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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.

DuaneTyler Geary

DuaneTyler Geary, owner, and founder of Geary Inspections LLC was born and raised in the Tampa Bay area. Growing up, I enjoyed working with his hands and was fascinated with construction and the way things were made. I have always believed that any task should be completed in a timely and effective manner, paying close attention to detail while avoiding shortcuts. This idea of work ethic will be the foundation to home inspections provided by Geary Inspections LLC. We take our time to ensure the homeowner can live comfortably in their homes for years to come.  Read more>>

Nadine McDowell

Becoming an artist and owner of Clay-Z Face is a long story of self-discovery. I still struggle with calling myself an artist, because the word comes with a stereotype and differing levels of expectations depending on your personal perspective. I think of myself as a visual storyteller or a sculpting illustrator. My development as an “artist” began as a child. I had hearing problems and eventually had tubes but in my ears. I had challenges in school and social development, because of my inability to hear and consequently communicate. To this day, I still have people ask me if English is my second language because I form my sentences differently. In turn, I became pretty good at reading body language and body postures based on mood. I spent a lot of time by myself. My parents tried to encourage me to join different clubs, but I enjoyed surprising them with random silly putty sculptures, so they started buying me clay. Read more>>

Richie Mahoney

During the 1998 Orange Bowl in Miami, members of the University of Tennessee Marching Band were given 2 options to spend a “free day” in Miami: Go to Key West or hang out at the band’s hotel pool. So, Richie chartered a 47-foot sailboat on Biscayne Bay and took several of his classmates sailing for the day. Not only was it fun, but he was able to see firsthand how rewarding it was to introduce people to sailing that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity. Over the past 20 plus years, Captain Richie has exposed thousands upon thousands of guests to the magic of sailing on a multitude of vessels spanning the entire Gulf of Mexico, Eastern Seaboard, Bahamas, and the Caribbean.  Captain Richie holds a 1600 / 3000-ton Master’s license from the United States Coast Guard. He began his sailing career at the age of 4 on the mountain lakes of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. He has sailed on the collegiate level, done extensive coastal cruising and made ocean passages, and well as skippered in several high-profile regattas. Professionally, he has captained a wide array of vessels from the offshore oil and gas industry to offshore tug boats to high-capacity passenger vessels and everything in between.  Read more>>

Vanessa Talbott

Perhaps you have seen Silvie around town? She’s a 2018 16-foot Airstream Bambi, a classic but contemporary mobile office for Palm Real Estate, Inc. Most days you will find us out and about working from Silvie vs. working from our traditional brick and mortar office in Clearwater. By being on the move, this gives us a great opportunity to spread our strong entrepreneurial vision of comprehensive real estate services through our participation at local festivals, fairs, open houses, showcasing new home developments, and on occasion, dog walk-a-thons, festivals, and other fundraising events.  As Founder and Broker with over 35 years in the real estate industry and prior to the pandemic, I was inspired by the popularity of the food trucks to collaborate with a local graphic artist to create a unique and recognizable look for the Airstream to allow me and my team of agents a great marketing platform with an opportunity to create more brand awareness and visibility in a highly saturated, competitive real estate market.   Read more>>

Katie Szymanski

I think the best way to start my story is by stating that I haven’t always enjoyed exercise. My parents tried so hard to get me to enjoy being active, but I never cared much for the many camps, sports, and activities I tried. As I got older and found myself more critical of my body, I tried, again and again, to get into exercise, but it never stuck, and I just kept giving up. One of my biggest motivators to improve my fitness only happened a few years ago. I went hiking with my family and almost couldn’t make it back up to where we’d started. It took me a few months to work up the courage to take action, but once I got in the gym, something clicked. I wanted to be there and wanted to exercise. Though many other factors of my life have changed since then, my enjoyment of exercise hasn’t!  I became a personal trainer because I wanted others to feel supported on their fitness journey, and more importantly, I wanted to keep others from making the same mistakes I had made along the way. There are many things I’ve done because I thought they would help me reach my goals faster, but they only ended up hurting me. It’s important to me that I help guide others away from these common pitfalls.  Read more>>

Carina Sykes

I have always had a passion for clothing, fashion, decor, etc. After I had my twins, I didn’t want to go back to teaching, I wanted to be home with them. Finding something which would help my husband with the bills and take care of newborns was tough. I ended up starting up with Younique Make-up and slowly built a nice little business. One of my friends who also was with Younique led me to Lularoe. We both made the decision to join this new and exciting business. In a short 2 years, my business was flourishing! I had a great team under me, I was traveling the country to conferences and conventions as a participant and a trainer for social media. Facebook had just started allowing live posting so that opened up a huge audience. At the 3 years mark my husband; who was now retired from the Sheriff Department, and I decided it was time to take the leap and open our own online boutique. Abela Story + Co was formed!!. Read more>>

Natalie Symons

I’ve been obsessed with telling stories since I was about seven or eight years old. Growing up in Buffalo, I used to direct and star (naturally) in musicals that I wrote, most of which were loose adaptations of ANNIE or THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Then I’d cast my friends to play the supporting roles. I was ruthless. I’ve since apologized to some of those girls—now middle-aged women—who came over to play at my house and wanted to climb trees and play hide and seek. Poor kids. I put them all to work learning lines and rehearsing for backyard productions of plays with titles like THE GOVERNESS AND I. (I think I played both.) I’ve worked as an actress (among a plethora of day jobs) for most of my adult life in Seattle and then here in Tampa Bay. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I wrote my first original play, LARK EDEN. I had no expectations when I wrote it. It was more of a love letter to my old female friends. It’s been produced by theatres all around the country, and it has an upcoming production in Germany—in German! I’ve since written three other plays.  Read more>

Ryann Liebl

I was born and raised in the Midwest. Wisconsin to be exact. I grew up around farmers, orchards, and people who worked with their hands.  My neighbors were competent, headstrong, and friendly.  This shaped me as a child. I was always outgoing; I knew everyone and I felt I could talk to my community and engage with it and I did.  I found my passion for acting and the arts at a young age. I was 13 when I started doing plays and diving into the great playwrights. By Junior year in high school, I was doing professional theater and when I graduated, I went straight to Los Angeles to continue the journey.  I spent a lot of time studying, working odd jobs so I could audition, and basically getting my feet wet. I had a lot of hits and misses and close calls. And I worked a lot in many areas of the acting world voiceovers, commercials, film, tv, and print modeling. If it had a paycheck attached to it, I did it. I’m not afraid to work. Read more>>

Andrew Holness

After being introduced to the professional world of event production and live sound, I became inspired to build an entertainment company that could help produce great opportunities for my talented friends and closest collaborators. The whole concept of “Levitated” was started by my friend MAL and it’s been growing ever since. There’s a certain mentality that all of the greats carry within themselves and that awareness to recognize limitless growth and freedom is what helps me to always strive to be better than I was yesterday. This journey has led me into sound engineering, building a video production company, and now learning how to build and operate a successful business fueled by creatives.  Read more>>

Esperanza Cuesta

Born of Cuban descent I migrated to Miami at the young age of 2 years old. My youth was filled with memories of family gatherings and long-lasting friendships that remain through today. As a young girl, I was always empathic and strongly felt the urge to want to help others. However, the thing to do in the ’80s was to go work for Corporate America and I began a lifelong career in management. Although I loved my job there was still something missing. It wasn’t until one day I walked into a crystal shop that I heard the most incredible hum. The funny thing was that I was the only one that was hearing it. That day I learned about sound vibrations; I would have never guessed that that beautiful humming was that of quartz crystals. After that, I was in awe… I couldn’t get enough information about crystals and sound vibrations. That was the start with my passion of crystals. Read more>>

Angelique Jackson

Picture this: Driving through a lush mountain valley, with coconut trees swaying in harmony with the ocean breeze, surrounded by humble landscaping and beautiful beaches. There are mouthwatering fresh and flavorful foods and beverages at your fingertips on the roadside. There is rhythmic and vibrational music playing in the background that you can’t help but sway to the beat. This is what I remember when I think of my home. My name is Angelique and I was born and raised on a twin island in the Caribbean, Trinidad, and Tobago. We Caribbean people are known to be very proud and patriotic, so in 2014 when I decided to come to Tampa, Florida to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science at the University of South Florida (USF), my mission was to promote and represent my culture. In 2016, I was honored to represent my home country in USF’s Annual Miss International Pageant, showcasing Trinidad and Tobago’s vibrant and soulful culture to many others. Read more>>

Shawn Buller

I became a musician growing up as a child taking piano lessons and viola lessons. I played viola throughout my high school and young adult life in several community symphonies. I also sang in many different choirs while majoring in music and music therapy in college. I eventually got my master’s degree in music therapy here at the University of Miami. I’ve always had an interest in the performing arts especially music and the healing power of music.  In 1985 at the age of 28, I contracted transverse myelitis, which resulted in a C6 incomplete spinal cord injury. My life drastically changed as I became a full-time wheelchair user. In 1990 I moved to Miami to take advantage of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis in an effort to regain as much physical strength and ability as possible. My intention was to become stronger through the therapies offered here in Miami and then return back to Missouri. However, I have remained in Miami for the past 31 years. Read more>>

Xan Peters

I grew up in Clearwater around art and art classes in mother’s gallery. Through drawing and sculpting, art gave me space to be free and imaginative. As a middle schooler, I was determined to learn everything I could on paleontology but had trouble connecting and making friends. I was an absent-minded student in school and admittedly withdrawn from a lot of academic and social engagement until high school where I finally began to connect with other people over art and music. I picked up playing the guitar and began taking myself more seriously as an artist. I became fascinated by history and how it intertwined with art and expression. However, I was still bent on being a scientist and enrolled at Montana State University as a paleontology major. It was suggested to me, though, to also enroll as an art student since it was apparent to both my teachers and my mother that I had potential.  Read more>>

Jennifer Bunt

I started my journey as a sunless business owner just about two years ago. Tanning has always been an obsession for me. I truly feel my best with a nice healthy glow. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting my tan the healthy way. Without a care or worry in the world, I would jump in a tanning bed several times a week for 15 years! It was my only option to be tan. It was either self-tanners that usually turned you orange or a tanning bed. Growing up in New England we only had summer for 3 months out of the year, so going tanning in beds is what we all did. I continued UV bed tanning throughout my 20’s. My skin just soaked up all those unhealthy UV rays for years. I moved to FL when I was 18. I still jumped in those beds…just not as much because now I have the real sun year-round to bake in. When I sit back and think to myself all the years I jumped into those beds and laid in the FL sun for hours without sunscreen it makes me cringe!.  Read more>>

Irene Manglis

I love working and serving people. I started working when I was 14, busing tables at the Sponge Docks by the time I was 19 yrs. old I held two jobs simultaneously even to this day. My day job is a Paralegal, I work with great people not many will let you pursue your entrepreneurial dreams while working for them.  Meli was just a dream for years before it became reality. The recipe is from my great-grandmother. My mother learned from her yiayia (grandmother) and she taught me everything she knew. They are the best I ever had, I put my own twist on the family recipe. I hope yiayia isn’t too upset LOL. Loukoumades are traditionally served with warm honey syrup and cinnamon. Meli translates to honey in Greek.  The city of Tarpon Springs didn’t allow food trucks, fighting with them and being shut down discouraged me. Fast forward to January 2020 I eventually decided that if I’m going to work two jobs one of them is going to be for myself. I also created the first-ever Greek emoji app called Greekmoji. I did his in 2016.  Read more>>

Maureen Famiano

My story really begins with a television broadcast background. It includes more than 30 years in television broadcasting. I began as a TV news reporter. I really enjoyed working with people and really helping to tell their stories. Some stories were easier than others, there were difficult days but they were fun feature days as well. I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I moved into news producing because I wanted to be more a part of the creative process. I compare it to working with a blank slate every day in a newscast – to create & share information. I moved from NY to Tampa Bay in 1996 to become the 11 PM producer at WFLA Channel 8. It was a new city to me and I loved this great opportunity. It’s been 25 years now and I have not looked back. Tampa Bay IS a great city to live, work, play, and meet amazing community members. I have enjoyed sharing stories throughout. I gravitate to the stories of giving back and making a difference. I hope to inspire with the stories I help share.  Read more>>

Rebecca Zoumberos

WEDDINGS…It is ALL we do! Husband-and-wife team Michael and Rebecca Zoumberos own Limelight Photography, a luxury boutique studio that creates high-fashion, couture wedding images infused with sophistication and timeless elegance. We began exclusively photographing WEDDINGS on Valentine’s Day of 2006. For 15 years and counting, our dedicated team consistently earns the highest reviews for our passion, exquisite artistry, expressive images, and superior customer service that exceeds all expectations. Working together to capture your love story and wedding day to relive over and over is such a joy for us.  Our MISSION is to serve as a Kingdom Business and have an impact through influencing change within the community we serve, the people we touch, the wedding industry, and bring transformation to our world. The vision of our business is outlined through our five purposes:  Love others and let His light SHINE through us as we share His hope and peace with everyone we encounter.  Read more>>

Kelli Casto

Originally operating from her one-bedroom apartment in 2016, Kelli began providing durable medical equipment to seniors in need. As her vision grew, SOS’s inventory went from being housed in friends’ garages and warehouses to multiple shipping containers. Continuing to empower our Tampa Bay seniors, SOS has provided over 10,000 pieces of DME to qualifying individuals. Diversifying SOS’s mission and tactics, Kelli began developing additional programs to accommodate real and relevant needs revealed by the recent challenging times. “FEEDING OUR SENIORS,” an initiative comprised of a frozen meal program and a pop-up mobile pantry, has provided over 1,000 meals and fresh produce to the local senior community.  Read more>>

Jamieson Lewis

Started from seeing my mother work and network with people at a young age. I have always been good at creating relationships. I have always been a “think outside of the box” thinker.  In 2009 my eldest son Jamieson L. Lewis Jr. passed away at 6yrs old. That was truly my turning point. I went from devastation to seeing it as an awakening and knowing tomorrow is not promised. It pushed me to do everything I felt I couldn’t. With my 3 remaining children here, I feel pressed for time to achieve my goals.  From that energy, I went out and started to travel with Jobs and broaden my skills. I also saw myself making them more revenue than myself. I felt if I can make a million dollars for this company. I can make a million dollars for myself. Read more>>

Donald Gialanella

I left a decade-long career as an Emmy-winning Network TV graphics producer in 1991 to pursue a life, I was passionate about – being a sculptor. I live in St. Petersburg; Florida and I work in permanent materials – stainless steel and corten steel.  I began working with metal in 1975 while earning a BFA at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in NYC. My teachers read like a Who’s Who of contemporary art. I studied with Hans Haacke and Vito Acconci, Kenneth Snelson, Jim Dine, and Louise Bourgeois.  But the greatest impact on my career was made by Louise Bourgeois, who asked me to become her assistant after graduation. She showed me what it was like to live the life of an artist.  For the past twenty-six years, I have been creating metal and assemblage sculptures motivated by a desire to communicate my ideas to a wider audience. For the past 7 years, my practice has shifted almost exclusively to public sculpture. Read more>>

Sharon Donahue

13 years ago, my life fell apart. After a rather messy “Dark Night of the Soul” I emerged slightly battered, but with a purpose. The actual “purpose” was not clear – only that there was a purpose. It was my job to find out exactly what that was going to be. I began to study. I entered the world of the unknown beginning with enrolling in a program with The University of Metaphysical Sciences and it changed the way I looked at life as a whole. One of the things I began to practice was intentional manifestation. I learned that we create our reality. I learned that when doors open easily, you are on the right path. I learned that when obstacles continually present themselves, it is time to take a new path. Of course, there is so much more to this rather simplified explanation, but that was the crux of it.  I focused my study on a few specific subjects: Crystals and their power, Divination, Numerology and Manifestation. I had always had a deep interest in all these things as a child, however life has a way of taking you off course. And so, as a middle-aged divorced woman, I began where I left off all those years ago. Read more>>

Claudia Horodecki

As a five-year-old girl, I began my piano lessons at my hometown, Warsaw, Poland. Over the years I continued working on my music skills, graduated music academy and at the age of 25, I moved to the United States to pursue an American dream. With my broken English and music degree, I was overwhelmed by a completely new environment and culture. But I also believed that with hard work I can adapt to new circumstances so I started to search for a job. After few months in Florida, my lucky star led me to a small local piano store where I got hired as a piano teacher.  After 8 years of working for different academies in Tampa Bay and freelancing as a music instructor I developed my own ways of teaching and in August 2013 I made the decision to open my own school -Claudia’s School of Music. I wanted to create a brand name that will be directly associated with my own ideas. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I felt ready and motivated to make my dream come true.  Read more>>

Daniel Glenn

My career in marketing started almost 20 years ago. For 17 years, I held a variety of marketing positions in the resort and timeshare industry; everything from sales rep to VP of Marketing. My primary focus during this time was developing corporate alliances, leading direct marketing teams at festivals, theme parks, and pro sports, and lead generation.  It was a great career that I really enjoyed., one that allowed me to provide for my wife and three daughters in a way I could have never imagined. However. with the extensive travel involved, frequent relocation, and lack of a work/life balance, I made the decision to leave the industry in mid-2019.  After a few months off and a lot of soul searching, I made the decision to return to work. But I had a couple of conditions for any position before I would accept it.  Read more>>

Aziz El Halabi

When one door closes, a window opens. That’s been the main theme throughout my adventures so far that’s led me up to where I currently am in life, and it’s been a beautiful rollercoaster.  After working in the business sector for about 7 years in the Middle East, I decided to go for a leap of faith and book a one-way ticket to sunny Florida with my furry best friend and have been in the lovely Saint Petersburg now for about 2 years perusing my passions and dreams in photography and videography.  The concept of “musaweron” which literally translates to “photographer” from Arabic, stems from my Middle Eastern roots and love to my culture and background which has sadly lost so much of its beauty and mystery amongst the years.  So, this is my effort in a life I will live only once, to bring that mystic Arabian magic back through the use of DLSRs and Lenses while spreading as much joy as possible through these two eyes, by capturing immortal moments in time and space which will live on for eternity.  Read more>>

Lonnie Marts Jr

I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. I attended St Augustine HS and I received my BA from Tulane University in 1990. I made the Kansas City Chiefs in 1990 as an undrafted free agent; that same year, I married my wife of 30+ years. I went on to start in my fourth year as a Chief; I became an unrestricted free agent that offseason and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I started for Tampa Bay for three years and was fortunate enough to play for Tony Dungy, Monte Kiffin, Lovie Smith and Herm Edwards. I left Tampa bay and went on to play for the Tennessee Oilers for two years; I was released by the Oilers right before the 1999 training camp, I was not very happy about that move but it’s business. I was quickly picked up by the Jacksonville Jaguars, where I was a part of the winningest team in the franchise’s history 14-2. Our only losses that year were to the team I wanted to beat the most, the Oilers. I was our team’s NFL Unsung hero that year and it was an honor to play alongside some really great players that year. Read more>>

Todd Goldfarb

Just a big dog lover with a dream. It took four years to get the park built (if you can believe it!). Just ran into all kinds of hurdles, really too many to get into, but hung in there. We finally got the park open, and everything was going great for about a month, and then we were shut down by covid. We’ve since reopened, and things are moving in the right direction. But it’s a hard time for everyone. People and their pups love the park once they come here, so it’s just a matter of getting the word out. Tampa’s a very dog-friendly city, and we’re happy to be a part of that. There’s so many great places to take your dog here… dog beaches, dog-friendly eateries and micro-breweries… even bars you can take your dog to. But we’re an acre of off-leash dog park where you can get a beer or wine. We have separate sides for small and big dogs, so everybody has a safe space. We have beautiful 100-year-old trees all over the park, providing much-needed shade and a gorgeous atmosphere. It’s definitely a laid-back, chill place where the focus is all about the dogs. Read more>>

Kelly Fiorentino

My passion for the beauty industry started when I was in middle school. At that time, the world of beauty was exploding on YouTube. Whenever I had free time, I would watch all types of videos. My favorites were makeup tutorials, fashion hauls and beauty favorites. I was inspired by my favorite makeup gurus and wanted to start my own YouTube channel but I was too scared of what everyone would think of me at school. I loved all things beauty and wanted to share my knowledge and passion for it with others. Fast forward to freshmen year of college and that’s when Kelly Beauty Blog was born! My followers started with just close friends, family and sorority sisters. My family and friends started to ask me for beauty advice and makeup recommendations. I started to realize that I truly loved the beauty industry and wanted to make it a larger part of my life. Read more>>

Myra Thiessen

I was born in NC and raised in Tampa Bay area. I have always been into Oil painting and taking photos. I currently do commissioned oil paintings and specialize in Fine art Portraits, fashion and weddings. I started off as just a hobbyist. 2014, I decided to make it a business. 2016, I entered my first competition for (FPP) Florida Professional Photographers. After that, I signed up with PPA Professional Photographers of America. From that point, I just kept entering many different competitions, including MPI Master photographers International. I currently hold an FPP master’s degree, MPI master’s degree and a PPA. Masters degree. In 2020, I won International digital artist of the year. My fourth year of Florida professional photographers top 10 in the state. 2020, I was featured in Range Finder magazine two times. Won 1st and 3rd place for WPPI. 2020, I was also featured in Professional Photographer of America (PPA’s) Magazine. I received Diamond Photographer as well in 2020 for PPA. I love what I do; the best enjoyment is capturing a moment that people don’t realize exist unless it was captured from a lens. Read more>>

Tommy Dinero

I was born in a small town called Pahokee in South Florida. My mom gave birth to me at the age of 15 and my dad was 17. Since my dad went off to college shortly after, my mom pretty much had to raise me on her own with the help of a few family members. Eventually, my mom decided to allow my grandparents to raise me. So I moved to Belle Glade, which is the neighboring town of Pahokee. These two cities together are called “Muck City” or “The Muck.” This is the roughest place to live in the entire state and no, I’m not exaggerating. The Muck was voted as one of the most dangerous cities to live in the country. It’s not easy growing up around so much homicide and violence. I’m actually pretty blessed to have made it to 25 because a lot of people I grew up with are no longer here. It doesn’t get more rural than The Muck. There’s no Wal-Mart, no movie theater, no hotels and barely any restaurants. I was never any good at sports and school was never really my thing either so music was really all I had. Growing up, I’d practice performing in front of my mirror almost everyday. Read more>>

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