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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.

Franky Jr.

Growing up as a 1st generation Filipino-American in a foreign country was an interesting start to my life. I was raised in Japan for nine years due to my dad being in the Navy, and spent 15 years in Las Vegas then found my way here in Central Florida nearly four years ago. I came out as Trans Masculine in my Senior Year of High School, back in 2011. The hype back then was all about Tumblr, so that’s where I came across information about the LGBTQ+ community. For months before I came out, I was gathering all the information I can and talked to as many people as I can reached out to before I decided to fully commit to coming out. Read more>>

Julincy Garo

My story in real estate started in 2009, I was a recent graduate of Hotel Administration, unemployed. My aunt Deyanira Garo offered to help me in her office while she found an ideal job, I started and not two weeks passed when I told her that I wanted to be a Real Estate Agent like her. He gave me the opportunity to be his junior associate and in the first month of work, I closed my first deal, after four years of being an assistant I decided to launch myself and be a senior associate, in this process I go very high and low, very high and very low. I spent a lot of money and time preparing myself, especially in the matters of real estate law, taxes and electronic commerce, I took all the classes available in my area. Everything started in Remax where he stayed for about 11 years, there he met very successful people like Melido Marte, Wilton Mueses, Rejis Jimenez, Willie Mendez, etc. from which I learned many things that I still put into practice today. Read more>>

Oriel Ross McKinney

My pioneering company is The Small Biz Engine®. It’s a business consultancy specializing in business strategy and brand development. I initially launched this company after a series of successes that sparked from conversations and recommendations I made to friends who were starting businesses and advancing their careers. I realized not only do I enjoy the evolution of business, but I was able to establish a methodology for expansion and there is value in what I bring. Read more>>

Ayanna Keeling

As a young adult, I’ve always had a knack for public relations and strategic communication. I knew that I wanted to be involved in the world of media; whether print media, broadcast media or social media. I attended Immaculate High School in Los Angeles, California; which is a college preparatory school for young women. Throughout high school, I was introduced to social media for the first time and I knew then how important it was to be connected and stay connected with the people around me. At the time, I didn’t understand the power of social media, but I enjoyed the idea of being able to connect with my friends – even from a distance. Read more>>

Annette Gitli and Matias Raciazek

Our story started with a passion we both share as a couple: our love for animals. We’ve both had animals our whole lives, including dogs. When we started dating, we realized we both wanted a career change, and we wanted to start doing something that we love. We both had dogs in the past, and when I (Annette) met Matias, I had my first Chow Chow, Sascha. We both fell for the breed. Chows are stubborn, but at the same time they’re the best household dog you can find. We even had 3 Chows in a tiny apartment at one point and people kept asking how we did it. Contrary to what people usually think, there’s really nothing to do, they’re so well behaved that sometimes we forget that there’s dogs at home. Read more>>

Alanna Alicea

My journey in the esthetics industry started at the age of 26, I was fresh out of a six years relationship working as a Paralegal. After the break up I found myself reflecting on what I was doing with my life and realized I couldn’t see myself in this field until retirement age. At the time, I was dabbling in doing my own makeup and found a course that offered both education in makeup artistry and esthetics. I enrolled to “Cortiva Institute” in Maitland which at the time was known as “Florida College of Natural Health” and graduated in December 2017. As most new graduates, I was ecstatic about this new journey and only had the most optimistic plan for myself. Read more>>

Eddie & Eric Stankiewicz

Well, we are Brothers and best friends, born and raised in Miami Florida, we came to Orlando in 2007 to begin our careers working for Disney on the Disney College Program. Between us both, we have worked and still work for both Disney and Universal. We both specialize in Customer Service, so theme parks was a great place to put our strengths to use. Our background is Polish and Colombian. The name of the company and sauce comes from our nickname growing up, “Stanky”, which is short for our last name “Stankiewicz.” Read more>>

Zachary Miller

I am the co-founder of WeFlip Entertainment. My partner is Csaba Szilagyi. Csaba and I have been performing acrobatics together for over nine years. Three years ago, we got this crazy idea to take our skills and open our own business! That’s when WeFlip was born. At the time, we both worked at Disney as stuntmen and the business was a side project. However, right away it started to take off. In the first year, we landed long-term contracts in places like SeaWorld Orlando and Valleyfair in Minnesota. We kept chugging along until we were hit by a “train,” just like everyone, with the pandemic. We first saw every single event for the entire year cancel on us. In addition to that, we both were eventually laid off by Disney due to the pandemic. However…we were determined to keep going… Read more>>

Guenther Oka

I began wakeboarding at the young age of four years old. My parents are from Ohio and were big water-skiers. My dad actually water skied at the Orlando Sea World in the ski shows back in the day. Growing up in Ohio, we would go to the lake house in the summer and spend as much time as possible in the water. I was always wakeboarding and waterskiing and just enjoying time on the water. When I started competing around age 9, I didn’t think I could do it for a living. But as I got older and my skills progressed, I thought I might have a shot at doing this full time. When I was 16, I moved onto Lake Jessamine in Orlando and began my wakeboarding career. From there, I’ve accumulated 5 World Titles, 5 National Titles, and an X-Games Gold Medal, Orlando is the place to be for Wakeboarding! Read more>>

Genesis Reference Laboratories

With over 11 years of experience in the Laboratory Sales Force, Britt, Phil and Chris came together with a plan – to revolutionize the laboratory experience and to bring first-class customer, clinical and patient services to this industry. Read more>>

Johnathan O’Gilvie

In 2008 my mom asked me what instrument I’d like to play. I said I didn’t know, she said try guitar and ended up buying one for me. That was when I really started to develop a love for music outside of just listening. In 2010 I started playing piano and enjoyed doing so more than I did guitar so I switched over. I got into writing songs in high school with both my church band and my friends in school. After I graduated, I bought a laptop and wanted to learn as much as I could about producing so I practiced and applied almost everyday. Fast forward to today, I’d consider myself to be a pretty capable producer. I’m also an artist… Read more>>

Todd Reed

So like a lot of artists, my journey started when I was still in diapers, I’ve always enjoyed scribbling and watching the pencil flow around the paper. I always say “talent” is a pursued interest and I was lucky enough to have my parents and other family and friends nurture my creativity and gave me the slight “push” to keep going! Whether it was art supplies for my birthday and Christmas or verbal support. I feel like we’re all artists, but our creativity is manifested in so many different ways. Read more>>

Tyrianna Johnson

My story began when I was younger. A school wasn’t seen as pretty because of my nose they would always pick on it & I used to cry sometimes because I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Until I started actually embracing my beauty, I started doing my hair, nails & toes done, eyebrows arched & sometimes make-up too. I also know how to do hair too. So I’m learning a lot and still writing my story. Read more>>

Marcus Lowe Sr

Marcus Lowe is an energetic, motivated and highly dynamic person with strong working skills and a broad range of hands-on and theoretical experience in the personal training field; adept at providing workout plans and developing new exercise regimens through physical activity/work. Marcus is highly qualified, demonstrating excellent interpersonal skills, specializing in mentoring youth, helping clients reach their personal fitness goals as well as body sculpting, speed and agility training, and skills training. Read more>>

Christian Chica

It started when I was battling stage Four Hodgkins Lymphoma Cancer. During the time of chemo, I decided to look at other ways to assist in the healing process. That’s when I started to look at healthy alternatives. I first purchased a regular juicer and while researching, I noticed that there was a cold press juicer (masticating juicer). When I discovered I purchased a cold press juicer. One day I didn’t want to juice and decided to go to a store to buy a cold press and paid $13 bucks for it, I found that to be ridiculous so I decided to start a company that will make it affordable. I also want to educate the masses about a healthy lifestyle. Read more>>

Jonathan Simmons

My story starts in a relatively small city called Camden, New Jersey. Camden is right across the bridge from one of America’s largest metropolitan areas, Philadelphia but Camden made a name for itself by winning the award of America’s Most Dangerous City in the past. But growing up and living in the city, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a city full of perseverance, love and immense talent. I was raised by my Grandparents, Vivienne and Preston since damn near birth and they made sure to keep me and my two older brothers out of the streets with after school programs and other extracurricular activities. Read more>>

Ryan Danley

2015 a band I was in broke up… while tryin to regroup and find my next musical endeavor. I began exploring another love & passion I have, which is for Halloween & horror. In late 2016, I remember like yesterday, I was in line at Halloween horror nights later that year and in my notes on phone I started to create a name, tee ideas, and other aspects I wanted for my company… so I learned how to make fun items like soap, dolls, jewelry as well working on tee designs. Mid 2017, I started going strong on Instagram as well. I had my first two events that year. Online I looked to reach out to other brands, network, market and build the brand and with events, it started locally in 2017 which quickly turned into southeast by 2018. Major horror conventions such as spooky empire, days of the dead as well wholesale retail footprints have all helped to grow the DOA CO. brand. I continue today to do events as well create a unique product that is for the passionate fan! Read more>>

Solangel Pirela

I’m born and raised in Venezuela and I came to this country 15 years ago with big expectations and little ideas of how everything works, like many Hispanics that migrate to this country, I wanted pretty big things at once and I knew It was possible to get them quickly but I didn’t imagine that they came with a very high cost so I work hard, I opened different businesses, I had my ups, I had my downs and like many others fall off deep not knowing how credit and financial system works founding myself in a big hole full of imaginable debt and some trouble that unfortunately let me into bankruptcy. So I begin to study the financial system, I obsessed over every single detail, became certified, and fund my way to inform other new entrepreneurs in how to startup and establish their own business and acquire business credit to obtain the funds needed to become an organized entity and archive success. Read more>>

Blake Campbell

In 2012, at the age of 22, I wrote my first song in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. I was living in Connecticut attending Sacred Heart University at the time. Transitioning from D1 Football to life after sports and academia, some of my teammates started recording music. One artist in particular, a Florida native named ReubMac (who also lives in the Orlando area) wrote a line about the Trayvon Martin situation which inspired me to write a verse. That verse turned into a song and the song turned into a mixtape called “The Rhymebook of Eli.” The ten songs project created a buzz on campus, social media and some blog sites.  Read more>>

Heather Musser

My journey in a beauty industry started at 16 years of age I had a dream I own my own salon and product line, I followed my passion from there. Those closest to me told me, “Heather, you will never make it as a stylist” even though I work as a solo esthetician supporting my son and I as a single mom here in Florida. I moved to the Orlando area in 2016 not knowing anyone and slept out of my car for six months to get where I am now. The journey has not ended and I am still on my path to grow as a successful business owner and entrepreneur. My first job here in Florida, I bartended for about a year until I got my Florida credentials and was able to get a job in the salon. Read more>>

Brandyss Howard

From childhood, I was always interested in writing and photography. In high school, I was involved in activities such as the school newspaper and yearbook club. Upon graduation, I decided to attend Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University where I majored in Journalism. I continued my collegiate career at the University of South Florida and later earned a Master’s degree in Business Journalism and Communications from Florida International University in 2008. During these years, I served as a radio personality for my college station WBUL in Tampa and an intern at WILD 98.7 in St. Petersburg. Read more>>

Rafael Riobueno

I’m a Metallurgical Engineer that has been working in the construction area for more than eight years. I worked on demanding projects for Disney, Universal, Orange County Convention Center, Orange County Public Schools, Bush Gardens and a lot of residential projects. Every single day one different person told me that I knew a lot and I could make my own business but I was afraid of the customers, providers, labors… there is a lot to consider when you are starting a Construction Business but during the pandemic (2019) my old Boss told me… Read more>>

Stephanie Alfieri

It all began in 1981 at Plumb Elementary in Clearwater, FL. At some point in time (August 2013), we reconnected in Orlando, FL where we have enjoyed visiting local craft breweries, pubs, tap houses and restaurants – among other things! During a visit to a local hangout, we had a brilliant idea – hurry, get a napkin – cut beer bottles into containers for our fantastic, clean burning candles! Why use the typical container when we can recycle bottles!?! Happy Hour Recycled! There were a lot of trials and even more errors; however, we finally figured how to cut, grind and polish beer bottles to make unique candle vessels. So after many, many moons and owl sightings later, The Plum Owl Co was born! Read more>>

Calvin Lester

I grew up in a small town in the coal fields of West Virginia playing sports and occasionally performing in church or elementary school plays. I spent a lot of time drawing, creating characters, and writing stories or shows. I had been inspired by the works of Jim Henson, Charles Schultz, Walt Disney, and Dr. Seuss. I loved watching films and then seeing how they were made. My outlet to perform was non-existent due to our high school theater department not having funding. I ended up requesting to write variety shows and plays for the school while roping my friends into joining the cast. Read more>>

Mrs. Ida Moore

I live in Orlando, FL (Native Floridian). I grew up watching my mother create gourmet dishes in the kitchen for our family dinners, events, etc. I have always had a passion for cooking. However, never became a chef. My journey started out working at Disney’s Starlight Cafe. That’s was the intro into my young adult hospitality years. Soon after, My paths changed and I became a team member for Logan’s Roadhouse Inc. I was employed with Logan’s for over 15 years. It wasn’t until my departure from the company (went out of business). Is when I realized how passionate I became for the Hospitality industry, So on down through the years when the time was right. I set a goal to start a Mobile Food Vendor business. Read more>>

Destiny Bowser

My eighth grade year of school, my teacher, Mrs. Bradley, had the class do an assignment where we had to create a poem, a story, a script, or a song. You already know which one I picked! I’ve been writing lyrics since elementary school. I dreamed to move away and become a famous singer. Back to the story, I ended up making a short rap over “Chiraq” Instrumental and the class returned energetic feedback. The same day, I went home and did another remix over the same instrumental to post on my social medias. My first video, I got 1,000+ views. It made me feel good and I continued making short raps, challenges, content and etc. for my social media. Boom, five years later, I remain committed to my dream, my passion. Read more>>

Floyd Welsh

Established in 2019, boxthecity was created to provide regional gift solutions for events, meeting planners & destination consumers. The idea behind boxthecity began while shopping a pop up market in Orlando’s Milk District. So many unique items are made locally, from housewares and wellness products to delicious snacks & incredible art. After doing some research, we discovered that the standard corporate gift basket was typically made from promotional swag & branded tech, and many business travelers were starting to look for items that represented the local culture and popular destinations. Central Florida is the number one destination in the United States for meeting planners, business & leisure travelers around the globe. It is a diverse, geographical playground, bursting with exciting adventures! Read more>>

Demetrius D. Watts

I got my starting comedy because there was a UCF sorority (LTA) throwing a talent show on campus and one of the girls asked my fraternity if anyone would like to participate. One of the girls told me I was funny and that I should tell jokes. I said, “why not”. Saying “Why Not” started it all off. I began preparing jokes, writing jokes so I’d be ready to perform in front of my university, that was a lot of pressure, I didn’t want to get messed up or not be funny. However I never performed at the talent show because it was canceled. I wanted to know if my jokes were funny, so I googled local open mics. I found an open mic at Sleuths Mystery Lounge. Read more>>

P Butta

I started not knowing much. All I knew was that I wanted to make music. Now I’m here today more polished and knowledgeable. It’s been a heck of a journey, I can tell you that. But I’m grateful none the less. Read more>>

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