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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.

Lauren Solomon

Before VoxPopin, I was teaching at a high school in Indonesia. I became incredibly sick and had a seizure. Despite going to the hospital and insisting it was parasites, the school was convinced that I was possessed by a demon and I was quickly fired. As the job hunt began, I found an ad that caught my eye: “Are you a teacher? Do you love to travel? JOIN THE CIRCUS!” And so, I ran away and joined the circus.  Read more>>

Ashley Sayles

Originally from Queens, New York, Ashley Sayles is a Baltimore- based nursing faculty member at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, founder & CEO of The ReNegade Resume, LLC, social media consultant, pediatric primary care nurse practitioner, and former travel pediatric ICU nurse  Ashley is a first-generation Jamaican American woman born of a carpenter and nurse. Growing up, Ashley was a stellar student and avid dancer, taking tap dance for over 15 years. During her time at the world-renowned Bronx High School of Science, Ashley’s passion for community service, Black empowerment, and extracurricular involvement truly blossomed.  Ashley went on to attend the illustrious Howard University earning a degree in sports medicine and continued on the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing where she earned a bachelor’s and masters in nursing and advanced practice nursing respectively.  Read more>>

Kamille Black

Growing up, I knew I wanted to have my own business. I know, it sounds cliche, but it is honestly the truth. I love beauty, fashion, and art. Always have. I think those are really the best ways to express yourself, without having to speak. The older I got, the more I found myself falling in love with the beauty of hair. It was truly an obsession I had. That’s when my husband and my mom suggested that I should start selling hair. So, shortly after my son was born, I launched my hair business, Kad Black Hair Extensions, October 14th, 2017.  Read more>>

Coya Cager

Growing up I always loved fashion one of my favorite shows was actually Project Runway. I’ve always loved the process of creating clothing and well as how it makes me feel. Although when I was younger, I never thought that I could actually pursue a career in fashion because people always had discouraging words saying “how are you going to make money?” or “are you sure that’s the career path you want to take because it’s so hard?” So, fashion wasn’t my real focus at first, but my mother being very supportive and encouraging about always following your dreams, she’s the one who really pushed me to commit to it. It’s funny because my college journey is a little different from everyone else but at the end of the day, it was for the best. Fresh out of high school I had the goal of attending my dream school FIT but I did not work out like that. I actually got turned down at first, of course, I was sad but I was determined to go. Read more>>

LaTonya Mosley

I grew up in Ohio and my mom would cater events for the church and family events. I loved helping her and my interest grew more and more as I got older. In 1989, I moved to the Washington-Metropolitan area and began a career with the Federal Government. Over the years, I moved throughout my agency finally settling in and making my mark in Human Resources. I managed the planning and execution of two of the agencies most prestigious awards ceremonies (one was quarterly and the other was yearly). I am a wife and mother of three biological sons as well as two bonus daughters and a bonus son. Throughout my children’s lives, I was the parent who would volunteer to run the end-of-the-year sports banquets. I am the friend who, when invited to events, always ensures everyone has what they need. I planned both of my weddings, my son and soon to be daughter in love’s baby shower. When I attend weddings, I will pick out things I would do differently. One day my husband said, “Why don’t you open your own business?” Read more>>

Erika Kristo

I began my yoga practice in Los Angeles in 2001 after a work colleague insisted that I try yoga to help alleviate the stress and anxiety of a demanding career. I was deeply resistant, but as soon as I took that first class something changed. The collective energy of the room, the self-generated heat, and the continuous flow of breath and movement had an immediate positive impact on both my physical and mental health. I was hooked, intrigued, and determined to practice and learn more.  I continued a regular Ashtanga Yoga practice and studies in both Hawaii and then in Washington, DC. after moving to Maryland in 2012. Once my children reached an age where they were considerably more independent, I began teaching at Ashtanga Yoga Studio DC and shadowing Keith Moore. In 2019, I met Romy Phillips, a Los Angeles yoga teacher with over 20 years of experience, after she returned to live in Maryland where she originally grew up. Together, Romy and I decided that it was time to cultivate an Ashtanga Yoga community in Maryland because we could see that there was a need. Read more>>

Tieashia Lewis

Three years ago, I found myself in a devastating place. A relationship ended, and I was completely in shambles. My heart, mind, body, and soul was broken. At that very moment, I decided within myself I wanted change, and the change I wanted had to start with me. I made a promise too my-self that I would not re-visit this place again, that’s where my healing began. I took a retrospect of my previous relationships and found not only were they toxic relationships but also, I was repeating a cycle. Every relationship was the same, just a new face. I was the common denominator in each one. So, what did I have inside of me that was indeed attracting toxic cycles? That was the question. I then took a look at my relationship with my father as a child. A women’s first relationship with a man is that of her father’s. I was dating my dad and I didn’t even know it. I found his previous characteristics, and behavior in the men I was attracted to. That called for a very hard conversation with my dad.  Read more>>

Dr. Briana DeNeal-Findley

I first started The Bee Network as a mental health platform in 2018 to educate my community and peers on mental health for millennial. In 2019 I took my very first private practice therapy client. From there the business quickly evolved to a group therapy practice providing virtual mental health services to children, adults, and couples. My passion for mental health grew into a business bigger than I could have ever imagined and has helped over 200 people in the DMV.  Read more>>

Rodney Bulls

I owe a lot of where I am today as an artist to one of my best friends/brothers but I’ll bring that full circle in a moment. Let’s start from the beginning. My father passed down his natural gift of art and creativity to my 2 biological brothers and I. I was maybe five in the first grade and brought home a picture of SpongeBob that I drew at school that my mom swore I traced. I was adamant that I didn’t trace it and returned to my room to draw something else as proof. Over the years I would draw and paint for leisure, and excel in art class. Growing up there was a stigma that there wasn’t any real money in the Art world, which discouraged most from ever pursuing it further than art class went. I applied and got accepted into Sudbrook middle magnet school for their Visual Arts program where I initially met the previously mentioned bro. Fast forward, this friend of mine went on to a great school for art with the intentions of pursing art full-time when he graduated despite the stigma of not being able to live a luxurious life from it. Read more>>

Natasha and Silesia Moss

I have been baking since I was about 10 years old. It was my maternal grandmother who taught me how to bake. cakes and pies. Even while stationed in Seoul, Korea, I would bake for my office. Yes, I’m an Army veteran. After my grandmother passed away in 1993, I didn’t have much reason to bake. It wasn’t until 2014 that I started baking for coworkers or work events while in North Carolina. Everyone loved what I brought to work. ESPECIALLY the Vanilla Pound Cakes. Some even thought I bought the cakes from a local bakery. To their surprise, it was me. From there, I was constantly asked if I had my own business. However, actual business talk didn’t start until my daughter, Silesia, and I had moved to Maryland.  Silesia: I didn’t start decorating cakes until my first job at a neighborhood grocery store in 2016. As a beginner, I was mostly nervous about writing on the cakes. Though I only worked there for a little over a year, it was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Read more>>

Allison Stewart

As a former preschool teacher, I was privileged enough to assist families in the beginning stages of their family’s development. After almost 20 years of teaching, supporting, & empowering other parents, I welcomed my own child into the world and felt the call to support families in a different way. I wanted to be there to help them navigate the big step of welcoming their baby into the word as a doula (aka birth coach). I see pregnancy, birth, and the growth of a family as one of the most exciting and sacred times in our lives. I feel honored to be invited into the sacred space of the growing family. I truly believe in a village and am honored to hold space within it.  I also have the privilege of supporting those who are birth workers, birth photographers, holistic practitioners, doulas, trainers, and others build their business to better serve their clients. It has truly been a wonderful experience having an impact on maternal health, being able to help create positive birthing experiences, and encouraging the amazing people who serve families.  Read more>>

Ashley Chiang

I have always been an artist, looking back. As a child and throughout the years growing up. It was always in the realm of expression and giving, and it continued through school, work, and parenting, but very part-time as you can imagine. Paper has been a constant in my crafts; scrapbooking, card making, paper sculpting, origami, etc. So, in the winter of 2012, when I was perusing the Internet for inspiration for what to make and give my sister, I came across paper quilling. I was immediately entranced and decided I would give it a go with just a few days’ time in between discovering quilling and needing to present my sister with a gift. I dove into images and YouTube tutorials, most of which helped me develop my own methods and techniques since I was adamant to use what I had on hand (loads of card stock, no special tools). Ultimately, I gave my sister an IOU on her birthday because what I thought would be a simple project took me many, many more hours than I’d imagined. Read more>>

Teressa Frazier

First, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I had always worked a full-time job and was an entrepreneur part-time. Always pouring into my four children that multiple streams of income is key to success. For many years I was an event planner part-time in Maryland and Pennsylvania working with my church and others. For 18 years I worked a full-time job with the University of Maryland Baltimore. In 2016 I met with a group of ladies who wanted to start investing in real estate in Maryland. At the time I was still working full time as an accounting manager with the university. I decided at one of our meetings that I would obtain my real estate license and be the realtor for the group. I took a 2-week vacation and during that time completed the real estate classes, took the test a week later, and passed. During that time, I had no idea what I would do next. Read more>>

Kirk Pile

In 1997 I moved to the United States from Trinidad. Throughout my childhood years and adult life, I have always had an eye and passion for art. It all started off one day when I purchased my first small Canon camera and started taking pictures. That’s when I fell in love with photography! Capturing everything from family photos to landscape scenery. In 2004, I became a full-time police officer in Maryland which gave me the opportunity to take continuously take photos of crime scenes, accidents, and police events. Seeing the potential for a successful business, I decided to turn a hobby into a professional business which created Triniography Images, all still being a full-time police officer.  Read more>>

Taisha Andrews

I was a mobility bus driver from 2003-2013 we use to carry bags to collect out fares from riders. I use to glue colorful buttons on my fare bag and other drivers always inquired about it, it was just fun but drivers began asking me to make them and sell them. In 2013 my scoliosis (which I was born with) would not allow me to remain a driver I could not pass Department of transportation driver exam. I started working some part-time jobs still trying to figure out what I’m the world I would do next. In June of 2013, I got married and I became a housewife still use to being a driver and undecided on what I would do. Drivers starting reaching out on Facebook asking for designed Fanny packs every week it became more and more and a lightbulb clicked boom! New part-time gig well it just blew up! Over the years my talent and creativity improved and it became a full-time gig. In 2016 at the age of 39, I had my very first child I took a break from my business just to get use to becoming a mom and it seemed my customers didn’t approve of a break lol orders just kept pouring in so in 2018 I decided to start my business back up full time and call it CusTYmize. Read more>>

Morgane Klareich

I feel like I should start from the beginning. I come from a very close family because I am not just an only child but a female-only child. My Dad is second-generation American, his grandparents immigrated through Ellis Island in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. They were escaping persecuting from being Jewish in Eastern Europe. My Dad was the first of my family to go to college and worked extremely hard to get a full ride to Cooper Union in Manhattan. Since I was little, he always pushed me to be my best, and honestly, the drive and ambition I have comes from my father. We both believe that if you put your heart and mind to something you can achieve it. He was able to get a degree in Physics and rise the ranks during the big tech boom in Silicon Valley of the ’80s and ’90s. Also, because of his driven focus in his career, he met my mom in France from work in his mid 30’s. I am first-generation American on my mom’s side and she reminds me all the time that I am just as French as American, there is no 50-50, it’s 100% of each. Read more>>

JaLena Findley

In 2018, I was really learning about the dance industry and classes with different genres. I loved that idea and thought it would be so beneficial for dancers in Baltimore. Getting a feel of multiple genres, learning about dancing with control and different pockets would open the minds of many dancers and hopefully opportunities. However, there weren’t many multi-genre classes being taught in Baltimore, the majority of them were heels. I wanted to create a space where all types of dancers could come and train. From contemporary to hip hop, from heels to HBCU Dance Line. I wanted everyone to feel like they were welcomed. I got where I am today with consistency and believing in myself. Being consistent with anything you’re passionate about is important. I constantly posted dance videos and class information and people began see notice Childish Choreography and love what it stands for. Ever since then, Childish Choreography has been thriving.  Read more>>

Kelsey Vetri

I decided to attend cosmetology school at 18 years old. My grandmother and mother, who are also hairstylists, pretty much raised me in a salon environment, and as some may say “it runs in my blood.” The craft was something I fell in love immediately and the fact that it came so easy made me want to dive headfirst into this career.  After getting my Cosmetology license I started in an Associate Program at Tranquille Hair and Body located in Towson, Maryland. I worked next to the owner for a few months learning and advancing my knowledge to set myself up for growth behind the chair.  7 years later and here I am; working with my second Associate this year while managing the salon’s social media accounts and continuing to grow my own clientele. The feeling of my career really coming full circle gives me so much joy. I love the education side of this industry and being able to share what I know to other stylists has become a true passion. Read more>>

Lost Tribes Tattoos

We REALLY started from the mud, The original three met at an old shop that was going under, the only way to not go under ourselves was to start our own shop. Which we had no clue how to do, but we knew first things first we needed to find a location. Our first location was so small it could only fit us. As we started to grow and make a name for ourselves with our tattoos and awards from expos, we had to add artists to help with all the traffic. Luckily by the time that we started to bust out of the seams of our small shop a bigger spot on the other side of our building opened up! I honestly think we were meant to be here; we were meant to bring all the “Lost Tribes” or “Lost Souls” together. We are all outsiders ourselves, so we feel like we are home to all! Read more>>

Courtney Graham and Yana Newman

Courtney Graham and Yana Newman have been in the hair industry for over 15 years. They both specialize in color and that’s how they really built their large clientele. About 2 years ago they decided to make the jump and open up their own hair Studio. They were hoping things would start off smoothly, but that was far from the case. Building and stocking their studio had a few hiccups, and about 3 weeks post opening they discovered their previous salon had decided to threaten a lawsuit over a non-compete. Fast forward 2 years later, nothing ever came of it thanks to their brilliant lawyer. They now have a very successful business, booking 8-12 weeks out and have lots of new clients consistently reaching out in hopes to get in.  Read more>>

Andrea Scott

I am a 45-year-old mother of two adult children and a Baltimore Native who loves her city and community.  Finance and helping people became a passion of mines.  I have over 17 years of experience in the Tax and Financial Industry. My career in the financial industry began when I began doing my own personal taxes. I soon realized that big companies were charging astronomical fees for their services to me, and my family. These fees were taking away a lot of our hard-earned money. As she began learning tax laws and the proper way to prepare taxes, I began to provide the service to other individuals I knew.  As time passed, and in 2001, at the age of 25, I made the decision to file for personal bankruptcy due to personal circumstances. At that time my inability to not be able to attain an attorney caused me to redirect my services to a preparer that was done at an affordable rate.  These two experiences helped me realize that there was a need to help individuals and families to file for personal bankruptcy due to indigence and also helping individuals and families file their taxes and keep more money in their pockets.  Read more>>

MacKenzie Campbell

I’m 28 years old. I’m from and am currently living in Columbia, MD. My story starts back in high school when I decided which career path I wanted to pursue—teaching or pastry Chef. When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I fell in love with baking and was consistently baking or creating something new. I didn’t start considering doing it for a living until I made my OH Honey cookies for a friend in high school. I chose to pursue a career in Early childhood education while I continued to bake as a hobby. After my second son was born, I decided to stay at home until he was old enough for preschool and wanted to find something to do during my downtime. That’s when I picked up baking again! I started baking random cookies, but then I found a community of “cookiers” (cookie artists) and fell in love! I started baking for my church in 2019, and things grew from there, which led to the start of Kenzie’s Cookies and Creations! I’m still a small business working from my kitchen; however, I hope to expand sometime in the future. Read more>>

CopyRyte

Growing up, I was the only son of a single mom of 4. I watched my mom hustle every day from sunrise to sunset. She always made sure we had all the essentials. Clothes, food, lights, water, and whatever else that was needed. She taught me to always go hard for what I wanted. At the age of 17, my mom was murdered by her husband. It was very hard to cope with. She was all I had. At the age of 20, I had my first-born son. At that moment, I realized I had to do everything necessary for him. I became a man of many hats. A hip-hop artist, graphic designer, chef, a DJ, and more. My mom was my role model and she paved the way to show me I don’t need to work for someone when I could make a way for myself.  Read more>>

Valerie Leuchs

Although I studied Fine Art in college, I did not paint much until 2017 (16 years after I graduated). When my boys were ages 3 and 1, I started taking drop-in art classes at a community center. I really enjoyed painting again. It was therapeutic and nice break from the hectic life as a stay-at-home mom.  I posted one of my first paintings on Instagram and an old college friend purchased it. From there I started to paint more and more and sell work to my friends. In March of 2020, we temporarily moved out of New York City and lived with my dad in North Carolina. At that point, I really wanted to focus on building a career as a professional artist. I spent the Spring and Summer creating a body of abstract art to apply to a group art show. I was invited to participate in my first group art show at Liza Pruitt Collective in July 0f 2020 and it was a success. Read more>>

Chloe Gross

Drippedbyc was launched January 1st, 2021. Since our launch, we have shipped over 300 orders & have to 30+ states. Drippedbyc specializes in accessories & custom clothing. We offer products at an affordable price! Our accessories include custom bangles, custom photo necklaces, designer bangles & croc charms. Our clothing consisted of custom jeans & Bape hoodies. Read more>>

Andrea Garner

I have always been a foodie person. I’m the house people come to for thanksgiving and ask for the best restaurants. I love making sure people are having a good time! It just felt natural to start a YouTube channel and Instagram (and now TikTok) when I post my food and great places for everyone to eat (even when I travel out of state).  Read more>>

Sid Sharma

We started in the side of a Hampden juice shop in 2015. Our Wild Bay Kombucha and Icaro Yerba Maté can now be found in over 1300 stores in 10 states.  Adam and Sergio’s family has been brewing kombucha for over 20 years. I (Sid) have been friends with them since I was 14 years old, and as far back as I can remember, their parents had a passion for fermented foods and sustainable living. Their home kitchen always felt more like a laboratory with food experiments constantly being performed whether it was making sourdough bread, pickling home-grown vegetables, or brewing kombucha. From an early age, they taught us the importance of fermented foods and holistic nutrition.  In 2008, their parents moved to South America and left the kombucha brewing equipment with Adam. Missing the way drinking kombucha made him feel and the nostalgia of making it, he pulled out the equipment and started brewing. Read more>>

Destiny Coleman

Make A Wish Seafood was created out of the love for seafood and soul. The restaurant’s menu revolves around mixing seafood with soul food to create your extraordinary broil. It was a just a pilot idea in 2019 discussed over dinner and came into motion the end of January 2020 before the COVID upset. Thankfully, but constantly continuing to upgrade these luxury broil dishes we have been able to expand into catering and now meal prep with a focus on serving fresh food daily quality matters so we are constantly asking, “what’s on your fork?”  Read more>>

Justin Brooks

I started doing background acting on a few movies. The first was Wonderwoman 1988 and then I met someone while I was doing background work for the charm city kings movie about the dirt bike life in Baltimore city. From there I did an urban web series on YouTube called Project heat Baltimore. So, I do a lil acting but I just recently got into the 2A movement and I’m training to become a firearms instructor so that I can help my people become safe lawful gun owners to protect their family and themselves. How I got into that is my wife’s coworker’s husband asked me one simple question. That question was how do I protect my family and I couldn’t even answer him. That was a year ago since then I got my HQL and my license to carry in 32 different states I also got my private detectives license and my license to Cary in the state of Maryland while I’m on active duty working as a private Detective.  Read more>>

Monique Wilson

I started singing when I was 6 years old. I found out I had a voice due to me having a speech impediment which caused me to stutter really bad. It has also led to me being teased in grade school by fellow peers. I had two speech therapists and they both recommended to my mother that I should start singing repetitive words so that I could slow down my tongue. I would sing everywhere. I would sing in school, when I was doing my homework, while I was getting ready for bed, singing have become a part of me from that point forward. When I found out that I had a voice, I told my mother that I wanted to be a singer, and ever since then, she has encouraged me to follow my dreams as a singer. In school, I was in different chorus classes, I was in different music clubs but I was always the shy person in school. I never wanted to show my talent because I was afraid of what people may have thought about me and my singing. It caused me to hide away my God-given talent for years. Read more>>

Antanique Peterson

I’ve been passionately doing hair for years. Learned how to braid at 11. Got my first mannequin at 12. Did my first client at 14 on my Hispanic friend’s sister’s hair for PROM. Graduated Cosmetology school in 2013. Opened my first salon in 2013 before I even got to graduate. The salon failed to bring in enough profit and I had to close not too long after the first year. When I got pregnant, I decided to write a book based from my life’s journal entries in hopes to help others on theirs. After having my daughter, I went back to doing hair out of a dining room chair AT HOME. Got the courage to open a suite with family in 2015. Which failed and Closed before the anniversary. Took a long break and picked back up in 2016. I published my first book “Bad Dream” in 2017 and continued traveling to style hair, while also working a full-time job. I went through many challenges and humbled seasons. In 2018 my daughter Seven was diagnosed with Autism. I stopped working an hourly job to completely give her as much time as she needed from me. Read more>>

Travis Bell

The original idea to start Black Acres was to start a home cold brew delivery service. I didn’t want to sell another brand’s coffee, I wanted it to be my own. I knew I would have to learn to roast and I wanted to really learn more about roasting to sell my own beans. I decided to take an introduction to roasting course at Mill City Roasters. I instantly fell in love with the process of roasting. I knew this was how I wanted my journey into coffee to be. I was fortunate to get a space in Seya Wellness facility that allowed me to sell coffee beans and cold brew to members. From there I started setting up at local CrossFit events and pop-ups which evolved to e-commerce and wholesale partnerships. Now, we are about to open our first cafe in Baltimore City at OpenWorks Maker-space Read more>>

 

Jennifer and David Mercer

In March 2020, David lost his job due to the budget cuts and financial stress from the pandemic. The loss of income for us, like for many others, brought about new stressors of uncertainty for our future. Although we were nervous about our financial stability, we were sure that with a college degree and years of sales and marketing experience that another opportunity would quickly present itself allowing us to return to our normal way of life. Unfortunately, days turned to weeks and then months. After months of failed hiring attempts, we realized our short-term problem may be longer than we anticipated. My husband, David, had been spending most of his days managing stress through fitness – doing home workouts, riding his bike, practicing sports with our children, and becoming a certified personal trainer and nutritionist. His fitness and wellness journey and ambitions had forced our family to become more active and mentally fit. Read more>>

Tristan Lindsey

I started my lemonade business because my mom and my stepdad were always working hard. So, I wanted to help out so I said I wanted to sell lemonade. But of course, my parents help me with my business. So now we use it to help save money for when I’m old enough to go to college. Read more>>

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