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East Atlanta’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 East Atlanta’s gems below.

Damien Northern

I started on my photography journey about four years ago at a time when I needed something to pour into. I was caught up in the monotony of working a full-time job, part-time job, being a husband, being a father of two, and trying to find spare moments in between to work out, hang out with friends, or basically just come up for air. I did not have anything in my life that I was building on, doing to satisfy my personal interests, or born from my ideas. I am an educator. I’ve been teaching for approximately 15 years. At the time, I was just passing the 10- or 11-year mark in my career. I was relatively new to the alternative school setting that I currently work in. At the time, I was having mixed feelings about my career. Don’t get me wrong. I love working with the students that most educators would not want or be able to deal with. I truly feel like it is a calling to work with at-risk youth and be content, but I was struggling to utilize my entire skillset. I think people who are able to use their entire array of skills and interests in their careers and on their jobs are very blessed. Unfortunately, as an educator, I have always felt that my entire skill set was sacrificed to concentrate on the skills I possess that cultivate others. Read more>>

Jamie Bennett

From my earliest memory, I always wanted to be in Corporate America. While other little girls were playing with dolls, I was playing “office”. So I pursued that goal with complete focus. It was at the center of all of the decisions I made as a young woman, from where I decided to attend college (Spelman College), what I majored in (Economics), to where I decided to begin my career (The Federal Reserve Bank of New York). Fast forward to 14 years in the game that is Corporate America and I started to wonder, is this all there is to this huge part of my life? The daily microaggressions and having my expertise disregarded was starting to take a toll. So I began to pray about what my next step would be and I was led to become an entrepreneur. My initial gut instinct was, Uhmm, no thank you. While I was extremely tired of dealing with the ins and outs of Corporate America, I still wasn’t brave enough to take on being my own boss. There is an immense amount of comfort that comes with being anonymous or only known by your circle. The fear of success had me paralyzed, so I resisted the calling for quite some time. Read more>>

Tiffany Myles

I’m a mother of three with three grandchildren, originally from Mississippi, with a degree in Accounting and Mathematics. When I relocated to Georgia, I began cosmetology school as just a hobby as I’ve always loved styling hair as a teenager. I’ve been a Master Cosmetologist for over ten years now and I love what I do. I started studying herbs over five years ago and the benefits they provide for the hair. In a quest for a healthier hair care line, I found other uses for herbs and became so engulfed in natural healing methods. Why use products on our hair that are overloaded with chemicals and allow our bodies to absorb all the toxic ingredients that we can’t pronounce? I initially started my hair product line Lace Me Organics with my clients in mind, a lot of ladies suffering from dandruff, dry scalp, eczema, thinning hair, and just simple concerns for their hair. I went even more into my studies simply because I did not know if chemicals or other factors caused dis-ease. Therefore, I started making all organic hair products for men and women. I also formulate customized blends to cater to your specific hair concerns associated with diseases such as Lupus and hypothyroidism, and many more. Read more>>

Alfredia Fuller

I am a Coach/Consultant, Registered Nurse, Author, and Attorney, and Entrepreneur. I got to where I am today from aspiring from my first day in college to become an entrepreneur and own my own business after obtaining my degree and getting some experience under my belt. Read more>>

TeLisa Bearden

I was bartending and going to school for business. I wanted to get into the pet care industry and own my own business and had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew that I didn’t want to go to veterinarian school. For me, grooming it was. I enrolled to Animal Behavior College. I started my externship at a shop in Pine lake in 2019 and the groomer/owner there told me it was okay with her if I got out there took clients outside the shop. I began with in-home house call grooming and as everyone knows, Covid struck the world in Feb 2020. I continued to take clients but I was outdoors with a water hose for everyone’s safety. March of 2020, I got my certification for grooming. I did outdoor grooming until September. It hit me. It’s cooling off outside. This water hose isn’t going to cut it. I decided to go fully mobile, invest in myself and get a trailer. I did mobile grooming part-time (trying to build a clientele for myself) while grooming full-time at the shop I got my externship from. In December, I got my trailer wrapped and decided at the top of the year (2021), I would start grooming full-time for myself. Read more>>

East Hale

From a young one, I was raised in the music business. I even ventured into it as the 3rd generation. My grandfather and mother had record labels. I was always around, behind the scenes. I was exposed to a lot of different cultures because of my father also being a business owner and having international friends. I’ve been an artist and musician from a young age. Creativity has always been a part of my life. In middle school, I started airbrushing different names and designs on sweatshirts for friends. I would hand paint shoes to change the colors. I started dressing some of the artists my mother had. I started designing my own clothes in high school and always talked about having my own brand and shoes. Today I do. Read more>>

Latria Ingram and Glenda Whitfield

I have always had a passion for planning and executing events, which began in high school. After rival football and basketball games, my friends and I would host a large party with over 300 people. I was in charge of securing the venue, making the flyers, booking the DJ, etc. We charged an entry fee at the door and split the profit at the conclusion of the event. This was the beginning of my life as an entrepreneur. I owned and managed an upscale Aveda Concept Salon for ten years, where I hosted several client appreciation events. One of my favorites events was my Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting, where we had food catered from a five-star restaurant, and I, along with my staff, wore over one million dollars worth of diamonds for the evening. After selling my salon, I continued to help plan and execute events. I designed and decorated my sister Glenda’s USAF Retirement Party with a surprise performance by her son and a speech from an Obama impersonator. The lavish red carpet black-tie affair had several elements and layers to make the night spectacular. The guests received an individual champagne bottle that paired as an escort card and her guests enjoyed a surf and turf meal. Read more>>

Bri Reynolds

Growing up, I always loved fashion. To the point where my dad would have me draw up outfits on paper models or notebook paper and keep them saved up in a binder. That’s where my dad and I came up with the name for my brand of what would be “b.taylor.” Fast forward to high school, I was in a long-term relationship for almost five years with my now-husband during my senior year. I knew if I wanted to make it big, I would potentially have to move to NYC or LA & I was torn about putting that stress on our relationship and being long distance. One day I was getting my hair done with my stylist of seven years, who my whole family went to see. Her name was Ali Robey at the time. As any client does at our appointments, that’s our time to vent, and I expressed to her the hard decision I was facing. She told me, “Bri, your hair looks just as good when you come in as when you leave. You can style hair, and hair is a form of fashion. You should check out the school I attended.” Formerly known as “The process” currently now “The Keune Academy”. I was hesitant because I never saw myself as doing hair, just styling or designing clothes. She mentioned it to my mom one day at her appointment and said it’s worth a shot to just check it out! She wasn’t wrong. Read more>>

Krissi Woodard

I was born in Chicago and was raised to always strive for more! I never knew what “more” was as a little girl but I knew that just existing was not God’s plan. My family relocated from Chicago to Detroit and then in 1997. We made Lithonia our home. I was extremely familiar with the South from spending summers in McCarley, Mississippi but actually living in Georgia was a huge adjustment for me being that I was used to sidewalks and corner stores. I eventually planted my seeds in the South after my mom reassured me that change is apart of life. My strong family values and desire to set goals as well as accomplish them came from observing my Grandma & Papa Bear. My Grandmother told me as a little girl that I’d be rich; she believed in every single thing that I did. My Grandfather inspired my perspective for always wanting more. He didn’t know how to read but accomplished so much for our family because of his “do more” spirit. This spirit lives in me even now. I am where I am today by not accepting “no” as the final answer and understanding that life is truly full of endless possibilities and opportunities! If my Grandfather was able to start a business and be successful without institutional education, I knew that I could do anything I wanted… and so I did! Striving for more meant not having all my eggs in one basket. As children, we’re told to decide what we want to be as if one career path is the only option. Read more>>

Imani Bennett

I was born with eczema. I struggle with it to this day. Over time I found myself using lotions and creams that either didn’t work, required ample re-application, or simply smelled like medicine. Of course, when you feel like you’ve tried it all, you start to think, maybe I can do something better to fill the gaps. I’ve found that our bodies, for the most part, are already equipped to give us what we need and repair itself. With that being said, I knew I wanted to take a more natural route with my skincare, so like many of us, I went straight to shea butter. And for a while, it worked. With consistency, I did see results. However, moisturizing my skin became a chore. Shea butter in its natural state is hard, super thick, and can take some time and effort to apply. When I initially started making my own body butter, I knew I wanted to take the chore out of self-care by manipulating the texture to become easier to use and apply. I also wanted it to smell good. Making body butter started out as a fun DIY that I did with my sister. I started adding my own smells and oils in my spare time and simply doing trial and error. After some research and makeshift focus groups, I decided to take this show on the road and create a brand, website, and some pretty awesome graphics to get the word out. Read more>>

Ada Uqdah

I started cooking when I was just seven years old. My grandmother was faithful to Sunday services down at her church. She would have me get in that kitchen and help her prepare for our Sunday family dinner before her departure. I would be soaking black-eyed peas, helping clean Collard greens, or beating up the batter for some good ole southern cornbread. By the time I was twelve, I’d fall in love with food and cooking. In Junior High school, I attended Sister Clara Muhammad School in Queens, New York. Every Friday, I would have a bake sale to help raise money so I could attend the College tour and every Friday, I sold out. That is when I realized cooking was my passion. I attended the French Culinary Institute in New York for a sort period of time because I felt it wasn’t for me. I’m happy to say I now own my company Succulent LLC, which is a Halal gourmet take-out. Catering to people with the diet restrictions of only eating Halal meats. Read more>>

Ka’Ron Felder

In January 2019, I went out on maternity leave to give birth and bond with my daughter. In March, I was supposed to go back to work and that’s when we got hit with the Coronavirus and everything shut down. I have two other children aged 10 and 3 and school was now virtual. I couldn’t go back to work full-time so I stayed home to take care of the kids and worked part-time from home. After a few months, I wanted to do something more. I didn’t know exactly what but I knew I needed to come up with something. I remember one day I was lying in bed saying, “Dang, I wish we could go to the fair. I want a funnel cake.” Because where there is the fair, there are funnel cakes! Of course, we were in the middle of a pandemic so there were no fairs coming to town anytime soon. That is when a light bulb went off and I said to my Husband, “Let’s start a business making homemade funnel cakes.” We did some research, ordered supplies and after a few weeks and social media post we reached over 100 followers and from that day on we never looked back. Read more>>

Michelle Lanay Dotson

I am a proud Navy Veteran. During my eight amazing years in the Navy, my job title was a Quartermaster. I handled all of the navigation. I was in charge of plotting the ship’s course, following weather patterns, keeping the crew on calm seas, completing missions, and even avoiding potential threats. I had the honor and the pleasure to visit countries I would only see on TV. In 2018 my boyfriend and I got into a motorcycle accident. He pushed me off seconds before he died on impact. After physically recovering, my mental health went downhill. Depression hit me hard. Losing him devastated me. Not knowing how to grieve properly and feeling alone… I was on an emotional roller coaster. In 2019 I managed to get myself out of my funk and I was determined to not let my mental health destroy me. I spent countless hours in my garage refurbishing furniture because I found joy in it. Taking time to myself, traveling, and finding my purpose. On a girl’s trip to Seattle, we wanted/needed matching cups. Instead of buying them, I decided I would make them! LaNay Creations was born! I have always been crafty but I never thought this would be my calling. I have always felt the need to give sentimental gifts personalized to the person. Read more>>

Desha Elliott

I started exploring media and promotional marketing in college. I knew any money I was making I’d have to pay my taxes, so I created DrDesha, LLC. My first gigs had me as a marketing ambassador for multinational brands like Shell, Jack Daniels, and Walmart. Originally from Kentucky, I went to Northern Kentucky University and was active and had leadership roles in the NAACP and Black United Students. These organizations allowed me to host/plan events and run social media campaigns. Through word of mouth, I was able to take on DJs and Pro Boxers as clientele. In college, I was also studying leadership consultant John C. Maxwell and was wildly fascinated with the Author Eric Jerome Dickey. These two painted Atlanta as a colorful place to expand your business, so I set my sights on moving to Atlanta. I ended up having a client who would help me transition me and my family to Atlanta in 2013. While being here, I have been able to work with nonprofits, tech companies, and business owners going after government contracts. I even simultaneously held position as the Editor-in-Chief for nationally distributed magazine, Be Your Own Success Story (B.O.S.S.) and built the app PB7app to improve the GPAs of student-athletes. Read more>>

Coach Brian Alexander

I’m from Greensboro, GA. I’m a small-town guy with humble beginnings. I have been involved in sports throughout my life, and I was a three-sport athlete (football, basketball, and track) at Greene County High School. I was blessed with a football scholarship to Tusculum University. I amassed All-American football honors as a Linebacker. I hold the career tackles leader record at Tusculum, and I graduated with a B.A. in Sports Science. After graduation, I became an Admission Counselor for Tusculum University. I traveled the southeast, educating students on how to get into college. I realized how important this work is and how many students don’t know how to further their education and do it for free. After two years of working for Tusculum University, I moved back to my hometown and served my community as the Graduation Coach of Greene County High School. At Greene County High, I also started my coaching career, and I had an opportunity to give my knowledge back to my community to help our varsity teams to succeed. I coached football, basketball, and track. As a leader in my community, it was no better feeling than to go back to my roots to give back my knowledge. Read more>>

Shaunya James

Since I can remember, my parents always have made sure I was put together. My mom had bi-weekly hair appointments pre-booked, and my siblings and I were always dressed in the latest. This carried on into high school, where I found my interest in Makeup. From then on, I would watch and recreate any looks I could find on YouTube. From then on, I began Cosmetology school, where I really began to take form into my makeup career. Upon graduating and earning my license, I secured a job in a hair salon. I learned I wasn’t happy being a hairstylist. I truly wanted to be a Makeup Artist. I invested in a makeup class, purchased makeup for my kit piece by piece, and really started to take this career serious. All while working at Ross 25+ hours a week! I can even remember during the holidays closing, getting off as late as 2 am and being at the salon by 6 am that morning. I came to a point where I could not work at Ross any longer, and I was not happy in the salon. So, I applied to Sephora! I went through an intense hiring process, including a demo on the store manager. I kind of tanked it, but they still hired me! I promised to grow, learn, and take on the adventure, which I did. Read more>>

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