From body butter to bohemian art to beautiful soul food. These are the life's work of three young female entrepreneurs who are making their mark in Southern Nevada. All of them share one thing in common: they are following their hearts when it comes to crafting their careers.
"I have never had any formal culinary training. I have been doing what I love ever since I was eight," said Shakeirra Freeman, also known to many friends, family, and clients as "Chef Key."
"I came from a big family, and it was my responsibility to prepare meals for all of my siblings because my parents had to work multiple jobs. My passion was to cook for people and make them happy."
Fast forward over two decades, Freeman, who is turning 30 this year, is living her dream as the founder and owner of Keys 2 the Kitchen. This private chef and caterer said her former career in healthcare came to a halt during the pandemic, and right after that, she gave birth to her second child. She needed a way to make ends meet, so she started meal-prepping for her friend, who is a personal trainer. Then in just a matter of months, one customer turned into 10, and her new business had officially begun.
"I am now very busy. I never expected it to grow the way it did," said Freeman. "I had prayed for this, and to see it happening in real-time, it's amazing."
As a mother of two and a full-time working mom, Freeman said it's not always easy to juggle everything, but she is driven by her lifelong passion for cooking, health, and wellness. Her older brother had passed away from cancer at a young age, and she said her work now is in honor of him.
"If he had a better diet when he was here, he may have been with us a while longer. I use his memory as motivation to do my best every day."
Another young entrepreneur, Michelle Beardsley, the founder of the art studio, The Pink House, located in Downtown Las Vegas, said she is also doing what she has always loved as a child.
"As a kid, I was very creative. I was always designing things and painting, but when I got to high school, I just lost it," said Beardsley. "I think I just started to follow what I thought was a practical career path."
Beardsley said she got back her passion for art as she was about to start nursing school. She had just finished a study abroad program in Costa Rica, and during her flight back to the US, she had a long conversation with a nurse and realized where her true passion lies.
"I knew I wanted to help people, to heal them but not through being a nurse," said Beardsley. "I realized I want to do it through art, and my work now is an interpretation of that."
When she was 22, Beardsley began doing Henna art at First Friday events. Now eight years later, she has her own studio called The Pink House in that very same spot where her artistic career began.
"My studio opened last August inside the Arts Factory, and it has really become a place of love and healing," said Beardsley, who calls herself a ‘Paint Magician.’ She said she takes pride in doing all kinds of work that brings her community joy, from painting murals to curating and designing homes and office spaces.
"The support from the arts community here in Las Vegas has been foundational," said Beardsley. "It's always been hard for me to believe in what I can do, but my community has helped me to see that in myself."
For a fellow female small business owner, Brianna Grantham, the founder of "Brianna’s Body Butter,” she said she found inspiration to start her body butter business from her former boss.
"I was working at this Vegan Cafe called Simply Pure, and in my free time, I was doing my passion project, which is creating homemade and natural body butter," said Grantham. "The cafe owner, chef Stacey Dougan, encouraged me to launch this business.
Grantham, now 26, said she started by selling her body butter products on Etsy and has since moved on to selling them at local markets all over the Las Vegas Valley.
"I love interacting with people. That's why I didn't want a brick-and-mortar store," said Grantham. "I want to meet lots of people and create an organic flow. I am transient. I enjoy movement and experiencing new environments.”
Grantham has since expanded her business to sell all kinds of body butter along with other health and wellness products. She said her formula for success is her self-discipline. Grantham said it's about living a life that aligns with your career goals.
“It’s important to recognize your natural abilities,” said Grantham. “Some things may require more time, effort, and energy. You’re more likely to be fulfilled and passionate if you choose a creative path that feels right.”