Connect
To Top

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.

Bri Davidson

I began learning family photography because I love my family and I love people. My family means everything to me. When I say I love people, I don’t mean I like to be around people all the time, rather I love to take a deep interest in a person and their story. Photography has always been something that peeked my interest since I was a little girl, I just never pursued it. But, as I began to journey through the ups and downs in marriage, raising children, and life experiences I realized how important what we do in our lives impacts the generations to follow. I learned that my love for people and my interest for photography married together would spark a special passion in my heart. I decided to start Grace Narrative Photography because I know how messy, mundane, and chaotic everyday life can be. I am a mom of three little ones, currently homeschooling, and married to my wonderful entrepreneurial-minded husband. No need to say that life can be busy and crazy. Read more>>

Jose Tapia

My family has always taught me to have honor and the highest work ethic possible in whatever job I do. I have always had a passion for cars, but an even deeper obsession for CLEAN cars. It all started when I worked with Teph Seal at 19, where I learned and loved the basics of how to properly care for the cleanliness of a car. A little more than a decade later, I found myself working on the project of building an older car, this is where I had to put cleaning, detailing, and mold removal techniques to use. I realized how much I loved restoring the cleanliness of the car. I was able to bring the car back to life, better than it had ever looked before! This is where I fell in love with detailing, once again. I noticed that attention to detail and cleanliness are in my blood and personality, so when I got the opportunity to become an apprentice with a car detailing skilled master, I took it. I worked with him for months, regaining, learning, and engrossing all the information about every product, technique and tool regarding the craft. Read more>>

Sally Cole

I have loved horses all my life. I took riding lessons starting at age ten and was blessed to have my own when I was 13… I showed him in local hunter/jumper and dressage shows. He was a former racehorse and taught me a great deal about riding. He passed away from colic when I was 31 and pregnant with my daughter. When my daughter was diagnosed with autism, I quickly found a local therapeutic riding center to enroll her. She started at age four and it has been a joy for both her and myself. I loved the program and the progress I saw her make and that of other students and I knew I wanted to be an instructor. I went through the certification process with PATH International and started right away. It is the best job ever! I get to work with horses and watch them make a difference in the lives of special needs children and adults. It’s so rewarding and I’m humbled that I get to participate in such an amazing occupation. Read more>>

Scott Homan

I grew up in Clermont and started out my career in real estate. After five years, I decided it was time to make a change and I took over the operations and management of the Citrus Tower. My wife and I spent the first year and a half renovating the lobby, observation deck, and outside grounds. Our goal for the tower has been to create a space for the community, keep history alive and provide unique experiences. In October of 2020, we celebrated the grand opening of Citrus Coffee Co-located in the lobby area of the Citrus Tower. The idea of a coffee shop fits perfectly with the overall vision of a community-oriented space. Read more>>

Tawania Reese

THICK & Thin Collection started out with two friends with the love of fashion. One thicker than a snicker bar and the other one is thin as the wind. Many people thought we were sisters. A friend of ours used to say, “yes they’re sisters, one thick like the daddy and the other thin like the momma” lol She got tired of everyone asking were we sisters or even sometimes twins. THICK & Thin Collection is an online fashion boutique with all the dope chic fashions at affordable prices. With the love of building women confidence no matter the size. Because we all know if we look good, we feel good!. Read more>>

Samantha Sloane-Keegan

I have always been a hobby baker. I would make cookies or cupcakes for friends or mom’s group events and was always told how good my products were but never took them seriously. I took the advice of a friend in 2019 and went ahead and created a Facebook page for SammiCakes & Cookies but it was rarely used.mFast forward to Feb. 2021. I was almost one year into my furlough as a Disney cast member. I was Crisis-schooling my two older children, had 2 in diapers, we hadn’t gone anywhere is almost a year due to having a premature baby and our sanity was holding on by a thread. We had a family close to us experience an unimaginable tragedy so I decided to throw a bake sale fundraiser to help with their unexpected expenses. That bake sale was a pivotal moment within my company. I had to quickly create a brand with products, ads, an event, theme, business merchandise, and an online presence.  Read more>>

Rachelle Keith

A year ago, amidst the Pandemic, I started a new journey already working a Full-Time Job. I was previously doing freelance makeup so I was in the beauty industry already, but I lost my passion for it. Hesitantly I took a course and educated myself on all things lashes, social media marketing, branding and most importantly time management. Everyday since the first day I took that course, I have practiced consistently and vigorously at 100% into this business I created for myself. Also, everyday since the first day I thought about quitting, lol. Any business owner can attest, we have days we just feel things aren’t working in our favor. However, I couldn’t be more proud of myself for never giving up and creating a vision, an environment and community that supports me in what I do. I only can plan and wish to grow from here in every way, but I love what I do. I make beautiful ladies even more gorgeous and add a little extra confidence – one set of lashes at a time. Read more>>

Lilly Zen

In 2017, I was working for a large International company and making plans to get into management position. I was preparing myself when I found out I was pregnant of twins! Totally unexpected and this was about to change my plans for a while. I had a complicated pregnancy and I lost one of my babies. In order to keep the other one, I had to temporarily leave work and take care of myself. After a complicated labor, I finally had my baby boy Ben and was thinking about my “return to work” in three months and getting everything back on track. Unfortunately, a few weeks after labor I started having extreme pain on my body that got progressively worse after a few months. Without a diagnose and getting literally disable, I couldn’t go back to work and I ended up losing my dream job. So after a few months, I was unemployed, with a newborn to take care of, with a debilitating pain and no money. Read more>>

E’Monique, Ethel Monique Williams

Growing up as an only child in Miami, Florida, I didn’t have imaginary friends. Sure, I could embellish entire conversations with myself to keep my little ADHD brain happy but my dreams have always been rooted in the creation of memories. I would monopolize the family camcorder on holidays or designated myself as the sole photographer for our family vacations. Even from an early age, I understood the power of memory and the importance of these digital trinkets for our mind’s scrapbook.After losing my mother, Shirley, a Miami Gardens community leader and social media check-in queen, to cancer in February of 2020 and then my paternal grandfather, Newman, to Alzheimer’s three months later, I wished I had more photos of our time together. Photography allows me to gift others with what I want more of, and through that, I am healing from the losses as well. Read more>>

Yvonne Conti-O’Brien

After baking cookies for the first time in at least 15 years and being told by everyone that ate them how amazing they are, I started giving them to our FedEx delivery man. He was the one that dubbed me The Cookie Lady. He told me I should sell them and it got my wheels turning. I had such a passion for baking drop cookies that I started realizing that when someone named an ingredient, I knew I could make a cookie out of it! Our youngest son, Alec, was my strongest supporter. He truly believed that I could start a business. A few weeks later, I knew in my heart that the name had to be Red Rooster Cookie Jar; I own a red rooster cookie jar, my kitchen is all roosters, and I have red hair! I started offering a cookie of the week to try out my new recipes and so that it would peak customers’ interest and keep them coming back to see what I baked next. I used to sell at farmer’s markets and festivals, and we often sold out in just a few hours. Read more>>

Chiquita Nicole Edwards

Born and raised in Orlando, FL, and a 10-year Air Force Military Veteran (working primarily in the fitness field), Chiquita Nicole has always had a passion for health, fitness, and writing. She is a mother to two handsome sons named Isaiah and Isaac and has an amazing boyfriend of 3-years named Greg. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Cultural Communication. In grade school, she played several sports, including volleyball, basketball, and track & field. She’s also a LOVER of music and dance and even auditioned for the American Idol in 2018. She’s had quite a life journey from childhood and beyond that shaped her into the woman she is today. She battled colorism, abuse, and learning how to love herself. With everything she’s experienced, it’s now her desire to give back to her beautiful QUEENS and pour into them the WEALTH of knowledge she’s gained in her experience with life’s challenges and working to overcome them with health and fitness in the forefront. Read more>>

Daniel and Kristina Mercedes

I (Daniel) started four years ago selling empanadas and plates of food out of my car. Serving barbershops and mechanic shops. Two years ago, I met my wife and together, we purchased our first food truck. It didn’t have anything we needed so we worked and saved and built it up ourselves (huge learning process!)! Once on the road, we worked as many jobs as we can find until we could afford Our second food truck. Twice the size of the 1st one! We are currently working to franchise one so we can purchase our 3rd truck. Read more>>

Tawana Bilal

I learned about the individual lash technique approximately five years ago when I moved to Florida. It was getting so expensive to keep up with this ingenious luxurious habit. I was a single mom and new to the area with no one to watch my daughter. It was then I decided to take a certification class not knowing that I would never be able to apply my own lashes, however, God had bigger plans for me. I started off just practicing and within months, I had so many clients it became so challenging to keep up lashing part-time from home and working a full-time job. I then decided since I enjoyed it so much, I would rather use my time and talents to continue to try and grow my business. Here I am, four years later as a lash artist with my small owned business with the desire to still grow however Covid detoured my plans. Read more>>

Natali Ibiapina

I am 33 years old, married and mother of three beautiful children. My story is summed up in just one word, OVERCOMING! My career started still in Brazil, after trying other professions such as Realtor, Secretary and attending “HR” college, I worked with Human Resources. But it wasn’t my way! Influenced by my aunt (Angel) who realized that I liked taking care of the nails of the women in the family and that she was professionally dissatisfied, she encouraged me and invested in a manicure course so that I could enter an area where “I would fly” as she said! I took the Manicure course and found myself! I mastered the techniques and advanced more and more in the world of nails! With the support of my husband, I opened my first studio specializing in nails, called Espaço Luxo. Even with a lot of work and dedication, things didn’t seem to go together! We didn’t know what was wrong, everything was bad! We understand that our life was not in Brazil!.  Read more>>

April Nobles

I had been in the retail/customer service industry for many years before having my two boys, so when I felt like it was time for me to head back into the working world, I wanted to continue what I had done before, but for myself, on my own terms. At the time, Winter Garden was up and coming in the younger adult/family generation so I started The Bulk Pantry as a small bulk food store, the type where you can come in and buy as little or as much as you’d like. The concept was based on lessening our carbon footprint in the world with less waste… whereas the concept was/is great, the business aspect of it wasn’t thriving as I had hoped. So thinking outside the box and honestly listening to what the community was asking for is what brought me to transforming a bulk food store into a specialty bakery! I had all the ingredients necessary to bake, and the community was yearning for a healthier alternative. Sugar-free, gluten-free, and low carb options are very hard to come by… so I slowly began baking specialty items and the rest is basically history.  Read more>>

Joyce Jimenez

My journey began seven years ago when I reeked havoc on my digestive system and had to heal myself naturally with herbs. In this time of my life, I realized how healing herbs could be to the body from my own personal experience. In this time, I was in the process of becoming a Yoga Instructor and started working at a Health Food Store so I could expand my knowledge on herbs and natural ways of healing. I dove in headfirst, went to every training, seminar, class, and received as many certifications as possible. I was able to help customers heal naturally and fell in love with the healing process. Healing mentally, physically, and emotionally. After working for someone else and feeling I could no longer grow where I was at, I took a leap of faith and launched my own product. This product included everything that someone would need daily, but all in one.  Read more>>

Lindsay Dicks Penaranda

For almost two decades, Lindsay Dicks Penaranda helped her clients tell their stories in the online world. Being brought up around a family of marketers but a product of Generation Y, Lindsay naturally gravitated to the new world of online marketing. Lindsay began freelance writing in 2000 and soon after launched her own PR firm that thrived by offering an in-your-face “Guaranteed PR” that was one of the first of its type in the nation. ​ Lindsay’s new media career centered on her philosophy that “people buy people.” Her goal was to help her clients build a relationship with their prospects and customers. Once that relationship was built and they learned to trust them as the expert in their field, then they will do business with them. Lindsay also built a proprietary process that utilized social media marketing, content marketing and search engine optimization to create online “buzz” for her clients that helped them to convey their business and personal story. Lindsay’s clientele spanned the entire business map and ranged from doctors and small business owners to Inc. 500 CEOs. Read more>>

Yari Diaz

We started in 2013, soon after my son was diagnosed with Autism. I wanted to be able to work from home so that I could take care of him and his brother, so I began selling small individual $5 cakes. As a result of those sales, I was hired for my first birthday cake, and ever since then, I haven’t stopped making cakes 🙂 We’re blessed to have grown so much and to have a storefront.  Read more>>

Lauren Zimmerman

I am the owner of Writer’s Block Bookstore with locations in Winter Park and Winter Garden. Why did I open a bookstore? After raising three daughters and navigating two demanding and diverse, back-to-back careers, first in interior architecture then in law, I found myself at a crossroads. I was in the midst of embarking on another career path by finishing my Master’s degree in social work when I decided to pivot yet again. One day, I was listening to an interview with author Ann Patchett, who was talking about her Nashville bookstore on NPR and had an epiphany. I thought, “I want to open a bookstore!” I have always loved bookstores and visit them whenever I am on vacation, especially when I go to big cities. I have lived in Orlando for more than 40 years and thought it was a shame that there were no more full-service community bookstores left in the area. So I sought out to change that. It was at that moment that I decided I was going to do it and open a bookstore. I did my homework and heeded the advice I received. My goal was simple.  Read more>>

Tiffany Tezna

I grew up dancing for most of my young life and as I got older like most of us, I attended college and moved into working in the corporate world, I found many things within that environment that I was good at but nothing I truly loved. After previously living in Florida in 2016, I knew that as soon as the opportunity allowed, I would return with my family to build our lives here in the Orlando area. While back in the northeast, My daughter had been taking classes at a local Bella Ballerina from age 18 months and after a few classes, I was hooked and she was in love and a little more than a year later as life would have it the opportunity came up and with the support and encouragement of my whole family for me to own and open my very own Bella Ballerina in the Orlando area with plans to open three more. I am so humbled and excited to be here and getting to help grow and foster an early love of dance through a whimsical story-based early dance education program that really allows little ones to spread their ballerina dreams and fly.  Read more>>

 

Domonique Quinn

My sister gave me the idea of selling/styling my thrift finds. She would always say, “You find such good items. You need to sell these clothes.” I had been going back and forth with the idea because it required a lot of time. Finally, it stuck and I felt like I had no choice but to keep it going because a year after that idea, I lost my sister to liver disease. Not only was she my sister, but my best friend. I felt like a big part of me had left, not realizing that she is still with me all the time. Read more>>

Jenn Dickel

I’ve always loved the kinds of tiny details others hate. I grew up in a rare combo of chaos and order. I crave order but can make chaos function surprisingly well.  It wasn’t until I was working as an Operations Manager in a warehouse that I realized that this gift gives me joy and is a nightmare to most other people.  This was almost 20 years ago. I was totally in my element when I was handed the keys to a 4,000-foot warehouse full of delicate medical equipment and tradeshow materials. Each piece with its own set of tiny, moving parts, and multiple accessories that helped complete the procedure puzzle. Each part and set (sometimes multiple sets) with its own final destination in any one of the international locations we served. None of my coworkers wanted to tackle the job, but to me, it was an exciting puzzle. Armed with multiple-colored markers, I sketched out a plan that would allow us to manage everything smoothly. Read more>>

Schiani Ledo

I was born in Los Angeles. I was raised in El Paso Texas. I bounced around between New York and Orlando, till I finally settled in Orlando. I was always quiet, shy, and a little anti-social. I always found comfort with a Walkman and a sketchbook. As an adult, I tried different fields. I loaded trucks for Fed Ex, I worked as a runner for lawyers, I painted houses, I even worked as a baker at one point. But I was always pining for a creative outlet. I finally started working as a full-time designer/illustrator and everything started falling into place. I have worked for different agencies in the last 20 years and just recently I took the plunge into completely freelance.  Read more>>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Featured

  • 15 Amazing Female Founders Changing the World

    Meet 15 incredible women who aren’t letting the world hold them back.  They’ve built hugely successful businesses, created thousands of jobs...

    Local StoriesAugust 1, 2020
  • 12 Positively Brilliant Mini Recipe Videos

    Impress your friends, your significant other or your mom by learning how to cook in just 2 minutes or less 1....

    Local StoriesJune 16, 2020
  • Editor’s Choice: Best Videos on the Internet

    Happy Friday y’all – enjoy the following videos from around the web 1. 8th Grader Impersonates Donald Trump , Cruz ,...

    Local StoriesJune 10, 2020
  • Seasons of Love

    Kadam Malik, relationship guru and entrepreneur, shares his thoughts about love, romance and dating in the city. I find myself in...

    Local StoriesMay 14, 2020