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Portraits of Orlando

It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them the fundamental questions about who they are and how they became the person they are today. Understanding and empathy are essential building blocks for a better, more compassionate world. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to ask these questions each week through our interview series. Below you’ll find inspiring interviews from in and around Orlando.

Hugo Fernandez

My story begins in 2006. I am a graduate in graphic design and I make invitations plus wedding stationery, one of my passions is cooking. My brother proposed that I make him a dinner for the company where he worked at that time for about 20 people and well it was a great Challenge for me I achieved it and the people were delighted after that same client called me for a larger event for many people but at the same time they wanted to decorate the tables where the food was and at that moment it woke up in me that of Decorating everything, it was very fast and in less than a month I had several events and began to formalize the business, in 2007 I started my company express events with an office in a mall in my hometown Maracaibo Venezuela from that moment I tried to centralize my services of decoration and banquet invitations in one place.  Read more>>

Angela Bond

I’m originally from Oneida, NY. I moved to Orlando in 1999 and soon after was hired at Walt Disney World as a photographer. That’s where I met Geisha Barazarte. Geisha is originally from Caracas, Venezuela. She moved to the US in 1992. Geisha and I slowly turned our passion for photography into a business. Creativa Photography was established in 2013. We specialize in many different types of photography including, headshots, real estate, families, weddings, and events. After all these years, our passion for photography continues to grow. Read more>>

Ben and Julie Cechman

We are high school sweethearts that grew up together in Orlando. We’ve been running a photography and videography business together since 2017. Ben originally went to UCF to get a degree in engineering but quickly learned that he was not as passionate about it as he thought. One thing he was passionate about, however, was photography. All of his skills are self-taught. Ben is the right-brained (creative) person in our business whereas Julie is the left-brained (analytical) person. Julie went to UCF to get her degree in finance and accounting. She also got her MBA from UCF. We first got into real estate photography because of a friend that happened to be starting his career in real estate around the same time. He knew we loved taking photos as a hobby and he asked us to photograph one of his team’s properties. We continued to get booked more and more because of this and our business continues to grow because of him.  Read more>>

Debbie Carroll

Hello Voyagers! I’m a BIG FOODIE. a “frustrated chef” as I put it, because I love everything about food including cooking but instead, I ended up selling food for a living as an Event Planner. I have been in the Hospitality, Food & Beverage, and Customer-Service related industry for over 15 years, going almost 20 now, and I LOVE IT! Read more>>

Zakiya Newton

As early as the age of five, I remember joining my parents in the kitchen to help cook large family dinners and on other special occasions. When I was 12, my mom enrolled me in a cooking summer camp in Winter Park. We learned simple things like how to make croutons, pasta, pasta sauce, and desserts. I fell in love with that cooking camp and wanted to go back every summer. Although I was still very young, I realized cooking was something I would want to do for the rest of my life. As I got older, I began to focus more on desserts and different pastries. My mom then began to search for culinary schools that offered a Baking and Pastry program. By the time I was a junior in high school, I had made up my mind that I wanted to pursue my dream to be a Pastry Chef. I applied to several culinary schools and was elated when I was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America, the world’s premier culinary college.  Read more>>

Ashley Taylor

I always wanted to be a teacher and when I was little, I pretended to be a teacher and my grandpa was patient enough to play student, we spent our afternoons in the kitchen as if it were the classroom. I never really thought I’d be a teacher as I was super shy. After my grandpa died, I started playing sports and dedicated all my time to playing soccer. When I got to high school, I wanted to be on the United States Women’s National Team. In my junior year, I tore my ACL and was forced to sit out the entire year. To stay connected to the team, I documented the entire season and designed an end-of-the-year book. I discovered this creative side and decided a career in art and design was more for me than professional sports. I spent my college years learning how to draw, design and got really invested in the print arts. I was surrounded by so much talent, I had never really drawn too much before college so there was so much to learn but what being an athlete taught me was being okay with mistakes and the process of learning and failing.  Read more>>

Juan Pinzon

I am the CEO of Contive Media, a social media agency for non-profits in Orlando, FL. Contive Media was born as a response to the pandemic because we recognized that millions of businesses closed permanently or temporarily in the U.S due to the shutdowns. We discovered the key factor between those that closed their doors forever and those that opened back up (in most cases) was due to having an online presence. So we decided to help small businesses be prepared for the unforeseen chapters in life. Our mission is to SERVE others in an online world with excellence. My co-founders are also, like me, Latino “Gen-Z’ers” with a passion to help others. I work with an incredible team with talents unlike I have seen yet. Noelys our CMO has worked on major marketing campaigns at Volvo and is a natural born entrepreneur and my COO Andrew, is an organizational maverick, building our internal and external tools with ease. We also just added Stone as our Creative Director and he has already made an incredible impact on our team. We even have an incredible intern in Amanda who is shaping up to be quite the content creator.  Read more>>

Sydney Francois

Sunnyside Parties started because of my daughter’s 1st birthday! The pandemic started and I became a stay at home mom around the same time after getting laid off of my job. I always knew I wanted to do events but I didn’t want to work for someone, so I decided to launch Sunnyside Parties in August! It was a rough beginning but I was hopeful! I joined mom groups near me and whenever someone had asked who knew someone to decorate or balloons, I was the first to message them and some responded willing to let me decorate and some people never responded, but that was fine! I knew I was new to the event world but I had a philosophy: you won’t have a portfolio if you never put yourself out there. Then one day, an amazing mom reached out to me about her son’s 2nd birthday and how she needed a balloon garland and that was the start of Sunnyside Parties. We continued to show how much potential we have and we continue to book!.  Read more>>

Isaac Lagunas

I started working in the hospitality industry since I was 20 years old. It was there that I learned many things from cleaning carpets and upholstery all the way to leadership practices that I implement each and every single day. I have always been interested in the aesthetics of vehicles over their mechanics and performance. Washing and cleaning my own vehicle was always a therapeutic experience for me and after seeing so many of my hospitality co-workers with side hustles, I decided to that detailing vehicles could be my side hustle. I would constantly think about starting the business but would never go past the initial thinking step until one day (October 2019) I said to myself, “It is either now or never!” Read more>>

Gregory Meeks

I always wanted to start a business. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur in some way shape of form. My family has multiple successful entrepreneurs stemming from private business consultants, owning hair salons and owning rental properties. This is where the initial drive came from. I have two good friends in Georgia who own a soap business named HerbnEden and they were the ones who helped guide me into the soap business. Once I received the initial guidance into the soap business that’s when the research started. All day and night, I was researching about soap making and the different methods of soap making. I wanted my products to be plant-based and organic. Our skin is the largest organ of the body and wanted to make sure I made a product that could really help our skin. I researched the best oils for the body and the face and which essential oils were good for the body and essential oils that are great when blended together.  Read more>>

Oksana The Legacy Coach

My whole life, I was actually on track to become a performer/entertainer. I was involved in music and theater for my entire academic career. I always had a creative and entrepreneurial mindset. The first clue that I had about my future happened unexpectedly in my teenage years. When I was about 14, I woke up one day and decided that I wanted to start my first side gig. I was going to create a beauty salon on my patio and service my friends for fun. I went online, created my first business card design, came up with a name, found wholesale suppliers, and got to work. I conceptualized the business, created promo, took a photo for the business card and totally reconstructed my patio. It was called “Exquisitely Beautiful Salon.” I didn’t realize it at the time but creating, conceptualizing and branding businesses was something that came naturally to me. As I got older, I had many other pursuits in the creative and entertainment industries. I even went to college for music.  Read more>>

Dana Ball

I opened Dana Ball Photography as a business in January 2021, so my business is really new, but I’ve pursued photography as an artist for many years. Sometimes I joke that I’ve probably spent more on my photography education than my parents spent on my college education. I’ve taken online courses and attended in person conferences and workshops, and along the way, I’ve been able to learn from some of the best female photographers in the industry. I love experimenting with different genres of photography, but I especially love photographing high school seniors. Before opening my business, I always did a few senior portrait sessions a year as a way to raise money for charity and to build a portfolio. I always dreamed of starting a business, but life was so busy, and the timing just never seemed right. The Covid-19 lockdown forced me to slow down and gave me time to do some serious reflection on what I wanted next in my life. The result is the business that I’m here to talk about today.  Read more>>

Natalie Hernandez

I was born on February 17th, 1991, with a medical condition called Congenital Hydrocephalus. I was born and partially raised in Queens, NY. During my twelve years in NY, I was raised around a lot of music. Because I grew up in a Dominican household; we listened to almost everything. Bachata, salsa, merengue, hip hop & freestyle being the soundtrack to my childhood. In 2001, I faced my first medical scare with Hydrocephalus. The shunt my doctors had installed at six months had become blocked, and no cerebral spinal fluid could flow through anymore. That summer, they removed and reinstalled a brand new one. In 2003, days before I was scheduled to receive another life-altering surgery, the shunt had complications again and needed to be removed. This time around, we were given the option of cutting through the other side of my brain and installing a small camera-like tube that would act as my shunt. After that surgery, my family and I moved to Orlando, FL.  Read more>>

Jerome Woodson

Originally I’m from Saginaw Michigan, a small city near Detroit, it’s not nearly as popular so it’s always overlooked. I always felt as if my city was too small for me and that I needed to be in a place where I was around more like-minded people, people that could spark my Imagination and sharpen my skills. 2012 I enrolled into the institute of art in FT. Lauderdale. I was 22 years old, 21 hours away from home and in a much bigger city I knew nothing about and to top it off, I didn’t know anyone, but I was determined to be successful. Life was hard; I didn’t have the means to support this goal of mine. This pressing need to be successful that tormented me. It was a daily struggle to choose school Supplies that I had to pay for out of pocket or food. Eventually, I left the art institute, long story short, I just couldn’t afford it. I knew going into it that I couldn’t afford it but I needed to make that bold move to see what else was out there, to show myself the extent I’m willing to go to for my dreams.  Read more>>

Issis Benti

It is so good to go back down memory lane, it feels like we began so long ago but it was actually last year. Since I can remember, I have always had a passion for sweets; I started writing baking recipes for fun when I was young but never got to do anything with them other than storage them in my mom’s closet, a few years later I took a few baking classes and as time passed I realized it became my passion. Sisi’s Sweets story began last year during the pandemic when I started getting more free time and all I could find myself doing was searching on Youtube, videos on new recipes or watching cooking and baking shows with my family; One day, I decided to make a cheesecake for my fiancé since it is definitely his favorite, and he absolutely loved it, I started making more and more to perfect the recipe and personalize it with my finishing touches; That week I gave some to my neighbors who could not believe it was homemade “ Read more>>

Dolly Hope

I have literally always been obsessed with health and beauty! And One day two years ago, I woke up and decided why not start my own business. I was initially going to just sell mink lashes at first….but I could never find a good waist trainer, good quality fitness clothing as well as beauty supplies. So I thought, “why stop at just beauty supplies? Let me go ahead and sell some fitness products too”. Read more>>

Keyla Escobar

I am an Emergency Room Registered Nurse currently attending the University of South Florida where I am completing my master’s in nursing. I’ve always had a passion for esthetics as I worked as a cosmetologist for many years prior to practicing medicine. I discovered paramedical and cosmetic permanent makeup and became obsessed and fascinated with the idea of helping others through permanent makeup. My specialty is stretch mark and scar camouflage using skin tone colored pigments and camouflaging the skins imperfection through a tattooing technique. This is so life-changing to many as it conceals the memories of traumatic scars or simply skin imperfections that make people self-conscious.  Read more>>

Lyve Neutral

In 2018, I was forced to walk away from a brokerage I was a realtor with after having a hiccup with the broker. During this hiccup, I looked at him and asked “What the f*ck is your problem” Six months, later I became a flight attendant, yet found myself wanted to ask some passengers the same questions (but not lol). I decided to turn this question into a Podcast after realizing this we all have problems and our problems can change daily. This way, I can ask people this question without attitude or it being a negative thing and without having to resign or get fired.  Read more>>

Yulia Glouchko

Moved to US five years ago, I was completely sure I’ll be a pharmacist like in my home country, but being here showed me more and more that anything is possible and if I want, I can choose any career path any time! So I decided to follow my own route and become licensed esthetician, from volunteering as a student, working in chain spa, and other beauty salons I realized that I worth to be on the other side of industry-I can be owner, I can have my own rules and vision, it was scary and exciting at the same time, but so far the best decision ever! I have my own suite and clients who appreciate my style, my vision and work! Maybe it’s pretty trivial but for real! If you love what you do, you don’t feel like it’s work!.  Read more>>

Catherine Louise

I was introduced to art at a very young age. As both my mother and my Mema (grandmother) were both artists. I grew up painting, sewing, quilting, using a pottery wheel and gardening. I’ve tried a lot of different mediums over the years and always just did it for fun, about eight years ago, my best friend Tessia (who is also a fellow artist) told me to come out and vend with her in Thornton Park for the wine walk. It was there I fell in love with being able to show my work to others. At first, I just took out paintings and various art pieces I was making. And then, seven years ago I was helping move my Mema over from St. Pete to Orlando so we could help take care of her as she got older. It was an extremely emotional point for me, as her house was my second home. So before we left and said our final goodbyes, I clipped off the remaining rosebuds on her trellis to have as keepsakes. I sat looking at them for a few months and then that’s when I had the thought to preserve these final roses in a necklace to keep with me always. From then on, my Mema and mom would start saving flowers from their gardens for me and I would save the ones from mine for me to start creating pieces for others.  Read more>>

 

Lamar White

Growing up in different group homes, music was the fastest and most effective escape from my reality. I went from being a listener to reciting what I heard, and eventually I picked up the pen by age 12. I sharpened my craft over the years by playing in beginning, concert and symphonic band. My childhood friends and myself would get together and write songs after school. The first song I ever recorded was with my friends and was placed on the radio by tj of tjs djs. The song was called “it’s a fight” by cold black. It got regular rotation in the region but with poor management behind us, eventually the buzz went away. That motivated me to keep at it. These days I operate as a performance/ recording artist and have started doing A&R work to help artists like myself move in the right direction. Read more>>

Reinier Cruz

Today I am who I am thanks to social media networks. I can say that social networks have greatly influenced my performance as a professional in United States. I’m Cuban and I came to this country like so many others in search of a better future. Trying to find what would make me feel good and at the same time help me financially, I found a hobby that today has become my passion and my main activity. I created a YouTube channel in which in my opinion, I was sharing the best places to live in town and guiding people who were looking for information about the city. At that time, I lived in Jacksonville, FL and as time went by I saw that my information was really helping many people who little by little were following me on my other social networks. With the arrival of the Pandemic, I lost my job and it was the right moment to dedicate myself completely to my YouTube channel and turn it into a job since it really was a great source of help for many people. I moved to Orlando and I realized that what I was doing in those videos fit perfectly with the work Realtors do and I got the idea of ​​linking both activities and after several months of study, I obtained my Real Estate License and that is what I am now.  Read more>>

Khalif Hollis

It’s a pleasure to be telling you all about my artistic career so far. The first time I ever picked up a camera was my junior year of high school for the school yearbook. I was also on the football team all throughout high school, and I always knew I had to do something other than football because I didn’t want that to be my only career choice later on. After high school, I earned a full ride to play at Benedict College a Division two school in Columbia, South Carolina. Even though my football career ended after a year, I still had one thing I loved the most and that was my camera. So once I picked up the camera again and left Benedict. I started my freelance career in Orlando & in school at Bethune-Cookman University. Ever since, I haven’t stopped shooting!.  Read more>>

Eric Rose

After graduated College in 1997, I moved to Orlando to start a singing career but worked at Disney in the interim. From 1999-2005, I was working as a manager at Disney as well as singing in a four part harmony group opening up for National recording artists. We had two record deals but fell through due to poor management. I always made sure I had a backup plan and after decided to work in property management and worked my way into real estate. From there, I worked cutting lawns in order to supplement my income while I built my real estate business. I continuously networked and slowly worked my way up. Some years were better than others however, I had an opportunity to work for a Home Builder as a new home consultant for a couple of years. Being here helped give me additional training which provided a different aspect of how things are done from residential. I was able to take this knowledge and apply it back to residential. I felt my skills were best utilized to help both buyers and sellers instead of catering just to seller’s side. I wanted to make sure every party had a fair deal and that is what I bring to the table today.  Read more>>

Britt Renee

I’ve always loved taking photos and making people smile. As a child, I loved performing and still to this day. I once said as long as I can make at least one person smile every day then I’ve accomplished what I want to do in life. Creating photos and seeing the smiles that I capture puts a smile on my face. When it comes to my character work, it fills my heart to see the children’s faces brighten up getting to see their favorite fairytale character in real life.  Read more>>

Bouquet Kramek

I was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand. My Thai name is Pacharapan which means “diamond skin”. I am a published photographer and owner of Bouquet Photography. ​​I spent my college years studying TV & Digital Media and working as a photographer for a dance team. That is when I grew my passion for portrait photography. When people around me expressed interest in my work, wanting to hire me, I began freelance photography. I came to the U.S. as an exchange student to see more of the world, practice my art, and practice speaking English. Soon after, I moved to Hawaii it is where I fell in love with my amazing husband. He is the one who saw my potential and encouraged me to pursue my art. After lots of hard work, I was able to pursue photography full-time. Read more>>

Sherrell Riley

I am a single mother with two sons, ages 8 and 14. I lost my mother due to breast cancer at 19 and do not have any other blood family here so failure has never been an option for me. Although I had my first son at 20, I did not allow that to slow me down and worked very hard to obtain a college degree. It took me 7 ½ years to get my degree and there were semesters where I was working two jobs and could only take 1 or 2 classes. Despite not being your typical college student, I finally made it to the finish line. My journey official began when I graduated from UCF in 2015 with a Finance Degree. While looking for a job in Finance, I came across a Bodily Injury Adjuster position at one of the major insurance companies. The position paid $50k annually which was a lot more than the current Finance jobs that I was coming across and the investigative nature of it really piqued my interest. At the time, I did not have a background in insurance but decided to go for it and was offered a position.  Read more>>

Justine Portobanco and Alexa Rivera

Alexa and I are good friends that connected through our passion for working out and creating content. One morning during a workout, we began talking about luxury picnics that became popular in California and it was as if two light bulbs went off. It was within that week that we had our business name, logo, themes, pricing, business plan, social media platforms created and written out. Our excitement to create something customizable, affordable yet beautiful and intimate in Central Florida remains and we continue to add and expand Drops of Honey and Joy Events.  Read more>>

Anthony Taitt

I was born in Brooklyn, NY in a Caribbean household. I began drawing during a very early ages and became my happy place in the world as I figured myself out. I continued diving into art throughout my adolescence and into high school where I was able to get into technology courses that peaked my interests. After high school, I decided to join the Navy in an effort to fund furthering my education. I was honorably discharged in 2009 from the United States Navy and immediately enrolled in courses at Valencia College, eventually graduating with my degree in IT from University of Central Florida. I spent the next ten years working in the corporate sector as an IT professional / Programmer / Data Analyst. During my time as an IT professional, I began my business and brand Funky3s Designs LLC. I began doing work for local business in Orlando providing digital design assets for their business needs as well as leveraging my technology prowess by offering web development services as well. Read more>>

Eddie Mcdonald

I started out with the desire to create clean content through music. I come from a neighborhood shadowed by crime and poverty. Valdosta, GA. A gospel record label is what was in mind. After years of studio time, money spent, and failed concerts, the choice was made to attend college to learn how to professionally create this content, mix, and master. Through a career advisor at Full Sail University, I was led to a Bachelor’s in Audio Production. Through this program, I developed interests in video games as well as film. After completing this degree program, a void was still within. It was a desire to learn more. This led to a journey to a MFA in Film Production. Read more>>

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