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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. Check out our favorite stories from across the Voyage family.

Amani Nichae

Photography was never anything on my radar, as a kid I had a couple of cameras but nothing ever clicked. During high school, I ended up taking a photography class to finish out my senior schedule and the rest was history. My first job was to photograph an event for a non-profit, I was fresh into photography and more than likely had no clue what I was doing but I enjoyed every minute of it! Getting paid for something I genuinely enjoyed being a part of was other worldly so from there I took any job and opportunity I could to build my portfolio. I met a pal through my mother who was also new-ish to photography and we began shooting weddings together, things snowballed and now I’m here living a literal dream. I attended art school briefly which is where I met my partner who is a crucial part of my business. It wasn’t long until I roped him in with me. He’s been there through all the bad ideas, late nights, chaotic days, you name it. But he’s also helped me grow and supported anything and everything I’ve decided to do. Read more>>

Enlightened Solutions

Enlightened Solutions is a research and advocacy firm that creates, implements and publishes research-based solutions that center the lived experiences of diverse people. Historically, diversity and inclusion work has focused on proving the existence of a “problem” through inconsistent and/or incomplete Human Resource professional development courses. When working with individuals and organizations alike, we embrace pain-points for growth and emphasize holistic and collaborative problem solving. Through our six values (authenticity, lived experience, belonging, solutions-focused, imperfection and principle) we are committed to cultivating change within challenging spaces. Enlightened Solutions focuses on unearthing, codifying and publishing tangible and measurable inclusion-forward solutions for individuals and organizations alike. We were founded on the belief that iterative inclusion-forward equity is essential to build economically sustainable, 21st Century systems. This work is urgent and vital in Northeast Ohio, a region that has the unfortunate dual distinction of being the worst city in America for Black Women and the poorest big city in America. Read more>>

Lauren Clutter

When I was in college studying for my degree in Criminal Justice, I also had a great interest in photography. As an elective, I signed up for my first photography class and to my surprise, I absolutely hated it. The main focus of the class ended up being commercial photography which was a completely boring subject. As a 19 year old, I thought if this is the only thing a professional photographer can do, then I will just keep doing it as a hobby. I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but what I loved about photography, and still do, is capturing the relationship between people. That emotion is what drives me. Fast forward 10 years after graduating; I got married and had two beautiful babies. Like so many new parents, I wanted to document every single milestone but in a beautiful way. After my kids would go to bed, I would spend hours reading articles online and watching YouTube videos from professional photographers to learn anything I could get my hands on. I would spend the following day practicing my new learned skills on my children. I would also ask friends and family if I could photograph them for the extra practice. Read more>>

Juan Imeroni

I am the owner of Ignite Entertainment Cincinnati. Thirty years ago, I emigrated to Ohio from Argentina to go to college. Back in Argentina, I was raised by a family of farmers, but I attended an all-boys Irish Catholic school in Buenos Aires, and that granted me the opportunity to spend time in both the city and farm regions of the country while growing up. I came to Cincinnati, specifically, to attend the College of Mount St Joseph, and worked to obtain a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Graphic Design. After graduating from Mount St. Joe in 1996, I started my first business as a custom rug designer, creating large, hand-made rugs. I ran the business for thirteen years, and served large, national accounts like Home Depot, and various prominent interior design firms. After the recession hit in 2008, I pivoted my focus and made a leap into real estate. I began purchasing and rehabbing properties— reviving them from dilapidated, to fully functioning rental properties, one after another, in a short period of time. Read more>>

Aaron Wallace

I started getting tattooed at the age of 16. That first tattoo sparked my interest in tattooing as a career, which I pursued from then on. I started making friends in the industry and getting tattooed by different people. I spent years working on my portfolio and improving fine art skills, while looking for an opportunity to apprentice under a professional. In 2014, the door opened with Christopher Carter (owner of Cloven Tattoo), who is now my long-time friend and co-worker. Since then. I have made Cloven Tattoo my home and I am humbled and thankful every day for my job. Read more>>

Alxvnder Tha

I’ve always had a big passion for music. I’ve always liked different from the norm songs that had great melodies, and lyrics that I could relate to and stuff. I tried my hand at making beats on an FL Studio app I had on my dad’s old work laptop, also, I used to have a set of turntables I would plug in and use mp3 files and try to mix songs thinking it was as easy as playing DJ Hero. Actually, a lot of my childhood was spent memorizing and seeing how the notes played on these games (Guitar Hero, Rock Band, DJ Hero) synced up to the notes of the songs. About 2016-17 I found myself in some tough places in life. I was homeless living out of my car and trying to stay with friends. While this time indeed was difficult, it actually gave me the freedom to explore other options in life that may have been looked down upon, or seen as an impossible task. Luckily, I had a few friends at the time in the music scene up in Columbus and around the campus and east side area. So I did what I had to in order to make sure I was in the loop when it came to go to the studio or something.  Read more>>

Charles Wilkerson

LegendVisualsLLC all started in 2017, and I changed my photography name to the TheIcyShooter in 2018, because I’m cold with that camera and I know it. It goes back to the inner city schools of Cleveland, living in the city with little resources at schools and violence around every corner. My friend and I joined a photography club in the 3rd grade and that’s when it happened; that’s when I fell in love with photography and knew I was always going to be in the arts. Music, photography, videography, graphics it is all about self-perception, but nobody can define your art. I bought a camera in 2017 and started shooting everyday, just anything I could find buildings, trees, strangers, cars, etc. I had family and friends tell me to finish college and start a business later and I couldn’t let other people tell me about my success. My business has been growing slowly but any growth is better than no growth. I lost friends before they could get to live their lives, so I will never take life for granted and I don’t fear failure, because it helps you grow as a person. Read more>>

Angelique Porter

I discovered Reiki through my massage therapy training. I was already familiar with how trauma affects the body, not just the mind, and wanting to learn more about the mind-body connection. I had received Reiki and immediately noticed the benefits – relaxation and joy. I couldn’t explain it but I felt like myself for the first time in years. After this experience, I received my Reiki Level I certification. I began practicing and then the following years, achieved Level II and Level III Reiki certifications. During my years practicing reiki, I began to notice receiving messages through music and words for my clients. I decided to learn tarot and divination as tools to help in healing work. I was practicing primarily in-person until the pandemic, where I began seeing more clients virtually. This is called distance reiki and today, I see most of my reiki clients, and tarot clients, virtually. Read more>>

Brian Sledge

I started out at 21 making music. I sang in choirs from elementary thru high school. I always was told if I can get the kids to listen to my music and they like it then I can make a name for myself. I started coaching and working with children at 26. I still make music and coach to this day but I wanted to make my mark in my city with something better. So I changed up my approach. At 27, I came up with an idea that I didn’t put into full effect until I was 29. Soon after I created a Non-Profit with my team and decided to help the youth that deals with similar issues that the children I teach and coach deal with. Within a year, we have held shoe and toy drives for the community to help kids that battle mental health. Read more>>

Kelly Emilianowicz

We started our glamping tent business while living full-time in an RV and traveling the country. We decided right after getting married that we wanted to do a 6 month honeymoon which quickly turned into an entire lifestyle change as we decided to sell all of our belongings and live nomadically. We were always camping ourselves in really cool areas of the country and thought it would be so much fun to rent out a traveling tent that we could pop-up next to us wherever we went. We had been living and traveling in our RV full-time for about 4 years and we had lots of friends and family come visit us along the way so the glamping tent became a pop-up guest suite for them and eventually we decided to go full-time into the glamping tent rental business and it’s been a crazy ride ever since. As the trend to host more outdoor events grew in 2020 so did our glamping tent business. We have expanded our fleet to include canopy rentals, lounge area rentals, glamping tent villages, emperor tent bridal suites and we can even style and provide Tablescape furnishings. Our goal is to be able to provide magical, carefree getaways where our guests simply show up and enjoy. We continue to feel very blessed that we get to operate such a fun and unique business while still remaining able to travel and spend the majority of our time in nature. Read more>>

Emily Tavag

I have always had a sweet tooth, but I didn’t necessarily gravitate toward baking until high school and college. Growing up my Mom would bake and decorate my brother and my birthday cakes herself. The cakes always matched our birthday party theme, and often perfectly coordinated with the invitations or plates. I remember it felt so special to have a cake made with so much love and care. My Mom had also grown up with many homemade cakes and treats because my Grandma Shirley Ann, her mother, ran her own home-based cake business from their farmhouse in Nebraska. When my Mom was growing up she would assist my Grandma with her cakes and that’s how she learned her cake skills. I guess you could say baking is a bit of a family tradition! I think middle school was when I started to dabble in baking myself, though mostly it was no-bake cookies and boxed funfetti cupcakes. In college, I made birthday cakes for friends and after college, I baked for holidays and get-togethers. I enjoyed trying new recipes, but only thought of baking as a hobby. Read more>>

Kiara Booker

I started painting at a very young age just random pieces of art here and there. My love of painting for others didn’t develop until 2018. Some of my biggest inspirations include Brionya James, Frank Morrison and Bob Ross. My grandfather also has a lot to do with my love for drawing. Read more>>

SooHee Schulz

I was always interested in healthcare and wellness and at first, I was going to go into a nursing program but I noticed that I can’t handle the stress of the job. Don’t get me wrong, my brother is a nurse and I highly respect this industry. He asked me if I could handle working the night shift and I realized I can’t work at night like him. On the other hand, my father was an acupuncturist and he suggested I study and learn acupuncture and I decided to go to an acupuncture school. I got the license after graduating, I finished school in California, so I got the California license for acupuncture and herbalism.
I worked for other acupuncture clinics, and I decided to work with my father. So we opened an acupuncture clinic in Anaheim together. My dad is retired now. And now I work with my husband and are running a small clinic together. Read more>>

Christine Bowman

I started Butters & Co. Bakery in April 2020. I have always loved baking and being in the kitchen and starting my own business has always been a dream of mine. After I got furloughed due to Covid, I really had no excuses and decided to go for it. It has been by far the best decision I have made. I am still learning and growing but Butters & Co. has tremendously grown since April 2020. Read more>>

Carolyn Bonini

It is hard to say where my story starts. For as long as I can remember, I have been a creative person. I have always had a dream of making and selling my art. I have attempted many times throughout the years to market my art online. As any creative person will tell you, it is difficult to stand out amongst the many artists online. Time after time I tried and gave up. It wasn’t until this year that something clicked. I started laser cutting sheets of acrylic, and making earrings for myself and my family. For the first time, I didn’t rush to market my art, but continued to create slowly. I enjoyed the process, and organically felt like it was time to share what I was making. I decided to sell at a few markets in Columbus (Sohud Collective and Friendship Flea’s Festivus). My goal has been to be extremely curious about what people are looking for. Even though my business is new, I feel like I am off to a great start. Now the key is to continue to create, share, and experiment. Read more>>

John Marcum

Like most veterans, once I was out of service, my level of fitness dropped significantly. But several life events caused me to re-evaluate my health, and the summer of 2005 was the start of this part of the story. For the next year and a half, I completely overhauled my diet and turned the clock back; going from 315 pounds to 190 pounds. It was during this time that the thought of working as a fitness professional entered my mind. The concept of Florence Barbell was growing into something… Fast forward to 2010, my roommate and I got into a conversation after coming home from the bars. He was partaking, and I was working as security. He wanted to open a restaurant, and I wanted to open a gym. I was dabbling with CrossFit at the time, and began looking into that business model. The gym was born and quickly migrated to my old roommate’s garage (the person who wanted to open a restaurant). Within a year of our conversation, our gym was a reality and so was his restaurant. I partnered up with a client who was also motivated to start a gym, and together we started the 3rd CrossFit gym in Northern Kentucky. Read more>>

Cheryl Bobo

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. My family has owned their own businesses and helped others and their communities for years. I grew up knowing that having my own business was a goal. When I started my family I knew that working the traditional full time job I had been in, was no longer going to fit. It was time for a change. I wanted to be able to contribute to my household so I started doing some research online. I came across a personality questionnaire based in real estate that helped place you with a company that would suit you best. I submitted my responses, and that same day the broker for one of the companies called me to set up an interview. I found my spot. I started taking the necessary classes to start this new path and within months I was a licensed Realtor. I haven’t looked back since. Read more>>

Megan Davis

While teaching second and third grade in Brooklyn, New York, founder Sonya Patel, noticed that her students were feeling overstimulated and stressed from pressures they felt at home and in other environments. Sonya began showing her students basic yoga and breathing techniques to use when they needed a break or stress relief. Upon returning to her hometown of Cleveland in 2010, Sonya founded ZENworks Yoga with the core mission of providing access to yoga and mindfulness for children and families in underserved schools and community organizations throughout Northeast Ohio. Teaming up with a passionate group of educators and yogis, they began building the ZENworks Yoga program.​ Over time, ZENworks Yoga has continued to grow and tailor our programs to the ever-changing needs of our students, families, and communities. The dynamic support of our programs empowers and encourages students for lifelong success. Read more>>

Whitney Janea

I always had an entrepreneur mindset. I can remember being on the playground reselling candy bars, chip, cookies, etc. with my childhood best friend we were like walking vending machines. I also would make and sell personalized name keychains to my aunties’ hair customers. I was the little keychain lady to them! So I guess that mentality has always been in me! One thing ima do is get some money, but I strive to make people feel good and have fun while doing it and I think that’s what sets me apart as a person and my brand! Growing up, I used to think I was going to be a fashion designer (my drawing were ridiculous), but the ideas were really nice for a kid! I loved to dress and especially keep up with the latest sneakers! But somewhere along the way in elementary, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer and I was going to The Illustrious Spelman College and I did, I did attend and graduate from Spelman College (Class of 2015) with a degree in Political Science with a Pre-law concentration!. Read more>>

Amber Carter

I’m the Principal Broker of Seven Fourteen Realty Inc. Becoming a Principal Broker was not in my 5 to 10-year plan when I started my journey in the real estate industry a little over 8 years ago in the Property Management sector. I have always had a passion for assisting others. That passion grew when I had the opportunity to assist clients with finding their place to call home. The more I learned and became familiar with the real estate world, the more eager I became to dive deeper into all facets of real estate. In 2017, I attained my Kentucky Real Estate License and started my journey as a full-time REALTOR. Little did I know about the reality of what it would take to actually start a successful business as a REALTOR. Years later, I have found myself with the incredible opportunity as the Principal Broker of Seven Fourteen Realty Inc. In my experience, it helps to have a Realtor who is CONNECTED! That’s why I have worked on becoming a Full-Service Real Estate Brokerage Firm, focusing on providing authentic experiences to our clients and making it our responsibility to increase wealth for minorities through real estate. Read more>>

Jacqueline DelBrocco

It really all began because of my husband and one of my best friends, Maggie. In Maggie’s hometown, Vermilion, OH they have a city-wide music festival once a month in the Summer. My husband is a musician and Maggie suggested that I set up and paint him while he performed. She thought people would find it entertaining, and turns out she was right! This was almost 10 years ago… I started live painting my husband’s performances in Vermilion each month, and that was when I realized how thrilling it is to paint in front of people, instead of alone in my studio. Several months later, another friend was telling me about an event she was involved in planning at the Cleveland Museum of Art. It was a 50th Anniversary Celebration for the Ratner School, a Montessori school on the East side of Cleveland. The event was art themed, and I asked her if she thought there might be interest in having an artist on-site during the event, capturing the celebration in a painting. Read more>>

Crystal Swift

I am the owner and creative director behind The Crystal Collection Co. Our primary focus is creative direction for businesses which typically looks like honing in on their client experience to curate intimate and intentional events and brand growth strategies. However, it took my business a while to get here! This brand started out solely focusing on wedding planning. As I worked in the industry, some of my best moments were meeting and dreaming with other vendors. Who wouldn’t want their full time business to be focused around dreaming? In much of my life, as well as my business, I aim to inspire others to have experiences that turn into memories! Moments that you can always hold onto forever. And by the Grace of God, I turned my dream job into a reality. Read more>>

Corinne Smith

My journey into the dance world began at the age of 8 when my parents decided to learn how to Ballroom dance as their date night together. At the time my older brother was my dance partner until I turned 13 and convinced some friends to do it with me. Over the years I fell more in love with dancing and with that my interest in competing was sparked. At 15 years old, I participated in my first dance competition and decided that dancing was going to be a big part of my life. I went on to compete in all four styles of American Smooth, Rhythm, International Standard and Latin winning 3 amateur titles in 2010 and 2011. Although I did not have an interest in going to college I ended up going while continuing my competitive dancing and graduated from Dominican University in 2013 with a bachelor’s in Performance: Dance. Read more>>

Greg Brooks

I have always been interested in clothes and wanted to start a clothing brand. During covid, I realized I wanted to start a pro-black clothing line all about positivity and empowerment called #SueMe. I came up with a logo and slogan for the brand then saved some money to put out the clothes. I just want to build a brand that uplifts those who feel underrepresented. Like our saying is “If nobody else rooting for you I’m rooting for you. Sue me I’m rooting for everybody that’s black!” We want to spread peace and motivation to everyone no matter what race or sex you are but sadly black and brown people usually get mistreated and the short end of the stick. I know we often need extra support since society is often trying to keep us down. We also make videos weekly on our Instagram @sueme1865 giving advice, motivation and speaking on social issues. We are working on putting out a YouTube channel and TikTok soon. Read more>>

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