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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.

Polly McCormick

After having worked in corporate America and then caring for my aging parents, I took a leap of faith and followed my lifelong dream of opening a shop. With my husband by my side, we signed a lease on a 484-square-foot storefront in our quaint little town. That was in 2012 and since then, we’ve grown to our current location with about 5,000 square feet! We have been in four locations in the last ten years. Read more>>

Jordan Penix

It all started in 2016 with a do-it-yourself lip balm kit, a curiosity to know what was in my lip products, and a passion for lip color.  After (much) experimentation at my kitchen table, I had my first sample batch. Soon I was wearing my new lip shades out and receiving compliments from family and friends wanting to know if they could have a tube of their own. With that, I decided to make my set up my first Etsy shop! Read more>>

Chris Leyva

I grew up in Albuquerque, NM. I began writing stories in fourth grade. These ideas would just come to me, and I’d just write and write and write. I would write sequels to my original stories; I would adapt movies and tv shows into stories. It was just something I did.  However, writing wasn’t always the goal. When I was a kid and even into high school, my plan was to become a Disney animator. But in high school, I tried out for a play, and, almost instantly, I was hooked by theatre. My junior year, I went on a campus visit at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) to begin the process of applying as a character animation student. Read more>>

Kay S

Hi! I am Kay and I will be 16 August 11th, and will be a junior! Growing up, I didn’t have the ideal childhood. I gained 10 years of PTSD throughout it and it always made it hard to fit in with all the other kids. Starting as early as elementary school was the start of kids bullying me. However, I have always wanted and said that I wanted to make the world a better place. In sixth grade, I won a pageant as miss Kentucky junior high and with that, I used my platform to go to schools and raise bullying awareness to elementary kids. Read more>>

Demonta Brock

All my life I have loved food! I grew up watching my grandparents and aunts cook, whether it be on holidays or simply putting a meal on the table for loved ones. The flavors they would put together always made me feel good and happy. Unfortunately, the kitchen was considered a dangerous place for a child so anything I seen would have to be from a distance. Growing up I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to be, everyone just said, “make sure you graduate high school and go to college “. Read more>>

Alesha Lifka

I graduated massage school in 2012. I decided early on to focus my massage practice on Prenatal and Postpartum moms. I took off some years to focus on raising babies but got back to work in 2019. Definitely not. After I graduated school, I worked for a few years owning my own practice. But after the birth of our second child, I decided to not go back to work. I wanted to be around for my kids when they were so little. Then in 2016, my oldest son was diagnosed with Leukemia. Read more>>

Red Rose Panic

Originally a duo established by frontman/songwriter Luminari and guitarist/producer St1xx, they sought after additional live sounds while planning their first show. After finding their perfect bandmates, they officially formed Red Rose Panic, which consists of 5 members: Luminari on lead vocals, ST1XX on lead guitar, Sledge on drums, SMOKEFACE on bass guitar, and Lou on Keyboard. Together, they are determined to etch a lasting impression in their hometown and across the globe, to show that not only is talent located in larger cities, but in the too-often-overlooked Midwest as well. Read more>>

Matt Key

My music journey began when I was a sophomore in high school. A friend of mine downloaded fl studio to my computer and we would play beats that we made during class when we met up at school. After a year of making beats, I got pretty good and started to Collab on music with some of my peers from school. At first, I was just focused on producing but as time progressed, I taught myself how to record and eventually write songs of my own. Read more>>

Cortney Goodman

My cats actually got me into macrame, funnily enough. They were starting to eat my plants, my spider plant in particular. Which thankfully is nontoxic, but they were still killing my plants. So, I went looking for solutions to my plant problems and stumbled upon macrame plant hangers. I found a tutorial on some basic knots and started making plant hangers for myself and soon my friends and family. My friends and significant other encouraged me to branch out and start making wall hangings and quickly convinced me to start Curious Creations Macrame. Read more>>

Tommiesha & Jasmine Winston-Tate

Black Mentality Clothing is an online eCommerce, black women-owned, gender-fluid luxury streetwear clothing brand based in Cleveland, Ohio. Our brand’s mission is to bring awareness to black mental health and bring unity and empowerment throughout our communities. We cater to men (unisex) and women. We strive to bring the most comfortable, stylish, and inclusive fashion wear. We provide a lifestyle of fashion and a lifetime of experiences. Our vision has always been to become a universal household name for the culture but to ultimately remain inclusive. Read more>>

Mike Cairns

As a teenager, I used to make fun home videos with my brothers, which turned into a dream of doing something like that professionally one day. In 2008, I founded the company as a means to fulfill that dream. I continued to work my day job and build the company on the side, providing a fairly unfocused range of service offerings to see what would stick (web design, illustration, animation, video production). Around 2012, I came across the first video I’d ever seen a drone be used in. Read more>>

Dominique Turner

I’ve been writing since I was in middle school, and I’ve worked as a youth development professional for about 10 years before I had my daughter. During the pandemic, I was asked by a few of my friends to tutor their sons and help them learn to read. Along with resources, I found online from other educators, I had a lot of fun creating stories and activities to help them strengthen their reading skills. I wanted to create more stories with diverse characters and provide a platform for other writers of color to do the same. Read more>>

Garri Davis

My journey started while working in Corporate America. My dream was to always be the CEO of a successful organization. I worked as hard as a could to impress the powers that be that I deserved the next available promotion. I even when back to school 3 times and I graduated with honors each time. My continuous education had no impact on my success. I found myself unmotivated and discouraged because my plan was just not working out. Read more>>

Jeff Steele

I left home when I was 13 years old and spent 11 years studying to be a Catholic priest. I spent time in New Hampshire, Germany, and Spain. At 24 years old I decided that wasn’t the path for me and came home to Cincinnati. I worked for a couple months as a laborer at a remodeling company before deciding to go to OSU to get a degree in Construction Management. I worked for a year as a project manager in the Olde Towne East neighborhood and then worked as a project manager for an apartment company managing their annual capital improvements. Read more>>

Bobbie Michelle Bean

When I was four years old, my dad and I had a conversation in which he told me that I could do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. I responded, “I can, huh? Well then, I want to walk on the ceiling like Spider-Man.” My dad then grabbed me by my ankles, flipped me upside down, and when my mom returned home, the first thing she said was. “Why are there footprints on my ceiling?” That was the day I started believing I really can do ALL things through Christ Who strengthens me and acting accordingly. Read more>>

Tailor Johnson

I’ve always known my goal in life was to make an impact on young people. I always thought growing up I was going to be a teacher. But during Covid, I started posting on social media and gained a following by sharing my experiences and lessons I’ve learned in life. My platform quickly changed from just sharing photos of myself to advocating for mental health and being vulnerable and telling my story. Read more>>

Libby Thomas

I started in the beauty industry while I was still a teenager in school. My high school offered vocational programs and I was started in cosmetology when I was 15. I received my license when I was 17 and the next day started working behind the chair doing hair. I loved being able to still be myself in a work setting. I was working in a salon in Beachwood when my dad passed away in 2013. I moved back to Canton to be closer to my mom and when I moved back, I decided that I no longer wanted to have a boss and I wanted to work for myself. Read more>>

Zdenko Zovkic

After a restaurant management apprenticeship at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Cologne, Germany, and a few other experiences in the industry, I honed my skills in concept and fine dining hospitality. I spent many years abroad and across the United States, working in luxury fine dining establishments. Through family, I was offered the opportunity to visit Cleveland and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I had a chance to bring what I had learned over the years to a fresh market. Read more>>

James Alexander

My name is James Alexander. I am also known as Bboy Osuga. I was born and raised on the north side of Columbus. I am the owner of Flavor’d Flow Studio. Flavor’d Flow is the first and only Hip-Hop cultural-based dance studio in Columbus. Our primary focus is Breakin’ (breakdancing). There are several stories that were happening and lining up at the same time. These stories all came together to get me to where I am at today. I remember Breakin in the ’80s and tried imitating it but never had a chance to really learn the dance. Read more>>

Nick Edstrom

To explain how I started, I feel it will help to know why. In 2019 I was living in St. Pete, Florida homeless, addicted to drugs, and completely hopeless. Then a miracle happened, my girlfriend and I found out we were to be expecting. Now you would think this woulda been strong enough to break the chains of addiction, but unfortunately over the next 6months, I would go on to overdose 4 times. Struggling to put together more than 3days clean at the time, I got the most devastating phone call in my life. Read more>>

Joy Johnson

While I was young, my family started an at-home daycare center when my parents feared placing their children in daycare centers. With my mother’s name being Joy as well, they named the at-home daycare center: Life’s Little Joys. My family operated our center for 10 years. Childcare has been a part of who I am before I began gaining experience myself. My experience began at a tender age through caring for children within my family. Continuing my family’s legacy is such an honor for me that Life’s Little Joys Childcare Services was created. Read more>>

Morgan Whitney Cook

Photography has been a defining part of my identity for at least ⅔ of my life. I actually shied away from making it my career because I loved it so much + I didn’t want to have to depend on my passion to make a living. So, I studied something close; visual communications. My specific sequence was in informational graphics and page design with a specialization in journalism because I have always loved art + the power it has to communicate a story with feeling. Read more>>

Bonnie Skinner

Infinity Soap Company is a woman-owned and operated small business, founded in 2020 and established this year, specializing in handcrafted bath and body products with a mission to bring better skincare to all people. Their products feature fun scents, like Coastal Coconut, and classic essential oil-based scents, like Sandalwood. More information on this local small business and their products can be found on their website: Read more>>

Laurel Gourrier and Danielle Jackson

Birth Stories in Color (BSiC) grew from a shared experience with her co-host Laurel Gourrier at a Doulas of Color training. They quickly realized that women/birthing people of color felt liberated to speak their truth and could not stop sharing their own experiences with giving birth. Laurel and Danielle were led to create a platform honoring the art of storytelling and the voices of families of color. The podcast has archived stories from birthing people that identify as Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, and/or Multiracial. Read more>>

Jasmyn Camp

I am the founder of Jay’s Intuitive Life Coaching and Inspired Healing, LLC. When I launched my business, I did so to help others heal from their trauma and implement self-care and positive life changes. My first encounter with trauma stems from my childhood. I was five years old when I was sexually abused. That was the catalyst for how I dealt with trauma and life in general. I spent over twenty years of my life drowning in my pain and projecting it onto others including my children. Read more>>

Lynx Higgins

When I was 18, I started my freshman year of college studying fine art at DAAP, and I got a job apprenticing at a walk-in studio on Short Vine by UC’s campus to pay my way through school. It wasn’t glamorous by any means, and the tattoo industry wasn’t viewed upon in a positive light like it is today, but I met many amazing artists who showed me ways to develop my craft past the walk-in studio mentality (which wasn’t super common in 2015) and I started learning how to do portraiture-based tattoos. Read more>>

Davon Brantley

When I was very young, I had a really great interest in creating. I would draw my own versions of cartoons like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dragon Ball and etc. Making these cartoons into my own trading cards, comics, and posters. I would fill notebooks with drawings, I even would pause movies and draw them in the middle of my family watching them as I developed haha I even almost got expelled from middle school for selling drawings of Dragon Ball Z characters outside of the lunch room haha I always loved creating but when I got into High School it became secondary to my love for science and discovery. Read more>>

Jimmy Mehl

This is how the Columbus Diaper Bank saved my life! Since 2004 I was off work in total for 15 years because of two separate work injuries as well as getting hit by a car (I was standing between 2 cars when a 3rd car lost control going 50 mph hitting a parked car and smashing my legs between the 2 vehicles. The only reason I didn’t lose my right leg was because the bumpers of the cars I was pinned between were at the same height). Read more>>

Jackie Ayres

Dyetology started as a creative outlet from my corporate design job. At the time I had been designing for big brands for 17 years and was looking for something creative just for me. Something totally different than what I was working on in my corporate job. So, I pulled out my surface design books from college and just started making. I have always loved color and working with my hands, so hand-dyeing was a natural fit. Read more>>

Dreana Nealon

In 2015 I went from feeling like the positive and joyful person I’ve been known as to feeling extreme anxiety. I knew what occasional anxiousness felt like and this was different. It wasn’t occasional and, in my brain, I knew it wasn’t rational but I couldn’t help the flooding emotions and racing heart. I was a wife and mother of two who wanted her family to have the wife and mom they knew back. I wanted myself back! So, after some time, I knew it was imperative to reach out for help. Read more>>

Morgan Rollison

Ever since I was a kid around the fourth grade, I had wanted to be a fashion designer. I would watch America’s Next Top Model and study the industry and look at fashion magazines and read about designers. Anything pertaining to the fashion industry had my attention. My mom taught me how to so at a young age too. My mom and sister are only 5’1 and I’m 5’2 so sometimes we had to alter our own clothes and ever since then I have been sewing. At first, it was solely just an interest and passion of my, and then I wanted to turn a passion into a career. My parents bought me a new machine for Christmas 2020 and that’s when I got serious about it. Read more>>

Dion Carr

Out the Swamp Entertainment LLC started with my core passion, helping others. There was a young artist by the name of Young Butta in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio that was looking for some leadership and guidance to help navigate him through the music industry. From there Out the Swamp Entertainment was born. The name was uniquely designed to represent the core of who I am. Out the Swamp represents making it out the hood. Read more>>

Evan Abood

I grew up in a small town in east central Ohio named Coshocton to a musical family. My father was a music teacher and my mother was a singer and a pianist as well. Music has always been a part of my life and I knew at the age of 15 that I wanted to pursue a musical life. I began writing poetry and lyrics and soon after joined a band which soon became an original alt-rock band called “Outlet”. We were kids writing songs and caught the ear of some industry professionals. Read more>>

Tiana Dean

I started recording covers to artist songs back in 2015. I didn’t like how I personally sounded singing other artist work, so I decided to create an original piece to a beat I found off of YouTube! My first song I made was called “Dance with me” and I remember sharing it with my friends and they were so shocked at how good the song was, so I submitted it to the 513 Heat back when you had to vote for your song to be picked and my song got chosen as the 513 Heat for that time. Read more>>

Tanyia O’Neal

I started making Tutus years ago. I saw photos of tutus, tutus in the store for children, trends of tutus and thought to myself I can make these. I did some research to see what was the best technique, I started off going to the local craft store buying material and started my very own first tutu. Over the years I have somewhat perfected my craft in making tutus and I am challenged by customers with their theme tutu requests but they all seem to be pleased with my work. Read more>>

Dan Compton

Like so many others, I was laid off when my employer cut staff due to Covid in 2019. I qualified for unemployment but it scarcely made ends meet. I began toying with the idea of building things in my garage to possibly sell to augment our income, but I wasn’t a carpenter by any means. I’d been following the teachings of Pastor Gary Keesee on YouTube and he always taught that God would give your ideas if you prayed in faith and asked for guidance. Read more>>

Sunday Muse

I started out as a teen actor, working in the theater, on television, and as a popular cartoon voice actor. I have always been a bit of a character. Doing different voices and portraying different people came very naturally to me. It was also how I survived growing up. I had a gift for becoming other people and escaping myself essentially. Somewhere around my late 20s, I had a pivotal aha moment where I realized that being other people would only go so far. Read more>>

Felipe Freitas

From Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, I moved to the US 6 years ago with my mom and a bag full of dreams. It’s been a wonderful journey filled with challenges and growth and I couldn’t be more thankful for it. My first week here I already started working – something I’ve never done in my 18 years in Brazil, where I would spend my days by the ocean and collecting sunsets and memories. Shortly after my first job I was introduced to the world of home renovation and started to develop a much stronger work ethic. Read more>>

Trevor Luther

13 years ago, I made friends with a guy that owned a craft beer bar. I found out quickly I loved craft beer. One year later, 12 years ago I received a Mr. Beer kit for Christmas from my parents and that’s when it became a passion of learning everything I could about the craft of making my favorite brews.  Then about 7 years ago I was asked to become a part of creating, building, and brewing at a brewery in my adoptive hometown of Grove City. I become a partner and head brewer in 2016. Read more>>

Errin Weaver

I am born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. I began in dance after attending an African dance class with Dance Afrika Dance of Cleveland, Ohio. It just so happened that the day I attended they were having company audiences. I was encouraged to try out, and the rest was history. I danced with the junior company and began to take dance a bit more seriously. At around the age of fifteen or sixteen, I was asked to dance at my church and my mother had just come from a conference where she had seen praise dance for the first time. Read more>>

Dylan Andras

My initial love for heavy music was sparked by my dear friend & neighbor when he showed me Metallica & Iron Maiden. I started Assault when I picked up the guitar as a young teenager. My childhood best friend & I both began learning together, forming the band in 2014. Since then, I’ve done everything I could to get my music heard by as many people as possible- through live shows, promotions, the internet, you name it. Assault has gone through numerous lineup changes to get to where we are today, along with countless hours of practice & dedication. Read more>>

Joshua Biren

My name is Joshua Lucian Raphael Biren, and I am a fine artist. I work with painting and drawing to find catharsis, exaggerate the world around me, and convey what I see and how I feel. I primarily work with watercolor, pens, oils, and other 2D mediums. I am currently inspired by the philosophical work of Friedrich Nietzsche and Thomas Nagel concerning existentialism and the absurd. In a world that seems to pick up the pace every day, the release of drawing and painting has become more and more crucial for me and my well-being. Read more>>

Michelle Weigold

Ever since I was 14 and went to London with babysitting money I’d been saving up in a shoe-box called “TRAVEL” for about three years, I’ve known I wanted to see more of this world. Growing up in northern Kentucky, I had never left the country until this trip. It truly did change the course of my life. Over the years, I found various ways to afford travel and sought out any opportunities I could.  Read more>>

Ja-Nelle Gilliland

When I was 33, I had realized my children were all going to be in school full-time soon and I wanted to go back to work but I wanted something that was flexible and creative so I decided to try cosmetology. After attending school, I didn’t pursue my career full-time because my momma was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer so I became her full-time caregiver. She’s the one that made me promise that I would pursue my career full time and start living my life for myself. Read more>>

Anthony Sitek

Like any full-blooded Italian from New Jersey, I have to start with my grandma. It’s alongside her in the kitchen that I first discovered my passion for food and how it brings people together. She also showed me how cooking-from-scratch not only enhances the food’s flavor and quality but also teaches you to never let anything go to waste. I’ve had an incredible culinary education both formal — from JWY Providence — and on-the-job in Chicago and under Bobby Flay in New York City. Read more>>

Nicole Artino

It’s definitely true when they say that when one door closes, another door opens. My pet accessory business story starts at the end of 2016 after closing the doors of my brick-and-mortar women’s clothing boutique. I was trying to figure out my next move and while searching the job market, started dappling in making dog collars for my own pup and decided to put a few up on Etsy. The rest as they say, is history. Read more>>

Dave Pando

My name is Dave Pando, and being an entrepreneur has run in my family for generations. My grandfather owned a Car Dealership in Cleveland, as did my Father among other businesses, and my beautiful wife is also an entrepreneur (Megan Pando, Founder of Studio 614 and Makers Social). At a very young age, around 10, I had way too much fun at a paintball birthday party, and it quickly became my favorite hobby. Read more>>

Melinda Westenfelder

When I was younger, I absolutely hated to have my picture taken. I struggled with a lot of low self-esteem issues, and any image I saw of myself just seemed to amplify that. But once I had children, that all started to change for me. When you have a baby, you have this desire to capture everything—every smile, every step, every laugh, and cry. So, I picked up a camera and started documenting my children. Read more>>

Antonio Harper

I am a 6 foot 8 Black-Greek director/writer from Cleveland Heights, Ohio. At first glance, I am perceived as many things, but not as a Greek dancing, marching band trumpeter, and storyteller. Don’t get me wrong, you would be right to assume that I played sports, was a captain, and excelled at them but at my core, I’ve always been a storyteller. At an early age, I would record my family vacations with my father’s camcorder, the same one he used to film our games. Read more>>

Macy Schmelzer

To me, Birdies Cupcakes really feels like the epitome of “everything happens for a reason.” During winter break of 2017, when I was 19 years old, I got word that I may have to take a semester off from college. Although devastated, as school had been my entire life and personality up until that point, I figured it was just a small hurdle and potentially a nice breather before tackling a biochemistry degree. I spent that time off doing things I genuinely enjoyed- primarily baking and experimenting in the kitchen. Read more>>

Duane Martin Jr.

For every ending, there’s always a beginning. I was trying to search for my passion when I graduated from high school speaking to people of different career choices. I was being influenced by YouTube around this time, I say the year 2017 making YouTube content. I started getting serious when I purchase my first camera which was an entry beginner camera (canon SL2). Making different type of videos. My editing was still a D grade at the time. A year later while enrolling in college at OSU, I was gearing towards dental hygienist major but I wasn’t 100% had my mindset on that. I was just told that they make great money. Read more>>

Taylor Oakley

Hi!!! I’m Taylor. I’m a stay-at-home mom to my very active two-year-old. My entire life I loved fashion, hair, make-up, and being creative. I started a blog in college but my life took a very different turn and I didn’t make time for it anymore. I got married, started my career in cosmetology, got pregnant and I thought, I never want to be a stay-at-home mom…. then I had my son, Zane, and everything changed. I share a lot about my journey with postpartum anxiety on my Instagram, because I don’t want any mom to feel like she isn’t “normal” or that it isn’t common. Read more>>

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