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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.

Carlos Noriega

Have you ever heard of being in the right place at the right time? I’m that guy. My wife compares me to the “Slum Dog Millionaire” character that goes through life jumping from adventure to adventure. My mother immigrated to San Antonio from Reynosa Mexico in search of my father. He’d come here many years earlier and the letters and money had stopped coming. With an address in her hand and three kids, including me, the oldest at 4 years old, she brought us to a new country where everyone talked funny and we were not allowed to play outside. Growing up in San Antonio’s West side and living in the public housing project represented a fork in the road for me. Read more>>

Tanisha Massenberg

Unfortunately, a brief domestic violence situation sent me into a depression. And as a result, I lost my massage job. At the time it was the highest I had been paid. ($45 an hour) Most people would be bummed, but I was excited. I was happy to mentally take a break from life and come back stronger. I started my mobile massage job immediately and launched in 2020. One month before the pandemic started. Fast forward 2 years, and I work for myself making $90 an hour and serving so many amazing clients. And the gag is, I’m still undercharging. So it’s only up from here. But I’m loving the journey of stepping out on faith to build a personal brand. You don’t have to know what you’re doing, you just have to believe you can do it and that it will work! Read more>>

Natalie Alves

Originally from Ohio, I grew up with a lot of creativity and what my dad coined as “big ideas.” As a kid, I was very observant of what was around me and loved to see clever, thoughtful ideas come to life in unique forms. I went to college at the University of Cincinnati not really knowing what graphic design was but giving it a shot. I immediately fell in love. My program (DAAP) allowed me to take semesters off classes and work as a full-time intern, giving me a lot of real-world experience. Upon graduation, I moved to San Antonio and worked for a small advertising agency. Read more>>

LoLo Jennings

I begin my nutrition and fitness journey on a personal level when I was in my mid 30s. At a point when I was severely overweight at 245lbs and had chronic diabetes. In order to manage the impact diabetes had on my body I was on four different types of insulin‘s and even had an insulin pump at one point. It wasn’t until I got sick and tired of not being able to move, barely tie my own shoes, had no energy, suffered from depression, and all of the other things that come along with being unhealthy that I decided to take matters in my own hands. With the support of my doctor I eliminated all pharmaceutical drugs from my regimen and decided for myself that I could heal my own body. Read more>>

Sharon Ballenger

Health is something that we often take for granted, until we lose it. For me, choosing to become vegan was easy and authentic to me. It was something that was in alignment with my personal values, as well as with my health and my career as an Ayurvedic Practitioner. But finding vegan in a world that thrives on the consumption of meat and animal byproducts, that was a completely different story. I struggled every time we went out to eat or met with family or friends for lunch or dinner. I just could not find foods or meals that were ethical, sustainable or organically produced. I got tired of hearing “you can just order a salad” and I was also exhausted with the constant jokes and hypocrisies about being vegan. So, I began experimenting on my own, at home. Read more>>

Sarah Sanville

In 2018, Jim and I purchased our first travel trailer for weekend camping trips in Texas with the kids. We made some great memories but quickly decided we needed a big upgrade for the next phase of life! We then purchased a 2014 KZ Spree Bunkhouse that we lived in for 5 months while we finished construction on our new home. Because Jim was the contractor and we did most of the labor ourselves on the house, it was important for us to have the kids close by while we were working long hours on the house. Having our camper on site allowed us to do this. Read more>>

Leanne King

I left home (Maine) and joined the U.S. Air Force at 18. After 10 years on active duty, six relocations and 5 degrees it seemed like it was a good time to get out. I always say “joining the Air Force was the best decision I ever made. Getting out was the second.” My husband and I were both from colder climates and had not desire to return to the winter weather. Randolph Air Force Base was the last place I was stationed so this is where we stayed. I landed a corporate HR position within days of starting terminal leave from the military. I then climbed the ladder increasing my HR experience and business savvy with each new role. Read more>>

Eva Pohler

A native of San Antonio, I attended East Central High School, where I participated in the Gifted and Talented Program, allowing me to write plays, short stories, and poetry at an early age. I earned my Bachelor of Arts in English at Trinity University, where I took courses in creative writing. This love for the written word continued to grow at St. Mary’s University, where I completed my Master of Arts in English before finally leaving my hometown to earn my Ph.D. in English at Texas Tech University. Over the years, I taught writing and literature at various universities in San Antonio, including St. Mary’s, the University of Texas, and Trinity, and wrote stories as a hobby until 2012, when I self-published my first book. Read more>>

Kenny Lindsey

Started by going to events and parties and thinking to myself that I can do that too! I went to a couple of bad events in vegas, where they had a shit ton of people there but the music was terrible…at that point I started teaching myself how to dj. Then I started working my way from the bars to the clubs with help from places like the Basement, Burnhouse, Lush (now known as DZIR) that helped build my brand and name. Definitely didn’t start of smooth, very irritating learning how to DJ at first but once you get good at it, it’s muscle memory! Also the busiest as side of DJing can for sure be tricky if you don’t fully understand the game. Read more>>

Hilda Stevens

Life as an Import Beer Manager sound glamorous and while I do feel like my job is a hobby, I also do the grind that all marketing and sales professionals experience in their daily work schedule. My passion was always to travel the world so I majored in International Business and Marketing from St Mary’s University in San Antonio. I worked my way up the ladder in software sales until the 2008 recession. At that point I had to choose whether to stay in software sales or follow my passion. So in 2009 while living in Porltand, OR, I dusted that Business Plan I wrote in Graduate School, made some tweaks with the assistance of a mentor and eventually opened a Belgian Bistro – Bazi Bierbrasserie. Read more>>

Babrara Kerford

Thankyou for giving me the opportunity to take about my business. A San Antonio native, I’ve been a Reiki and Integrated Energy Therapy (IET) Practitioner for around 15 years, I started getting interested in energy work, angels, and regression work when I was living in LA and a friend of my mom’s introduced us to Abraham Hicks and Law of Attraction work, from there we went down the metaphysical rabbit hole so to speak. Over those 15 years, I learned a variety of energy work techniques. Flash forward to 3 years ago when one of my friends suggested we start a business doing aura photos, the combination of my years of doing energy work modalities blended perfectly with aura photography since it gave me a background to understanding more about our energetic systems. Read more>>

Serena Cukjati

After graduating from college, I began working as a personal trainer for a gym where I quickly found I had a knack for generating new clients. After a while, I decided it was time to see what kind of career I could really make for myself in the fitness industry so I left the gym in 2012 to start my own in-home personal training business. Over the next 10 years I would learn so much about myself, about business and I eventually truly fell in love with the world of working completely for yourself. However, after almost 12 years in the fitness industry, I felt myself feeling less excited, less motivated about my work. Read more>>

Dr. Ivan Edwards

Born in Kampala, Uganda, I emigrated to the US in 1988–arriving here with a dream to create a future I envisioned for a long time: to be in a position to channel hope and healing to those who needed it. I was a minister then (a lad) and started off in ministry in NH. I participated in getting sponsorships for primary education for orphans in Uganda. But that wasn’t enough for me. The burden of seeing many sick people without access to basic healthcare prompted me to train to become a doctor–and, in so doing, become a better avenue to meet a greater cross section of people with need. A call to service. A call I answered gladly. Thus, I embarked on the long path of becoming a medical doctor, a path that required focus, discipline, and commitment. Read more>>

amber rodriguez

I always loved photography but I got my first camera when my first son was born in 2012. It started off as a hobby and then soon after Amber Denise Photography was born in 2014. I upgraded my equipment and had sessions on the weekends as I was working full time at a dental office. My business began growing so I decided to go full time. I recently graduated photography school this year and got my LLC. I have since then been published in various magazines! I never thought my business would become a six figure photography business. Read more>>

Davina Rocha

I never imagined I’d be a entrepreneur. Growing up I actually wanted to be a police officer or judge and I went to college for Criminal Justice. I guess God had other plans for my life. 2020 hit me like a pile of bricks. I was a new stay at home mother of 3 (at the time), and I was adjusting to the recent diagnosis of one of our son’s having significant developmental delays and additional needs. I was struggling to balance being a young wife and mother and I found myself in a fragile yet complex time in life. March of that year I remember sitting stunned as I learned of the news about our nation’s mandated quarantine as Covid was already spreading like wildfire. Read more>>

Bonnie Gonzo

I wanted more than what was being offered. As a teenager, I felt like i was constantly trying to beat the statistic of who I was supposed to be, and that if I didn’t follow this path I was doomed to fail. But that didn’t phase me, I love art, this was something I was very passionate about and I wasn’t going to change that for anyone. I practiced, and practiced for years, trying to eventually muster up the courage to start selling, but I would get intimidated, and insecure. I kept telling myself, “wait another year”, and so I did. Read more>>

Thomas Jimenez

I started singing when I was a little kid, but I was always afraid to sing In front of people. That all changed when I got into high school choir. My senior year of high school I had a lot of solo performances for the choir concerts, I fell in love with singing in front of people, and sharing my talent. After I graduated I wanted to continue my singing career, so I picked up the guitar when I was 18. Soon after that I played my first live performance outside of choir. I played at “Rebecca creek distillery”, I had a lot of fun ,and wanted to continue. I played at other places, with the help of my good friend JoBlake Young, and his son Christian, they would invite my to play with them to get experience. Read more>>

Donna Schilling

Like it did for so many people, the Covid pandemic changed our lives. My husband worked for one of the local school districts as a High School Behavioral Specialist which required him to visit numerous campuses every week and interact directly with staff and students (sometimes in a physical capacity). He contracted Covid in December of 2020. We went through quite a scare as he has a number of serious health issues and after 3 hospitalizations, we realized we had to rethink our future. Herschel’s health was more important than anything else, and as he was suffering lingering effects on his lungs, we knew he could not return to work. Read more>>

Darrell Gunter

My story began as a young boy in my father’s kitchen in Virginia. I was reared by a single father, “Big Larry”, with the help of my grandmother “Lois”. Growing up, I remember my love of being the kitchen creating meals using various groceries found in our cabinets and refrigerator. They were many trials and errors (lol) but though those trials I found my love for baking. With the help of my grandmother, my first dessert I learned to bake was a boxed lemon cake. As time progressed and my skills sharpened, I graduated to making boxed cheesecakes with cherries or strawberries. Read more>>

Edgar Sandoval

I started my newspaper career from the bottom, to quote that modern poet Drake. While I was attending the University of Texas Pan-American (now UTRGV), I wrote obituaries on the weekends for The Monitor, a newspaper in the border city of McAllen. I quickly began contributing to breaking and enterprise reporting. (I also worked two other side gigs) Shortly after graduating from college, I was one of eight (then) young journalists accepted for a very competitive fellowship for journalists of color at the Los Angeles Times. More than a 100 applied and we underwent a series of tests and interviews, until eight of us were left standing. Read more>>

27 Alone

Yo, what’s up my name is Nicholas Cade Sala aka 27Alone I’m a 17-year -old artist from New Braunfels Texas making my city known been on Hot97, HipHopDx got discovered by lil baby at 15 after he heard me on Hot97 got co-signed to Famous Dex And did a track with Dex I was originally born in Orange Tx. Since the young age of 6, I fell in love with the craft and the power of music, how it tells a story of someone’s life and hardship and how it tells the world’s problems. and how it connects people I was writing my lyrics without using beats or recording from the age of 6 to 9 years old when I turned 11 years old my dad gave me a big ultimatum stay in orange where you can still see your mom or move to new Braunfels and live with your grandparents. Read more>>

Roxana Marines

The idea behind PlushPicnics210 started in the peek of the pandemic spring of 2020. With everything being closed and the city on lockdown, I had to find ways to keep my kids entertained. As a single mom, I would take my kids to parks or somewhere I could find a good scenery and would set up a picnic for us. It really started to be our thing and something we enjoyed doing. From there, I really wanted to expand on what people thought of picnics into something more luxurious. I started providing services for any occasion, anniversaries, birthdays, date night, proposals, you name it, we can do it. Read more>>

Kai FaKtor

My name is Kai Ofari Moolenaar also known as Kai Faktor. I was born and raised in the US Virgin Islands on the beautiful island of St. Croix. Being raised in the Virgin Islands exposes you to its very diverse and multi culture environment. This gave me the opportunity to experience different races, foods and music. Music having the biggest impact on my life. Started when I was nine years old, my twin brother and I created this multi-genre group call K-Faktor. After years of performing and opening up for great talents like the Disney Cheetah girls and R.City, we eventually separated to pursue different careers. Read more>>

Tammy Dominguez

After many years in management (in retail and collision repair), I was so sick and so tired of the corporate life. I literally dreamed of a day where I owned MY business, worked hard to make MY business successful, built an incredible empire based on MY dedication and MY commitment to succeed. I dreamt of all this, PLUS I held tight to my core desire to truly serve and build connections with people. I also really wanted more time freedom (for my family and myself) and the ability to decide when and where my time was best spent. Although at the time I had no idea how much Real Estate would fulfill my ambitious dreams, I knew it was a start! Read more>>

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