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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.

Matthew Stewart

I was brought up in church which helped shape my values and perspectives on life and helping others. That background led to my employment at the Arizona Department of Child Safety. I began with a focus on helping children and worked directly with families later moving into management. I was there for over 10 years. While at the Department I was reviewing training on culture and I was led to look at race data in the Arizona foster care population. What I learned was that the Black, African-American population was only 4% of the State of Arizona, yet the population of Black children in foster care was a staggering 16%. Read more>>

Kacie Walls

My love for travel started as a child and comes from my grandmother. As a child I would travel all over the USA and to Disney/Florida every year. we always drove so I was able to see this amazing country we live in. In 2009 I took a trip with friends to Cancun and we used a travel agent, I just remember in my young 20’s walking in that travel agency and that is when I new this is it, this is what I want todo. Travel Agent is not something you are told as a child you can be so I never knew until that day, that this was it. Read more>>

Tara Carroll

I must preface by saying that growing up, I never wanted to get married. I knew I wanted children at some point, but marriage….no thank you. That took a turn when I met my “now” husband. I was 18, a freshman in college and had committed to be my myself; single and proud of it. October of 2015, a young man began liking my pictures on Instagram and at this time I was truly not about “tit for tat games” so I decided to message him. From there we began to introduce ourselves but the conversation was not of the normal caliber. Read more>>

Greg Bháird

I’ve always been artistically-inclined. As a young boy I had a keen interest in drawing which moved onto painting, where I’d go around the neighborhood in Mesa trying to sell my watercolors. As I got into junior high I absolutely knew I had to take art classes and this continued on into high school. Then I became an adult and for some reason, whether or not it was because of society or some innate doubt within myself, I don’t know, but I discontinued my art education. I poured concrete for about a decade, moved on to aerospace machine shop work, and then to a national law firm. Read more>>

CeLyn Evens

I started out by drawing on my sheets of work I would get during elementary school (though I feel that everyone had their doodling phase on homework) My family noticed my interest in drawing outside of that area and would buy me sketchbooks as gifts to hone in my skills. I would also buy paper from the store just to practice drawing cartoon characters I saw in tv shows and movies. During high school, I started getting more serious about my art and how I presented myself as an artist. Read more>>

Bentley Siimone

I began acting and taking acting workshops as a child. I continued that upbringing into my adult life. I wish things were as easy as they appear to be. My, Bentley Siimone ,Entertainment Resume was formulated from my resilience to play the role of my own talent, agent and MUA. My business, Casselenia.Co ,resume was devised from my marketing experience as an online Social Media Influencer. Success. It’s the place you land after you’ve taken a bumpy trip to “acceptance island”. Read more>>

Karen Nielsen

My name is Karen Nielsen, and I am a licensed AZ Realtor® with Bliss Realty & Investment based in Gilbert, AZ. I am originally from New York where I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology. I hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in package design as well as Associate’s Degrees in Advertising Design and Interior Design. In 1996 I met my husband while we were both living in Hawaii. Since then, we raised 3 boys and a black lab and have moved with them from South Dakota to Washington back to South Dakota, and finally to Arizona. Read more>>

Carrie Green-Zinn

I’ve had many different starts and pivots in my life that have culminated to where I am today. These starts have all had a similar thread, which resulted in my most recent endeavors as a travel blogger and content creator. I’ve always been a people person and have loved dancing and traveling. A deep sense of wanderlust combined with a need to be creative has long been part of my DNA. I used those skills to be a dancer and then to help heal others. I used to be a psychotherapist and used dance therapy to support psychiatric patients through their darkest times. Read more>>

Tori Piscitelli

I started my photography journey back in 2015 when I took my first photography class my freshman year of high school. I am not sure what drew me to photography but it was something I knew I wanted to do before I took that class. I started off in a darkroom and shot only black and white film for two years before moving onto digital. Once I did that I knew that this is what I am going to pursue. I went on to join a student expedition lead by National Geographic and study photography at Arizona State University, once I got there my photographic path changed. Read more>>

Christopher Roche

I have had art in my blood from a very young age, when I was ten, I had a sketchbook that I would draw in constantly. My interest in creating art continued through high school, and on to the College of San Mateo where I was fortunate to meet an instructor and master artist in his own right Joe Price. The fire he lit in me led me to Southern California to study at California State University Long Beach. This was an eye opener for me because there were so many talented people there that I was not sure I belonged or was good enough. Read more>>

Stealing Oceans (Brian Thompson)

I started writing music when I was 15yrs old. I was failing out of school, running away from home and at one point almost took my own life. Sitting down and putting my feelings on paper became my therapy and in a lot of ways saved me. After getting sent away at 16 and finishing 5yrs of high school, I ended up in Colorado for college. I dropped out after one yr and moved in with my manager in Denver. He worked for one of the biggest drug dealers in the city so to make ends meet, I would run shipments from Denver to Montana to pay for studio time. Read more>>

Germaine Shames

As a child of the 60’s counterculture, I knew from a young age that my life could only be a revolution. While still in my teens, I rubbed elbows with such luminaries as Timothy Leary, William Burroughs and Leonard Cohen—not through family or privilege, but by placing myself in precarious situations. I was born to write, but went through a practical phase and found myself a junior executive in the global hospitality industry. My writing skills earned me a handful of promotions, but corporate life clashed with my deepest values. After six years of empty glam and shattered dreams, I bailed and began again. Read more>>

Anna King

I started writing when I was in elementary school and would tell on myself using my grandmother’s IBM Selectric typewriter. I could never figure out how my parents knew what I’d been up to and later learned my grandmother had been sharing my old-school hardcopy blogs. I went through the Blogger and MySpace days when the blogs were huge and then people like Heather Armstrong ( started monetizing like crazy. There was suddenly this pressure to have a platform and people started saying outrageous things just for the clicks. Gone were the days of just riffing on whatever caught your attention. Read more>>

Natalia Marushchak

I specialize in Eyelash Extensions, Makeup Artistry and Skin Care. Born and raised in Nikolaev, Ukraine, I found my love for beauty and make up when she was a little girl. During student years my love for beauty grew even stronger and after getting my Masters Degree, I attended Boyko Beauty School earning my cosmetology licence. While working as a freelance makeup artist I attended Atelier Paris Makeup school to continue growing my techniques and skills. In 2017 I moved to Scottsdale and attended Clinical Esthetics Training Program and Laser Training Program at IMAj Institute to obtain her Arizona State license. Read more>>

Evan Amos

I am a self taught photographer, I started with a partners camera and started shooting sunsets which lead me further down the rabbit hole doing longer exposure and Astrophotography. I believe my journey with my photography has to do directly with my INFP personality type and the need to express myself without always being on center stage. This also was a test for me to express myself without knowing if I was good enough or not. I tried Landscape, portrait, product, real estate and whatever types of photography I could find work for. Read more>>

Thierry Delourneaux

I started my lovely pastry journey with an apprenticeship in my hometown of Guadeloupe “”the butterfly island in the Caribbean. Though my late father originally wanted me to become a policeman like him, he supported my choice. When I finished the program in half the allotted time, I moved to France to pursue a master’s degree in pastry arts in Paris while honing my skills at Chamarre Pâtisserie. I have crossed the Atlantic to work at the renowned Lenôtre Patisserie in Montreal and steer the opening of two pastry boutiques for Patachou Patisserie in Toronto. Read more>>

Kinyatta E. Gray

Thank you for asking. I’m a small business owner in a unique niche. I design luxurious microfiber beach towels with inclusive illustrations of black and brown women in bold-colored swimsuits at the beach. I launched my business, FlightsInStilettos, after not finding a luxurious beach towel with similar designs and illustrations that I now include on my beach towels! After purchasing journals and journaling for years, in 2022, I also launched the Stylish Writing Center, a collection of inclusive journals and diaries for men, women, and children covering topics ranging from grief and loss to divorce and self-care. Read more>>

Craig Peterman

I have had many careers throughout my life, but truly, nothing has ever felt right, or complete, or true, until I held a camera in my hands. Instantly, I knew that my real passion had been awakened with the whirring click of a shutter. Even to this day, I am always amazed at the power we have to conquer time, to possess a moment: to stop the movement of a clock, to save a smile, and hold it in our hands. Photography and Videography is a learning experience and there are always going to be struggles that inherently come along with this art form. Read more>>

Nino Dovala

I’ve always been attracted to creating or recreating art. In school I would always draw for others or on others getting in trouble from time to time. I went through a lot of trouble during high school so my parents invested in providing me with a craft to pursue. I practiced on and off for years. I wasn’t really sure tattooing was what I wanted to do. Until one day I decided to just quit my full time job working for Waste Management as an ICR representative. Since then all I’ve done is tattoo for the past 6 years. I’ve had the honor of working with some of the best artist in Arizona! From Humberto Beltran whine I’ll always look up to as my motivation to pursue this craft full time. Read more>>

Arizona Jones

It all started in mid-2018, when, my wife at the time, Amanda, walked out on me for someone else. The loss was devastating, and the resulting pain and depression caused a spiral of downward thinking that I couldn’t get out of. It was around a year later when I decided to try dating again. Dating, at this time, had largely moved to the internet via a multitude of dating apps. When crafting my online profiles I realized any photos I had were not that interesting; I needed something. Read more>>

Thurro Alexander

I started hiking at the Beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic and ever since then I’ve fallen in love with hiking. Just going outside and seeing a different landscape every week made me realize how blessed we are to live in America. From the different state parks, to the National parks, inside our National forests, deep down in the many different caves & caverns, to the local trail on the side of the road, there’s so much to see outside! So far I’ve been to 23 states and despite the well known beauty of Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, & Montana, the states that surprised me the most were Texas, Iowa, Kansas, and Wisconsin. Read more>>

Raphael Uduhiri

Originally from Nigeria, Raphael grew up on West African cuisine that is very rich in flavor, but also adds a spicy kick, which comes from the variety of the ingredients used in every dish. The nearly infinite combinations of spices, herbs and peppers result in a sophisticated variety of recipes and foods, each with its own unique taste that leaves you wanting more and making every meal time a satisfying experience. Naija Grille was born out of Raphael’s love for grilling and the desire for food with that same balance of heat and flavor that he achieved by experimenting with different spices and peppers. Read more>>

David / Lori Busby / Stitch

We started Bad Honey Brand in 2020 with the idea to supplement our income during lockdowns and layoffs by utilizing some different skills we had acquired throughout the years. We began by creating custom masks for friends and businesses, but that quickly expanded into much more. We were soon receiving requests for a wide range of needs from vinyl printed shirts and simple garment alterations to modifying clothing for people with special needs. Dave developed his own line of small batch and custom tactical gear which was hugely popular on our Etsy store and locally. Read more>>

Justine Grace Garcia

I picked up a camera at the age of fifteen when I helped my cousin shoot a little wedding. It wasn’t until long after that when I decided I wanted to learn more about photography. Fast forward a couple of years later, I’m starting a business as a wedding and elopement photographer! Starting a business is never easy, there’s definitely a lot of hardships that I encountered. Such struggles included thinking that I’m not good enough and that the market is “over saturated” with other photographers. However, after a mindset shift, I was able to think more abundantly and more clearly. Read more>>

Juana Gonzalez

I am 28 years old. I am married to my middle school sweet heart and we have 3 beautiful children. Isabella, Julian and Alahna. My husband and I are teen parents and that changed a lot for us. With the help of our family we were able to finish high school. I started college right away to prepare for the nursing program. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a nurse. I took college courses and worked full time as a CNA. Hardly saw my daughter or my husband due to our different work schedules. Eventually I found a job were I got comfortable. Read more>>

Jeff Smith

I’ve been a cartoonist for over thirty years. My first success was with a graphic novel series called BONE, a humorous fantasy, a bit like Bugs Bunny meets the Lord of the Rings. At first, my wife Vijaya Iyer and I self-published the serialized story to the comic book market where it did well, but later BONE was picked up by Scholastic and exploded, launching the current YA Graphic Novel craze. I didn’t necessarily write BONE for kids, instead I was trying to write a book that could be read by both adults AND kids. Read more>>

McKenna Schrimpf

I would say I was a natural born entrepreneur. I saw my dad opening and running businesses when I was younger and have always had a creative, entrepreneurial brain. I began my first business at only 11 years old. Down the road I launched a new freelance business and graduated from ASU with a business degree in entrepreneurship. During Covid I started creating some of my own accessories and realized how much I enjoyed it! I started my business, Handmade By McKenna, in the fall of 2020 and haven’t looked back! I love that this business allows me to challenge myself creatively and grow as an entrepreneur! Read more>>

Kevin Antol

My story in the world of photography and digital art starts roughly 13 years ago when I joined the US Navy. One of my very first paychecks I got after graduating boot camp and being stationed in Seattle, I impulsively bought a Canon Rebel camera from a local store. From then on I was taking photos every opportunity I had. Starting off with black and white street photography and switching to landscape after I completed my enlistment and moved back to Arizona. That’s the thing, I’ve always looked for the bumps in the road. Read more>>

Olivier Dubois-Cherrier

After having actively worked for 20 years in the commercial screen-printing and digital printing industry; first for my father then within my own companies, I decided to become fully involved with visual art making. Even if my parents weren’t artists themselves, one of my grandparents was a painter and another one was a sculptor. I guess it influenced my trajectory even if they were passed when I did the switch. I used to draw naturally well when I was a kid, and to reconnect with my skills after 25 years of abstinence was quite a revelation that would impact the rest of my life. Read more>>

Aamber Mckinney-Williams

Hello my name is Aamber and I am a 35-year-old mother of four beautiful girls and entrepreneur. In my entire career I have always been some sort of manager but I always knew that that wasn’t enough for me. I always knew that in my heart I wanted to be my own boss and pursue different dreams and aspects for success in life on my own terms. Coming from growing up in a low income inner city, living in the South and now living in Phoenix area I have experienced a lot of diversity. These experiences have helped me to grow tremendously as a business professional. Read more>>

Daniel Johnson

Well I’m a professional drummer and have been for about 13 years. Playing drums is definitely my life. I moved to Arizona in 2004 from a small town in Pennsylvania and I fell in love with Arizona immediately and knew I would never leave. It’s a great homebase and I get a new appreciation for it every time I travel on the road. Adaptability and staying current. I’m a professional drummer for higher which includes recording in the studio or touring and playing live shows. Always be ready to adapt and pay attention to the business side of things. Read more>>

Richard Calvin

I’m currently preparing an ebook, but to sum it up , I went from being blind, separated from the woman I loved and my child, homeless and unemployed to a multi millionaire with these following skills: Prayer Discipline Faith Applying what I learned Giving gratitude. These things allowed me to face what I was running from, face my failures and realize that failures are necessary to understanding how to do things the right way, that theirs joy in the journey and that day will always come after night. This life is scary, it’s dangerous…..but its worth it 😎 Read more>>

Halim Danni

We come from a big Retail stores which is furniture stores we’ve been at it for the past 10 years it’s a thanks to god and to our team , We start with one furniture store now we have 14 and two liquidation stores like the one we have in Phoenix We grind and work every day at a minimum in like 10 to 14 hours a lot of times we don’t take days off that’s why I put sets in to where we are now and we will not stop till we finish the empire satisfy all customers. Are obstacles was put in the guys in the wrong positions , or lack of Effort .. so We immediately terminate them from their share. And so will take a toll on is Covering their shift till we get someone else to teach and rely on them. Read more>>

Mayra Rodriguez

Am a Mexican Inmigrant that worked for 17 years for Planned parenthood. My pasión is to help women. I moved to this country as a teen, as an inmigrant I had face so many challenges and obstacles. Am an Activist and public speaker. I go around the world telling my history and testimony. Helping create conscious about what women’s rights truly means. My main goal is to empower and inspire women. Set your mind to achieve anything you want, don’t give up. Believe in yourself and defend your views , stand up for what you believe, even if you stand alone. Speak your truth. Read more>>

Brianna Ortiz

Hi Arizona! I am beyond thrilled to share a little bit about myself with you all. My name is Brianna Ortiz. I am a Real Estate Agent in Phoenix. I was born and raised in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. I’ve always had a burning passion for Real Estate, whether it’s to help others achieve to buy, sell or even invest in a property. I believe, that it’s more than just being a “Realtor” to a client. It’s about creating a phenomenal bond with one another and then being able to be trusted into guiding such an important milestone in life. I genuinely value that feeling of helping others find their ultimate dream home! Read more>>

Izzie Barcenas

Hi, I’ve been a Licensed Aesthetician for 3 years. I dealt with acne that affected my mental health. I did everything from DIYS, Pinterest tips, birth control (that only made my mental health worse), dermatologists, and prescribed medications, and nothing worked. I started researching esthetician schools in 2013 but never jumped because I had that first-generation guilt if you know, you know. Fast forward to 2018, everything felt like it was happening to me when really, it was happening FOR me. That same year, I signed up for esthetician school, which was the best thing I ever did. Read more>>

Brittany Andrews

My passion for helping others began in childhood. Watching my mother care about and help many individuals (in her life and mine) truly inspired me. And my passion continued to grow, just as I did throughout the years. I took psychology in high school, which set me on the path to continue my studies in my undergraduate program at ASU. After graduation, I worked for Child Protective Services before applying to graduate school and attending Grand Canyon University. Read more>>

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