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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.

Aruha Khan

Hello! My name is Aruha Khan, and I recently graduated from the University of Tennessee (UT) with a dual–major in Biological Sciences & Finance. I was born and raised in Knoxville, where I have had the opportunity to bring awareness to my passions in combatting medical disparities and inequalities. This passion is founded upon my experiences visiting New York City at 10–years–old. Read more>>

Chelsea Lyons

I come from a family of strong, independent people. From as early as I can remember, we struggled with money. My biological dad was not around much during my childhood. He lived in Columbus, Ohio while I was living in Fairmont, West Virginia with my Mom and brother. She had the help of my Great Aunt Mary who would watch us while my mom worked and went to school. I watched my Mom juggle responsibilities for years and my Aunt act more like a father to me than my own did.  Read more>>

Robert Berlin Zac Taylor, Cole Ford, Trey Burnett

We have the standard side-hustle-turned-job story you hear so often. In 2014 Robert Berlin started Open Roads Media as a side hustle with few intentions of it becoming anything more than that. But as the economy changed, so did circumstances and Open Roads Media kept getting bigger and bigger until it was too much for just me to handle. “I found a recent Pellissippi Community College video production graduate who was looking for an opportunity and invited him to come on to help,” Robert said. “Once he came on board, we started really pushing the gas pedal and seeing some success.” Read more>>

Jana Harmon

Hi! My name is Jana, and I’m the owner of Rose and Ring Events. I started my wedding coordinating career in 2015 as an event assistant at the Lodge at Brothers Cove in Sevierville, TN. I quickly fell in love with everything about weddings, and knew that I wanted to go into this field full time. As a culinary arts major and musician, I’ve always been passionate about creating beautiful moments for people to enjoy. Being a wedding coordinator allows me to incorporate all those skills that I’ve learned over time and offers exciting opportunities that strengthen my creativity every day. Read more>>

Scarlett Price

I have always seen pictures and taking photos as ways to capture a moment in time, a memory being secured to a printed image, and a keepsake for times we can’t go back too. I feel like a lot of this mindset and love for photography has a lot to do with my mother’s hobby for scrapbooking. With that hobby always came lots of photos being taken on vacations, random family outings, at school events, and even on birthdays. Read more>>

Emma Shoup

During my senior year of high school I took a job working for Goodwill. I loved it! I worked for roughly 5 months there, then left as I was graduating early and preparing for a gap year abroad. Well my gap year was pushed back so I had all this new time on my hands. I decided I would work for myself and use my love for thrifting and my skills I obtained from Goodwill to create my own secondhand store.  Read more>>

Kay Brown

When my son and I set up our first table at the Gallatin Farmers’ Market in 2013, we were excited, nervous, and very aware that we had no idea of what we were doing. We’d only recently even named ourselves, thinking up Scent of the Sun in the runup to our first market day. We certainly had no idea that our first showing would lead to an nine-year process of creating a mother-and-son business. But we can’t help but reflect on what a wonderful journey it has been. Read more>>

Lauren Ailor

I have been in love with art since my very first art class in 6th grade. Art is very therapeutic to me, and I feel that I am most connected to God and at peace when I am painting. It started as a hobby that became something that I was passionate about, and it has gradually become my area of expertise. I have always loved painting, but I never had the time to pursue art as a legitimate source of income — until Covid hit.  Read more>>

Brandon Foster

Well my story starts with me being a gamer. I have always loved gaming and anything having to do with it. Computer games, board games, tabletop role playing games, you name it I have tried it. When I was growing up I learned about Dungeons and Dragons, best game ever by the way, but it really sparked an interest in me. I loved the way that it was all about imagination, and if you could think it you could do it.  Read more>>

Debra Howard

I’m a native Floridian. Grew up in Miami, surrounded by clear tropical water. Middle child of 4 children. Learned to sail at a young age and decided when I was 15 that I was going to sail around the world as an artist. I made all of my decisions to further that goal. After graduating from Ringling School of Art in Sarasota Florida, I drove across the country to launch my art career in San Francisco and to develop the sailing skills I would need.  Read more>>

Jackie Carter

Never in a million years did I ever think that I would be orchestarting the biggest moment of peoples lives. To know that we have a had hand in creating magical moments that lead to families and legacies is often times hard for me to fathom. I started my adult working career path in the dental field, which morphed into logistics, followed by government contracting and now.. here I am a full time event planner. Read more>>

David Harman

Native Maps was founded in our tiny attic-studio as I worked my way through grad school in Painting at UTK. Inspired by a love of my hometown, I set out to make attractive, minimal, local-approved prints for the modern home. We still print in small batches by hand out of our studio in the Fourth and Gill Neighborhood. Every year brings new and different challenges. The pandemic was a big challenge to navigate.  Read more>>

Stacey Patty

I was a non-traditional student (aka old) when I decided to return to college to obtain my degree in Graphic Design from The University of Tennessee. As a Fine Art major, I took several classes in printmaking and screen printing stuck with me. It’s the instant gratification of ‘pulling a print’ and seeing the immediate results printed right in front of your eyes. For almost 6 years, I have designed my own t-shirts. Read more>>

Ella Scaduto

Hello Loves. My name is Ella Scaduto and I am a matchmaker at Smoky Matchmaker formerly known as Ella’s Euro Matches. When I think about how I got into matchmaking, I think back nearly 18 years ago when my husband and I met, or should I say were introduced. Back then, my mother and her friend were just enjoying their girl time when they decided to play matchmakers. Read more>>

Paul Boyles

I’ve had a long and successful career in Human Resources. It’s afforded the opportunity to work in manufacturing, hospitality, service industries and state government. I have been able to work for family-owned businesses and large international companies. My experiences have given my family a great life with truly incredible rewards. In thinking about what my next step might be I knew i wasn’t ready to retire. Read more>>

Tyrene Shute

I have been doing my own businesses with my brothers since I was 5. We mowed yards, shoveled snow, recycled cans, washed cars, anything we could do. This eventually led us to opening up our own stores at the Kodak Flea Market off exit 407. We have had a cell phone business, a sports memorabilia store, DVD store, and eventually settled on a Gaming & Collectible Store. This led to us eventually founding our own Comic Convention, Smoky Mountain Fan Fest. Read more>>

Nakita Taylor

Hello, I’m Nakita Taylor (licensed cosmetologist). Born and raised In Knoxville,Tn and a graduate of the University Of Tennessee. Also, I have over 20 years of health care experience but I have always had a passion for beauty and hair industry but never push myself to do so or shall I say make the first step towards pursuing a career in the beauty industry.  Along with other degrees that have been obtained over the years , I am proud to say that I have finally accomplished one of the things that I have always had on my bucket list and that was becoming a cosmetologist.  Read more>>

Carla Jallo

n 2018, my husband and I were expecting our second child. I had gone back to work as Medical Sales Rep 4 months after giving birth to my 1st child, so I decided that after baby number 2 I would slow down and take a career pause for a while. After a few months of being a full-time mom, I decided that I would try my hand at entrepreneurship and I launched my very first company, Knoxville Resumes. Read more>>

Amber Fults

Legend has it that I was born singing on a dark and stormy night…in all reality, I actually started singing because my family always seemed to have music playing and I loved it so much. By the time I was in high school, my dad had started to play guitar and I am mega competitive and thought, “If he can do this, so can I!” So he sent me on a scavenger hunt for my first guitar at Christmas and I learned from there.  Read more>>

Emmanuel Arnaud

I was a member of HomeExchange.com, the American pioneer of home exchanging. I began to get frustrated by how difficult it was to organize exchanges on the platform because they had to be reciprocal, so I created a competitor (Guesttoguest.com) which enabled non-reciprocal exchanges through a points system. I then grew the company and ended up buying HomeExchange.com and renamed the merged company (in 2018) that way. Read more>>

Heather Whiteside

I began painting at a very young age and when I was fifteen, I attended The Art Students League of New York. It was evident to me all along that art was my purpose and that it would be my life-long career. I dabbled in pretty much all fine art mediums, but painting was clearly my passion. I focused on different subject matters over the years which usually began with a whim of inspiration.  Read more>>

Sherell Mckamey

It all began with my great grandpa he done wood working and passed it down to my papaw which also does wood working and he passed it down to my dad he does a lot of wood working as well .Just seems like one day I picked it up and just fell in love with making things and making things for people making something that could be an impact on someone else .And to be able to carry on that generation is a great blessing and honor to me . Read more>>

Laurie Whitefoot

Of course! My name is Laurie Whitefoot. I am the wife to my amazing husband Cody and a mother of two sweet little girls, Kallen Grace and Hope Olivia. My career itself began in the medical field, where I worked as a nurse treating patients with cancer undergoing bone marrow transplants. I come from a family of many gardeners, and have always had a deep love and appreciation for plants, more specifically, flowers. Read more>>

Tim Wenzel

I grew up in Columbia, SC and upon graduation of Ben Lippen High School I started volunteering with the local Fire Department. I then graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice and began working for the Richland County Sheriff’s Office in 2012. I bought my first house that same year that was in need of some serious repair. I continued to work through the ranks at the Sheriff’s Office and held numerous positions there that included a Community Action Team position where I attended local HOA and community meetings building relationships with the community.  Read more>>

Joseph Maye

I started drawing at a very young age, finding myself to be inspired by comic books and television cartoons. That inspiration lasted into my high school years where I started taking art classes. I was too young and too distracted to give my artistic development the attention it deserved. Upon graduation in 1993, I joined the military and served for 6 years. I started collecting tattoos during most of my travels. Read more>>

BARRIE PAULSON

My husband, Lars, and I both started at the Ringling Medieval Faire in Sarasota, FL in the early 1980’s. He started by building sets while attending Ringling College of Art and Design. I auditioned as a comedy/stunt street character between college and graduate school. We actually met in 1987 at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, where he had worked his way up to a trouble shooter and I was a lead in a touring comedy/stunt troupe called On Edge.  Read more>>

Greg Hardy

The idea of Rockgeist started from the first trip. I was thrown into the deep end where I barely survived a 3 day ride overseas. Next, I was lucky enough to ride the Arizona Trail Race 300 where I first started testing gear designs. I came back to Arizona four more times which culminated in a finish of the full trail, traveling the length between the Mexican and Utah boarders. But somewhere at that first Arizona race, sleeping in the sand, I decided that I wanted to help enable these experiences for as many people as possible.  Read more>>

SKYWAY61

As brothers, Zak and Kaleb have been writing and playing music together since they were young. Brittanni began playing drums at 7 years old. She and Zak met in 2013 and later married in 2017. Together Zak, Kaleb, and Brittanni formed SkyWay 61 in the summer of 2017. In the summer of 2021 Johnny, Zak and Kaleb’s youngest brother, joined the band as the lead singer. A few short weeks later Alex joined as the rhythm guitarist. This is the lineup everyone knows and loves today. Read more>>

Josh Lacey

My music journey started during my senior year of high school in Franklin, TN. The music teacher at my school, Paula Wolak, heard me singing in a room by myself with another classmate. My teacher urged me to perform in front of the school, but I dreaded getting up in front of a crowd and belting out a song. With some hesitation, I took her up on the opportunity. I couldn’t live the rest of my days with the question of “what if?” in my head.  Read more>>

Heather Houbre

I’ve had a love of baking for as long as I can remember. But I never wanted to bake cakes, cupcakes, etc. Instead, my memories of getting cream puffs in Michigan with my family at Hudson’s drove my desire to bring these baked goods to Knoxville. I also come from a Polish and Mexican background, so I always work to incorporate this into my baking (Like churro eclairs or polish almond cookies!). Although we haven’t started serving beer yet (but we’re working on it!!), I’ve always loved sweets with beer, and the right pairing is magic! Read more>>

Crystal Williams

I have loved personal finance since I was a teenager. When I was in my early twenties I wanted to help people with manageay-to-day finances, but I could not determine the best way to serve people in that capacity. I entered the legal field where I worked as a paralegal for over 20 years. In 2018, the desire to help people with their finances peaked again. Everywhere I went I heard people talking negatively about money and their finances. I could not tune it out!  Read more>>

Garland Vance

I grew up as a the son of an Associate Pastor in Asheville, North Carolina. When I was in middle school, our church got a new Senior Pastor (my dad was the Associate Pastor). The new Senior Pastor made multiple unethical choices for his own benefit. But it ended up hurting the church and leaving my Dad without a job. That’s the moment when I first realized that one leader can impact thousands of people. Read more>>

Abigail Case

I have always had an interest in photography. Around age 12 my mother started to let me play around with her canon rebel camera, that’s around the time I started my Instagram account. I have played with photography since then, I’ve wanted to be a journalist for time or nation geographic. That all just seemed like a dream to me. During the covid outbreak, I got a tad more daring and decided to try to start a photography business.  Read more>>

YVONNE JONES

Nappy Girk Kitchen (NGK) philosophy is to extend knowledge of affordable cooking skills to high risk populations of women, men, families, youth, individuals on a budget, and individuals who want to obtain cooking skills. NGK will empower men, youth, women, and families to a better way of cooking at home. NGK educates their participants with affordable recipes through home-based cooking videos and face to face classes. Read more>>

Haylee Morris

Franklin’s Home first started as a small, unnamed rescue in January of 2020. At that time I (Haylee, the Director/Founder) began the rescue to provide a resource for the exotic pets of domestic violence victims. We could see there were several amazing resources existing across Knoxville to assist in placing cats and dogs in those situations, but there was not one for exotic pets. My educational background, training, and professional experience is working with exotic animals. Therefore, I knew those were the pets I could best help. In late January of 2020, we received our first surrender, a young cornsnake by the name of Tonks. Read more>>

Simone Busby Regan-Lea Jenkins

Our story starts in 2020. We started off just helping out a friend set up for an engagement party. We received so much positive feedback after installing the balloons for the engagement party. With that feedback, we began to explore our options of launching our very own small business. After various conversations and more and more inquiries for balloons, we decided to put our foot on the gas and begin building Balloon Boss. So really. this idea just landed in our lap. We never knew that our work would turn into a profitable business, but we are so excited that it did. Read more>>

Rachel Swatzell

I worked in the boutique and social media industry for a year before deciding to open my own business. During the time I was working in a boutique, I grew passionate about helping women feel confident by purchasing clothes that made them feel good. This was a process I was personally learning for I’ve never felt good in my own skin until now, so this transpired into my desire to support women’s confidence through my own brand. Read more>>

Abigale Moon

When I received my first nice camera in high school, everything changed for me. I would spend hours just playing around and looking for things to photograph. I would invite friends over to do mini impromptu photoshoots just because it was fun! In my junior and senior years of high school, I was able to participate in journalism, taking photographs and writing articles for our newspaper and yearbook. Read more>>

Raven Krise

Having years of experience with animals: domesticated, wild and exotic I decided to finally acquire my first wolfdog of significant content, Stark. I trained and socialized Stark on a daily basis. When I realized the potential Stark had to become an ambassador I started Wildefell with my good friend Janna Doyac. We held our first educational booth at a convention and Wildefell just took off from there. Read more>>

Darius Daniels

Daddy’s Famous Fye Chicken got its name from whom at the time was a seven year old girl named Leneah Daniels. Leneah is my youngest daughter. She would often request “ daddy’s famous chicken “ for dinner. My wife and I consulted about possibly going into buisness, little did we know we’d soon be actual buisness owners!! Family cookouts and friendly gatherings became a regular destination to find me on the grill/smoker.  Read more>>

David & Jill Collard

Our love for creating unique furnishings began when we started building furniture for our own home using reclaimed, upcycled materials. Davids father was carpenter and from the time David was a young man, his dad taught him about the different species of trees and the beauty of woodworking. This sparked his love for building and with that love he started his own business building custom homes in Illinois for 25+ years.  Read more>>

Tina Brunetti

Since I was a young child, I dabbled in art. Like most children, I used to color in coloring books. I can remember going to boring catholic church services on Sundays and couldn’t wait to go downstairs for Sunday school because we always had coloring books. They were mostly about the life of Jesus. ( I didn’t enjoy church services because I was hearing impaired and the priest spoke in Latin…a double whammy for me.) Read more>>

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