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Downtown’s Hidden Gems

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 downtown’s gems below.

Sierra Gates

I was born and raised in the westside of Atlanta. My mom was a great mom but a strict one. Growing up, she wouldn’t let me talk to boys and this continued into middle school and high school. So I snuck around and ended up getting pregnant at 15, and my mother didn’t have it. She kicked me out, but I always say she threw me into the jungle and I came back a lion. Because I feel like it was the best thing to happen to me, that’s where I got my start, as far as needing a job. I was always a girly girl and knew how to do makeup. So I went up to this makeup kiosk in the mall in search of a job. The lady said: “‘I need you to do one person as a sample so I can see your work.’” I was in the mall and they wanted me to do a sample interview. Read more>>

Alexandria Washington

Alexandria Washington was raised in Jacksonville, AR. Graduating from North Pulaski High School and went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree from The University of Alabama. She has gone on to work multiple networks such as BET, MTV, VH1, TMZ, Fox Atlanta, Radio One and many others. Washington got her start while in college at 90.7 The Capstone. Upon graduation, she was hired in local news as a social media reporter. While during the news, she secured an on-air position at STREETZ 101. Shortly after, she moved to Cumulus’ Power92 Jams – where she became #1 rated urban weekend show in her market. Read more>>

Jamin G. Walker

My name is Ja’min G. Walker. I am originally from Roselle, NJ. I moved to Atlanta in 2017 to pursue a career in Acting and Modeling. Since I’ve been in Atlanta, I have had the opportunity to have cameos in music videos with know artists and producers such as Taytoven. I’ve also made an appearance in some movies such as Barbershop 3, All Eyez On Me, Boomerang on BET, Coming 2 America, and independent projects such as the “SELF” the series just to name a few. I always had the entrepreneurial spirit growing up in New Jersey. While here in Atlanta networking with multiple entrepreneurs from different parts of the entertainment industry. Read more>>

Jasmine Warren

As a child, I’ve always had a love for science, writing, and cooking. My Grandmother would often cook and teach me some things and I was very fascinated with learning about outer space. I decided that I wanted to be an astronaut or a chef. However, once I learned about black holes in space and how you can be sucked into them, my decision changed very quickly! I knew I’d definitely be a chef from that point on. I begin by watching YouTube videos and reading a lot of books before enrolling in Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, AL. There I majored in culinary arts. During this time, I found that I had more patience with and a love for baking. After graduation, I decided to attend my dream school, Johnson and Wales University. I learned that baking is a form of science that aligns with my childhood love of science. Read more>>

Jaylan Fields

My fitness journey began when I was in college at The University of Alabama. I did not work out consistently in my first few years of college, and one day in my junior year, I realized that my health was beginning to decline. I buckled down and started working out at the rec center. My peers began to notice the physical changes I made and started coming to me for of the books training and fitness advice. Those opportunities motivated a friend and I to coordinate a 60-day fitness initiative at the beginning of the calendar year. We challenged our peers to consistently eat consciously and workout consistently for the first 60 days of the year to be prepared for Spring Break. Read more>>

Nicholas Wedlow

My journey as a father began very abrupt and non-traditionally. I became a father in high school as a result of a pregnancy that I was unaware of. Having to adjust to fatherhood literally overnight catapulted me into adulthood with little to no preparation. After a failed attempt at a college football scholarship, I found myself back living with my parents with no way to support myself or my child. I decided to enlist into the United States Air Force to provide some structure in my life, financial stability, learn a trade, and a second chance at education. So far, I’ve accomplished them all! Initially, my son’s mother and I were able to peacefully co-parent, even after our relationship had failed. Read more>>

Tamika J.

My name is Tamika J. born and raised in Miami, Florida and I am currently living in Los Angeles, California. My journey into the music industry was (as corny as it may sound lol) love at first sight. When I heard the power, the beauty, the melodies of music it touched me in a way that was indescribable. I love how it makes me feel, and then I realized at an early age that I had the gift of singing! It was pretty cool to acknowledge this gift and use it to bless myself and others. As soon as I became a singer/songwriter, the creative juices never stopped!! I love the projects, the performances, everything that has to deal with music!! It is a very powerful tool and I am blessed to have it. Read more>>

Chris Clay

Born in the Midwest, I attended the Webster University in St. Louis, MO where I started producing while studying audio engineering. Working with artists from the St Louis Area like Matty Wood$, CrashJordy, Anwar, Drevegas and more, I have honed in on my craft. Closing my Junior year of college the program was changed, leading me to have to stay an extra year to finish up the degree; with this, I was also being evicted from my apartment for noise complaints, so I dropped out and moved to Atlanta at the end of 2019. Read more>>

Chris Shumphard

Growing up, I always had an interest in entertainment, music, modeling and acting. I began modeling during my Valdosta State days and it gave me a vision for how I wanted things. This leads me to wanna get behind the camera, where I picked up on things fast and proceeded to start up my own business/company. Read more>>

Dr. Chinasa Elue

As a Nigerian-American, I felt inclined to pursue a career in medicine under my parents’ urgings but soon realized that my passions lied elsewhere. I pivoted to pursue my bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Georgia, M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Valdosta State University, and my doctorate in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education and a Certificate in Policy Studies from Clemson University. Fresh out of graduate school, I took on my first professorship appointment, where I was able to utilize my intellectual prowess and academic training to work with students and conduct research around issues of educational access and equity for underserved populations. Read more>>

Zoe Willingham

I’m Zoe Imani Willingham, an aspiring musician currently pursuing a degree in Violin Performance at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. My musical journey began at ten years old by teaching myself the guitar, then moving on to the violin the next year. In 2017, I entered the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program (TDP) under the tutelage of Sanford Salzinger, a section violinist of the ASO. I am an alumna of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program, where I studied with Sanford Salzinger, a violinist of the ASO. I have served as Concertmaster at the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO), the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, and my high school orchestra, Stilwell School of the Arts; and I have placed in competitions such as the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity 2020 Talent Hunt Competition and the MYSO Scholarship Competition. Read more>>

Alexis Montoya

At the age of 15 years old, I knew I wanted more than just a regular job. I began selling anything and everything I found lying around in my room. This included gifts, clothes, hats, etc. It was cool to know I could easily make money just selling things, so it came to my attention that this is what I like to do. I started to buy items I knew I could sell to my friends & family, which led me to shoes & clothes. I did it a little bit here & there, nothing major. But in my sophomore year of high school is when I took off. I was buying ten shoes, 20 shoes, 30 shoes and I couldn’t stop. I would buy them & sell them so quickly at times that I couldn’t even take a picture of all of them at times. I loved the fact that I was making money at my age. Read more>>

Carissa Anderson

I have always had a passion for helping and encouraging others. However, I did not realize what my potential was until I truly began to own who I am. All throughout my childhood, my mother took amazing care of my hair. She made sure it was healthy and protected all of the time. Then, middle school came and as a result of peer pressure, I decided to start straightening my hair every single week. This process eventually led to damage and me consistently trying to imitate someone I knew I was not meant to be. I found so much of my worth and value in my hair, and then one day I looked in the mirror and knew something needed to change. I did not like the image that I saw; I was broken and desperately trying to be who the world wanted me to be instead of owning my unique beauty. Read more>>

Brian Keith Harris II

Since I can remember, I have always wanted to be three things in life: A preacher. A dancer. A teacher. I can vividly remember preaching to a congregation of teddy bears at age three and creating lessons for my family to learn at age five. These experiences, including my love for dance, have permeated and shaped my life in a profound way. My parents spent countless hours and money pouring into my passion and gifts and helping me to develop the skills needed to be excellent in these fields. In 2003, I graduated from Hampton University with a B.A. in Print Journalism and in 2006, graduated from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology with a Master in Divinity degree. It was in seminary that I had an opportunity to student teach and I became reacquainted with my love and passion to be an educator. Read more>>

Sofia Palmero

When I graduated high school and went to college, the plan was simple: get good grades, take the LSAT, get into an awesome law school, become a successful lawyer. Then, halfway through my third year, I was struck by the realization that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. It was like someone had pulled the entire earth out from under me and I was floating directionless in space. Then my dad died the year before I was set to graduate and any motivation I had evaporated. I was listless, just trying to make it from one day to the next without completely losing my mind. Two things brought me back. One was a creative writing class I decided to take my senior year. I found that writing was the catharsis and escape I so deeply craved. Read more>>

Raven Chareal’

Growing up with what some may deem as a “disability” wasn’t always easy. You had to deal with the bullying, not loving what you see in the mirror, and hiding in your own personal shell. I was born with only two fingers on my left hand and what I thought was a curse turned out to be what fueled me to inspire the world with my gifts. I remember studying Raven-Symoné on the Cosby Show, wanting to be this outgoing, spunky kid actress just like her but being the shy, self-conscious little girl that I was; my fears hindered me from following my dreams for years. My mom pushed me to audition for my first theatre production when I was 16 and let me just say that audition sucked big time but the playwright, Denise Trayvick, gave me a chance and that opened up the door for where I am today. Read more>>

Raven Hibbler

I launched Growth Public Relations after graduating from Columbia College Chicago as a way to dive deeper into the marketing and public relations industry and build my portfolio. Attending Columbia allowed me to connect with creatives in different industries and one thing I noticed about everyone I came in contact with is that although they had this amazing brand, they did not have the bandwidth to gain exposure by building mission statements, company biographies, etc. I started by helping friends create EPK’s, or websites and drafting press releases that they could send out to journalists in the area. My background is in marketing, public relation and journalism so this gave me the opportunity to combine my skill sets to help others. Read more>>

Janisha Renee

I got started at my crafts very early. I’ll never forget sitting in on this one parent-teacher conference with my mother and my kindergarten teacher. I just remember my teacher holding up my alphabet book to show my mom like it was some kind of hidden treasure. It was just a little booklet where we would draw a picture for each letter of the alphabet. She raved to my mother about how talented and what an amazing artist she thought I was. At that time, I was just a kid obviously but I had never been called an artist before. I’d never even considered it to be something of interest, but in that moment, I was inspired, I felt important. My mom was obviously inspired too because after that day, she put all her energy into helping me pursue my dream to be a great artist. Read more>>

Charmin A. Bates

I am Charmin A. Bates, a Chicago native that currently resides in Nashville, TN. I received my B.S. in Fashion Merchandising and a minor in Business Administration from Tennessee State University and an M.S. in Organizational Leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University. My professional experience consists of diverse work, including: fashion merchandising, design, styling, marketing, product development, interior decorating, youth program development and college prep consulting, event planning, and arts. I like to refer to myself as a “Universal Architect,” having the ability to do and accomplish anything I set my mind to with God’s guidance. Read more>>

DeAngelo Franklin

I think its safe to say photography and videography found me. I was always into fashion and food during high school so I wanted to attend Tennessee state university for fashion or Johnson & Wales University for culinary arts. However, I graduated in 2014 and attended south ga tech for culinary arts but only did a semester. I soon realized cooking was more of a hobby than a passion. I came home that summer and started working at Walmart and my best friend at the time had run into a camera a canon t6 and gave it to me to see if I wanted to use it, so I started shooting pictures here and there around the house but nothing serious wasn’t even editing pictures. I actually end up selling the camera to another friend just for some quick money and shortly after, I started finding myself missing shooting pictures, So I bought my own camera, I think a Nikon, not too long after that. Read more>>

Tempestt Harrison

ModishNiche is a story of pain that turned passion with purpose. As a little girl, I watched my mother, Traci Thomas, dress her friends, co-workers, our neighbors and countless family members from the comfort of our home. She had so much style, compassion for others and passion for fashion despite her unforeseen declining health. Unknowingly, I soaked it all up–ALL OF IT. She molded me via her actions and her willingness to allow me to dress myself even if I wanted to wear rain boots on a dry and sunny day. She didn’t compress my creativity. In 2016, she passed away suddenly and I was crushed. I realized that she was such a huge part of my day and my identity. Every time I look in the mirror, I see her. In 2018, I decided to turn my pain into homage for my mother. I knew that whatever I did to pay homage to her, I had to love it and it needed to embody her pure fashionable essence. Read more>>

Shanice Person

Unlike many entrepreneurs, I had no deep-rooted desire to become one. I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 and Oakland University in 2017. I currently work as a Traveling Registered Nurse. My inspiration to start my Lingerie brand, Wild Card Intimates, stemmed from my own connections to my self-confidence and sensuality. Growing up in a society that is so obsessed with unrealistic standards of beauty and a non-existent “perfect body” caused me to internalize messages that disrupted my confidence. As I got older, I had to intentionally unpack those unrealistic beauty standards and body-shaming messages. It was then when I was able to appreciate the true beauty of my dark complexion, coarse hair, and natural curves that my self-confidence flourished and I felt empowered. Read more>>

Christopher Everett

I started my career in film in front on the camera. I was an actor for five years in the Southeast then transitioned to behind the camera as a filmmaker. “Wilmington on Fire,” a documentary that chronicles the 1898 Wilmington Massacre, was my first major documentary film project. My film career is going very well today. “Wilmington on Fire” has won several awards over the past four years and has screened at several institutions and film festivals. The film is currently available on Amazon Prime, Vimeo On Demand, and KweliTV. I’ve also had the pleasure of producing other film projects such as “Black Beach/White Beach,” a documentary on the two segregated bike festivals in Myrtle Beach, and also “The Black Baptism, an afro-futuristic reflection on Black Women’s fear and liberation. Read more>>

Kavaughn Hammon

Growing up, I’ve always had an interest in photography and graphic designs. I used to follow pages on Instagram and look up hashtags for the both, wishing that I could make content like that. Towards the end of my eighth-grade year, my parents and I decided that I was going to apply for North Springs High School’s magnet program. Because, I live on the south side of Atlanta, I had to apply for a dual magnet in order to receive free transportation to and from school everyday. So, I applied for math/science and visual arts magnet programs. I used an old Canon model camera to take pictures for my portfolio and my application. A few months pass and I get a letter saying that I had been accepted into the school. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any photography classes until the beginning of my junior year. Read more>>

Kaiyan Smith

Since quarantine started in March, most of my inspiration has come from TikTok. This idea was no different! I was scrolling one day and came across a video of a beautiful milk bath floral set. What stood out to me is how easy it all looked! I instantly started looking at more videos on the page and then researching what poly gel was. I learned it was a safe and durable alternative to acrylic powder. I originally wanted to learn to do my nails, but after getting my first kit, I realized I could do other people’s nails on campus in the Fall. Read more>>

Crystal Tilley

I have always been gifted with my hands and began to find my way using my God-given talents; I was a manager over the sweets store at Six Flags Over Georgia. It was there where I found my nitch and inspiration. After being at Six Flags for 12 years, I decided to step out on my faith and that’s when I founded Arlene & Co. Read more>>

Ceaux Slaygoddess

When I was 13 in Indianapolis IN, I started my dance career with internationally known artists all the way from Egypt to Brazil. Along with being part of so many different dance companies came the responsibility of learning how to style through costumes, hair, & of course, the final step- makeup. As the youngest of every company I was apart of, I was always into the newest makeup trends and techniques in which I practiced on the other members before every show. Needless to say, my beauty career started by chance, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Read more>>

Antoine D. Jackson

Becoming a writer has been a rewarding experience. Through writing, I have been able to share with readers around the world. I have been writing since I was a teenager; it began with journaling to decompress and deal with my emotions. During a conversation with an author I met during a high school internship, I dreamed of publishing a book. In 2011, I finally found the courage to do just that. I published my first book titled, ‘When You’ve Had Enough.’ That was all I needed; the author bug had bitten me. Soon I had written and published five books. Read more>>

Krissy The Butcher

I was always obsessed with art as a kid. All types of art forms including pencil, charcoal, clay, batik…etc. Once I got into college, I lost touch with these art forms but soon after fell into the local tattoo scene. From there, I was fortunate to meet Lady L, who taught me how to do my 1st first tattoo on my brother & then I took off with the art form. Refined my skills in a couple of tattoo shops & eventually linked up with my friend & business partner Quinten Harper to open up our own shop, Bloodline Dynasty. Now I have an awesome tattoo squad of my own that is really making an impact on the art scene. Read more>>

Aleah Rae Dorsey

While in my former life, I was a middle school French teacher, this Jersey girl has spent the last ten years in the beauty industry working as a salon manager, pro-makeup artist and (most recently) E-commerce beauty brand founder. It was my struggles as an E-commerce beauty brand owner that led me to my current career as a digital marketing strategist! I’d spend THOUSANDS of dollars trying to find marketing solutions to increase sales for my business. I thought branding and PR were the answer and while important, they did not lead to SALES. Read more>>

Lala

My story starts from all the way back to my high school days. I remember being a freshman in high school selling flower headbands to the high & middle schoolers on my lunch break. I’ve always had an entrepreneur and hustler mentality and being the fact my name is really Lauren Hill, I’ve always felt as though I had to live up the legacy to my name sake,  my own legacy of course.In my early years in high school, I started my modeling career, way before being an Instagram modeling was a serious occupation, I was really full force in the industry. Back in 2013, I won a modeling competition and after that my career took off. I was booked and busy with this Photographer, that photographer, doing runway shows in NYC Fashion Week, teaching models how to walk and etc. All the while being very active in Dance because I went to a performing arts school called Cicely L. Tyson in East Orange, NJ. Read more>>

Shantel Robinson

The concept of Sensational Her came to me a couple of years ago. Around the time, I really started to take ”self” care seriously. I had just had my son and when I had free time, I wanted to pamper myself. Going to the so wasn’t too always in the books for me, so I started to do my research on at-home self-care routines. I found that with simple ingredients, I could make natural, homemade, spa-quality products. That’s when the idea sort of just came to me. I knew that I wasn’t the only woman or mother experiencing a lack of self-care. So, I started making my products for family and friends. And From there, it just grew. Now, I have a simple body scrubs, body butter and other products that I offer. I have also recently done a relaunch of my website. Read more>>

Briona Steward

I have always had a love for beauty. One day I decided to stop paying to get my makeup done and went on YouTube and taught myself how to do makeup. I made a trip to Ulta Beauty and got as many affordable products as I could and it just exploded from here. I have always been artsy. Growing up, I used to paint, draw and design clothes but I never thought that I would end up doing makeup. I have two degrees and thought that I would eventually land a good corporate job. However, I fell in love with makeup and I plan to make it my career. Read more>>

Marquitta Rucker

Seven years ago, I buried my best friend, who passed from multiple myeloma cancer. It was a pain and hurt I had never experienced. However, I knew that I had a responsibility to make sure her legacy lived on. From that pain, S.W.A.T Foundation Inc. was birthed. (Servants With A Testimony) S.W.A.T begin serving in the community in 2016 just as an extension of my mother’s Cassandra Ann Ruckers’ work in the community. We officially became incorporated in 2018, and we are a 501c3. SWAT’s mission is to serve those in the community impacted by cancer. Read more>>

D.J. Moultrie

The foundation of my story begins with being an investor in the equity space. I would find deals for larger private equity firms in various sectors, including real estate, entertainment, and technology. I noticed that the deals I was creating ended up being mostly for investors who were not from my community. I wanted to use my skill set to create an ecosystem where Black-Owned businesses and Investors could find each other. Read more>>

Elizabeth Warthen

I was born and raised in Atlanta, Ga. Of course, I am a Grady Baby! I was raised in a single-parent home with nine other siblings. Our upbringing was not ideal, but our mother made away. Our circumstances led us down different paths in life. Some of my siblings have achieved great success and others have been unsuccessful. I decided after the death of my brother, Emmanuel, that academics was the most efficient tool to overcome poverty or imprisonment. His life and death taught me that in America, your unfortunate circumstances would get you killed or imprisoned before you’re offered access to adequate resources. I began to take public schooling seriously because Emmanuel’s death also motivated me to take advantage of the resources available no matter its inadequacy. Read more>>

Roshida Dowe

The company I was working for went out of business in 2018. The “what’s next?” question haunted me for weeks after I found out, and like most people, getting the next job was the only thing on my mind. So I started the job hunt, but job-hunting was depressing. I wanted a new job, but I NEEDED a break. After checking my account balances, and facing my fears, I decided to take a year off to travel the world. That sounds huge, but it felt really small. I took it day by day, with little planning, just enough to figure out the next stop on my world tour, just enough to know where I was sleeping the next night. Read more>>

Zoe Willingham

I’m Zoe Imani Willingham, an aspiring musician currently pursuing a degree in Violin Performance at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. My musical journey began at ten years old by teaching myself the guitar, then moving on to the violin the next year. In 2017, I entered the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program (TDP) under the tutelage of Sanford Salzinger, a section violinist of the ASO. I am an alumna of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program where I studied with Sanford Salzinger, a violinist of the ASO. I have served as Concertmaster at the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO), the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, and my high school orchestra, Stilwell School of the Arts; and I have placed in competitions such as the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity 2020 Talent Hunt Competition and the MYSO Scholarship Competition. Read more>>

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