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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.

Sarah Sanchez

I’m a teacher by day and baker by night (and evenings, weekends, mornings). I was out of work due to COVID-19 and decided to turn my love for baking and sustainability into a business! All my products are Earth-friendly and made with lots of love! It all started in April 2020 when I was looking through my refrigerator and found a 4+ week old loaf of bread that still looked brand new. Gross! This lit a fire under me to start making my own and ensuring that everything was natural and sustainable. I had a lot of interest in my bread and other baked goods from neighbors, friends, and family. Now here I am 12 months later with a legit business!. Read more>>

Genny Jessee

My life forever changed on April 29, 2012, not just because I became a mother but also because I became June Jessee’s mother. June had an undiagnosed, medically complex, neurological disorder. We had no idea there was any indication of something wrong with her health until shortly after she was born when she failed the newborn hearing screening at the hospital. And we wouldn’t fully realize the magnitude of her health until roughly 2 years later.  After further testing surrounding June’s hearing, we learned she had auditory neuropathy, a type of hearing loss associated with how the brain processes sound.  I remember asking the ENT physician, “If there’s something wrong with how June’s brain processes sound, how do we know if there isn’t anything else wrong with her brain?”  “We don’t,” she responded empathetically. “We will just have to wait and see if she meets her milestones.”Read more>>

Molly Reinhardt

I have always worked on various creative projects and collected vintage pieces for years. Which is why I decided to combine the two… cement goods + vintage finds = Cementage.  During the pandemic, I needed a new creative outlet so I started searching for some inspiration which led me to cement DIYs. With that, I bought supplies and decided to try my hand at it making my first cement tabletop fire pit as a holiday gift for a family member. Since then, people started asking if I sold them or could customize – which led to creating all the different shapes, sizes, colors, candles, planters, bowls, and more that I offer now. It has evolved a lot over the past 8 months. Read more>>

June Herman and Julie Dubray

As our children were starting to leave for out-of-town colleges, we realized that they might not return to STL as adults. Our families have very fond memories of the region, and we wanted our kids to take a little piece of STL with them as they ventured out into the world. At the same time, we started to think about going back into the work world, but we needed flexible work hours. After much consideration, we realized that the city had a lot to offer and that a whimsical book about STL that would appeal to all ages was the perfect solution. We could promote the region that we love and have an interesting and fulfilling job in the process. Goodnight ST. Louis, and our company, Skip to My Lou, LLC, was born from our love of the region and our desire to share it with those familiar with the city as well as those who had little to no knowledge of STL. We wanted those unfamiliar with the region to know that STL is more than just the Arch. Read more>>

Lyndsay O’Neil

I grew up in the food and service industry, my dad is an executive chef and my mom worked catering. I was definitely born into the food life. I started caking when I was 13. After volleyball season was over for me, my mom signed me up for cake decorating classes at our local craft store. I was not very excited about it and a bit reluctant. While I decorated cakes at home, I didn’t see myself doing much more than a box of cake in a 9×13 pan and a can of icing with sprinkles.  4 cake courses later, I completed all the classes. I then became the little girl who makes cakes. I made cakes for all my family, their friends and whoever else found out about me. This went on for about 4 years until I could get a job in high school at a bakery.  My entire life I have always said I was going to be a nurse, or have some type of position in the medical field. Many people throughout my caking asked me if I was going to have my own bakery one day, and I said it often. My answer was always no, I didn’t want to work a lot like my dad. I wanted to be a nurse. Read more>>

Kristen Kellogg

I started my career as a filmmaker producing marketing films in 2010 on the tiny island of Nantucket. The business I created eventually led me to travel around the world creating destination marketing videos for places like Visit Norway, Visit Jordan, Visit Panama, and lifestyle marketing content for brands like Rosetta Stone and Skye. I loved what I did but I was working non-stop. After running myself into the ground for over 7 years,  Two years prior I’d ended up in the hospital twice. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I didn’t have answers as to why I had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and a plethora of ongoing developing symptoms like ovarian cysts, eczema. I had had enough and sought the help of a prevention and healing doctor in St. Louis who practiced functional medicine. What no one could tell me in 2 years, he identified some of the root causes of my issues within our hour-long session. This began my journey back to me. Read more>>

Breanna Friedeck

In early July 2020, I saw an advertisement for fall candles from one of the “big companies.” I had my cart full of candles, when I had a thought: what if I learned how to do this myself? I quickly emptied my cart and got to work. I did hours and hours of straight research. Because of social distancing, I was only working 2-3 days a week so it was the ideal situation for getting started. I bought a few things to get started practicing and before I knew it, I had myself a candle. Read more>>

Charleston Wave

I am a 22-year-old singer, rapper, producer, and songwriter. I grew up in Webster Groves, the youngest of four, in a family full of artists. My parents ran a theater company and had yearly summer camps for performing arts. As their children, my siblings and I would attend almost everyone. This got us all really into performing and singing. As we grew up, we made songs together and were part of our high school choir and acappella groups. While my family always listened to Classic Rock, Pop, and Indie Rock music, in middle school and high school I got really into Hip-Hop and R&B. This blend of genres is what lead to my musical style. While I had written a few songs on piano and guitar at a younger age, in high school a friend who rapped asked me to sing a chorus on his song. We ended up recording it on my computer and I got really into editing the vocals and I tried out a rap verse as well. Read more>>

Devante Devrouax

Music has always been something that intrigued me but I never really thought about making it, until I went through my first manic episode. I was a 15-year-old boy going through emotions I didn’t understand. Initially, music was only an outlet for me. I was more into doing digital art, traditional, animation, etc. But it always felt as if I couldn’t fully express myself with just art alone. Almost as if something was missing. Since 2021 began, I have chosen to incorporate both my art and my music into one brand. Starting out I was embarrassed and didn’t tell anyone I made music, but the more music I made, the more confident I became. Until eventually every song felt like an amazing experience that I had to show everybody. Transitioning from teenager to young adult also made me realize I wanted to take a step from making music as a hobby to trying to build myself a stable career. I now look at it not only as an outlet but as a business.  Read more>>

Lakeisha Jeter

I began my journey in September of 2020 due to leaving my job to assist my children with virtual schooling. I’m big on family and believe in putting my family before anything else. When I first left my job, I had no intentions or plans in starting a business. However, a friend put me in contact with someone who had a business opportunity available. From there, my home fragrance business began. Read more>>

Tanna Marie

I have always had a camera in my hand and I think my first one was a 35mm pink barbie polaroid, I guess you know my age now lol. I have always been the one to capture even the little things in life. It wasn’t until around adulthood that I thought I could it as a business. As any photographer does when they first start out shooting everything, I finally decided in 2018 to focus my art on the goddesses that we call moms, maternity and the motherhood journey is so incredible and it deserves to be captured just as much and as glamourous as your wedding day. I do not hold back how I treat all my clients and their experience is unlike any other. I love it when they get a day to be pampered and dolled up in stunning gowns, hair, and makeup just as if they were models. I have truly found my calling and will always be looking for the next mamma who deserves to have the best experience ever with the one-of-a-kind heirloom artwork we create as they grow tiny miracles inside them. Read more>>

Kyera Belton and Sonya Taylor

We started Skin & Wicks January of 2021 with my mother and I praying to start our own businesses. My mother was telling me how she wanted to make natural soaps and I told her that I wanted to make body butters and the vision took off from there. We decided to take what we individually wanted to do and put them together to create Skin & Wicks. Since January we have attended 6 pop-up shops and one day praying to open up a storefront.  Read more>>

Margo Dill

In 1998, I answered an ad in a Family Circle magazine about a correspondence course about writing for children. I was assigned an instructor whom I only communicated with by mailed letters, and the Institute of Children’s Literature sent me a big, white binder full of my lessons–which I completed and mailed back to my instructor. That all makes me sound like a dinosaur! I learned a lot, and I was hit with the writing and publishing bug. I started my first published book, Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, a historical fiction novel for 9 to 12-year-olds, in that class.  Like all writers, I had a dream of being one kind of writer when I started–a famous, rich, and successful one. I dreamed that I would write children’s fiction, and I would be loved by kids around the world. What I quickly realized is that if I wanted to make a living as a writer, I had to write all kinds of pieces–kids’ stories and activities for magazines, newspaper articles about school boards, bios for law firms, standardized testing questions, and more. Read more>>

Kelly Warner

Upon graduating summa cum laude from Truman State University in 2004, I joined Teach for America and taught 7th-grade life science at an inner-city school in Houston, Texas. I completed my two-year assignment and stuck around for another four years because I loved teaching, I was committed to seeing my students succeed, and Texas had welcomed me and my husband with open arms, as we considered starting a family, we decided to move back home to St. Louis to be closer to our parents and siblings (all of whom were in the STL area). By the time we moved back we had already endured five years of infertility, and we would eventually go on to have two more years of struggles, including two miscarriages. We felt called to make big changes and started with changing our diet. I discovered the Whole30, a 30-day self-experiment to change your health, habits, and relationship with food, and completed my first round in November 2015. Read more>>

Danii Gold

I went to school for broadcast journalism and graduated from Missouri State in 2014. It was hard finding a job in my field because it’s a competitive career. At the end of 2014, I decided to start my own Entertainment and Lifestyle blog titled Danii Gold because I had always been intrigued with the entertainment industry since I was a kid.  My stories range from album and movie reviews, interviews with artists and people in the entertainment industry, and even some business owners. In the midst of running my own blog, I was a freelance writer for two digital magazine companies based here in St. Louis.  Last year, I decided to get with the times (lol) and start my own podcast titled The Gold Spot Podcast and it’s pretty much the same as my blog except I just conduct interviews. I have the pleasure of interviewing R&B singer Donell Jones on my podcast and that was amazing!!!. Read more>>

Dee Drenning

I originally started my path as an artist in 2014 while I was still serving in the Navy. I had just experienced a traumatic event and came across hula hooping as a form of therapy and peace. Eventually, I started developing my skills as a hoop dancer and performer. After an honorable discharge, I moved back home to the St. Louis area where I auditioned for a local burlesque club and that kick-started my burlesque career. I also started teaching hula hooping to children and adults around the area in 2018. Honestly, that has been one of my best jobs I’ve ever had. I began my studio art degree at the University of Missouri – St. Louis (graduating Spring ’22) and have been diving deeply into so many art forms. Being able to go back to school for art really expanded my abilities and broadened my ideas and concepts. Designing and printmaking have become some of my favorite forms as of late. Previously I was working heavily in video content and film/studio photography. Read more>>

Megan Schmitz

Praxis Design Studio has been in the works for 13 years and has evolved just as much as I have. I started the business as part of my senior project at Minneapolis College of Art & Design with a focus on event stationery design. It continued as a side hustle with a fluctuating workload for almost a decade as I grew my career as an agency Graphic Designer & Creative Director working on all types of brand collateral and advertising. Over the years my daytime job became more demanding and I had little to no time or energy to devote to taking on clients so I started moving into product design and doing pop-up shows. My products were mostly stationery items (greeting cards, gift tags, prints) and hand-painted pieces filled with puns and quirky illustrations. Seeing people interact with my items is always a huge joy and I love product design because it’s all about my own personal aesthetic and has become a way for me to create things on my own time and without pressure. Bonus points that other people love them too!.  Read more>>

Katie Wilson-Barge

Originally from a small town in Illinois, I moved to St. Louis in 2013 and have been proud to call this city home ever since. I attended Webster University where I graduated with my degree in Cultural Anthropology and minors in Criminology, Political Science, and French. My interests have always been diverse so when it came time to start looking for my next move career-wise, I had a difficult time figuring out where to start. Ultimately, I knew that I wanted something that would challenge me and also allow me to be creative, and that’s how I got started with blogging, content creation, and most recently, the launch of online store, Kindred Spirits.  Read more>>

Rodion Kirkland

I go by Rodion. I guess I’ll start off with where I am today. I’m 19 years old and was born on January 28 2002 in Taldykorgan Kazahkstan. I was quickly put up for adoption and lived in baby house #2. I was then adopted by my mom and dad and moved to America. When it comes to my origin, there’s almost nothing I know. The only I have to go back on is a birth certificate and an adoption record (which is just 1-2 sheets of paper) and my middle name “Rodion.” I grew up on a farm for about 12-13 years in Foristell, MO, and was an only child so I learned how to keep myself busy and entertained. Climbed the same tree millions of times. Throw a baseball in the air and catch it with my glove. Shoot hoops, play with action figures. I’d even pop a music disc into my PS2 and just lay down on my bed and listen to it.  Fast forward and I went through my ups and downs. Went to a private religious school, then switched to public. Had my struggles. Made friends, lost friends. Did some sports, was a good student, the usual. Trained in Hapkido, gymnastics, wrestled for 2 years, taught myself a little bit of fighting, got into basketball a bit, did track and field for about 2 years, started CrossFit at age 11 (I’ve been working out ever since I was about 9 years old), started weightlifting at age 14 (only recreational), even tried hip hop dancing for the tiniest bit. Read more>>

Taylor Mobley

6 years ago, I started my lifestyle blog, Blonde & Ambitious Blog and it introduced me to the world of entrepreneurship. My husband was my biggest support system – encouraging me to pursue this alongside my biochemistry degree at the time. When I graduated, I moved quickly into the self-employed role and just thrived. 3 years in, I realized just how many small businesses were reaching out to me to learn how to manage their social media, grow their online presence, and increase their revenue. That became a passion for me – helping these businesses gain their footing and launch their ideas and passion projects into success stories. Since then, I’ve continued to grow my lifestyle blog audience, started a successful podcast aimed at mothers in business called Hustle Like A Mother Podcast, and launched my coaching business. I am able to pursue all 3 passions with my tried-and-true methods of productivity and efficiency and teach others to do that same. As of July 2021, I have hosted and led in-person and virtual sold-out marketing workshops for business leaders and owners in the St. Louis area taught virtual boot camps and masterclasses to businesses all over the world, and coached leaders, CEOs, and entrepreneurs in productivity, efficiency, and time management. Read more>>

Sasha Emiri

The story of how I got to where I am today is one that I could have never predicted for myself. I’m a naturally introverted person, but somehow, I ended up working in news with a lot of big personalities and growing a following of over 100k on Instagram.  So how the heck did this happen?  Well, here are two big things I know about myself. One is that I have a knack for creativity. Two, I strive to see the best in others and know how to make them shine.  For 5 years I worked in the news industry as a producer, where I was mainly behind the scenes and made our talent look the best as possible.  As for my Instagram account, it all started when my friend wanted to grow his Instagram following. Each time we met, he would take a picture of me to mimic the image he wanted for himself and I would soon after taking the picture of him so he had content for his page. After months of helping my friend make content, he asked me why I didn’t post the stand-in photos he always took of me.  Read more>>

J.B. Nearsy Wright

Original artwork was my primary ongoing hobby during school at CSU and SIU. Art was my first-degree choice and I had a few studio classes, but remain largely self-taught. I went on to have 5 more major declarations before graduating with psychology and accounting. Rather than feeling frustrated that it took me 6 years to graduate undergrad, I felt highly and diversely educated on many subjects outside my major, including art, design, English and literature, philosophy, business, science, history, and others. I was on the dean’s list nearly every semester and graduated cum laude.  Shortly after university graduation, I gained a position in accounting and continued on that career path for six years, although I was still doing art during the time I wasn’t working.  I was able to leave my career as an accountant in 2015 to focus on a profession in art. At that same time, I also was working on a project with a hired developer in St. Louis, building an app called Graff Builder. Tasks involved with photography, design, direction and most things outside coding were done myself. The idea behind Graff Builder was, and is, to simulate the creation of graffiti art on real-world surfaces.  Read more>>

David Peterka

I recently celebrated 4 years of marriage to my wife Esther and 9 months ago we became parents to a little guy named Taji (crown in Swahili). I grew up attending church at the instruction of my stellar parents. Toward the end of my senior year of high school, however, my own faith started to come alive inside of me. It finally became my own and not just what my parents raised me to believe. I also started learning about major forms of injustice in our world. Things like genocide in Sudan, child soldiers in Uganda, and sexual abuse in Southeast Asia. I read cover to cover through scripture and discovered that God’s heart beats passionately for the orphaned, widowed, and downtrodden. I discovered that He calls those who believe in Him to do things like defend, rescue, and speak up for those who are exploited, abused, and marginalized.  So, I began a journey to find out what God created me for, what purpose He had in mind for my life. At the age of 21, I fasted or refrained from all solid food for 3 weeks straight and spent the whole last night alone in my basement praying. Read more>>

Alesha Henley

I am a marketing professional with over 25 years of experience in all facets of marketing – strategy, social media, website development, direct response campaigns, creative design, sales support, and lead generation. How did I get here? I was influenced by my mother, who was a single parent that prioritized education. School wasn’t an option; it was a requirement. She worked hard to put me through Catholic high school to provide the best education. I was a pretty smart kid but had no idea what a gift that was, I always viewed myself average. After selecting a college, Kent State University, I had no idea what I would major in. Business came to the forefront because it was the only thing, I was remotely interested in. I was not aware of the vast career options that were available to me. I picked what I knew and seemed to be easiest, marketing. No one told me the importance of internships or networking to get a job. Read more>>

Anna Woodside-Jones

After trying out a few months in college- I realized college was not for me. I’ve always wanted to be a hairstylist, however, I had to beg my parents to allow me to attend beauty school. My dad gave me 3 months to pick a different career but I was still so passionate about a career in the beauty industry. At 18 I enrolled myself in cosmetology school. Read more>>

Dr. Brooke Kalisiak

Dr. Brooke Kalisiak is a Board-Certified Women’s Health Physical Therapist. She opened Legacy Physical Therapy in January 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri to offer specialized pelvic rehabilitation services to the public. She has a passion for helping people enjoy healthy active lifestyles, restoring dignity and confidence in bladder, bowel, pelvic and sexual function without relying on pain medicines or surgery. Her mission is to educate the public about the importance of pelvic health. Over the last 12 years, she has grown the practice from just herself, to now 8 staff focused on providing excellent care to help patients overcome pelvic health issues. In addition to pelvic physical therapy, Legacy Physical Therapy has expanded to provide both online and in-person prenatal and postpartum fitness options for our clients. We have 4 dedicated pelvic health therapists now who enjoy working with all different types of pelvic health patients across the spectrum of life. Read more>>

Ivy Grant

I was introduced to the real estate industry at the age of 10 when my mom became a realtor in 1999. My mom established our family-owned real estate brokerage, St. Louis Metro Realtors in 2002. I can remember working the front desk at the office, answering calls, and stuffing envelopes to send out calendars for the Holidays. I can’t forget the many long days and hours riding around St. Louis using paper maps (we didn’t have google maps back then lol) to show houses. Due to the nature of the excessive work hours I had to sit with my mom conducting her real estate business, I always told her I would never do real estate. Not understanding as a child, the sacrifices my dad and mom made to ensure my future was better than theirs. At the age of 18 my senior year in high school I became pregnant with my now 13 yr. old son. I still went on to graduate from high school May 2008 and gave birth to him June 17, 2008. My senior year was rough having to face the reality that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy all the senior activities, prom, and even going away to college like I had planned. I also didn’t know what my future would look like. Read more>>

Kyle Luzynski

With my 26th birthday now six months away, I am already celebrating the six years’ worth of animal rights activism I have engaged in thus far. Despite my relative longevity as an activist, however, I have overcome significant difficulties to reach where I am today, difficulties all but a select few realize the full extent of.  As a young child, I barely spoke until the age of two. Even then, I resorted primarily to short, choppy commands, such as “hungry,” “thirsty,” and—as I am embarrassed to admit— “wipe my butt.” My only friends as a young child were my cousins; otherwise, I grew up in a social vacuum, preoccupied by my own largely pre-verbal thought world.  By age five, I was still failing to develop at the same pace as other children; a family friend, Rita, who only retired a few years ago from her position as the Executive Director of the St. Louis Center for Hearing and Speech, noted I was significantly developmentally delayed. My parents’ concerns only grew as I entered kindergarten. Read more>>

Amber Tomlin

I didn’t always have a love for baking, like this article it was a hidden gem in my life that I discovered while living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Back in 2013, my boyfriend (now husband) got a job offer to leave St. Louis and work in Santa Fe, New Mexico under a two-year contract and asked if I wanted to go along for the ride. Scared to death, nervous, skeptical about being so far away from everything and everyone I’ve ever known, but also really young and in love, I decided to go. I grew up in the Christian faith, but I had not belonged to a church, and the older I got the more important that became to me. While in New Mexico we joined a local church, gave our lives to Christ, got married, and created new friendships. One woman in the church took me under her wings. She told me that for Valentine’s Day a few of the women in our church would be putting together gift baskets for all of the single women in our church and asked if I wanted to help. Of course, I agreed having no idea that this one act of kindness would open the door to my future career choice. When I arrived at her house the next day, some women were putting together gift bags already and she was in the kitchen baking and asked me to assist her. Read more>>

Tia Meyer

It all started at 2, meticulously combing my grandpa’s hair every chance I could get.  Next victim the dog, he loved scrunchies and bows. Then Kitchen perms on mom and grandma at 5, dyed and fried by 13.  In high school, I was so obsessed with hair that my dad would say ” if you spent as much time on your schoolwork as you did your hair, you would be a straight-A student”  At 24 my now mother-in-law said, ” Why don’t you go to hair school?” “Sure, it not like I am doing anything else with my life but working at ACE Hardware.  With already struggling to make ends meet, going to beauty school seems like a project for the future. Save some money, get a grant or try to find a student loan were my options. Or so I thought.  My now husband sold all his toys for me, for us for our future. Read more>>

Chloe’ Loughridge

I started in Weddings and Events as my internship in college. I knew I wanted to be in hospitality but my thought was, as a restaurant manager. However, my professor wanted our internships to be something in the hospitality industry that was new to us. So….. I picked weddings and events. I fell in LOVE! I loved the idea of making a venue different from day to day. No weddings are the same and I help make that happen. I have worked for a few different venues and catering companies over the past decade and have even left the events industry for a few years. The experience and knowledge I have learned everywhere truly have helped me with my company.  I started my company to help make your wedding day truly stress-free for bride and groom, family, and friends. No matter if we are providing day-of wedding coordination, month of management, full planning for your upcoming dinner party, or full-service planning including decor rental and catering for your little one’s birthday. Read more>>

Alley Bardon

As a self-made “pup-fluencer” for my two rescue pit bulls, Boris and Ivory (@boris_the_pibble), I tend to keep pretty busy. Managing their Instagram account, which is quickly approaching 96K followers, oftentimes takes a back seat to my full-time job as the Social Media Manager at Lindenwood University, as well as to the MBA program at Lindenwood, which I am just five classes short of finishing! People used to joke that I couldn’t make an income from social media. I have proved to do it in my previous role as a Digital Marketing Manager on the paid side of social, in my current role on the organic side, and in my spare time with my personal accounts. I believe social media is the future of marketing. It takes on so many forms. Having worked on both the agency side and on the client side of agencies, I have learned so much. I might have just gotten extremely lucky with two adorable pitties, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I worked my butt off to get where I am now and I don’t plan to stop any time soon!. Read more>>

Jacob DeNoyer

I’ve been in love with tattoos since I was a little kid so naturally, I started tattooing as sons as I legally could. I went through a formal apprenticeship and continue to push myself daily. Read more>>

Tiffany Harmon

Southside Wine + Spirits was sparked from a love of community and not necessarily a career in the wine and spirits industry. In fact, I am a Certified Hand Therapist and was working full time in the orthopedic rehabilitation world before Southside Wine + Spirits was established in 2019.  As a resident “South-sider” I have attended music in the park, block parties, art festivals, and plenty of school picnics and have always wondered why I couldn’t get a good glass of wine at these events. I found myself driving around St. Louis and all the surrounding counties visiting wine shops and thinking that South City really needed to up our game. Sooo I had a new project. I bought myself a laptop and set out to create a business plan.  We started with a 700 square foot space with the plan of getting a liquor license, hosting a wine club through our website, and being the wine vendor at all those South City events that I had been to so many times before. Our customers quickly informed us that they wanted an in-person experience and this was the push we needed to give our little office a makeover for wine tastings and weekend shopping. Read more>>

Nisha Tailor

Since childhood, I always wanted to be an artist and have my own exhibition. I would get those dreams over and over. I had no clarity what it would be. I was born and raised in Mumbai, India. I came to the US at age 21 years old after meeting my husband through an arranged marriage. We have raised two beautiful kids and I stayed home mom. meantime my dreams were still on the hold. I was in process of building my second home, I fell in love with floorplans and making custom changes…That’s all it took, I went to interior design school full time raising two small kids and taking care of father-in-law, and got my Associate degree in Interior design with honors. That was the best decision of my life and I am so proud of myself for those 4 years of full-time school. I did not have any social life or vacations but I did not miss it at all. Because, I was determined, thirsty, driven to get there with only one vision. Meantime, I was being trained by Korean Master Park for black belt. He trained me about how to balance my mental, physical, and emotional discipline. After graduating, I started my own design business and it’s been beautiful dream coming alive. Read more>>

Deena Patel

I grew up around my parents doing business to survive in a country they knew nothing about. If I am sharing my story… my story means nothing without sharing the sacrifices my parents made to give me the opportunity to sit here today with a number of businesses. We can talk more about that during the interview process.  Growing up around business, it was almost second nature to know how to run a business. However, I went to school and got a degree in Healthcare Management. Right out of college I landed a job for a medical software company as an Auditor. A couple years later I moved on with my specialty, Medical Revenue Cycle, as a Healthcare consultant. Quickly burning out from 15–18-hour workdays and constant travel I chose to retire for about 5 months at the age of 26. In those 5 months, I traveled, quarantined, and forced my entire neighborhood to wave as they passed by. (Community is important – also a story for the interview). Read more>>

Rae Dorsey

I always had a passion for photography all the way back in high school. It wasn’t until 10 years later I decided to pick up a camera again.  My husband and I moved to the St. Louis area for his job with our 3-month-old baby girl. In support for my husband’s career but in a struggle to adjust to motherhood I fell into postpartum with the new transition. We had no family here just us. I decided to leave my corporate job to be a stay-at-home mom. While adjusting to my new normal, I needed a creative outlet so I started planning kids’ parties and couldn’t for the life me get someone to take a decent picture of my hard work so I would plan, decorate, and shoot the photography for my events. Talk about crazy! Until I fell in love with photography all over again. It became my safe place! Using that passion, I told myself I was never going back to corporate and I did just that. I’ve specialized in newborn, maternity, boudoir, and weddings over the last four years. Although it hasn’t been easy, I’ve made so many amazing connections with my RAEmarkable clients and vendors friends between the cities of Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Chicago.  Read more>>

Shaé Banks

I’ve had a love for fashion since I was about 9 years old, I also knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur! Since my childhood, I’ve been navigating different creative jobs within the fashion industry. I learned photography, fashion design, sewing, styling, buying, merchandising, retail management… you name it, I’ve tried it. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Merchandising from Southeast Missouri State University, with the intention of starting my styling career. Learning the ins and outs of styling and searching for local opportunities was not easy! I created my blog Styled By STL in collaboration with other local businesses to create opportunities to be creative and build a portfolio. I loved the photoshoots; I love meeting other business owners and creative directing. Doing this made me change my mind so many times for years after and I finally realized… I don’t really want to be a stylist, even though I love it! I also wasn’t making much money doing it. So, I needed to find another route to my entrepreneur dream but still in the fashion world. Read more>>

Brandi Jones

I would do my hair as a kid to block out the chaos going on in my home. Practice on family or niece to get practice in. In 2010 I told my high school teacher I wanted to be a hairstylist after school and was told I would not make any money doing hair. So, I settled and went to a university and did not care for it. Coming from being a crack baby child, foster care, sexual abuse, and feeling invisible, hair was all that brought happiness to me and uplifting people around me. I ended up going to cosmetology school after a year at a university and loved it. I felt like I was where I actually belonged. I graduated and worked at a few salons about 4 in total, were two salons tho that taught me a lot besides hair skills but work ethic. I open December 30, 2017, after having my first son 4 months prior! Realizing that my small salon loft was a place for women to come and be filled up with motivation and a word and love. Read more>>

Makicha Greenwood

I have been in fashion all my life. I have always loved playing dress-up or helping friends and relatives with the perfect outfit. I got this a lot from my mom who was a St Louis native and loved to wear nice clothing and shoes. Grew up in East St Louis, Il a city of trends and fashion. Even throughout high school you never know you have the passion and the love for clothes until winning best-dressed senior. My mom will always buy me nice clothes. I will never forget the time of one of my favorite artists Mary J Blige. I wanted this pants suit she wore on the cover of 411 I believe, and my mom found it. So, as you could see my fashion for clothes goes back, and starting a clothing line has always been my passion. I specialize in quality clothing, so my vision is to make clothes of excellent quality. I wanted the best fabrics! Our apparel includes men, women, and youth. Our designs are handcrafted with the best quality, wiring, elastic, and fabrics. Originally my logo started with my children’s names, but I wanted more of a catchy slogan that fits everyone, so the logo DDD brands mean Dreams Do Develop. Read more>>

Jesseca Spearmon

I grew up watching my grandmother braid and eventually took on the skill. As a kid, I would practice on dolls’ heads and etc. Once I got to high school, I met a friend who did hair and learned a few different skills from her. I started doing my own hair and close family and friends. Once I graduated high school in 2016, I did hair on the side of working as a CNA. Over the years I always thought about going to school for cosmetology but I was indecisive because I was always set on going into the medical field. After 5 years of working in the medical field, I realized it wasn’t my passion. I took a leap out and decided to create my own business and brand. It was scary going from a 9-5 to being self-employed. It has been a long and challenging road. The hardest part is getting my name out to the world. It’s crazy how many posts or social groups I’m in promoting myself. During this journey, I learned that I am my biggest supporter. Read more>>

Gabriela Ramirez-Arellano

The Balsa Foundation was started in 2014 shortly after the shooting of Michael Brown and the unrest that followed in Ferguson. Our founders believe that helping first-time entrepreneurs start and grow their business is an effective way to promote community, equity, and economic growth in our region. We are passionate about providing opportunities to thrive especially to those in our underserved communities. We are a volunteer-run organization of entrepreneurs, scientists, community leaders, and young professionals. The Foundation aims to make entrepreneurship accessible – and success attainable – to everyone. Read more>>

John Cowan

As a child, I would awaken early Saturday mornings with my father to visit the Ann Arbor Antiques Market to hunt for original Audubon and other rare prints of natural history. It was a great feeling to be able to learn from my father who has been an influential presence in the Audubon print world. He passed along the profound appreciation for John James Audubon, the unique engraving methods of production, editions, and how to assess a true print versus a reproduction. I was fortunate to be able to grow up with not only Havell, Bien, and Octavo edition prints from the Birds of America collection displayed throughout our home, but with a library of rich history about the man behind the works of art, expeditions, and legacy. In following in this tradition, I made my first Audubon acquisition, a Snowy Owl 1st edition Octavo in my early thirties. Framed and preserved in archival mating with UV-filtering acrylic and hung on the wall, it is a daily reminder of the beauty of our natural world that needs our protection. The detail and color are spectacular. The pandemic has focused a lot of people’s attention inward to evaluate their values, their inspiration, and what makes a place home. Read more>>

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