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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.

Joe Monach

People have asked how we met and how our business began because to some our relationship and start is enigmatic.  It was March 2012 and I had recently arrived in Pittsburg after spending 2 years in Federal Prison. That is another story that has shaped my life in profound ways. Suffice it to say I was involved with the wrong people and became collateral damage in a bad white-collar investment deal. Read more>>

Ryan McGibbeny

I got my start in radio at Cox Media Group Tampa working on the street team setting up events and interacting with listeners. Eventually, I was recruited by The Miguel & Holly Show to be their Morning Show Producer. That’s when I really started in the content and social media realm and I also picked up photography and videography. I was shooting the station events and concerts and moved into doing projects for the sales department. A little after that CMG offered me a full-time position hybriding all of these elements together and I was their Marketing Manager for Hot 101.5, 97x, and 102.5 The Bone. Read more>>

Theo Severson

We were djing under the moniker The Crate Brothers for years before we started Emo Night Tampa.  Our friend Tracy Consoli was running a bar, First Chance Last Chance in Ybor & she was a super big help in getting the venue to let us throw the first emo night event back in June of 2015. Since then, each year the night seems to get bigger & bigger. We have added more & more bands, which has allowed us to put. focus on local talent, as well as national. Gotta support your friends, especially when they make a great product.  Our seven-year anniversary is going to be in June. Not bad for a party that no one thought would last. Read more>>

Ray Roa

My first local writing gig was c.2007 in the Hawkeye, a school newspaper at Hillsborough Community College’s Ybor Campus where I also had an AM radio show. Over the next few years, I picked up bylines at Bay area music magazine REAX, and then Suburban Apologist all while taking on work at Consequence of Sound. That turned into joining Creative Loafing Tampa Bay as a correspondent in 2011 as well as the Tampa Bay Times where I was a music correspondent from 2013-2016. There are stints as social media coordinator for Gasparilla Music Festival (2013-2016) and award-winning Tampa restaurant Rooster & the Till (2014-2019) worked in, and I went full-time at CL in 2016 as the alt-weekly’s music editor. I was promoted to editor-in-chief in August 2019, just a few months before coronavirus re-invented the way we produce this more than 33-year-old publication. Read more>>

Camelia Young

I was a teen parent. My family didn’t approve of me having a child so young. But I still made it happen. I got a job and finished school. I was so young but I couldn’t let my son down, I always looked in his eyes and knew it was unconditional love. My mother was a single parent herself, I’m the oldest of five girls. I felt like I had to set an example for my son and also my baby sisters. I was their protector in my eyes. I thank God for all the resources out here in the community. I had a mentor Ms. Rogers which was a correctional officer here in Orange County. Read more>>

Quindara Lazenbury

For the past five years, I have worked in education (higher ed, secondary and virtual.) Although I enjoyed working with students, internally I always felt there was a different path I should be on. Since my early teens, skin and body care interested me as I experienced battles with scalp issues and eczema– at times I was even bullied for it. Both of my parents showed me how to care for my body — my dad through nutrition and even introduced me to vegetarianism, and my mom through the many skincare products she would leave around the house to my disposal. Through trial and error, and many recipe fails, I learned how to care for my body and skin and decided to share that information/products with those around me hence the formation of Laven Bodycare. Read more>>

Bob Dibuono

I always loved making people laugh. Giving people joy gave me a sense of belonging and purpose. Allowing me the escape from my own sadness.  I did it for the first time when I was 16. I was fearless. I thought “I am so young – what does this audience expect?” I bombed – lol. I did not start again until I was 29. For years, I aspired to do it but followed my dad’s wishes to get a corporate job and have financial security, like most son’s – I sought approval from my dad to be successful and make him happy. Read more>>

Taylor Woodby

I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 4 – so naturally, I’ve been inclined to watch my diet and activity from an early age. This disease can have some nasty side effects if not carefully monitored, so it’s not like I really had a choice. However, my amazing parents told me from day 1 with the disability that I could do anything a normal person could do – and they were right. I became interested in lifting weights in my early teens around when I became involved in middle and high school athletics, originally for the sake of being better at those sports, but my love for fitness quickly took priority in my life. Read more>>

Jaquan Williams

Jaquan Williams, born and raised in Tampa, FL, with an eye on the NYC, Paris, & Milan editorial fashion wear. I’ve always had an eye for fashion. I can say I first started off the idea of being a wardrobe stylist when I was 19 years of age having the love to walk in the room and not being the loudest but turning the most heads. I then took my confidence and turned it into my business. I came up with the name J’aiQuan’sfashion with the meaning I “have Quan’s fashion “I wanted my name to match my value of standing out. Read more>>

Muneca Cintron

I was raised in Chicago, IL. I later moved to Tampa, FL. I’ve always had a passion for cooking and baking. That was instilled in me early on by my grandmother. I didn’t have much growing up, but I always had big dreams. For me being in the kitchen gives me life. No matter what happens in my day-to-day, the moment I step foot in the kitchen everything just becomes clearer. I love being able to make people happy through food. My brother and I were very close. He taught me how to take my skills and apply them outside the home. Him and I were always big on success and being someone the family could be proud of. I started Munecas Munchies out of my home in 2013. Read more>>

Shena Canty

I started off by having my own band for about three years. After having some setbacks in my life, I decided to pursue my musical career as an individual artist. Basically, music saved my life. I have had a lot of fun and success getting me to where I am. I have had actual placement in magazines and blogs locally and internationally, Real radio airplay not only in the U.S but also overseas. Shena Samone is an extraordinarily, captivating Tampa-based music artist, performer, and writer. She lives to share her passion for music and remarkable gift of sound with her community and fans. Known by her stage name, Shena Samone, her versatile musical path has taken her on an exceptionally diverse journey including lead and background vocalist, writer, and collaborator on many projects with producers, local and national artists. Her electrifying stage performances are accompanied by a variety of popular genres including R&B, House, Pop, Jazz, and Reggae. Read more>>

Sashari Stephenson

I’ve always been singing! When I was younger, I would go on the roof of my grandma’s house, and with a broom as my microphone, I would sing as loudly as possibly! I think that’s my true origin story! I grew up apostolic pentecostal and so my first “stage” was my local church back in Jamaica. My mom and grandma were influential parts of our church and so I would be the first called upon to sing or recite poetry on a normal Sunday service or at one of our annual events. That was my foundation, I didn’t quite understand it then but there was this feeling I would always get when singing, a feeling of purpose, and I know now that God was setting the stage to propel me into where I am now, and where I’m going. I actually never thought I would be recording gospel music! Being classically trained in opera performance and voice, I always thought that if I were to do music, then that’s what I would be singing! Boy was I wrong! Read more>>

Brandajah Lovelace

Since 2008 I knew I wanted to be a massage therapist. 2018 I graduated from my spa therapist program leaving as a licensed aesthetician and certified massage therapist from there I got my dream job at the hard rock casino spa working as a spa attendant. During my massage career, I developed a passion for eyelash extensions & fitness. From 2019 to 2020 I worked for a fortune 500 company as a lash artist. March 2021, I went full-time entrepreneur and I’ve been working for my brand ever since. My brand is BellaB’SStudio, we are a beauty and wellness company. Currently, I travel all over Florida to offer massage services and eyelash extensions services. Graduating from NPTI of Tampa with my fitness diploma I plan to incorporate fitness into my company with offering fitness accessories and 101 coaching as well as programming. Read more>>

Alexis Stuart

My name is Alexis, but you can call me Lex! I’ve always had an affinity for story-telling. It began with words at a young age, but later images became my muse. In 2010, I was gifted my first point-and-shoot camera, after relentlessly begging my parents, and the rest is history. A year later, I upgraded to my first DSLR camera, and I filled my high school days with every opportunity to take pictures I could get — whether for the school newspaper and yearbook, my church’s dance ministry, or my friends. Read more>>

Kourtney Eason

My entire life growing up I was a dancer until my parents moved me to Florida from Michigan my senior year it wasn’t until then I dropped studio and began to get a taste of the bodybuilding industry. Falling in love with health and wellness I went a got my Medical esthetics license and started working in the spa industry. The year 2014 I unexpectedly had a reaction to a vaccine and was hospitalized for a year, in and out of the hospital dealing with an intense medical issue. After I was done with all my treatments, I knew that at the end of the day we had one life to live to our full potential, so I went back to school and became a licensed personal trainer and health coach. Read more>>

Nicole Davis

Hello! My name is Nicole Davis and I started Janes crystals summer 2020, I had lost my job a few months prior and had to get part-time work and was really not enjoying myself. Between moving in with my boyfriend that summer, decluttering old crystals that I’ve had from a previous Etsy shop, and encouragement from my boyfriend, I started online selling again. As it supplemented some income, I discovered markets and in-person events and was amazed at the amount of people who wanted to support local business. Read more>>

Gina Lyons

My love for champagne really started when I moved to Tokyo in 2009 and continued while living abroad in both Asia and Europe. Working as the head of Customer Experience for Europe at a major luxury fashion brand, I travelled extensively, developing a deep appreciation for luxury food, wine, and travel. As I visited new places and cities, I emersed myself in the culture and history, and especially in Europe, this meant the wine as well. Falling in love with France right away, I was particularly interested in Champagne. Read more>>

Ian Tuma

I have been a builder and an artist since I was a child, my Christmas wish list usually included a couple power tools. I build paintball courses in my backyard and the woods, skateboard ramps. I always really enjoyed working with wood and trash. From ages 10-14 I designed and managed a small haunted house for a fall festival. I would think about that haunted house for probably the entire year leading up to it, I think what I do today is still scratching the same itch that haunted house created. I started throwing house parties and shows in high school which later evolved into themed parties and shows in college. Read more>>

Dayna Purcell

As far back as I can remember I always love to do hair. Whether it was my doll’s hair when I was young or my friends’ hair in high school. I went to beauty school directly after high school and started working in a salon right away. I believe that what separates great hairstylists from other hairstylists is that natural ability. Hairstyling came easy to me. And I loved it. I still do 28 years later.! I feel fortunate that I knew from a young age what my career path would be. I started in a commission-based salon and then moved into renting a chair. And I was successful at it. In 2007I decided to buy an existing salon/spa. And I quickly learned some hard lessons. I had no idea what I was doing. And I was afraid to ask for help. I also had a lot of personal issues going on (struggling with addiction) that were setting me up for failure. So only two years later I had to walked away from the salon and it closed. A combination of me failing and the recession. Read more>>

Shelby Mattingly

I started with an Online Boutique (ENVY Style Lounge), after having that for a year I wanted to branch out and create my own BRAND. Being an avid boater all of my life, I knew whatever I did had to involve boating. I began with a name and came up with Boat Babe last year at the Key West Poker Run, actually. I loved it because it was feminine, catchy, and applied to all Women who also share a love for boating. First things first- I trademarked Boat Babe. Then, I began designing and creating clothing that I loved and knew that other women would love. Read more>>

Yadira Alvarez

I came from Cuba; illegally like most Cubans do, with just one dream, become the person I would love to be. Entrepreneur woman, working for myself, build a legacy, and show as many women as possible that we are stronger than we think and that we can accomplish anything we want in life. Everything started 5 years ago; when I found out my second child was on the way. I always love doing photos for myself, family and friends. When I had my daughter, I always planned her photoshoot with another photographer but bringing my ideas and how exactly I wanted the photos to be. So, when I find out I was having a second baby, and that I just wanted to take care of them and work in a flexible schedule for myself; I said this is the time; So, I started opening my business, and doing what I really loved to do… Photography. Read more>>

Laura DiSalvo

It was maybe about 6-7 years ago that my first daughter started preschool/daycare and kept coming home sick every two weeks- like clockwork. I was going crazy trying to find a good product to provide to her that would keep her healthy and make the illnesses leave her system quicker. I was told about elderberry from a neighbor friend, and then it went from there. Few people sold it around me, but nothing really was that great tasting. It was either too watery or too thick. I ended up creating a recipe for my family that got recognized quickly via word of mouth. In 2019 we started to make it a real business. We received our permit, created a space at a commercial kitchen and I am very proud to say we put lots of love and attention into each of our products for our Tampa Bay customers! Read more>>

Sapheria Emani Samuels

I originally came up with the idea of Inspired Growth when I graduated from college. Before then, I had a light bulb moment when I ran for homecoming queen my senior year of college. When I ran for Homecoming Queen, I realized that so many people looked up to me and/or admired me for just simply being who I am. I realized that people were also praying me for the encouragement I gave them along the way; weather it was encouragement by my actions or through verbal words. I then started to reflect on my contribution to my community and those around me. I finally realized that I can make a bigger impact. Read more>>

Brian Beatty

After Selling our Plumbing Business in early 2014, with the plan to leave Northern Illinois and relocate to Central Florida. It was a need from experiencing arthritic pain throughout my body the past several Winters. The 2013/14 winter was brutally cold, it was the first time in my 42 years I heard the term “Polar Vortex”. I had been out fixing frozen pipes for 3 days straight, I finally got home at 3 a.m., after taking a long hot shower, as I crawled into bed, I told my wife to call a Business Broker in the morning to see if we could Sell this business. My wife, being a person of action, did just that. That afternoon we were meeting the business broker, 6 weeks later the business was Sold! Read more>>

Taleo Mor

For us, it began back in 2015 when me, my business partner, and best friend John Cruz decided we wanted to start making music. We went to guitar center that day and spent our remaining money buying music equipment and a desktop to start learning how to make music. We spent countless hours and many YouTube tutorials learning the software. After our day jobs, we’d practice our sets in our living room and attend events around the city to start to build our name. In 2016 we decided to make our own label, Arroba Records, dedicated to helping artist reach their potential through learning the business side of the music industry, as we did on our own accord. Six years, several different artist, and a bountiful amount of singles and EPs later we’ve developed a name for ourselves in Tampa. Looking towards expanding our team and launching our first event in the coming year is our main priority! With plenty more music coming from our current roaster. Read more>>

Siobhan Monique

When asked the question how my musical journey began, I always answer by saying that my talent chose me. I begin singing at the age of three and at the time my musical influences were my grandfather Steve Cooper and my uncle Buster Cooper, they were both world-renowned jazz musicians. Jazz was a major part of my musical influence growing up and it still is to this day. I began singing classical music in ninth grade at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts program at Gibbs high school that was a time that I was able to perfect my craft through my classical training. I continued this training at the University of South Florida where I received a degree in classical voice under the direction of Warren Jaworski. Read more>>

Jodi Mason

I have been living in Florida since 2013, after moving from Tennessee, to start on a new adventure. I had just gotten married, we were both working for Publix, and decided that we wanted a change of scenery. We moved to Navarre, in the Florida Panhandle, and that started my adventures in Florida. I moved to Orlando when I took a job with Disney World for change of career and scenery. The experiences I had working at Disney, and living in Orlando really helped me to appreciate the beauty and diversity of the Sunshine State. I have since lived in Jacksonville, St Augustine, Auburndale, and currently Clearwater. The ability to move around and travel around the state has helped me be able to talk about it in my podcast. I have so many experiences and met so many different people all over the state. I have unlimited stories to tell to help people understand this beautiful state, find new places to explore and help people to understand what it’s like to live here if they wanted to move to Florida in the future. Read more>>

Chloe Shanice

My creative spirit and my passion to help others has always been the guiding force in everything I do. My story started when I was furloughed from my hospital job in Jupiter, in March of 2020 when the COVID 19 pandemic started and was going through depression. My skin was seeing the side effects and got worse by the day and I couldn’t stand to even take a picture, so I wanted to bring back the important of self-love and self-care as a priority not an option. I started in my kitchen making skincare products that I used on myself and then my husband and friends and next thing I knew I started selling products to people across the U.S because of the feedback I was getting. At the end of 2020, I ended up moving to Tampa, FL and getting married! Read more>>

Kim McVicar

I am a comedian and former professional dancer (emphasis on former) originally from Canada. Whenever I was on a dance job, I would always be trying to make people laugh. So about 10 years ago I tried my 1st stand-up mic. Then I fell in love with how hard/rewarding it was. Now I’m two stand-up specials in, with no end in sight.  I just finished filming my 2nd comedy special in Tampa where I lived before I moved to Los Angeles — titled “Tap Dancing on My Mother’s Grave” – where I riff about how bad I am in bed, old prostitutes, and, of course, my mother’s practice funeral. Don’t worry: she is still alive. And much like my first special “Please Notice Me”, there is dance breaks to original music. You’ve never seen a standup special quite like this! Read more>>

Adriana Martinez

I was born in Colombia SA and lived in Venezuela for over 45 years. We have to leave the country because of the political situation of Venezuela and the business that I had before in Venezuela which I worked for a Newspaper as an outsourcing distributor for one of the biggest newspaper in the country. I was the second biggest newspaper distributor nationwide selling more than 24.000 copies of newspaper every day. The newspaper that I was working with was bought by the government which is a socialist/communist government. At that moment we new something was going to happen to our business since we were Opposition and start to look for opportunities to leave the country as soon as possible. Read more>>

Erica Maurino

I was born and raised just outside of Tampa, in Odessa, Florida. I am a proud graduate of the University of Central Florida with a B.S. in Event Management. During my time as a student, I worked mostly in the sports industry for the various teams that reside in Orlando and Tampa. I moved back to Tampa after graduation and spent the next 6 months interning at the Minor League Baseball corporate office in St. Petersburg. I joined the Chamber in 2019 as the Events Manager. It was my first step into the real world. I was finally getting the opportunity to use the skills I had learned in previous positions and through school to make a name for myself in Tampa. In 2021 I was promoted to the Director of Events & Marketing at the South Tampa Chamber. Read more>>

Nick Meaden

My dad is a drummer, so he’s the one who initially introduced me to playing any sort of music. I remember learning around 8 or 9 years old, but it fell out of my interest as I got older…  Come middle school I joined the school orchestra as a percussionist and met my first bandmates. We formed our own band outside of school, and I was the drummer. From there my bandmate taught me guitar because I wanted to start singing and playing. I really dove into songwriting around that time, but the band broke up after a couple years. Read more>>

Jerrod Hubbard

I started Reflekt Image with one of my best friends, Travis, as a way to have more of a creative outlet. I would say I’ve always been a creative person and I have constantly jumped from one creative thing to the next. At first Reflekt Image was just a hobby, then, because we were both single at the time, we started to use our professional photos on dating platforms which would capture people’s attention. From there we started taking photos of random people we would become friends with. We eventually even started helping other people with their dating apps to help them stand out more and it eventually went from photography to image consulting as well. Read more>>

Gabby Shusterman

It all started during quarantine. Just like everybody else, I was taking time to reflect on myself- present, past & future. At the time I was enrolled in college and for a while didn’t really know if that was the right path for me. I had a few friends who were Estheticians & Cosmetologists and always thought it was such an empowering job to have. So, I started doing more research about what becoming an Esthetician really involved and everything started to click. I have never made a quicker decision in my life, almost immediately I had scheduled a tour at Summit Salon Academy and everything began to fall into place. Starting the Full Specialist Esthetician program, I began to learn about makeup, skincare, waxing, lashes, and nails. Read more>>

Nikita Fosmore

The entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in my history; on both sides of my family really. But my favorite way to explain it is that I am a third-generation hairstylist on my dad’s side. Both my dad and my grandfather were stylist and salon owners. I grew up in my parents’ hair salon as a kid and I am so grateful for that. I witnessed and learned about what goes into a business from early on. As a young person, I saw my parents talk about and interact with clients too. I was there when they got shiny new pieces of salon furniture, or tried out a trendy new hair techniques, listened to them brainstorm ideas, and get their team fired up about it. Also, saw them deal with hard times with their team, you know, the ups and downs of business. I know my parents did their best to protect me from any stress they may have been feeling. But I am so glad I was exposed to their work-life because it set the tone for me and is a large part of what shaped who I am as a person. Read more>>

Emily Velazquez

I started as an assistant to my very talented mentor back in Freshman year of high school! He introduced me into the world of beauty as I have always loved everything about this industry. Although I have been doing this for a long time now, my business was established 5/6 years ago. I have worked other jobs in the industry as I slowly built my company. I am proud to say this is now my full-time job and I also have a team of wonderful girls that I trust to work alongside of me. Read more>>

Elena Ward

Hi everyone my name is Elena Ward. I have been in business since 2015. I decided to start Pretty Fit Fitness LLC when I was serving active duty in the United States Air Force. I have always had a love for fitness, nutrition, beauty, and lifestyle. So, I wanted to make sure my business and brand in-bodied all those things. I’m a certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, licensed esthetician, life insurance agent, and public notary. I have over the years obtained all of this certifications because I want my business to continue to grow and be able to impact people’s lives in a positive way as the times change. Read more>>

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