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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.

Rachel Evangelisto

I am truly humbled and honored to be the 86th and first-ever Native American Miss Minnesota. I started competing within the Miss America Organization at the age of 13 and have gained over $26,000 in scholarships throughout my time competing. So many think of Miss America as a “pageant” when in reality, it’s a national scholarship competition that promotes community, confidence, and choice. The Miss America Organization empowers women in becoming the best versions of themselves and supports year-round professional development, networking, scholarship, and community service opportunities. Read more>>

Katlin Sannan

If I had looked back on myself 2 years ago, I never would have thought I’d be running a graphic design company. My true inspiration has been my boyfriend and my mom. My mom moved to Florida to follow her dream of opening a shake shop, and I designed her logo, business cards, and branding. My mom was emotionless when her business came together, and seeing my designs in real life, not just digitally, was eye-opening. Read more>>

Mariah Greenhoff

I’m always making art. My free time is spent in my small home studio, experimenting and making sculptures. I work in the arts to connect me to other artists and link-minded thinkers. Making art has been a priority and passion since I was a child. As I grew older, I knew I wanted to study fine arts in college, and I chose to study at Augustana University. I fell in love with ceramics and printmaking, which quickly became the emphasis of my degree. Read more>>

Cheryl Bleess

In 2009, my husband Chad and I were blessed to purchase a small part of my grandparents’ farm. My grandpa originally obtained this land through a land swap with the neighbor. We are proud to be the third generation to farm this beautiful property. For the first two seasons we were here, we operated a CSA farm and then decided to switch over to raising all fall produce. While the work didn’t get easier, I knew I had found my growing niche. I have always loved autumn and had a special place in my heart for unique and different things, whether they be pumpkins or anything else. Read more>>

Chaz Sandifer

The first transformative health and wellness experience I was involved in was training to compete as a bodybuilder. I found peace in the gym after a difficult period in my life as a survivor of domestic abuse. I went from being a trainee to a certified group fitness instructor. I became certified as a health and wellness coach specializing in diabetes, arthritis, and trauma healing. I started teaching in my community with free and donation-based classes around fitness and wellness-based education. I started contracting with the county- and city-based non-profit organizations to provide affordable and sustainable health and wellness programs. Read more>>

Sam Licari

Sam Licari – Musician and Audio Engineer. I have been playing music since before I was nine years old. My older brother would have his friends over and jam. When they would leave their equipment at our house, I would sneak some guitar playing in. Eventually, my father got me my first acoustic guitar, and that’s all it took. I went to college for Audio Production/Music Industry at McNally Smith, Hennepin Technical College, and Mankato State. I graduated with a BS in Audio Production/Music Industry in 2020 from MNSU. Read more>>

Sara Hayden

I was a stay-at-home mom of 5 kids whose kids had all just entered school. It was time to find something outside of the home to do. The idea and opportunity just fell in my lap, honestly. When great opportunities are offered to you, I believe you should jump! I’m so glad I did! 10 years later, I’m still jumping! I started at farmers’ markets and private baking and moved into wedding catering. I baked for anyone and everyone, honestly. Read more>>

Christina Hankins

I have been in the arts for over 20 years showing and selling my work in and around the Twin Cities; I had the opportunity to expand what I do and enter the Franchise world by purchasing Color Me Mine in Maple Grove. Color Me Mine is a paint-your-own pottery studio that caters to all ages. Anyone can come in and choose a piece of pottery and paint it any way they like. We glaze and fire it, and the customer returns with a beautiful piece of art. I have owned the studio for 4 years, and I love that we can help spark creativity in our community. Read more>>

Victor Ku

Greetings, my name is Victor Ku, and I am known as the artist Mighty Pegasus Art. I reside in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and I started my journey as an artist in 2017. I was born in a little suburb in France called Corbeil-Essonnes. I lived in France for 15 years, where I grew my passion for drawing from Anime and Manga series such as Dragon Ball Z and Saint Seiya. In 2003, after my 15th birthday, I moved to the U.S. in Tampa, Florida. Around that time, I did not continue with my passion for Art. Read more>>

Deanna Huffman

Hi! So I have a hard time finding the balance between concise and verbose. This will likely land in the latter. In high school, I worked through flower shops and retail, learning mechanics like floral rosaries and broken wagon wheels, how to light Christmas trees, and merchandise the heck out of a store. I learned the basics of design before I learned what they were official. I went to college in Los Angeles at The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, where I studied visual communications. Read more>>

Kristin Hill

I grew up dancing classical ballet, playing many sports and was lucky enough to play college tennis. After college, one of my knees was hurting, and I was looking for something that would keep me active but with less impact. In graduate school, I began taking yoga classes in Minneapolis at the U of MN. I fell in love with the movement, musicality, choreography, and incredible physical and mental health benefits. Read more>>

Jessi Sebens

For many years I juggled being a wife, mother, and postal clerk. Our family livelihood was resting on my paycheck for over 20+ years. While my husband had his career, the mine provided health insurance. I loved my job and the people I worked with until the ruthless hours wore me down. I stuck with it knowing the importance insurance plays. I went from work to home to my family, where I did my best to educate myself and my husband on how we could naturally remedy his chronic pain from a previous accident. Read more>>

Jennifer Weir

As a Korean adoptee raised in North Dakota, I grew up with no reference for Asian American culture, community, or identity. I found a new family and a new sense of pride and belonging. An aspiring actor, I found my way to Minneapolis and Theater Mu. Mu allowed me to grow as an artist, see myself reflected on stage, and, most importantly, connect with other Asian American artists. Skip ahead a few years where I am watching Rick Shiomi play taiko at a Mu event. Read more>>

Selena Briseno

I started Cosmetology school in 2014. I initially thought I would be a teacher or a social worker in dealing with kids and helping them. In my senior year of high school, I quickly learned that school wasn’t fun nor something I was interested in doing for 4-6 more years. I kept thinking of things that made me happy. It was always beauty and fashion. I told my family I was thinking of doing hair and makeup for a living. Read more>>

Ryan Pettis

I started working with my brother for another interior/exterior painting company at 15. We thought doing something together would be more fun than being alone. But, at the time, I worked for that painting company from 9-3, then at Burbon Butcher (a local restaurant) as a host from 5-9, so my days were longer. Eventually, I learned the trade and wanted to start a business with my brother. He wasn’t in it as much as I was, so I ended up going at it myself. Read more>>

Dylan Summers

As a baby, I had a childhood medical condition that stuck with me throughout my life. I am now 21 and still fighting that medical issue been to many, many doctors, and still no answers. I was told young that I was different. I would always be treated such IE the reasons I was bullied thru school, had a hard time walking as a child, was told I may never walk, I couldn’t even talk when I was supposed to. Read more>>

Angela Lamb-Onayiga

My story begins with my many visits to Nigeria to visit my husband’s family. I would be so excited to purchase purses and clothing for family and friends in Nigeria. They always seemed to love them and want more. One day I received a message from my sister-in-law in Nigeria that she had shipped a box to me. Once I secured the box from customs, I was surprised to see all the beautiful purses and clothes. I asked her what she wanted me to do with them, and she said to sell them. Read more>>

Dee Bartlam

I have lived in Minnesota all my life. I have been a registered nurse for 27 years, married, and raised 3 daughters here. We love everything about the outdoors, nature, and staying active. Being a woman who loves biking, hiking, skiing, kayaking, and anything else outside stands in direct contrast, in my mind, to a woman who may love fashion, makeup, and following celebrity influencers on Tik Tok and Instagram. So why would I want to change careers to become an aesthetic injector? Read more>>

Tove Lee

My story did not start particularly unique in any way. Since I have been old enough to hold a crayon, I have been drawing, sketching, doodling, and creating. Even as a child, I never liked coloring pages because I liked being able to bring my ideas to life and not be held within the guidelines that someone else was suggesting. Art was always an escape/coping method for me growing up. I would draw anytime I could; at school, at home, on car trips, church on Sundays, anywhere.  Read more>>

Anna Pariyar

Baking and making food is something I’ve always loved to do. When I was in college, my food journey took a turn. I was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity which started my adventure to finding yummy gluten-free food. Gluten-free baking is very scientific in the process of finding a balance between the ingredients and measurements. I quickly realized that gluten-free food is costly at bakeries/restaurants, and not all gluten-free food is the same. Read more>>

Meghan Joy Yancy

I’ve lived in Minnesota my entire life. For so many of those years, I would moan about whatever current season I was being dragged through, anticipating the days of leaving this place for more consistent sunshine + warmth. Until, I truly shifted my mindset for good, appreciating all that Minnesota has to offer. And it’s been a radical shift. I am fully embracing all the unique + rare charm that this place has to offer. And I have begun to realistically build roots here, deepen relationships and plant ourselves for a future of our family legacy. Read more>>

Greta Ruth

I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember, just lyrics and melodies. Once I started playing guitar, I started putting words to music, forming bands with friends, and performing. I mostly played electric guitar for a while, but I switched to focusing on an acoustic guitar when I was about a junior in high school. I adore acoustic guitar, how it sounds, how it feels to play, how it smells, how easy it is to come up with either simple or complex harmonizations, and how great of a tool it is for songwriting. Read more>>

Glorius L. Martin

There are so many angles this can take, and without the context of what Outlaw referred me for. I am lost on even the request to ‘tell my story. I will try to sum it up. In the ’90s, I was part of the Twin Cities legendary group, The Abstract Pack. I moved to California to become a rap star, and God ended up using that move to separate me from all the local fame to make me a better man and prepare for my true calling – mentoring. Read more>>

Tess Olson

As a first-time mom who just went through the fourth trimester (also known as the first three months after your baby is born) in April of 2021, I realized how much of a gap there is in the market for moms after their babies. There is so much support for families during pregnancy, but then after a family’s baby is born, the birthing person has one 6-week postpartum visit and is sent on their way. I naturally started compiling reliable resources, my favorite pregnancy and postpartum products and shared them with my expecting and new parent friends. Read more>>

Ingrid V. Wells

T W I R L: A Decade of Artist Interviews came about in the interest of developing an archive of artist stories comprised of interviews and visual imagery. This project is for those curious to see how this select group of artists will persist in making art despite life’s unforeseeable challenges and eager to watch their artwork progress over time. Our digital platform (www.twirlproject.com) will host annually updated artwork and interviews from working artists for over a decade. We are intrigued to see where chronicling these artists’ practices in this way may lead. Read more>>

Adam & Monique Wallis

Hello! We are Adam and Monique Wallis, owners of Bloom Lake Barn. Many people ask us about our story, so here it is briefly. Most days, you’ll find us having kitchen dance parties with our three little girls, exploring outside, or working on some project. ​ One night while on vacation and sitting around a campfire with friends. We started discussing business ideas that would allow us more time with family and friends. One idea we talked about was starting a wedding barn. Looking back, it seems crazy how such a casual conversation could spark such a huge dream in both of us and alter the course of our lives. Read more>>

Kevin Bowe

I picked up a guitar in the ’70s at age 13 and never put it down. When the Minneapolis music scene hit its renaissance from 1981 to about 1987, I was in heaven, just soaking it up. Even though I was never in a particularly successful band, being able to see Prince and the Replacements at First Avenue for 5 dollars made that an amazing time to be alive. I got my education from watching my heroes play in my backyard. I began writing songs for other artists in the early ’90s, and things started getting serious. Read more>>

Andrea Paygar-Flangiah

I have always had a passion for beauty since I was young. Growing up, I remember persistently changing my hair into distinct styles throughout the day. Our household tradition was to get our hair braided every Sunday night with a style that would last for the week. My mom would tell us tales of how she once used to braid hair for income as a young girl in our home country, Liberia. Read more>>

Evan Dunn

GAY! Gay is a word; when people hear it, they have the idea of a guy with a six-pack, nice chest, great white smile, and more. For me, that’s a hard thing to adjust to as I have a few extra layers. I have always had support from close friends and some family members, but on the business side of things, it’s not as easy when traveling. I came out in 2016 over social media on a cruise ship and silenced my phone not to hear the negative reactions as I was bullied in school. Read more>>

Katie Elmore

In college, I always knew I wanted to be in the health field; I love knowing how things work. I started with nursing, thought maybe a physician assistant, and then decided on pre-med. I graduated pre-med and even took the MCAT. After graduating, I worked in a hospital and decided this was not the place for me. I applied to chiropractic school, and everything changed for me. Chiropractic was a perfect balance of diagnosing and figuring out the main issue without the medications. Read more>>

Tony Callen

My story started at the skatepark in Hugo, MN. I meet my best friend, Wyatt, there. I always saw him filming his skateboard tricks with his GoPro camera. I didn’t even think much of it until he asked me to film one of his tricks. I had no clue how to use a camera, but I was ready to shoot after a short lesson on where the record button was. I filmed his trick, and we watched it back together. He commented, “You killed it, thanks, dude!” Read more>>

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