Melissa Mangum (left) talks with Aubri Almendariz as the co-owners of the downtown Encinitas-based Minikin Model & Talent and Minikin Brand take a break during a recent photo shoot.

January 27, 2011 – Tucked inside the turquoise building at 820 Second St. is a thriving talent agency that aims to showcase the abilities of local children in print, film, commercial and theatre. No, this is not Los Angeles! But the top-notch agency headed by two professional businesswomen plans to infuse the industry with a style that can only come from downtown Encinitas.

Aubri Almendariz and Melissa Mangum, longtime friends and Encinitas natives, started Minikin Model & Talent Agency in October 2010. Both have a myriad experience in public relations and marketing. Within the entertainment industry, the pair are leveraging 10 years collective experience on and off camera including casting, producing and directing. Almendariz is the one with experience as talent – she has done both commercial and print modeling work. Mangum continues to work as a casting director and producer for commercial and print projects.

The entrepreneurial and creative spirit that is the hallmark of downtown Encinitas merchants defines not only the talent agency but also the Minikin Brand of children’s apparel that is part of the new endeavor.

Like many successful business partners, Mangum and Almendariz have focused on their collective strengths. “Aubri and I have been brainstorming on entrepreneurial ventures for years,” Mangum said. “Being surrounded by all of our friends who now have children, it just made sense to do something pertaining to children.”

The ability to merge family and business interests is an attractive feature of life in downtown Encinitas. “We want our children involved, our whole family involved!” Mangum exclaimed. Both women have children who have worked in entertainment so they have a good sense of what is expected from their talent. Also, the duo recruited Mangum’s husband, Mirko, and leveraged his vast experience in apparel and street wear to develop Minikin Brand. “It’s a big group effort!” Mangum said.

The location was an easy choice Almendariz said. “We love it here, working Encinitas-style.” Both moms wanted to open up shop in their hometown. It makes it very convenient to initially work with our friends and friends of friends,” Mangum said. “We chose 820 Second Street because we love downtown Encinitas. We want to be a part of the growth of the coastal community; there are lots of exciting things happening here.”

Whereas some agencies and the entertainment industry in general have a reputation for exclusivity and aloofness, Minikin takes a different approach that reflects the Encinitas approach. “We believe we can be effective doing business a bit more laid back,” Mangum said. “We want to develop relationships with the families that we work with, keep it family oriented, be approachable, welcome questions; ensure parents are comfortable with what their kids are involved with.”

There is certainly no shortage of cute and talented children in San Diego County according to Mangum. “We currently represent 80 children, from newborns to tweens,” she said. The business aims to provide a positive experience in the entertainment industry. “We allow parents to incorporate ‘working’ as something fun for their children, to put aside some college money or simply for the sheer fun of seeing your children in various multimedia,” Mangum said.

From their non-descript offices, the pair has had at least one child at an audition per day. “We have booked both print and commercial to date, including fun jobs like Nascar,” Mangum reported. “We’re always looking for more talent. At the moment we need girls and boys ages eight and up.”

As the credits roll on the next film or a familiar face flashes on the television screen in a commercial, take note that it might just be an Encinitas local! With a town filled with talent, Mangum and Almendariz have captured the market in a low-key, Encinitas fashion.