a few months after moving into our lovely Littleton home, I remember carrying a heavy phone book to my mom. Struggling with the weight of the book I dropped it into her lap and told her that, “I want to dance!” (She was surprised by my determination with the phone book in hand.) She helped me open to the dance section and asked, “What kind of dance do you want to do?” I pointed to the ballerina logo on the ad for Colorado Dance Center. Little did we know, I would grow up to become the studio Owner and Director within 17 years. Read more>>

Kendyl Spriggs

My story begins in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Me and a group of close friends (all in our early 20’s) would get together on the weekends play smash brothers, order takeout and make music together. Before we knew it, we had an album that we called Everybody Eats and an ever-expanding collective that we called Bottega. We continued to make music; our fanbase grew slowly but surely and eventually, I started producing/directing our music videos out of necessity.  Read more>>

Awake in Ashes

Awake in Ashes started off in late 2018. Michael and Dominic worked together and sat in the cubicle next to each other providing medical software support at an office in Broomfield, CO . They hit it off immediately, discovering each other’s musical abilities and interests. Both from previous bands, from the Chicago and Los Angeles areas, respectively. After a single jam session, it was decided. “Let’s start a band and see what we can do with this!” Read more>>

Emma Marlow

Oh boy, here we go. I am Emma, born in Colorado, and I am a digital content creator and creative director who found my start in High School. Imagine a teenage version of myself making friends with the fashion teacher and writing articles about blind dates with the paper editor trying to find her passion surrounded by salmon-colored walls. Writing was my passion and I loved to tell stories, especially through photos because I had to learn how to use a DSLR. Read more>>

DNA Proxi

My background is in Evolutionary Biology and Ecology. During my time researching Hydroponics at university, I became dissatisfied with so-called “metrics of progress.” The fact that ideas were secondary to finding future financing became frustrating. It was clear to me that the institutions responsible for decimating life-changing information were too focused on swallowing up resources. It never felt like we were seeking solutions, more just a feverish attention to grant acquisition. I was displeased but never derailed from my ambitions of spreading scientific splendor! Read more>>

Josh Juhasz

Came from humble beginnings, kept on my entrepreneurial path and now I own two companies. I have been fortunate to have met some great mentors and enjoy sharing my experiences in hopes that it helps someone else. Nothing is a smooth road. Lots and lots of adversity. We are a car dealership for car enthusiasts. We specialize in importing right-hand vehicles from Japan and around the world. I am most proud of the reputation we have associated with our brand for both companies really. The carpet cleaning company was built on quality over quantity. Read more>>

Angel Macauley

Femme Fatale Intimates has been in business since 2012, Denver created a woman-owned, single-mother business. We have been an online store since 2012, and since 2017 we have been a brick-and-mortar locally located in downtown Denver in the Baker District – South Broadway. Just celebrating our three years anniversary on South Broadway in July 2022! We have been thriving, not just surviving! Providing some unique lingerie, quality swimwear products, also providing accessories and menswear if a full range of sizes from Extra Small – 4X. Read more>>

Jake Bray

As a child, I always loved to draw and dreamed of being an artist. I grew up in the upper midwest and moved to Colorado in 2003 to snowboard. I fell in love with the mountains and decided to make Colorado home. While living in Summit County, I started getting tattooed and brought in all of my own designs. Through the process of getting tattooed and being around other artists, I was offered an apprenticeship. After several years of apprenticing and all that comes with it, I started tattooing and worked at a shop in Breckenridge. Read more>>

Carm Fogt

I’m an ink painter working exclusively on rice paper. I began my journey into art in my late 30s and was certain that I had no artistic ability. My sister-in-law, Janis Fogt, was an artist in residence for a week every year in Yosemite. It was there that she coaxed me into trying to draw. It felt like a miracle, but I loved it and was hooked. I couldn’t stop drawing that day. I began to take various art classes and was drawn to Japanese Sumi painting. I then studied Chinese brush painting for several years before traveling to China to learn from master teachers at the Academy of Art in Hangzhou. My focus was and still is on Chinese calligraphy which eventually became the foundation for my abstract paintings. Read more>>

Aaron Martinez

I started making music at a young age. I was influenced by artists like Eminem, Ace hood, Lloyd banks and more. I’ve studied rap and all the rappers who blessed the mic before me. I made a lot of songs using a tablet for the beat and a phone to record. I made my hit song “Only The Strong Survive” in the basement of my house after my grandma passed in 2012. Then made “Real Ones” in 2013 after my stepdad passed. In 2014, I went to the job corps for a couple of months and learned a bit.  Read more>>

Jordan Allen

I’m from a small town in Louisiana named West Monroe. It’s known for Football and good fishing. I actually earned a full-ride athletic scholarship to LSU early in my high school career. I went on to play Defensive End for LSU, where I graduated in a short three and a half years. After college, I spent some time figuring out what I needed to do with my life with a degree and no football. I spent some time working odd jobs and with my father around my hometown. Read more>>

Gloria Barthel

I am a proud Latin American born in Colombia. I grew up in a small town called Alcalá. I had to live with my grandparents since the age of one, as my parents abandoned me then. We were very poor when I was little which made it very difficult to have a healthy childhood. Due to the harsh environment I lived in when I was growing up, I became accustomed to making the best out of every situation, as sometimes I felt like I was operating in survival mode. I learned to appreciate the little things more and more as the days went by. Read more>>

Angelo Lucero

I knew I had a passion for music the moment I touched a grand piano as a toddler. I grew up idolizing musicians like Michael Jackson. I was in love with the piano so I used to cover Coldplay songs as a teen. I took piano lessons from one of the former keyboardists of the popular 80’s band Oingo Boingo while living in Las Vegas, Nevada. I moved to Denver, Colorado in 2007 to pursue a degree in photography at The Art Institute of Colorado. I graduated with that degree in 2010.  Read more>>

Nicole Stephens

When I first began my spiritual path I was in a toxic relationship where I started meditating quite a bit. I was able to end that relationship by receiving the clarity that we weren’t meant to be together. When I broke off my last relationship, everything began to shift massively. I was meditating frequently and began to become connected with spirit receiving messages that guided me to join a Holy Fire Reiki 1 and 2 certification class. 11 days after (July 11th, 2019) becoming certified in Holy Fire Reiki 1 and 2 I had a near-death experience. Read more>>

Mia Marina

I’ve always been a performer. From the very first time I ever set foot on a stage… I was five years old… There was just a magnetism to it, an energy, and I knew I had to have more of it. Growing up in Los Angeles in the late 80s and 90s, it was a difficult time for a little Hispanic girl to pursue a dream of performing and being in front of the camera. That was the time of the “all American girl” with blonde hair and blue eyes and that certainly wasn’t me! Nonetheless, I refused to let that stop me. I diligently trained in dance (ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical) and became heavily involved in theatre. Read more>>

Yshaundra Wright

I was born in Mississippi, raised in California, and moved to Georgia for a change. I believed at the age of 26, I could build a better life for myself. One morning, I packed my car and I drove from California to Georgia in three days. When I arrived two months later I was sleeping in my car for almost two months. One day I was approved for a spacious apartment. I’ve created that healthy life I’ve always wanted here in Georgia. Read more>>

Christy and Kemper Kaliana

I’ve been in the beauty industry for twenty-plus years, and started out learning from others, as well as teaching myself, by being immersed in many different aspects of production, mostly in South Florida. As my own skills, reputation, and experience grew, I developed solid professional relationships with many top photographers and wedding planners and naturally found a niche in bridal hair & makeup. I have a gift and a passion for all things beauty and it became clear that I could easily assist others in achieving their desired look for their BIG DAY! Read more>>

Billy Upchurch

The youngest of three boys, Growing up different, I never really felt like I fit in. I didn’t like the things that the other boys liked and I was bullied for that. I liked things that were bright and shiny and that Sparkled. I never had friends all growing up. I really just felt alone most times. When I came out as Gay to my family, I can’t say it went well. It just led to fights with my brothers and then me being kicked out of the home I grew up in. Read more>>

Carie Behounek

I’m a middle-aged lady. I grew up on a farm in Iowa but Colorado has been my home for 20+ years. I live in Denver with my daughter Juliet (12) and dog, Leo (2). I have run my own freelance writing business since 2011. It’s currently changing and evolving. Which feels scary. And exhilarating. It should evolve. Because I’ve evolved. Like many women blessed by the 4th decade of life, I’m done playing in the BS. My own BS and that of others. Currently, I help brands find stories that exemplify their work. Sometimes that’s writing web copy for a law firm that is a great place to work. Read more>>

Seven Lindsey

I started Rado Threads during the initial lockdown period of the Covid-19 pandemic. I am not the type of person to enjoy remaining stagnant even if the world would like me to, so I began the process of starting my own clothing brand. In the beginning, I lacked virtually all of the technical skills required to start a clothing brand, such as photoshop for logo design, legal knowledge, website design experience, etc. However, the one thing that I did have was determination and ample time to put these new skills to the test. Read more>>

Richard McCrea

I have always had a passion for photography. As a musician, audio engineer, and producer, I have been blessed to travel the country and beyond for the last 20+ years with the artist MDZ and build a production company called Bowa Music, and as a family man, I’ve enjoyed lots of recitals, concerts, school events, and holidays…taking pictures and video at every turn to document my adventures and treasured memories. Over the years, my skills and love for photography and video production grew into services for others, and I formally started Richard Lo Photography in 2014. Read more>>

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