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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.

Annie Richardson

I was born and raised in Tainan, Taiwan, and I did not cook or make much at home because most people in the city go out to eat at the many night markets and cafes that permeate most cities there. I married my husband, Brad, in 2010 and we had our first child in 2011. I taught myself how to bake through watching online videos and perusing the Food Network. The very first thing I learned how to bake were cookies, and that wasn’t until 2011! After we had kids, they quickly fell in love with my sweet creations as they grew up with the heady aromas coming from the oven. Cookies are one of the easiest, and quick sweet treats I make for my kids. I attended a few Christmas cookie exchange parties that I enjoyed when we lived in Atlanta after my husband’s job moved us there, it was the first time I saw the decorated sugar cookies from the party and loved that they could be so pretty and tasty! So I started to learn how to decorate them since 2014. Read more>> 

Christopher Jones

In 2008 my son CJ was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The doctors gave him one year to live. form diagnoses and within that time frame, we missed a clinical trial because we could not get his medical records in time. After Cj passed in 2009. I became an IT director for a local healthcare company and was able to see the root causes of the problems with patient health data. After a layoff in 2018, I started MatchRite Care to promote patient record accessibility but most importantly to enable patient-provider communication across disjointed health systems. Read more>>

Emma Miller

My passion for graphic design started my junior year of college. Not sure what I wanted to do after college as I was majoring in business, I took a graphic design class. I fell in love with graphic design and started to enroll in graphic design internships. Right after college, I accepted a job as a graphic designer at a sign shop. Still working as a designer at another sign shop, I have been growing my own business, EM Designs, LLC. for a little over 3 years now. I love working with my clients and helping them bring their business to life. From brand identity and logo design to marketing pieces and social media content I really love sinking into these brands and helping them connect with their audience. Read more>>

Lauren Boline

When I started school at Kansas State University, I had no idea what I wanted to do. As I debated different careers, I decided that I knew I would like to work in the medical field but wasn’t sure how. As someone who grew up with a lot of negative body image issues and a constant desire to lose weight, I decided that becoming a dietitian was a great option because I could work in the medical field and teach, both things I am passionate about, but I also believed that becoming a dietitian would finally give me the right answer to losing the weight I thought I needed to in order to finally like my body & myself.  As I went through my degree, I was incredible fascinated by the complexities of the field of human nutrition and the impact food & nutrition can make on our health. However, I was still unable to stick to the “healthy lifestyle” I had always dreamed of, even to the point of feeling imposter syndrome. How was I supposed to teach people how to stick to a diet and lose weight when I couldn’t even do it myself? Read more>>

Cynthia Hiles

For as far back as I can remember I have always been an artist. I have tried so many different mediums of expression from photography to fiber arts to jewelry design but when I first tried working and designing with fresh flowers I was hooked. From there I started expanding my knowledge and ability as a designer. I always knew I wanted to start a company of my own as both my creative outlet and something to one day share with my daughter who inspired me to take the leap into this company. So in 2018 I opened Solstice and Sage Flower Company and have been having a blast ever since. Read more>>

Heather Physioc

I am a lifelong Kansas City resident. I was raised in the Grandview area and now live in West Plaza with my partner (Luke), dog (Poppy), and cat (Ahab). I also spent about 10 years living in the Overland Park area.  I am now Managing Director of Discoverability, part of the Connections department a VMLY&R. I lead an award-winning group of more than 45 experts in 10 offices across North America in three distinct specialties: Organic Search (SEO), Paid Search (SEM), and Performance Content. My personal focus area of expertise is organic search, with specialties in international search and data-driven search intelligence. I have a Bachelor’s of Journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia, and an Executive Master’s in Business Administration (EMBA) from Rockhurst University in Kansas City. I also teach digital marketing at the Master’s level in the University of Kansas Journalism School IMC program and speak internationally in the digital marketing space. Read more>>

Emily Arwine

I was always interested in photography growing up but never took it seriously. I grew up in a home on a lot of land in the middle of nowhere and it really inspired me to connect with nature. I loved being outside, so naturally, when I pestered my parents into buying me a camera for Christmas in my early teens, I spent a lot of time outdoors taking photos.  We took a family trip in 2016 to Yosemite and Redwoods National Parks and I fell in love even more with the idea of documenting the beauty of people and nature. Still, I never imagined becoming a wedding and elopement photographer! In fact, the possibility of traveling to these amazing places to document love stories wasn’t even on my radar until 2017/18! What really pushed me into shooting couples was a trip I took to Colorado in Late 2017! My boyfriend and I noticed a man holding a “will you marry me?” sign. I secretly really wanted to take photos but didn’t want to impose so we just sat and watched. a few minutes later the brother of the man holding my sign noticed my camera and the fact that I was watching and asked if I would take a few photos! Of course, I did! Read more>>

Meigan Hufft

Becoming a photographer began as a way for me to chronicle my four daughters and their lives. My oldest daughter is 14, my youngest is 2, and having that age gap gave me the perspective to really see first-hand that the days are long but the years are so short. I wanted to be able to capture the moments that often go unseen, the ones that you don’t get to preserve if you go to a run-of-the-mill, quick photo studio. I began funnily enough, with my iPhone. I purchased my girls’ coordinating outfits, learned quick camera and shooting basics thanks to a Google search, then took that basic knowledge with me as I loaded my girls in the car and brought them to a local nature trail on an overcast day to take their photos. Once I got home I was so excited to share them on social media, only for the fact that I am a proud mama…I never dreamed I would now be over a year into this as an actual profession. It has been a year of devoting myself every day, from the time I wake up until long after everyone in my household goes to sleep, to continuing my education, practicing, and not giving up. Read more>>

Shelly Gibson

Sammie’s Sunshine is a non-profit foundation that my sister, Christy, and I started in May. We started Sammie’s Sunshine after losing my niece, Samantha Raye, in an auto accident in July of 2020. Sammie was a smart, sassy, beautiful young lady. She was 14 on the day of the accident and passed away the day after her 15th birthday. Our family had an amazing support system during the most difficult time we had ever faced. Our support came from God, family, friends and complete strangers who stepped in to be there for us. We immediately knew that we wanted to be there for others, the way people were there for us. We want to offer others a “Raye of Hope”. Our mission is to offer hope and support to families facing tragedy resulting from auto accidents, as well as to provide education and awareness in order to decrease the number of these tragedies each year through seat belt awareness programs. Read more>>

Angie Williams

I’ve been a hairdresser since 2000, graduating from Iowa School of Beauty, Ottumwa, Ia. I stumbled into hair quite literally. I attended an open house with a friend, merely for moral support and became completely intoxicated maybe by the perm or hairspray or possibly by the students laughing, energy, and pure excitement! I enrolled that day giving up plans to become a teacher. Throughout my career I worked for Matrix Haircare as an educator, sharing my love for all things all over the country, a sales rep for a beauty distributor, spreading the word about new products about to hit the industry. When I am not behind the chair these days I taxi my kiddos around, travel, and coach other Hairdressers on how to grow their business with intention, integrity, and professionalism. Four years ago, I started Intentional Hairdresser Workshops to help hairdressers and future stylists work smarter not harder, creating an intentional business based on exceptional customer service, teamwork, and leadership skills. Read more>>

Amanda Michelle

My husband and I have always had a passion for all things “old-style” farming. We started homesteading about 10 years ago and absolutely loved it! We were able to provide our family with healthy food all while tending to our land and animals with the care and devotion that they deserve. We found that we could provide a lot more than we could ever use, and decided to start selling our extras. Now 4 years later we have a building that we stock weekly with all our farm fresh and homemade items. We can now provide others with the same wholesome food that we so proudly feed our own family! Read more>>

Chris Taylor

I would be more than happy to go into much more detail but to make a long story short, I started my company 10 years ago with just me and my equipment and have built a successful entertainment company that has lasted a decade. We provide services for so many people on the KC area from churches, schools, charities, couples getting married, and so much more! We are a full-service operation that can cater to any event. We strive to understand the expectations of our client’s event, and make sure we exceed that vision every step of the way! Read more>>

Kaylee Wildman

I started my journey as a stylist in 2010, on a complete whim. I was attending community college in Iowa and quickly realized I was not meant for traditional schooling. I had no ambition to be or do anything specific. So I decided to go to cosmetology school. Thinking as most people do, that it would just be a placeholder until I figured out what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. I soon discovered that I absolutely loved it. I was build for the industry and the industry was a great fit for me. fast forward to 2012, and I started my career at ULTA Beauty as a stylist. In the years I was there I went from being a fresh stylist with zero clientele to being an educator who traveled across the country to facilitate classes for other stylist. I was in salon management, district education, and regional education in between. I became Redken Color Certified and attended Redken Design classes, along with countless other higher educational classes in my time at ULTA. After being with the company for 8 years, in 2020 I decided to leave and start my own salon business, I am able to use all my knowledge, work for myself, and still maintain an amazing clientele. Read more>>

Carol Schieszer

I started teaching a few art classes in my art studio while working at the Nelson Atkins Museum. I really never had a business plan – it just grew into a business… and here I am 25 yrs. later- and loving more than ever. Read more>>

Ronnell Jones

Headlines Barber Academy (HBA), a nonprofit and privately-owned trade school, was founded in 2011 by its three owners, Ronnell Jones, George Jacobs, and Derrick Davis. The three of us have been licensed barbers and licensed barber instructors with experience spanning over a 15-year period. When establishing the school, our goal was to service the people in the community in which we lived, Wyandotte County, and give them the opportunity to take a hands-on trade to become entrepreneurs.  Ronnell is the Director of Education, George, Director of Operations, Derrick, Director of Training. We opened our first location, on Leavenworth Road in Kansas City, Kansas, which could hold roughly 15-20 students and stations. We are now in a much larger location, 4327 State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas which can hold 50 students and stations. In 2011 it was just the three of us for the first 7 years. In 2019, we added a business partner, Lamonte McIntyre. In 2017, Lamonte enrolled at HBA as a student and graduated in 2018 with his barber license. He has helped our business improve in many ways the past few years. Read more>>

Milton Thomas

I’ve always been a visionary. I’ve always seen the best that life has to offer, and I understood that it would take hard work to get there. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I guess that’s all I’ve ever really known. I understand business in a way that may seem complex to some, but I guess it’s just the way my mind works. My story is simple. I’ve always been a problem solver. The identification of a problem comes easy for just about everyone, but it’s the discovery and the execution of the solution that’s a bit trickier. I’ve always worked hard and taken every opportunity to learn. To, “sit at the feet of wisdom”, some might say. From a budding entrepreneur, who was focused on real estate and community building, taking the reins of responsibility with a family to feed, to a seasoned professional who firmly understands that one of the key elements missing in our small business community is the desire to ‘pass the baton’. Read more>>

Kim Conyers, Olive Cooke, and Sylvia Metta

The three of us have been involved in the restaurant industry for a long time and met through the music scene here in Kansas City. We got together after realizing we all had a similar vision of a worker-owned restaurant/cafe/arts space and decided to see what we could do to manifest that. We started as a delivery-only pop-up out of one of our homes. From there we started doing pop-ups all over the city at places like Big Rip Brewing Co, Revolution Records, Fetch, Manheim Community Gardens, and Ca Va, just to name a few. We had been using The Ship as our commissary kitchen during this time and eventually were able to work out with them a deal to serve directly out of their kitchen every Monday when they are normally closed. We now offer a rotating full menu for dine-in or carry-out there every week. Read more>>

Dawnna and Jon Morris

Happy Feet Socks began three years ago. The building was once the town grocery store and has been in a bit of disrepair. Once we purchased the building, we wanted to continue to add businesses that had unique offerings to go along with the Toy and Christmas store we own and make coming to cole camp a great shopping outing. Socks are so popular across so many demographics and, well let’s be honest they are fun, so the store was born. Back in Time Toys opened in 2103, our first store in Cole Camp. The building was a woodworking shop before us. It has vintage toys and new lines that look like the old toys. Jon has an excellent memory for date and names. The vintage toys are what he enjoys looking for. He has been in basements, attics, auctions, and estate sales looking for the good vintage toys. This store has done so well we decided to open one in Branson, at the Grand Village. My sister and brother-in-law run that store. They are kids at heart so it is a great fit. Cole Camp store does have an eBay shop too. It is so wonderful to listen to the stories of childhood memories when people come in. Read more>>

David Camhi

Well, an amazing and challenging life…I was born in Mexico City in a restaurant family, started with my first restaurant 22 years ago, from there, it has been a fun ride, father of three incredible boys, 4 restaurants owned and operated, worked four years in a luxury hotel (Las Ventanas al Paraiso, Rosewood Resort), four years’ operating food and beverage for beach clubs and golf courses…now, in the prime of my life, I am the proud co-owner of two restaurants called La Lupita [Taco & Mezcal]. An avid and trying to be the best golfer I can be, 13 HC… Read more>>

Marcus Gates

Five years ago, I was entering my final year of college and heading into my second bodybuilding competition (which I would end up winning the competition, earning my pro card, and becoming a professional natural bodybuilder) when my girlfriend Nikole Hudson, who is now my wife, encouraged me to start helping all of the people that were reaching out to me to improve their lifestyles and body composition. I started thinking of names for my coaching business and boom, I landed on “Thriving Lives Fitness”.  My goal when creating Thriving Lives Fitness is still the same today: to guide people on their journey to a sustainable, well-balanced lifestyle centered around health. Though I am a bodybuilder, my passion is helping the average person understand nutrition, understand balance and how to apply it within their lives, learn how to properly exercise and how to align their training with their goals and individual needs, and to help them overcome the obstacles that stand in our way when improving our health. The world of health and fitness can be very overwhelming and I want to simplify the process for my clients. Read more>>

Heavenlea Glavin

I am a Missouri native that moved to Kansas as a teenager in foster care. After some rough patches, I decided to do better and make my life different. I stopped being rebellious and focused on school. I graduated on time at 17, went right to community college obtained my first degree, and then switch to an art school where I completed my bachelor’s. With the experience and the environment, I was now in I have been able to start and execute a clothing apparel line. where I make everything in-house as well as purchase a pre-existing company that I now own and operate solely. Both companies are recycle companies where we recycle apparel rather it be to take it apart and use the materials to make other beautiful pieces or to simply resale it to another person that would love to have it at a very affordable price. I also was blessed with two children along this journey so I do all this as a single mommy to both my son and my daughter. Read more>>

Mariah Katherine

I’ve been a natural-born painter since the age of 10. I was heavily influenced by my art teacher Mrs. Brown whom taught African American art history in parallel to teaching arts and crafts to her students. Between her and watching PBS art specials of artist like Banksy, Pollock, and Basquiat I grew to love every art form. My Junior year of high school I told myself I’d pursue photography in college until my media teacher introduced me to graphic design. I studied studio art for 3years at Lincoln University, my family school. Then, I transferred to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I completed my B.A. in Art with an emphasis in Graphic Design 2016. After graduation, I started doing art showings in galleries and on the crossroads. I also began teaching art through after-school programs to the youth. I offer my gift through services such as paint and sips, face painting, graphic design needs, and canvas painting commissions. Right now, I’m working on a book and private collection that resonates with my story. This is the planting of a beautiful creation. Read more>>

Johanna Miller

After a decade as a hairstylist, I had begun to feel a little burned out. I had enjoyed knitting as a hobby for years and my husband and me to make him a specific project with very specific colors. When I couldn’t find a yarn that looked like what we envisioned, he suggested I try dyeing my own. I did a little research online, bought the supplies, and gave it a try… Only to fall madly in love with process! I started learning everything I could about dyeing and spent all my free time practicing. After just a few months, I opened my online business, selling via my website and going to yarn shows whenever I could. I juggled two jobs for a few years, dyeing yarn out of my tiny kitchen in our home in Kansas City. We were ready to start a family and had been talking about what that would mean for my career. Potion Yarns had grown more rapidly than we anticipated and I felt confident that I could find a way to still work out of our home dyeing yarn while staying home with our children so when I became pregnant with our first son, I quit my career as a hairstylist. Read more>>

Dr. Abby Reed

I began my wellness career as a licensed massage therapist working at a yoga spa, There I witnessed transformative healing with clients through integrative bodywork and movement therapy through yoga. It was this experience that would influence my healing style, later studying to become a doctor of chiropractic, board-certified acupuncturist and certified yoga teacher, uniting mind-body-energy medicine in a retreat-like setting. Originally, our boutique practice Sacred was born in 2017 as a mobile acupuncture party business where we traveled around the Kansas City metro area while I was still associating as a chiropractor at Crossroads Chiropractic + Wellness Center. In May 2020, I decided to take the leap of opening my own practice within a 120-year-old historic Victorian mansion called The Ivy House. It has been a beautiful unfolding. Read more>>

Catherine Herst

I think it is safe to say that I was a ‘therapist’ before I had a real grasp of the job title in its entirety. Through high school & college, I was often referred to as ‘The Mom’ of the group, as a natural-born listener & old-soul with a desire to help & ‘fix’ the struggles of others around me. For better or worse I have always oozed with empathy, making it easy to understand the perspectives of others and their feelings & emotions. I double-majored in Psychology & Education in college & received my teaching license in elementary education. After many, many hours in diverse classroom settings, including working in low socioeconomic schools, I realized that my heart & soul was more invested in how these little beings were able to show up & be present in school & less about what they were learning there. I also solidified my love for the one-on-one relationship that is harder to establish & maintain as a teacher. I pursued my Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology immediately after college wherein I was able to again work with diverse populations & individuals of all ages. Read more>>

Kori Fraction

I began college on a different career path. Like most kids beginning college, I honed in on a creative major that would hopefully make me money one day. During this time, I had a child and decided to change career paths to make a living for my family. Being in the service industry, I quickly learned to step out of my comfort zone to develop different marketing techniques and interpersonal skill sets. I also gained a new perspective on entrepreneurship, but I still wasn’t fulfilled. I decided to go back to school full time, with hopes of landing into a class that would shed light on what was missing. That class was Real Estate Appraisal. Enthralled with the depths of real estate, more specifically residential real estate, post-graduation I passionately threw myself into the world of all things interior design, decor, and architecture. I created @Kori_Interiors as a means to showcase inspirational and creative designs as well as document my journey with owning my first new construction home with my Husband. This platform aims to deliver quality and tailored content that illustrates my passion for decorating and design. Read more>>

Lora McDonald

I wanted to become a social worker so I could help people. What I realized, early in my career, was that I was more interested in changing systems than individuals, that I would be better at (and more satisfied with) driving public policy change than helping individuals adversely impacted by those systems. Eventually, I became the Executive Director of Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, MORE2 “more-squared” out of interest in collapsing systems of inequity and creating a more just community. Read more>>

Walter Betanzos

It all started when I was 16 and had dreams of creating some type of business in the biking industry so I could do what I love for a living.  After many tries of starting brands, opening bike shops, and going into business with the wrong people, I slowly begin to understand what problems were holding me back and as well the dos and don’ts of business. Fast forward to 2017 I had to close down both bike shops we had in DC and Virginia due to issues out of my control with both properties being sold. This quickly brought upon new questions and doubts wondering if trying to have a bike shop is worth the stress and headache. The constant struggle to run a full BMX and bike shop was very hard with the rise of the internet and people being able to get things cheaper and quicker, “you just can’t beat the convenience of online retailers”. Which is unfortunate because bike shops are if not the most important part of the cycling community, and any true cycle enthusiast will tell you the same. Read more>>

TyQuan Baskin

Well, my passion for performing dates all the way back to middle school. I was always involved in the arts. It all started with me being in my church choir, and school’s orchestra. This is where I was introduced to the viola. I loved the way the music made me feel, it was a rush! But I longed for more, something different, a new sound? Shortly after I switched to band. I played the clarinet for a hot minute with hopes of upgrading to the saxophone. I even played bass clarinet as well! Determined, I told myself I was gonna stick with band for a while, but that’s when the choir teachers pulled me away from playing instruments and started to mold me into the rounded performer I am today.  Back then; did I ever think I’d be a lone wolf building my own entertainment industry with multiple songs to stream on every music platform? No, absolutely not! But my hunger for the entertainment industry has kept me going! I’ve always had trouble seeing what others saw in me, it’s be a long road of self-awareness and self-esteem issues but I’m proud of my progress. Read nore>>

Laura Straub

I’m Laura Straub, owner of lastphoto.kc, based out of Kansas City and traveling across the world. I am an award-winning, internationally published photographer, that specializes in boudoir. Read more>>

Royal Shurn

I was in 2nd grade when I was walking to my desk and this kid yelled out loud “do you feel that earthquake. Referring to me being fat. Everyone laughed at me while I cried. I cried myself to sleep for two weeks. That was just one of the many situations that stuck with me about being plus size. Growing up it was fat joke, after fat joke. It made me very insecure. I used to avoid mirrors because I just labeled myself as “fat” I was a junior in high school when my late grandfather sat me down and told me I was beautiful. At first, I did not believe him because he was blind. But he kept repeating it so, one day I finally looked in the mirror for the first time in two years and realized that there was so much more to me then just my weight. My weight isn’t what makes me beautiful. I do. So I started to buy clothes, I started play with makeup and I started really looking into myself and doing soul searching. I found a new love for myself and my body. I look at myself with a new lens. Read more>>

Bob Martin

I call Southwestern Pennsylvania home and come from a long line of entrepreneurs — both of my grandfathers owned their own businesses, my grandmother was a very successful artrepreneur with her art hanging in galleries around the world. My dad always had a side hustle too. So small businesses, start-ups and the entrepreneurial genome is in my blood. I spent four years in the Navy and graduated from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. Reporting and writing about small business from the outset of my journey. We (my wife Kelly and I) subsequently moved to Los Angeles and founded Scribe Services — a freelance writing and consulting businesses. One of my clients made me the proverbial offer I couldn’t refuse and we founded Gartlan USA, a sports licensing and marketing business. We sold the company nine years in and relocated to Southern New Jersey. Read more>>

Juliana Cavender

I’ve been a nomad a lot of my life! In my 20’s I lived in a lot of cities, worked multiple gigs and attended a few different schools. Once I got my esthetics license, I boogied down to Dallas, TX where I juggled jobs, life and my pursuit of purpose. Once I made my way back to Kansas, I began taking clients out of a small studio space and with time, referrals and hustle I landed in the space we are still in today six years later! I never imagined growing a team or a business for that matter – but the life lessons I have acquired through the process are ones I’ll never take for granted. Today we are a team of 11 at Everyday Beaut – and that’s not including our team of six at our sister store Clifton Collective! In growing an organization and team, it became apparent I needed to do the work it takes to become an adequate leader. Through mistakes, heartache and big time learning lessons I acquired many mentors and sought out opportunities to further my leadership skills, unpack my own stuff that was holding me back and elevate myself so I can elevate others. Read more>>

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