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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.

Ashleigh Lemon

With a degree in conservation science and biology, I spent most of my early career as a senior biology specialist at Scotts Miracle-Gro in Research and Development. Many hours were spent growing ornamental flowers, vegetables, and herbs in the greenhouses and research fields. My love of plants and gardening stemmed from being in the gardens with my grandparents since I could crawl. I started Lemon Garden Designs in May of 2020, right as Covid was in full swing. I was working on the container gardens I had put in for many years at the restaurant, Red Brick Tap and Grill, across the street when someone came up to me and asked for my business card because they loved the work, I always did there… well… I, of course, did not have one yet, as Lemon Garden Designs was just a seed in my mind after that encounter. Read more>>

Amy Hoying

I started as a volunteer with 2nd & 7 when my kids were very young. Three friends from college started 2nd & 7 in 1999, at a time when we were all getting married, starting families and careers. I was working in a corporate job and knew that I would not be able to continue in that role after my children were born. I wanted to do something meaningful that allowed me to balance work and family. In those early years of 2nd & 7, we had no employees and relied heavily on interns and volunteers to implement our program. Read more>>

Jamon Sellman

When I relocated to this community, I found that I was naturally drawn to rehabilitation of these beautiful historic buildings. As I learned about what it takes to re-energize a sleepy downtown, and seeing other towns that have done the same, I decided this was something I wanted to take on. My goal with the Loft projects, improving retail and food service spaces, and Urbana brewing Co is to reinvent this downtown… to make it into a desirable destination as it once was. Of course, not ha! My background in construction was in Engineered Wood Products. I was involved in 90% new construction. Read more>>

Melissa Bracken

My name is Melissa Bracken, and I have been creating art my entire life. I was inspired by my grandmother, who taught me to sew, and I took her guidance and attended art school in Cincinnati. After graduating from the Art Academy of Cincinnati, I wanted to continue to make sculpture. But, after graduation, I took a side step into the corporate retail world and spent a lot of time in retail merchandising. Eventually, after having a child, I wanted a change. During this time, I was looking to create art while the littles were around and could also enjoy. So, I started sewing again. Read more>>

Bili Kribbs

Consume. I’m constantly consuming and exposed to limitless sources of inspiration and media in today’s modern western world. Produce. Because of all of this input, I have to purge my ideas for my own sanity. Whether you realize it or not, we are all a part of this cycle of consuming and producing. I believe it behooves us to strike a balance between the two. My process is a meditation on curiosity and imagination, fueled by a connection to my own youthful way of thinking. I document the human experience of creativity to liberate the modern-day working adult. Read more>>

Ghost Soul

Hi! Joe here from Ghost Soul – than you so much for allowing me the time to talk about Ghost Soul and how it was born and brought into existence! Ghost Soul was started as an escape from some pretty horrendous years of school and academia. As a drummer with little prior knowledge of ‘correct’ musical theory, it was a way for me to practice some of the concepts I was learning in school. James (vocals/ guitar), Nate (bass, synth bass), Ethan (Synths), and myself all went to the same high school in Youngstown, OH before all (separately) moving down to Columbus. Our very first E.P. (Sinking Moon) was mostly written by myself, but having worked with James on another project outside of Ghost Soul, I was already familiar and comfortable with what he can offer, so I reached out to him to write vocals. Read more>>

Aaron Greene

It really started with me (Aaron Greene) heading off to college a little over 20 years ago. I grew up in a single-parent family, and my mom sent me to a private high school. It was truly a blessing, and I told her I. would pay for college on my own. I got into my dream school – Northwestern, but the price tag was $45k per year, and they had given me $15k per year to go. Our EFC was $5k, all of this left me with $25k per year I would’ve had to take on in debt, or better put, $100k after four years. I visited Ohio State’s campus, it was my third choice, but I could go. Read more>>

Rebecca Ahern

As a teenager and throughout my twenties, I struggled with anxiety and depression. I struggled with perfection, always living life in black and white: it was all or nothing. I was a perpetual people pleaser and a rebel. I didn’t have boundaries and was constantly searching to be loved and accepted. As I think back to those difficult and dark times, I have come to realize that most of what I was feeling and carrying around wasn’t mine. I was wearing the weight of the world, collecting emotions and experiences the way I collected shoes and makeup. Read more>>

Chloe McEldowney

I’ve been creating things since I can remember. I grew up on an Ohio farm with many siblings – so I was able to be messy and chaotic with my art-making. Some of my early creative memories include putting crayons between my toes and coloring with my feet to see the sort of lines I could make. Or collecting random scraps of materials and hand sewing them into costumes or PJs. Or building houses for stray kittens and painting/decorating them. Or sketching the scenes of the farm in my sketchbooks. Read more>>

Eryn Gilson

When my son (now 8) was born, I decided to leave my career and stay home with my children. I knew that I’d eventually find something I loved that would give me the flexibility that I needed for my family, but while I was looking for that, I became a full-time stay-at-home mom. It was during this journey that I found a need for a website where you could find the fun unique things to do in Columbus. Things to do, places to eat, date night ideas, fun with friends, and so much more. I wanted this to be a space that included all areas of motherhood, not just one segment. Read more>>

Molly Sampson

I have been a complete history nerd for as long as I can remember. I grew up doing historic reenactments with my family—in fact, I thought that was a normal hobby and way to go camping! My career path has been in and out of the museum field, from an internship at the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum to working at Toledo Lucas County Public Library, back to Mazza, a brief stint working in tourism, and then moving to Georgia to curate an exhibit on the 6888th—the first Black Women’s Army Corps unit to serve overseas in World War II. Read more>>

Christine Agostinelli

If you would have told me just 10 years ago that today I’d be a writer and an author sharing about my experience in the Christian faith, I would have said you were crazy. In fact, becoming a writer wasn’t really my plan at all, and at that time, I certainly would not have even considered myself a “Christian.” But, in the spring of 2020, I decided to start a blog as a way of sharing my own personal journey of my struggle in the Christian faith with others. It’s real and raw, messy and unfiltered. I quickly found writing to be quite healing and therapeutic. Especially as others would reach out to me and bravely share about their own struggles, they were having with their faith. Read more>>

Envy Sinn

A young queer kid in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania finds a marvelous television show called RuPaul’s Drag Race that is about to change their life. Around the age of 12 was my first introduction into what drag is, I had so many different questions, but one thing I knew for certain I wanted to be a Drag Queen from that day forward. Fast forward a couple years, and I find myself within a cosmetology program that sparked my love for makeup. I started practicing immediately, the very basics and introductions into makeup, barely scratching the surface of what drag is and what Envy would become. Read more>>

Iced Cold

It all started in Jackson Mississippi pops passed when I was 2 months old. At age 4, mom put me onto 2pac, Biggie, Eazy, Cube, Bone Thugs, Master P. I started out doing poetry at 11 before I wrote rhymes just to test it out. 2018 I recorded my 1st song called Prevail along with a few other tracks that’s unreleased. A year after that December I moved to Ohio with my family. Being new to the city just opened my eyes to a lot far as growth and opportunities. 2022 I recorded Staying True with Franky Vibez on August 27 and released it August 30. Just seeing where the music takes me as the journey goes. Read more>>

Emily Rinehardt

My name is Emily Rinehardt; I am a co-founder of Salvage Apparel Co. I focus on designing and upcycling second-hand, vintage, and deadstock fabrics. My business partner, Megan Rogerson, and I’s journey started studying at Kent State’s Fashion School. Our passion for sustainable living & working towards conscious consumerism is a big part of our personal lifestyles. We’re constantly dreaming up new ideas & trends, but we wanted to find a way to create them sustainably. With my focus on design and her knowledge of sustainability we were able to create the perfect partnership. Read more>>

Taylor Snead

Saturday Studio started as an expansion of my social media management business, Taylored Social, and as a place for my husband and I to hold Art events for the community. We opened the studio with our friend and business partner, Gisselle who operates her vintage clothing shop, Stocked Vintage, out of the space. The road has been pretty smooth overall! Once people started finding out about us and booking the space, we seemed to find a nice community. There have been a few hiccups along the way, but we’ve made the necessary improvements to keep things running! Read more>>

Bria Scott

I started my business October 17th, 2019, when I came across this real pretty blue bonnet on Instagram. I was never able to find bonnets in any color but black. So, I told myself that if I sold bonnets in a lot of designs and colors, I wouldn’t have to find anybody else who sold them. I had lost my job, so I needed to be able to keep up with the bills. After adding bonnets to my website, the durags, wave/wig brushes, silk hair ties, silk pillowcases, and many more items slowly started being added as well. Read more>>

Malik Tuck

I grew up in a very music-loving family. No one in my family played instruments, but my mom loved to dance and was always playing music loud around the house. My uncles would play mixtapes of their favorite DJs whenever I rode around with them, and I thought it was the coolest thing. Once I got to college, I started to mess around with DJ’ing a little bit but didn’t think anything of it; at that point, it was just a hobby. I would bring my very inexpensive board to house parties and my Windows PC computer along as well, then just hook up to the aux chord. Read more>>

Teressa Doaty-Johnson

Alayna (my Paws) and I were walking on a cold, Winter Day, and neither of us were having fun. I began to wonder what dogs were doing for fun and exercise in the colder months. One day that summer, I was driving around and saw a doggie daycare. I had not heard of one and went inside. My dog began to go there twice a week on my longer days when I had work and grad school. She would be so tired from her play that she got in the car and hopped right into the back seat (she’s never done that). Read more>>

Cliff Fennell

I started off volunteering at a local community center. I created a free talent club for the neighborhood so that people could learn how to model, sing, dance, rap, and write poetry with other like-minded individuals. This was the first step to my journey because, even from the beginning, I always enjoyed giving back to the neighborhoods. For years, I constantly worked with different talent and along the way, started working on my craft to become a hybrid shooter as a videographer and photographer. Read more>>

Emily Neu

I have over 25 years of event planning experience. I love creating a vision and tend to make a party out of any occasion. As a Sidney native, I often thought it would be great to have a venue that is affordable in the downtown area for corporate trainings, bridal or baby showers, graduation parties, etc. My grandmother Vera had style and grace. She was incredible behind a sewing machine, and holidays at her house included hours of polishing the silver and getting all of the details just right. I wanted to offer style and grace to anyone in our area at an affordable price. Read more>>

Bianca Easter

When I was in high school, I always knew that I wanted to have a career in fashion, but I never knew what I wanted to do or how; when I got to college, I started my blog and YouTube channel and started to talk about things I was wearing to class and all things makeup and I loved it. I kept it up, and as I got older and my life went in different directions, so did the content I created; now that I am done with college and have become a mother, I am learning how to dress the body that I have, which has been a part of my social media journey today, I love creating and making content, and I am super proud of myself. Read more>>

Allen Harrington

I am Allen Harrington, the lucky guy who asked the amazing Stan Lee to marry me and my wife at the Cincinnati Expo in 2016. My Wife is actually the one who inspired me to open my own store. I had the opportunity to purchase a store & the contact went M.I.A. She was the one who said start your own and helped me through the process along with other family members’ help. My shop is family owned and also happens to be the first black-owned comic shop in Ohio. Both events were unplanned history-making events. Read more>>

Julia Barrett

I–like many artists–have been creating my whole life. One of my first memories of making artwork is sitting at my dinner table painting watercolor Bob Ross-like trees and waterfalls with my mom. Another big reason for being an artist is finding my mom’s late fiancé’s (a man she knew before meeting my dad) sketchbooks and hiding them in my room, going through them, and re-sketching all the beautiful nude women sketches that were in the book in my own sketchbooks…I always say this is how I got my obsession with creating nude figurative artwork! Read more>>

Clarity Amrein

Smoke & Queers began in January of 2019 when two queer people didn’t see themselves represented in the local drag scene. With a background in performance art and event production, friends and artists Clarity Amrein and Christina Coobatis put out a call for burlesque and drag performers of all kinds. Using a connection to a venue called Mixwells in Northside, Cincinnati, we hosted Sunday night auditions and hoped for the best. We advertised that any person who auditioned would be accepted into the troupe. Not a single person came to the first audition. Read more>>

Aziza Salukombo

I moved to the unites states when I was 15 years old from the Republic of Congo. I had to learn English and adapt to the country, but once I got to college, I really found myself and my passion. I found that I love everything my culture has to offer, so embraced it all. I was on the African Student organization board for 3 years. I founded a dance team, The Royal Descendants, which I also ran for 3 years. After graduation, I started performing by myself, and the rest is history! Smooth? Definitely not because that voice in my head from my African side that just always feels like I could be the perfect child, AKA doctor, lawyer, or engineer 😂. I always feel like I’m not doing what I SHOULD be doing, even though I love what I do! Read more>>

Elizabeth Skidmore

I’ve always appreciated furniture. Even at a young age. I would make and paint furniture for my Barbies in my dad’s workshop. I’ve been refinishing furniture for the past 16 years. The past 7 years is when I realized I truly enjoyed bringing new life into pieces and making them loved again by their owners. So, I decided to turn my hobby into a little business and name it Re-Picks. It hasn’t always been the smoothest road. I’ve definitely had some struggles. But to me, I treat it as a hobby. I’m not in it to go big or make money. It’s something I enjoy, and I’d like to keep it that way. Read more>>

Ryan Crofford

Since I was in college, I always knew I was different from everyone else. I always struggled to stay with one major and struggled with staying focused or interested for long. It wasn’t until I had my daughter (3rd year in college) that I understood what it meant to be an entrepreneur. I used to work a dead-end call center job, and I was tired I going to work just to pay bills. This is where my first hustle was born. I learned how to buy and resell items online to make ends meet, and this is when I found out I can make my own money. Read more>>

Allison Ewing

I started Allison Ewing Photography officially in 2014, but I have been taking photos well before that! I was the girl at middle school dances with four disposable cameras and a shot list of all the photos I needed to take for my scrapbook. My parents realized that my scrapbooking and excessive photo taking wasn’t going away any time soon, so they bought me my first DSLR, which I affectionately named my “big camera.” All through high school and college, my camera never left my side. Around that time, I started getting inquiries from family friends to take photos for them, which I hadn’t really considered before. Read more>>

Nick Rose

Hey Voyage Ohio Team! My name is Nick Rose, and I am the Founder and Executive Director of the performing arts nonprofit Band in a Bus. Band in a Bus is a scrappy network of music teachers, musicians, and volunteers making music class possible for students across the Greater Cincinnati region. The band was founded in 2019 as a response to the declining access to essential performing arts programming facing students in our public schools. Then 2020 happened. But we’ll get to that later! Read more>>

Mindy McGinnis

I began querying – the process of trying to get a literary agent – when I was still in college. Ten years later, and after I’d written five novels, I was able to land an agent and subsequently, a publishing deal with Harper Collins. I have been publishing a book a year consistently since 2010! Absolutely not. Writing is never an assured thing. I’m entirely supported by freelance income. I don’t have retirement, insurance, or any type of benefits. Also, you never know how many books you will sell or if your publisher will want another one. You are mostly just crossing your fingers a lot and hoping that you can survive. Read more>>

Montesha Ford

Well, my name is Montesha “Brackins” Ford. I’m from Portland, Oregon I’ve lived in major cities such as Atlanta, Georgia, and worked with a handful of podcasting, catering, and non-profit organizations that love to give back to their community. I’ve worked with many entrepreneurs and small-owned businesses who donate time product when we can. I also give a free T-shirt to whoever WHERE EVER you are to a person who owns all 3 of the books from the series I wrote, “The payback I Owe.” Read more>>

Luka Weinberger

My first professional commission was from my high school security guard. He asked me to draw him a picture of Jade from “Jackie Chan Adventures” for his daughter. And I felt really happy to make something that a person would treasure and connect with. That feeling became my guidepost as I maneuvered from gig to gig, starting when I was 18. I had moved to LA from Buffalo with a some clothes, three books, and a sketchpad I had purchased on sale at Office Depot. Art was the last thing I imagined for myself as a career. But I drew every day. I sat in Barnes and Noble with several “How to Draw” books on the floor, practicing different exercises. Read more>>

Emily Paszke

My interest in doing hair started at a young age. From cutting my dolls’ hair to later doing my friends’ hair and makeup for school dances to eventually becoming a licensed hairstylist and salon owner. My senior year of high school, I took a tour of a Paul Mitchell Partner School, and my mind was made up that I wanted to be a cosmetologist. Throughout hair school, I also worked part-time as a receptionist at a local salon, where I eventually assisted and worked as a commission stylist for another year after I graduated. I then transitioned into booth rental at Salon Lofts, where I got a taste of business ownership. Read more>>

Tazjerre Callahan

I’ve been attending college approximately 10 years consecutively. I’ve earned two degrees in human science. And even got recognized for my academic accomplishments and leadership potential by world’s largest collegiate: the National Society of Leadership and Success; Sigma Alpha Pi (political science) in Cleveland, Ohio- a national honor. In 2019, I officially became a young inventor. My first invention is an advanced serviceability accessory named Hair Anywhere and patented early 2020. While in quarantine, I launched a second business in Sacramento, California by the name of Soapineers-ultra-sensitive, vegan soap. Read more>>

Heidi Rolf

I am one of the fortunate few who grew up to do exactly what I wanted to (sort of). I wanted to illustrate children’s books when I was in elementary school, and I’ve done that. But the scope of my work has shifted with the times. I went to school for Visual Communication Design at Kent State University and got my BFA with a concentration in Illustration and a minor in studio art. During the course of my studies, I took a photography class, and after years of watching my dad take photos, I started to do the same. Right out of college, I decided to freelance, which was possible with regular work from American Greetings who often worked with freelance contractors. Read more>>

Maelana Crockett

I began Marvel at Mae’s Designs during the peak of the pandemic in August 2020. My daughter contracted COVID, and I was quarantined with her for 2 weeks, bored out of my mind! I decided to put my creative skills to use and began watchin YouTube videos of balloon decor tutorials. I practiced non-stop, and the rest is history! It has been a struggle balancing Marvel at Mae’s Designs, working a full-time job, and being a single Mother of 2. Many of days, I have to work late while my toddler is sleeping or enlist my teenage son to keep his sister occupied while I work. Making it a team effort has helped a ton! Read more>>

Mario and Kim Cangemi

Upstate Records is an independent underground hardcore and metal record label founded by Mario and Kim Cangemi. We started Upstate Records in November of 2017 based upon our passion for music and the creative aspects that go along with promoting music. Kim handles all the graphics and video production and Mario focuses more on audio production side of the label. We both have a business experiences that have enabled us to understand the business side. Since we started, we have gained worldwide distribution outlets in Europe, Australia and Japan as well as digital distribution arrangements with all the major online download and streaming providers. Read more>>

Kortni Nichols

My name is Kortni Nichols, and I’m a Dallas, Texas, native living in Columbus, Ohio, with my 3 dogs and my husband. I started What the Pug Gift Shop in July 2022 as a fun project to help support my journey through nursing school. I’ve enjoyed dressing my own dogs in bandanas for different events & holidays, and I wanted to share my creations with others. My journey to starting What the Pug Gift Shop started back in 2007 as I graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising. At Baylor, I learned to sew, but I did not touch a machine again until 2022. Read more>>

Blaire Caldwell

Oldest of 9 children. Attended and still attending University of Toledo. I began passively investing in Home Depot stock will working in 2009. Started working for an automotive company. Sold my stock and purchased a house around the age of 23. Rented home out and later turned it into an Airbnb business in 2019, which funded my Café slash community center business that is now joining hands with profit and non-profit organizations to ensure they have a safe and friendly space to do business with. Read more>>

Trenton Steele

I started lifting in high school because I was always a skinny kid. I’ve been training for about 5 years now, and it’s honestly mind-blowing to look back where we started. I’ve now competed in my first bodybuilding show, and my goal is to help others reach their fitness goals. I coach a number of clients and provide training & nutrition plans. I look to do this full-time in the near future. – Getting down on yourself – Body dysmorphia – physically/mentally exhausted – injuries – lack of motivation at times – loneliness (working out and competing alone was hard) Read more>>

Audra Dorsey

My name is Audra. I’m a Heights Tiger. My story leading up to owning and writing the self-help title Digging Out Your Demons: Baby Steps, available on Amazon Kindle Unlimited, begins with loss. I attended Hiram College for pre-med, and my treacherous roommate deleted my turn paper from my laptop. Although I did everything I could do to restore it, it was a permanent delete. My gracious professor granted me spring break to rewrite it. Pondering the opportunity, I recounted that I was done at page six and had miraculously turned out a 22-page report, anyhow. Read more>>

Mallory Johnson

Hi! My name is Mallory, and I am a professional skin therapist & lash technician! I offer a wide variety of facial treatments, and I would love to help you achieve healthy, glowing skin! I am skincare and makeup obsessed and have a million and one skincare and makeup products throughout my house that I am always testing out and researching to see how they’d benefit my clients… I’ve had a passion for beauty and skincare since I was very young and could not imagine doing anything else! Read more>>

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