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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.

VNIS Music

VNIS was born when I moved to Savannah, Georgia for college, attending Armstrong Atlantic State University. Music was always a passion of mine, I remember being nine years old living in my mother’s house with my older brother who’s about six years older than me. At the time, he was aspiring to be a rapper. He had a small home studio set-up with a mic that was hanging in the closet and he would rap the verses and for me he encouraged me to write and sing the hooks to his songs. This dynamic gave me a wealth of knowledge and insight into how the basics of writing, recording, editing, processing and engineering music (works). While music was always a hobby, it wasn’t until I moved away to college that I really became empowered into sharing my voice and my artistry with the world. Read more>>

Laurie Underwood

I have been designing for over 10 years. It wasn’t until I finished my time on Project Runway that I decided to design bridal wear. After being challenged on Project Runway, I wanted to challenge myself even more in real life! In 2019, I started my bridal brand Laury Bride, in which I wanted to design for non-quintessential, yet very essential bride, who desires a true style option, representation, and celebration of her vibe on her wedding day. As a bride-to-be myself, offering true style options was a must for my brand. Read more>>

Ty Cobb

Gheesh! I guess I’ll start back from when I was a little girl drawing, painting, writing stories and acting in church plays and at local city plays starting at the tender age of 6 years old. My very first love was actually doing hair, which many people don’t know I’ve been doing hair since I was 13. I’ve always had a gift for putting visions together by just imagining them in my head such as color combos, clothing ideas, story ideas and the list goes on. God has truly blessed me to be a visionary and I’m so grateful for that. At the age of 15, I was blessed to be given the chance to do my first wedding nine bridesmaids and the beautiful bride. That was the beginning of my start in the beauty industry. Read more>>

LaDara McKinnon

I grew up in Japan and Hawaii, where my love for art began, as a member of a military family. My Mom has always said that I was artistically inclined and I took several art classes growing up. When I got to high school, I became discouraged based on the idea that I needed to focus on going to college so that I could get a “real job.” So, I initially enrolled in college as an Accounting student, which was a bit of a struggle. My partner saw a sketch that I made one day and suggested that I change my major to Art. Read more>>

Desiree “Dez” Woodson

I’ve always had a passion for the arts and forms of expression. I had a love for art early on in my childhood but I wasn’t necessarily the best artist in terms of drawing. For me it wasn’t until middle school when I started to fall in love with photography and wanted a camera the capture my prospective of the world. The idea and dream of being a photographer remained a dream for years until I was 20. I wanted to do something I had a passion for so soon after I bought my camera. Shortly after getting my camera I started doing free photoshoots for friends and family. I got where I am today because of my determination to showcase the world through my eyes. I am also where I am today because of the individuals who believed in me enough to give me a chance when no one else would. Read more>>

Lauren “Bobby Pen” Williams

I first took an interest in storytelling as a child. I remember being in love with creative writing when assigned in primary school. By the 5th grade, I began my school’s first-ever student newsletter which led to my first article in-print by the local newspaper at 14 years old. Journalism captured my attention thanks to my aunt Lena Williams, who is an author and New York Times reporter who covered style and sports for 31 years. She quoted a 7-year-old “Bobby Pen” in the making as telling her colleagues at The Times, “I love words!” I guess I proved that often, even back then, because I got in trouble in class for talking too much. (*laughing*). Read more>>

Bri Anderson

Picnicking was an unexpected tradition that developed over time for my oldest son and I. When we lived in Atlanta, we would always picnic whenever the weather would permit, it became “our” thing. Picnicking evolved into a spring/summer time ritual that allowed he and I to enjoy time with one another, all while indulging in the pleasure of natural sunshine and all the other gifts nature has to offer. I also have a background in (and passion for) event planning. I was finally in the process of getting my dreams out of my head, and into reality, and starting to take the necessary steps to start my own company, but then life happened and I got pregnant with my second son! This unexpected gift threw my plans in a whirlwind. Read more>>

Tasha Norwood

I was born & raised in Compton ca but as of 2017 Georgia has been my home. Last year of 2019 I was going through a rough time in my life. I just had my child and he was a few months old. I hadn’t been working since I had him & in July everything changed, I just started working part time at LA fitness in Sandy Springs traveling on the bus to and from morrow. I barely had enough money to get there & at the time being we were staying in a hotel room. Some days I would barely come home with enough money to be able to afford the hotel for a week and that would really get to me because I’ve never wanted my child to be in a predicament like that. That’s when I had to put on my queen hat and think of ways to better myself so my son wouldn’t have to go through this Ever again in life. Read more>>

Ta-Ta Snead

The culinary industry was one I didn’t initially have my eye on. Although I was a bartender & cooked for friends and family it wasn’t something, I thought of making a career of. Mainly because of how long I found the different culinary schools were. I had no urge to be a student again at the time. That was until I found an advanced culinary program that would have me my degree within 2 years. I jumped on it. A good push came from those around me eating my food. Read more>>

Ashley Johnson

I started my PR agency while attending Howard University. I was studying Public Relations minoring in Community Development. While attending, I started freelancing for extracurricular organizations on campus in addition to non-profit organizations and small businesses in D.C. From there, I graduated college then decided to attend graduate school at Georgetown University majoring in Public Relations & Corporate Communications. I wanted to dive deeper into PR and learn in-depth about digital PR trends. Read more>>

Sydney Anderson

I grew up playing sports, and it’s been my dream to own my own sports agency since the 6th grade. I watched my older brother hire a player agent while he played professionally for 3 years. I remember hearing him complain about what his agent was not doing for him. This really stuck with me. When I entered college at Indiana University, I had the opportunity to help out in the football recruiting department on game days. I began to notice similar issues my brother experienced from my friends who got drafted and went on to play professionally. Collectively, these two things inspired me to want to change that narrative. I wanted to help professional athletes achieve their goals off the playing field and be someone they could count on to get the job done. Read more>>

Dasia Glover

My name is Dasia (known as Sunny), owner of Sunshine The Doula. I have always been infatuated with birth since I was younger .I would always ask that question “where do babies come from”? Followed with the whys and hows? I never really got the full answer till my pre-teen years. Growing up as a woman and mislead by what are bodies can do and create , led me to research more and more. I started off being a nanny and then working with animals but realize that was a dream but not THE dream. I was a preschool teacher, and seen how they wouldn’t let the moms bring in breast milk for children past 11 months. Read more>>

Harrison Cosby

I have always loved to take pictures and make my different visions come to life. At 16 my mom told me that I take pictures so much that I should just go get. camera instead of always asking her to take pictures. My mom purchased my first camera for me in the summer of 2018 and the rest is history. When I first got my camera, I studied every part of it and did a lot of research on YouTube to get my skill up. I ended up breaking the first camera my mom bought me, but upgraded bought a new one myself with my own money. I began to take pictures and post them for fun and everybody around me told me that I should take it seriously. In December of 2018 I had my first studio photo shoot at CamKirk Studios and fell in love. On that day I started 201 Lifestyle, and began to take bookings, bringing in huge clientele and big names from that day on. Read more>>

Seydou Maiga

I started out not knowing much about the industry of fashion. In 2017 I began to cut and sew my own clothing, and by 2019 I officially launched my brand. Coming from a foreign household, my parents being from Mali, my siblings and I were always taught that self-discipline must be your main goal to achieve something great. At a young age, I told myself that no matter what I do in life, self-disciple must be the thing that gets me to that dream. Fashion has given me a platform to inspire and be the creator younger generations need. My brand is focused on the message we go by, “Be True, Be You.” I want to inspire people to want to be themselves through my brand. I want to give people hope through a message of positivity. Read more>>

Angel James

I had an idea for this company about 7 years ago while working for Capital One Auto Finance in Dallas, TX. The company no longer needed me after working for them for 3 years and at that point I knew this was my sign to do what I love. I enrolled in a class in Atlanta for eyelash extension training, and completed my training back home in Dallas (had a nice size clientele). Due to personal reasons I left and moved back home to Atlanta, at that point I did try to continue lashing but I was not as busy here in Atlanta like I was in Dallas so I had to get consistent income (with 2 kids and 1 on their way to college). Getting employment did slow me down from lashing a lot not to mention at this point I haven’t lashed in almost a year and needed refresher training. Read more>>

Kaychelle Dabney

I’ve lived in Baltimore my whole life, worked 2 jobs while attending school and if I had a day off, I would make YouTube videos or go to/ Teach dance classes. I always knew I wanted to create content but I felt being in Baltimore was holding me back. It was hard finding people who did exactly what I did or who genuinely supported me. One day I decided to leave my life in Baltimore, pack up, & drive 10 & a half hours ALONE to a place I’ve never even been before, where I knew no one to start my 30-day journey. I bought an Airbnb for a month and decided I would push myself to see how much I could accomplish in a month on my own. Read more>>

Rayah Houston

I am an AAAI-ISMA Certified Personal and Master Trainer, Owner of Shapedbyhouston, Wellness Coach for Herbalife Nutrition and student at Georgia State University. Just a little about me, at a young age of 6 I had interest in a lot of activities. I played piano for the Georgia European School of music and also studied with a German Composer Mischa. I also studied classical music at Steinway Music Academy. I took ballet lessons also to see if I would like that and it didn’t really stick with me. Growing up, I used to hate the water but my parents pushed me into trying out for the Dunmoor Diamondbacks swim team. I grew to love swimming and swam for 8 years on the team and even received Recognition from Georgia Tech University state championship for 1st place in my group. Read more>>

Passion McCaleb

I’ve known I was an artist since I was a young child! I was given my first camera a 35 mm by my parents, and I was on my way from there. It wasn’t until my early 20s living in Chicago that I realized how much I truly loved shooting. I was infatuated with the architecture of the city, and spent many weekends aimlessly walking around with my camera. My first paid gig…I had a coworker approach me who was extremely uncomfortable in front of the camera but wanted to give a gift to her husband, and from there I wanted to make others who hated being in front of the camera fall in love in love with themselves after seeing their pictures! Read more>>

Chef Sunflower

I have been a Chef (15 years) at mostly upscale restaurants. I smoked cannabis for recreational purposes, but I never thought about putting them together until an ex suggested it. I was a novice at that, just making canna butter and putting it into everything. We started having these private brunches. I mean seriously private, like not giving out the location till the day of, meeting people to give them their entry passes, so as to see if they were cops or not. At that time cannabis was still illegal in Michigan, and the clients we were serving were corporate folks, entertainers and local community. We were even going to start a private member supper club and just make them pay monthly fee and then invite them to events that way we already have a safe clientele base built up. Read more>>

Aaliyah Earle Also known as Liz

I have always been an entrepreneur. DJ’d starting at the age of 15 going by ” D.J – L.A” short for Little Aaliyah (I’m 4’11 lol). Entertaining Teen clubs, parties, downtown entertain, and even dj’n for crime Mobb rapper Diamond. I thrived as a teen making name for myself and being financially independent. I moved to North Atlanta from Greenville, SC in 2011. Being a small-town girl, Atlanta held a blank canvas for me and I can’t say I haven’t explored. I have made connections with many swim schools across Atlanta and started my own mobile swim school by the name of Mobile Swim Atlanta that operates in the summer seasons. Read more>>

Brittany Albany

For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt a connection to something bigger than me. It was during my time at Winston-Salem State University that I first discovered the seeds for self-love through opportunities to connect to people. I started my self-care company after I did not see many women of color connecting to self-love to mental health. Read more>>

Dr. Daniela Espino

I was born in Lima, Peru and at four years old, my family and I moved to Miami, FL. I started running in 7th grade and in 9th grade, I had a female coach, and she quickly became a mentor throughout my running career. I decided to fully commit myself to run and that earned me a spot on a collegiate cross-country and track and field team. I majored in Biology with plans to pursue something in the medical field but as soon as I graduated, I had the opportunity to teach. I started teaching PE and coaching cross-country at my former high school. Ever since then, I knew that coaching filled me up in a different way than my own running. After a year of being a PE teacher, I decided to make a change to teach middle school math. Read more>>

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