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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.

Ashley Austin

My name is Ash, I am a licensed Aesthetician actively involved in the skincare & beauty industry for over 15 years. I opened Magnolia + Ash October of 2019; a small intimate studio where I (and my employee) offer High Vibration facials. I created this space because I couldn’t find anywhere in this area that aligned with my knowledge and beliefs for treating the skin with a holistic approach. I am passionate about coaching the skin’s deep connection to our bodies, emotions, and souls; we can find so much healing and radiance with our skin if we learn what it is our individual skin is seeking. Read more>>

Kelsey Galer

I entered the mental health field with the goal to maximize the quality of life for those struggling with mental health disorders. After earning my license to practice as a mental health counselor, I started my practice, North Star Therapy. I liked this name because the North Star has helped millions of people find their way for centuries. Like a good therapist, it offers guidance when you need it most. Millions of people live with unmanaged stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other issues that are highly responsive to treatment if you get help. Too many of us have witnessed the detrimental effects unmanaged mental health issues can have on individuals, families, communities, and society at large. Read more>>


I was born and raised in Tamp Fl I been into art pretty much my whole life. My first instrument was actually a guitar. I’m also an artist in a sense that I draw digitally, definitely get it from my mother, I remember seeing her create all types of projects as a child. Art is really a form of expression all of my art represents that, and are a major form of release for me. I really got into music for real in high school we came up with a rap group called Jukset. From there I just been living and learning while releasing singles and growing musically. I represent the pain and the struggle the misfits and rebellion against any form lie. I just released my new single called ‘DEMONS’ available everywhere. Read more>>

Robyn-Leah Kelly

I am from Brooklyn, NY and I started cooking at 9 years old. I grew up in a typical Puerto Rican household so at a young age I knew how to make collard greens, homemade baked macaroni and cheese, Spanish rice, empanadas, and many other traditional soul food and Puerto Rican dishes. I learned through years of experience that food is more than putting delicious ingredients together on a plate. Cooking is an art, and to me food is love. I moved from NYC to Tampa in 2015 with a dream in my heart and mind, knowing and believing one day I will be one of the most successful female Chefs. Brooklyn Style Cuisine breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Food is happiness. Read more>>

Adrienne Falcone Godsell

Holistic Chef Adrienne Falcone Godsell, B.A. Liberal Studies USF, Tampa, Fl., A.S. Culinary Arts Johnson and Wales University, N. Miami, Fl., began her adventures in the culinary field at fourteen, when her parents opened a traditional Italian deli/catering business in Fort Myers, Florida. That little nibble of the hospitality industry had her hooked, taking her on a journey of kitchens that include Moffit Cancer Center Tampa, Fl.; Kamaaina award-winning restaurant Horatio’s Honolulu, hi; Registry Resort Naples, FL; opening Seattle restaurant Palisade; Don CeSar Maritana Grille, St. Pete Beach, Fl; and then fell into the world of natural foods in 1998. Read more>>

Shakira Stewart-Clark

Ever since I can remember I wanted to help people. I knew my career had to involve sharing knowledge and helping others. I worked from hospice to all children’s hospital but still felt I needed to do more. While trying to figure out my true calling, my physical appearance started to change. Teenage acne turned into adult acne! Nothing was working for my skin. Sick of not finding any solutions, I decided to educate myself correctly. I enrolled into the Facial Speciality program at Pinellas Technical College in Saint Petersburg, Fl. It was not my first time going to college, but it was my first time since grade school I really carried about gaining knowledge about what I was learning. Finished school and was ready to share what I learned about the skin deeply. TWO years certified as an Esthetician and I’m still perfecting my craft and still sharing what I gained from experience. Read more>>

Valentina Dominguez

The passion for event planning, promotions, and hosting derived from a leadership position I held during my undergrad career. This leadership position oversaw the creation and planning of events. It consisted of working with a marketing team for promotions, delegating tasks, creating connections for guest appearances, etc… I held this position for nearly my entire undergrad career so it became second nature to me. I could create a task list and organize an event in my sleep! After I graduated, the next event held was a Halloween party in 2020. It was a more “word of mouth” event but nonetheless a success, with decorations, drinks, and a bounce house. In summer 2021, I was asked to help out for a party weekend my fraternity brothers were hosting. Read more>>

Lauren Lanier

I went to school at Aveda in 2014 to get my full specialist license to be an esthetician. I have always struggle with acne my entire life and was always into beauty trends so I thought this was the perfect career path for me. I always knew one day I would be my own boss although I didn’t know how or when I just knew that was my goal. I worked at a salon for 5 years building up my clientele and I really feel like I capped out there. I knew in order for me to grow and become a better esthetician I was going to have to make the next step into going out on my own. So, I had a plan. I had saved some money and had planned on buying a home and then once I was settled, I would take the rest of what I had saved and open my own business. That plan was quickly ruined when we had the start of a worldwide pandemic. The doors of the salon I had worked for were forced to close. I was out of work for 2-3 months. Read more>>

Lauren Atwaters

From an early appreciation of art, I was able to develop a successful career utilizing my God-given gift to share my passion with many. Over the years, I took on several DIY projects and blogged tutorials along the way. After building a following, I began receiving requests to have items created for others. I soon decided to open my first online shop. Although this started as a hobby in the beginning years, I reached a point when I realized my potential, and Ten23 Designs was born. Thus began my path to creating my empire. Read more>>

Kyrja Withers

We started the Hands of the Goddess outreach program in the winter of 2010 when a friend who operated a private facility for disabled, homeless women mentioned her need for toiletries for her live-in clients. As a former single parent of two teenage boys, I understood all too well that toiletries were a luxury item that many people, including my own family, had to do without. That Winter Solstice season, we reached out to the Pagan community in our surrounding neighborhoods for donations to help these women in need with a Goddess-like gift for Yule. Read more>>

Gabrielle Buxbaum

When I started my brand Highly Authentic, it was 2020 and the middle of the pandemic. I discovered resin on Instagram and fell in love with the endless possibilities to create with it. I knew that I wanted to start a small business but I had a job serving the foster care community working long, extended hours with little free time. I started practicing graphic design on my phone during breaks and I really loved it. I eventually made a logo, threw in some graphics and created @highlyauthentic_ on Instagram! I bought resin and different materials, watched how-to videos, and started making my own trays that same night. I fell in love with making them and how versatile it was. There’s so much freedom that comes with pouring resin but there’s also a method to it. It took me months to get it and even today I still make mistakes. I knew all the trial and error was worth it when I shared my products on Instagram and Esty and had several people interested in custom pieces. Random shoppers on Esty had ordered earrings, jewelry trays, candle holders, and coasters. My Instagram followers were ordering custom ashtrays and rolling trays. I was shipping out little orders all over the country and it felt like things were really coming together. Read more>>

Duwod Salter

I was originally a member of an organization that was geared more toward working with children. Through my journey with them, I was compelled to help those less fortunate (homeless). I have experience first-hand on what homeless people go through (family members). This made it even easier to want to try and do my part to help. I came up with the name and concept in March of 2013 and I’ve been working toward the eradication of homelessness ever since. Read more>>

Shelby Henderson

When I was 9, I started sewing lessons and fell in love with designing things. I continued sewing lessons and when I was 11, I started making bookmarks. My mom posted them on Facebook for her friends to see and buy, and they sold really well. So, I made a lot more. I was offered the opportunity that winter to host a table at a local boutique market. I made other items like keychains and zipper bags to sell along with my bookmarks, it was a successful market, and I got to participate in it again the next year. In between markets, I started posting things on my business Facebook page and selling through there. At the end of 2020 (when I was 14) our homeschool group started a market and asked me to participate in it. It was close to Christmas so I made a lot of items in addition to what I had already been making. I was making snack bags, pencil bags, zipper bags, keychains, bookmarks and I added Christmas trees and some Christmas pillows. Read more>>

Chantal Al Otab

Chantal Al Otab is an Early Childhood Educator, founder of The Kids Social Club, an indoor playground for children 6 and under, located in the heart of Ruskin, FL. A fun place full of educational activities where children learn and play.  Mrs. Chantal is a married mom of two who discovered her passion for children at an early age. After becoming a mom, the passion grew. She started to create fun ideas to do with her children. It started with creative pictures that she would take every month for her firstborn. After having her second child, Chantal became a stay-at-home mom and often searched for places for her own children entertainment. Read more>>

Brad Young

I started taking photos when I was 14. I played football throughout middle school and high school and I got a pretty nasty concussion when I was a freshman. So, I stopped playing. All my friends were still on the team though, so I picked up a camera to continue being a part of the team. My dad taught me the basics and I took off running. Guess it turns out I was pretty good at it.  When I moved to Florida for college, I immediately contacted the athletics department at FGCU to see if I could contribute to their teams… I ended up being the sole staff photographer at FGCU for three of my four years. Read more>>

Russ Kyle

I’ve been a Life Coach (Personal and Professional Development) for over a decade now. Specializing primarily in the needs of high-profile clients. I support clients around the Globe. I’ve had the best training available, as well as experienced most challenges and breakthroughs as a coach. As a commitment to those I serve, I continue to explore and learn every strategy, formula, process, and understanding I can find, old and new. As well as creating dozens of my own. Constant training and growth are part of my personal dedication to the trade, both for my own growth and as well as the success of my clients. Read more>>

Aisha Bella

I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Fl. I’ve always loved to sing since I was a child. My parents have always supported me in being an artist but I was pretty shy. After graduating from Florida Atlantic University, I decided to take my singing career seriously. I moved to NYC and found a manager to help support my career. Read more>>

Adesha Hobbs

End of 2017 I started planning to start a clothing line. I was stuck for months couldn’t figure a name or what I wanted the brand to represent, I just knew I had to start something for myself couldn’t see me working for anyone for much longer. At the time I was heavily into Black History and still is but it was all fresh to me the knowledge we were withheld about our ancestors so I took what I learned about the our history and built a brand behind it. SHABAZZ the name came to me in studies from a book called Blackroots Science. The history behind the name was the exact representation I wanted for my brand. The next year, I put my vision to work and started SHABAZZ in February of 2018.  Today, we are still pushing black history into our designs or in our quote but switching it up from the normal and making idope/timeless pieces. Read more>>

Chelsea Glade

I started wood burning to make holiday gifts seven years ago while I was a stay-at-home mom to 3 kids under 4. Once I shared what I made, more friends and family reached out for more wood-burned gifts. I became involved in a wood-burning community on Instagram. In 2017, a friend asked me to be a part of a local vendor market and I feel in love with that community. I have done local markets around Tampa for the last 5 years and my business has grown through local customers who keep coming back for gifts and worldwide customers who have found me through my Instagram page. Earlier this year I completed the Entrepreneurship Certification through HCC and was awarded a grant to work towards opening a storefront to support local artists and makers Read more>>

Ben Marcum

I started out learning to tattoo in Kent, Ohio when I was 18 years old. I grew my career in Akron Ohio over the next 6 years learning everything I could about every style of tattooing. After a few years of running my own shop in Ohio (Marcum Up Tattoos) I decided along with my family it was time for a change we needed year-round summer so we settle on Florida. First few months were rough living in a tent finding work really just figuring Florida out. Once I got into the Florida tattoo scene everyone was welcoming with open arms but it wasn’t ’till I started working at Under the Surface Tattoos I found a real tattoo home in Florida. The shop ran by Shawn White and his wife Ashley has made me feel like family since day one. Now we continue to grow and push ourselves and our craft so we can provide the best experience possible. Read more>>

Kendall Hughes

I have the typical small-town girl story. I grew up in Hobe Sound, Florida. A super small beach town on the east coast. My dad built the house I grew up in and I had never moved until I went to college. I went to Ave Maria University, a small catholic college in a secluded town on the west coast of Florida, where I majored in music with a concentration in vocal performance. I was also the captain of our university cheerleading team for all 4 years, in which I was given the responsibility of running the program my sophomore year when our coach resigned. Read more>>

Carrie Juliao

I tried for years to move into real estate. Real estate was something I always loved and was curious about. I always loved as a kid to go and look at land and homes and attend open houses. I lost sight of that dream just out of high school because I got pregnant young and working on a commission-only basis is hard for anyone but especially a single parent that was just starting life in the workforce. Many years passed by and I was working in the healthcare system. I remember I pulled out my senior book and started reading it. A question I read “where will you be in 10 years” I answered, A Realtor. Well, we were way past that 10-year mark. Read more>>

Clara Reynolds

In 2015 the Crisis Center was searching for a new President & CEO. At this time, I had been Executive Director of a non-profit I had co-founded, Success 4 Kids and Families, for 10 years. Up until that point, my experience in the social work world had primarily consisted of working with kids or families after some sort of traumatic situation in the home that required external interventions. By taking on this new role at the Crisis Center, I have the opportunity to be involved in the work as the crisis is occurring, but also be part of educating the community on how to prevent future crises. Read more>>

Alicia Tran

I started my career as an artist, having my first exhibitions in high school. In college I became a gallery owner, initially showing my work, then curating exhibitions for progressive artists to internationally known artists. This led to a position at a contemporary art museum, serving as the assistant director, to managing and consulting for contemporary and western art galleries, art-brokering, and designing commercial and residential spaces. In 2017 I founded Ipseity Art Design, an art consulting and art brokering firm, curating for Boutique Hotels, Restaurants, and private collectors. After working with Interior Design firms for nearly a decade, I opened AD | Atelier + Design in Sarasota and Tampa, where my husband Dieu Tran and I design commercial and residential spaces with an emphasis on art and architecture. Read more>>

Patrick Rhodes

Back in 2020, I created the Lunch For #HealthcareHeroes campaign. I wanted to provide some lunch relief for our hardworking essential workers here in the Tampa, Florida.  In 2020 over 600 free lunches were provided to healthcare workers in the Tampa Bay and surrounding areas. I service Adventhealth Tampa and James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.  My mission is to raise awareness around Giving Back while supporting our hardworking healthcare heroes. My new goal is to provide 2,021 free lunches to healthcare heroes in 2021. Read more>>

Kevin Borrell

I started with an apprenticeship In New York City, where I learned the low voltage Structured cabling trade. Installing the copper and fiber cables needed for phone, & Data. I learned data-com, and technology integration, and through these skill sets “Borrell-tel” sprouted. We bring big installation experience to the everyday home for iT installation. (Cameras, Tv, and surround sound speakers) Read more>>

Abby Kieffer

My lash career started about 7 years ago when I was hired at a brand-new lash studio in South Tampa. I barely knew how to hold my tweezers, let alone lash all 150 lashes per eye! With tons of practice and lots of patience, I fell in love with the skill and so did all my clients. I exclusively worked at the one lash studio, until I met my boyfriend in 2018. While dating him, I met a lot of women who lived in north Tampa and fawned over the fact I did lashes but were not excited for the drive south. Luckily, one of my former lash coworkers had recently opened a lash studio in north Tampa and welcomed me with open arms to join her team. For about a year, I worked 5 days a week in south Tampa, 2 days a week in north and after-hours would take my close friends at my house. It got to a point in my lash career that I couldn’t physically work any more hours but I knew I deserved more. August 2019, I decided to go out on my own and open my own lash studio. Despite being a one-woman show and a global pandemic, I have never been busier, my books have never been more full and I have never been more proud of myself. Read more>>

Kay & Ryan Lockhart

My wife and I began our careers as Personal Trainers at a local gym franchise with purpose in mind… Our main goal has and always been to help others in any way we possibly could and personal training was a perfect entryway to do more for the health of our community. After spending several years at other local gyms and startups, we decided to open up our own fitness facility. While working with clients and their fitness goals, we ventured deeper into nutrition and decided to begin our own meal prep company, NTT Nutrition. Read more>>

Peter Clark

After working as an environmental chemist, I became an environmental planner with the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) and eventually took over as their Director of the Agency on Bay Management. During this time, I helped initiate the process that led to the inclusion of Tampa Bay in the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program. In 1986, I spent two days working with community volunteers transplanting seagrass beds which really opened my eyes to how much the community wanted to get involved with actual projects. I began to get more involved with volunteer groups. Since my job at the TBRPC was a briefcase and tie affair, my after-work and weekend restoration projects were a way to satisfy my desire to do more hands-on projects. I started Tampa Bay Watch in a spare room of my home twenty-eight years ago and it has emerged as a celebrated community-based habitat restoration program that has made a serious impact on the improving health of the waters of Tampa Bay. Read more>>

Ashley Austin

My name is Ash, I am a licensed Aesthetician actively involved in the skincare & beauty industry for over 15 years. I opened Magnolia + Ash October of 2019; a small intimate studio where I (and my employee) offer High Vibration facials. I created this space because I couldn’t find anywhere in this area that aligned with my knowledge and beliefs for treating the skin with a holistic approach. I am passionate about coaching the skin’s deep connection to our bodies, emotions, and souls; we can find so much healing and radiance with our skin if we learn what it is our individual skin is seeking. Read more>>

Anna Escalona

I began pyrography around 2015 as a way to pass the time and destress from a stressful job. Over the years I started experimenting with different mediums as well as different images. It was a slow learning process, but during the pandemic in 2020, I really focused on creating my own style of art. I went from simple line images to in-depth realism. My horror collection is what made me fall in love with the new, learned style. I took classic horror film poster images and reimagined them on wood. Since then, I have focused on selling my work at local markets, while creating my brand Anna Belle Creations, and taking custom orders along the way. Read more>>

Mahogany Rochelle

I started making jewelry for a couple of reasons. One being a suggestion of one of my best friends Alanna, and the second was because I got tired of seeing the same things in stores. In addition, none of the things I saw fit my wrists. So, I thought it would be a great idea to just create my own pieces in my sizes. Specializing in anything custom. Read more>>

Pamela Olin

When I first moved to Florida, I was thrilled to discover there was a TEDx presentation here. In the course of that presentation, the audience was asked if anyone had ever been curious about speaking at a TED Talk. I was one of a few who raised their hand and before I knew it, I was on stage being asked a question to respond to. That question was “Tell us about the first time you fell in love”. My response was, (remember we had no prep time), “When I first picked up a pencil and found the nearest wall. In that moment I realized (as a child) that I could change the world. That was my first time falling in love.”  And, truly, that’s where it all started! I was lucky enough to be born to parents who appreciated creativity, and who would put up with all that that meant! My Dad had a small studio in the house where we would make all kinds of things – paintings, sculpture, models, all sorts of things. There was no doubt that I was not going to take the “normal” path growing up! Read more>>

Bailey Oliver

I have always been interested in hair and makeup, ever since I could remember. At a very early age I started coloring my own hair and experimenting with my own makeup looks. That soon translated to doing my family members’ hair and eventually my friends as well. As I attended college, I worked various retail jobs, and yes, it was terrible. One day I decided, I have already been doing hair and makeup for as long as I can remember, why not make it a lucrative passion? So, I randomly quit my job and enrolled in Cosmetology school. I can definitely say that is one of the most reckless but yet best decisions I have ever made! I started out as a commissioned stylist at a private salon, that really helped me grow my clientele and figure out who I wanted to be as a stylist. After grinding it out for a little bit, I was able to become my own boss and I now have my own salon suite. I am super grateful for my amazing clients who support my small business and allow me to get creative with their hair, it’s so fun and exciting every day! Read more>>

Emily Barnhart

I’ve always had a passion for all things related to the beauty community. Even tho I was a total Tomboy when I was a kid! I applied to a technical high school in southern MD, North Point High School. From there I studied cosmetology throughout my entire high school journey. When I was a senior in high school, I graduated with a Maryland state cosmetology license. (Transferable to any state) Read more>>

Sherif Sidarous

Hi, I was born in Egypt and moved to the states from Dubai, my t-shirt business is a side business for myself I started with a store at a mall in Tampa then I expanded to downtown St. Pete, I work for cooperate I’m a sales manager and I sell solar for the past 6 years started with Tesla and now I work for SunRun, I am also a professional house music producer /DJ I play all over the world especially middle east and Europe Read more>>

Trebor Raze

My journey to creating my own clothing line all started back when I was in high school. I’ve always had a passion for fashion and I was a huge sneakerhead. I never liked getting the matching outfits that come out with the shoes but I loved creating my own designs and shirts that matched the shoes. Over time I kept getting compliments from my friends & classmates and got encouraged to start selling t-shirts around the school, and to my surprise that was a huge success because I was just doing it to get some extra pocket change for lunch or for the next pair of shoes. I had no idea it could possibly turn into an actual business. Read more>>

Fredrick Brown

I go by the stage name of (Jayb Savage) I’m 28 years of age and a Florida native Every since a young age I been in love with music… I was raised up around music being played in my household by mom and stepdad and in the neighborhood, I grew up in on the Southside of St. Petersburg FL my dad was a DJ so I learned a lot about music from him and I watched him DJ a few times I remember my dad told me he use to DJ for a radio station but I’m not for sure which station it was so in a way my dad really inspired me to do music besides my passion for it I grew up listening to artists like… trick daddy, Isley brothers, ying yang twins, 2pac, Read more>>

Britt Ford

I went to college to play division I lacrosse and after 8 knee surgeries, I decided to focus more on my creativity instead of sports. After graduating from Dickinson College with a degree in Economics I worked in corporate fashion and learned the ins and outs of running a business from sales, shipping to customer service. I quit my corporate job in 2015 and nannied while starting my company. I started making thermographic embossed artwork because I was tired of seeing the overpriced and mass-produced 2D maps and illustrations in stores and online. I fell in love with the rare medium and the process of the glue, powder, and heat creating truly one-of-a-kind pieces. Read more>>

Heather Taft

Hello there! My name is Heather, I am originally from the Tampa Bay area in Florida. I currently work at one of Denver Colorado’s most edgy salons called Luxe De Vil. I also do a bit of fashion, bridal, and event hair.  I’ve worked incredibly hard my entire 20’s to move across the country in 2018 to create a new exciting life and discover the pursuit to happiness. I finally found where I belong! I’ve never felt more connected anywhere else. It’s an exhilarating feeling! Read more>>

Jennica Anderson

I am a serial entrepreneur. I have a plus-size boutique, Bella Curve, that I started in 2020, during covid. Being a mom of four, and struggling to accept my size for so long, once I became more comfortable and wanted to wear things other than sweats and leggings but still be practical, I was so frustrated with my options. I saw a need for more practical clothing options for plus-size boutiques and I decided to fill it. It has been a fun journey!  S.E.A. Leaders is my passion business. I have worked in corporate training and leadership for 13 years and I have always had a passion for service. My natural personality is very energetic and positive and my EQ is naturally high. I love learning about people and problem-solving. The further I got in my career in customer service the less my responsibility was about service training and development and more administrative. Read more>>

Mary Osada

The GFWC Tampa Women of Change, formally known as Tampa Junior Woman’s Club, was founded in 1935 and is a proud member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Honoring the motto of “Unity in Diversity,” we come together as unique individuals dedicated to community improvement by collaborating and by providing an environment to pursue projects of interest. Including volunteering, fundraising, and personal development, and socials. In 2021 we changed out volunteer model and name to The GFWC Tampa Women of Change to align with our goals and mission. Our mission is to enhance the lives of others in The Tampa Bay Area and Internationally through volunteer service. Read more>>

Shakira Upshaw

I have always had a passion for baking. I grew up being called Betty Crocker. In March of 2019, I decided that I was going to try and make my daughter’s birthday cake and treats just to see if I could do it. It was quite a challenge and not the best job but she absolutely loved it. I was encouraged by close family and friends to start a business. I officially started my business in April of 2019. I struggled with finding a name that fit because I wanted it to have a significant meaning for me. I finally decided on T2S Creations. The “T” is the first initial of my mother’s name (Terra) who passed away unexpectedly in Sept 2018. She was a pastry chef that preferred cooking over baking. The “S” is the first initial of my name (Shakira). So, it’s like she passed the torch to me to carry on. Read more>>

Nicole Sussman

As a young student, I was always obsessed with fashion. I would read all the popular fashion magazines to stay up to date on the trends. I did study fashion merchandising in college and worked in retail for many years. I always wanted to own my own store someday. I decided to open my own boutique right when the pandemic hit. I knew that a storefront at the time would not be the best so I decided to buy a trailer and make it a mobile boutique. This is how Polkadot Pink Mobile Boutique was born! I loved my mobile boutique that was a trailer but I knew I wanted a truck. Fast forward a few months later, I found the perfect truck for my boutique! I made some updates to it and now the truck aka Frita is on the road traveling to different cities. I currently do different markets, festivals, and private parties. Polkadot Pink Boutique is mobile, online, and located in two storefronts in Pinellas County. The boutique’s main focus is women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories! Read more>>

Amanda Strange

I began my career climbing the ladder in finance: from big banks, a prestigious government intel agency, consulting for the military, to managing cost for an 800-million-dollar contract. It was a successful career by any standard and it took me all over the world. But after two degrees and 15 years, I felt burnt out and unfulfilled. I could no longer deny my calling to a more creative and artistic field, something I always ignored since I was constantly in survival mode and already so invested into this career path. In 2019 I got microshading, a form of cosmetic tattooing, done on my eyebrows and it changed my life. Read more>>

Shirley Sullivan

I have always had a passion for health and wellness of all facets and children. I graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia with a Bachelor of Science in Food and Human Nutrition and continued my education virtually working on my Master’s Degree which is pending completion… as well as training in Botanical Herbal Remedies, Certified Usui Reiki Master and in Children’s yoga. I have been a teacher for most of my life. I taught high school, tutored, and became a substitute teacher in Hillsborough County so that I could be in the schools while our son was growing up. Once we had our son… a little later in life… I decided to stay at home with him and enjoy all the things that being a stay-at-home mom and caretaker of my family had to offer. Now that our son has recently graduated from East Bay High School class of 2021, this has given me the opportunity to gravitate back towards my other passion, which is nutrition and holistic health education. So, I started South Shore Wellness back in 2018. Read more>>

Victoria Creel

It has definitely not been a completely straight path to get here. I have experimented a lot with my different abilities and wound-up landing on being a photographer and artist together. I pivoted my business pretty recently from being only a photographer to also selling my art and handmade goods with my intentions focused more on my art than my handmade goods. I worked really hard on creating my own website and finally launched it this year. If you go onto my website ( you can find a slightly more in-depth story and more information about my art but I will give a simplified version here. Basically, I went through a really rough time in my late teenage years. I was dealing with some pretty big personal issues, anxiety, and depression, all while being dual-enrolled in college. Read more>>

Tim Jaeger

The older I get the longer the story gets, so I’ll try to keep it short…I was raised in Paducah, Kentucky, and moved to Sarasota in 1998 to attend Ringling College of Art + Design where I earned my Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Fine Arts and a Minor in Modern Art History from the Ringling College of Art and Design, in Sarasota, Florida.  Since graduating Ringling, for over twenty years, I’ve maintained my studio in Sarasota while participating in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Louisiana, New York, and South Carolina. Additionally, I have received several awards and grants including the Artist Residency and Fellowship Chateau L’Hesperit, Monaret, France, and the Arts Leadership Award, Sarasota County Arts Council. Read more>>

Bailey Floyd

As much as I fought it growing up, I have always been a very creative person. I attended a performing arts elementary school where I was blessed to have the opportunity to dabble in a ton of the arts from theatre to oil painting at a young age. I can still hear my mom telling me in the kitchen that I should pursue a career in graphic design as I ate a bowl of Cheerios before school. However, my favorite class was always math and I was obsessed with the ocean on a one-track path to study oceanography.  When I got to college, attending Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, I figured out early on that the ocean and fishing were more of a passion than a career for me. I had a few kids on my college track team that guided me towards the business and communications route. After a few courses, I wanted to become an ESPN reporter but quickly learned I was better behind the camera. Thus, my love for public relations began. Read more>>

Deb Fusek

I’ve been a mom since 1995 and now have 3 children. Two have flown the nest and our youngest is in high school. I have faced many parenting struggles such as school issues, sibling rivalry, anger, friend drama, power struggles, and arguments with my dear husband about how to parent. Our family has experienced ADHD, transracial adoption, developmental delays, giftedness, feeding issues, sensory processing disorder, middle child syndrome, trauma, and teen issues.  Adopting our son in 2005 opened my eyes to the needs of children coming from hard places. It led me to pursue a B.S. in Human Services in 2013. My career in child welfare began as a foster and adoptive family advocate in Springfield, Missouri. I served as an Adoption Case Manager in Missouri and Florida for five years. Working in child welfare gave me the desire to work more deeply with families. This led me to pursue a Master’s in Leadership and to become a Certified Parent Coach and Adoption Consultant. Read more>>

Shai’Robia Davis

As a black girl from the foster care system, I was discouraged from pursuing a career in science. I was told there were jobs more suitable or easier to obtain. I considered social work. At work as an education specialist for a nonprofit, I asked an 18 year old, fresh out of the foster care system what he wanted to be. He replied, I am not good at playing basketball so either football or a rapper. I wondered where he got the idea that those were his only choices. I wondered if he knew that former foster youth are eligible for free post secondary education. I considered being a teacher. Read more>>

Cassia Kite

In 2012, I began making hand-stitched works that were based on my personal narrative and landscape imagery from my family farm located in the Nebraska. Having no training in embroidery or quilting, I enjoyed the exploratory process of making work that I had no formal education in or pre-disposed expectations for. In July 2013, I became curious about the relationship between color and sound and started exploring the possibilities of how I can unite the sound of the piano with the handstitched image of my paternal grandparents’ house. I had memories of the sound of the piano coming from the farm home when my grandmother would play the piano. Read more>>

Isaiah Rage

My name is Isaiah rage and I am a professional wrestler I started out wrestling when I was 14 years old and I had a couple bumps in my road on my way down my path to my dream which is pro wrestlingMy whole life I dreamt about being a professional wrestler that’s the only thing I loved growing up I had a rough past I grew up with no guidance so I had to teach myself to become a grown man and I had to teach myself to reach my goals I met a few people growing up that was in the wrestling business like Seth Rollins, Krody Chris, Suma Te Woke, Jax Garner & Daniel Wolfman Jordan they all have push me to become a better me when I’m in the wrestling ring Read more>>

Alexus Nolan

The Juice Box Company, like most businesses, was an idea that was birthed out of a personal need. As someone who loves to travel and get dressed up for almost every event up, I found myself becoming a huge contributor to society’s growing problem of fashion waste.  Attracted by the lure of achieving a quick trendy look from popular fast fashion brands, I was beginning to lose count of how many outfits I had only worn once. It really hit me toward the end of 2017, when I was cleaning my closet out just before the new year, and at least three of the contractor’s sized bags that I had set to donate were full of new clothes I had only worn once. I needed a more cost-effective way to express myself through fashion. Read more>>

Andrew Gilliland

I’ve always been a creator and a builder. Since my earliest memories, I knew I would pave my own path – and that nobody was going to tell me how my life was going to be. I grew up 20 miles north of Boston MA, which is where I spent the first 18 years of my life. I got my start in eCommerce at age 9. For the last 6 years, I’ve been blessed to live life in the city of Tampa and build my early vision into a multi-million-dollar e-Commerce organization: Action Holdings. While doing this, I’ve led e-Commerce divisions and digital initiatives for a dozen or so other companies. Read more>>

Paige Ratterman

In 2018, I was working as an executive assistant and receptionist for a small non-profit startup company in Tampa. I was pregnant with my son and at the time I was the first person at this company to be a full-time employee requesting maternity leave. They decided they would not offer leave or hold my position so I left at the end of the year to have my son. I tried the stay-at-home mom thing for about three months but then decided that it wasn’t for me and I was ready to get back to work. Around the same time, I received a phone call from a friend that I was introduced to at my last job. Read more>>

Robert Ferdinand

I started out as a producer working with some friends who didn’t have anyone making beats for them. They persuaded me to start rapping and next thing you know, thru local shows and networking, I’ve made it to working with national artists and performing on Rolling Loud. Read more>>

Stiven Hernández

My love for art started when I was 8 years and through the years I loved to paint on different types of surfaces. By the age of 14, I started painting with an airbrush and worked in several jobs in Colombia. At the age of 26, I came to the United States and started working at the Marina painting boats for a few years. I have always had friends in the art industry – painters, and tattooists amongst others.  About 4 years ago, I began my interest in being a tattoo artist. A friend supported me and taught me his techniques. Through discipline and along with the support and collaboration of other friends in the industry – have contributed to my growth. I feel that when I tattoo, I can see many personalities. I have truly enjoyed capturing the stories of my clients on their skin. Read more>>

Jordashia Watson

So Lit6 Fashions was formed in 2016 – my boyfriend, Hendel, and best friend, Taylor, helped me with the logo, name, and some early sketches. During that time, I was a freshman in college and my intention was to create a hat line since it was both a necessity and an accessory I wore regularly. I fell in love with the logo my friend created in her iPhone notes and we teamed up to create some prototypes that looked great. That same design is now featured on our hat products, apparel tops, shorts set and will soon be highlighted on our hoodie collection at the end of the quarter. Read more>>

Andrease Crosby

Hi, my name is Andrease Crosby and I am the owner of Curves and Curls and MCC Entertainment. The haircare and entertainment business has always been a part of my life. I grew up in a small town with my mother and stepmother being two of the top hairstylist in the area. Even as a child I remember my mother having me in her shop after school and on the weekends helping her with small tasks such as booking hair appointments and answering the phone, which eventually lead to me helping with shampooing her clients and preparing her station for upcoming services. As far as the entertainment side. Read more>>


Derek Simonsen

In April 2019 I started his real estate career with my back against the wall. I was at rock bottom, had $2.11 in his bank account with mounting credit card debt. I knew there was no “get rich quick” scheme in any industry but needed and wanted to have a profession that resonated with myself.  After my first three months in real estate, I had a few deals under contract but business was slow to start. At that point, I began setting my sights on involvement in mentorships to amplify the way I managed business. Since then, I’ve remained dedicated, resourceful, and efficient— keeping in mind my humble beginnings to ensure that no matter what was required, I would get the job done right and I would get the job done well. Read more>>

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