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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.

Nina Johnston

It started when Graham and I met back in 2005. We worked together at Chili’s in North Tampa, he was a manager and I was a server. We had to hide our relationship because he would have lost his job dating an employee. Our roots started in the hospitality industry and we really enjoyed working together. Eventually Graham left Chili’s and stared a commercial landscape business and I began a career as a flight attendant with jetBlue Airways. Read more>>

Marissa Douglas

As an SLP and a feeding therapist, I get asked a lot of questions. “How many words should my child have?” Where should I send my child to preschool? What foods are safe for my child to eat? When will he start talking?” ….But the hardest question to answer is “why.” Why does my child have a lateral lisp? Why won’t my child eat certain textures? Why is he so difficult to understand?” I’ve always wanted to be able to answer every question, especially the “why” questions. So I started paying extra attention. Read more>>

Vilpa Shah

I am a certified henna artist practicing this art for more than 12 years and have always been committed to providing artistic, and professional services and making my client’s experience with henna/mehndi a unique, enjoyable, and memorable one. I consider myself very fortunate to continue getting opportunities to adorn brides and inspire artists in this field with my mehndi designs. Read More>>

Evelyn Tanner

I started my fitness journey when I was on active duty Air Force. Ironically, not for the reasons, one would assume but because I was an unhealthy “skinny-fat” member of the military. At the time, I was doing well on my fitness assessments, but I had the worst habits. So, I began eating better and started my weight-lifting journey. I began with wanting to be strong and that eventually ended up in bodybuilding. From there, I knew I had a strong passion for health, fitness, and nutrition. Next, I began studying for my fitness nutrition and personal training certifications so that I could help others. I started my business and haven’t looked back! Read more>>

James Cox

Jimmy is the CEO & Founder of the Military Fresh Network (a Media Company), He and his wife, Erica Cox, are the owners and creators of FRESH FLASK. (The First African American and Veteran Owned, Thermos and Tumbler Company) MFN Athleisure Gear, as seen on Selling Tampa. and a boutique marketing company called MFN GROUP, LLC – Jimmy served 23 proud years of active-duty service, and since his retirement in 2010, Jimmy has been breaking down barriers and blazing trails for others to follow. He served eight years as the U.S. Army Marketing Brand Manager for all National level marketing campaigns for the Army. Read more>>

Davia Nelson

The start of my journey as a faux loc stylist was definitely not planned. I originally went to college and studied Early Childhood Education with goals of becoming a teacher, then owning my own preschool. I thought this was my passion and loved it for a while. Though I had this passion for small children, in college I taught myself how to do my own hair because I didn’t work but still wanted to be cute. With the help of my best friends La Nae and Ashley being my mannequin heads, I started branching out to do other family and friends’ crowns as well! That actually turned it into a little side hustle while I finished up my bachelor’s degree. Read more>>

Jasmine Parker

From 2nd grade to my senior year in high school, I told everyone who listened, that my career path will be an educator, and I am going to be a Teacher. End of senior year I changed my mind. Creativity is in my blood, as I look back to my mother who sewed and made me and my sister’s outfits, she inspired me. I started my business in 2015, Bellamunchkins LLC was geared towards infants and toddlers and also custom t-shirts. Started an Etsy shop, designed and quit websites platforms, started and took hiatus from producing products. Life got hectic. Read more>>

Ricardo Aviles

As the Founder of Oak + Stone Clothing Co. my vision from day one was to solve a problem that I had for myself. I couldn’t find clothing that fit the way I wanted it to. When I finally hit a point of frustration I just said “Screw it, Ill do it myself” Having no background in clothing design, I dove deep into the world of manufacturing, sourcing and technical design. It took me 2 years and a lot of failed attempts to get the product where I wanted it but when we finally hit the market I’ve never looked back. My goal is to provide Modern Menswear to every athlete out there that was like me, frustrated with the fit of most Menswear brands. Read more>>

Alana Arnold

I am a board-certified pediatric emergency medicine physician, and founder and CEO of AJA Medical Consulting. I was born and raised in Philadelphia. After attending Princeton University for undergrad, I completed my medical training, across the country, at academic powerhouses, such as Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest free-standing pediatric hospital in the world. Read more>>

Diane Kelly

I have been a nail tech for as long as I can remember, over 10 years now! When it wasn’t my sole job it was in the rotation of jobs I kept while in college. I started doing nails & waxing in 2008 and thought I would leave the nail world when I moved to Florida from New York in 2015. After I moved here I worked at a nail salon for almost 3 1/2 years. During my time there I noticed many things. There were clients who used that time in the salon for themselves but at times it would be unfortunately interrupted by everyone around them having their own salon experiences. Read more>>

Tamika Davis

I have been a Registered Nurse for over 15 years. I have always enjoyed helping and caring for people. About 2 years ago became certified in doing lymphatic drainage massages. So i assist a lot of ladies with post op care and massages. In doing so i became interested in the non invasive, non surgical services for body enhancing. So after researching and locating a school to become certified in Body Sculpting/Contouring, i did just that. I then started body contouring and continued with post op care. i Was mobile for awhile. I then saw myself offering so much more. Read more>>

Maurice Murray

My story is pure destiny. If anyone asked me five years ago, would I be doing photography, I would have laughed. I think the day I picked up a camera is when I began tapping into my creativity. I’m personally not a photogenic person but I admire the story a photo can tell. Thanks to my sister Sherron, who had a camera laying around the garage my journey began. I had no idea how to operate a camera other the button to push to take the picture. Something within me wanted to figure it out so I began researching and watching videos on youtube. The more I watched and read the more it started to make sense to me. My family loves having get togethers for anything lol. Read more>>

Jacqueline Paredi

With creative multicultural parents and grandparents, my childhood was filled with painting, sewing and needlework, gardening, sculpting and building things in the workshop with my Dad. There was always something artistic to do so I gravitated towards an education in art and illustration, then enjoyed a successful career in fashion design and gardened in my “spare” time. Yes, believe it or not, there is plenty of personal outdoor space in a New York City condo! During a long and super fun globe trotting career in New York City as a fashion designer, while I built my paradise garden on balconies and on my own high-rise rooftop, I got a lot of attention and requests to help friends and neighbors design their outdoor and indoor spaces. Read more>>

José Valentino

I’m truly honored to be featured for VoyageTampa as I know there are many incredible individuals in our beautiful city of Tampa Bay who are qualified to be interviewed. I moved to Tampa when I was seven years old and have called it my home for the larger part of my life. Being a resident of Tampa gave me a quality life filled with adventure, opportunity, relaxation, creativity, wonderful neighbors and friends who I consider extended family members, and a chance to develop both intercultural empathy and entrepreneurial prowess as a multi-hyphenate creative professional. Read more>>

Whiskey Warehouse

My name is Nick and I manage Whiskey Warehouse with my friend Dylan. In 2019 we came up with the idea to review all sorts of whiskeys through YouTube and Instagram/Facebook. This became more of a hobby to us because we love dissecting and trying new whiskeys, and also gave us a chance to hangout. So Whiskey Warehouse is meant to review all sorts of whiskeys and give our personal opinions on them. Also this helps our viewers decide whether they should buy a bottle or not, and helps them discover new ones. Read more>>

Alissa Musto

I grew up in Massachusetts in a family of professional musicians and started playing the piano when I was 4 years old. I used to wait by the door with a guitar from a garage sale and beg my dad to take me to work with him. He told me if I learned to play the piano that someday I would be able to. I was pretty determined; I started taking piano lessons and entered a few local talent shows. My dad started taking me to local nursing homes to perform for the residents and when I was 9 years old, I performed on the national TV show, “America’s Most Talented Kid”. Read more>>

Caroline Riedel

I’d always had a passion for being active, but I never planned on pursuing it as a career. I actually went to school with the intent to major in some form of the arts: theatre, vocals, graphic design, media, etc. My first year of college I started to struggle with social anxiety which prevented me from being able to connect with those around me. It was a lonely, stressful year and it led me to spending a lot of time in the gym lifting weights. Read more>>

Samantha Heumann Freed

Fitness runs in my family. Growing up in Los Angeles, my mom was, and still is a fitness instructor and personal trainer. I always thought I wanted to follow in her footsteps and held on to the dream of opening a studio of our own someday. For nearly 10 years, my day job was in tech sales and marketing while I spent mornings and evenings teaching Barre classes and personal training. In March of 2020, while working at LinkedIn, I recognized that organizations were still struggling to help their employees prioritize well-being. Read more>>

Skye Reedy

I started singing as a very young girl at my church Idlewild in Tampa. I remember feeing connected to something beyond myself every time I would sing. Music was a calling for me as far back as I can recall. I knew it was the path I was supposed to give my life to. I started getting invited to sing at other churches and events all over the state of Florida. It all progressed very organically. By the time I was in high school I was traveling most weekends and working professionally in the music industry. My career as a young artist seemed to be blossoming and really heading for a bigger platform. Read more>>

Randys Oliva

Started with very little help but I asked many questions and worked hard every single day to get to where I am today. I have met many great leaders along the way. I am so blessed and thankful for all my experiences in the real estate business. It has not been easy but the best is yet to come. Read more>>

Natasha (Shannon) Foreman

Natasha’s Nurturing Nest was established on May 8, 2020 by Shannon (Natasha) Foreman, Owner and Operator. NNN is a dual-service company that offers Nanny and Swim services to children ages 1-12. Our mission is, “Helping to maintain your families nest” by operating under 3 Care Commitments: •Quality & Reliability •Growth & Well-being •Academic Support These are also my primary core values that help to keep me focus and committed to the process. I’m also seeking professionals with the same value systems as I continue to grow my team. Read more>>

Martha Limonta

Hello, my name is Martha Limonta and I’m a Realtor in the Tampa Bay area. I was born in Cuba and came to the US when I was only 8 years old. I had to learn English and also learn the American Culture and way of life. I have always been very ambitious. I have been working since I was 16 years old. I absolutely love fashion and I love to use it as a way to express myself. I became an agent when I was 20 years old and it was a very big turning point in my life. Not only did I have to reprogram my mindset but I also had to learn what it was like to run my own business. My biggest motivation is to inspire other young people to take risks and start stepping into a better version of themself. Read more>>

Jerilyn Smith

I worked in Corporate America for over 20 years. I got burnt out. After all that comes with working in the Corporate world, I decided working for myself would be the best scenario. And indeed it is a decision that worked for me. Moreover, becoming a realtor gave me the greatest freedom where I could soar, create my own lanes, and work with some amazing people. In September 2018, I made the decision to further my real estate career by becoming a broker. During that time, I was dealing with alot of personal strife and also I was 8 months pregnant. With the strength of the Creator and my drive, opening my own real estate office helped me to reinvent myself. Read more>>

Kris Blade

I have always used art as a healthy escape and have always loved connecting with people. I immediately was in love with the tattoo process when I first started getting tattooed and knew that one day I would make that my life. Now I get to go to work without really working a day in my life, connecting with my clients and using intentional tattooing methods and exchanging positive energy to ensure a beautiful experience for all of my clients while getting to create a wide range of fun art styles. Read more>>

Jalyssa Troupe

Expressing myself through my own words has always seemed to be a challenge for me so even writing this is a little tough. I noticed that I’d make connections to how felt by listening to and seeing other art forms. (Music, poetry, painting, photography) Some time in 2015, I randomly decided to go to the store and buy art supplies. I started painting whatever came to mind at the time. A friend came by and asked how much they were being sold for, and to be honest, I had never even thought about selling them up until that point. Later on, they asked if I’d be able to paint certain pictures then others contacted me about commission pieces and it’s been flowing ever since. Read more>>

Jakyia Ross

My business was a God given vision. Never in a million years would I think I would be in the wig business. I was enrolled in USF majoring in Behavioral health with a concentration in ABA when I started. I loved what I was studying, however I felt like it wasn’t enough. I began to pray for guidance and ways to build generational wealth. All of a sudden, I fell in love with wigs. I started to make them and enjoyed helping women take their confidence, something I’ve always struggled with myself, to the next level. Read more>>

Deborah McNeal

In 2020 was looking for ways to lose inches amongst the pandemic. I searched waist trainers and throughout my search there was a lady wearing these beautiful strands of beads around her waist and I was mesmerized. She began to explain how they encourage you to lose inches and how sexy they make her feel. I ordered immediately and in a month I wanted more. I then begin to search locally but was unsuccessful. I then looked up ” where do Waistbeads come from?” I am all about black empowerment, especially when our community was at an uproar following the killing of George Floyd, so when I saw Waistbeads originated in Africa (Ghana and Nigeria) I was hooked! Read more>>

Bobby Jackson

My professional journey started right after graduating from Minnesota State University, in 2010, with my degree in Biology; Health & Medical Sciences. Still not sure what area of health sciences I wanted to pursue, I got board certified as a phlebotomist and began working at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota. After establishing myself as a proficient Phlebotomist, even earning an instructor position with the hospital’s phlebotomy training program, I decided that I needed to transition into a more active area of health sciences. Physical Therapy became my new direction. Read more>>

Amber and Ron Batten

My father, Ron Batten, has been in the real estate business for 30+ years specializing in residential and commercial properties. He’s a Tampa native and grew up working in his mother’s grocery stores. Following the closure of the stores, he went to pursue a career in real estate where he quickly became successful. Even throughout the market crash in 2008, Ron was one of the only agents in his brokerage who kept business rolling because he simply would not give up. Fast forward 13 years following the pandemic, Ron quickly noticed how the market was changing and knew he needed to adapt to these changes to continue to be successful. That’s when he decided to bring his marketing-savvy daughter, Amber Batten, into the business. Read more>>

Tiffany Wayne

My earliest memories include a camera. Being in pictures…taking pictures. It simply has always been a part of me. As a teenager, my room was decorated with torn out pages from the most well known fashion and beauty magazines. Not so much for the words printed on the page, but for the imagery that stopped me dead in my tracks. I love surrounding myself with beautiful things. Growing up my grandfather enjoyed taking pictures and to this day I wear his camera strap on my camera! Read more>>

Vivian Yakpo Newton

My name is Vivian Yakpo Newton, and I am the single mother of two wonderful young men. I was born in Ghana, West Africa, and moved to London after graduating from high school. I met my ex-husband during a visit to Heidelberg, Germany, and after dating for a few years, we married and I moved to Heidelberg, Germany. When my marriage ended, our family was in the process of relocating to the United States. While attempting to adjust to a new culture, I became a single parent in a new country. We lived in Brooklyn, New York for a few years before moving to San Jose, California, and finally to Winter Haven, Florida. What a case of culture shock! Read more>>

Betty King

We are Joseph and Betty a realtor® team from Align Right Realty Riverview. We began this real estate journey at the beginning of this year. We were inspired to start our own business and become more independent in the workforce since we realized that our current jobs wouldn’t benefit us long term. After learning more about real estate we realized it would be the best fit for us and the independence we were searching for. We took the classes online to get our licenses and passed the exams only a few weeks later. Read more>>

Jeff Ragovin

My story began on the East Coast in Manhattan, where I was born and raised. Most people don’t know this, but I actually always dreamed of being a weatherman. I went to State University of New York at Oswego and graduated with a degree in Broadcasting and Mass Media. Needless to say, I never made it onto prime TV. So, how did I transition from meteorology into the tech space? Well, I didn’t end up landing a TV gig after college, which turned out to be a very good thing for my career in the long run. Instead, I got my first job at an email marketing platform during the late ‘90s dot-com boom. That was the first wave of mar-tech solutions for brands. Read more>>

Christina Insinga

With a background in luxury hospitality and travel, I honestly never thought about Real Estate until residing in one of the greatest cities in the world, New York City. The fast paced ambience of the city and ability to make substantial commissions were the foundation to my career. From the day I started my courses to the day I passed my exam was 8 weeks; I closed my first transaction 3 weeks after that and never looked back. Utilizing my hospitality background and providing a ‘Concierge’ type of experience for my clientele set my business apart. Read more>>

Jaylan speights

My name is Jaylan I started my business officially about a year ago. I always loved cooking but just didn’t know how. After my grandad die and getting out a very toxic relationship I finally said I need to start focusing on me and what I love to do. I did just that, One year ago I had 200 followers and no clients with my catering business. Today I have 35k followers and create content while catering to my clients. Never give up on your dreams even it looks bad always keep going. Read more>>

Priscilla Gutierrez

My name is Priscilla Gutierrez, but most people call me Peach. I am 24 years old and I have lived in Florida all of my life. I was born to two Cuban immigrants, making me a proud first-generation Cuban-American. Since I could remember, I have always been drawn to creating art. Although, if I’m being honest tattooing is not something I had ever thought of doing as a career myself. The desire to become a tattoo artist came spontaneously after high school when I was given the opportunity to earn an apprenticeship by a fellow tattoo artist in my community. Read more>>

Ashley Lucas, LCSW

It honestly all started when I was living in a transition home for homeless women and women with children. My experience in the home matched the passion I had for people with a new passion for leadership. I watched women in a suffering mental , emotional, and sometimes physical state be mistreated by people who were supposed to help them. At the time, I was studying social work in undergraduate school, but honestly not very seriously due to my life circumstances. I was not mentally ready for college when I went and eventually my life’s traumas caught up with me. Read more>>

Kiara Carmon

Greetings! I am Kiara Carmon, MBA, a recent graduate of Florida A&M University. Since I began my transitioning journey to natural at the age of 15, my love for natural hair and the community has immensely grown, so much that I now proudly attend a black-owned trade school named Shear Excellence Hair Academy. ​I always knew I wanted to attend cosmetology school, however, I wanted to ensure that I achieved my degrees and knowledge of the business world first before diving into entrepreneurship. Read more>>

Arvette Adderley

As a kid born and raised in Freeport, Bahamas. I grew up watching my mother who is self-taught from the age of 16 doing hair. I remember going to visit her at Dudley’s Cosmetology school in North Carolina. I was a little girl at the time but I remember always being fascinated with hair. As a child growing up, I remember I sat and study how my mom did her client’s hair. I would go home and mimic the same thing she did 1 try every time and mastered it. That’s when I realize I really have a passion for hair. Read more>>

Yadigsy Hernandez

I enrolled in the Graphic Arts Academy as a freshmen in high school. To be honest, I did it so my friend and I could have the same class schedule. Little did I know I had found my calling. I fell in love! After graduation, I had a scholarship to St. Petersburg College to study graphic design. Unfortunately, life got messy so I opted for a vocational degree in the medical field. I worked in the medical field for some time, but for most of my life I worked in the legal field. Even though I enjoyed the work, I often felt trapped, overwhelmed and overworked. Read more>>

Audrey Raezer

Shortly after graduating esthetician school in 2014, I was hired at a local salon. There I met a coworker who was a lash artist, and at the time while working at the salon I also worked as a bartender/ waitress and I was very familiar with wearing lash strips, she ended up doing my lashes and I was in LOVE! I had never considered doing lash extensions until this point. My coworker offered to let me watch her work on a client to decide whether or not doing lash extensions would be something I would be interested in. I decided to go ahead and get certified in them. Read more>>

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