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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. In coming weeks we’ll be sharing some amazing stories from Tampa, St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas.  Check out our favorite stories from across the Voyage family.

Joseph Iovino

Originally I didn’t like mushrooms but had heard about the existence of mushrooms with different flavor profiles. Mushrooms that tasted like crab, lobster and even bacon. However, finding these mushrooms such as lion’s mane, pink oyster or cinnamon caps proved to be impossible. They just didn’t exist in any stores locally and the oyster mushrooms I would find in Asian markets or health food stores were dried out and unappealing. Cactus Hat Mushrooms wasn’t a business initially, it was just a hobby that I started eight years ago and it turned out these gourmet mushrooms actually did have different flavors and I found I really enjoyed them suddenly. I started initially growing from a small four tier indoor greenhouse capable of 7lbs a week, today I’ve converted my entire garage into a grow room capable of 200lbs a week. We have a strong presence in restaurants around Tampa and St. Pete especially in the Vegan market where gourmet mushrooms are becoming a very important source of protein. Read more>>

Rico Williams

Growing up in South Florida, sports reigned supreme. Football was and still is the way out for most kids. So I never envisioned myself doing anything else as an adult except playing in the NFL. However, when we weren’t playing football, my friends and I always wanted to be the “freshest” kids at school. So I guess that’s where my passion for fashion really started. As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to look good and having nice clothes made it easy to look my best. I remember wearing brands like FUBU, Sean John, and Enyce among others back in 2000 as an elementary school kid and pairing my outfits with the latest Iverson or T-Mac sneakers. And fast forward 20 years later and I’m the owner/founder of my own brand Tribe X. I started Tribe X back in 2016 and initially I only sold hats and for a moment I thought it was only be a headwear brand but demand grew and grew; now I’ve put out a number of apparel pieces and accessories. Read more>>

Jeanea Reed

My last semester at USF I took an “Intro to Photography” class hoping it would be something easy to break up my course load at the time; turns out it wasn’t but I ended up loving it! This was Fall 2016, that same semester I got an Internship at “Limelight Photography” a luxury wedding Photography company in Tampa and thats when I noticed myself liking photography more and more. I wasn’t shooting a lot at that time but I was learning a lot of foundational concepts that made me feel more confident when it was time to shoot. From there I literally kept doing it, I would take time away because at this stage it was still just a hobby and I did it when I had time. Somehow, I found Mecca Gamble on Instagram and I just LOVED her work. She hosted a workshop that I attended and thats when I knew I had so much to learn but she planted the seed of me taking photography from an expensive hobby to a profitable business and the rest is history. That is where, what you see now really started; its been gradual and I still have a ways to go but thats when things shifted for me and I considered this to be an actual business. Read more>>

Hannah Truax

My story might be a little different than others in the fact that I didn’t grow up thinking I would be a photographer. I did have an interest in taking photos and would consider it a hobby I had in high school, but I didn’t think it would become anything professional. During the process of planning my own wedding, I began to love the whole experience of being part of a wedding. It happened very quickly but in the span of a few weeks after we got married, I started learning more about my camera, taking in as much education as I could, and working with family and friends to practice my skills. It was a passion that I truly believe God gave me. My dream from the beginning of pursuing this was to become a wedding photographer and to get to serve couples with an experience that would last beyond their planning and wedding. I reached out to some local photographers and got to tag along and practice with them at real weddings. I continued to work with different couples and grow in my education so I felt ready to start booking my own weddings. I’m so thankful for the couples that have trusted me to be part of their story whether it’s a proposal, engagement session, or wedding. Read more>>

Rhonda Mitchell

Absolutely, from a very young age I have always been good at three main things talking, creating and teaching at any given time I was doing one of them or all of them together. As I grew up without knowing my Mom was supporting my creativity by buying me the overpriced kits to make all kinds of things from bracelets to sand sculptures, whatever would allow me to be I was doing it. Once I got into high school I became heavily involved with our TV production class at the time Oprah was my idol and it wasn’t long before I knew that I wanted to have my own talk show the love for being in front of the camera afforded me many opportunities throughout Tampa during high school. Then, I went to college and my path shifted a bit still a creative yet not living in my purpose because I wanted to make my parents proud with a college degree. I did graduate and spent a few years figuring out what was next then this is where it gets a little juicy lol. I in 2011, I start working at a call center I was also into thrifting, I found peace at the thrift store and it was like magic when I found amazing pieces. Read more>>

Jay Singleton

I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. I began playing saxophone at the age of 12 at a local middle school. After graduating from a magnet high school I decided to attend Florida Agricultural & Mechanical and Florida State Universities located in Tallahassee. Later in the summer of 2016, I opted for a life change and relocated to Tampa, Florida. Read more>>

Jessica Hurley

I started a podcast at the end of 2017 after I had my first son and he spent 82 days in the NICU fighting for his life. When he came home, I wanted to extend myself to do more. The way I saw my son fight for his life, I decide I would spend the rest of mine showing him why. So, as soon as he got home in Nov 2017, I got to work by starting a podcast with intentions to help other women get out of the feeling they have when they feel stuck. The podcast was called, The Stranded Phase. Within six months the podcast attracted an increasingly engaged audience and I was able to attract better guests on the show because of our reach. After I posted an interview with a rather large guest, she asked me how I’d attracted this audience and wanted to know some tips. When I explained to her what I did for my own podcast, she said that was way too much work and would have to hire someone. I offered to help her and ended up helping her launch her podcast as a “favor.” After launching she climbed the charts and landed in the top 40 podcasts in the US for weeks at a time. Read more>>

Jonathan Haywood

My dance with concrete began in Charlotte, NC in 2008. I was flipping houses, as was everyone else in the US, when the market dropped out. I found a book about concrete countertops and was really interested in bringing them into the houses I was working on, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was a little afraid of the weight of concrete and the permanence of it as well. If you mess up something that massive, what in the heck would you do with if you messed it up? Certainly, not just lift it out and start again! It was an unfamiliar dance, so I backed away. A few years later, I found myself living in Costa Rica, and I met a man who wanted to start a business of concrete countertops, mantels and sinks for houses he was remodeling. He invited me to see if it was something I’d be interested in, and from the first training video, I was hooked. In the video, a concrete artisan stretched fabric over a form he built, applied resin to the fabric and created a stunning, light weight concrete sink from the formwork. I was shocked that one could just make a sink. After some tinkering, I was captivated and had a flood of ideas of things that could be made from this light-weight concrete mix. Read more>>

Amber Parker

I’m Amber Parker, a 34 yr. old currently living in Tampa, FL. After I received my Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration, I got my first job working IT for a healthcare research firm. I was so unfulfilled because my ideas and decisions were not being heard, and I was unable to utilize my voice. This feeling of unsatisfaction and entrapment in corporate America was the real motivation that propelled me to break free and start my own business. For years, I prayed that God would allow me to find my purpose in life! When I received my MBA in 2014, I knew I wanted to take the initiative to run a business in which I possessed a full-blown passion! I’ve always LOVED standing out with my wardrobe, and brightly colored lipstick was always a staple to top off my looks! I’d wear the most outlandish lip shades, such as yellow, lime green, and sky blue. It only makes sense to wear loud colors to complement my LOUD mouth!! As I wore lipsticks of all kinds and brands, I gradually discovered the amount of dangerous ingredients and chemicals that are being put into lipstick, such as animal body parts, urine/feces, carcinogens, and glue, to name a few. Read more>>

Colleen Travers

I was born and raised in St. Pete and I’ve been working in the hospitality business all my life. The original idea for the St. Pete Taco Lady sprung from seeing food trucks and other pop up vendors while traveling on the west coast. I was surprised to find that there was almost nowhere to get a good fish taco in our area (blasphemy!). I’ve always loved food that you can eat with your hands and to me tacos were an obvious choice of a niche I could fill at the Saturday Morning Market.b In 2008, I was working as a bartender at Salt Rock Grill and working the market every weekend. When we first got started we rented a Uhaul pickup and packed it up with a tent, a flat top grill and a single propane burner. We started out just selling Mahi Mahi tacos and huevos ranchos but customers kept asking for more options and our menu steadily expanded. The next market season I bought an old aluminum bread truck for $900 to haul the equipment so I wouldn’t have to rent the pickup truck anymore. Read more>>

Chris Kenrick

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm was established in 1995 as a nonprofit community-supported urban organic farm and environmental education center in Tampa, Florida. We are located on 6 acres of suburban property along the Sweetwater Creek in Tampa’s Town ‘n’ Country neighborhood, in Hillsborough County, Florida. Through our hands-on programs, visitors of all ages discover the wonders of nature explore ecological interconnections, practice appropriate land stewardship and master sustainable agriculture techniques. Our farm provides the freshest possible organic vegetables and herbs for hundreds of Tampa Bay residents each year. At Sweetwater, community members come together to grow and enjoy fresh organic food, acquire sustainable living skills, support local agriculture, enjoy nature, make new friends and be a part of the community. Through a variety of community programs, we provide educational opportunities to children and adults for them to learn about organic farming, caring for herb and vegetable gardens, healthy living options, and environmentally-friendly, sustainable life choices. Read more>>

Megan Galane

I moved to Tampa, Florida in 2014 after visiting on a fun college trip almost immediately after graduation! I am originally from Las Vegas, Nevada (born & raised); I graduated from University of Utah with a degree in Exercise & Sports Science. My original goal was to go into the medical field, however my senior year I had a change of heart and realized I don’t really love it – I was just going through the motions. I joined my family’s company, Mountain West IRA, in 2014 to learn more about sales & marketing. Here I have tested, implemented, and had the ability to learn all aspects of growing a multi-million dollar business. I started with my own side-business in e-commerce and quickly realized everything is systems. Unfortunately, I had to learn about this by reaching my ultimate burn-out and developing health problems. Which created my drive to help other businesses build and implement systems that support them before their burn-out happens while also creating an impact that wouldn’t have been possible without the support! Every business has that “secret sauce. Read more>>

Kenneth McLaurin

Kenneth McLaurin, Inspector: McLaurin Inspections. ⁣ Alissa and Kenneth McLaurin owners of McLaurin Inspections ⁣ Servicing Tampa, St. Pete, Clearwater, Springhill, Sarasota, Brandon Nothing gets me more excited than fitting into the smallest of attics or crawlspaces! I truly love what I do. ⁣ I’ve been inspecting for over eight years now, having inspected over 2,800 homes. The oldest home I’ve inspected dates back to the 1800’s. ⁣ If I was asked what my dream job is—I would say I already have it. I value the lasting relationships I build through the work in which I do. ⁣ ⁣ I started in the building industry at a young age. I was captivated by the absence of young professionals in the inspection field, which fueled my passion for this career. ⁣ ⁣ my wife and I have built our company together and we strive to make the inspection process a fun, friendly, honest and an educational experience. Read more>>

Gian Birriel and James Rue

I grew up an Army Brat to Puerto Rican parents so I was fortunate to live all over the U.S., the Caribbean, and Europe. I moved from Italy to Tampa the summer before 9th grade and its been home ever since. After high school, i followed in my father’s footsteps by joining the Army myself. I served six years between the Army and the Army Reserves, including a tour in the Middle East as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The years in the Army Reserves and USF were anchored by hospitality jobs. I’ve worked in restaurants for 15 years before owning one myself. After graduating college with a degree in Business Management. I took a job as a sales manager at a fitness and therapy facility. Being such an integral part of the management team and wearing so many hats was the perfect segue into entrepreneurship and the ideal conditions to inspire the revelation that I could run my own business. A smoothie shop was always a small business that I thought was viable. An ex-girlfriend introduced me to nutrient-packed green smoothies and i noticed there was no place that served this type of smoothie consistently. I made a green smoothie for James to try and the rest is history. Read more>>

Christina Barrett

I started my love of photography when I had my first son. I simply wanted to take photos of him growing up and decided to teach myself how to use a professional camera. Over time friends and friends of friends would ask me to take photos of their children and even shoot a wedding here and there. Before I knew it I had a small business that was keeping me very busy. 14 years later here I am doing what I love in a beautiful studio with the most wonderful clients! Over time my business started to take shape and I found myself specializing in photography for women. Whether it’s a beauty, branding/headshot or boudoir session I found that my happiness comes from making women feel confident. Women can be so hard on themselves and I have seen firsthand that something as simple as a beautiful photo can change the way we see ourselves. Confidence is life changing and I am so happy to be doing something that helps people to love themselves today, exactly as they are. When I see people walk out of my studio feeling amazing it makes me feel like there is nothing else I would rather be doing!. Read more>>

Jack Boyle

July 1977, Jack & Deborah moved up to San Antonio with everything they owned, and their dog Maggie Mae packed in their VW van. The San Antonio Pottery was officially established. One year later July 1978, Joe & Rose Herrmann convinced the couple that needed to buy the building and put down roots in San Ann. Jack’s vision of his future life did come true. He owned a pottery shop, and for 40 years traveled the country participating in outdoor art festivals and selling to galleries. Jack now only sells out of the pottery, where he teaches classes and continues to make his beautiful stoneware, clay pieces for decoration and everyday living. He and Deborah did indeed put down roots in San Antonio; they married in the backyard of the pottery in 1978. Their reception was held in the same upstairs rooms where the Herrmann family had lived. Deborah taught art in Pasco County schools for 34 years. They have three children who grew into wonderful successful adults. Jack Boyle’s San Antonio Pottery is recognized nationally by collectors of fine handmade pottery. Read more>>

Traci Kanaan

Hypnotist, Comedian, Author, Business Owner, Irrepressible Creative, and Renaissance Broad I have dedicated my entire life to making others feel good about themselves and their choices, whether it be as an hour as a comedian, or for a lifetime as a hypnotist. As a Hypnotist, I help others get past the blocks that are holding them back and guide them into living their best life. As a Comedian, my musical comedy show is an expression of the frustrations I’ve encountered in life and how I used laughter to overcome them. As an author, I put my three years of being single to great use, writing about all the stupid emails I received while trying to find love online. As a business owner since 1997, I’ve always found a way to work my passions into an earning platform where I can truly love what I do for a living. As an irrepressible creative, I found amazing answers by simply changing questions like “Why is this happening to me?” to “What can I do with this?” As a Renaissance Broad, I’m constantly exploring myself and the world around me in new ways, in a bold and daring fashion that is uniquely my own. Read more>>

Susanne Byram

In 2017, I purchased two buildings on MLK with the vision of turning them into someplace special that people would visit and also a great gathering place in St Petersburg. My first vision was to transform one of the two buildings into a French bistro, reminiscent of the left bank in Paris where artisans gathered to talk, share ideas and be creative. Being from Europe myself, I wanted it to be different from any other restaurant – no TV’s, people converse with each other, pleasant environment, great service, with terrific food. The second building was a complete overhaul and transformation. At the time of purchase, it was an existing second-hand store. We completely renovated the market, cleaned up the entire building and re-purposed the store/shopping concept which ultimately became the Market at Left Bank. Before it was primarily furniture, now it is home goods, jewelry, clothing, even a baby store and exceptionally unique items both new and old. If you’re looking for home accessories or special gift items – the Market at Left Bank should be your first choice. Read more>>

Cristal Blackwell-Lastra and Daniel F. Martinez, III

In 1902, a group of 546 immigrants from a province in Spain know as Asturias founded the Centro Asturiano de Tampa, one of the city’s first mutual aid societies and a branch of the original club established in Havana, Cuba. Centro Asturiano de Tampa began in a two-room, wood-frame building on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City, and thanks to rapid membership growth, the club moved to an impressive new building at the corner of Palm and Nebraska. The original building burned down in a fire, but a more impressive building was rebuilt in 1914 and it still stands today as an iconic piece of Tampa’s history. At one time, thousands of members enjoyed the many perks from birth to the grave. Membership included insurance coverage and a hospital for all medical needs, a gym, a bowling alley, a 1,000 seat theatre, and several rooms where all types of social functions could be held. Read more>>

Lauren Marez

I grew up playing sports. My father was a huge sports fan so I was born into it. I played competitive softball mostly growing up but then when I graduated college I continued to play softball, kickball, and volleyball and flag football. I actually met my husband playing co-ed flag football with Tampa Bay Club Sport. I work with my father and mother in a family run business now and we’ve always discussed opening another business someday. Since, we are all sports fans and now that I have three young sons playing sports, we thought that opening a sports training facility would be a great business opportunity since there is nothing like it in the Tampa/Carrollwood area. I did some research and found Redline Athletics. My father, mother and myself bought the franchise for Carrollwood and in December of 2020 we opened up Redline Athletics Carrollwood. Read more>>

Kaitlin Doane

Mana Bakery started almost entirely by accident. At that point in time I was at a crossroads in my life– I had just turned down grad school and moved back to the area. I was unsure of what I wanted to do next with my life since everything I had been working for up to that point hadn’t worked out for me. I used to work in the restaurant industry and I was talking with a chef mentor of mine about the possibility of getting back into the culinary world. He is the type of person who has this energy about him that just makes things happen. He calls me up one day and he tells me that I have an interview at Bandit Coffee the next day. I assume that I was applying for some type of baking position, so I get my resume all ready and I go into Bandit asking for Josh and Sarah. During my meeting with Josh and Sarah, they tell me that what they were actually looking for was a wholesale baker to work with to provide pastries for their shop to sell. They told me they were willing to wait and work with me if that was something I was interested in doing. That was probably around April of 2017. By July of 2017, I made my first wholesale delivery as Mana Bakery to Bandit Coffee. Read more>>

Latoya Small

Our photo booth journey kicks off circa 2017 as an a la carte wedding photography service that quickly spiraled into an on demand standalone business. My husband and partner Kirkland owns a digital design and photography agency called Above Brand. Over the years he began to receive an increase in requests for photo booth services, so much so that we quickly determined that we needed to take some action and carefully weigh the value of completely branching off and creating a digital photo booth experience for clients. Enter Latoya, LOL. With lots of research, customer focus groups and discovery, we determined that there was an opportunity to give our clients a new twist to photo booths in Tampa Bay. We wanted to turn the old school model on its head and deliver a unique experience that could get pictures and captures to our client devices within seconds. In turn Party Cube Live, LLC was birthed in 2019 as a contemporary and fresh digital touch screen experience for clients in across Florida. We have become known for “bringing the party” via our sleek touchscreen design, fun backdrops and up-lights, and engaging brand ambassadors for each event. Read more>>

Julie Ashlock

I began my career as a health and wellness expert back in 2008 when my job as a title company manager was “eliminated” due to the real estate crash. It was the best day of my life!! I hated my job – it was thankless, stressful, and mundane. I did have to figure out quickly what I wanted to be when I grew up (at 40). So began my health and wellness career. I started off by going back to school to get licensed as a massage therapist. I worked mainly with athletes. This took me down the path of getting certified as a personal fitness trainer. I opened a boutique-type gym for a couple of years, but quickly realized that I could not compete with the $10/month big gyms, so I shut it down and concentrated on my niche massage market for doing a technique called cranial release technique (CRT). It is an amazing technique that releases stress from the body from head to toe in a matter of seconds! I have changed so many lives because of this technique. I then became involved as an associate for a health and wellness company that customizes pharmaceutical-grade vitamins. Read more>>

Alysia Augustine

It all began with my husband, David Augustine. He would bake full sized cheesecakes for family and friends. Everyone loved them. When we became a couple we decided to make the cheesecakes smaller. One day while getting brunch, we coincidentally discovered a farmer’s market right outside of the restaurant. After eating we walked through the market and immediately knew we needed to get into events like that. We did our research, got membership at a commercial kitchen and obtained everything necessary to become an official business. We started selling at Farmer’s Markets throughout Tampa Bay every weekend. We even started partnering with other local restaurants that began selling our cheesecakes. Now it wasn’t just David in the kitchen baking, I was in there too! Covid-19 impacted all of this. Farmer’s markets and restaurants we partnered with had to shut down. Read more>>

Angela DiLeone

Our story VIP PRO BEAUTY was founded in 2020 by Angela DiLeone. Angela has been in the beauty business for over thirty years as a professional hair stylist. She has searched for years to find a universal product line that was perfect for every hair type and texture. Nothing on the market held up to her standards, so she decided to create the perfect hair care line for her clients. Angela understands her clients’ individual hair care needs, but ultimately, she knows that everyone yearns for vibrant and healthy hair.​ OUR INGREDIENTS We believe that each one of our clients is unique, but everyone has the same needs for healthy and vibrant hair. It’s no secret that hair needs biotin, keratin, and botanicals to create moisture and vibrancy, without weighing it down. Most importantly, everyone deserves to enjoy quality professional products minus all of the unnecessary chemicals, without having to pay a visit to the hair salon. Read more>>

Courtney Corey

I have loved cooking for as long as I can remember. My most fond childhood memories are rainy days spent in the kitchen with my mom cooking soups and stews in my Great Grandmother’s heavy cast iron dutch oven. I grew up in Upstate, NY where my family owned and operated a garden center. It was on the rainy days when the plants didn’t need to be watered that we could spend time inside cooking. I’m sure my love for rainy days goes back to these memories. But my love for food? I think it stems from its inherent ability to bring everyone together. Food makes people happy and that’s what makes me happy…. bringing other people joy. My career choices have always seemed to stem from my love of food. In 2007, I graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Applied Economics and Management. Having wanted to open my own restaurant, I quickly enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. After graduating with a degree in Culinary Arts, I started my career in hospitality. Read more>>

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