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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.

Michael Beacham

I grew up spending most of my free time in the outdoors. Hunting, fishing, foraging, and hiking were all a part of the repertoire. It has translated into my podcast and outdoor media company, Mountain and Marsh. We do podcasts and video work on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. It has been a struggle at times chasing a dream. I have spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of media development. From recording and editing to quality control and social media growth tactics. There’s nothing easy about learning a whole new world. The end results and little wins make it worth it. Read more>>

Mary Hunt

As a child and teen, I never connected with the education community I was a part of – it was boring, didn’t challenge me, and most importantly, it made me feel stupid and not worthy. This reflected in my young adult stage; jobs were just that, jobs: a means to get money to pay the bills. My life stopped when I walked into a job and started when I left. On my off time, I spent hours thinking and talking about humanity and being creative. That being said, I did not excel in art or creative programs in school; they had so many rules and never allowed me to create what I wanted. Read more>>

Courtney Irby

Career-wise, my career is somewhat straightforward. I worked as a kid towards drawing my favorite Cartoons/Anime I saw on TV. From drawing Kim Possible and Courage the Cowardly Dog or Gundam Seed and Dragon Ball Z, I was incredibly inspired by childhood to learn to draw. This caught the interest of an art teacher, and she recommended I join an Art Program at the school. This was around 4th grade of school. From that point forward, I’d been in multiple Art Programs, from Elementary to High School. Read more>>

Nicole Feilon

I was born and raised on my family farm in Knox County, Ohio, where we raised sheep and cattle and ran a grain farming operation. I grew up participating in 4H and FFA and showed broiler chickens and market hogs at the Knox County Fair. In the 6th Grade, during career exploration day, I found what I was certain would be the career path I would choose, a lawyer. After graduating from Fredericktown High School, I began the pursuit of making my childhood dream a reality. I began my journey at the Mount Vernon Nazarene University, where I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Philosophy Pre-Law. Read more>>

Lana Amawi

Lana Amawi, MSSA, LISW-S, has over 25 years of experience in mental health across various multidisciplinary settings as well as clinical research. Lana is an Ohio state licensed Clinical Therapist and Social Worker who has been working in private practice for the last 15 years. Psychological Counseling Solutions was established in 2008, and more recently Coaching & Consultation Solutions. One of Lana’s niche populations are the medical and dental healthcare warriors around the world. Lana’s multicultural experiences and fluency in Arabic helped start her career at the Menninger Clinic (Topeka, KS), followed by Henry Ford Behavioral Health and Arab American & Chaldean Council (both in Detroit). Read more>>

Kristi Young

I have always had a strong admiration for the creative. Learning new things is something that I especially have an affliction for. I love trying my hand at various artistic and crafty endeavors from painting to sewing, drawing to interior design and photography. Anything that I have tried, I have felt that I have been decent at, but I never felt it was ever something that I developed a passion for. One Christmas, my mother, husband (Jason), and I travelled to Florida to spend the holidays with family. We happened upon a local market and there was a small display selling handcrafted soap. Read more>>

Hamed Hamad

After my father passed away in 2013, I wanted to honor his legacy in the food industry. My father’s most popular items on his menu was Falafel, and it was the only recipe that I had of his. In 2018, I decided to start my company in Los Angeles and participated in several farmers’ markets in the city. Once Covid hit, the business climate in LA was uncertain, and getting my product into stores was almost impossible. In 2020, I decided to redo my company in Cleveland, which is where my father’s catering business started in the ’80s. Read more>>

Theresa Kehrer

I’ve always enjoyed going to garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores to find unique items to decorate with. Over the years, I acquired a lot, and my husband wanted his family room back, so I went to the local Antique Mall, and they just happened to have a booth open up. And so, the fun began! I have since opened up another booth at a local consignment home interior store for my newer home decor and furniture items and a Showcase for my jewelry and other high-dollar items at the antique mall. I also attend several events throughout the year and promote my booths and social media pages. Read more>>

Stephanie Layne

I’ve been studying and practicing herbalism for over a decade. It began with a desire to take control over my own health but then blossomed into teaching and creating health support for others. I created Thistle Bee Tea Co. not only to help others connect with nature and support their own health but also to assist in connecting others with their own ancestral knowledge. Plants as food and medicine spans every culture. Plants were here long before us and have provided for all of our ancestors for centuries. I feel that it is time for us to give back, which is why Thistle Bee Tea Co. is dedicated to regenerating roots through ancestral-inspired herbal creations and guidance. Read more>>

Pj Mulford

Since I could pick up a crayon, I have had the encouragement to be creative from my family members, Art teachers, and being a former Girl Scout. I lost my job due to the pandemic, and I decided to start profiting my art back in April of 2020, selling custom paintings on canvases I had lying around my apartment. Prismatic Projectz was officially established in May of 2020, and I made the decision that I would sell my mixed media creations through Facebook and Instagram. I officially started my vending journey in August of 2020, and since then, I have been enjoying every step of the way! Read more>>

Lisa Davey

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Asthma. After many tests to determine what triggered asthma attacks, it was determined that cleaning products, scented candles, perfumes, etc. along with many other products containing fragrance oils were the cause of my breathing problems. I began researching alternative products to use in our home and on our body to relieve the asthma problems I was having. I was introduced to essential oils, and that is where the journey began. I started researching pure essential oils to use and then began finding ways to create everyday products with natural ingredients that my husband & I use… Read more>>

Erin Johnson

My name is Erin Johnson. I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember. I am an Ohio girl, born and raised in the suburbs of Columbus. I am mama to Kole (22), Lanee (21), Abbie (16) & Brody (14). Although they make me pull out my hair, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My husband, Sean, is a patient guy. Lucky for me because my creative mess often takes over. In 2002, I began to teach papercrafting and worked as a designer for several scrapbook companies/magazines. I’ve even designed and written my own idea book. Read more>>

Kirby & Cindy Gaboury

Visitors have called Audio Etc…’s Design Center a hidden gem, a destination place, and a fun place to take your father for Father’s Day. Some have even said that they felt like they were walking through a glorious home, completely forgetting that it was a store. You will walk up to the door hearing beautiful music hidden in the landscaping and will be greeted by a lovely team member who will invite you to the beautiful kitchen for a beverage and a snack. In 1984, Kirby & Cindy Gaboury (within a 5-month timeframe) got married, graduated from college, and started their own company they named Audio Etc… Read more>>

Boo Lee Crosser

Freight street started as a band back in 2017. Before that, we were all just friends. We helped write together and “jammed” together pretty often. The first integration of the band came as a three-piece between Flannery, myself, and Devonte. They had previously helped me record the title track on a solo record called “New Beford” that I had been working on. I loved the experience of playing with them and wanted to recreate that sound in a performance environment. After a few shows in cigar shop, oddly enough, Devonte broached the idea of us asking J.P to play the drums with us. Read more>>

David Rivera

The Hood Squad 216 was Founded in 2020 with the intentions of bringing hot showers and food to the homeless communities around Northeast Ohio. What does Hood squad 216 mean, you’re asking? It means (H)elping (O)ur (O)wn (D)evelopments (S)peak e(Q)uality (U)plift the youth (A)ccomplish goals & (D)ecisions and 216 is our area code. Our mission is to empower. In 2014 I was homeless due to a divorce and use to wash up in fast food restaurant bathrooms it was the lowest time of my life. Read more>>

Mollia Zezzo

Briefly, Follow the son’s mission is to raise money to donate straight back into local non-profit organizations truly making an impact on their community. In other word, we are an apparel company on mission. Unlike most, from day 1 have been eager to sell our faith-based apparel and donate the profits to nonprofit organizations making a difference to those in their community. I started up FTS in December of 2018 when I was 17 years old and a senior in high school. I had no idea where the business would take me or how much it would grow. Today, I am now 21 years ago, and the business has nearly tripled since a few years ago. Read more>>

Smith Taylor

I started playing at bars and restaurants when I was in college. I’d find a corner with my guitar with or without an accompanying PA system and play covers mixed in with some originals. At a certain point, I wanted more gratification from performances. I started attending local shows at the Euclid Tavern Happy Dog and Beachland Ballroom, and from there, I knew that what I was missing was a band. It took about a year and some change to get a solid group of people together, I asked around for recommendations from players here and there, AND I searched craigslist all day and night… Read more>>

Nyoka Ward

I’ve been modeling since I was about 11 years old, starting with professional acting and modeling classes with JRP (John Robert Powers). I didn’t come from the most fortunate family, and we couldn’t take my auditions out of state with 5+ children in the home. So, through my childhood, I would take countless selfies, put on fashion shows for my parents, and even design clothes for my life-sized Barbie with my Bratz doll sewing machine. Once I was 18, I took matters into my own hands and I began freelance modeling, working with amazing photographers and being able to meet so many new models and performers! Read more>>

Ed Dixon

The art gallery was created from a desire to see the artwork that specifically interested me in a space that was comfortable and inviting everyone. That desire turned into a quest to create that space myself. Without any real experience in the art business, I could have told myself I wasn’t up to the challenge. I wasn’t willing to just let the idea go, however, and didn’t allow myself to be talked out of it, not even due to my own thoughts or concerns. In 2016, the journey began in earnest, and by early 2017 I had secured a lease on 1400 sqft space that was ready for me to renovate and turn into my art gallery. In September of that year, the gallery opened with mostly my own art on the walls with a few pieces on consignment from local artists. Read more>>

Melissa Lewis

I am not from Cincinnati. I grew up in Connecticut and relocated to Cincinnati to marry my high school sweetheart. When you live on the East Coast so close to New York, many have the idea that the Mid West is all just farmland and that there isn’t much to do. In addition, my husband, as someone born and raised here, he had always felt like there wasn’t anything to do. For me, I had just moved to a brand-new state, and I wanted see, taste, and do everything to get to know my new city! That eagerness to take it all in has helped me to get to know and truly love Cincinnati and to make it feel like home to me. Read more>>

Ashley Baverman

Ever since I can remember I had a love for art. Growing up, I was always coloring, crafting, building, watching craft videos, and taking extra art classes. In high school, all of my electives were art, and that is where I fell in love with photography and the dark room. My love for the darkroom turned digital, and I started enjoying my time in front of the computer and learning photoshop. Something I never thought I would enjoy. The thought of a “desk job” was terrible, but now it is art. I started working for various photography companies, and it was never all hands-on. Read more>>

Paul Sains

Insain Fitness started 2020 in the midst of the pandemic and after I was fired from my recruiting job. I was let go with 45% of the company due to Covid, and I started receiving unemployment. I instantly had the feeling I will not work for anyone else. I just could not let my livelihood be in the hands of another person/company. I had two friends hit me up and told me, “You should train people and call your business Insain.” They told me the spelling of “Insain” would resemble my work ethic in training, life, and my last name being Sains. Read more>>

Kayla Feagin

My story begins in my birthplace of Mansfield, OH, where I was born to a loving and motivated family. I grew up in Mansfield around lots of family, spending the summers with my grandparents learning about financial literacy from my grandfather every chance he got to teach me. My grandfather Lawrence “Papa” Feagin was an entrepreneur all of my life, owning a trucking company and serving Mansfield, OH, and other surrounding cities. He taught me about saving money, using credit, and the harmful effects of borrowing money without paying it back. Papa never let me go with having at least $20 in my pocket. Read more>>

Mark Miller

My wife Debbie and I (Mark) met in the Mid ’90s. I was recently out of the US NAVY, Debbie was an entrepreneur in Ohio, owning a costume shop, and performing as (SPITUNIA THE CLOWN)  I was working at a magic shop in Florida.  We met at a magic and clown seminar in Ohio.  And the rest, as you say, is history.  We currently have been in business over 25 years, owning 2 retail costume and magic shops.  At first, we did have our struggles, as most young business owners endure. However, through hard work and commitment, we have thrived, and we continue to grow. Read more>>

Kendrea Steward

While working in Corporate America, I had a strong desire to write a book. I had the desire but not really the time nor the expertise. I remember multiple Pastors and Prophets told me I am called to write a book. When I left Corporate America, the desire became very intense to the point where I reached out to a Book Publisher. A year later, I became determined that I was going to fulfill my calling as an author. I connected with the same company and moved forward with writing and publishing my first book. Afterwards, I self-published my second book, and the desire to become a Book Publisher was planted in my heart. Read more>>

Megan D

I started crocheting in 2018 as a hobby, Covid shut my full-time job down in 2020, and that’s when KnotMadMakery fully took off! Every new adventure presents its own unique challenges, and starting a crochet business was definitely not exempt from that. Textile arts are such a specific and time-consuming medium that my biggest challenge in the beginning was making something that was different than the Afghan on your grandma’s couch. Standing out on Etsy, a largely oversaturated platform was another huge struggle, but once I started designing and adding stickers it really diversified my customer base! Read more>>

Matt Bogard

I started my photography journey about 5 years ago, I had just moved back to Cleveland from San Francisco and knew I wanted to pursue photography at a higher level. I remember buying my first camera and really not knowing what I was doing with it, it took a lot of practice and patience to fully understand the range of what you can accomplish with modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras. I wanted to push myself and try to get photos like some of the folks in the scene that I really look up to like Jimmy Chin or Chris Burkard. From there I think my own style really took off. Read more>>

Rick Barr

I can thank my dad for getting me started with music. He played and sang a lot when my sister and I were kids. When I declared, at age nine, that I wanted a guitar, my parents told me I had to wait until I was 12. It was a long wait, but sure enough, I received an Odessa acoustic guitar for my 12th birthday. That evening, my dad taught me to play “Last Train To Clarksville” by The Monkees and “For Your Love” by The Yardbirds. I took lessons briefly, and my guitar teacher, a 20-year-old named Tom Tussing, taught me all sorts of great songs that I didn’t know because I was still just getting into music and hadn’t delved into my parent’s record collection very much. Read more>>

Bil Tipton

I’ve made art in different styles and forms for as long as I can remember. My Mom took college art classes during my childhood, and I watched her create all sorts of projects that inspired me to do the same. She supported my love of art by buying supplies for me and encouraging me to cover the walls of my bedroom in Sharpie drawings (my father was not as happy about this). Most of my early inspiration came from characters in the cartoons I watched, and I spent a lot of time drawing while I was bored and during classes in school. Read more>>

Katie Jensen

UpSpring is a reputable organization that has served children experiencing homelessness in Greater Cincinnati for over 24 years. UpSpring was founded in 1998 as the Project Connect Homeless Children’s Fund with a mission to support the important work of Project Connect within Cincinnati Public Schools. When UpSpring began managing a summer camp alongside Project Connect, we changed our name to “Faces Without Places.” Ultimately, we became our own 501(c)3 and continued to expand our reach and services. Read more>>

Artra Edwards

“Well, it all started at the tender age of…” that’s how all stories start, right! Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, my mom would have me in the shop as a baby while she was doing hair, then we had a salon in our house. Clients would come there and get fabulous for the week. We still run into her old clients and friends saying they remember when I was a baby in the shop while they got their hair done. I remember every Saturday getting my hair pressed out for Sunday, it was a weekly routine. Fast forward to middle school, started doing my own hair, then doing my friends. Read more>>

Hailey Karcic

From a very young age, I learned to love taking pictures and videos. My Nagymama (that means grandmother in Hungarian) would always make little home videos of my cousins and I on VHS tapes. She passed away the summer before I went into second grade. It has been really difficult growing up without her in my life, and I am so thankful for all of the memories she was able to capture on her camera. I believe growing up in front of the camera is what inspired me to want to make videos and take pictures throughout my life. Read more>>

Alexandria and Autumn Dykes

Since we were 1, we have enjoyed crafting and being creative together, from painting to jewelry and more. For years we watched our mom make crafty creations for her company, and we would often help to make bracelets. Years later, we told our mom that it would be fun if we had our own company. Our mom said that after much thought and planning, she decided to create the Lynnee Twins, LLC. so that we can use our skills and talents to help create a better future for ourselves. It allows us to build confidence, learn about business and personal finance, network, and have fun. Read more>>

Zuri Greer

We started Persona Custom Clothiers in 2012. It was a secondary business for myself and my business partner, Derrick Robinson. At the time, both of our primary business endeavors was in the financial industry. However, due to government changes in that Business, slowly but surely, the secondary business became our primary business. Originally the business was a storefront in our hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, but due to that marketplace and the location we had in the city, it was not a good fit. At that point, Robinson relocated to Dallas and set up shop there, and I brought the business to Columbus. Read more>>

Michael Pietrangelo

I guess music has always been of interest to me. I purchased a guitar from a music store in my late teens and played around with it on and off for several years. It wasn’t until my late 20’s early 30’s I started getting more serious about it. By that, I mean spending more time teaching myself how to play. This was about the time that the internet was becoming very prevalent, and it opened up many sources to learn from. I sort of latched on to two songs. “Drive” by Incubus and “Two Steps Behind” by Def Leppard. I was able to figure out how to play those two songs, and from there, it was just learning one song after the next. Read more>>

Daniel Lartey

Basically, I started playing tennis as kid back home in Ghana 🇬🇭 and fell in love with the sport. I played professionally for few years but with injuries and getting older, I decided to become a coach. I honestly, it’s been a smooth journey, and very blessed and grateful to have this as a career and hobby as well. The tennis industry has always been stronger except during the Covid years it’s been very tough but after that more and more people are playing the sport because people wanted to try new sport and exercise as well. Read more>>

Paris Adrian

I have always been good at drawing the likeness of people and cartooning, so eventually, caricatures found its way to me. I remember drawing a random person one day at Starbucks, and people noticed as they looked over my shoulder watching. I posted it to Facebook, then suddenly, people wanted to get theirs done. Once I realized there was a way to make money drawing cartoons, I quit my day job and never looked back. No, of course not. To be good at anything, you have to be bad at it at first. It’s very similar to standup comedy actually. Read more>>

Jenna Giannios

As early as I can remember, my dream was to be a photographer, specifically a photographer for National Geographic. I always had a camera and a passion for taking photos. In high school, I learned all about film photography and then eventually found my way to digital photography. I took a few classes to learn as much as I could about my camera and began photographing professionally in 2016 when I opened A Glimpse of Forever Images. While friends and family have been a huge support in growing my business, the pandemic and the obstacles that came along with Covid made business difficult for a couple years. Read more>>

Amanda Tamburello

Growing up, my passion was horses. I began riding at age 10, moving rapidly through the levels to become a student and competitor under Olympic coach guidance. Dedicating myself to the sport brought me to running my own business of coaching students and training horses. I traveled around the East coast competing only to end up in Florida where racehorses taught me another lesson in life. I soon began riding for a highly ranked Thoroughbred trainer. I was trusted to ride his top horses, and with encouragement from a Hall of Fame Jockey, I soon carried my own jockey license and began competing in thoroughbred racing. Read more>>

Kam Cooper

It’s always been a hobby of mine to give people something they want to watch. I love spreading love and positive vibes. Social media gives me a chance to express that to those from a far. Struggles definitely included not knowing what to post. Something I specialize in is writing and making music. Music gives me an outlet to let out my feelings whether they’re good or bad, and let others hear my voice. I am proud of this because this became a new loved hobby after football. I define success as one’s right to chase their dreams. Success can be defined in many ways, but true success comes from ones feeling of accomplishment. Read more>>

Kristen Fotta

I have always loved looking back at family pictures and seeing the stories they told, especially old pictures of my grandfather as a baby. I felt lucky to have a glimpse into his life long ago which naturally led me to love taking pictures of my own family and others so they could have the same heirlooms to pass down as well. Yes and no. It has been smooth, but it has also been a slow and steady climb. I never thought of photography as being my career, but sometimes life takes you places you didn’t expect. What started as a side job has slowly grown and has now turned into a full time job that I love! Read more>>

Olivia Weinstock

Growing up, I loved kids and couldn’t wait to be old enough to officially become a babysitter. I started to kickstart the process by starting a camp in my backyard at the age of 10. My little sisters and her friends were our first campers and each year, the camp grew. By the end of high school, we had over 100 kids running around in my backyard each summer. Alongside learning to manage the chaos of 100 preschool-aged kids, this camp helped me to build a trusted network of families in my community. Read more>>

Donte Harmon

AKA “HonorRoll” I fell in love with creating music in the 90’s, by the time I got to high school I was no longer interested in what school had to offer me. A close friend of mine next door had a keyboard that I’d produce music on, but gaining access to use it when I desired became a hassle. So I built a studio of my own, and formed an alliance of artist. I wrote and released my first project titled “Final Chapter Vol.1” in March of 2002. By this time I had already produced well over 15 album’s for a numerous amount of artist. 2004 I had got into a little trouble, but I managed to create some positive out of the negatives. I had got my GED through a first time offender program I was in. Read more>>

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