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Portraits of Ohio

It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them the fundamental questions about who they are and how they became the person they are today. Understanding and empathy are essential building blocks for a better, more compassionate world. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to ask these questions each week through our interview series. Below you’ll find inspiring interviews from in and around Ohio.

Dr. Valencia Moses

Vibrant Coaching started in September of 2019 as a result of a series of events that motivated me to found the company to ultimately help people become the best version of themselves. I had a lightbulb moment while sitting in a free class held by a non-profit and I knew it was time to take the leap of faith to start my own coaching company. I was in an internship with the non-profit and told another intern about my newfound passion for CliftonStrengths.  Read more>>

Shelby Schelling

My name is Shelby Schelling and I am the owner and photographer behind the lens of Shelby Leigh Photography. I started photography in 2015. My family bought me my first camera for Christmas that year (a Canon Rebel t5). I began my career as a High School Agriculture teacher in 2016 and my photography got pushed to the side besides family and school photos that I took. In 2020 I decided to take my photography business full time and it was the best decision I have ever made.  Read more>>

Essence Unique Easley

Simply we started from a love of tea shared between me and my husband. He always shared a cup of tea with his grandmother, when I was younger whenever I’d get sick my mom would make tea and it was so comforting. When Shane (husband) and I began living together we started enjoying a cup of tea together every day. In 2019 we started looking into more & healthier ways to enjoy what we loved while healing our bodies naturally. Read more>>

Lauren Murvine

My husband and I began up-cycling furniture, making home decor signs & leather jewelry to sell locally in 2018. In the beginning, we focused on making wooden wall art with verses, song lyrics, and custom orders incorporating families’ names and other meaningful text. Within the first few months of starting our business, a few brides approached me about creating table numbers, welcome signs, and other purposeful wedding decor. Read more>>

Erin Naso

Give a mom a problem and she’ll solve it. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and growing up was generally surrounded by people with an entrepreneurial spirit. That perspective made an impact on me at a young age and allowed me to see more than one way to approach a challenge and fix a problem. It was from this perspective that I invented The Hanger Valet – an outfit organizer that hangs over an outfit on a hanger and has zippered pockets to keep all the accessories, jewelry, socks, and undergarments needed for an outfit. Read more>>

Mason McCloskey

My name is Mason McCloskey and I go by the stage name Mason MC. Recently I’ve been signed to OceanFive Records and this is my story! I am a 16-year-old musical artist who lives in the Cincinnati area. I started making music just 8 months ago when I was asked to make a song about math for a school project. Almost instantly I fell in love with making music! I’ve made it my goal to start making music that matters and music that could make a difference in the world! Read more>>

Haley Withrow

Hi y’all! I’m Haley, I am the owner of Haley Douglas Photography! I started being looking into photography after I realized I wanted to freeze time in my own personal life! Growing up I wanted to be a cosmetologist and that was it. Fortunately for my dreams at the time, I graduated from Paul Mitchell when I was 19! That year also happened to be the same year my dad passed away from a motorcycle accident, which HIT HARD. Read more>>

Anthony Pero

I grew up in a small, 5,000-population town and wanted to be anything but ordinary. While most of my peers were playing sports, I wrote short stories, practiced instruments, and went all-in on all things creative. Not being the same as everyone else had its challenges and led to me being bullied my entire childhood through high school. I remember constantly feeling left out until one day; I heard Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” on the radio in the car with my dad on a balmy March Day. Read more>>

Samuel McCormick

As a young child, I was very interested in nature as our family spent much of our time outdoors. My grandfather taught me to work with my hands from a very young age. He was a master mason and carpenter so he has a wealth of knowledge to pass on to me. I have had several mentors to take me under their wing and teach me the tricks of their trade. I learned about the value of salvages materials from a very dear friend named Richard V at 10 years of age. Read more>>

Lax Louiie

I was born in Daytona Beach Florida, but I grew up in Raleigh North Carolina. Growing up I was a musician for my parents’ church so music has always been a part of my life. In 2017 I met a producer and he told me that I have the voice for making great music. I went to his studio and since that day, I’ve been hooked on music. I believe my faith has played a part in my persistence even in the low times of my music career.  Read more>>


4 Bro’s and a Sis Lemonade is a business ran by a black-owned family. We strive to meet the needs and wants of our customers by adding new flavors, holding free events and givebacks around our community, and as well putting a smile on each and every customer’s face. We started about eight years ago with a goal intended to raise money for sports. As time passed and more people started to like the lemonade they wanted more!  Read more>>

Rebecca Macke

In January 2021 during the Covid pandemic, people seemed to be depressed. It was an uncertain and emotional time. I wanted to do something for my neighbors to lift their spirits. I made them hot chocolate bombs and dropped them off on their front porches. The next day, one of my neighbors contacted me wanting to buy more. Another neighbor had given my name to many of their friends.  Read more>>

Wesley Ryan, Bob Ryan, and Ariel Faeth

We are a group of canine enthusiasts that were formed due to a passion of performing live with our best friends. We originated in central Ohio but now have performers throughout the state including Cincinnati. We started by just trying to find an outlet for our crazy high-energy dogs that drove us nuts in our house. We found that disc (frisbee) really helped them get their energy out and promoted a strong bond. We wanted to let everyone know that if you have a difficult or high-energy dog then dog sports may be the answer. Read more>>

Darquez Bogan

It all started by me watching my cousin King Golden rapping and I’ve been rapping since then. It’s been a few hardships but people around me pushed me to keep going. I’ve investing as much time as I can and practicing my craft and I’ve been pushing hard with a group named Phaze 4 which includes Kaliber Nine, Adolff, and Knitemare we are currently working on a project for the group. Read more>>

Amanda Potchik

I am a 35-year-old woman who I suppose you would say, came broke an extremely broken home. I grew up without a male figure in my life and barely a mother figure. I came from poverty and physical and emotional damage, so owning my own business is NOTHING I ever thought I would be doing. I am the oldest of 5 children and always looked after my siblings and always wished I had that family that I saw in images and in public. Read more>>

Tanyqua Oliver

Gardenscaping began as a vision than a hobby then not only a regular reality but escape. Sweet T’s Thumb is how I decided to take my life back after being faced with all of the thoughts I had pushed to the back of my mind because it got too dark that quarantine gave me no choice but to figure out how to heal through as well as reclaim who I truly am; a sweet country woman from Central Kentucky that loves to serve but you can just call me T. Read more>>

Leanne O’Donnell

Turn Up Columbus was started by Josh Staley of Josh Staley Productions in 2019. It was created to be a more affordable DJ option for Columbus and a training company for aspiring DJs. Turn Up Columbus DJs are fun, interactive, and skilled on the mic. They are committed to making your wedding day the best day of your life! Just a year in, weddings were shut down because of COVID-19. This was quite a challenge for many wedding-based companies. Read more>>

Payzlie Burden-Mickens

I’ve always loved music for as long as I could remember. It has always came easy to me, like a second nature. I grew up trying to learn and play every instrument I came in contact with. I wrote my first song when I was 8 years old. I have always been a performer, whether it was an instrument or dancing, crowds bring me comfort. I began writing poetry around the time I decided to try to expand my vocabulary in high school.  Read more>>

Mary Baldino

The idea of Connect E-Sports began back in 2018 between Bob and Mary Baldino through their mutual love and history with video games. Both of them grew up with video games, and know the power they hold over connecting people both online and in real life.  In 2019, Connect E-Sports found it’s home in Downtown Dayton at the Wheelhouse which put the business in the unfortunate timing of opening at the end of 2020. Read more>>

Maddie Smith and Rose Grady

Maddie and I first met at Otterbein University in 2010. We were in the same BSN nursing program and also happened to join the same sorority. We quickly became friends during our undergrad years. After practicing as bedside nurses for a few years, we decided to further our nursing education and become family nurse practitioners. Throughout our years of practicing as RNs and NPs, we noticed that some medical topics we assumed to be “common sense” were not commonly known.  Read more>>

Shawn Burnett

It all started in Mt Healthy back in 1994! A friend of Mines brother decided to plan a house party and I happen to be there to help clean up and move furniture around… I happen to go to the stereo system to look to see what tapes were in the case, my friend’s older brother walks in the room and said Shawn you are going to control the music! My eyes lit up and I said “are you serious”! Back then we had tapes and a lot of those tapes were singles! I gather my tapes and a couple other guys tapes. Read more>>

Shyd and Jessica Coloma

Jessica: This is one of my favorite stories to tell! In July of 2021, during one of our family walks for our dog, Max, Shyd casually asked, “how would you feel about investing in property out-of-state? I’ve been reading this book about real estate investing and I think it would be a good option for us to generate income towards saving for retirement and the boys’ futures.” In general, I hardly ever give a hard yes or no to hypothetical questions. I like being open to possibilities. Read more>>

Claire Butcher

I’ve always had an eye for artistic visuals in our surroundings. Walking down the street, driving down a country road, or even just sitting down and looking around, there is beauty everywhere. Funny enough, I started using a camera for videography, but then later realized I had a knack for photography so continued down that route. So here I am a handful of years later, almost graduated from college and have learned so much and I’m ready to make this my career. Read more>>

Yelitza Nieves

I’ve been an avid thrifter and environmentalist for almost 15 years. When COVID-19 became the reality in 2020 and outdoors became the safest place to enjoy the company of friends and family, social distanced picnics became the natural, most fun thing to do. Creating beautiful experiences for people while doing it sustainably became a creative meditation. It was smooth at first. My goal was to be comfortably scheduled with absolute control of my time rather than “booked and busy”. Read more>>

Eldon Huff

Eldon Huff is an American singer-songwriter making music that means something. Pairing tough-to-match guitar skills with downhome lyrics about life and love, Eldon performs soulful songs that unite us all under the human condition. Like so many of us, he has searched for himself at the bottom of a bottle and down on his knees before God. Somewhere between chasing the dream and putting in an honest day’s work, Eldon made a name for himself in Nashville doing Southern Roots Rock. Read more>>

Katherine Ryckman Siegwarth

FotoFocus was founded in 2010 with the idea of celebrating photography and lens-based art while connecting local, regional, national, and international communities. One of our main programs is the FotoFocus Biennial, which will have its sixth iteration this October. The 2022 FotoFocus Biennial boasts 101 projects at 90 venues, 33 of which are new collaborators, making this the largest Biennial to date: a fitting metric to this year’s Biennial theme, World Record.  Read more>>

Ni’Tasha Keyes

The name Keyes To The Game actually was my dad’s idea! Our last name is Keyes so he came up with the idea and I ran with it!!! (I didn’t have an idea of a name I just knew I wanted to be a positive influence to the youth!) My goal is to provide youth services to help mentor, coach, and make a positive impact on as many children as possible. Growing up as a child, I was very intelligent, skilled, and athletic but I lacked confidence and in return, I did a lot of self-sabotaging, and dimming of my own light. Read more>>

Brianna Marshall

When I was in high school, I would take senior photos for friends! Years later, 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, I ended up taking my sister’s senior photos, which helped my love for photography blossom all over again! I then tried every niche under the sun, senior, family, maternity, newborn, and weddings. Spring 2021, I landed on my favorite niche of all, I began my journey as a boudoir photographer! Read more>>

Alexandra Anthony

My name is Alexandra Anthony, and I am the Creative Events Manager at The Mansion 731. Additionally, I serve as the OTE Art Walk Director that partners with businesses in Olde Towne East to throw an Art Walk event once a month from May-November. The OTE Art Walk features over 80 local artists and makers and the businesses along Parsons Ave from Bryden Rd to Broad St. Read more>>

E’javien Franklin

I always loved performing! When I was 8 years old, I started entering talent shows, doing the best Michael Jackson routine you would ever see from a kid. Lol!!! I was discovered at one of those talent shows by Marcus Cross, city legend and VP of A&R for Global Exec Records. This led me into a group called 422 Boyz. It started as a three-kid act with our ages ranging from 9 – 11. Due to a difference in priorities, Daniel Rucker, Founder, and CEO of Global Exec Records asked me what I wanted to do. Read more>> 

Lavish Vixenz

Lavish Vixenz is a black owned modeling agency based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The agency was founded and currently managed by Nay Reynolds. My goal is to help aspiring models break into the modeling business without the hassles and complications most freelance models have to endure. I came to the realization that modeling is more than just pretty faces and photo shoots. Lavish Vixenz is an agency that represents the diversity in women of color.  Read more>>

Sarah Wright

I started this mobile IV hydration business after working in emergency medicine for 7 years, I carried on and received my master’s degree and knew I wanted to do something in business, while working in the Emergency room I have seen long wait times and feel as if some people could simply benefit from Iv hydration and keep them out of the ER and help decrease wait times, I also got into this business as I was a college athlete and wanted to be involved in sports medicine and some way! Read more>>

Autumn Stone

It all started with my mom’s 2MP digital camera. I would sneak it out of the case and go outside to take photos of anything and everything. I lived in rural Montana, so this consisted mostly of horses, flowers, and mountains. For my 15th birthday, my parents gifted me a camera of my very own– a little pink digital camera that I took EVERYWHERE. It was at this point that I discovered my true passion in photography– Portraiture. It took a bit (ok, a LOT) of encouragement to do anything with my newfound hobby. Read more>>

Kash Kartel Entertainment

This company began based off an artist and a videographer/ manager decided they wanted to do something big with chasing their dreams. The videographer/ manager, Fo’, had a previous business relationship with artist “OG Mook” and suggest that the company sign him & we became an unstoppable label in the making. We struggled in many ways. The biggest one was finding consistent leadership which sometimes shifted the motivation of the team but ultimately became a big reason to go harder.  Read more>>

Michael Aaron

The Rickenbacker Woods Foundation (RWF) is the caretaker of the boyhood home of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, World War I Ace of Aces, airline industry pioneer, entrepreneur & philanthropist. Captain Eddie’s home is a registered National Historic Landmark, one of three in Central Ohio. The foundation also honors the work of Columbus native Granville T. Woods a world-renowned African American scientist and inventor of over 60 patents, including the “third electric rail” that powers subways and streetcars today. Read more>>

Bethany Recker

MobileMed started with 2 providers in 2019. They wanted the ease of staying at home for urgent care needs. In 2022 we added primary care to our urgent care visits. Our primary care is membership-based. It also includes our urgent care services. We have also started an esthetic branch to include Botox, microneedleing, and chemical peels. Covid was a difficult time for all providers. MobileMed excelled during this time and we continue to add members daily. Read more>>

Madeline Jentsch

I started The Link Ensemble in 2021 as a way to market my skills as a singer, and my friends’ skills as string players to perform at events, and ended up finding my strengths in design and marketing! I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Voice Performance from The College-Conservatory of Music at The University of Cincinnati with a focus in Opera. As you can imagine, jobs in opera are few and far between, but what people may not know if how competitive the field is.  Read more>>

Adam Michael

I have always loved film. It was my outlet and escape as a child. My passion turned into a hobby one day when I told my wife (Em) that I wanted to see more “real stories” being told in film. She very calmly looked at me and said, “why don’t you make one then?” It was a lightbulb that was instantly turned on and has not gone out since. I wrote my first film, Breakfast, two months later in late 2019. I was proud of the silent film, which focuses on a couple dealing with a traumatic reveal as they eat at their favorite restaurant, but didn’t know how “good” it was. Read more>>

Stacy Stevenson

Ashtabula is my hometown. After many years away, I had moved back and built a life with my husband and children. During that time, I worked at Kent State University Main campus and Case Western Reserve University. This meant a LOT of commuting over about 12 years. Toward the end of 2018, both my parents were diagnosed with cancer requiring extensive treatments in Cleveland and Ashtabula. Read more>>

Maria Linsday

My name is Maria Linsday and I am Colombian, I studied plastic arts at the Politécnico Gran Colombiano and I am a student of mixed media at the art school of Gerardo Rueda, throughout my career I have done a lot of diploma courses, to keep me updated in the use of different non-conventional materials, my thought is that everything can be used to give a personal and different touch to the work. Read more>>

Dev Marvelous

My love of music started when I learned to play piano around age 4. Outside of lessons, I would teach myself jazz harmonies and chords by ear, and eventually, I started to write my own songs. As I grew older, I realized what music production was, and the beauty that can come from arranging instruments into a gorgeous work of art. I also have a love of old Hollywood films and creating visual art through graphic design, photography, and fashion.  Read more>>

Jessica Smith

I was not always the loud, outgoing, bubbly person everybody knows today. I actually was a very shy, unwilling to participate, scared of everything child. Until one day, a teacher saw my potential and bribed me with a special lunch if I participated in the spelling bee. The thought of getting a special lunch all by myself with my teacher was enough to convince me so I participated and WON! Read more>>

Asia Alston

My name is Asia Alston, owner of Asia Rane Salon and Spa and Asia Rane. Co. I’m a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, girlfriend. I’m an artist. I am an entrepreneur. Did I say I was an artist? The media I have chosen is hair. Growing up, I never dreamed to be a hair artist. Matter of fact, I never seen much past the day. I grew up in a very small, liberal community just west of Cleveland. Oberlin. Art and education is the core of my small town. Read more>>

Lindsay Mesenburg

My name is Lindsay Mesenburg. I was born and raised in Akron, Ohio as the oldest of five. From a young age, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment industry whether that was as an actress, singer, model, dancer etc. My mom and dad signed me up to take dance lessons at just two years old and I continued until I was 16. I have always had a musical influence around me as well.  Read more>>

Robin McCoy

Ramco 247 Events has always been a dream of mine! To be able to transform a space from ordinary to something extraordinary, outside of the box, a space that tells a story with color and design. My team currently consist of Artisha our setup specialist she creates the team needed to make our vision to reality, without her the designs would never go from two-dimensional design to reality without the right team to make all the hard work behind the scenes happen. Read more>>

Vera Larkin

I got tired of working dead in job after dead in job. Making barely enough to pay the bills. I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to be told what to do. I like to work at my own pace and make my own schedule. After working as a receptionist at a salon and spa I decided to go to school to become an esthetician. While in school, I realized waxing was my favorite and I became very good at it.  Read more>>

Porshia Banks

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and went to CSMD. I graduated from John Marshall High School. Prior to operating my boutique, I worked in VIP services. I would always have to work these “semi-formal party-like” events and it was a nightmare finding something that was party appropriate but not too far out there. So, I started designing a few of my own pieces and pairing them with my existing pieces. Eventually, that led to styling friends and co-workers and ultimately curating fully blended collections for Sweet Nothing’s Boutique. Read more>>

Sabrinam Mantle

I’ve always enjoyed and used herbs and alternative medicines; I find the idea that you can take complete control of your medicine very empowering. I also love learning about plants and all the wonderful ways to use them, and there always seems to be something new and exciting! Thirty years ago, I took a class on making herbal salves and started using the wonderful salve that the teacher made and sold.  Read more>>

Maryn Thacker

I attended Tri-River’s career center in Marion, Ohio my senior year in high school. I chose the esthetics program because self-care has always been a priority for me. Making others feel beautiful as a career is simply the best job I can imagine. I became licensed in June of 2021 when I was 17 years old. I knew I wanted to move to Columbus in my future, so I began applying for several esthetician jobs anywhere I could.  Read more>>

Christina Kasper

This project came about during the summer of 2019 when several friends were cruising down the Maumee River and approached the ADM grain silos. Realizing this was the introduction to the city of Toledo for so many (including the 82,365 vehicles that pass that spot DAILY), they wondered why our vibrant city’s spirit had no representation on such a vast canvas. Over a year later, our team continues the process of creating a warm welcome and a message of hope and positivity.  Read more>>

Danae Labocki

I fell into marketing and fundraising and didn’t set out to have that as a career. I started at an agency when I was 17 in an administrative role. This agency served nonprofits all around the US helping them with donor development and marketing. I quickly fell in love with the possibility of being able to make a difference with many nonprofits and seeing the impact of increasing the generosity of many people to feed more children, rescue more girls from sex trafficking, reach more college students for Christ, and so much more. Read more>>

Dee Myers

My daughter June was born on November 6, 2019. She was my parents first granddaughter. My dad was ecstatic and in typical dad/grandpa fashion he ran out and bought a new camera to be able to capture all the firsts with her. The trouble was he didn’t know how to use the camera and my mom enlisted my help in figuring it out. I was a Labor and Delivery Nurse at the time, and on my days off I searched YouTube for camera lessons. Read more>>

Bayley Brown

I have been in the hair industry for 9 years but been working behind the chair for 5 years, I started off at Ladies & Gentlemen in the laundry room and then the call center to eventually going to Brown Aveda and to be at L&G Legacy Village where I am now. I always grew up being around hair as almost every female in my family was a hairdresser and where amazing at what they do. Read more>>

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