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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.

Rachael Henn

My adventure started when I took every art class that was available to me. I began taking self photoshoots posing and practicing in my backyard. I quickly learned that I had a passion for natural light and photographing subjects. When I came to Minneapolis to start art school I instantly fell in love with the art and modeling community. I’ve had the chance to meet the most amazing photographers and models who inspire me daily to continue pushing my abilities as a photographer. I absolutely love collaborating with and supporting other photographers and models. Read more>>

Macarena Corral

Nicole (Dr. Nicole Slavik, PsyD, LP) and I (Dr. Macarena Corral, PsyD, LP) met while we were both supervisors at a community mental health center. We didn’t know each other well, but we had a strong admiration for each other’s work ethic and product. In the fall of 2015, Nicole and I sat in a small neighborhood restaurant discussing our vision for what ideal psychological care could look like and how this could be made available to people in our community. Macarena had recently had her first child and was looking to make a change in her career. She had always dreamed and talked about starting her own business and was feeling ready for a change. Read more>>

Vanessa Medina

In 2002 I moved to the United States from Guatemala knowing little to no English with my now ex-husband and my 3-year-old daughter. My first job here in Minnesota was in the restaurant industry. I quickly learned how much I enjoyed learning about hospitality and connecting with people all while also learning a new culture. When starting my first job at Red Lobster I learned everything from the back of the restaurant, when starting out in the kitchen to the front of the restaurant where I hosted, served, and learned about drinks. I spent 17 years working at my first restaurant. Read more>>

Kennedy Lor

As someone who has always been interested in both fashion and sustainability, I wanted to create a brand that is truly centered around it. My focus on sustainability has also driven me to create something new and unique as a designer. I recently graduated from college with a degree in Apparel Design & Development, and I’m now working on my own brand, LOWKEN, which specializes in upcycling second-hand materials and fabrics into contemporary pieces. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I’m really excited about where my business is heading and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished so far. Read more>>

Beth Sahli

I grew up in Lafayette, Indiana, and went to college at Ball State University, majoring in Special Education and Elementary Education. I spent 14 years as a teacher, educational specialist, and school administrator, first in Indiana and then here in Minnesota, before discovering a love for woodworking. In the late spring of 2021, I was struggling with my mental health and with the help of my therapist, decided I should try a new hobby to keep my brain focused on healthy coping strategies. I bought a nail gun, built a planter, and fell head over heels in love with woodworking. Read more>>

Laura Krider

I grew up in Green Bay, WI where I was surrounded by music and took part in all things Krider Pharmacy, our family business. Picture a little Laura helping her Dad set up his keyboards for a wedding gig, prepping blister packs behind the pharmacy counter, visiting her Mom’s classroom to help decorate for the school year, and putting on neighborhood musicals with her siblings. I moved to the Twin Cities approaching my teen years and haven’t left since. Read more>>

Laurel Tomandl

When I moved to the Greater Twin Cities Area (just on the other side of the river!) in 2014, I never anticipated such a welcoming and thriving artist’s community. I had just met Ben, my now husband, through a musician friend (–shout out to Nici Peper and check out her amazing music!) who thought our voices would meld well for some harmonies. We connected over songwriting and music in general. My father, an avid music supporter, shared a few different opportunities for groups that boasted a Song a Week or Song a Day, or even Write 100 songs this year! Read more>>

Evan Taylor

I’ve always been playing with cameras, and I’ve always been a huge computer nerd. Back in Elementary School, I used to steal my parent’s camera gear and run around the neighborhood creating videos with the neighbor kids. Many many hours were spent Editing videos in my family’s basement “Computer Room”. In high school, I’d constantly be asking my teachers if I could create Videos as a substitute for the normal Homework assignments. Read more>>

Amy Kelly

My journey to becoming an entrepreneur was not intentionally planned. I was living in Arizona while earning a degree in Multimedia while supporting myself with retail, sales, and accounting positions. I decided to return to my home state of Minnesota and took a job working in cosmetics while I pursued a job in my field of study. Jett Makeup was created in 2007 to offer personalized onsite bridal makeup services, and quickly expanded to include makeup for commercial shoots and partnerships for special events with local businesses. Read more>>

Tall Paul

I started writing rhymes when I was around 14 years old and did it as a hobby up until I was 21 or so. At that point, I started recording music for the first time and performing. After doing open mics, I started getting invited to perform at local and regional shows and I branched further out of state not too long after. I’ve been doing shows nationally and internationally since 2013. It’s definitely been a journey with its ups and downs. Read more>>

Chad Lanners

As a Senior Executive in non-profit and for-profit organizations, my professional career has given me the opportunity to set a vision or execute an established vision. As a licensed social worker, I have experience working hands-on with people providing guidance, resources, and opportunities for growth. I have led program acquisitions, rebuilt staffing structures, developed and implemented strategic plans, raised new money, engaged with local media, and led the movement of legislative priorities and advocacy support in changing systems. Read more>>

Sylvia Reese

North Side Blessings started in most of all June 2020. Our grocery stores were burned down during the unfortunate circumstances with George Floyd. Our neighbors especially the families who didn’t own cars or the elderly don’t have access to get essentials. Our family decided to open our home we purchased items and the word spread out and donors will come and dropped off all kinda perishable, diapers, what the stores sold we had it. Families will come and shop. The need was so great we never stop. That’s when Adopt a family program was birth. Since 2020 we help families with resources like Bridging. We work 365 a day in what we can to build our community. We now help all over MN. Our goal is to have a building where families can come receive the support they need. Read more>>

Anna Sink

I started off in our garage with a small table saw we bought to do some home renovations, which led to making some smaller gift items for the family. I fell in love with the whole process of designing and creating something from scratch, so when we moved back to Minnesota, a home with room for a shop was a top priority. Once I realized how much I enjoyed woodworking, I quit my job to pursue it full-time and have been slowly growing my business and learning new skills along the way. I’m excited to add more variety to my work, so investing in a laser cutter last year was a big step – I’m hoping to find a happy middle between using traditional woodworking tools and the laser cutter, so each design can include a little of both. Read more>>

Debbie Eakes

El Nido (the Nest) began as a tribute to Debbie Eakes’ history and her love for family and new life.  Her connection to midwifery and a Christian heritage began with Debbie’s great-grandmother, Trinidad Casillas.  Trini’s personal relationship with Christ began while being ministered to by a partera (midwife) during the birth of one of her children, in Mexico. After the death of her husband, Manuel, Trini moved to America to begin a new life with their eleven children. Read more>>

Susan Cevette

My story, like all of our stories, isn’t a quick and easy one. I was raising two kids and negotiating my way out of an unhealthy marriage when I decided to change my career trajectory and become a financial advisor. After more than 20 years doing this work, now, I can safely say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I started out in the publishing world but realized I wanted — and needed — more freedom and flexibility in my work. I also realized I had a knack for digging deep into people’s concerns and fears and helping them get to the root of what was really bothering them. And, I love numbers. I love statistics. I love researching possibilities and trends — financial advising was a pretty obvious choice. Read more>>

Lakesha Gordon

I moved to Minnesota when I was six, from Waterloo Iowa. I grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota, with my mother who I look up to because of her Love for God, herself, and others. I also have an older sister and younger brother, who I’m extremely close with. Family is important to me. I’ve always enjoyed assisting people and comforting others. I’ve always had the heart to see and listen to others in need. I have an attitude of if only I could support. I had to learn over the years that I can’t save or help everybody. When I first realized that I wanted to support people I was in 8th grade Middle School and had a volunteer assignment. I chose to volunteer at a nursing home and was placed in the beauty parlor.  Read more>>

Carl Blanz

I grew up in a traumatic environment, when I was a teenager, I dropped out of school (9th grade) I was lucky enough to be pushed by my mom to try cooking school, so I lied about my age and started cooking school when I was 17. I got a start in the kitchen and discovered I was really good at creating systems, figuring out how to make a profit, make the place cleaner… by age 23, I was the executive chef of the Tampa Club in Tampa Fla. Due to my upbringing, I was not good with people, I was the kind of chef who was intimidated. I became increasingly aware that because of the way I treated people, I was becoming more and more isolated. At age 24 (or so) I decided to change that and become a good leader of people. I’m 60 now and have been on the same path for 36 years. Read more>>

Shay Boo

I moved to the Twin Cities in December of 2017 after being recruited for a role at Target’s Corporate Headquarters! When I moved here I started attending a church out in Stillwater, MN and that’s where I met my future husband, McQuaid Boo. McQuaid and I started dating in May of 2019 and one thing we found we had in common was that he had a love and passion for videography and I had the same for photography. I had been doing photography as a hobby since I was in middle school and McQuaid owned his own videography company that he started in 2016. In late 2019, McQuaid and I decided to take his company and turn it into Boo Creative. I was still working full-time at Target so for myself this was very part-time and I worked weeknights and weekends. Read more>>

Dawn Rossbach

I’ve been drawing from a very young age. During the course of my youth and teenage years, I was always interested in art but didn’t pursue any professional avenues. I dabbled here and there, but any artistic opportunities were few and would fall through. In my early thirties, my daughter was born and I decided to return to school for teaching. Because I knew this would be my only chance to take a drawing class with a professional artist, I did so even though I was thinking teaching English would be a safe bet for future employment. (The world can thank me later for not pursuing that!) While at Bemidji State, I took a drawing class with Maryann Papanek-Miller who suggested after seeing my work to try for the BFA program. Read more>>

Sarah Johnson

Over the years I have used art to assist both with my own healing, as well as others. I have done this through a variety of means: working with teens in a theater group, as a licensed mental health professional, in a teen center setting, and as a community-engaged artist. In the last year, I took the leap to start my own business, The Joy Labs. My goal with The Joy Labs is to help build connected, equitable, healthy, and resilient individuals, homes, neighborhoods, organizations, and communities through intentional relationship building and creativity. We find joy through play and experimenting with what works for us. Let’s play together! Read more>>

Ange Hwang

Ange Hwang grew up in Taiwan and settled in MN, she is the Executive Director of Asian Media Access since 1992. For the past 30 years, Ange has worked to bring in more understanding about different communication patterns among diverse groups and how to design public health information targeting the specific ethnic community to eliminate health disparities through communication. She has been working on the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) civic, social, and health issues through training, and video productions for the past 3 decades, and has won numerous awards for her health video works. Each year, Asian Media Access reaches more than 150,000 people with “Bicultural Healthy Living” messages through its in-person training, large community events, as well as digital presence with web and social media. Read more>>

Robert Pearl

My mom was a clothing designer during my childhood. She had a darkroom in our house so she could take pictures of inspirational fashion that she would develop in her darkroom. I became fascinated by the process of finding an interesting image, capturing it, and making it “come to life” once developed. I was basically self-taught. I captured my own images and then messed around in the darkroom to figure out how to develop them. In college, I became the photo editor of the Daily Cardinal at Madison. I was initially interested in photojournalism, but during my summer breaks from college, I would work at various photo studios in Mpls and I realized commercial photography was my calling. It was then that I transferred to Brooke’s Institute in Santa Barbara, CA where I learned how to control my medium. Read more>>

Aaron Hagerdorn

I started as a dishwasher in a little Mom and Pop Italian Restaurant at the age of 15. I worked my way up the staff doing everything there. I then switched to a corporate Italian restaurant chain and did the same, starting as a food runner, then working my way up to running the kitchen. I knew I wanted to cook for my career, so I decided to go to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY to become a chef. After graduating from the CIA, I traveled around the eastern half of the country working in cities like New Orleans, Hilton Head Island, Kansas City, and in my hometown of Columbus, OH. In 2007 I joined the Hyatt Hotel Company as an Executive Sous Chef before taking the Executive Chef job in Cincinnati. Read more>>

Rivers Bend Family Dental

Our dental clinic has been operating in Ramsey, MN for quite some time. We bought the clinic a few years ago and Dr. Andrea Wimmergren joined us two years ago. Throughout the last few years, we’ve gotten to know the community and all of our amazing patients. We’ve worked very hard during the last couple of years to develop a knowledgeable and talented team here at River’s Bend Family Dental. A team that understands our patients want to be cared for and feel anxiety-free. Read more>>

Darnell Fisher

I started out taking photos with family live-action. I always had an eye for photography lot has to do with my upbringing from being in an urban community and my involvement with music and sports. It has not been a smooth road, photograph when starting out a photography business, it’s a very competitive market the struggles when coming from a different state and networking and trying to build relationships with communities and that will take the time it’s not overnight, and also trying to build to clientele. Read more>>

Marcie Rendon

From the time I learned to read and write, I have been creating stories, poems, and plays. It wasn’t until my mid-30s that I decided to actively pursue writing as a career. I took a 12-week journalism class at the University of Minnesota that was designed for Native Americans. My mentor in that program was Cherokee author Art Coulson. Around the same time, I received a Loft Inroads Writers of Color Award to be mentored by Anishinaabe writer, Jim Northrup. Buffy Sedlachek, the playwright, was another mentor through the Playwright Center. Read more>>

Stacia Goodman

I grew up in a trailer house in rural Northern Minnesota with no access or exposure to the arts. My mom and stepdad ran a run-down gas station, which was my playground. But even as a young kid, I was naturally drawn to making, creating, writing, and collecting. I innately knew I had “something” that made me see things differently than my family and friends. I had to express it, although I had no tools, training, or role models. In retrospect, I think I became a dangerous risk taker to release my pent-up creative energy. Read more>>

Florence Idowu

I have always been a Founder since my early days at the University. I started a career coaching firm where I coached and mentored high schoolers; helped with career development plans and preuniversity onboarding programs. However, I started Bavarde Talent Solutions after going through an unfair dismissal in one of my previous organizations. I was dismissed because they needed more time for me to work with them despite signing a part-time contract. This was an organization that was in total opposition to my career growth. As a Linguist and Communications Expert, I served as a training facilitator for a management consulting firm in Lagos, Nigeria, and continued on that path before establishing another startup where I focused on Corporate Training programs. Read more>>

Izzy Rosas

I’ve been passionate about the beauty industry from an early age and I knew at a very young age that the beauty industry was going to become my career.From an early age, I was also very optimistic, driven and confident but discovered throughout my beauty career that not everyone is confident or can quickly learn from a beauty tutorial and found myself oversharing and determined to help other women feel confident by helping them enhance their beauty through beauty services. Read more>>

Benjamin Smith

Born in Minneapolis, MN I come from a hands-on hard-working family that has taught me the value of work ethic and resilience and innovation. I’m the only one in my family that’s taken an interest in becoming a multimillionaire to fulfill my dream of keeping family closer than ever by providing whatever they need. My family is my motivation to strive for these great heights. Joining the workforce at 15 I’d worked jobs in apparel, restaurants you name it I tried it. During this time period, I understood the difference between spending hours at a job rather than spending hours on a personal or business goal, it made me realize I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Read more>>


I got interested in making art through punk rock and skateboarding. When I was in middle school, I started cutting stencils of skateboard logos and band logos that I liked and sprayed them on my skateboard. About a year later I started cutting my own designs and applying them to all sorts of stuff. The more comfortable I got with a spray paint can the more interested I got in traditional graffiti and started combining my stencils with letters and just exploring all the avenues spray paint allowed. I casually picked the name Biafra as an alias. Read more>>

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