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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.

Anna Perkins

My journey began during my junior year of college in 2013. I took a photography class and fell in love with it. From there, I started my own photography business and specialized in wedding photography. I had a pretty successful business doing that. Then, we moved to Germany for 3 years. It was difficult setting up my photography business over there because they have so many rules and things you have to do to get your business all set up. I eventually did, but I had to build up my client base again. Read more>>

Michael Koretoff

Michael Koretoff is an American chef and business owner from the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. He’s spent the past half-decade traveling the country, collecting flavors and inspirations from the busy streets of Chelsea to Downtown Albuquerque. He attended culinary school in Branson, MO where he crafted his skills under Chef Robert Strickland CEC, AAC. Chef Michael currently owns and operates Datenite, a niche “small batch catering” company and culinary education organization. He is a business owner, a featured chef for Virgin America, and in the process of launching his self-published cookbook “Taking Wisk’s” in mid-2023. Read more>>

Kierra Peoples

At a young age, I took an interest in Makeup, starting in Stage production, and curating special fixed looks, costumes, and set designs behind the scenes. Alike many teens and young adults, confidence was a challenge, one that connected me to makeup and enhancements even more. After exploring a number of careers in college I finally decided to enroll in Esthetics in 2020, embracing my passion for beauty and creativity. Since then, I’ve opened (2) spaces to offer facial services, I’ve assisted in weddings, fashion shows, film, and photo shoots, and I’m currently aiming to expand my reach through creative direction and makeup artistry. Read more>>

Stanley Mays

My Dj story starts over 20 years ago. While serving in the Army from 1998 to 2001, I was the guy that always liked to entertain my friends with doom/barracks parties blasting my music on my stereo. I would buy CDs weekly!! Which enabled me to have all the latest music. It was something about playing a song that brought joy to people that clicked with me. Fast forward to when I got out of the Army. I went to a hole-in-a-wall club (strip club) with some friends. The Dj there was bad. I said to myself, I can do better than this guy. Read more>>

Daniela Alvarez

I’m Daniela Alvarez. I am a Venezuelan entrepreneur. I started in the event planning business in 2009 on Margarita Island, Venezuela. Once I got my college degree in hospitality management, I stepped into this amazing world of events and weddings. After a couple of years of working for hotels, I had the opportunity to start my own event planning business in Venezuela. It was hard to start and maintain a business there because of the political and economic chaos. I came to the United States to start over again with nothing and to keep pursuing my passion for wedding planning. Read more>>

Natasha Keshmirian

I go by Dj Keza. I have DJed for 5 years. First, I was a recording artist. I have albums and music videos out. I transitioned into a Dj by a suggestion from a friend after I had an amazing performance, it was suggested to me to try Djing. I did and it’s been a success since, I’m so grateful. I have my own Dj business I service all kinds of events. I also just started my Real Estate business as well. I’m a Realtor with Michael Saunders & Company. It’s not always a smooth road with both my professions. With Djing Covid really stopped it in its tracks. It was a hard time to really go through that. Read more>>

Taylor Caldwell

I have been a Disney goer my whole life. I was born and raised here in Florida. St. Petersburg to be exact. My family took my siblings and me to Disney multiple times every year. That’s where the love I have for it started to grow. When we had the recession in 2017, we dropped our annual passes and I didn’t go back until I was 22. My love for going to the parks was even more so as an adult. I started Instagram in 2015. Back then there was no real “content creating” it was mainly just posting photos and not even great ones lol. Read more>>

Meshia Hicks

I had never dreamed of owning or even working in a bar environment. My mother and I had discussed it years before, but life happened and we continued doing what we were comfortable with. In 2014, I graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor’s in Public Administration, concentration in Social Science with; Business a minor. After college, I worked as a Child Investigator for two years. In 2017, an obstacle arose in my life and my back was against the wall. My brain started turning, thinking what will be my next move. That’s when we woke up and said “Let’s Do It!” Read more>>

Natalia Varaza

I am Argentina, a mother, and a wife. Lawyer and teacher. I was born and raised in the countryside with parents who taught me from an early age that with discipline and hard work anything is possible. I went to a rural school and graduated from the Free Public University. I worked since I was little helping my parents in the countryside (Vineyards) and fought to obtain scholarships that would help me finish my studies and thus fulfill my dream of traveling the world. I practiced my legal profession in my country for more than 10 years, a profession that filled me with satisfaction but made me understand that not everyone can have access to Justice, unfortunately, something absolutely Unfair, at the same time I always undertook other projects I managed to take my people Carter’s brand and that venture allowed us with my life partner (Nestor) to get to know this country, the USA, looking for business opportunities, there we began to think about the possibility of emigrating. Read more>>

Jeff Hibbard

I grew up in a smaller city in upstate NY called Rochester. A suburban town of 40,000+ people called Webster. I played many sports as a kid, skateboarded, snowboarded, and played baseball well into my teens. I dropped out of college, became a party animal and ended up addicted to heroin and landing myself in prison for 3½ years. I have been out for a little over 3, currently run my own marketing service with over 40 clients in fitness who I help grow on Instagram 100% independent. No boss, no college, here we are today. Anything is possible. Read more>>

Ashante Hamlett

My name is Ashante Hamlett and I started doing hair when I was just in middle school. My mom and aunts would always come home with the most amazing hairstyles which started my fascination with hair. I would start practicing on myself, family and friends. My passion grew into my obsession to the point that I would change my hair every week. People would literally remember me as the girl with different hairstyles. I knew I had to do something with this gift god blessed me with so after years of self-doubt and people around me projecting their fears onto me, I decided to enroll in cosmetology school in 2018 and haven’t slowed down since. Read more>>

Jasmine Forte

I grew up in Hampton Virginia. Once my mom joined the military, I had the opportunity to travel the world. I have lived in Japan, Germany, Alaska, and now Florida, where my mom has retired. Growing up as a military brat was hard, but also living in a toxic household didn’t make it any better. My parents divorced when I was 17 and it was really hard for me to cope, but it has made me stronger and the woman I am today. Growing up I used to get picked on a lot about my height and how skinny I was, I even used to get called anorexic. Read more>>

Francisco “Frankie G” Gonzalez

My parents migrated to Miami, FL from Denmark and Cuba when they were both at a very young age. I was born in Miami, FL, and started drawing as early as I can remember but did not start really painting until High School when I was about 15. After I graduated High School, I attended Atlanta College of Art before moving to Salt Lake City, UT. I lived there for about 9 years at which time I fell into a corporate job in the shipping and transportation industry. Despite my success in the field, I was not fulfilled and relocated back to Florida but this time to Tampa. Read more>>

Lauren Dykes

I am a local book folding artist from the Tampa Bay Area. And like many artists, I also have a full-time job. I work at St. Petersburg College. While cleaning out the cabinets, I came across many old-used textbooks. As a daughter of an author, I grew up with an appreciation for books and I suddenly felt bad about throwing the outdated Oceanography textbook away. I wanted to find a way to give this book a new life. With a good ole Google search, I discovered book folding. I have always been good with paper crafts in the past, including folding 1000 origami cranes for good luck. Read more>>

Phocus

My love for not just music, but the performing arts entirely has been prominent in my life since early childhood. Being born and raised in Puerto Rico, a culture saturated with creative expression was my introduction to the world of entertainment. As a kid, I was heavily involved in dancing, acting, and singing classes, considering that my appreciation for the arts was shared within my family. As time went on, this passion was put on the back burner, while I focused on school and other extra-curricular activities in Tampa, FL. 5 years later, I traveled back to Puerto Rico for a summer baseball camp, where I stayed with my grandfather and uncle. Read more>>

Tammy Potter

My journey started 16 years ago when I attended my very first Pure Romance party with my coworkers. I absolutely fell in love with the products and the presentation. I loved how it was very sexual health wellness forward and provided a lot of education to help women understand their bodies. At the time, I was a single mom of two young daughters so I was in desperate need of a flexible part-time gig to help provide for my family. The next day I purchased the starter package and have never looked back! I spent 15 years of my business services all over the Midwest primarily in Wisconsin and northern Illinois and the universe landed me in the Tampa Bay area 16 months ago where I believe I truly belong. Read more>>

Janae Adames

I started the idea of a photography business about 9 years ago. I figured out I had this talent of bringing joy to others through my photos. It started out as just nature pictures; going around my garden and waiting for birds and bees to show up and flowers to bloom. I lacked confidence in the beginning and doubted my abilities to take pictures of people and capture genuine smiles and not cookie-cutter poses. I decided to make the leap of photographing people about a year or two later. I started with the easiest subjects—my kids. I ventured out to couples, seniors, and babies. Read more>>

Jean-Pierre Maull

I started my blog in 2009 after seeing a fashion blog. I saw that and said I can do this! So, I started my blog. I was using a Canon Point and Shoot camera. I use to put the camera up on my car, you couldn’t even see me half the time because I knew nothing about photography. I was just posting and I loved it. Once I upgraded my camera, I became more serious about it. I still did not tell people that I was doing it because I felt like people would think I was a narcissist. I would wait until my roommates went to sleep, and would take flash photography in the living room and in the alley. Read more>>

Dr. Casselman

I am an author and a great fan of fantasy and science fiction. I have spent many years developing the Tales of Narda: series, of which Road to Andolan is the first book. An avid reader from a very young age, my inspiration to create and continue creating this story has evolved largely from my own life experiences, my travels to the Far East, and from the many books, I have read in these genres. I would have loved to devote my full time to writing the series, but many other duties and responsibilities demanded my time and attention. Read more>>

Aubrey Cushing

I joined Scentsy on March 1, 2020, just as the rest of the world was beginning to quarantine. I told myself I was joining to pay for my Scentsy habit because I love the products but one thing led to another and now, I have been on trips, put food on the table, made friends unexpected, and gained self-confidence never imagined. I think people saw how much fun I was having and became inspired by it and wanted in, too. I think people are embarrassed by or overthink network marketing because they’ve had poor experiences with other companies. To that I say, give it a chance and surround yourself with the good ones. Read more>>

Daniela Sevilla

I was born in Venezuela in 1994, my entrepreneurial stage began when I was a 9-year-old girl, I used to sell pencils at my school, since I noticed that my classmates always forgot the pencils, and in my adolescence, I dedicated myself to selling banners designed and made by hand by me since my classmates did not know how to make them aesthetic. When I got to university, I was sure of what I wanted to study because I loved sales, I decided to study business administration, and in the course of my career I realized that I wanted to undertake something new, that I enjoyed doing, that’s how I was I came up with the idea of contacting my grandmother who has been a dressmaker for more than 25 years, we partnered, I designed the clothes and chose the fabrics and she made them. Read more>>

Marleta Black

I was born in the USA and did my undergrad in Computer Science before moving at 22 years of age to Australia. I lived and worked in Australia for 29.5 years and transitioned to dual citizenship and a new career in Psychology in 2011! In 2016, I migrated to Florida to care for my parents and practice as a Life and Business Coach. I specialize in communication and conflict resolution and have written an Amazon Best Selling book called “Say… Something! The Adventure of Finding the Right Words to Express Your Desires, Reduce Drama, and Create Connection”. Read more>>

Andre Clark

After graduating college, I was persuaded by my best friend to move from Los Angeles to St Pete to coach high school football. I moved here in September of 2016, coached one season with him; and due to his untimely passing in a motorcycle accident in March 2017 I stopped. After his death, I was tempted to move back to LA, but I was just accepted into USF to complete my graduate studies in exercise science. Depression turned me away from sports for a while, then in 2019, I found the Sports Life Training Center where I was given the opportunity to work with youth, collegiate, and professional athletes of all sports. Read more>>

Tashara and Rico

We’re a married polyamorous couple. We’ve been married for one year together for 3 years. We’ve been poly since the beginning of our relationship. So basically, after dating for about 3 weeks I (Tashara) asked Rico how would he feel about dating two girls. He was open to the idea, so we kinda went from there. We’ve had several dating experiences. Dating in the polyamorous community is somewhat difficult. More often than not we have experienced people that are not fully understand what a polyamorous relationship consists of. Starting with communication and consistency. So currently, we are single and dating casually. Read more>>

Courtney Kerr

I have been a nurse practitioner for over 13 years. When The pandemic happened, it was extremely stressful. I felt like I lost my spark. I quickly became burnt out. After a lot of encouragement from my friends and family, I started an Instagram page for home decor ideas. I should also add that in the last five years I went through a lot of changes including divorce. I also remarried. I’ve always loved decorating and fashion.  Read more>>

Giovanna Maxwell

As a child, my father and I would always shift furniture around in my room just for fun, and whenever I would sit by his desk I would always see pencil drawings of our house with amazing details and dimensions laid out. At 6 years old I watched him build an extension to my childhood home and I was right next to him with a tool belt, that didn’t fit, a hammer in my hand and dust on my little knees. Looking back, I know my dad’s creative side and passion exposed me to my purpose. Read more>>

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