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Hidden Gems: Local Businesses & Creatives You Should Know

Every day we have a choice. We can support an up and coming podcaster, try a new family-run restaurant, join a boutique gym started by a local fitness champ or we could keep giving away our money to the handful of giants who already control so much of our commerce. Our daily decisions impact the kind world we live in; if we want a world where small businesses are growing and artists and creatives are thriving then we should support them with our time, money and attention. We’re proud to highlight inspiring creatives and entrepreneurs each week in Hidden Gems series.  Check out some of our latest local gem features below.

Rachel Ndembera

My husband Daniel and I founded Sloane’s Ride after our daughter Sloane passed away from complications associated with congenital heart defects (CHD) in 2017. I recently heard grief referred to as a tunnel although it feels like a cave. So we ask ourselves: How do we celebrate Sloane’s life and simultaneously grieve for her loss? A couple of years ago, I was rocking my son (Sloane’s twin brother) to sleep, as all parents of young children do, and thought that it would be fun to hold a bike ride in honor of Sloane’s life. First of all, bikes are fun. Secondly, my heart is whole and my body is strong so why not use it? Coming from a science background, I wanted the funds raised to support CHD research and started down the Google rabbit hole searching “who funds CHD research”.  Read more>>

Brandy Simpkins

I am a local Writer/Journalist and Spoken Word Artists who developed her craft and confidence in college. I attended Savannah State University where I obtained my BA in English Language and Literature and was a Board member of W.O.R.D. (Way of Real Discovery) poetry organization on campus. I attribute much of my success to my full-ride academic scholarship which enabled me to complete school comfortably. My support group within campus gates was strong. Read more>>

Lilly Yan

Growing up, I always loved music. I vividly remember creating a concert for my mom and sister when I was probably around 8 or 9. I don’t remember them applauding afterward though… I always loved reading books and immersing myself in fictional times and places. The writing was always a part of me as well. I had a diary and would constantly write in it. Around 15, was when I picked up the acoustic guitar and taught myself how to play it. After I finally got basic chords down, I started incorporating my voice into it. I would lock myself in my room for hours practicing and singing my favorite songs. I eventually started playing and singing in church and doing mic nights. I finally started doing solo music in 2018 with my first single ‘Daydreamin’ and I was extremely self-conscious about putting it out, but it was like a now or never type thing for me. Read more>>

Kita and Sally

Sally and I have been friends since the dawn of time – or at least the dawn of the millennia… we met in a class for entrepreneurs and were fast friends. We bonded over sarcasm and when I heard her Australian accent, well, I was toast. I was hooked on her every word, and she liked my American-ness. In 2006, Sally moved to Oregon and left me here in Southern, CA. We have kept in close touch this whole time and remained with each other’s ride or die. So, when the idea of starting a podcast came about during my monster of a commute, years ago, I knew it had to be Sally to do this with. Read more>>

Maria Papalia-Meier

I went into Septic Shock in June of 2014. I had undiagnosed strep throat and the infection entered my bloodstream. I spent two weeks in a medically induced coma and a little over seven weeks total between the hospital and rehab. As a result of the Pressor Drugs I was given, in October of 2014, I had my toes amputated. As a runner, before I got sick, I worked really hard to start running again, even when the doctors told me I wouldn’t. To date, I have run 2 1/2 marathons and I have just completed an application to run the Chicago Marathon in 2022.
I have started a website #thetoelessrunner, so I could spread awareness about Sepsis as well as to help encourage others to reach their goals. I believe we can accomplish anything once we remove the obstacles that we believe stand in our way. More often than not those obstacles are excuses. Read more>>

Bre’Ann Jame

Ever since I was little, I had an interest in skin and hair. I think that came from my mother being a cosmetologist. While in high school, I still loved makeup and hair, but had picked up the idea of nursing and was set on that being my career. After starting college, I soon learned that my love for hair, skin and makeup was much bigger. I decided to change my major to Cosmetology, with many people telling me I would be better off staying in the medical field and beginning my new journey. While in Cosmetology school, I found my love for the skin. I got detailed guidance with waxing techniques, skin anatomy, and different facial techniques in my facial classes. This pushed me into the esthetics world even further. Read more>>

Stephanie Maupin

It’s really quite simple… We fell in love with a house. The story started the same as so many… Two college sweethearts fall in love and get married. They dream about their future together, children, a home near the water, pets, travel, and one that they truly just threw out as an idea to own a wedding venue. All of those dreams came true in beautiful and unexpected ways and when we least expected them. ​ Then in 2018, we were scouring homes for sale when we found her. On our very first tour of the estate, we knew she would be ours. Or truly, we would be hers. You see, this home was built before we even existed, and it is our hope that she will last long after we cease to exist. We are just the caretakers of this piece of paradise for this moment in time. Read more>>

Amber Hasan

Hi, my name is Amber Unique Hasan and I am the “UNIQUE” in Unique’s Sugar Bistro. I am a Beatrice, Alabama-born and raised self-taught baker and US Army Veteran. I specialize in custom buttercream cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and more. As a child, my late aunt, Luvern taught me my way around the kitchen. She wasn’t a baker but she was an amazing cook. From that point on, I enjoyed cooking for my family and friends. Cheesecake. That is what started it all. Cheesecake has always been one of my favorite desserts. One day, I saw a video on how to make them and I was like that seems so easy. Let me try. It came out amazing! I made them for friends and they went on to convince me to start selling them to others within our community. Read more>>

Ashley Williams

I began my personal yoga practice in 2013 after experiencing immense grief due to the passing of my aunt from cancer. This introduction to yoga sparked inner connection and healing that led to a desire to introduce the principles and practices of yoga to my community, including friends, family, social, and work environments. I completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2013, and in 2015-2017, I attended the Maryland University of Integrative Health to earn a Master of Science in Yoga Therapy. Read more>>

Robert Hile

I love food. I love to eat. But most of all, I love cooking; and especially, cooking for friends and family. What started out as helping mom get dinner ready eventually became my hobby, my passion, and then it became my career as a professional executive chef for many, many years- I became immersed into the Creole and Cajun traditions of Louisiana, the barbecue and meat smoking techniques of Texas and Tennessee, the rich soul food traditions of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, the low country style of South Carolina, and the Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American blending of influences, and an incredible variety of seafood in Florida cuisine. Read more>>

Hunter Molock

I grew up, like many artists, being told that art was only a hobby and the result in perusing it would be a career as a “starving artist”. So all my life, I believed I would become a marine biologist or a conservationist. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school in my second art class -ever- that my art teacher expressed her concerns that I wouldn’t be happy in STEM and that I should apply to at least one art school. So I did. It wasn’t until I received my acceptance letter in the mail that I realized how desperately I wanted this. I just needed someone in my life to say it was okay to pursue art and that I could be successful. I will say, it was a risk choosing an art degree over the sciences. I’m the first in my family to go to college so I felt immense personal pressure to succeed and to feel the validation of my own choices. Read more>>

Laura Morales

Since I was very young, I loved being in the kitchen. I remember propping myself up on a chair -so I could reach the countertops- to help prepare family meals. Helping with desserts was always my favorite part! By the time I could reach the countertops, I was coming up with my own recipes and giving them out at school. My teachers became big fans and would come to me at recess excited to see what I brought for the day. After I graduated college, I realized I wanted to pursue baking as a career and work towards having my own business. I started working at a local bakery to learn from experienced bakers and sharpen my skills. During 2020, I was baking almost every day at home and I had a desire to share my baked goods with others. I started looking into the Georgia food laws and how to start a baking business from home. Read more>>

Jonae Young

I have always wanted to go into business and be my own boss. After contemplating, I just took the leap of faith with my mom and grandma, to start the process and get my business up and rolling!!! Read more>>

Arianna Wellmoney

I always wanted to be an actor in the US – I am from Italy and as a kid, I would watch American TV shows and movies and knew I wanted to act in them. Seeing big-budget productions, movie sets, expensive locations and my favorite actors going from a comedy role to a dramatic one was the life I wanted to pursue. I participated in school plays as much as I could but unfortunately, the arts and clubs are not funded in schools in Italy (often they don’t exist at all) like they are in the US. So, I tried to learn English as much as I could and would try to recreate scenes from TV shows in my free time from homework. In high school, I took professional acting classes and filmed some short movies with my friends. In my senior year, I applied to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City – I got in with two scholarships and I was able to make my dream come true. It’s now almost been seven years since I moved to this country and five years from graduating from acting school. It’s been a rollercoaster but I would not change a thing. Read more>>

Mary Holstein

After high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. My mom told me to work temp jobs until I figured it out. My grandmother use to massage my feet and told me about the reflexology points. Then, I became intrigued with massage and essential oils. My mother saw my interests and told me to take a couple of tours of local massage schools. The school was called the Academy of Somatic Healing Arts in Norcross, Georgia. I signed up instantly and graduated at the age of 21. My first job was at Spa Sydell in Alpharetta, GA where I worked for 5 years. I worked at different day spas, chiropractic offices, and I decided to audition for a cruise ship spa job in Honolulu, Hawaii. The training I had in Honolulu was for 8 weeks before I started my cruise ship job. Read more>>

Pareet Shah

I was born and brought up in Mombasa, Kenya living such an outdoors lifestyle. Then, I moved to London for my further studies and met the love of my life there. I stayed back in London for 20 years – working in various multinationals in Finance roles. After spending 20 years in London, we as a family decided to move back to Kenya to give our children the same outdoor lifestyle as we had, and the rest is history!I was born and brought up in Mombasa, Kenya living such an outdoors lifestyle. Then, I moved to London for my further studies and met the love of my life there. I stayed back in London for 20 years – working in various multinationals in Finance roles. After spending 20 years in London, we as a family decided to move back to Kenya to give our children the same outdoor lifestyle as we had, and the rest is history! Read more>>

Lalindra De Silva

Born and raised in Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean known for its famous Ceylon Tea and Spicy seafood, looking back I never have imagined what life or you can call it fate (whichever you like) would have in store for me! Being the only child in the family and raised as an urban kid, never did I dream I would end up on the East Coast of Africa. Since my teenage years, I always had a keen eye for numbers. As a result, I entered the world of Finance and never looked back. Read more>>

William Deane

Started working as a dishwasher in high school. Watching the cooks working and the hectic environment caught my attention. After a few days, I realized that I wanted to pursue being a cook as a career. Then in my junior year of high school, I dual-enrolled in a Trade school called Fort Myers Technical College for Culinary Arts. Graduated in 2015 and immediately moved to Savannah Georgia. Worked in a few restaurants and at a country club and learned as much as I could from others and their experience. Then in 2018, I began working at Alligator Soul as the Executive Chef. Read more>>

Ashley Harvey

Hello, I am Ashley! I have always been active. Growing up, I was a competitive athlete. I played basketball and ran track, so I was always working out. I was training with my team or my family, so it was a fun and social activity, so it never felt like working out. I stopped playing sports in college, but I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science with the hopes of becoming a physical therapist. I fell in love with moving my body again through many different types of fitness activities. It was then that I decided I wanted to be on the preventative side of health and fitness. Instead of being a physical therapist and helping people recover, I wanted to help people prevent injuries and learn how to create healthier lifestyles to prevent poor health. That is when I decided to get into personal training. Read more>>

Jayne Chaplin

I’m Jayne Chaplin, CEO, and Creator of BUNDTiful Treats! I love making sweet yummy treats. I am a native of North Carolina. Born and raised in a small town outside of Greensboro. I’ve lived in the Savannah, GA area for eight years. My husband and I have been married for five years. It’s always been a passion of mine to own my own business. After being furloughed because of the pandemic, I decided to go full-time on my own. I’m also a Home-Based Travel Agent as well as a Life Insurance Agent. However, baking is a love I can’t give up. The passion for it goes deeper for me. The birth of BUNDtiful Treats was created for my love and passion for baking and the infectious smiles I see when someone takes a bite into my creations. Read more>>

Monique Gulley

My journey within the hair world started as young as twelve years old. My mother; Lennell A. Gulley, was my greatest influence with starting hair. She battled a rare disease called, Huntington’s disease, which lead to her teaching me how to nurture and style our hair. Due to her not being able, I would soon become my mother’s protégé. Performing at-home perms and trims on her as well as myself. I felt it was only right to name my brand after my late mother who passed when I was only 16 years old. Read more>>

Ashley Ramey

My name is Ashley and I am the founder of Hello Weekend & Co. In 2012, I started my first blog, Ashley’s Closet, with the desire to post about affordable fashions and styles for girls my age. After a few years passed, I found that I wanted to write and share more than just fashion. Right after graduating as a Journalism major in 2014, I immediately started working in New York City. I started out in the entertainment business, so I was engulfed in the fashion and beauty world on a daily basis. Between the long hours and constant hustle and bustle, like most people, I would count down the days for when Friday came around. Whether you have plans for a night out, have to work, make brunch plans with girlfriends or catch up on some Zzz’s – weekends bring different meanings to everyone. Read more>>

Stephen Gachibi

Safiri is a Swahili word that means Travel. Our story begins in 2017 when I organized for a group of my friends to go on Safari to Kenya for a vacation. On our return to Australia, they asked me to organize a return trip as they experienced an adventure of a lifetime. I discovered that holidays to East Africa from Australia were not very popular and were not being promoted and given the exposure they deserve. What a golden opportunity! Read more>>

Matt Lutz

I’m the Founder and CEO of Music Benefactors, an SEC-registered investment platform for independent recording artists and music businesses. The platform enables artists to fund projects by partnering with music fans and investors. Unlike contracts with major record labels, artists keep their intellectual property (master recordings and copyrights) while investors share the income the projects generate. Signing with a major record label is often viewed as the holy grail for up-and-coming recording artists. Unfortunately, the reality is much different for many artists who sign label “deals”. Read more>>

Stacy King

My husband and I love to entertain and I always have charcuterie boards for my friends to enjoy while hosting get-togethers. One day, I had a friend casually say you need to start your own business doing charcuterie boards. I laughed thinking yeah, ok, then she kept talking seriously about it. Well, that got me thinking. Can I actually turn something I love to do into a business? Yes! Yes, I can! Shortly after that conversation, I started Southern Charcuterie! It’s been a little over a year now and I’m pleasantly surprised and overwhelmed with gratitude that I’ve been successful in such a short amount of time. Read more>>

Katie Chapman

I’ve always been interested in art, but there have been times where I’d find myself walking away from it or putting other things first. I love to draw, paint and create in general, but it wasn’t until recently that I really felt comfortable and confident in my career path and with my work. Attending the Savannah College of Art and Design was a difficult decision for me, and I’m extremely grateful for the journey I’ve been on since I made that decision. Becoming an illustrator wasn’t easy for me. I changed my major a few times, thought about leaving art school, and put my work through drastic changes. But, I’m glad to say being here in Savannah surrounded by so many other creatives, I’ve been able to discover my love for surface design and repeat patterns. I’ve discovered what I really love to do. Read more>>

Joshua Jones

I started my first business right out of high school. (Back Story) I was a 2x state champion boxer with an undefeated record of 10-0. I thought my only shot in life would come from turning pro… that never happened. I was lost and drifting through life, so decided to go to college and get a job. Halfway through my first semester, I was failing all my classes and rarely showed up to school. Then, one teacher Mr. Bird gave us a writing assignment he told us “write about what you know” I didn’t do the assignment but it did give me an idea! It was the first time I realized I could still be in the boxing world without being a fighter, from this Gym Junkie LLC was born. Read more>>

Betty Laurent

After photographing my four daughters for many years with films and decided to open my business and switch to digital. In 2010. Early on, I knew I wanted to focus on maternity and newborns. I grew up on the French Island Reunion until the age of 10 and even after moving back to the mainland in France, I lived by a very large river, I have always been drawn to water and the ocean, and I think growing up on the island influence my affinity for vivid color and light. Which shaped the photographer that I am and my draw to photographing motherhood by the ocean. I also adore babies and have such a passion for photographing them in my studio. Read more>>

Wellington Carvalho

My name is Wellington Carvalho, but everyone calls me, Well. I was born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil but have called Atlanta home for the past few years. Photography came into my life at a time where I needed to express my creativity somehow. Back in Brazil, I could easily do that through music, playing drums but couldn’t do that here. ​I’ve always loved photography! I would take photos on my phone and play around with editing but never took that seriously until my wife gave me a camera set for Christmas, and the rest is history! I fell in love with the street, landscape, and aerial photography, and that’s where I can best express myself as a photographer. Read more>>

Courtney Dye

Growing up in a military family, I got started with traveling at a young age. It, mixed with photography, has been a huge passion of mine for many years. When I was nine, I was lucky enough to be moved overseas to Naples, Italy at a Naval Base there. My mother came home shortly after my ninth birthday and told us basically to start packing. As a nine-year-old who had, up until that point, could only remember Virginia Beach and the surrounding area as the home it was terrifying to have to pick up. Sure, I had been moved around a lot as a toddler, but I can barely remember any of that. Shortly after arriving in Italy, I guess about two months later, 9/11 happened. Read more>>

Susan Zurenda

I have always liked to write and was a voracious reader throughout my childhood and adolescence, but I didn’t consider becoming an author until college when I became interested in journalism and was the co-editor of my college newspaper. A great deal of my time and energy during my youth was devoted to the piano. I entered college as a music major, but a class I took in Southern Literature began to change my direction. At some point, I realized I loved reading and writing about literature more than I wanted to be a piano major (though I love music and am grateful for all that I learned during my many years of devotion to playing the piano). Read more>>

Ranjit Arul Singh

Storytelling gives me joy. I’ve been involved with the process of storytelling one way or the other from my age 5. It was fun to be on stage and performing in dramas, variety shows. But later, I realized that stories create an impact on the audience and they do influence in some way. That is when I decided that I should be telling stories my entire life. I want to tell stories that are unique and show light in the dark. Storytelling has been a part of life, so far and I want it to be a part of me forever. Read more>>

Emerald Arguelles

I started photography as a journey for individualism, and I feel that I evolve with every shoot. I started shooting concerts at first, and then, I found much more enjoyment and self-fulfillment from building concepts and executing them. I believe I got to where I am today by always pushing forward and allowing myself always to learn and be inspired. Read more>>

Carrie Cochran

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 7 years old. I spent countless hours of my elementary-year summers hunched over our old word processor, writing little stories that I was so proud of. But back then, no one thought of writing as a career. If you got lucky and sold a novel or became a journalist it was doable. But it wasn’t a realistic goal for me. However, my love of writing continued and grew throughout high school, and I was motivated even more after winning several state and regional writing competitions through my school. For a short time, I truly believed that I could make something of myself as a writer. But when the time came to go to college, that dream was cut off. Read more>>

David Zelski

After internships ranging from MTV/VH1 in New York to helping with production projects all around Georgia, I finally found a home at Georgia Public Broadcasting in 2000. My first job was reporting for a live 7 pm newscast called “Lawmakers”. We accurately covered the bills that were being discussed and debated in the Georgia General Assembly. This final internship really threw me into the fire since, at the time, I knew next to nothing about how a bill becomes a law. This internship eventually led to a full-time job with the network, and over time I was able to enhance my reporting/producing skills, along with videography and editing. Six years later, my mentor and Managing Editor, Gerald Bryant along with Executive Producer Ashlie Wilson approached me about producing “Georgia Traveler” with them, and the rest is history. Read more>>

Katrina Armstrong

How I got started… well, I was born and raised in South Carolina… Charleston for the first eight years, then to Hardeeville. I came to Savannah for college then ventured off to a few different states and countries while in the Navy. I vowed to never live in the Lowcountry again… but love brought me back and I am enjoying every minute of it. I will jump right into my passion. Since a little girl, I have always cared about my clothes and overall appearance. My mom started this love by shopping at the “one of one” boutique for me as a little girl. Read more>>

Robb Underwood

Rather than growing out of the normal path most video production companies rise from, Stories and Stills can trace its roots back to the field of school counseling. In the spring of 2015, I was working as a school counselor and noticed that there were little to no solid video resources for counselors to use with their students and schools. After hours and hours of research and sifting through the internet with no results, I finally decided to stop relying on others and instead created my own videos. And, by that summer, I landed a publishing deal with the nation’s largest counseling resource company to have the videos sold on DVD. Once that project was complete, we had officially caught the video production bug and decided to start an official video production and photography company. Read more>>

Dr. Gina Prince

Eighteen years ago is when my life completely changed. I had spent 20 plus years of my life smoking crack and working in the sex industry. God changed my life eighteen years ago and I have never turned back. I became an ordained Apostle shortly afterward, wrote three books, Co-Authored one, started a Podcast with Charisma Podcast Network, and an internet radio show called Dr. Gina’s Radio Chat with BBS Radio Station. God is amazing! During all of this, I managed to get, by the leading and the grace of God, a Ph.D. in Theology, a Master’s in Counseling, 6 Certifications, Fitness, and a Real Estate License. I could never have done any of this without God! Read more>>

2Benjii

My story started in Atlanta, GA. But my journey rose to another level once I arrived in Savannah, GA in the year 2017. It all started at Savannah State University’s “Way Of Real Discovery” Open Mic. A non-profit performing arts organization held on campus. I attended one open mic and fell in love after that, Being among other talented creatives like myself and being able to take part in these creative events put me in a new space. The dopamine I would get from consistently wanting to do better each time I attended an open mic or attended an organizational event that allowed performing was unmatched. It got to a point where I had to join the organization, once I joined my life took another turn. I was now in a group of creatives who all shared the same vision, like our own modern-day Motown Records. From participating to hosting various creative writing workshops, artist showcase events, meetings, leadership development, and more it all got me to the point I am now. Read more>>

Leslie Lovell

I’m originally from North Carolina. I partially grew up on a farm when I was young which is where my sister and I got to run free, make mud pies, and work the summers barning tobacco. I primarily picked up the fallen tobacco leaves, was covered in snuff from all the bee stings, and learned how to drive a tractor at 13. I went to a very small boarding school and my first two years of college in the NC mountains, then graduating from the University of Alabama with a major in communications in 1983. Read more>>

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