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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.

Jeremy Kramer

I started photography journey with my mom’s Polaroid camera taking pictures of skateboarders and BMX riders as a kid. I became a musician as a teen, the arts have always been a big part of my life. While being a musician, I found myself working with other artists doing design and taking photos. I decided to take the next step to pursue photography full-time and haven’t looked back since. I assisted for 4 years working with many different commercial photographers while honing my skills and developing my style. I am now 10 years into my freelance career. Read more>>

Dreana Nealon

Of course. In 2015 I went from feeling like the positive and joyful person I’m known as, to feeling extreme anxiety.

I knew what occasional anxiousness felt like but, this was different. It wasn’t occasional. In my brain, I knew it wasn’t rational but, I couldn’t prevent the flooding emotions and racing heart.

As a wife and mother of two, I wanted my family to have their wife and mom back. I wanted myself back! I knew it was imperative to reach out for help. Read more>>

Katie Ryan

Throughout my life, I have faced challenges that have caused me to redefine my idea of happiness and purpose. As a counselor, I specialize in helping people through difficult things. But when it happens in your own life, I realized the process of healing and finding joy again after something tragic is much more complicated than just “fixing” a problem. I have lost very close family members to tragic circumstances and traumatic events including my younger brother. Read more>>

Donisha Andrews

I’ve been an artist my whole life. As an adult My background was in fashion design, merchandising, and retail which I did for a few years before I decided to be a stay-at-home mom with my 2 oldest children. Once my son who is the younger of the 2 started kindergarten, I was on the hunt for something new and exciting I could do with my time. I had always loved to get my nails done but struggled to find someone who would do the intricate art that I wanted.  Read more>>

Gwen Parysek

My name is Gwen A.P. I am a live painter, originally from NY. I got my start live painting with the Disco Biscuits, a band based out of Philadelphia, PA. Marc Brownstein, the bassist, gave me an opportunity to live paint, and that was the beginning of my professional art career. Today, I am a published model, have done art production for a full-length feature film, and performed live with major musicians, orchestras, and at art museums, to name a few. I am a selling artist at Art Basel and most recently exhibited my first solo gallery show entitled Dissonance. Read more>>

Dane Khy

About 13 years of my career was spent in the marketing industry designing for agencies. During those years, I was finding ways outside of work to focus on personal projects that filled any creative void. But it wasn’t until my move to the south side of Columbus living on a horse farm for five years that helped me find a love for drawing horses. I was raised in a suburb and, at the time, worked in the city, so I was quite fascinated being around these majestic creatures. Read more>>

Adalia Powell Boehne

My name is Adalia and I got started in music from a young age and sang in choir and at church. My stepdad taught me a guitar chord before bed each night. When he died, he left me his guitar, and after that, I couldn’t stop writing songs. After high school, I started playing songs in coffee shops and music bars putting together bands, and then playing in different cities. I just kept performing and learning the ins and outs of music business along the way. Read more>>

Fawn Winterwood

Treading lightly upon the Earth and eating fresh local organic food became fundamental values for me in college. It was all part of my evolving spirituality. After college, became very interested in more natural methods for promoting wellness. I attended a body/mind-focused massage school and worked as a massage/Reiki therapist. During this time, I read a good deal, attended workshops, and dabbled in working with plants to promote health. Read more>>

William Harris

Well, when I was thirteen, I started to become intrigued with taking photos of nature and portraits just off of a simple android phone. Once I turned fourteen, my grandfather and aunt bought me my very first camera, and it was just a simple point and shoot HP camera from there that’s how it all started. I had time to hone my skills for about Three years with this particular HP camera and during that time I’ve saved up enough money to purchase my Sony DSCH 300, then I was able to further my knowledge on manual shooting and rule of thirds and compositional knowledge. Read more>>

Aleese Willis

My name is Aleese Alexandra, and I am the founder and owner of Kiddy Kouturé Boutique, located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Growing up, I’ve always had a passion for fashion. I loved to play dress-up and create new looks. I told myself at an early age that I would one day own my own business! Throughout my high school career you could find me reading the latest Vouge or Style magazines. I just knew that I wanted to be a fashion designer, and that was set and stone upon graduation. Read more>>

Maribeth Graham

Matt Wise and his kids had been donating shoes to kids in need for about 5 years before Sole Inspiration was created. It started with them saving spare change throughout the year in a jar labeled “kicks jar.” When they had enough money saved, they would buy someone who needed them a pair of shoes. Matt thought it would be a good lesson for his kids or at least a teaching point that being “selfless” is always better than being “selfish.” They gave one pair of shoes a year to kids who really needed them, and they genuinely got the feeling that a single act of kindness could not just make someone’s day but possibly inspire them toward greater things in their future.  Read more>>

Shannon Williamson

The Three Rs began with a garage sale window that Shannon Williamson purchased for $.50. Shannon decided to repurpose the window and put some cool black and white wedding photos in the panes for her sister-in-law. That led to several more gifts for friends, all with repurposed windows from the Dayton area. A good friend suggested that I start to sell them, so I did my first event, a small pop-up during Small Business Saturday in 2016.  Read more>>

Asa Featherstone, IV

I started photographing seriously around 2015, but my love for the craft started way before I even realized it. I was homeschooled until I was around 13 or 14, so growing up, I had a ton of free time. I spent a lot of that time with my grandpa in his art studio. He would always gift my cousins and I watercolor sets for our birthdays and Christmas and encourage us to make work that shows care for others. He also introduced me to photography, but of course, at that age, I thought I had “more important” things to worry about. Read more>>

John Williams

Well, my name is J-Dub but now I go under J-DubDMG and the DMG means Doin Me Global. The reason I switched it to DMG was strictly because us, as Marines, have put our lives on the line many of times and been places alone from the comforts of our hometowns. Before, some of us Marines went under the name of Doin Me Entertainment. At a time, we had connected with other rap groups such and went into 252 B.A.N.G. Gang (Bringin A New Generation Gang). Now that I am back to music and other things in life, I am here to help with others that may share the same interests of hobbies. Read more>>

Kyle Henry

For so long… I wondered why I never fit in. Music showed me I was born to standout! I am Kyle “King Pala” Henry: Singer, Songwriter, and Entertainer. My love and passion for music started when I was child jamming out to The Beastie Boys and Coolio on Cassette. Guns ‘ n ‘ Roses, Lenny Kravitz, Michael Jackson, Elvis, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Nelly, Lil’ Wayne, Usher, Missy Elliot, and The Black-Eyed Peas are some of my many influences in music. As I grew, so did my appetite for music. Great music just does something so special to the soul. Read more>>

Maggie Fekete

Today I host an electronic retreat center, The Guest Bungalow. We offer on-demand and live-stream yoga, meditation, and profound wellness insights to help you and your household unearth grace! We’re open 24/7 at TheGuestBungalow.com for $31 per month. We do offer retreat upgrades for those who desire more one-on-one attention, customizations, and in-person experiences! Read more>>

Nathan Salmon

My background is pretty all over the place. I have worked on and off in construction since I was a teenager and gained a good understanding of homes/building and repairs. After college, I trained and briefly entered the fire/ems service. After that, I spent several years building an off-grid ‘homestead’ and operating a small organic farm in Brown County, Ohio, where my wife and I lived for about 7 years. Most recently, we bought and flipped our first home in the neighborhood of Mt. Washington, where we currently live with our 2 y/o daughter Mia and another baby girl due soon! Read more>>

Chad Kessler

I started 451 Spirits in 2014 after spending several years in the Beer and Liquor Department at Weiland’s Market. My natural curiosity lead me to learn how things were made and why they taste the way they do. I felt there was an opportunity to explore new flavor profiles within the realm of distilled spirits rather than making the same spirits that have been made the same way for hundreds of years. My background as an artist and musician tends to push me to explore new boundaries. Read more>>

Celeste Brown

Established in 2020, Defining Enterprises, LLC is a multi-faceted enterprise. We have established ourselves in the automated retail vending industry with Defining Essentials Automated Retail Machines. We also have our own branded luxury 3D mink lash line, Y D Y Lashes available in Defining Essentials Automated Retail Machines and online at www.definingenterprises.com/shop. We also provide parking lot clean-up and snow removal service, Defining Lots. Read more>>

Prophocey

Staring at the young age of ten. Music has always played a major role in my life. It wasn’t until around the age of fifteen when I realized that I fell in love with the original hip hop, boom bap sounds. The crips sounds of the high hat and the clap. That came in on the third measure. We’re just the first sounds I heard clearly. The funky sounds of the melodies, and the voices of the real emcees. Are the ones who help me shape my identity to this day. Read more>>

Elisabeth Detrow

I started the Instagram page in July of 2020 when I was 19 as sort of an aesthetic mood board account just for fun. I thought of the idea to make a sweatshirt that said “I love you so much kinda” based on the mood board account’s name because I thought it’d be cute and funny. The “Forest Original Hoodie” was the first hoodie I made and the only item I started my brand with. I posted photos in the hoodie and had a bunch of friends and family reach out that they wanted one. So, I ordered 100 more which was terrifying because I didn’t think I could sell that many and I started the brand with no money. Read more>>

Jo Martin

After a 30-year corporate career, I was asked to tutor GED subjects at the local Detention Center. My first thought was not just no but, “oh hell no,” but I agreed. After tutoring for 3 years and seeing so many young people with offensive or racially motivated face, neck, and hand tattoos, I thought maybe I could help. I was introduced to Fr. Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries in LA, CA. and he invited me to come to California to tour the operation. I flew to California, and he told me to go back to KY and start. Read more>>

Justin Livingston

Justin and Janet met as co-workers at another agency and after five years, decided to start Reflektions Ltd. in 2014, focusing on residential supports for individuals with developmental disabilities. Over the past several years we have been fortunate to serve many amazing individuals and employ talented direct support professionals, many of which are still with the agency today. In the beginning, things were strange. The certification process took longer than anticipated, and we were operating out of my apartment on Griswold St. However, we quickly had our first individual that was interested in working with us; someone that Janet and I had worked with previously and that I had known since high school. Read more>>

Dr. Bidisha Nag

Dr. Bidisha Nag, founder, owner, and instructor at Create Your Curry draws inspiration from her family and friends and from her diverse and interesting life experiences. Her love for food, travel, and culture developed as a child when she often sailed with her marine engineer father, mother, and sister to faraway lands. It also came from her family, where radical hospitality was practiced, and everyone—friends, family, and strangers—were welcomed with open arms. Read more>>

Maximus Meadowcroft

I started my business because I wanted to grow an Instagram and combine that with traveling. Initially, I also had a program that I made that automatically generated posts that I was using. More recently, I have been transitioning my business into a clothing brand. There have some struggles. Figuring out an identity for my brand is one of them. There are probably a lot more struggles to come, but I try my best to always embrace struggle. Read more>>

Markeya Lawson

Hello, my name is Markeya Lawson, I am a mother of three, a Registered Nurse, and an entrepreneur. I am the owner and founder of HiEND Styles. I recently opened the boutique 7-1-22 @ 930 Kenmore Blvd Akron, Ohio 44314, inside my sister Markesha Lawson’s beauty salon called Beauty By Law Salon and Spa. My sister and I always wanted to work together to collaborate and help women feel beautiful inside and out. I am blessed to be able to be a part of this amazing journey, being that my sister is allowing me to have this space to fulfill my passion and dream! Read more>>

Shannon Parkevich

I started my small business back in 2017 when I quit my job. I wasn’t happy and was struggling with anxiety. So, I started making skincare items and bath bombs out of my house and they started to sell really well! I did that for a few years, but it took up a lot of space in my home and I kind of moved on from that and just mainly made badge reels and other small items. The pandemic hit us, and I had a lot more time at home to work on my small business. Read more>>

Alfredo Ponce

I am an Artist. As a child, I dreamed of becoming an artist. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the talent. I, however, was fortunate to have the desire to tell stories with images. My dream was deferred for many reasons, but as the saying goes, I didn’t know it was a seed. Many decades later, I was writing my dissertation at USC; I needed an escape from reading and writing. I had also developed a fascination of technology. Read more>>

Scott Burnett

“Super Scoops Ice Cream is located in Centerville, Ohio. We are a family- and veteran-owned small business, and we pride ourselves on providing fresh, homemade artisan ice cream, unlimited mix-ins on cold marble, and unmatched friendly customer service. We started this business venture as a potential retirement venture and have never looked back! We get to meet the great people in our community and share stories with them about our little ice cream shop. We’ve taken customer service to an all-new level! Read more>>

Ryan Crispen

I started skating young around 8 or 9. For years a skateboard was just a toy that we had laying around the house one day my father randomly jumped on it and did an ollie and I fell in love right then and there. I can actually remember the set and settings of the whole thing like it was yesterday lol… from that young age up until young adulthood (early 20s) when I had my first child it was my biggest obsession and biggest love, I didn’t care about much else… Read more>>

Jose Byers

My journey started off in the fitness field. I was a personal trainer for 6 years, earning two personal trainer certifications (ISSA and AFFA)—I started bodybuilding in 2008 and competed in the ONBF (Ohio Natural Bodybuilding Federation) from 2009-2010.In 2008 I also joined my local church theater team called the (Grape Nut Players). There I did theater for about 7 years and got bit by the acting bug. In 2009 I signed with Heyman Talent Agency and started doing commercials, print ads and landed a couple movie roles in (Captain America the Winter Solider) & (I Am Wrath). Read more>>

Indigo Hippo

Indigo Hippo opened in March of 2016 with the purpose of fostering creativity in our community, making creative materials accessible to all, and keeping incredible, usable materials out of the waste stream through our thrift-store-for-art-supplies. We provide a connecting point where people can bring items they don’t need or want anymore, and other folks in our community can give them a second life. This keeps amazing materials from adding to the landfill and gets them into the hands of those who can use them, for a much lower price than traditional arts and crafts stores. Read more>>

Jen Daniels

I started baking in college and taking items to work – cookies, cakes, chocolate-covered fruit, and the like. I got more into cake baking and decorating after I had my child 12 years ago. I loved making cakes for him and family and friends. I didn’t sell anything at the time other than a few cakes here and there. When we moved back to Ohio, I started sugar cookie decorating and had interest from friends who thought I should sell them. So, I started my business! Read more>>

Necole Sykes

Oct 202o I was in Richmond visiting my dad when I realized they didn’t have many plant shops (not nursery). I asked my dad to open one with me he said no! Stepmom said open the store. Nov 2020 found a location and moved into Airbnb for couple months. Opened on Dec 22, 2020. Store was wonderful! Ran into some obstacles with Brokers and staffing. Family member was terminally I’ll, and I left to spend time with her. Read more>>

Elya Myers

I’ve been a hairdresser since high school and work at the Urban Loft Salon in Miamisburg. When Covid hit and we got shut down and couldn’t work for 8 weeks I decided it was time to learn my camera I had bought when I had my last daughter. I instantly became addicted to learning everything I could possibly learn about the field. I started just taking pictures of my three girls and my family. Then in September of 2020, I had a few families ask for pictures, so I decided to make it a side gig. January of 2021 was when I captured my first paid newborn and absolutely fell in love with newborn photography. Read more>>

Alex Gibbons

After a spur-of-the-moment trip to Miami, Florida in April of 2017, I fell in love with tropical plants. When I returned to Ohio, I set out to all the local nurseries on the search for large tropical plants for my own garden. Unfortunately, I came up empty-handed. After ordering my first shipment of large tropical plants in for myself, it wasn’t long until neighbors and people just driving by were stopping and asking where I purchased them. I knew I was onto something. Read more>>

Corinne & Ryan Martin

I started my path in graphic design in high school. I’ve always had a passion for digital arts. After high school, I attended Virginia Marti College of Art and Design, now known as The North Coast College, to pursue my dream of becoming a graphic designer. After college, I landed a job as a graphic designer in the corporate world, where I am currently the senior graphic designer. However, the tasks are more structured, and there is little room for creativity or personal expression. Fast forward to the pandemic, where working from home allowed me the motivation to start working on personal designs. Read more>>

Celli Villarreal

My journey began when I fell in love with makeup artistry at 12 years old. Although I was always in honors classes and felt like I was supposed to go to med school, I decided to actually study fashion at Bowling Green State University. I absolutely LOVED the program; however, I was young and in a toxic romantic relationship, so I felt that I needed a fresh start once the relationship ended. I decided to withdraw from college my second semester and move to Columbus, OH, where I enrolled in beauty school at the Aveda Institute. Read more>>

Noah Smith

I started falling in love with songwriting in the 8th grade. We had a really cool language arts teacher that encouraged us to do “free” writes. It didn’t matter what you were writing as long as you were writing. For a creative kid like me, that was fuel on my creative fire. From there I started hanging out with pals and picked up my best friend’s electric guitar. I’d learn a couple chords and write a song that night. Basically, I just never stopped doing that all the way through high school. Read more>>

Jennifer Finn

I initially got started by responding to an ad on craigslist.com that was hiring for an event manager. The job was to host and run events for a craft events company. When I first started the position, I didn’t realize that I would actually be the one in front of the audience, which is not something that I like to do at the time. At this point, I had already invested $4000 in supplies so I decided I would at least do it until I had made my money back.  Read more>>

Rene Romano

I started 25 years ago working for The Associated Press as a freelancer and Major League Soccer as the first ever official stringer, reporter, and beat writer for the Los Angeles Galaxy and the League. I am a Guatemalan journalist, National Columnist, critic, and radio personality known for my efforts and 25-plus years’ experience in sports and entertainment coverage in the United States. Read more>>

Alysson Davis

Brian’s oldest son, my step-son, Nolan, was interested in skateboarding around the age of 7. Brian got him a complete (read-to-go skateboard) from Amazon, just as a test board. He totally destroyed it in like a week. Almost immediately after that, Brian and Nolan realized they needed to find a local skate shop to get the real deal. They went to one about 30 mins away (that was the closest), and Nolan got a Powell-Peralta complete. At this point, we knew he was committed and wanted to encourage him. Read more>>

Omar Zehery

Music has always meant community for me since I was a kid. When I first picked up a guitar at age 12, I couldn’t wait to connect with other musicians who shared the same love of music I was into. In 2003, I formed a band called Hit The Lights comprised of friends I had grown up playing music with. We self-booked, self-managed, and self-released our own material and within a few years of our formation, we were able to release records with worldwide distribution, extensively tour the US and overseas and work closely with established producers songwriters, and engineers that we had admired for years. Read more>>

Sausha Parham

Hello All, my name is Sausha Parham. I am the Owner/Creator of Trap Natural LTD. It is a premium rolling paper brand. Our papers are all natural and plant based. They’re Vegan and made from Hemp only and that is a few things that set us apart. I consider it to be a luxury smoking company. It is really funny b/c I came up w/ the name “Trap Natural” long before I even knew what I would do w/ it. Read more>>

Alex Davis

I started Glamour Revival back in October 2021 out of a desire to own my own boutique and bring clothing I loved to the market. I quickly learned that just because I loved it, it was not enough. After many courses and time, I discovered my real strength was encouraging women to live their best luxury life by bringing them classy and sophisticated clothing that made them feel confident and ready to take on the world. Read more>>

Rosina Luca

I always knew I wanted to be in the beauty industry. It all started with my cousin who I admired as a hairstylist. Then there was my brother, who decided he was going to cut hair for the wrestling team before meets in high school & now cuts hair professionally. Some things have always just come naturally to me such as envisioning a fresh haircut, haircolor, or makeup colors on others. Read more>>

LaTasha Coleman

I’ve been bartending on and off since 2008, so making a good cocktail while giving great customer service has always been easy for me. I knew I wanted to do more, but the idea of starting a mobile bartending service didn’t click until Covid 19!!! Living in a pandemic was very rough for me in the beginning because I’ve always been a family-oriented person! I love to entertain and spend time with my loved ones, so when everything shut down, I literally could not wait to have some type of party. Read more>>

Dr. Faith Swartzendruber

My journey has not been linear. I think that I always knew that I wanted to be a chiropractor, but as I graduated from high school in the early 2000s, the path to living your dream wasn’t as clear as it is for women today. I went into college not really feeling like I had the right answers for my life, but knowing that this is what we do: we go to college. It wasn’t until my twin sister was working on making activities for her classroom that I decided to pursue a degree in elementary education. Read more>>

Kaitlin Schoenman

Yeah! So, my interest in fashion and clothing started at a very young age. I would spend hours at night picking out my outfit for school the next day and would always style my sister and friends when I got the chance. When I was in high school, Pinterest became extremely popular, and I would spend hours pinning outfit inspiration. I started seeing the same girls over and over again and eventually figured out these girls had a website where they would post their outfits, as well as other things they were loving, and called this a blog. Read more>>

Danielle Goodman

After seeing the treatment of garment workers following the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in 2013. I no longer felt good in the clothing I was wearing if it was causing pain and sadness to the people who made them. Realizing many of the brands, I wore used that very factory in Bangladesh I started my own ethical journey. I began by only purchasing brands made in the USA but learned that there are also unethical sweatshops in the United States. Read more>>

DeDe Bailey

I am a multi-passionate entrepreneur specializing in all things in and around the home. I started my journey working in retail for 22 years. I began to love all things home decor while working and managing the home lines for JCPenney. I learned about home textiles, window treatments, and much more over the 22 years. I began my entrepreneur career in 2012 by starting a DIY and home decor website, Designeddecor.com. On my website, I teach others how to DIY, decorate and paint their way to a home they love, all on a thrift store budget. Read more>>

Maddie Kaeser

Polymer clay came to me during a time that I needed an outlet the most. Funnily enough, I was terrible with clay in high school and college, but planning a wedding during the pandemic and having an overwhelming caseload as a school-based Case Manager, I needed something to do with my hands. I would get finished with work and play with clay until three in the morning. Everything about it was so therapeutic, and my creativity just took off. My first art medium was painting, and clay was like that in 3D form. Read more>>

Mollie Crowe

Well my story as a photographer really began on my 17th birthday, when I received my first point-and-shoot camera from my parents. As an introverted teenager in the early 2000s, music and photography were my avenues to connect with the world around me. So, what started out as taking candid photos of my friends and the world around me, eventually evolved into taking photos of the underground music scene. Read more>>

Syeda Abbas

Syeda Abbas came to this country as a child that spoke little to no English. That didn’t stop her from dreaming. Abbas knew she wanted to be someone that could help others. She decided to become a journalist. A controversial decision in the South Asian community. But the road was full of obstacles. Many highs & lows. Growing up she didn’t see any Pakistani or South Asian representation on tv. She was determined to change that. Read more>>

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>>

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