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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.

Cory Collins

Before receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in mass communications from Jackson State University, Cory had already begun working in his chosen field of study. Fueled by his passion for sports, he turned a junior year internship into a full-time position with the CBS-affiliate television station in Jackson, MS as a sports journalist, editor and videographer. During that time, he had the opportunity to meet and interview a number of highly regarded, well-known sports figures such as Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Coach Phil Jackson, Coach Roy Williams, Lindsey Hunter, Derek Fisher, Monta Ellis, Mo Williams, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Al Jefferson, Eli Manning, Deuce McAllister, LaDainian Tomlinson, Steve McNair, Brett Favre, Joe Horn, Tim Brown and Andre Rison, as well as Michael Jordan’s mother Deloris Peoples. Despite being courted by the likes of ESPN and several other networks, he decided to leave the TV industry upon hearing of a brand new direct sales & marketing strategy that had been implemented in his area. He was intrigued by the unique opportunity for advancement. Read more>>

Zoraye Cyrus

I am a multidisciplinary studio artist who has received my BFA in Drawing and Illustration at the University of Central Florida in 2019. I have had several shows throughout the central Florida region and I am the recipient of the Women in the Arts 2019 Award. I got to where I am by trusting the process of working and making over overthinking. Read more>>

Jessica Swannie

I have two hobbies: writing and food. While most people plan vacations around landmarks or natural features, I’ve always designed trip itineraries around notable dining experiences. Put simply, I’m a food tourist. Much like a tourist would seek out exciting experiences, I spend my free time visiting Orlando’s best food spots. If something is smothered in cheese or made with a family recipe, I plan to try it. When my fiancé and I first moved here, I launched the Orlando Food Tourist blog to discover the city’s best culinary offerings and share my findings with both locals and prospective visitors. Though Orlando offers over-the-top theme park delicacies, you’ll also find small, locally-owned spots where family recipes are served with a smile. The goal of the website is to showcase a unique Orlando identity shaped by both tourist-driven dishes and restaurants rooted in tradition. Read more>>

Scott Julien

I started in the music business locally here in Orlando, working in pirate radio. It was a completely uncensored Hip Hop station that eventually brought hip hop events to downtown Orlando due to its overwhelming success and audience reach. From there, it was a matter of figuring out where to fit in and pursue my love of not just music production but the music industry as a business in general. It was the time when artists and entrepreneurs slowly began figuring out that independently they could be more profitable if they could produce and market the product themselves. I was finishing a marketing degree from UCF by day and doing anything I could to put myself in a music studio at night, just absorbing everything from those around me. After years of doing every odd job this industry has to offer, I began to know and understand the business side just a little more than many of the artists I was meeting in the studios. Random conversations turned into consulting. I started writing business and marketing plans that mapped out and budgeted what it took for an artist to work, promote, and generate revenue in a multi-market region statewide. Read more>>

Brandon Narain

I was raised by single mother and grandmother. Shared a bedroom with my grandmother until the age of 15. I started cleaning toilets and sweeping at a barbershop until I learned to cut hair. Then wanted more, so I volunteered at Florida hospital until they gave me a position as a patient transporter. I was juggling cutting hair going to community college and working at the hospital that I was stuck. Started real estate and now I own several business and speak around the country teaching others about finical literacy and how to get started in real estate. Read more>>

Lora Gardner

I began Perfect Day Productions March 1, 2018. One month after getting married and eight months after being diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. I had been sick for about 18 months before finally getting the proper diagnosis and treatment. I have had a dream for years of becoming a wedding planning and starting my own business. I realized that if I didn’t start then, this dream I had had for so long, I never would. I threw all my passion into my new company and we found immediate success. Within a few weeks of “opening” the doors, we began booking couples and building relationships with venues and vendors throughout Central Florida. The initial primary focus was to offer wedding planning which included timeline management, vendor communication, decorating services (set-up and breakdown) and onsite logistical management. However, at the beginning of 2019, I began marketing our services beyond weddings and started working with companies/organizations. We were hired to plan and execute BRIDGE LOCAL’s weekly networking events. Read more>>

Lana Ebrecht

For as long as I remember, I had this infatuation of taking pictures of my food. It was more for my personal desire to be able look back and reminisce about all the delicious meals I have had. As the years went by, I would share some shots on social media (Facebook) and I would receive comments from those that appreciated a good pasta picture. These food-centered posts would later become part of my regular rotation between photos of my family & kids that I shared with my friends and family. It wasn’t until 2018 where I began to see my brother’s girlfriend share stories on her Instagram account of awesome events she was attending with Yelp (Boston). She was a “Yelp Elite.” I had to know more about this ASAP. I turned my hobby (obsession) of food photography into documenting my journey on Yelp for others to read about. I made it a goal that by the end of that year, I would become Elite. Three months later, I achieved my Yelp Elite badge and very soon started enjoying all the perks that came along with this. A year later, I stumbled upon a few “food influencers” on Instagram and realized there was this whole world of foodies just like myself. Read more>>

Emily Christie

Cooking called out to me almost ten years ago now. I found myself always preparing frozen skillet or boxed meals because I didn’t know where to start. For Thanksgiving one year, I was asked to take care of the pies. Not knowing what I was doing, I made a homemade crust and baked an entire pumpkin pie, only to discover the crust had turned into what tasted like salted cardboard. But being stubborn, I didn’t give up. I stayed up all night working, switching crust recipes and eventually discovering that a butter-based pie crust was my jam! Everyone was pleased with the pie, and I learned that I could actually bake. In my moment of exclamation, I decided to name my blog EmilyCanBake, because I even surprised myself. Since then, I’ve spent the past several years finding new ways to challenge myself. I’ve become a better cook, baker, and photographer along the way, something I never imagined back then. Now I enter baking contests and supply cupcakes and cakes for friends get-togethers!. Read more>>

Charlie Pioli

I spent four years in the solid waste/recycling industries, where I witnessed firsthand how our country handles its waste. My employer would send me to landfills and incinerators in different parts of the country, and it became depressing seeing the sheer volume of materials meeting their end without any consideration for the time and effort that went into producing them. The waste industry is a machine that needs to be constantly fed and keeps infringing on our environment as they expand landfills and clear land for new ones. Looking for the solution, I chose the organic waste portion, which makes up 40-50% of what we’re sending to the landfill, the lion’s share. I recalled that when I was in college, I used to subscribe for a composting service, Bootstrap Compost, in Boston, MA and loved their model, where their driver would come up to your door to swap out your bucket of food scraps and replace it with a new one. They even returned the finished compost to let their subscribers understand the circular nature of turning food waste into soil to grow more food. Read more>>

Prince Hixon Jr.

Life is a process, they say. And my story is definitely that! I am Prince Hixon Jr., better known as @ProfessorP via social media. Over the years, I have, as a serial entrepreneur, acquired success in my businesses as owner of My Touch Barber Shop – an upscale and prominent barbershop located in Lakeland, Florida; CEO of My Touch Barber Battle – An exclusive Barber battle that collaborates with the NBA to showcase the most talented barbers around the nation, along with our winners being announced during half time of a professional NBA game; Owner & Designer of Impressions – A luxury, high-fashion men’s clothing and lifestyle brand. No success comes easy. My starting place originated with me being an exceptional sports player in high school. Like many athletic kids, I always saw myself finishing in the sports industry. I was awarded Polk County’s Player Of The Year in high school. I was also star quarterback at Lakeland Senior High School. But after starting Junior College Football, I decided that I wasn’t truly walking in my purpose. I have always had a love for art. And decided to attend Cosmetology School to become a barber. Read more>>

Demetrius Bethea

I began my journey almost five years ago at 23 conducting business in workforce development and project management in the tech space after going through years of frustration with Big Tech and the antiquated practices that were no longer relevant to an evolving world. What was once effective needed change to continue to have the intended impact on consumers. After many successful moments and many trials and tribulations, I transitioned to focusing all of my energy on building my own SaaS platform, “Classroom Ten,” available now in the App Store to provide our customer a safe, easy to use platform for them to share their experiences whether professional or personal with their audience and be compensated fairly regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. Read more>>

Diggy Velez

I am originally from Puerto Rico where I grew up in a house where there’s was always art around me, my mother is a ART teacher and she taught me a lot as a kept growing, when I turned 15 years old. I fell instantly in love with tattoos due to the show in TV Miami ink, I saw the female tattoo artist Kat Von D, which inspired me to become a female artist, my mom didn’t agreed with me at the moment, but I never gave up my dream, she wanted me in university. I also have passion for music, so I started early in university at 16 years old, when I got my first tattoo with my mother’s permission then got two more tats by the age of 17 I already had 3 tattoos, then I kept my mind going towards art never stopped drawing and painting until I got the opportunity of working in a tattoo shop. At 18 years old young mother I just had my baby Pixie, her father brought me close to the tattoo world which I will always be thankful for the shop is called Harisumi. Read more>>

Joshua Compton

Our story starts in 2008 when we were all stationed together during our time in the Army. Our time together while serving has built a long-lasting friendship that has been perfect for our business. My wife and I have played around with the idea of starting our own business. Along with eating vegan diet for years and watching all of our favorite restaurants, food trucks, and pop-up kitchens successfully grow, our motivation steadily grew as well. Then in 2018, we started Knocker Tots. Originally working out of a food trailer that we personally built ourselves, we would work any event or gig to build our brand. In 2019, we moved to just being a pop-up vendor for large events. That’s when Knocker Tots really started to gain attention. Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit, all operations stopped and the business really took a hit. We did everything to make sure KT would survive and so we have. Now that everything is kind of coming back to normal, the business is doing fantastic!. Read more>>

Gina Nelson

I was very picky about the jewelry I wore and whenever I went shopping, I thought, “I could save money and possibly make that myself,” so I did. I started with little earrings that were minimal yet made a statement. I started wearing my pieces everywhere I went and one day, someone wanted to buy my jewelry right off of my ears! It still happens to this day. I finally decided in 2020 to hunker down and really dedicate myself to making handmade pieces of jewelry. It was a great stress reliever for me and I love being creative. Now in 2021, I do pop-up shops at least once or twice a month to meet my costumers and future customers. I love having the opportunity to get my work out there. The purpose behind VioletBox Jewelry is to allow an individual to express themselves even though just their accessories. I work in the medical field full time and we all have to wear the same scrubs, but I like showing off my personality without being unprofessional. During the pandemic, I figured one way to help overworked medical employees feel a little better with just a turn of their head or a touch of their wrist. Sometimes feeling my earrings dangling on my ears gives me a boost of confidence. Read more>>

Stefon Washington, PrettyRicoBandz

I got started around 2009 with a boy band in Orlando called 3 am. The group was wildly popular. I remember we stayed on school tours nonstop, getting chased everywhere, lol. All good things come to an end and the group decided to split. At that point, I showed up at Disney audition for a show called “Disney Channel Rocks.” A shot in the dark, but they liked me. After all the auditions I made it! Crazy, and it was literally some of the best times of my life. With Disney, you encounter so many talented people that you have so many opposites, yet so much similarities. Make friends you never thought, and make people smile daily. That went on for a few years, then the show ended. After Disney it was hard to get work, sucked even more cuz everyone was getting work, whether it was overseas, cruise ships, and I couldn’t catch a break. I started working at subway just to try to make rent. The hardest time for me. I woke one day and said, I’m going to Atlanta, I’m going to start over. With barely anything to my name, I went. A friend of mines convinced me to go with him to the set of the Tupac Biopic “All Eyes On Me.” Read more>>

Nikida Metellus

A young child is still hidden, as in all of us. I’m probably one of the few adults who’d admit of cherishing a childlike view on life. I guess that is why my fascination with theme parks around the world eventually became my passion as an adult. As a child, attending the theme parks in central Florida was more of an unaffordable luxury for my family. I can still remember my very first trip to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and how sleeping, no matter how my body craved it, wasn’t up for debate as my mind wonder aimlessly on the wild adventures ahead. It was like the eve of Christmas for most children awaiting the green light to open their gifts. I grew up the third child of four with a mother who worked really hard to provide us with a wonderful life. I cannot say that I was neglected in any way because coming from a small town, such as Leesburg, Florida, you’re automatically raised and cared for by the community. I saw the struggle of my neighbors, but I also saw the successes of the ones who graduated past the quiet Lake County town. Watching the community leaders and being enticed by the world I saw on television made it an optimal goal of mine to become another small town alumna. I had to do something great with my life. Read more>>

Christopher Barry

My mission is to help others learn to love the skin they’re in through physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness so they can live a more joyful life. It is about everything it takes to be comfortable in your own skin, from the world we live in, to what we put in and on our bodies, to how we care for ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I personally struggled with negative body image and my self-confidence for decades. I punished my body with an eating disorder in my teens, twenties, and early thirties. The truth is that I never felt comfortable in my body and used dieting and intense exercise to try to feel better about myself. However, even at my thinnest, I still hated my body. Now I use my experience as an esthetician, yoga teacher, Pilates teacher, and Wellness Coach to help others on their personal wellness journey to learn how to become comfortable in their own skin. I help guide others to make healthier choices to achieve their goals and to find the best versions of themselves. It isn’t about a number on the scale or fitting into a smaller size at lululemon. This is about meeting your body where it is right now, accepting and loving your body, and moving for the sake of moving so that you may find strength, flexibility and ease in your own body. Exercise and movement should be a way to celebrate your body, not punish it. Read more>>

Chuck Crisafulli

Crisafulli Groves has been in existence since the early 1900s when my Grandfather, Carmelo Crisafulli, settled in Merritt Island, Florida and began to plant what would become some of the premier citrus fruit in the world! Grandpa and Grandma were known to us as Nona and Noni, as we are Italian. All of Nona and Noni’s children continued in the citrus business and our Dad, Ben Crisafulli, along with his cousin and brother propagated the Crisafulli Navel, an amazing orange that was just recently recognized by the Florida Department of Agriculture. Dad and Mom’s (Mary Crisafulli), hard work and their faith in God has left us a legacy of awesome oranges, grapefruit and specialty fruit that we offer for sale at our U-Pick farm as well as other fruit, vegetables and berries. Read more>>

Chepe Jose

While I was a manager in a retail store, I was part of the companies social media launch team. I started taking photos of product with storytelling. From there, I started to reignite my love for photography and production, which lead into the community reaching out for photography services. Two years ago, I got my first gig with some elite celebrities and I loved it. My big break was going on tour with Latin celebrity Julian Gil who opened some of the biggest doors in the Latin industry for me. For that, I am eternally grateful. He opened the doors; however I did the rest. Read more>>

Emily Gustafson

I have always loved fashion and styling outfits, as well as makeup and skincare, and began following several fashion bloggers on Instagram about five years ago. Watching them share style ideas motivated me to start taking pictures of my own OOTD’s (outfit of the day) and sharing them on my personal Instagram page. My sister encouraged me to start my own blog as well, so after googling “how to start a blog,” I launched my fashion and beauty blog, Fabulously Overdressed, in April 2017. My personal IG page, @emily.noel.g, became my business page and I started sharing clothes, makeup, and beauty products daily. In the beginning, I took all my pictures on my Samsung Galaxy. I eventually upgraded to a DSLR Canon camera and my boyfriend and sister take almost all of the pictures. As a midsize woman (sizes 12-16), I noticed that most of the more popular fashion bloggers on IG were petite or a smaller size. This motivated me to share as much as possible about dressing for the body you have and making clothes work for you. Every woman deserves to feel beautiful and fashionable, no matter her size!. Read more>>

Roderick Zak

Need to Read (N2R) is the vision of Roderick Zak. The Zak provides leadership for Rejoice in the Lord Ministries, a non-denominational, multi-ethnic church with over 2,500 members. Roderick recalls growing up in a poor community where most of the families did not have books in their homes. He tells the story of going over to a childhood friend’s house who happened to be the smartest kid in the school. It was the first time he saw a child with his own personal library. That picture never left his mind. He promised himself that his children would have books to read at home. Zak believes that owning books creates an atmosphere where there is a higher chance for children to start and continue reading. N2R is a Florida nonprofit corporation with 501(c)(3) status. N2R’s program grew out of a desire to eliminate childhood illiteracy among low-income families. We have developed a national pilot program for enhancing literacy among children, which is one of the most extraordinary challenges facing our nation. Tragically, low-literate toddlers become low-literate teenagers and adults. N2R’s program seeks to confront this national crisis head-on. Read more>>

Ariel Golden

I was born and raised in Orlando, FL. Growing up, I’ve always had a deep passion for hair. By the age 17, I was making my own U-part wigs and wearing it around high school. I would also apply tracks in my hair and be creative with my hairstyles. I would spend hours watching YouTube videos on styling hair, how to make wigs and different products to use. As I got older, I began perfecting my craft with the intentions of starting my own hair company that focuses on wigs. I began applying frontal wigs on myself without using glue. Also, ensuring that I mimic my own hairline for a more natural look. In May 2020, my dreams of starting my own hair company A. Golden Lifestyle became a reality. The mission behind the name is that everyone woman or man is able to live their own Golden Lifestyle. I provide top-quality Frontal Wigs, Hair extensions, Closures and Frontals at an affordable price. I started off selling my first Frontal Bob Wig to one of my coworkers and that gave me the motivation to continue on. I quickly realized that running your own business isn’t always easy. Read more>>

Jenny Lake

I started real estate almost four years ago, about six months after I was divorced. I was a stay at home for many years. Previoulsy, I had taught first and second grade. I loved teaching but I knew I would not make a substantial enough salary to live the lifestyle I sought to live. Although I would receive alimony, I wanted to be able to provide for myself and my children in the future without having to rely on anyone else for financial support. I had not been in the workforce full-time for several years. I had considered sales but knew I needed several years of experience in medical sales or other fields which paid well. I had often thought about real estate but never really knew much about working in the industry. Regardless of my lack of knowledge, I decided to give real estate a try. I needed work experience, so even if it didn’t work out, I would have experience to add to my resume. I decided to give it at least two years so I would have some credentials and experience to add to my resume. I did okay initially but I was still dealing with the drama of the divorce and change and did mediocre my first year. Read more>>

Dennis Snow

When I was 18, I traveled from Vermont to Orlando to work at Walt Disney World for what I thought would be just a summer job. I was going to be Captain Nemo, working on the 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea attraction. That summer job turned into a 20-year career that gave me the opportunity to work at the Disney Institute and teach the Disney Traditions programs to new hires at the Disney University. I always knew that one day I wanted to start my own company and decided to leave Disney in 1999 to create my own customer service consulting firm. For the past 22 years, I have worked with clients all over the world to help them create what I like to call “walk-through-fire” customer loyalty. Read more>>

Elizabeth Yeh

Just Knots & Knots started during the pandemic, April 2020. Right before the pandemic happened, a family member asked me to make a macrame wall hanging for her. At that time, I’ve only made macrame and weaving for myself and have them display in my home. After I made the piece for her and posted on Instagram, other friends started to ask if I would make some for them as commissions. So pretty soon after, I opened my Etsy shop, started doing markets and events around Orlando area. Along the way, I found my love for making clay earrings as well! It’s a total different medium to create and express my creativity. Since I started doing events and pop-ups, I’ve met so many great small business owners and personally connect with quite a few of them. Recently I’ve started to make more connections with business owners, shops around town to provide workshops and products to more people in the community. Everybody needs art in their lives, either a small macrame keychain, cute clay earrings or a meaningful custom-made macrame wall hanging. It brings me joy to see when a customer comes to me and tell me how happy they are with their purchase. Sometimes, it’s the small things we didn’t know we needed. Read more>>

Gabriela Torres

I’ve always been obsessed with fashion; I used to want to work as an editor in chief or in the magazine industry when I was younger and decided to finally take a leap of faith with She Wears Color in December 2017. My mission is simple: I want to help women (all ages, it doesn’t matter if she’s 13 or 50!) to get out of their comfort zone and turn their insecurities to confidence through a colorful wardrobe! I have fun with bold colors, prints and patterns so why can’t other women have fun with it as well?. Read more>>

Krystal Jones

’m a typical 9 to 5 by day and run a small business part-time. I’m a social media influencer @krystalonthemove, who manages about seven social media accounts for other businesses. Now my main focus is on growing my own. I love working with lifestyle brands, beauty and travel products and hope to one day be in Southern Living magazine. Each year, I work with various organizations on projects that focus on suicide prevention as well as providing free career counseling to seniors in high school. I can’t wait to make a difference in Central Florida. I got where I am today by making a decision to make myself happy after years of depression. Read more>>

B. Cloy

I began pursuing a music career as a freshman at UCF. I released my first two singles, “One Night” and “Crash and Burn,” in the beginning of 2017. Shortly after, I released my debut EP, Looking for Love in the fall of 2017. Since then, I have released two more projects, Emotions pt. 1 (2018) and To Whom Do I Address? (2020). To Whom Do I Address? is probably my most personal project. And I’m really proud of it. Read more>>

Eric Patterson

When I was 17 years old, I lost my father due to a doctors mistake, he had sickle cell trait and was having trouble with his respiratory breathing this particular day so the doctor suggested that he was having strep throat symptoms and offer a medication without actually going through x-ray procedures to see if he had fluid or anything else that was causing the issue. They sent him an hour later, he had an allergic reaction to the medication and he died. That was only the beginning to my pain my mom kicks me out a year after my dad passed over a dude she just met that felt I was supposed to be “oh so far ahead” and not moping around grieving over his father. So once I was kicked out, I was scared didn’t really know to much about the streets so I was house to house, trap house, garages anywhere I could lay my head down for the night. I met friends who I later consider family who had a troubled upbringing, we form a bond but in other people’s eyes, we were a “gang” we did what any other family would, and that protects each other. But even protecting each other came with a cost, we would fight other people but that didn’t really last long before they start using guns and the friends I called family started dying. After going through the whole street life experience, I never stop writing poetry during this whole process. Read more>>

Jessica Sanchez Canelones

I am from Venezuela and I emigrated to the United States, specifically to Orlando, Florida, approximately four years ago. As many immigrants will be able to identify themselves, I had to start from scratch in a new country and leave behind my professional career, in my case as a lawyer, in my native country. I have always liked serving and helping others, and that is why I was interested in the insurance market, being able to offer a health plan that guarantees people peace of mind for themselves and their families definitely gratifies me for sure. Getting to where I am today has been a day-to-day work of perseverance and dedication, and it is for that I, without a doubt, believe that with hard effort, you can achieve everything you set your mind to. Read more>>

Brendan O’Connor

I came to Orlando about 16 years ago to work at Le Cellier Steakhouse at EPCOT as an international rep in the Canadian Pavilion, where I served steak to tourists and gave them the authentic Canadian experience they never knew they needed. I was there for a few years as a seasonal employee as I went to night school at Rollins College, earning a degree in Environmental Studies and Growth Management. I worked through a few weird stints at the City of Winter Park as the Volunteer Coordinator for Keep Winter Park Beautiful before getting let go for reporting my boss for stealing. That’s a long story! Then I worked at Orlando’s first co-working space, Urban ReThink in Thornton Park, before falling in with “Orlando Weekly” as their Calendar Editor. My boyfriend, Scottie Campbell, was the director of Ivanhoe Village Main Street and had been working with Matt Broffman at on a number of initiatives in the #Ivanhood before Broffman ended up getting hired by the City of Orlando. Broffman offered the gig of editor to my man who recommended me instead and the rest is history. I’ve been with Bungalower Media for over six years now and I’m loving every hyper-local minute. Read more>>

Alana Brasier

I’m a Tampa native currently living in Tampa with my husband Justin and (nearly) two-year-old daughter Charlie. From an early age I’ve had a love of the environment and preserving it for future generations. That focus has led me to where I am today, as the City of Tampa’s first-ever Vision Zero Coordinator – which is a transportation initiative focused on eliminating roadway fatalities by creating a safe, well-connected transportation system that supports multiple modes and a vibrant city. It would seem to be a far jump from my original love and focus to where I am now, but that focus on the environment is still at the heart of what I do. I studied Environmental Science & Policy at the University of Florida for my Bachelor’s Degree. From there, I went on the receive my Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of South Florida, as their first graduate from that program. I fell in love with urban planning because it is the practical application of the sustainability goals I am so focused on. How we plan and develop our cities has an immense impact on our environment. Creating a city that allows people to take transit, walk, or bike instead of driving in a personal vehicle not only creates a more sustainable city but it also creates a vibrant, dynamic city where people feel safe and secure. Read more>>

Sheri Still

While “researching” on Pinterest for something else, a picture with a pineapple read, “Stand Tall, Wear a Crown and Be Sweet on the Inside” caught my eye. My first response was “that could preach,” then the second was, I am not a preacher. But, God kept tugging at my heart to use this cute little saying to encourage teen girls. Which birthed Pineapple Principle, encouraging teen girls to “stand firm in their beliefs, own their crown and love like Jesus.” I want to mentor teen girls to live their life for Christ. We started our ministry with trying to build a community on Instagram, then our debut devotional, which instills our core values of a pineapple principle life while sharing my stories as a teen girl. Then in 2020, we released a podcast and another devotional book. We have plans to encourage girls with more devotionals and retreats in the future. Read more>>

Lauren Russell

I started my business in 2017 making gemstone bracelets for friends. As I got more involved with the healing energy of the stones and crystals and my online store expanded, I became more aware of and benefited tremendously on a personal level from meditation and Reiki healing energy. A friend invited me to a sunrise meditation/reiki circle on the beach in Boca Raton, FL and that was a life-changing moment for me. Other avenues of mind, body & spirit care and healing modalities really interested me, and I wanted to learn how to do it for my self-care practice. By popular demand and my love of learning, I eventually started working with clients and helping others do the same over two years ago when I reached practitioner status. In 2020, I was able to complete Reiki Mastery and now enjoy teaching my students do the same through Reiki 1, 2 & 3. Fast forward to today, I will beginning my third year working with clients in person in my studio in Orlando, FL and virtually as well as continuing to spread my love of crystals with my community as well. My mission is to share the wisdom, education and tools that have helped transform my life with the world and to help as many people as I can accomplish their goals, expand on their growth journey, and facilitate their own personal healing. Read more>>

LeighAnn Lights

I am a Starbucks-loving, Disney going, Makeup freak. I began freelancing while in high school; I’d do friends and family’s makeup for dances and special occasions. I freelanced through college. I actually didn’t continue Med school because I realized that being an MUA was my passion. Presently, I travel all over working weddings, photoshoots and special events. Read more>>

Gabriel Murgueytio

I’ve been drawing my whole life since I was a kid, but growing up, I never thought you could make a living doing something creative. As a kid, I wanted to be a doctor. I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, before moving to Florida with my family when I was around eight years old. Before I learned English, I relied on art and drawing as a way to express myself. I’ve kept several sketchbooks that helped me hone my illustration skills and even into middle school and high school, I always took art classes and participated in art shows. But I still believed you couldn’t make a living doing art. I ended up going to UCF for my bachelor’s in Nursing. Eventually, I actually changed my major to Psychology and graduated with a Bachelor’s in that, hoping to be a counselor instead. But in college, I began to be more confident about my work and started posting illustrations on Instagram and showing my friends this side of me more. As a result, art became a much more visible part of my identity where before it was something that I kept mostly to myself. I ended up getting a free trial to Adobe Creative Cloud and started scanning my pen and ink illustrations using a flatbed scanner. Read more>>

Sierra Rainge-Jones

When I reflect on my journey, I often find myself overwhelmed with gratitude. I can’t help but feel like I’ve been preserved for a greater purpose. Growing up in West Orlando, FL, I was raised in adverse conditions where I was exposed to drug addiction, violence and abuse during my early childhood. Developing resilience proved to be my superpower. It was my will to win that allowed me to persevere despite childhood trauma. Higher education was my outlet. After graduating from Maynard Evans High School, I went on to attend and graduate from Florida A & M University, where I earned a BS in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice. After college, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona to accept a job as a Maricopa County Juvenile Detention Officer. Working with at-risk youth in this capacity helped me to discover my passion for helping others realize their potential, discover their innate gifts and tap into their God-given talents. In an effort to reduce tension and conflict among the detainees during my work shift, I started creating programs to engage them in learning more about being creative and how they could maximize their gifts. I saw so much potential in the youth that I served, and I wanted them to see it too. Read more>>

Amanda Welch

I have worked with many talented artists during my seven-year career in the beauty industry. Their influence formed my style and inspired my belief that every woman has a perfect feature and should feel confident and be their own kind of beautiful. My makeup technique is reinforced by my skillful and experienced hairstyling. With a true passion for special occasion styling and hair color; I focuses specifically on updos and the latest trends in color. From barely-there natural beauty to red carpet glamour, any look can be achieved through My careful communication and exceptional vision. Read more>>

Emily Pherigo

In 2016, my business partner Aaliyah and I were working as managers for a popular woman’s retailer at the Florida Mall. We were required to dress to impress for work from head to toe. Aaliyah and I both loved purchasing shoes from an upcoming e-commerce site that was located overseas. We would constantly get complimented on our shoes and often recommend this website to our customers. On one slow weekday, Aaliyah and I were both on the sales floor and fantasized about starting our own business. We both came to the undeniable conclusion that an online shoe boutique that sold similar shoes to our favorite international shoe retailer would be great here in the states. Kind of toying with the idea, we started coming up with a name and loved the idea of eventually starting our own line. Read more>>

Zely Salazar

Wife and mother of two beautiful children. WeddingsbyZely started in late 2019 after helping a friend as what they referred to me rescuing their wedding day! I’ve coordinated events for previous jobs and family gatherings but never thought I’d make it into a business. A friend in the wedding industry saw me coordinate a wedding and advised that I should be doing it for a living. Since then, I took a leap of faith, and 18 months later, we’ve been able to help many couples enjoy their wedding day stress-free. Read more>>

Herb Maximo

I feel like everyone’s story is like a ladder… climbing up step by step but mine went a little more like climbing to the top of one ladder and then jumping to the next ladder to climb up that one… repeat that 5-6 times and that’s pretty much what I went through. It started in with music for me, I was a musician before anything else and to this day its still my first love. I spent most of my teenage years on stage fronting a screamo band. I knew I was meant to be in the music industry but wasn’t quite sure where I fit yet so a few years into my 20’s I decided to go back to school and enrolled in Full Sail University, where I graduated with a Bachelors in Music Business. While there, I took on practically ever internship I could get and my future in the industry was looking pretty promising. I started working with talent buyers and artist managers in Orlando and at the time, I dabbled around with photography just as a hobby; I never really took it seriously. Out of nowhere, I would start getting asked to shoot the bands that would come into Orlando… it started off with up and coming acts, then to the more established local bands, then to somehow shooting national touring acts at music festivals. Read more>>

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