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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.

Erinn Farrell

We had a hunch that women, nonbinary and trans folks may be searching for a space where their professional and personal lives could intermingle, a place where they could perhaps shed the armor they walk through the world with and discover and celebrate their whole selves. We tested this hypothesis with hundreds of interviews and focus groups that we dubbed “witching hours,” calling into conversations folks across the Twin Cities to spend time together and to provide us feedback about our idea. We immediately experienced the magic that happens when all these folks come together. Read more>>

Michael Allen

I have worked in the Twin Cities, for many years, assisting homeless families secure stable housing. It was my job to find housing for families and help them connect with other community resources. As I began to move families into housing, I noticed an unmet need in our community. That unmet need was a bed. The story of Denise and her two boys is what started My Very Own Bed. I met Denise and her boys back in 2014. Denise and her family had experienced homelessness on and off for 10 years. She suffered from addiction and mental health issues and wanted to raise her boys in a safe neighborhood. After many months of searching, Denise found her own apartment and was moving in soon. I was there that day the landlord had her sign the lease. She was overcome with joy to be out of the homeless shelter and in a home of her own. Read more>>

Charles Lovejoy

THE LOVEJOY STORY “When people ask what my story is, all I can stay is that it started at home, with home, and for home.” – Charles Lovejoy My mother, Margaret Lovejoy, a single mother of four, worried about keeping a roof over our heads, but that did not stop her from instilling the gift of heartfelt giving by way of her dedication to being in service to her community. She spent 20 years as founder and Executive Director of a day center for homeless families (the only one in Ramsey County). She had the expectation that all of her children would contribute to her organization/her passion for those less fortunate in some capacity, and we did. I knew by her example that anything I did in the for-profit world would require matched effort in the nonprofit arena. It all began at home. Simply put, I was raised to be philanthropic. Read more>>

Briana Lee

I started working in professional theater as a child, and my love of entertaining has only grown. I got involved both on stage and off stage all through middle and high school and majored in theatre arts in college. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, I switched to film production and have worked on feature films, short films, commercials, industrials, live recordings, comedy shows and more. I joined IATSE Local 490 as a production coordinator and I am an active member at meetings. My favorite projects to work on are independent horror films, I love the creativity that goes into them and the special effects art is always a lot of fun. Read more>>

Kristina Trim

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to own a beautiful day spa. When I was 16 I decided I wanted to home school and work full time instead of going to school however I never completed the program which led me to not be able to enroll in beauty school. Fast forward to 2019 when I turned 30 I thought to myself I am ready to finally do what I truly want to do, be an Esthetician and Own my own spa. So I decided to enroll at Penn Foster and get my High School Diploma. While working full time I completed two years of Schooling in two months and was able to enroll in the Esthetics Program and PCI Academy In Plymouth, MN, and was able to start in July 2019.  Read more>>

Jennifer Geier

I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease over 9 years ago. It was a major lifestyle change but it really made me dive into cooking and baking gluten free foods. Adjusting recipes to be gluten free took a lot of practice and so many errors! But finding gluten free baked goods is almost impossible and birthdays without cake are tough! So in 2019, I became a Cottage Food Producer offering only gluten free treats! Read more>>

Steele Stedham

I never imagined myself in retail. I’m not your typical “fashionista”. Yet somehow, without any experience or training, I landed a job at Plato’s Closet in Roseville, Minnesota. Not to toot my own horn, but I hit it out of the park. Their corporate office tried to be graceful with me as I changed the game of a Plato’s Closet. After a year and a half of graceful dancing, I realized I was not meant to live under a corporate umbrella. My tenacious spirit likes to create my own path instead of follow and I have always been one to break rules if the end result is worth it. Read more>>

Sunni Reynolds

I had originally gone to college for Fashion Merchandising and Advertising. When I graduated with my Bachelor’s in 2011 and started working in my field, I quickly realized it was not for me. I decided to leave my home state of Iowa to hopefully find what I was meant to do. I started working in sales in ATL and was eventually relocated to Alabama. I was miserable and started looking into going to cosmetology school. While I was searching, I found Esthetics – which I didn’t even know existed! I had always struggled with my skin so skincare peaked my interest. Eventually I left the south and moved to Minneapolis. Within a few months I started beauty school to become an Esthetician. Read more>>

Mike Aase

My entire life my mother worked in athletic clubs and the fitness industry. I grew up in gyms. This created my interest in being active. Growing up I was a five sport athlete (Hockey, Basketball, Football, Baseball, and Track) on top of that I was lifting and working out throughout my adolescence. I even worked in multiple positions inside a gym while still in high school. This gave me the insight that I didn’t agree with where the fitness industry was moving. So instead I went to college and graduated with a degree in Law Enforcement, with an emphasis in Psychology. I was going to go help people in another way, outside of the gym. After some years within that career I was still not finding the purpose I was looking for. Read more>>

Gladys Ogunsegha

Just after I turned 10 years old, I went off to boarding school. When I came home for summer breaks, I spent my holidays with my grandmother and followed her to her shop daily. Each day was fun because you never knew who would stop in the shop to buy fabric. My grandmother owned two shops filled with beautiful and unique designs of lace fabrics by the yard, waiting to be purchased by the elite, fashionable women of that time. A few weeks into my first summer at the shop, my grandmother took me with her to Aiyepe, the lace factory where she would place her bulk orders. Read more>>

Babs Freeman

I have always said, “if I win the lottery, I’m going to culinary school!” I love to bake! I enjoy making my own creations and it allows me to escape and focus on what I’m making currently. I work as an outpatient surgical nurse during the week and on my days off, I fill my baking orders. I decided in April/Early May 2020, to use my time on furlough (our surgical department was closed due to the pandemic) to do something to occupy my time. My older sister, Alicia, gave me information about becoming a Cottage Food Producer and be able to sell my baked goods.  Read more>>

Shelley Paulson

I graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus with a degree in vocal performance. I had aspirations to be an opera singer but took the path of doing music ministry instead. I didn’t find that to be what I was hoping for and had worked in technical support during college, so I entered the field of software and hardware tech support. This was about the time the internet started to become widely available to consumers and I began to teach myself the basics of web design. As a web designer, my clients always needed imagery, so I started dabbling in photography and suddenly everyone wanted photos of their babies/weddings/seniors/horses/etc. Read more>>

Stephanie Silvers

Before joining Dress for Success Twin Cities in 2010, I was the Program Director for At Home Group in Minneapolis for three years. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Studies and African American Studies from the University of Minnesota. While I was a student, I interned with St. Stephen’s Human Services. At St. Stephen’s, I acquired a passion for social service and began to develop skills that led me to a career in programming and leading social change initiatives to help women thrive in work and life. Now I serve as the CEO of Dress for Success Twin Cities where we help women develop skills, gain employment or advance their career, and build confidence through our holistic programming. My favorite piece of the work I do is the ability to see women grow. Watching women change the world into a more equitable and better place gives me hope. Read more>>

Shannon Kourajian

Art has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. Starting in middle school and high school, I had a great interest in film photography. With the influence of my art teachers, and my older brother who was the image of a hipster (this was 2012 okay?), I expanded my photography skills into other art forms. I pursed art education at Concordia University, St. Paul and fell in love with ceramics and printmaking. Funny enough, I completely stopped my photography production. However, with the guidance of my incredibly professors, my artistic skills excelled. After graduation, I took a job teaching high school art, and now have put a great focus on my own personal artwork. I started selling my work in May 2021, by signing up for local art fairs in the Twin Cities and have had great success so far. My production levels have risen beyond what I could have imagined. It brings me such joy to know that my artwork lives in the home of friends and strangers. Read more>>

Katie Hendrickson

My son Adley has struggled with his mental health since he was quite young. My husband and I started seeking services for him when he was two and a half years old as we knew there was something more than just “a lot of energy” going on with our son. The things we were seeing in Adley at that age included extreme energy, defiance, aggression towards objects and peers, minimal recognition of safety, and he was not able to be redirected. Despite us explaining all of our concerns to multiple doctors, they all refused to even consider evaluations or testing until he was school aged. My husband and I knew that waiting would only hurt Adley. We had to advocate and call numerous providers to find someone willing to do testing when he was three and a half. His testing resulted in a diagnosis of Severe ADHD and DMDD (Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder).  Read more>>

Gena Cohen

As a kid I was always into the arts, and my family spent five years living in Paris, France one of the creative capitals of the world. After my time in Paris, dance, violin and creative writing were my main creative outlets. However, it was at age of nineteen that I developed such a strong passion for painting, and I would get beautifully lost in the craft. Truly I just felt so connected with this inner fire within myself when painting a work on the canvas. I also love the idea of legacy, especially authentic and raw legacy. My paintings are time capsules for whatever I am going through in my life – mentally, emotionally, spiritually. They are a way of honoring both what’s going on in the world, as well as in my life. After posting my work on social media, I can gratefully say that I sold over seventy paintings that first year, and it felt amazing to hear how the art that I was creating impacted people. Read more>>

Tamara Bredeson

My husband and I lived in Baudette MN on the Canadian border. We were pretty much box wine and Labatt’s Blue drinkers until my husband received a bottle of Opus One from a customer. He is a woodcarver and had carved a mantel for the Mondavi corporation. A card in the package stated, “Our masterpiece, for your masterpiece.” It came in a beautiful wooden box with a full color guide to every vintage of Opus One ever made. Upon further research, we learned it was worth almost $300! That was more than we had spent on wine in our lifetime – much less one bottle! Read more>>

Olivia Boone

Running my own handmade business was a dream of mine since my adolescent years. I believe it started by going to the Minnesota State Fair when I was young. I loved going to the Merchandise Mart and see all the large booths with different art and crafts in them. It just amazed me to think of all the time and effort it took to fill those booths. I also developed an entrepreneurial spirit early on as I ran a few lemonade stands as a kid and tried selling friendship bracelets to my classmates in Jr. High. Eventually I wondered what it would be like to run a handmade business of my own. Read more>>

Colleen Slack

My parents will definitely tell you that my career path started early. As a child, I created elaborately detailed habitats for my dolls. As a teenager, I spent my free time at estate sales, shopping for vintage photos to create a gallery wall in my bedroom. Other kids read Teen Beat. I read Metropolitan Home. While earning degrees in Urban Studies and Geography at Vassar, I devoured art history and architecture classes. I styled my dorm room with the latest color trends from Martha Stewart and vintage retro finds from NYC. Along the way, I also visited historic homes to study their architecture and decor. I still seek out unique designs whenever I travel, both in the U.S. and internationally. Read more>>

Mary Brindley

I was raised in Clear Lake, Iowa and lived in Grethen House which was a combination of Greta and Henry (my parents). They decided they wanted to open a store in our then garage. We mainly sold small gifts at the time. Then, my mom hired a buyer from NYC to help her navigate and introduce her to the world of fashion. We added on to the house many times to build the store. We had friends who had a jewelry store and they decided to open a location in Edina, MN and open a store in the Galleria. We made the move with them and were in that location for around 7 years before eventually finding our current location in 50th and France. Read more>>

Luke Smith

I started playing guitar at the age of 13, and quickly got into songwriting. Songwriting is by far my favorite part about music and my choice form of self-expression. In 2011 I briefly attended McNally Smith College of Music as a Composition major. Although I wasn’t there long, it sparked an interest that has sustained me ever since. Now I’m 30, and this December I’m graduating with a degree in Music Industry from Mankato State University. I teach guitar, write a lot of songs, and I’m working on growing a YouTube channel focused on music production. I’m also interning with the Minnesota Music Coalition where I’ve been assisting with Caravan Du Nord, a touring showcase of Midwest artists. I’m very grateful to be where I am. Read more>>

Tony Schwartz CMT, MAT, CES

After spending some time running my own vending business after college working long hours and not having much of a social life I decided to make an effort to create a work/life balance. Not having much dating experience and not having a whole lot of time I just tried to make a concerted effort to make time. Eventually I did end up meeting the person that would become the light of my life. We were very different people from two very different worlds. As time went on we moved in together and it was becoming clear that making a change in my career was going to be essential. We then moved to another part of town while I tried to sell the company and begin looking for a new career path. Read more>>

soua Vang

I remember my love for making films at a young age when my dad bought our first home video camera. I always took it out and recorded whatever I wanted. My love for making videos went all the way through high school and then eventually stopped once I got into college. I Had the mentality in college that I needed to focus on school and that was the only thing. But going through school, I always felt my creativity being hindered and wanting to create something. So about 3 years into college, I decided to just go all in on it. I made myself get opportunities in the university that allowed to to explore filmmaking and hone my craft. Read more>>

Payton Rademacher

As long as I can remember I have had a camera in my hand. I always take pictures every where I go, on vacations, road trips, and even at home. In 2019, my old Canon camera broke and I experienced a few months with no camera in my hand. This made me realize how much I missed photography. Not only that, over time several people suggested to me to set up my own photography business. I was hesitant to do so but with my mother, grandmother, and husband’s encouragement I got started and am happy to be where I am now. Read more>>

Jack Wald

We started out in 2019 as a few music students at St. Cloud State who liked to jam and write songs together after class. Eventually we started to feel like we were at a place where we were ready to take Airship Caravan to the stage and start performing. Since then, we have moved back to the city where we’ve had some amazing opportunities to play at some of the great venues Minneapolis has to offer with some seriously talented other local and national artists. It has sort of been a mission of ours to build up the local scene into more of a community, and the scene that is bubbling up at shows around the cities lately is seriously awesome to see! Read more>>

KT Branscom

Hey! I’m KT from VIAL and here’s a bit about us! Taylor (she/they), our keytarist, came back from a show one evening, feeling like there was something lacking in the local scene. She brought on Kate (they/them) and I (they/them) whom she knew from after school music lessons to play bass and guitar respectively for a new band they were going to start. One Tinder account later and we found Katie (she/they), our drummer. We started off by playing opening spots on local house shows and trying to build relationships with other bands in the scene. We released our first ep/album, Grow Up, very quickly after forming so that we had something out for folks to listen to. Our lead single, Rough, off of that album did pretty well on Spotify and we started gaining a following. We were so excited that people enjoyed our music not only in the local scene, but all over the country and even the world. We planned a small tour with about five shows, but that got stopped by Covid before we could go. Read more>>

Hannah Peterson

I graduated from Iowa State University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. I worked a 9-5 job for a year after college at an Advertising Agency until getting laid off in May of 2020 because of COVID. I had been job searching for six months until I found a contract position at a Marketing Agency that I ended up getting laid off at too after four months that led me back to job searching. Like most people during the pandemic – it was very difficult to find a job. I applied to around 100 jobs in the marketing field over the year of being on and off employed and never once got a job offer. I was tired of being unemployed and knew I had to figure something else out. Read more>>

Rachel Michael

Personal styling is something I’ve always been passionate about – this passion showed up early on from “styling” my barbies rather than playing with them to drawing fashion designs in my sketchbook to watching every makeover show I could find growing up. However, fearing an unstable career in the fashion industry, I chose Public Relations as my major in college and soon left my passion for style behind. After spending most of my career as an event planner, I unexpectedly got the opportunity to work as a part-time stylist for Stitch Fix, an online personal styling company. Read more>>

Adam Hirsch

MNiCards has been around for two years now. It originally started as a way for my business partner, Emma Johnson, and I to have a creative outlet outside of our day-to-day jobs. We both love to draw and doodle, so what started as sketches on paper, turned into our small greeting card business, MNiCards. The name MNiCards is a play on words referring to all of our greeting cards being made in Minnesota and “MNi” in size. The traditional greeting card size is 5×7″. Our cards are 4.25×5.5″. When MNiCards first began, we did a few small focus groups to understand what members of the community liked in a greeting card. The results helped us curate our aesthetic: simple and quirky. Because of this, our style is to have a bright and whimsical illustration set against a white background; each card is blank on the inside as well so the sentiment you write is completely your own. Every illustration you see is hand-drawn as well. Read more>>

Hien Mai

That Soap Shop was founded in 2015 by local artisans Hien Mai and Chris Blomquist, although we’ve been making soap for much longer. After watching “Fight Club” several years ago, we were inspired to give the hobby a try just for fun; we figured if Brad Pitt can make soap in the movies, it couldn’t be that hard right? Both of us have very sensitive skin and ever since we started making our own lotions, soaps and lip balm we fell in love with what natural ingredients like coconut oil, jojoba and shea butter can do for your skin. Since we enjoyed and used our own products so much we decided to start sharing them with the world when we started our own company. Although we are a relatively small company, we are growing quickly and are in several boutiques in the metro area. Despite the popularity we’ve enjoyed, and our rapid growth, we always stay true to our roots; you can still find us at local festival and craft shows such as Hopkins Main Street Days, US Bank Holiday Boutique, Minneapolis Pride, and many others. Read more>>

Matthew Nelson

Our grandfather Wade Nelson who started Browns Ice Cream in 1963 packed ice cream on 7th Street and purchased Browns Ice Cream in 1963. Patrick Nelson started the the pizza company in 2011 and was originally called 7th Street Pizza as an ode to our grandfather. However, after receiving a cease and desist letter from Speedway in Ohio saying we could use that name because the name of their deli is 7th Street, Patrick pivoted to 7th Avenue Pizza. We’ve always been in Holiday stations , Speedway, and Lunds & Byerlys. Since our partnership with KFAN began in February the pizza has hit a new level with more and more people trying 7th Avenue Pizza. Read more>>

Mary Bruno

I grew up with a creative father who taught in the art department at the College of Saint Benedict and St. Cloud State University. He was a graphic designer, photographer, relief print-maker, and more. I got into letterpress when my dad acquired a bunch of old letterpress equipment from some old printers in the area. They were getting rid of everything since there was new off-set printing technology taking over. My father built a small studio onto the garage of the house I grew up in. I spent a lot of time in there with him, printing, setting type and carving linoleum blocks.  Read more>>

Elizabeth Sherry

Twin Cities Wedding & Event Professionals (at the time Twin Cities Wedding Professionals) was created in 2009 in midst of the recession. The Recession hit the industry hard and the only way through it was to collaborate with peers and build great referral partnerships. The group started very organically with 10 professionals, then 20 and then so on that at one point the group grew to bring in 120 professionals to each meeting. The foundations of the group have never changed, we are a genuine group of people who are excited to network! Read more>>

Madeline Klesk

Forward Spine Center is a new healthcare clinic in Golden Valley, MN. We are a husband and wife owned business. Our doors opened in August of 2021. Dr. Madeline Klesk & Dr. Timothy Klesk specialize in neck and back pain, offering chiropractic care, acupuncture, rehabilitation and yoga. We met in postgraduate school, both graduates of Northwestern Health Sciences University in the Doctorate of Chiropractic (DC) program. Straight out of school we took on associate positions at separate clinics, with plans to start a family before branching off on our own. Read more>>

Shannon Hermanson

I started out as a pretty messy kid, actually. This is surprising to a lot of people, but it’s true! I would cram stuff under my bed and in my closet. A few times a year, my mom would spend 2-3 hours cleaning out my room with me. As I got older, my propensity for pack-ratting waned. I started to enjoy cleaning and organizing much more. It never occurred to me that I could do it as a career! I went to college in Iowa for Youth and Family Ministry. That’s what I did for the 5 years following my college graduation. Toward the end of my last job as a youth director, I was extremely burnt out and also newly pregnant. I left that position and didn’t really know what I was going to do with my life after I had the baby. Read more>>

Elizabeth Nichols

I began my Minnesota Craft Beer journey shortly after returning home from 4 years in Canada for University. I had just been introduced to the incredible craft beer industry that Minnesota has and I began posting photos on my personal Instagram occasionally and really beginning to love doing so. My friend, Kelly Hagenson, who is a photographer for the University of Minnesota inspired me to create a separate Instagram account for just my beer adventures. It all began at Pryes Brewing Company in Minneapolis in October of 2019. We typically go to breweries together because we both have the same interests in trying all the different styles of beer, so most of the time she will be featured in my post in one form or another! Read more>>

Alexandra Connett

With family in the restaurant business and parents that are organic vegetable farmers, food has always been more than just a means of sustenance. I always knew that I would also work with food, but I wanted to find a way to experience it through the lens of visual storytelling. I started creating food videos in my college dorm room– focussing on creating recipe videos that showed fun and easy ways for students to make simple snacks and meals. I remember thinking, “wow this is so fun…but this could never be a real job…could it?” I spent the following 10 years searching for an answer to that question–working on farms, fishing boats, and food trucks throughout the U.S. and Europe. This journey led me to where I am today– running Foodist Films, a food-first video marketing agency in Saint Paul, MN with my fiancé, Steve. Read more>>

Taylor “Agate Dad”

I started my rockhounding and lapidary YouTube channel, Agate Dad, back in August of 2019. I started it to share my passion of searching for Lake Superior agates, which is the state gemstone of Minnesota, they come in many varieties and are all individually unique. Initially, our YouTube channel was just about exploring for Lake Superior agates, primarily in my home state of Minnesota (we occasionally sneak over to Wisconsin) but then I started finding other minerals and fossils on my adventures, which led us to search for more than just agates. Eventually, our channel started exploring the realm of lapidary, where I started sharing videos of cutting and polishing many different minerals with my lapidary equipment. Read more>>

Olivia Kressler (Spitzer)

When I was in high school, you could always find me doing something crafty or creative. Editing photos, designing inspirational posters, making collages, you name it. At the time, I really didn’t know what branding was, or what graphic designers did, but I did know that I longed for a career in the arts. I attended college at Hamline University and got my bachelors degrees in Creative Writing and Digital Media Arts. Upon graduation, I still had no real plan. I started applying to jobs in marketing, which is how I landed my first position as a Web Content Specialist. In the end, it really wasn’t what I was looking for, and I was inspired to continue my search, but focus more on design. I had dabbled in logos and such on the side, but I still really wasn’t aware of the places that those passions could take me. Read more>>

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