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The Change-Makers: stories that inspire

The heart of our mission is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our communities. In the recent weeks, we’ve had the privilege to connect with some incredible artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and rabble rousers and we can’t begin to express how impressed we are with the incredible group below. Check out our favorite stories from across the Voyage family.

Rudy Montilla

One day, I asked my wife, Marta, what she wanted to be when she grew up. She looked at me and said a photographer. I immediately thought of National Geographic or being a Press Photographer. Little did I know that she wanted to be a portrait photographer and a wedding photographer. That’s when Rudy & Marta Photography was born. Over time, we started photographing anything and everything that we could photography. Then one summer, a friend asked us to photograph their wedding. The rush that came from that was huge. We loved every aspect of it. The most important thing that we loved about it was the raw, honest emotions that people evoke on their wedding day. Dad crying when they see their daughter in their wedding dress. The groom’s reaction when he sees their significant other down the aisle. The smiles, laughter, and tears of the newlyweds finally getting to the ceremony. All those moments, all those emotions, all of it is real. All of it is true. We’ve been photographing weddings for over ten years. We’ve been to hundreds of weddings. Every single one of them different. Every single one of the couples different. And every single story was different. Read more>>

Jayzel Drake

I was born in the Philippines and moved to the United States 12 years ago. I always have a passion for creating my own skincare line and be able to help other people shine and glow with their natural beauty. I was furloughed from my job during the Pandemic and was stuck at home for months. These few months on lockdown has been very beneficial for me, in a way to finally learn and researched how to make my own handmade skincare products. I started making Novelty Soaps at first. and later, learned how to formulate hair products for personal use only. After few weeks of debating what I really wanted to do, I found out that you can make your own Lipgloss and so I did! I made my first Lipgloss to practice. My first intention is to make it for personal use only. After several trials and errors, I am more motivated to improve the formula. It took me six months and a lot of testing to finally come up with a great and amazing formula. Each time during my journey, my mom tested the Lipglosses as well and we share feedbacks every day. I always have an issue with dry and grainy lips since I was younger and I thought that if I make them and sell them, I might help people that have the same issues as mine. Read more>>

Lisa Stoner

I started my business just about 18 years ago when I was soul searching for a change in my career that would allow me to generate income for my family and also be home when I wanted and need to be to my two toddler girls. Read more>>

Kimberly Kapes

I have a confession to make. For years, I was caught up in the stress, speed and to-do lists that come with daily life in corporate America. I missed the beauty and awe that fills our world. When I evaluated what mattered, I discovered that personal experiences and meaningful connections elevated my feelings of joy more than anything else. Not frantic schedules and endless deadlines. I realized that if I didn’t consciously cultivate my own life experience, I would risk having my life dominated by the demands of what our society thinks of as “normal.” By slowing down, I experienced the world and felt the joy that comes from bringing happiness to others. And through that, I boosted my resilience and wellbeing. It gave me strength and energy to get back to my lifelong dreams. Dreams to change the world one person at a time by sprinkling a little happiness through creating meaningful moments for others. When you reclaim purpose and joy, it feels like coming home after a long journey. And when I “came home,” I was motivated by the passion of creating something more than a bottom-line business. Read more>>

Matthew Lennox

When a severe hailstorm hit Sydney in 2007, the NSW Government appointed a task force to manage the repair process. Insurance builder Matthew Lennox was tasked with repairs and reconstruction. Over the following months, he saw insurance claims multiply fourfold due to failed tarpaulins in the rain and high wind. This sparked the idea for Stormseal. ‘Damaged houses became ruined, waiting for repairs. I saw not just physical impacts and financial losses, but terrible mental and emotional suffering, which continued long after the storm was over,’ says Matt. ‘I knew that severe storms were becoming more common around the world. I was determined to find a better solution than tarps for protecting damaged properties.’ Matt put his frustration to work. He spent the next five years consulting with John O’Neill, one of Australia’s leading chemical polymer engineers, to develop Stormseal: a strong, durable polyethylene film that heat-shrinks to cover a damaged structure and stays put until permanent repairs are made. Read more>>

Michelle Irizarry

I was born in Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island full of color, history and inspiration. I am the daughter of an architect, and during my childhood, my parents owned an art gallery in the city of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Inspiration was abundant and art materials were always at hand throughout my childhood. Starting at a young age, I took art lessons in a variety of media. Even with hiatuses along the way, I have pursued art throughout my life as a therapeutic and healing endeavor. My work has evolved over the years and has included many different media such as oils, acrylics, watercolors, oil pastels and mixed media. In recent years, I have developed a fascination with the human figure and face. My own children have become the subject of many of my paintings. Human suffering and overcoming adversity are also common themes present in my artwork. Being a hydrologist and climate scientist by education, I am especially sensitive to environmental causes. Water and climate change are common themes in my artwork. Read more>>

Jacqualine Fermin

I have been a licensed hairstylist for about six years. I started cosmetology training in high school, although my interest began well before that. My first introduction to the world of hair was when my mom would bleach out sections of my hair and apply Manic Panic color, and I was obsessed! From there, I came across the work of amazing stylists like Vidal Sassoon, Trevor Sorbie, Chrystofer Benson and Naeemah LaFond to name a few. I fell in love with the outrageous, avant-garde looks I was seeing done for photoshoots and the runway and decided that is what I wanted to do. Since then I have worked in a few salons, one of which presented some really amazing opportunities that I will forever be grateful for, but I always knew I never wanted to be stuck behind a chair full time. I don’t think people realize that there are so many different avenues to go down in this industry – you can do salon work, commercial, advertising, editorial, fashion and beauty, platform, education, sales, and the list goes on! Over the last couple of years, I have been a freelance stylist and have shifted my focus to bridal work. Read more>>

Jorge Aguilar

I started bartending out of necessity. I moved to Orlando with my pregnant wife. I worked as a stocker at Universal Orlando’s Citywalk. I asked the bartenders if the money from bartending, though the money fluctuates, was enough to raise a family. Their response was always a “yes.” As a man that is the head of household and the only one that works, I instantly started learning this craft. I started by purchasing “The Bartender’s Black Book” and started to memorize the popular cocktails, such as “Margaritas,” “Sex On The Beach,” etc.. Through my work ethic, my supervisors allowed me to get behind the bar and learn the signature cocktails and help out the bartenders with basic cocktails whenever they got busy. I finally had the opportunity to apply for a bartender position when NBC Sports Grill & Brew was announced to open back in 2015. Although I wasn’t qualified, due to the little experience that I had, the hiring managers gave me a shot based on my knowledge. Fast forward a couple of years, and I’m in love with my craft. I do mixology at home, and due to that, I have had the opportunity to work at private events and work at a craft cocktail bar. My goal is to open my own bartending business. Read more>>

Bill Daubmann

MY Shower Door is a family-owned and operated business involving the Daubmann family… Bill and Donna (husband/wife), Keith and Douglas (sons). After operating in Western Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut for 13 years, the family sold their business and homes in Mass and moved to SW Florida. We opened our first frameless shower door showroom in Naples on Sept 3, 2003, with three of the original family members and the fourth joined the rest three months later. Since that time, the business has grown to a staff of 120 and has nine frameless shower door showrooms throughout Florida AND a manufacturing and distribution facility that serves all areas of Florida and beyond. There were many pitfalls and challenges along the way but, as a family, they were navigated and dealt with. MY Shower Door grew vertically in 2013 by starting their own manufacturing plant, D3 Glass, named after the three Daubmann boys. D3 Glass has become one of the top glass producers in Florida and MY Shower Door is ranked one of the top glass companies in the United States. Read more>>

Arlene Blake

Arlene is an entrepreneurial event coach, event consultant, acclaimed keynote speaker, Sales Representative, Founder and Executive Director of Women On The Rise International, Inc. with over 13 years of experience as an event planner for corporate and special events, and most importantly, a mom to an amazing three (almost four) year old little boy who is the apple of her eye. She is a solution-driven, big picture strategist and creative with a keen eye for detail, which allows her to see every project’s vision from conception to implementation. Arlene grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and made her way to Orlando when she decided to attend the University of Central Florida for undergrad. Upon acceptance into UCF, Arlene applied for 24 scholarships and won 20 of them. Now she often lends her time to educate groups of students on how they too can go to college for free. In 2020 Arlene was recognized by the Orlando Business Journal as a Women Who Means Business, an honor held in high regard in the Central Florida Business Community. Read more>>

Dr. Eboni, Jasmine Rainey and Jackson

Sassy Sista’s Boutique was founded by sisters Dr. Eboni and Jasmine (Sarasota, FL). Both sisters obtained a BS and MBA degree from prestigious Universities (Florida A&M University and Bethune Cookman University) and decided to use their education and experience to complement their love for hair. Their passion for hair first started in middle and high school doing braids, twists, and sew-ins for friends, family, and customers. While clientele increased, both sisters continued to broaden their skills by incorporating caps and wigs during college. Post-college, they now focus on providing customized wig units to women across the globe. Sassy Sista’s Boutique is a unique business that primary focus is to provide customized, handmade, and machine-made wig units for women across the globe. Along with our luxurious wigs, we also provide pampering options; such as facials, waxing, and eyelash extensions. Read more>>

Mallery Neptune

Our brand was created out of a need to protect a vulnerable group of coffee farmers living high in the mountains of Haiti. In 2017 Hurricane Matthew barreled through the area, destroying crops and demolishing nearly every home, school, and community building. Our nonprofit ministry, Haiti Foundation Against Poverty, came alongside the community members to help them replant crops and replace animals, to support them in the regaining of their livelihoods. When their first coffee harvest was in sight, the farmers were increasingly worried about being taken advantage of by large coffee traders. The coffee industry is a major abuser of human rights with widespread violations for child labor, inhumane living conditions, lack of latrines, and unfair wages. In an effort to secure the farmers with living wages and see empowerment and investment come to fruition for the community, we began Avanti Coffee Company. When our coffee project began I had been living in Haiti for eight years. Read more>>

Brian Kirkwood and Stephanie Turkovich

We are friends of 15 years who met right here in Orlando, Florida. We met while working on the Walt Disney World College Program. Over the years, we began to discover that Orlando was more than just the attractions. Our podcast was created to highlight businesses and things to do in Central Florida outside of what people normally think of Orlando. Read more>>

Regene Hallback

I am 26 years old. I am an OCPS (Orange County Public Schools) graduate from Dr.Phillips High school class of 2012, I attended Orlando Technical College for Digital Audio Production, where I received my certifications in Broadcast Announcer and Audio Equipment Technician. I attended Bethune Cookman University studying Mass Communication with an emphasis on Broadcast Production and a minor in Music Technology. Today I am an employee of OCPS as the Administrative Secretary for the Curriculum and Digital Learning department. I am a Business Manager and the owner of Beautys Management Solutions LLC. I manage small businesses in Orlando, FL. Before starting my business, I was managing multiple businesses. Yuri Marie Beauty with Crown Me Royal LLC is a cosmetologist who specializes in bridal hair and makeup. We started the business together, and this small business gave me my first insight into how to run a business. Kenneth (Kenny) Watkins with Wrap N Fly INC does luggage wrapping, luggage storage, and luggage delivery. Read more>>

Karen Blankenzee

Many years ago, my friend who owns a big coffee company in Korea encouraged me to study the professional world of coffee, and I saw my underlying passion for this drink that stretches through history and transcends culture. My underlying passion continuously grew through learning from barista classes to latte art courses, and I finally obtained an official Coffee Taster certificate. But this knowledge and expertise was a blessing and a curse. Try as I may, finding good coffee proved to be difficult a few years ago in Orlando. After exploring many cafés, restaurants, and grocery stores, I finally decided to introduce my friends and neighbors to high-quality coffee by launching Rosso Specialty Coffee in Florida. Read more>>

Katelyn Weikart

I started off as a massage therapist in 2007. After one of the spas that I was employed at shut down due to lack of management, I approached the general manager of the resort and gave him a proposal to rent the space and run the business myself. With only a couple of years of experience underneath my belt as a massage therapist, facial specialist and nail technician, I fumbled my way through the first year learning by my mistakes. I have then since grown to two beautiful spa locations and scouting out locations for my third. I use my attention to detail in customer service to make sure that every single guest of mine is thrilled with their Treatments. My staff and I have a combination of over 70 years of experience in the spa industry. It is my absolute pleasure to relax, restore, and renew every single client that steps through my doors. Read more>>

Salvatore and Katty Cavalieri

Katty was a 25-year-old girl who just got married, full of energy and excited to start a new period of her life. She had already graduated with her master’s degree and was working at corporate America in a job that allowed her to travel to different parts of the world. She felt fulfilled! She felt so successful professionally and was in love! She got married and traveling for work alone was not fun any longer. She missed her husband! Both talked and decided to be independent and not depend on a paycheck and leave corporate America. In 2002, With the support of her husband and very focused on her new goal, Katty got her real estate license in 1 week! She started learning about commercial real estate (not residential) she learned how to really create wealth in real estate and how others were doing it. The learning experience took her a year. She didn’t sell anything during this time, but she and her husband bought their first property as an investment during that time. Read more>>

Amanda Mastroddi

My passion has always been baking, and I have been baking for as long as I can remember – whether it was for family and friends, co-workers, or church gatherings, I always enjoyed challenging myself by baking new recipes that I knew others would enjoy. In the back of my mind, I would imagine myself starting up a business and selling my baked goods, but I would get intimated and overwhelmed, never really sure where to start. During the quarantine last year, like many other bakers, I was finding myself baking new things and one dessert that always intrigued me was macarons. While I had enjoyed them at local boba shops, I never brought myself to bake them myself – until April of 2020. Macarons are a special kind of cookie that requires a baker with a lot of patience, that is for sure! Batch after batch, day after day, I would try to perfect these difficult little delicacies. Baking macarons is not just about having the right ingredients. You also need to have the right materials, technique, temperature, and did I mention patience?! While it was tiring and frustrating, I kept working at it, learning from my mistakes and improving my technique. Read more>>

Keila Ortiz

I was born and raised in Humacao, Puerto Rico, in 1977. I am the daughter of an Iraq War U.S. Military veteran and my mom was a stay at home mom. I had a great childhood, and I was fortunate enough to receive a great education while I was growing up. My parents made sure that we had everything we needed, and for that, I am very grateful–but everything changed once I decided to move out of my family’s home and become independent. I was hit with a dose of reality once I stepped out into the “real world.” A world where the protection and safety of my family didn’t exist and I had to face a lot of difficult situations and harsh realities on my own. At 17, I decided to move in with my aunt here in Kissimmee, FL to begin my college education. Soon after, I met my daughter’s father while we were both studying in college. After a few months, we decided to move in together, and not long after that, I got pregnant. At 19 years old, I gave birth to my firstborn, a beautiful baby girl. As the months went by, I soon realized that my daughter’s father was not ready to be a dad–neither emotionally nor financially. Our relationship was a disaster and started going downhill fast. Read more>>

Nattasha Silva

Tata beauty studio is a beauty center aimed at providing an experience of relaxation and comfort. When you leave you to feel completely renewed both on the outside and on the inside. TBS originated in 2018, after Nattasha Silva, its creator and better known as Tata, managed to begin her studies in what she was already passionate about in Venezuela for many years, the vast world of beauty. It started with the branch of permanent makeup and eyelash extensions in order to become more specialized step by step and obtain their certificates and licenses. Since then, TBS has gone through different stages, all of learning and professional growth. At the beginning, I work at home. Then I am part of two different Spas, which provide you with a much clearer vision of what you should do to step by step achieve having your own independent space dedicated to highlighting the natural beauty of the women. Today, TBS has grown professionally, has managed to create and maintain a loyal clientele, through excellent quality service and attention. Read more>>

Kelly Erwin

I have always had a passion for and seen the value in a photograph. About a year after my daughter was born, I started getting more serious about documenting memories for others and started a little business out of it. As I grew in my art and in my business, I really honed in on my style and what I wanted to do after losing both of my parents, suddenly within eight months of each other, and realizing how few photos and videos I had of them and my daughter, and even with them myself as an adult, I wanted to shout from the rooftops how important it is. I began to learn to shoot family films and the rest is history. Creating family films for families brings me more joy than I could imagine. Creating something that they can leave behind, so their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and even further down can hear their voice and see the way they laughed. So their children can remember the way it felt when they hugged them. So that memories can be reignited just by watching an old three minute family film. That is mine why. Read more>>

Ashley Ericksen

There has always been something about the beauty / cosmetic world that has intrigued me. When I was struggling through college, I used makeup and makeup tutorials as my happy place- my escape. I decided that once I finished my Bachelor’s degree, I would chase my dreams of becoming a Professional Makeup Artist, and I did just that! I went to First Coast Technical College in St. Augustine for my license in Esthetics, then assisted with some local makeup artists to build confidence and learn more about techniques and the ins-and-outs of the industry. Once I felt comfortable going out on my own, I started freelancing. Read more>>

Keisha Jordan

My business, Kustoms by K.J., was birthed from a hobby. I would create gift baskets for friends and colleagues depending on the occasion, and it would be personalized based on the occasion, favorite things, etc. After spending quite a bit of money creating these baskets, a friend suggested I start putting my talent to use and make a profit so, in December of 2018, I decided to start a small business creating custom, one-of-a-kind gift baskets. Read more>>

Anna Viaud

I grew up in a small city close to Cologne, Germany with my wonderful parents and sister. When I finished school I applied for an International Business school close to my parents but I wasn’t quite sure if this was the right path for me. So I decided to take a gap year, packed my suitcase and flew to London, England. There, I worked as a breakfast waitress in a beautiful 5-star hotel in Mayfair and learned a lot about hotels, business and myself. After a few months I met a wonderful guy and fell in love. Even though it was hard to leave, I returned to Germany to start my studies. During this time I got to work and study around the world: I had internships in fabulous hotels in London and New York City and graduated with a BA in Hospitality Management in Melbourne, Australia. I spent every free minute traveling and exploring the world. I started my first “real” job after graduating at the Four Seasons Hotel in London. That wonderful French guy I had met there years before was still by my side and when the hotel closed for renovation we decided to travel the world together! We transferred to the Four Seasons Resort Nevis in the Caribbean but never got there. Read more>>

S dot K

From the moment I picked up a pen, I knew greatness was ahead of me. I started making music when I was 14 years old and I figured music was always the one thing that I could escape to when I needed a positive outlet. I didn’t have much confidence in myself with anything else and I suffered from low self-esteem for years, so I wanted to continue this path to hopefully see what confidence and self-love look like and spread it to any and everyone that hears me express my creativity. Through the years, I have been able to successfully do just what I set out to do and create a name for myself with so many accomplishments. On May 25th, 2020, I received the news that police officers killed George Floyd and that struck a nerve in the nation. Seeing the riots and the protest and the cries of the people across the world gave me the motivation to express my opinion the best way I knew how. Five days later, I recorded a song called “Can’t Breathe” which explains my stance on the matter and attempting to bring unity and peace to the community. That same day, my producer, Artie, sent me two other beats and I was blown away! I decided to do a whole project to promote awareness of the social injustice our nation is up against. Read more>>

Ann-Marie Wilson

I am the creator of Kwēn Jewelry. Kwēn (Queen) jewelry is an eclectic jewelry line of mostly one-of-a-kind finds. I specialize in earrings however I also create necklaces, bracelets, hair jewelry and pins. I do a lot of hand painting work but also upcycle pieces from old items and bring them back to life in a whole new way. I have a love for anything DIY and creating pieces for myself leads to friends asking me to create pieces for them. And so, with the encouragement of my friends and family, Kwēn Jewelry was born. I started out with only a few pieces and a post here and there on Facebook, but it wasn’t until I began selling on Etsy when business really kicked off for me. This has allowed me to purchase supplies at a faster rate and make more quality items. I create all my items from the comfort of my home, where I now have overtaken my dining room and turned it into my studio. My creations are an array of different styles and sizes, and while most of my items are created for women, I do consider a few of my pieces gender-neutral. Each of my pieces is created with love and I take so much pride in that! I love that my creations are very bold, vibrant, unique and very much statement pieces. Dare to be different in one of my items. Read more>>

Melissa Cotton

I started writing my blog and posting motherhood and lifestyle content on my page due to the pandemic. I felt like God was calling me to share my journey (the highs, lows and all the in-between a) of being a first time mom and wife while working from home and learning how to balance all these avenues! Unfortunately, I was furloughed from my previous employer due to the pandemic and felt a bigger push to share with women about navigate spaces when unforeseen things tend to happen—thus launching TheHouseofMels brand. It’s been a six month journey thus far and has been filled with joy, learning and growth! There’s no rule book or a handbook in these hoods (motherhood, wifehood or womanhood) but I truly believe community gathering together and sharing our lives virtually makes us able to grow & learn from one another! True support. Read more>>

Jamila “Mila” Renee Johnson

From a really young age, I gravitated towards anything related to beauty and cosmetics. I loved magazines, makeover shows, and rifling through my mother’s vanity. I’d mix “beauty potions” together and force people to be my “clients.” Sorry family! As I got older, I did makeup on my friends and family for their dates or special events but never considered doing it for a living until 2016. I had the opportunity to do makeup for a designer friend who was being published in a magazine. I felt too nervous and inexperienced, so I’d made the decision to decline. Before I could, my friend Candace, who has always pushed me, told them I’d do it! At the shoot, I knew this is what I was supposed to be doing. I dipped my toes into the beauty industry through retail. I left my family’s business and worked for Ulta Beauty to familiarize myself with products. A few years later, I began working for the Estée Lauder company at MAC Cosmetics. I’m not going to lie, I totally gave out my card and stole clients when my boss wasn’t around! I knew I wanted to strike out on my own. Read more>>

Johanna Lixey

Johanna graduated from Michigan State University with a B. An in Business/Marketing Communication, and a minor in Public Relations. After graduation in 2004, Johanna immediately began her career in the Commercial Construction industry with C.D Barnes Associates in Grand Rapids, MI. There she was responsible for the sales and marketing of the firm as Director of Business Development. In 2007, her success in the construction industry eventually brought her to Winter Park, FL. In September of that year, Johanna was relocated to QORE Property Sciences, where she was responsible for the sales and business development operations of the Orlando office. When the recession of 2008 caused QORE to close the Orlando operation, Johanna decided to take her passion for the industry to the next level and not just survive but thrive by starting her consulting business – JLG Consulting, Inc. JLG Consulting, Inc., took the place of a full time Business Development and Marketing professional, therefore allowing construction-related firms the opportunity to continue their sales and marketing efforts during the worst recession the industry had seen in decades. Read more>>

Daniela Henriques

I started in my country Venezuela, at first only as a hobby, since at that time I was a professional dancer. I studied graphic design and from there the possibility of tattooing was born. It was something that I never expected to do, but that I am infinitely grateful that it came into my life. When I came to the United States I came completely focused on growing in that area, and I had to put my dance aside because in order to be good at something, you must have a complete focus. But at that time, I was going through immigration, which as everyone knows IS HARD. So little by little with my salary as a cook 👩‍🍳 in a fast-food restaurant, I was gradually buying my little things, I was paying specializations. My first clients I offered them free tattoos if they brought me people Hahahaha 😂 Sounds easy, but it was not. It was even very difficult as I felt that my Perfect fantasy life in my country had been taken from me. And along with the support of my closest people, I started little by little my life again as an artist, leaving aside some things that I love such as dance, but I knew that at some point, so much sacrifice was going to leave many fruits and I could already continue with my passion, which is no less important. Read more>>

Yirett Clemente

I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. I graduated from Nuevas Profesiones University, major in Advertising and Marketing. During the completion of my degree, I noticed the passion that I have for photography and the art involved. I slowly started taking pictures for fun, specifically of animals and especially butterflies. Suddenly, during that moment, friends and family started seeing my work and then, they asked me to take pictures of them as well and that’s how it started. Later on, I noticed that I have the potential to do portrait photos, and that’s been one of my top strengths in photography. I love what I do and the memories that I can create with just a single click. Overall this journey, I have learned and I suggest to everyone wanting to get involved in this industry is that consistency plays a huge role. Read more>>

Keith Leveson

I was an American Sign Language Interpreter for 19 years and decided to take the big leap to start my own interpreting agency. However, shortly after doing so, Covid-19 hit our sunshine state. Like many small businesses, the pandemic forces me to close my business, but with a family to support, I could not give up. I decided to change careers and become a realtor with Danella Realty, LLC, but I wanted to do more for my community. To keep small businesses alive, they need support from the community, and I wanted to provide support, so I created My Great Orlando. Read more>>

Chelsea Munizzi

It’s definitely been a long journey, but it all started when I got my first job right out of High School at Forever 21. I eventually worked my way up to a visual merchandiser and worked at a few locations, which taught me a lot of the ins and outs of selling and making a storefront appealing to their target customer. From there, I worked a few other retail positions and eventually got out of retail altogether because I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go next – and that’s when the sparks began! It’s kind of like that saying “distance makes the heart grow fonder” – that’s exactly what happened with me when I left fashion, ha! I started Shellsea while working a 9-5 marketing job and spent my paychecks on clothing to put up on my site. I did a few local pop-up events and spent hours at night researching what it would take to do this full time, and the day eventually came where I found my dream storefront space and I jumped on it! We celebrate three years this July. Read more>>

Edson Smitter

I’m a graphic designer and photographer from Venezuela based in Miami. I’ve been working as a freelance in advertising agencies for 15 years, creating campaigns and graphic art. I came to Miami in 2015, being a tough year practically starting from scratch, working in a pizzeria and as a bartender. After a year, I managed to open my photography studio in which I still continue today. Read more>>

Yariela Duran Antigua

I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. I always had an inclination for handmade items and entrepreneurship. As a young woman, I moved to the United States more than 15 years ago and have lived in New York City and Florida. I worked in different jobs, mostly in a retail environment, in sales and/or customer service role. These jobs helped me grow and mature as a person who strives to delight my customer with good products and services. And three years ago, I decided to put that desire/inspiration into work to delight my customers from my own business. Out of all the things I could think of to make this happen, the first thing that came to my mind was creating some of my favorite items, candles, body care products, and home decor items. Burning candles is one of my favorite things to do because it arouses memories, experiences, and environments; therefore, I knew I could offer that to others with passion. After about two years of testing, designing and creating candles and body care products, I launched SolWickandBody.com to bring the art of fragrances to every home. Read more>>

Carol Medeiros

I’m originally from São Paulo, Brazil and resided in the United States for over a decade. I have over ten years of experience in business as an entrepreneur in Orlando and Miami. I opened a sushi restaurant – that became very popular – in Miami in 2010, where I lived for almost ten years and took my Real Estate license and decided to challenge myself and moved to Orlando in 2017 to focus on my Realtor career. My strong networking acquired during these years with my restaurant and being known for my unrivaled reputation with a relentless work ethic and history of successful entrepreneurship has allowed me to acquire numerous contacts and connexions that are vital to the successful transaction of Luxury Real Estate. With a background in marketing and a specialist in customer services, I targeted my clientele and earned their trust. My list of prestigious clientele includes celebrities, actors, musicians, sports figures and prominent business leaders. I also partnered with a childhood friend and founded a Luxury Real Estate Team. Read more>>

Kristina Dixon

I have always loved to cook and bake. One day a couple of years ago, I was baking Holiday treats with my kids, and I had the best time creating different things, and they actually turned out amazing! It was then that something just felt right and I couldn’t get enough of it. That Christmas, my husband bought me my first cake decorating kit and that just fanned the flame even more! I started experimenting with cupcakes and then cakes. I was constantly on YouTube and Instagram watching tutorials and learning different ways and methods to do things. As time went on that next year I start my business, Kaked Up Kreations, and the rest is history. Read more>>

Amanda Yarbrough

My passion has always been to make others feel beautiful in their own skin. Removing insecurities by removing unwanted hair! My mission has been to provide a place of employment that will empower women to feel confident, valued and respected while creating a space for them to excel, grow and achieve in an uplifting culture. I am a cosmetologist turned business owner. I began my journey 15 years ago when I learned the art of sugaring at my first job in a salon in Dallas. I worked there for about five years and really developed my technique and love for sugaring. When my husband joined the military, we were stationed in Arkansas, where I rented a little room and provided services to friends and it slowly grew by word of mouth. After six years in Arkansas, we were then relocated to Florida, where I took a stab at my first real business. I opened the first location in Port Orange with just myself servicing clients. It quickly grew to several employees. After a year of being opened, I opened my second location in Lake Mary. Read more>>

Lani

My grandma was a cake designer/ baking instructor and my baking inspiration is all thanks to her. I have been baking since I was a kid with guidance from her and my mom. All my cake recipes are my grandma’s originals. I started off by baking cakes for my family and friends. Lani’s Cakery came to life when I was home during maternity leave a couple of years ago. I started the Lani’s Cakery Instagram page in 2019 and started posting pictures of all the cakes I made. Slowly, it went from baking for family and friends to customers. I work as a digital communicator during the day and as a full-time mommy! And baking is my hobby and cakes are my favorite sweet. The taste of cake means everything to me! This is why I love creating sweet memories and spreading happiness with my customers one bite at a time. Read more>>

Ashley Van Zandt

I fell in love with photography at a very young age. My grandfather was a fine art photographer and I can remember countless times sitting at his table looking at albums of our family’s history and thinking, I need to do this, I loved the story he was telling. Fast forward a few years, I remember sitting at the same table and my grandfather now critiquing my own work. Photography stayed a hobby for quite some time. I started a construction company with my dad and brother, and as much as I LOVED photography I was making good money so why would I leave it. I was comfortable. Right before I turned 30 my life turned upside down, I decided that I needed a big change, so I packed up everything I owned and moved to Florida from Iowa with my best friend at the time. I promised myself that I would finally make my dream of owning a photography company a reality. I started shooting portraits, I joined photography groups in the Orlando area, a place where I met lifelong friends, I took workshops, I attended school for photography I went all in. Now I shoot boudoir and weddings full time. Read more>>

Derise Hodge

I started by selling customized made gift baskets in 2013. Special Events by Derise I always passionate about cooking. In 2017, I started GGPLATES. In 2019, I started my apparel line IN REAL L4FE ™️. I just want to be the best ME. Read more>>

Colleen Moore

The Crown Up has successfully been in business for a year, and it continues to grow from the love and support we receive every day. I had an idea to create something that would inspire the next generation, and I knew I had to push this idea right away. Looking at society and how much the world is changing it’s putting a lot of pressure on our kids to be perfect. That type of pressure, having to look, dress, talk a certain way, all just to be accepted, can cause major anxiety. I know personally how that feels, so it’s important to me that the African American youth see themselves as I see them. They are trendsetters. They are beautiful, geniuses, and unapologetically amazing from birth. I’m gifting them their crowns, reminding them of who they are, and that’s Royalty. It is through my apparel clothing line where I focused on reaching the youth. One of the movements that I have going on right now is my Representation Matters Collection, which I started at the beginning of the fall season last year. There are the black hoodies with the phrase, “My Melanin is Crowned in Royalty,” and it’s also printed on t-shirts as well. This movement is very powerful and I feel like it’s a confidence builder and teaching self-love. I’ve also created a way to empower young girls and teens, using the same similar strategy. Read more>>

Francineth Morones

My name is Francineth Morones, a Florida-licensed paramedic Esthetician and owner of the Minika Skin Care Institute. Twenty-one years ago, when I was becoming an adult, I came to this country eager to go ahead, to materialize the dreams I brought from my country. I came with the certainty that my dreams were going to materializer in a short time because I have always considered myself an undertaker woman and without fears to achieve what I propose. My surprise was when I arrived, I face the reality of many immigrants; I came up with limitations like language, I couldn’t work legally, and that stopped the materialization of my dreams for almost 18 years. Four years ago, I finally became an American resident and started studying in 2017 to get my license as an Esthetician. When I was in school, I was more in love with this profession and another dream that I added to my list was to have a school and form new professionals who applied like me for this beautiful profession. Read more>>

Victoria Zeoli

I have been taking photos since I was a teenager. I took a film class in my first year of high school and never looked back. My goal through my portraits is to make the viewer feel like they are looking in on a moment that was not for them, but for the subject of the photo, like when you are watching a movie. I started getting magazine work in my late teens and have had a slow and steady career. I became a mother, which is my priority right now, but photography is still my passion. In a post-pandemic world, I hope to keep creating work that excites me. Read more>>

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