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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.

Kristin Vucina

I am a mom, foodie, travel, and life lover with many diverse interests! I love being immersed in nature, but also love the energy of a city. The mountains and beach both have my heart. I love to laugh with people, but also need quality time to reenergize. I love sports and also the theater (especially musicals). I basically love all foods and enjoy both cooking and baking. Growing up in Vermont, my days were spent among the quaint mountains, mostly ski race training by day and theater rehearsal at night. After attending college in Florida, I ventured to Maryland for work in the tech world (I have a Master’s in Computer Science) and have now called it home for over 18 years! I love the natural and cultural diversity this state offers, making it a photographer’s dream. Read more>>

Magdalena

I have always been interested in photography… even in elementary school, all I remember wanting was to ask Santa for a Polaroid camera. In high school, I was introduced to the darkroom, and that’s when an interest became a full-blown obsession. While in high school, I started sneaking my camera into concerts, and by the time I was a junior, I knew I wanted to pursue photography professionally. Read more>>

Mark Baile

I started playing music when I was 5 years old. I’ve always had a passion for music that has stemmed from both sides of my family. I remember when I was about 9 my uncle, Donald sat me down and started teaching me notes on the guitar. From that point, any time he played or I saw a band play, I was like glue in front of the stage. I got my first drum set when I was 9. I had only taken a few lessons when in 1987, I started teaching drums at the “New Song Guitar Center.” I played my first nightclub show in 1987 when I was 18 years of age with “The Dixie Hiway Band.” Read more>>

Ayotide Bello

Hi! My name is Ayotide “Tide” Bello, and I am the owner and creative behind Ayo Arrangements & Co. (AA&Co.) AA&Co. simply started as Ayo Arrangements, coined after the meaning of my full name — “my joy is here”. Funny enough, I’ve always known I wanted to own a business. After realizing that I didn’t need a business degree to become an entrepreneur, my creativity sparked as I started Ayo Arrangements during my freshman year out of my dorm room. Simply as just a quick way to earn some more money as a college student, it has blossomed into something bigger than just gift baskets and myself. Read more>>

Z GANG

I grew up in the ’80s era when gangsta music first started N.W.A, SPICE 1, MC Eight, Dayton Family, 8ball MJG, etc. I also grew up on the southside of Chicago Harold Ickey Home Projects 2320 state St. I see it all early wasn’t any hiding we had to get it how we live (out da mud). We respected our big homie because he made sure we ate they showed us unity and growth, I never forgot my 5p’s through life it saved me a lot of music came in my teen years when I met my big brother from the hood (BIGJUICEG) and(GANGWAYZMAZE) he was my biggest motivation cause he believed in me. Read more>>

DZI

I’ve always been fascinated with the evolutionary history of artists. It’s interesting to be able to take this fascination and point it inwards. Music started for me in PG County Maryland, in Kettering banging on the breakfast table… making songs with my little brother, Isaiah. We would pretend we were in the Five Heartbeats or Temptations, singing songs we made up in a Motown style cadence and melody. “Get up outta my way! Cause you’re alright. Get up outta my way! Cause you’re alright.” Read more>>

Nitia Scott

In 2013, while in graduate school for social work, I decided I wanted some sort of excitement. I was living in Pennsylvania at the time and didn’t know anybody, so I wanted to be able to meet people, have fun but also wanted to make money because college students aren’t the richest. So I enrolled in bartending school and upon completion, I started working for an event/catering company that provided event staff for upscale events. I have worked in various establishments (hotels, lounges, event spaces), but felt like I was supposed to be doing more. Read more>>

Terri Lemere

I graduated from Towson University in 1996 with my master’s in Occupational Therapy. I worked as an Occupational Therapist in many different settings – nursing home, assisted living, outpatient, hospital, school, and my favorite setting – my patients’ homes. When working with patients in their homes, my plan of care focused on helping my patient rehabilitate. But along with treating the person, I always assessed their home environment too. Read more>>

Niela Phoenix

BIOMA is owned by both me and my husband. Many years ago we a had dream to build a dojo. Ebon (my husband) had been practicing martial arts for over 30 years and retired from teaching at Baltimore City Public Schools. After several years of planning, funding, and building, BIOMA finally developed into an exclusive Dojo, Yoga Studio, and Art studio quietly located in Mt. Washington. I teach Art and Yoga and we also have like-minded folks rent the space for events within our general bailiwick such as meditation courses, wrestling, etc. Read more>>

Melissa Newman

Initially, I found some inspiration through my older cousin when I was still in middle school. She had gotten a really cool digital camera (when digital was just becoming widely accessible to retail consumers). She had a good eye for photos and I thought her pictures were cool. Then when I started high school, we had choices of elective courses to take. I chose to take a film photography course, the course included an entire darkroom for developing our prints. I enjoyed my photography class and felt I did pretty well with framing things creatively etc. During this same period of time, while shooting on a film SLR, I also obtained my first point-and-shoot digital camera. Read more>>

Owen Murphy

I have always been drawn to art. My dad is an artist as well so it runs in the family. I took a class at Salisbury University that covered the history of poster design and the teacher had us design several posters in different styles throughout the last 150 years. As a fan of music, I was enamored by the old Fillmore and Avalon Ballroom posters from the ’60s. After graduation, I started doing flyers for local shows and musicians. That turned into doing a lot of t-shirts and posters for bands in Baltimore. For the first few years, I would do it for weed money or free entry to the shows. Then, I learned about screen-printed posters so I could make some extra cash. It was a fun creative outlet so I kept doing it. Eventually, I was making enough money from it to quit my office job and it snowballed into what it is today. Read more>>

Madeline Serio

Hi there! My name is Madeline Serio and I am a Maryland-based Wedding Photographer! I have been lucky enough to work professionally in this industry since 2018 and I still can’t believe this is my job. Growing up, I was almost always surrounded by all the different forms of art. All of my family members are artsy or crafty in their own way, so I was almost born into this world because of that. I knew from a very early age that I wanted a job that would combine my love of visual arts with my love of people! Read more>>

A.J. Throwback

My journey with music and media primarily begins with my father, Mitchell Goings. He worked in radio when he was a teenager and young adult, progressed into becoming a disc jockey, and had an impeccable ear for great music. Seeing records laying around from a wide range of artists including Cameo, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Phil Collins, The Sugar Hill Gang, Whitney Houston, Isley Jasper Isley, Michael Jackson, and countless others, both of my parents’ musical tastes sparked a lifelong love and passion for music of all types. He also taught me how to appreciate music from different generations as he shared music from his generation while embracing a lot of new school hip hop music–including the music I would eventually make as a producer and artist. Read more>>

Alexander Hunter

The story of the current version of myself started when I was 22. When I got out of school and had to get a real job. I had done some previous stints with music PR doing PR work with agencies that worked with artists I loved at the time like Dom Kennedy and Pac Div but there was the looming shadow of the recession still very much in the job market. Also, I had come to the realization that trying to be in the entertainment industry is mentally taxing so I interned at smaller tech startups but there wasn’t one that spoke to me or paid enough for me to stay on the long term. So I ended up getting a job at Best Buy and then shortly after would get a contracted position with an organization that held events and forums for high-earning business founders and CEOs. The position was supposed to be A/B testing for one month on the organization’s new website but instead, they kept me on for a year. Read more>>

Mychell Brewington

I started my business during the beginning of the pandemic when we all thought it would last two weeks. Lol. I was a healthcare worker, pretty bored with working and coming straight home. Work was stressful during that time, so I was just looking for something new to try and do or learn. I was a personal trainer back in college, so I was initially planning on getting that backup and running for myself, especially since the gyms were closed due to COVID. I was online trying to find virtual training platforms so I could begin taking clients and an advertisement for a body contouring course popped up. Read more>>

Carly Fisher

So I started Cosmetology school in 2011 at Robert Paul Academy of Cosmetology in Timonium MD. Early in school, I recognized I had an ongoing Alcohol addiction and during cosmetology school I got sober. (I have been sober for over 10 years now). I wanted to make it so bad in this industry. It was the first school and life experience that I felt that I belonged and had a purpose. I then went on to get my license and worked in various salons. I had a passion for Updos and Bridal hair. There was one stylist at a salon that I worked at that actually told me that I would never make it. Read more>>

Kerri Jeter

After deployment, I moved to Fort Meade to be the lead for HomeTown News and serve in the Maryland National Guard. After a bit, I was transferred to Washington State. I continued to serve and won the title of Ms. Veteran America in 2015 and advocated for homeless female veterans, a pivotal role in cultivating the work I am doing today. I saw the struggle and resilience of my sisters-in-arms and the empowerment we can be for one another. As the fastest-growing segment in the veteran community, women veterans are still vastly underserved and resource both in and out of the uniform. It is really up to us to champion other women who serve, are serving, or want to serve in the future. Read more>>

Sharon “PINKEE” Pinkerton

Picture it, 2016 Baltimore, a friend/co-worker of mine named, Kelly taught a basic cake decorating class at the cake and wedding cottage. She had been trying to get me to take one of her classes for a few years. We received a nice profit-sharing check at our job, so I went ahead and signed up. In one of our classes, we learned to do an image transfer. I chose my Orioles and before I finished decorating my cake one of my classmates wanted to buy my cake for her brother. That was it I was hooked. Read more>>

Rick and Natascha Weedon

Rick and Natascha Weedon are entrepreneurs passionate about making a difference in the lives of others. We share health and wellness information of great value not available in the mainstream, then coach and support those who decide to pursue their best health through our proven protocols. We’re a husband-and-wife team, parents of 3 incredible humans (Niya, Jessica & Jai) that empower others through our Wealth Thru Wellness Project. A project designed to empower people physically and if appropriate, financially as well. Read more>>

Kisha L. Webster

Go Forth and Serve was the motto of Delaware State University, which I am a proud alum. This motto has become the catalyst for why and how I engage in the community as an educator, mentor, advocate, and non-profit leader. My work at the Greenmount West Community Center Foundation has been philanthropic; an intentional sharing of my gifts and talents on behalf of the community. Read more>>

Yitzchok Golfeiz

My father immigrated from Iran right before the Revolution in his country. His father was a famous doctor and valued education, so he sent my father “Gabe” to the states to attend college. Gabe studied engineering in Oklahoma for a few years and decided to move to Baltimore in the early ’80s to strengthen his Judaism. At that point in time, Baltimore had a flourishing orthodox Jewish community that also served as a haven for Persian jews that had to escape persecution from the newly formed Iranian government. Read more>>

Paige Orpin

I have enjoyed art since I was a little kid, but I remember vividly when the switch turned on all the way. I was in high school and I was hanging out with some guys that wrote graffiti. At this point, I had never thought one way or another about graffiti in general. But, I remember these guys sitting around, passing their sketchbooks back and forth. They were flipping through books with pages that were hit top to bottom with color, talking about what they liked about each others sketches, and the way they could make certain parts look even better. Read more>>

Craig Lawrence

Aside from a brief bit of photography in college, my real journey into the world of photos came after my divorce in 2009. Our separation had left me with a lot of free time, and I really put a lot into doing some moody, artsy self-portraits. From there, I started studying all I could about cameras and image creation. After a few years of being experimental, and working as an assistant for a local wedding photographer for a few months, and I made the leap to doing headshots, artistic portraits, and glamour photography, professionally. Read more>>

Mikaela Iwaskiw

Hi! I’m Mikaela Iwaskiw, a home baker based out of Baltimore, MD. I’ve been baking since I could reach the countertop. My love for cakes began when I was 13 and started helping my mom with wedding cakes. It became a fun, creative outlet and I loved seeing the joy it would bring each couple on their big day! Food brings people together in a unique way, especially when it’s for a special event like a wedding or birthday. Read more>>

Clarke Gable

I am from Kuching in Borneo, Malaysia. When I was younger, I was never very good at school but I loved to draw. I would doodle all the time and sometimes get in trouble for not paying attention. My culture has a very long history of tribal tattooing. After graduating high school, I met a local tattooer who became a good friend of mine. With the traditional Handtap method of tattooing, you need a stretcher to help stretch the skin. Jeremy Lo, my mentor, would have me stretch for him. I follow him to conventions all over Europe and Asia and learned tattooing from him and many other cultural artists. I’m lucky to have learned from some of the best traditional tribal artists in Borneo and around the world. I met my wife while she was teaching English in Borneo, and I moved to the USA to be with her in 2018. I have been tattooing in the USA ever since. Read more>>

Chapell Sears

Hello! Let me take you back in the time for my journey. Back in 2016, while living in Ohio, I went to my first modeling photoshoot with Laura Dark Photography. At the time, I was battling postpartum depression with my infant daughter. The photographer gave me such encouragement and wisdom that I decided to give modeling a try. A try I did! I took my hobby into a career by taking modeling gigs to build my portfolio and then I got featured in magazines throughout my career. I have over 80 features and three magazines. My specialties are fantasy and cosplay. I love the entire transformation from the makeup to the scenery of the location. Read more>>

Seneca Frazier

I have always had two passions in life, helping others and the love of all things artistic. In 2006, I fulfilled one of those passions beginning my career in the Baltimore City Fire Department as a firefighter/paramedic and shortly after, in 2009, promoted to just a paramedic. Even though I enjoyed my new career and found my niche in life by helping others in what proved to be the most vulnerable times in their lives, I realized something was still missing. In high school, I learned early on that I loved fashion but lacked the self-confidence to pursue anything further than my modeling club. A year after joining the fire department, I gained the courage to begin exploring the world of fashion by doing some print work and local fashion shows modeling runway looks. Read more>>

Jameka Turner

Being creative has always been a passion. Whether drawing or painting or simply doing crafts, being creative was always something I was good at. My passion for makeup came in high school but I never took it too seriously until prom season. When my prom makeup was nothing that I wanted I vowed to never have my makeup done professionally again. It took years for me to really get back in makeup after that. Around 2015, I began to take a major interest in the beauty industry as a whole. Read more>>

Skrap

I first gained interest in the podcast field when I appeared on an episode of “without further ado” a podcast run by my homeboys Qaid and Walter (RIP). Previously I had listened to podcasts sporadically as I was and still am a fan of the Breakfast Club, but I wasn’t thinking about doing a podcast until watching an episode of “Drink Champs” and thinking wow that’s us. I could totally relate to their format and what they were talking about. Read more>>

Diane Bovalino

I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer back in 2007 and after my initial double mastectomy surgery, months of chemotherapy, I began my walk of life “after the big crisis of Breast Cancer”. For me it started with hormonal treatments, along with side effects from that care, wearing a wig until your hair grows back (and wonder what your new hair will look like), living with this new body (and learning to like it), and dealing with the FEAR of the cancer coming back. The two most difficult things were how to deal with the FEAR of the cancer coming back and learning to embrace this NEW body of a 40-year woman. I never thought I would get Breast Cancer so young. They suggested I see a therapist and of course they said you really need to be on an Read more>>

Erin DeBrauwere

I’ve always been an observer at heart and was the girl with the coopix point and shoot at every event in high school. Post-college, I was looking for hobby to fulfill my creative heart and went out and bought my first used DSLR (fancy word for nice camera). I watched every YouTube tutorial, took a few photography courses, did an internship with a local wedding photographer, and practiced on anyone that would let me! Read more>>

Jamal Thomas

Here is a brief run-through, Born at Mercy hospital in 1987. As I can remember, I’ve always had an interest in art (Contributing my family and the city in inspiring me). I’ve always find myself drawing, even throughout my schooling (Cecil Elem, Canton Middle School, and Carver Voc- Tech) tried to work in or around art. I didn’t start my own business (Laughing Cat Media) till my mid 20’s. Usually to the hardest part in going independent in any field is… the start. As I continue my journey (or try to accomplish my goals). I just try to have fun. In closing, I just try to do the best I can do, and not focus on the results, but on the moments, and the memories that I have with people. Read more>>

Tre’ Beverly

I, Tre’ Beverly, a former Division I defensive back from the Illustrious Morgan State University. My initial plan was to go to the next level, but God had a different plan for me. He gave me the passion and wisdom to help athletes and people of all fitness levels achieve the best version of themselves. Whether it’s to improve performance or just as an overall beginner in health and wellness. My passion is watching others progress so I took the time to study and get certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) in September 2020 and launch my dream of helping people grow daily. Read more>>

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