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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 Aiu & Rachael Soares

In 2009, a vacant room and a Craigslist ad brought two friends together. Years later, a twist of fate brought them back together again. In 2013, Rachael, broken (literally broken foot and broke from not being able to fly), and Heather, who found herself in a volatile real estate market, were both dreaming of something bigger. ALOHA Collection started with a single bag, a shared dream, and a Kickstarter campaign. With $2000 each, a bit of magic, and a handshake, ALOHA Collection was on its way. Since the launch of ALOHA Collection, Rachael and Heather have not only created a thriving business, they have built an international ʻOhana. Read more>>

Daria Konoverska

I had been working as translator from English to Ukrainian for 5 months. I’m studying in Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (3 courses of bachelor of philology). Translate from Spanish and English languages. The difficulties sometimes arose in terminology and in paraphrasing. After all, the translation should be beautiful and melodious. But I can find all the terms and learn everything. And such difficulties will be in every step of any work. Read more>>

Zahari Perez

I started in San Diego in the back room of a friend’s office. When things did not look so good, I decided to relocate in spring valley. I relocated at a friend’s dealership. Things did not look so good there either. Months later a relative came across a building ready to be leased in a commercial area. This location was 8 mins away from each other. Decided to relocate one more time. It took years but the struggle was worth it. 5 years later I opened my second location in Linda vista. I’m working on bringing this office up to open one more office in Escondido. Read more>>

Sylvia Lewis

I am an avid longtime lover of all Arts and Crafts. My creativity was “sparked” in 1st grade when the teacher added my “art” to the bulletin board…lol. I have always had an interest in creating with fabric, paper, and mixed media. I had the opportunity to participate in local craft shows throughout the San Diego area for over 35 years. In 2011 I retired from my “9-5” job as a medical administrator. 2013 I wanted to continue to stay active in the Crafting Community, so with a good background in craft show vending, I created some social media network groups, which include Facebook- Craft Show Vendors, SD Craft & Vendor Show Listings. Read more>>

James King

My journey into business ownership came right after I discharged from the military and started contracting for the military as a maintenance man for flight support equipment. I served 12 years in the air and engineering departments so I was good with my hands. At the same time, I was separating from the military I bought a house which was built in 1966 and of course needed a lot of work. So, every time I needed some work done on my house I would assist, watch, and ask the repairmen questions as well as film. Read more>>

Nicole Castleton

It all started at a small bistro in Alpine, CA 2003. The current Bloody Mary mix just was not up to par. In fact, any Bloody Mary mix I had tried up to that point was pretty blasé. After years, nineteen to be exact, of perfecting the mixes, I finally decided to bottle. I don’t know if it was because I was constantly asked by friends and family to make mixes for gifts and parties or the fact that I knew it was time. I was approached by a friend and co-worker at Burning Beard Brewing to sell in-house and here we are at the beginning stages of a budding journey. Read more>>

Sasha Marshall

I moved to San Diego in 2018, fresh out of school the year prior, and many things in my life were unplanned. I was going to community college at SDCCD, shooting for an associate’s degree in biology to transfer, things were tough between working to support myself and do well in school, but everything changed when the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic hit. So, I was let go of my job and chose to move home with my parents to the Bay Area. Read more>>

Zane Petty

My journey into marketing and branding started when I moved from Chicago back to California where I grew up. I came here to be a personal trainer and grow my fitness business. I realized I was focusing on being a great trainer and not a great business owner. I saw this as an opportunity to help other business owners and creatives that have a passion for their products but need help growing their businesses. Read more>>

Jahlin McMillan

Hi, my name is Jahlin McMillan owner of jays Boardshop located in Oceanside Ca sooo how I got started soo the ideal First came about when I was 13, I said I’d own a skate shop just skating around messing with your friends… I always kept that in the back of my head that’s something that I’d wanna do with my life fast forward to 25 after quitting job after job back and forth hustling in the streets I finally got an opportunity to make it happen. Read more>>

Denise Geske

I’ve been in the culinary industry since I was 17. I went to college to pursue a degree in business but quickly learned after two years that college wasn’t for me. I decided to pursue a degree in culinary arts and continued to work in restaurants while attending school. After graduating, I worked in several restaurants to become a better cook. Ten years later I, decided to leave the restaurant industry during the pandemic and continued to pursue my passion for cooking by doing private dinners and selling baked goods. It was the best decision I made for myself. I love being my own boss and being able to create something of my own using the techniques I’ve learned from my past jobs and doing my own research. Read more>>

Rosalina Alvarado

I was born in Ensenada, Baja California Mexico, I am a graduate of the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, I have a degree in Public Accounting, and I practiced for almost twenty years in Mexico. In 1994 I opened a boutique, which is still doing well, always supporting women in their selection of garments, to strengthen their personal image. I came to the United States in 2006. In 2010 I had a very difficult divorce, my children were very young and I had to deal with the American system to defend myself against false accusations, I managed to persevere with my children, they are currently 16 and 19 years old. Read more>>

Sylvanah McMahan

I first started doing lashes as a side hustle back in 2018. I was working at a car dealership full time then I would come home after work and do lashes every day. Then one day I decided to take a leap of faith and quit my full-time job to go to esthetician school to get licensed and add more services on to my menu. I love self-care and getting my lashes done and wanted to make other women feel beautiful too. Also being a young single mom, I wanted a more flexible schedule and wanted to be able to be my own boss and make my own schedule so I could spend more time with my daughter. Read more>>

Karolyne Mier

I have always been a plus-size person. From wearing husky size pants with the elastic band to wearing just leggings because jeans don’t fit or I was too embarrassed by the size I needed to buy. In 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, I hit my highest weight, weighing in at 250lbs. My plan was to get gastric bypass because every diet I tried never were successful. My classes were booked and I was ready to move forward with this new life. The day before I needed to start my classes, someone asked me to start doing keto with them and I kinda just laughed about it because it was another diet. Another waste of money but I said “why not”. Read more>>

Olivia Penton

I grew up in New York and studied ballet as a child. When I was nine years old, the instructor’s wife, Kate Orlando began teaching me a style of yoga through the practice and application of the 9 Lines of Movement. Learning to implement an awareness of the body and spirit to such an extent became a deep fascination and has captivated me since childhood. My husband and I met in the Summer of 2008 while I was working commercial print gigs in Manhattan and lifeguarding on Long Island. Ryan was visiting from England, coaching youth soccer, and quite easily convinced me to drop everything to go back with him that September. Read more>>

Alejandra Franco

Hello! My name is Alejandra, the founder of Woventimes. I am a full-time interior designer, part-time fiber artist, dreamer, and coffee lover. I first started weaving back in 2018, as a total experiment after I got a loom as a present. After that, I have been exploring different mediums and techniques and launched Woventimes in 2020 as a means of self-expression and connection with others. Read more>>

Edel López OIán

Permanencias voluntarias begin like a little experiment for writing. The journalism job it’s for me an expresión about the public life and politics from my state and country. With the passage of time, my business started to a social media and news site read in all México and Latin America and some places to Europe and Oceania. Today, we use the podcast to get more people interesting in our work with channels like Sin Daños a Terceros, Cinema Gizmo, Cerca de la Oscuridad, and Game Corner, constantly evolving with society, news, and entertainment. Read more>>

Kimberly Robertson

I started dancing even before I could walk but in real-time, began my actual training at 10 years old. I was a classical ballet dancer for 9 years and only dreamed of having the broadway experience in my future. Fortunately, this didn’t happen. I grew up in a small city in Northern California. A great place to grow up where I still have the best of friends and family to this day. You are never very far from running into someone you know. Everyone is very neighborly. In high school, I took a few ballroom dancing classes and fell in love with it. Read more>>

Rocky Acosta

I was loving homeless on the streets here in San Diego for 12 years. I got to the point in life where I asked GOD to save me from my bleak existence of begging, scorching in the mid-day sun, and having nothing all the time. Since my prayers were answered I was a forest firefighter in LA County for 3 years. After coming back to San Diego where I was raised, I started working as a house mover where I became Manager and still manage Awesome Movers to this day. I bought Heavenly Yogurt in 2021 when the previous owner was looking to sell and retire. Read more>>

Wayne Peterson

Before I ever started working with leather, I toured around the world in a band playing music with my closest friends. I quickly learned that anything I wanted to do was achievable, it was just a matter of what I was willing to sacrifice in service of that goal. We went to over 35 countries and paved a new way of touring for small bands. We stopped touring full-time in 2011, and I found myself searching for a new creative outlet. Read more>>

Taniece Reed

Since 2016 I have made it my mission to teach people about situational-based safety occurrences & firearms. My passion started at a young age growing up when I was educated about firearm safety through my father and uncle. As I got older, I realized that representation mattered when I wanted to get my first firearm license. After doing tons of research, I couldn’t find a knowledge African American woman to teach me in my area. Read more>>

James Morales

Art and music have always been a huge part of my life, one of my easiest ways to tap into a different world. I started to do photography when I was in high school and have always picked up the camera and different times of my life Its medium can be used to document life or compose something that creates a statement or emotion. Combining both the world around me and people together has always been a drive of mine to create. Read more>>

Andrew Ha

I founded my company HB entertainment by pursuing my passion as a DJ; Me and my brothers have always been natural performers and we’d perform as “Ha Brothers”’ with SDAYO (San Diego Asian Youth Organization) as break-dancers to our local community festivals, dance competitions, and help fundraise for nonprofit when we were in high school. When we transitioned into college, we picked up DJing as a hobby and did gigs at house parties and community events, but nothing too crazy. Read more>>

Kaitlyn Nelson

I have been working as a social worker for nearly 10 years with individuals, couples, and families within the foster care system, school and hospital settings, and various non-profits. I graduated with a Bachelor of Art in Psychology with a minor in Communication Studies from Long Beach State University in 2012. While in my undergraduate program I interned with Girls, Inc., an after-school program. Read more>>

Mensah Bey

My journey began in Richmond, VA where I was born and raised. My father was my earliest inspiration in art making. I would keep sketchbooks of illustrations from anime characters to portraits and anything else I found interesting. I would take art classes all through grade school and eventually go to college to get my Bachelor of Arts from Hampton University. After graduating I spent 5 years working in construction before pursuing my Master of Fine Arts degree from Norfolk State University where my art career would begin to blossom. Read more>>

Justin Pearson

When thinking of the prolific musician Justin Pearson as an artist, there are a multitude of bands/projects one can look to, each of which his presence as a bassist/vocalist is distinctly felt alongside the immense talent of the countless others he’s worked with. The most well-known of his long resume is probably The Locust or, most recently, Dead Cross. The Crimson Curse, Some Girls, Holy Molar, Head Wound City, Retox, Deaf Club, Planet B, and Satanic Planet are only some of the others– each unique but also unified in their intensity. Read more>>

Onofre Lopez

During my time in the military, I had always thought about what it would look like when I was no longer a service member. What was I going to end up doing? It bothered me. Currently, stationed in San Diego, and going into my late 20s, I decided now was a good time to begin looking to the future. As most do, they turn to their friends, family, and of course YouTube for inspiration. All three of them had mentioned that real estate was a good means of acquiring financial freedom. Read more>>

Maria Sainz

I do several things. I started making jewelry after graduating UCLA in design. I was a makeup artist for many years while in college and went into film makeup. while doing that I took apart a necklace my husband gave me while dating and created a necklace. That led to making our bridesmaid’s jewelry. As I wore my pieces while working in makeup I would sell them right off my neck. It then turned into a side business. Read more>>

Carlos Jacobo

Everything started from me when I was about 7 or 8 years old, my oldest brother had just gotten this bootleg cd from a friend. The ones that hold up to 100 songs, all it said in the cover was Top 100 electronic songs. As soon as the music started, I was entranced by the palette of sounds as it was something new which I had never had before. I was used to hearing a lot of music on the local radio stations and whatever CDs my middle brother had just acquired. Read more>>

John Hernandez

After an almost career-ending injury during a structure fire, I sitting at home on injury leave alone in my thoughts. No longer able to keep my mind busy and away from the horrible sights, I’ve seen working as a Firefighter Paramedic. I found myself in the depths of Depression and what I now know was severe PTSD. I finally decided to seek help which would eventually lead to a life-changing transformation in my life. Read more>>

Pearl Ayon

Alex and I have been working in the commercial cannabis industry since 2009 here in San Diego. Prior to that we were growers vending to the numerous dispensaries operating in the region, and in 2009 we opened our first retail dispensary delivery and storefront called I and I Rootz. It was a very chaotic time for the industry back then, CA voters had legalized medical marijuana, providing us a legal defense to cultivate and distribute in a medical collective environment. Read more>>

Olivia Felix

I am Olivia Felix, founder of HAMOC hand-woven. I am a Mexican-born American living in San Diego, CA. During 2021, I decided to take a year-long trip through the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico. While on this incredible trip, I spent countless hours under the sun, in the ocean, and of course swinging in hammocks. I quickly realized that hammocks are a symbol of self-care in the countries I was visiting. Read more>>

Caitlin Stivaletta

While I was going through a difficult period of life in my thirties, I had a spiritual awakening and realized the only person who was going to save me from my own personal hell was myself, so I created an alter-ego character to represent the best version of me and named her after my favorite word, Felicity. Felicity is the perfect word because of its dual meaning. First, it means intense happiness but it also means the ability to find the appropriate expression for one’s thoughts. Read more>>

Nadia Zamora

Having 7 siblings, and 5 sisters, I wanted to create a space where girls could hang out and have fun. Since I love the color PINK, I love hosting and I love pretty things, I dreamed up PINK ROSE CAFE. Together with my husband, we started Pink Rose Cafe February 2020. The following month COVID-19 hit our country. The entire world closed down and my dream of opening up Pink Rose Cafe seemed to be slipping away. Month after month we were faced with delays and roadblocks but the obstacles fueled me to become resilient. Read more>>

Alex Kara

I am originally from Ukraine and this is where my business career story starts as well. It starts in 2012 when I just got married and started seriously thinking about making money and the future. The idea was to learn some programming language and get a job. I actually read one of the C++ written by Stroustrup author and I was fighting with myself for a round of 3 months trying things out. Then in the middle of the book, I realized that that’s it – I am completely lost. The subject was pointers and references, this was hard I spent so much energy so I needed to see if it worthed trying and I got an invite to the interview with one of the biggest IT companies in Ukraine and the experience I got was unforgettable. Read more>>

Maddie Mackey

Maddie Mackey has been an entrepreneur since she was a young girl! Beginning with her rock shop in her childhood living room, all the way to diving into her first business early in college. She has worked as a yoga instructor, nanny, gymnastics coach, trauma recovery coach, She is now a mother to her two-year-old, the owner of Media on the Rise, Rise Above Yoga, and supports many local and international businesses with conscious marketing and business coaching. Read more>>

Lauren Holman

Exploring the neighborhood ravines and networks of shallow creeks dominated my Cincinnati childhood. Hunched over for hours, I’d scour these rock beds for ancient treasures such as trilobites, crinoids, and earthy stones that piqued my interest. My collection was extensive, well organized, and dearly prized. Although I outgrew regular “creeking,” the love of nature and geology had been planted in my soul. Read more>>

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