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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.

Carla Buzzatto

I am 26 and my business is called BeachBaeCroche. I sell primarily online (Instagram & Etsy)  When I was around the ages of 6-8, I really wanted to become a fashion designer. I would sketch and draw clothes all the time.  I learned how to sew by hand and on a sewing machine around those ages. I also learned how to crochet which followed me throughout the years. I have always been creative and huge in DIY!  I grew up in South Western Pennsylvania close to Pittsburgh where I went to school at Seton Hill University for Fine Arts. During my sophomore year of college, I saw a pair of crochet barefoot sandals and I wanted a pair myself so I decided to make a pair.  They turned out so good, I had friends and family asking for a pair of their own. I found myself going down a rabbit hole of all the things I could make with crochet. I gravitated towards crochet tops, bottoms, bathing suits, purses, earrings. Read more>>

Iona Parris

It all started in 2009 in Valdosta Georgia, when I was in the United States Air Force at the time. I had just come back from my first deployment in Kuwait. I was happy to be back home, but struggling with PTSD. I needed an outlet to cope with having had been gone so long and trying to adjust with being back at home. One day I was at home and saw some seashells on my desk I had collected from a beach trip I took a while ago. I got out nail polish and started painting them different colors. I realized how relaxed it made me feel when I was painting the seashells. I loved the different shapes and sizes of the shells. I loved making them look even more beautiful than they already were. I eventually started showcasing my seashell artwork to family and friends who encouraged me to continue to make more pieces and start my seashell business.  Read more>>

Jamie Woodrum

I am the founder of Humble Honee, a vegan and bee-free alternative.  Graduating from college is a weird enough transition from idling in a state of pseudo adulthood to being thrown into society as a supposedly “fully functioning” adult. During my final semester at the University of Florida in spring of 2020, COVID-19 spread across the world and sent my future plans spiraling. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and found myself in a standstill. Graduate school decisions were uncertain, internships were canceled, and life as a stressed-out college student was no longer my reality.  My vegan journey officially started in September of 2018. The hard part was realizing that so many things that I had been taught throughout my life were a lie. In any industry where a living being is viewed as a commodity, exploitation is guaranteed to occur. That is why the day I went vegan; I became an activist. I developed a deeply rooted passion for being a voice for the voiceless, regardless of the seemingly crazy persona that was bound to develop in the eyes of my friends and family. Surely, someone could understand the cruelty behind killing a cuddly cow. But what about taking advantage of a bee whose assistance in our food system is vastly undermined?. Read more>>

Sharone Bostick

My event design journey technically started in 2017 and when I did majority of the work for my own wedding. I took on the task of all of the planning, contacting vendors, creating my own programs, napkins, and menus. The funny thing is I enjoyed it all. My wedding day literally went off without a hitch. With the help of my mother-in-law, we got everything done. Fast forward to 2019 I had my daughter which is my second child, my job provided an extended maternity leave of 5 months. While on maternity leave, I started to dread going back to work and being away from her but not only that but dedicating so much of my time to someone else’s dream. I Thank god I was blessed to have a very decent paying job. I had been there for 7 years and for 4 of those years I had been asking for Saturdays off to no avail. So, I started to ask myself wow what are you good at, you have to be good at something. One night I went through my Pinterest board and I realized I had so many events saved they were events I wanted to have and I wanted them to be decorated that way. I thought back to my own wedding. I realized I did that and I did a great job and I enjoyed it.  Read more>>

Laura and Samantha Kopec

Growing up in an Italian household, food was always a symbol of love. My grandparents fed us constantly. They cooked and we ate. Every holiday, celebration, event was centered around the meal. Family ate together. We always sat at the table, prayed, and talked. Everyone shared their high points and low points of the day. We listened to each other and supported one another while enjoying a meal.  These two traditions are missing in so many homes today. One way we can improve the foster care system is by helping the foster families get back to the traditions of family mealtime. This mission of Feeding the Fosters alleviates some of the financial burdens on the household and provides more quality time for adults to spend with the children, instead of grocery shopping and daily meal preparation. Having a hot, nutritious supper delivered at mealtime is a welcomed gift to any family. It also provides the gift of time spent together in food and fellowship; Time to communicate and share with each other.  Read more>>

Evie Sasvari

I was born in Hungary, and I moved to Florida 6 years ago. I started learning about tattooing in Hungary and I did my very first tattoo there. I was super excited to move here and become a tattoo artist, although I had no idea about tattoo apprenticeships. A local tattoo shop found me on Instagram and asked me if I want to work there. Of course, I said yes, and I started my apprenticeship there. It was super hard because I barely spoke English and I didn’t know what an apprentice supposed to do exactly. The owner of that shop was a jerk (I don’t wanna go into the details) so after I couple months I quit. Tattooing was always my dream so I didn’t want to give up, so I looked for other shops. I ended up doing my apprenticeship in 4-5 different shops. It was pretty hard but it worth it for sure. The shop where I finished my apprenticeship at closed down, and I had to look for a new shop- I gotta tell you I was heartbroken. A couple days later I got a message from a tattoo shop If I wanna work there- I said yes. And I still work there. -The owner and the other artists are super cool, and my clients are amazing. I feel very lucky.  Read more>>

Deborah Rinehart

I am originally from Ohio, and I have lived in Seminole for the past two decades. I spent over twenty years as a registered nurse in the local hospitals of Tampa Bay and Pinellas County. I worked with some of the best in the business and specialized in critical care, pediatrics, and transplant. I enjoyed nursing and the ability to grow and learn but, as I moved thru my career I started becoming burned out and had a desire to know more and dream bigger. Then in 2014 I had a knee injury and sought treatment with acupuncture, massage, and rehab. I loved the acupuncture treatments and as my knee healed, I started to notice my anxiety and sleep getting better. I bent the ear of my acupuncturist and wanted to learn everything about this medicine and how it could continue to help my body heal.  I eventually sought out further schooling for acupuncture and in 2018 and received my master’s degree in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine from East West College of Natural Medicine in Sarasota, Fl.  Read more>>

Pierrelanda Francois

I started Essential Janitorial Solutions back in 2016, previously known as Landa Cleaning Services, to employ family members and help those in my community earn a fair wage and proper work treatment. EJS got to where it is today due to our strong perseverance, the quality of our work, and the fact that we started as a family-operated business, which prevented us from having a high turnover rate compared to others in the cleaning industry.  Read more>>

Marina Berry

I’ve wanted to be a tattoo artist since I was in middle school. I picked up a tattoo magazine while in a bookstore one day and immediately knew that’s what I wanted to do (I’m pretty sure I still have the magazine tucked away somewhere). Despite knowing, I still ended up going through quite a few other jobs for a few years before I realized I deserved to chase my dreams. I finally worked up the confidence to begin my tattoo journey and start my apprenticeship about five years ago.  Read more>>

Shawn Speidel

Unspoken was birthed in 2013 in the Philadelphia area with the goal of creating a clothing brand that delivered a deeper “Unspoken” meaning. Unspoken pulls inspiration from several street artists, particularly an artist by the name of Banksy whose spends his art career creating beautiful thought-provoking artwork pieces free for all to see on public locations. In the early days of the brand, we focused on “Graffiti” styled designs, as the brand grew, we went through several rebrandings to find our identity. Our identity is based around creating thought-provoking designs that give the consumer a chance to have a conversation about a subject that otherwise might go unspoken.  Read more>>

Alex Santiago

48 States Away is Raf III on bass, acoustic guitars, and backup vocals. Clint “The Mule” Woolley on drums, keys, and sampling. And, Alex Santiago on guitars, vocals, and percussion. We came together in 2005 as a studio project after several band breakups in Lakeland, Florida.  After releasing our first EP in 2006, Integral X Bar, the band has gone through many ups and downs, including a nearly eight-year hiatus. From the beginning, however, our mission was to move minds and shake asses. That idea has kept us true to ourselves, music and fans.  Our music is different because of the unique backgrounds of our members. All of us have come from diverse races, states, countries, and really—stories. The beauty of these events occurring is that these journeys ended up with an open, yet similar view of life for all of us. We’re all songwriters, which has always been a fun dynamic when we come together with different ideas. We have strong Latin influences and a unique experimental force that have allowed us to create a sound that can only be described as 48 States Away.  Read more>>

Gregory and Lakayla Hawthorne

We started because the struggles of mental health are overlooked and often never discussed due to humiliation. We wanted to end the stigma and create a platform big enough for individuals to openly discuss their issues and feel loved at the same time because love overrides all. The founders of Forever Amor, Gregory, and Lakayla Hawthorne started their movement in 2018. They are all about spreading love to others in each and every way. Located in Central Florida, they started the brand FOREVER Amor to help defeat Mental Health Awareness and Depression Awareness by spreading unconditional love to others. Mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. They are eager to make it their duty to reach out to every individual and help spread the mission of FOREVER AMOR. Forever Amor is helping out people battling depression in more ways than one. We assist those that are in need for mental help with their own psychologist to help them get through hard times.  Read more>>

Edwin Lebron

I started playing and singing in church at the age of 4. During high school, I participated in many local talents shows, and at the age of 15 being a winner of a few, one prize was singing at one of New York’s famous Theaters, The Apollo Theater.  Winning first price there was the sign for me to continue.  I then continued in the Latin industry and became one of the most youngest singers to ever be part of the world-famous CopaCabana Band at the CopaCabana in New York City… At the age of 16, I was already taking the stage as part as a Latin Band called Grupo Melao which then changed the name to LNG (La Nueva Generación)  We traveled to many states in the US.  In 1998, I became one of the background vocalists for female Salsa sensation “Miosotis” where I had the opposite to co-write and co-produce a song “Por Temor” which became a huge hit  While traveling with Miosotis, I had the opportunity to also audition for Salsa Singer Brenda K Starr and was selected as one of her background vocalists and traveled to many states in the US as well.  Read more>>

 

Northwest Tampa

Diana Albrecht

I have been a ballet dancer pretty much all my life (since I was 3 y.o. and professionally since 16) at 18 I came to the US from my country Paraguay to pursue my dream of becoming a ballet dancer, and through a ballet Grand Prix competition in NYC, I got my first professional contract as a ballet dancer at the Washington Ballet in Washington DC. I then moved to dance for the Boston Ballet in Boston MA where I also got my Business Management degree at Northeastern University. In 2017 I started to look at how to explore other passions of mine. I love to learn about cultures, I love home decor and design, and as I was finishing school, I started to develop this drive for having my own business. I began to develop a few ideas and designs of products I wanted to make, and with the help of my father in Paraguay, we decided to collaborate with artisans in my country and create a line of products that blended traditional crafting techniques with modern design.  Read more>>

Marisa Stone

I’m a Motherhood and family photographer specializing in the early years. I pride myself on capturing the beauty in the simplistic moments that are so often overlooked. I’m the wife to my college sweetheart (and my biggest cheerleader), and a mama to two littles (Elliott age 5, Declan age 2)! I believe that family is everything and that there is nothing more valuable than a printed photograph.  To me, photography has always been about moments, these slivers of time that slip through our hands, but we relive in our hearts, they’re memories we capture and hope to hold on to. I’ve been shooting digital and film photography since I was 15. I would spend early mornings, my lunch hour, and countless time after school developing my film in the darkroom.  Five years ago, my daughter was born and a spark was reignited in me. My passion for the art of photography grew and my desire to freeze time became a mission. I had grown up flipping through photo albums, swapping out frames of old family photos, reliving moments with family members who were no longer here.  Read more>>

Javier Cortés

I am Mexican American, and I grew up in Acapulco, Mexico. I have always had a love for nature and trees.  About eight years ago and after many years of working as a mortgage broker, I discovered the art of bonsai. At that time, the real estate market was in a severe decline, and I became a stay-at-home dad with our second daughter. I was training in mixed martial arts and was looking for something to balance out my life. I took my first bonsai class and purchased my first tree. Ever since then, this ancient art form has become my way of life.  For several years, I studied bonsai under Erik Wigert from Wigert’s Bonsai in North Ft. Myers, Florida, and I have participated in a multitude of workshops with several well-known bonsai artists, such as Robert Steven from Indonesia, Felipe González from Mexico, and Marc Noelanders from Belgium. I continue to study bonsai with world-renowned bonsai artist, Nacho Marin from Venezuela, at a few of his schools in Mexico, Ecuador, and Brazil.  Read more>>

Fausto Gomez

After 22 years of military service I retired, in 2009 I returned to the Dominican Republic, during my stay in the DR I was able to help my dad with our Tabacco productions, in 2015 my wife Martha our son Diego and I returned back to Tampa, on several occasions we visited markets and festivals around town and we noticed that no Cigars vendors were participating as a vendor, after all, Tampa has a very rich history about Cigars. So, we decided to start our own business participating as a hand-rolled cigar vendor.  Our business started gowning very fast due to our dedication and efforts.  Currently, we average about 15 events a month, not only in Florida but all over the east coast. Read more>>

Nathanael Rodriguez

I was born and raised in Rochester New York, Moved to Fort Myers back in January of 2019 to live with my best friend and his mom. I was a bedroom DJ back in New York and I finally got to play my first live performance at Nauti Parrot Dock Bar on Fort Myers Beach. Through the connections and friendships, I’ve made since moving to Florida I just got consistent bookings and slowly grew my following. I moved to Tampa because there is way more opportunity for an artist of my style here, than back in Fort Myers.   Read more>>

Louis Garcia

I was born and raised in church but it wasn’t till the age of around 13 that I really gave my life completely to Christ. At the age of 16, God calls me into preaching ministry. At the age of 22, I released my first album with the widely successful song “PELEA.” Since then, I have been given the privilege to travel the world preaching the gospel and singing to the Lord. I currently have 11 albums to date. I am also the CEO of On-fire productions record label. This production company records music and also does photography and videography. I am currently working on two new studio albums and filming and directing my very first film titled “Todavia Dios No Ha Terminado.” My goals are to continue doing the work of God through music, preaching, and film and one day become a pastor of my very own church. My message is clear: “I love God with all of your heart and do unto others as you would have done to you. The message is and will always be … “Love”.  Read more>>

 

South Tampa

Jay Taylor

In 2008, I started LEVERAGE out of my apartment with $500 to my name. I used that $500 to buy a computer, which I then utilized to design the company’s first logo, website, and business cards. Once I had those assets, I hit the pavement and began visiting office parks to offer my services to anyone who would listen. I was told “no” at least 50 times before I finally got to my first “yes.”  The business only generated about $60,000 in revenue the first year. We grew organically every year thereafter to eventually reach seven figures. I constantly reinvested earnings back into the business, even if it meant not paying myself. This allowed me to scale without borrowing money or taking on investors. I was able to secure the 5,000 square foot office space that we are in today, buy equipment, and hire staff without borrowing a dime from anyone. We are a debt-free company to this day.  Read more>>

Ashley Gregory

Throughout elementary, middle, and high school I wanted to be an engineer when I grew up. My dad taught me how to use a Konica SLR camera when I was in middle school and I also took some art classes in school. But I still wanted to be an engineer. At the end of high school, I changed my mind and enrolled in a college to study marine biology. I was definitely not ready to be away from home and moved back after only one week! I then enrolled in a local university and decided to study psychology. I graduated with honors and a 4-year degree that I could not do much with. So, I went to grad school. I earned a Master’s Degree in Applied Psychology. After all of this, I started a job I didn’t really enjoy. I did many many creative and crafty things in my spare time though. I especially enjoyed taking photographs and used what my dad taught me to start experimenting. Macro photography became my favorite. When my family moved to Florida, I became a stay-at-home mom and decided to concentrate more on my photography and art. I continued to take photographs and draw.  Read more>>

Whitney Holtzman

When I was little, my mom used to have meetings on Monday nights. She told my dad that was his one night of the week to put us to bed. Sure enough, she’d come home week after week, and he’d have me under one arm and my brother under the other arm, and we’d be watching Monday Night Football. My dad calls it “quality parenting.” Those Monday nights, combined with going to Bucs games as season ticket holders growing up formed my love for sports. I just realized life is too short not to do what you love. As high school was coming to a close, and I began thinking about college, I told my parents I wanted to be the sideline reporter on Monday Night Football. They asked if I could pick a job with more than one opening. I told them I’d also do Sunday Night Football, which just doubled my options! In college, while at the University of Florida (Go Gators!), I interned for the Tampa Bay Rays, Turner Sports, and ESPN. After graduating, I joined espnW, ESPN’s women’s initiative, which was just launching.  Read more>>

Sammitta Jackson-Walker

I began my journey in the beauty industry in 2004, starting cosmetology school. I worked during the day and attend school at night. I was also taking care of my two-year-old twins while my husband fought in Iraq. While I was in school, he was killed in action. This rocked our whole world! After some time off, I returned and graduated from cosmetology school. In 2017, I decided I wanted to return to school to become a licensed aesthetician and enrolled in the full specialist program at Artistic Nails & Beauty. I graduated and became licensed within the same year. I took training courses from other fellow aestheticians and became certified in micro shading, v-steam, body contouring, teeth whitening, and tooth gems. I am currently preparing to take my state boards to become licensed in permanent hair removal as an electrologist and laser specialist. I’m also a notary for the state of Florida. That’s a lot, I know, but I believe multiple streams of income are so important in today’s status.  Read more>>

Jordan James

Growing up in a small town I wasn’t exposed to much. Both my parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles were born, raised, and stayed in Martinsville, Indiana. The Midwest is a place not many people get out of to experience what all life has to offer. Growing up I was a little bit of a terror. I was bossy, got super passionate about things I really really wanted to do but was still too young to pursue these things on my own. I never just wanted to be “home”. My mom always tells me stories about how I always wanted to just go “somewhere”, it didn’t matter where. Being a girl under the age of 15 with so many aspirations and self-assuredness — these were very hard feelings to navigate and express because at the time I didn’t understand why I felt so sure. I truly believed I could do anything. I started working when I was 14 at a local pool concession stand it was my very first job and I remember feeling a little more “in control” of my life knowing every two weeks I would be handed my “own” money. Taking no for an answer was never an option for me.  Read more>>

Morgan Barse

My professional journey began supporting a different aspect of professional women, their feet. During my freshman year of college at The University of Tampa, I wandered into an entrepreneurship club meeting and launched a versatile, professional women’s shoe company. Over time, I began feeling less passionate about shoes and more passionate about supporting these big professional goals these women had to launch books or businesses.  My very first clients were TV personalities at local stations like Daytime, Channel 10, and FOX 13. I started in a social media capacity and have since expanded the company to serve in a management role overseeing all aspects of their brand. For me, it goes beyond the monthly deliverables. Being a Wing Woman could be as simple as surprising your client with their favorite coffee before a segment. We take a lot of pride in the way we support our clients.  Read more>>

Errica Snelling

I’ve always been a writer — even when I didn’t necessarily recognize it. From writing scripts for church talent shows to choosing creative writing assignments in school, it came naturally to me.  In part, I would say I inherited the skill from my late father who would write poetry and spoke very eloquently. He was a stickler on using the exact word you needed for a situation (once we said we were “famished,” which to him was too intense for our everyday hunger and should have been saved for those struggling with food poverty.)  I got into writing professionally also by accident — English just seemed like the easiest major after dropping nursing. But I thrived and found out I loved it. I’ve always been a talker, so it was a natural fit. I decided to start my blog because I was starting to feel unfulfilled writing for other people, taking their thoughts and ideas and putting them out into the world. What about my own?. Read more>>

Meghan Hogan Tauber

Hogan Made was born out of necessity! Mom (Ellen Hogan) suggested one day that Ybor needs a GOOOOD rooster shirt. I immediately got to work. I created a simple outline of a rooster silhouette and printed it on a few shirts. I searched around for a good place to start selling my tees and low and behold, Ybor City Saturday Market became my second home. After experimenting with lots of t-shirt brands, we settled on a very soft, high-end shirt that everyone loves. So, after we provided Ybor with a simple design, we amped things up and started designing for different neighborhoods around town (Sulphur Springs, Tampa Heights, Hyde Park, Davis Islands, Seminole Heights, etc.). I started branching out to do pillows, tea towels, and greeting cards.  After a couple of years at the Ybor Market, watching the Yoga Loft class in the courtyard of the museum (across from the market), I came up with the idea to do a design that depict 3 roosters in 3 different yoga poses. Namaste Ybor! The next design came to mind after hearing about the Cigar Heritage Festival that happens in Centennial Park every year. The idea of the Smokin’ Rooster was born! This has been my best seller.  Read more>>

 

St. Petersburg

Julia Wingle

I graduated in May of 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from USF St. Petersburg. Graduating from college at the start of a pandemic never crossed my mind as a possibility.  There was definitely an adjustment period. As things reopened, I lost one of my part-time jobs and made my other part-time job into a full-time position. On top of that, I started a ton of “side gigs”. Some of these included finally pursuing my passion as an artist, selling vintage clothing, and working as a freelance digital marketer.  I quickly started to realize that working 5 days a week for someone else was heavily affecting my mental health. Prior to that, I had always split my time between school, multiple jobs, and outside activities. I was craving something more stimulating.  My digital marketing gigs eventually started paying my rent every month. I realized that it was a possibility to make this into a career for myself.  Read more>>

Erik Quigley

I’ve been designing all my life. I started out early in school with a large interest in the fine arts – drawing, painting, sculpture – and was selling pencil portraits at around 8th grade. High school brought an interest in drama. My high school’s drama department had been dead for a while so I accidentally ended up being a big part of the reinstatement of that. I did the scenic design and then was usually involved in all the other aspects throughout those four years. Because of that experience, I went on to a conservatory in Virginia to study Scenic Design. Being young, I ended up dropping out after my sophomore year and moving to Florida. It was here that I changed fields and found an interest in graphic design. I had a lot of resistance at first because I felt like graphic design was what real artists did who couldn’t make it. It ended up being the perfect marrying of everything I love. I finished my bachelor’s and slowly, during a 2-year stint in New York City, my graphic interest graduated into a defined perspective on branding and I’ve continued on that path since.  Read more>>

Michael Wholey

I have just completed my first year of business operating as Wholey Media full-time. How I got here is a long, windy road that is a tad bit unusual. I graduated from Emerson College in Boston, MA with an undergraduate degree in Visual & Media Arts with a Concentration in Video Production and also played collegiate basketball for the Emerson Lions while pursuing my degree. After college, I worked briefly Freelance on several commercial shoots for clients such as Samuel Adams, Verizon, and Gillette. I then had an opportunity to combine my love for video with my love for basketball. I served as the Video Coordinator for Boston University Men’s Basketball for one season. I then moved to San Antonio to serve as the Video Coordinator and Director of Travel & Basketball Operations for the San Antonio Silver Stars in the WNBA for two seasons. From there, I was on a path to be a college coach and crisscrossing around the country. Read more>>

Safrone Presley

In 1991 Saffrons Caribbean Restaurant opened on 38th Avenue North in St. Petersburg Fl. Saffrons became one of the best-known restaurants in the Bay Area. Safrone Presley and her Mother Chef Jackie heritage consist of Jamaican, Trinidadian, Caymanian, and Basian. Our travels and heritage have allowed us to cultivate an eye for superior food. Saffrons family has owned several Caribbean restaurants and catering companies over the past 30 years. We believe healthy food does not need to be bland. Saffrons has won several best of the Bay awards and has had favorable reviews in St. Pete Times and Tampa Tribune. Saffron’s downsized their restaurants and decided to bottle their own line if Caribbean Sauces and focus on cooking classes.  Read more>>

Ryan Edwards

I am an ICU nurse from Brooklyn, NY. I have been a nurse for 9 years but the last year and a half have been very hard. I went through the beginning of COVID in NY, which was devastating. It had a major impact on me mentally and emotionally. My wife and I decided we wanted to live closer to family, so we made the big move down to Florida with our baby daughter. I got a job at a hospital in St. Pete, again in the ICU. I soon decided that it was time for a change. I didn’t want to have a career that was so engulfed in sadness anymore. I wanted a job that makes people happy and puts smiles on faces. My wife and I have been making ice cream for about 8 years as a hobby… We would give it to friends and family and they would always go crazy for it. I always had a dream of turning it into a business. I knew that I needed a cart that was as amazing as the ice cream I was making. After doing a lot of research, I couldn’t find what I was looking for so I decided to build the cart myself.  Read more>>

Laia Gore

I’ve always had a camera in my hand; the first time I recall becoming interested in photography I was around 3 years old. My mother was showing me old photos she had taken on her 35mm in high school and I was so fascinated. I never dropped the subject; I bugged her for a camera so much that she started keeping disposable film cameras around the house for me to snap photos with. And I did, photos of family, pets, bugs, flowers; when my little brother came along, I even dressed him up in costumes and created “sets” on our front porch like it was a studio. By that time, I was entering 3rd grade and my teacher, Ms. DeAnne was known for her interactive photography lessons which I was so excited for! These only fueled my fire and I began to take more and more photos of people. In middle school, I finally got my first digital camera, and everywhere I went, so did it.  Read more>>

Jasmine Rezac

Growing up, I’ve always had a passion for art. I learned to appreciate art from my father who owns a successful Jewelry store called Otto’s Jewelry on St. Armands Circle in Sarasota. So naturally, as a kid, you would always catch me sketching in my notebook or coming up with a new creative hobby. As I grew older, I still carried that passion along with me. I’ve always loved photography as a hobby and enjoyed learning how to improve my skills. When the pandemic broke out in 2020, it got me thinking that it was a good time to give photography a chance and turn it into a business. I started right away by building my portfolio and to my surprise, I booked my first wedding shortly after. Ever since, I’ve found new ways to expand my creative skills by trying new locations, prompts and poses, and making each session unique to my clients.  Read more>>

Stephanie Shimmin

I graduated from massage school in 2005 in TN from MTSU and immediately got a job as a massage therapist at a chiropractor’s office. I worked there for five years and raised my daughters on my own working as a massage therapist. I opened my own little place in the country until I moved to KY. In KY I had new experiences in my career first at a high-end spa, where I met my now fiancé, and then I worked as a massage instructor at a technical college. I’ve always wanted to own a larger massage studio and after doing this for 15 years I was ready to do just that. But I didn’t want to open one in KY. My fiancé and I talked about it and finally decided we would move to St Petersburg so we could open our own place here. This is literally my dream come to life.! I love what I do. I love to help people and make them feel better.  Read more>>

 

JP Douvalakis

My whole life I enjoyed traveling. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that took trips all across the country. In high school, I would go camping with my friends and bring my camera along for fun. What was a fun hobby quickly became an occupation for me? I began taking videos and photographing everything. Once I got to college at CU Boulder in Colorado, I took on a degree in film and media production. For a long time, I would go out in the mountains or on any hike I could find and photograph the vast landscapes of whatever mountain I found myself on top of that day. Quickly, my studies took off and I was loving my film and photo classes. Four years later, I graduated from college with a degree in media production with an emphasis in communication, information, and design. Soon I would be on my way, taking any freelance photo or video job I could find. From weddings to business events and even simple portraits, I strived to take my photography to the next level. Read more>>

Domonique Hassell

When I was starting high school in Las Vegas, NV, I saw photography was an elective and thought, “that sounds interesting, why not?” What I didn’t know was how much that simple decision would affect my life forever. I instantly fell in love with the craft and knew that being a professional photographer was to be my dream career. After high school, I went straight into college at The Arts Institute of Tampa and began my journey towards my bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Photography. I spent those four creatively challenging, fun-filled, inspiring years learning the craft more in-depth. I was able to get hands-on experience working with other amazing photographers, organizations, and professors that taught me composition, lighting, and technical skills in ways I never thought would be related to the topic at hand. With that, I was able to finish my degree strong and confident with my new professional skills, and now I’m working with all of my amazing clients to bring my creatively intriguing ideas to life!. Read more>>

Alex Quigley

Three years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life when it came to my career choice. I had been working retail for about 6 years when I finally decided I needed a change, I wanted to offer more to others, assist in the process of healing and de-stressing from the workings of everyday life, AND work for myself rather than a 40 hour a week job. I began my massage therapy journey in New York City going to school in the middle of Times Square at the New York College of Health Professions. This was pre-pandemic so the city was very much alive during my studies there, however; the pandemic then hit NYC and it quickly became the epicenter. It was then that my partner and I decided to move back down to Sarasota, Florida. This put a huge worry and stall in my massage journey due to the fact that I was now challenged with ensuring my credits would transfer successfully to a school in the area. I soon found the Sarasota School of Massage Therapy and immediately jumped on the planning of starting back up at this location.  Read more>>

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