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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.

Brianna Watson

I started as a young girl with a passion for Disney. I had my first visit when I was five and grew up in Maryland. All I can remember is my love for the mouse and as I got older that grew. Once I reached college and found out about the Disney College Program, I knew it was a sign. I did my program in Spring 2012 and it was one of the best experiences of my life. From then on, I knew I wanted to live in Florida so once graduation arrived, I was packed and headed to Orlando to start my Disney Professional Internship. Now here I am… now a Florida Resident, Mother, and Disney-loving adult. Read more>>

Aislinn McKenna

My journey began in high school, I started my business at 16 years old and shot my first wedding when I was 18. That was over ten years ago. Since then, I went full-time as a wedding photographer and moved my business to multiple cities and states. In my early years as an entrepreneur, I sought after internships and apprenticeships with photographers I admired. I am grateful to every mentor that took me under their wing. A big part of who I am today is because of those mentors and teachers. I wasn’t afraid to ask for help or seek out the wisdom of people further down the path of entrepreneurship. Every year, I invest heavily in my education and skills. Sometimes that is a business coach. Other times it’s a course or a workshop to hone certain skills. Over the past three years, I have grown my business on a regional scale. We photograph weddings all over the Southeast and have clients who live all over the world. Last year, we were featured in Martha Stewart Weddings twice which is one of the biggest honors of my career so far. Read more>>

Cherise Matthew

While my interest in fashion dates back to my pre-teen years, my fashion journey officially began when I left Orlando to study fashion design at Washington University in St. Louis. After graduating in 2014, I relocated to New York City to put my degree to use and pursue a career in design. For six years, I worked in the city as a designer for a womenswear apparel brand. About four years into my career, I realized that design wasn’t my forever path and began brainstorming what my next step would be. My love for fashion was still a constant so I turned to social media as a means of expression. My Instagram first started as a space to share my favorite editorials and runway looks and it eventually became a space for me to highlight trends and offer styling tips. While exploring this new realm, I also began freelancing on the side as a digital stylist and took a styling course at FIT. It didn’t take long for me to realize that styling was my next calling. My love of clothes has always been rooted in their ability to make someone feel confident and comfortable in their skin. I know shopping and getting dressed can feel daunting for some, so my goal is always to make fashion feel less exclusive and more fun and approachable. Read more>>

Natalie Monzon and Duncan Rodriguez

When we met, we realized we both had a passion for traveling and exploring new places. We made a bucket list of places we wanted to go to and would make it a priority to cross them off. Whether it was just driving up to St. Augustine or taking a plane to somewhere new, exploring has always been our thing. We enjoyed it so much that we decided we wanted to share our travels. Our mission became to inspire people to get out. Since the pandemic hit, we weren’t able to do much but surprisingly that’s when our channels grew the most. Since we couldn’t travel, we wanted to support local businesses here in Orlando. We started a TikTok channel where we shared cool local spots. There are so many people that tell us they’ve lived in Orlando for years and never knew about some of the places we would talk about. We love that because it brings small businesses exposure and shows people another side of Orlando other than the theme parks. Eventually, when it’s safe, we want to travel again and hopefully inspire people to see more of the world. Read more>>

Katie Howerton

Growing up as a pilot’s daughter, I’ve always had a passion for travel, and with my skills in design and organization, I always have wanted to go above and beyond in planning the best vacations. When I visited Walt Disney World for the first time in years as a new mom, I found myself completely smitten with the parks but frustrated at the chaos of day-to-day. I hadn’t been involved in much of the planning process and came home still researching how we could have made our trip more successful and streamlined. I wasn’t particularly interested in becoming a Disney travel agent but couldn’t scratch the itch, so I started a Disney tips website and have been building a business for the past two years. COVID brought about challenges but also an opportunity to reevaluate how to make my business lucrative and a quick encouragement to make some free parks-inspired coloring sheets turned into a full-fledged online shop. I also realized I thrived best partnering with a travel agent (Siera Duiser at Destinations in Florida) instead of getting myself certified so I could focus my efforts into the creative process and writing content while raising a two-year-old. Read more>>

Ashley Moring

Today, I am a freelance website designer, but this wasn’t always my chosen path. There have been a whirlwind of changes over the years that got me to where I am today. I grew up working in the restaurant industry from bussing tables to bartending to managing. I love the energy of working in restaurants – it’s fast, it’s chaotic and it’s always a good time. I never thought I would find anything to compare – until I had a baby. I don’t think anyone truly understands when people say it changes your whole world until you have experienced the change yourself. After having my daughter, my focus in life changed and that is what really put the momentum behind becoming a website designer. My motivation was to spend more time with her and less time at a job. I wanted to watch her grow up in front of my eyes, not from my phone. I started learning to code websites from scratch, learning the basics of web design, web development, and graphic design. It wasn’t until I started to apply what I was learning to websites for other people that a new passion grew inside of me. Read more>>

Bonny Bailey-Finck

I grew up in a military family, My mother worked with our church in Catering, and I have been setting tables and rolling napkins (by choice) since I was in elementary school. My sister also works in Hospitality and makes sure I understand the North Eastern & East Coast Markets and Food! As her expertise is Culinary. So after graduating from UCF with a degree in Production Management, I stayed in Orlando and began my career with Walt Disney World Entertainment. After a time at the parks, I took a position doing Talent Booking & Motion Capture Booking for Electronic Arts, where I worked with actors, athletes and VIP’s of every stripe. Coordinating their schedules and needs is one of many jobs that prepared me to deliver magic and amazement to brides every day!​Disney Event Group was my next stop, where I coordinated fairy-tale weddings and multi-day special events for our valued clients and their families. I transitioned to Shades of Green, where it was my honor to work with military families to make their Disney wedding dreams come true. Read more>>

Mike Dabrowski

Everyone has that dream for their future that they talk about but always find an excuse not to pursue – for me and my husband Tim, that dream was starting a retail business. We had talked about it a million times, but the timing never seemed right. Then in March 2020, Tim was furloughed, and I began working fully from home, and suddenly we found ourselves with a lot of time on our hands. We decided to seize the opportunity. Since we had always been lovers of candles, it seemed an obvious choice – so we dove into studying the art of candle-making and within just a few short weeks, we had founded Oso Candle Company. We’ve been very fortunate to experience enthusiastic response on our site and be featured in multiple retail locations around Central Florida (and growing every day!). We’ve only just begun, but it’s already been an amazing journey – we have learned so much, and best of all, we have had a great time working on this together. We encourage everyone out there to stop making excuses and pursue their dreams. Read more>>

Hope Chinchak

I was married at 18, had two babies and divorced before 24 but, during those years so much happened that ultimately led me to the decision to leave my then husband. Our daughter was merely weeks old when I realized she, myself and my son were worthy of so much more than we were being given. We deserved respect, truth, safety, all those basic things that disappeared before they were even born but, I failed to see it. During those years, I completely lost the woman I was, wanted to be and all I believed in. So there I was in 2010, a single mother of two very young children with little more than a high school education, no where to live and no job. What was I supposed to do? When my baby girl was just seven weeks old, I placed her in daycare and managed to snap up a job working for an insurance broker. And until 2014, it was us, The 3 Musketeers. I had switched jobs in 2013 and began working in the customer service department of a Florida chain furniture store. Part of my duties were to assist local store salespersons, and that is how I met Joe. He worked as a store manager in the Tampa area. I frequently spoke with him on the phone to help him solve issues our customers were experiencing. Read more>>

Anissa King

Growing up, I noticed that women in corporate leadership positions and female founders were underrepresented. Subsequent to my early childhood years, I also developed a passion for pageantry, as it helped boost my self-confidence as a young girl. I combined my passion of women’s empowerment and pageantry and created the Ms./Mrs. Corporate America Competition (MCA) under the leadership of the Ms./Mrs. Corporate America Organization. The MCA Competition empowers professional women and gives businesswomen a platform for their voices to be heard on a national stage. The competition allows little girls to see the impact that they could make in the world if they keep pursuing their dreams; and it provides hope to college students who may not have a focused career path but are determined to excel at whatever they put their minds to. I pride myself in producing a competition that has substance and is not based on superficial characteristics. Read more>>

Denis Terzic

Atmospheric Orlando has been around for nearly one year now but has been an ever-developing idea for much longer. We had originally begun as an events company, trying to shed light on Orlando’s talented music community; However, when covid hit, we quickly had to shift gears. We have since expanded from music to showcasing most of Orlando’s culture and talent whilst also giving back to the community through the funds generated. Read more>>

Donita McCants

I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia. But I was born military from an army family. I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was five years old. I was a persistent child that turned into a persistent young woman! I went to the University of Georgia for my undergraduate studies where I graduated in 2011 (go dawgs) then went to Tuskegee University for vet school where I graduated in 2015. I’ve lived in multiple states and was in North Carolina after graduation then made my way to Florida a few years ago and I’ve never looked back! I am a small animal veterinarian that treats dogs and cats and I love all things surgery and medicine as well as emergency medicine. I am a mental health advocate because of my experiences with test anxiety and stress while in school. And I also want to keep the awareness known about the issues with suicide and mental health in the veterinary community. I am also an advocate for inclusion and diversity by helping and mentoring the future veterinarians and STEM children! I want to show that science is cool and women in science and medicine is even cooler. Read more>>

Cherissa Bonaparte

I am the CEO of Komi Skincare and I help people rejuvenate their skin. Back in 2016, I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, which is low levels of the thyroid hormone, which caused several symptoms that may be overwhelming to live with — including skin irritations that can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Hypothyroidism causes dry skin, but other skin changes can be seen at times, such as dry, dull, and coarse skin. In 2018, I had to have a thyroidectomy and remove my thyroid completely; I was horrified and worried how my physical appearance would change even more with no active thyroid gland. My skin became dry and flaky and I was experiencing the appearance of grey and dull skin. No matter what moisturizer or serums I would use my skin would not absorb it, I became frustrated and decided to do something about it. Nothing on the market was helping my new normal of dry skin, I worked with an in-house chemist who leverages science, expertise, and nature to deliver the most potent formulations in the skincare and beauty industry. All our products are made in-house by our chemists using high-end, domestic, and imported ingredients. Read more>>

Corwin Cowart

I started out as an executive chef of a couple of country clubs and a wine bar, and after working for other companies for so long, I decided it was time to start working towards my own business. In 2010, I started working small catering jobs on the side and I was eventually given an ultimatum by the company I was working for. Essentially, I had to decide to quit my side catering jobs or quit their job, and in the end, I chose my side catering jobs. From that point on, I started Corwin’s Personal Chef and Catering Services and the company has been growing ever since. Read more>>

Amy Gabriel

LippyClip was invented in 2012 by founder and CEO Amy Gabriel. The dream of a handmade business began decades ago as Amy sat with her mom and grandmothers learning to sew. She imagined the day when she would create products that people wanted to purchase. As she spent many of her younger years in the sewing rooms of these women, she began to develop a love for fabrics and creating products. Little did she know that her aspirations would one day provide for her family, support other women working from home, and grow into a thriving business. After college, marriage, and two kids, Amy worked as a pediatric nurse for ten years. Through a series of traumatic events and deep grief, she needed to leave nursing. However, she had promised her husband that she would work to support him through graduate school, and he had approximately 18 months left to finish his master’s degree. As a way to take her mind off of the sadness and loss, she began sewing again. The dream of creating products people would purchase was long buried underneath the busy-ness of family, work, and life. However, she added some items to her Etsy shop and watched and waited. Read more>>

Juhhny Cash

The idea to start my own line of personal hygiene products came from trying to help my middle child. Up until she was four months old, after bathing, a horrible rash would develop all over her body, which would take several days to stop the irritation and weeks to clear up her skin. I soon realized it was the supposed hypoallergenic, safe for babies sensitive skin products she was bathing in. Wanting to stop the pain and discomfort this caused her, as well as keeping my other children safe, I began the development on my product. My products are made with all-natural ingredients that are not only safe on but heals and protect anyone with sensitive or problematic skin. Read more>>

Denisse Rojas

I went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for my undergrad in Human Facts and then on to my Masters in Systems Engineer. I was convinced that I wanted to do something in the defense industry. That’s was until I sat in on a friend’s flight training. The moment we went up into the sky, I knew that’s where I belonged all along. Fast forward two years later, I currently am working in the defense industry as a systems engineer. I still feel aviation in my blood so I decided to contact a local nonprofit called fly for culture. This nonprofit helps people go on their first discovery flight. So I did my first flight and I knew what I needed to do. After Corona hit I started working from home and being in quarantine, you couldn’t go anywhere or do much. And that’s when I realized I could start a side hustle to help fund my flight. With so many ideas in my head, I decided to launch two businesses with my significant other, Michael, The Mirum Box and R&R Media Marketing. The Mirum box is a gift box company that incorporates local businesses and organic products. We offer pre-mad boxes, a menstrual cycle subscription box, and a “Mirum” box also known as a surprise box. The Mirum box is my favorite part of the company. Read more>>

Lauren Spivey

Spa has not always been my desired path, I landed here. As a teen, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia which means I have an intimate relationship with chronic pain among other things that come along with such a diagnosis. I started receiving messages shortly after. I went to college for Chemistry with the intention to synthesize drugs but had a change of heart and wanted to have a holistic approach. I found my way back to massage and skin health. Read more>>

Kaitlyn Study

Around six years ago, I moved from the UCF area to the Downtown Orlando area and started dating someone from Winter Park. Moving from UCF, the Winter Park area and Downtown Orlando areas were so different and I loved them! The shopping, the park and everything that Winter Park has to offer is incredible. While exploring the areas, I also recently decided to start a marketing agency. This was my new side-hustle and I knew that no one knew me so I needed to figure out a way to grow the exposure locally while doing it on a start-up budget. After being so drawn to the area, I decided to create a local account to promote the Winter Park area so people living here could experience and find new things and people who had moved away who still wanted to keep in touch could continue to do so. Every once in a while, I sprinkled in some information about my marketing agency to help gain recognition. After a while (and a lot of posts), it took on a life of its own. We tested different content, edited when we posted what we posted and I had a lot of great people helping me with it and testing different things over the years of growth. Now, the account has over 36,000 followers and is growing every day. Read more>>

Autumn Spyrka

Growing up, I always knew that my heart was in the world of art and fashion. I always played with hair and makeup on friends and family in high school but never really got serious with it until about 2014. Once I realized that I had a strong passion for the artistry and stories of the people I met, I decided to make a career out of it. I started by applying at multiple cosmetic brands and counters as I thought they would be a great way to get more experience about the business, trends and build a clientele. Unfortunately, multiple brands told me I wasn’t their “type” and turned me down, but MAC COSMETICS took a chance with me and thanks to them, my career as a makeup artist exploded from there. I briefly freelanced with them before they made me a permanent artist. Fast forward to now, I’m now a Retail Manager for them and run my own freelance company, Autumn Artistry on the side. I’ve worked with D list celebrities, fitness models, and the Orlando Magic Dancers, so I owe a huge amount of appreciation and gratitude to them for giving me a chance when no one else would. Read more>>

Ken Siu

Several years ago, I organized a bachelor party in Canada, looking for unique Canadian activities – one of which was axe throwing. Our group was comprised of a variety of guys of all ages yet we all had an absolute blast throwing axes. We attempted to go axe throwing again once we were back in town but realized the closest facility (at the time) was in Atlanta. I opened the first axe throwing venue in Central Florida in 2018 in downtown Orlando, which was extremely well received in the community, but since that beginning, have always felt that entertainment activities were lacking in the East Orlando Area. Fast forward a couple of years and the goal to bring such a unique and exciting activity to the East Orlando/UCF area became a reality with Rockstar Axe Throwing opening its doors to the general public in 2020. Read more>>

Francois Lewis

After college, I had an idea to create a brand that people would enjoy as well as give a great message. The message of our brand is “Be Unique Always”. I’ve always felt that I was unique on the way I talked, walked and moved in life. I wanted to share that passion and mindset with our city to help show the next generation you don’t have to for in. You don’t need to be impressive but you need to be impactful. That’s what I plan to do everyday through our brand. Read more>>

Nicole Hill-Eugene

I moved from Queens, NY to Orlando, FL in 2004. My attitude and mindset were all about slowing my life down and just enjoying my family. I started working again in Corporate America and said to myself this is it, but in 2014 I started to feel like I was just existing and not living my purpose. I found myself figuring out what my purpose was at the age of 44! I always had a love for real estate and decided to get my license in 2015 and I started to pursue it part-time. For 2020 the slogan was “perfect vision” but it had a different meaning for everyone. For me, it meant that my perfect vision was pursuing my purpose full-time with no excuses. I am redefining that purpose one step at a time and enjoying life while doing it. Read more>>

Barythaya Lunsford

I got my start at Fallen Sparrow Tattoo Company in 2015. I was moral support for someone getting a tattoo. While I was there, I chatted with my (now) boss about how I’d always done art but was barred from pursuing it as a career option because of my parents. He handed me his tablet and told me I could doodle as I waited for the appointment to be over. At some point, I handed it back to him, and he mentioned that I had talent; he jokingly offered me an apprenticeship and I jokingly accepted. A few more offers and acceptances every time I came in, and eventually I decided to really come in. The rest is history. Now, just about six years later, I’ve grown my skill as both an Artist and Tattooer, and now I am opening a coffee business. I couldn’t be more grateful for such an experience to have changed my life the way it did. Read more>>

Haley Finegan

I started my career a little over five years ago, now the day after I passed my State Board test. I started off assisting in a salon while I was in hair school, sweeping up hair, washing hair, folding towels, you know the most glamorous part of the job. I immediately started working behind the chair and was astonished by the support I got from my family, friends and community. I found myself pretty heavily booked straight out of school (which is unheard of for most young and new stylists) I got to test my boundaries and push myself out of my comfort zone daily. I always had a passion for hairstyling and an undeniable love for makeup and at the time, I was doing small photography jobs on the side here and there just to get my foot in the door. A client of mine recommended a bridal hair and makeup company to me and told me that I should apply. So I made myself a resume with VERY large text to fill the page and the few photos I had and sent an email to the company explaining who I was and why I love what I do. The next day I got a phone call (that I honestly thought I was not going to get due to the aforementioned very small resume with very large font) from them asking me to come in for an interview. Read more>>

Lynette Maldonado

I have always enjoyed baking for my family since my teenage years, though I had never attempted to decorate any of my baked desserts. I came across cookie decorating purely by accident. My goddaughter’s second birthday was coming up and my sister-in-law showed me a Pinterest picture of some decorated cookies to match her theme and asked if I would give it a go! I said yes and began to practice right away. I made the same cookie design over and over and over for a month. When the birthday party finally came around, the cookies turned out quite nice! After that, word just began to spread and before I knew it, I had a home bakery in my hands and started taking orders. Now, although the idea of selling cookies came up by surprise, creating a business is a completely different story. Finding your niche, learning to market yourself and knowing every detail about your industry is very challenging and time-consuming. I have had the pleasure of serving Central Florida for the past five years and there is still something new to learn or adjust or implement from time to time. It is a very exciting and fulfilling adventure. Read more>>

Keywe Davis

I was in college when I found out I’m pregnant. I thought my world was over I was worried about money because I was on baby number 2. At only age 19, I needed to be able to provide for my children and immediately. So I decided I wanted to go back to school to become a Nail Tech 2011. Where I started my career as a Nail Tech. I got my license and started doing nails but only part-time. I felt so accomplished doing something I absolutely love. Then in 2013, I married the love of my life the so much attack us so hard at first to break us up. The first month of marriage was the worst month imaginable but through prayer and love and commitment, we made it. Not too long after, I soon found out I was pregnant again with my little angel born on Christmas, I knew then I would have to do whatever to provide for all of my children. So I worked two jobs and did nails and hair to make sure that my family was secure. But that wasn’t enough for me. I felt like the job was hurting me more than it was helping. No time for my children long hours and only little pay. To barely be able to make ends meet. Read more>>

Jennifer Lara

I have always been into the beauty world since I was in high school and have always wanted to own my own business. In 2010, I attended cosmetology school in NJ where I’m from. I worked as a salon assistant washing hair for minimum wage for a few and then got my first real job working for a shoe store in the local mall. In 2013, I got pregnant with my son and needed to leave my passion behind, I moved to Florida and got a more secure job working a 9-5 office job. For about 6/7 years, I worked hand in hand with the owner of construction companies as an executive assistant and built my knowledge of how to run a business that way. I was fired from my last job (which was a shock because I had never been fired before) and at that moment, I decided it was time for me to pursue my dreams and start my dream business. I invested my last paycheck in creating and LLC and took my very first lash class. My company officially was created in 2019 and it has been nothing less than a blessing since. Read more>>

Monica Leamy

I was first introduced to the Celebrity Impersonator industry back in 2005 as a Go Go dancer for an Austin Powers impersonator. His name is Greg Thompson and became a dear friend. After performing as a “side character” for several years, I started to pursue my own characters and although I didn’t get much work as her as a solo character, Gwen Stefani was always my favorite. When I started dating my husband, Jonathan, we had an opportunity to do a No Doubt event at the Tin Roof here in town and our tribute band was born. Read more>>

Lexington Martinez

Honestly, hair was the last career I wanted to get into. I’ve always since I was a young boy, wanted to be a fashion model and stylist. I use to study models and how they walked the runway when I was little. When I was 23, I barely was making money at the time and needed to figure out my situation. My very close friend at the time Samantha was enrolled at The Salon Professional Academy in Melbourne, FL. I had just lost my job at the time abs needed to find a career path. Fashion was just hard to get into if you didn’t have the right connections. I decided to get all dressed up and check out my option at TSPA. Randomly the owner of the school Kristen Kohl happened to be there and noticed my flashy style. She asked what I was doing there and I said checking out the vibe to see if I want to start classes for hair. She took me into the office and looked at me and said “I’m going to make you the best hairstylist I can.” She enrolled me to start school the following month February 11th. I had a love hate relationship with hair school. Some days I wanted to be the best I can so I can finally start making real money. Other days I wanted to quit and start a new career path. All the educators saw something special in me. Read more>>

Abigayle Conway

I’ve wanted to do hair since I was about three years old. Growing up, my Aunt was the one who really influenced me. She didn’t do hair, but she always pampered me, used Aveda products and taught me about what she knew about the beauty industry. She passed away when I was in 8th grade and I promised her I would follow my passion, hair. I knew right from high school I wanted to go straight into Brown Aveda Institute In Rocky River, Ohio. I was there for one year, five days a week, 9am-5pm. Always doing extra hours anytime I could. I genuinely loved learning about hair and wanted to soak up as much as I could! Six months into school, I became an intern at a beautiful salon in Ohio called Bella Capelli, that salon gave me the foundation I needed to be the stylist I am today. I had so many amazing stylists mentor me and show me all that they knew. Fast forward, I’ve been booth/suite renting for six years now having my own business. I jumped into booth renting way sooner than I should have (only two years in the industry) but I pushed myself to really work hard to get clients and keep them. I became super passionate about blondes and grew my clientele to about 290 clients in Ohio. Read more>>

Janae Ponder

I matriculated from head start all the way through to licensure as a licensed clinical social worker without any breaks in my educational journey. I suppose this is an indication that I am goal-driven and have been laser-focused on my journey. I am the oldest child and learned early on how to be autonomous, observant and that life would be tough. I knew that I had to be tougher. I am a first-generation college student. I got to where I am due to intentional parenting from a single mother, that desperately wanted to develop children that would represent the best parts of her. I have had several titles on the pursuit to excel beyond stereotypes. Some of my titles have been honor roll student, student ambassador, sorority sister, advisor, counselor, medical social worker, program therapist, mental health therapist, senior case manager, social worker, licensed insurance agent, sales associate, and cashier. No title has ever been grand enough for me to forget who I am simply as Janae. Through this journey, I have never forgotten the simplest yet most important parts of my identity. I was raised in Fort Lauderdale, FL with beautiful beaches, crime, and a solid community. I started out at a locally notorious childcare center called Four Star where I learned the valuable lesson of consequences and connectivity. Read more>>

Elaine Huang

My father was an acupuncturist; therefore, I was introduced to the world of Traditional Eastern Medicine at a very young age. My dad was born in Taiwan and migrated to the United States in the late 1960s. He lived in New York and later moved to Florida in the mid-1970s. He received training and education in Taiwan, China, and the USA. I was born in Orlando, FL. At the age of 12, I started shadowing him and helping him in his clinic. At the time, during the late 1980s, acupuncture needles were sterilized in an enclave. My brother and I were assigned the exciting task of soaking the needles in alcohol, sorting them to by size, and packaging them in foil to be ready to sterilize in the enclave. We also helped him wash glass cups, collate a 100-page handbook on acupuncture, and prepare foot soaks for his patients. One of my most memorable moments was watching my dad treat a dog that was suffering from arthritis. Being able to observe an animal receive acupuncture treatments was definitely an out of the ordinary experience. Read more>>

Ginny Botts

I am a fourth-generation Orlando native. My family has actually been in the state since the 1830’s and Central Florida since the 1870’s. I think it goes without saying that Orlando is home. While I was lucky enough to attend college in Nashville, TN at Vanderbilt, I could never imagine living anywhere else. After five years and two degrees, I moved back to my hometown and looked for ways that I could become a productive member of my community. The best way I knew how to help my community was through helping lift up others. I took a minor detour in my professional life to get a doctorate in education at UCF. For me, education is the only way to disrupt poverty and lift up not just one generation but multiple generations, creating a lasting positive impact on our region. I found Support our Scholars through my mom who mentioned it might be a good place for me to volunteer. I was lucky enough to mentor a brilliant young woman through her educational journey at the University of Florida. It is through that experience that I knew what my mission and purpose was in life – to create deep, meaningful relationships with the younger members of our community to help them succeed. Read more>>

Helen Pierrot

I started working at cosmetic stores when I was 19. After about a year or two in, I realized how much of a passion I had for makeup. Whether it was makeup applications or the products themselves, I was obsessed! I knew I did not want to work in retail for the rest of my life so I decided to start my own cosmetics line. Then Lenny P Cosmetics was birthed. I started pretty simple, mixing glitters and glosses out of my bedroom for just myself. Trying different colors and formulas to see what I lived best. What initiated as just a glitter line has now become a cosmetics line that carries a variety of glitters, glosses, pigments, lashes, and more. Read more>>

Tashea Richards

I started as a natural hair blogger with a website and Youtube channel in 2016. After a few years of building my brand, I found myself more beneficial to help other influencers and brands dominate social and create a magnetic brand. Read more>>

Genesis Perez

My passion for makeup came from watching my mother get ready and match her makeup with her clothes. Later on It was often I found myself using all the makeup and fashion tips my mom passed down to me. I was naturally attracted to makeup and fashion. In 2015 I suffered an ectopic pregnancy, which led to an emergency surgery and I was on bed rest for a while. I laid in bed for weeks, depressed, watching YouTube makeup videos. I started staying up late and recreating makeup looks. During this time, my husband played a huge role and always encouraged me to follow my dreams. He saw the difference makeup artistry made in my life. It wasn’t long before my friends and family were requesting for me to do their makeup. Read more>>

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