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Raleigh’s Most Inspiring Stories

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.

Arielle Schechter

Sustainable design combining elegance and livability, homes designed by architect Arielle Condoret Schechter command attention with long, clean lines and seamless integration into the environment. Her design inspiration comes from a vast pool of experience and travel to Europe, Scandinavia, and Japan, and those experiences have empowered her to be bold and push boundaries. Born in Algeria, Arielle credits her parents for passing on a love of the arts which led her to study at the Juilliard School followed by architecture school in NC. Her North Carolina-based firm and the designs she produces are a testament to her rich background and appreciation for a wide variety of cultures and arts. Read more>>

Brit Guerin

A big part of my story began as an athlete in college. While I have very positive memories and lessons from that time in my life, I also remember a major struggle with my body image. Tennis practice and sports conditioning were both to improve performance AND lose weight. I know now that these two goals are in direct conflict with one another. How could I fuel my body properly for my sport while also limit my intake to lose weight? At the time, I didn’t have this question to ponder. Read More>>

Hunter Hall

I grew up taking hikes with my dad and spending a lot of time outside in the WNC Mountains, in Brevard, NC. My dad is a wildlife biologist and forester, so naturally our time together included long, confusing, Latin words for plants and animals and conversations about indigenous and invasive species. His passion for the environment led me to a life-long interest in preserving our incredible public lands and the special ecosystems within them. On the other hand, I’m a creative graphic designer with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. I started my first “business” when I was 14, selling random things from my house on eBay. As you can predict, that did not turn out too well when I told my parents I had sold our music speakers without their permission. Since then, I’ve been more focused and intentional with my endeavors. I had a yard business with one of my good friends for a summer until we realized we didn’t want to do labor intensive work every day. I also started a social media advertising company and realized that business model did not fit my strengths as a person. All of this to say, my failures have led me to my successes. Read more>>

Chris Frosaker

Prior to starting Hi-Wire Brewing, I was a retail pharmacist at a large pharmacy chain. Unhappy with the profits before healthcare model of this business, I pursued purchasing a small Asheville-based brewery which was going out of business. At this time, my business partner and longtime friend, Adam Charnack, was working for a small company in Asheville which worked to develop affordable housing. They went out of business on his 30th birthday, and we quickly joined together in the pursuit to open a new brewery. Our initial business plan focused on two main products which were missing in the local beer scene at the time: making lagers and packing beer into six packs for grocery store distribution, which obviously is now widespread, but was rare at the time, especially for a brewery right out of the gate as they open. After opening in the summer of 2013, this simple business plan worked, necessitating us to build a new production brewery in 2015.  Read more>>

Shame Gang

I started doing music back in 2012 seriously but always wrote music and poetry when I was a kid in my teens. I was injured by a work accident in 2012 and that’s when I started to focus more on the music side. I had a total of 9 surgeries to the lower parts of my legs. I got to where I’m at today when I officially moved to NC in 2015. I started out doing open mics and showcases around the cities and building my name up the old fashion way until I created a buzz. Since then I have toured many states alongside Wutang Clan, Bone Thugs and Harmony, Conway The Machine, The Lox and Slum Village. Released my sophomore album No Safe Haven and got to work with many musical legends along the way. Read more>>

John Eklund

Growing up, my parent’s marriage fell apart when I was 10 or 11 despite both of them becoming Christians. Unfortunately, it was, in fact, the church they were attending that may have been the greatest contributor to their marriage failing. The pastor they were following was caught having an affair, and suddenly nothing made sense to either of them. My mom left my dad and was remarried and suddenly nothing made sense to me and my 3 siblings either. I tried to find a new normal, tried to find level ground amidst constantly shifting environments, but after several moves, a second divorce by my mother, and then multiple boyfriends in and out of our apartments, duplexes, rental houses, I fell into a depression that started in late grade-school and lasted until early high school. My dad had remarried and had a son – they seemed to be his “new family”, and though he stayed strong in his Christian faith, I felt rejected and abandoned by him. Read more>>

Crystal Felder

Honestly, this whole journey started because I’m a mom and trying to find a gig that makes sense financially and lines up with a crazy kid schedule, is hard! After being a stay at home mom for years, I was ready to find myself again. I never felt pushed to go back to work. But I did feel that tug, to have something of my “own”. My twins were getting ready to start elementary school and I knew I would have some extra time to make that happen. So I started brainstorming ideas that would mesh well with our chaotic life. Well, while it was a process for me… My friends and family knew right away, what I needed to do. REFINISH FURNITURE! I had dabbled in it here and there, over the years, and it was always enjoyable. So I thought.. Why not?!. Read more>>

Continuum Gallery

One could say that Continuum was a long time in the making. Born from the desire to create a space where non-traditional tattooing and art was celebrated, Continuum co-founders Katie Montes and Cody Reed were able to officially bring their vision to fruition in 2021. They worked together for five years in a local tattoo shop, scheming to create a space that could change the tattoo industry and allow them to work with world-class artists. Inspired by the Polynesian art of tattooing, where tattoos symbolize important rites of passage and have potential to empower others during transformational periods. Both wanted to create artwork that can serve as both a meaningful symbol and a beautiful ornamental piece. Unfortunately, according to Katie, “there are a lot of toxic elements to apprenticeships, and a culture of bullying, narcissism, disrespect and fear is often the norm.” That’s exactly the attitude they’re seeking to combat in Continuum. Read more>>

Autum Cobeland

I’ve been painting since childhood and got my degree in painting from Earlham College. I really enjoy traveling, and this greenway series of gouache paintings is a nod to my love of travel and my love of the out of doors. When I visited an exhibit of Henri Toulouse Lautrec at the NCMA, it inspired me to discover gouache as a means by which to imitate the flat color of lithography. I do enjoy layering watercolor, gouache and sometimes conte crayon as well. I grew up in Raleigh and enjoyed the park system here, but it wasn’t until I began training for a small triathlon that I discovered our amazing greenway. It is my “love note” to Raleigh to celebrate this wonderful trail. I will say that our trail does connect with so many neighbors, that by now my artwork has stretched to celebrate Cary, Garner, and Durham trails. Read more>>

Kendra Conyers

I have always had a passion for real estate! I remember working my 9-5 job, sitting in my cubicle, spending any free time I had online looking at houses for hours and hours. I never thought I could actually make a career out of real estate until I was passed up on yet another promotion at my job. This left me beyond frustrated because I was overly qualified, educated and I already did the job; I just wasn’t compensated appropriately. After that, I decided to take what money I had saved and give my passion of real estate a shot. I resigned from my job then went to real estate school where I learned the average realtor sells roughly 8-12 homes per year and in some cases it takes up to a year to sell your first home! Well I ended up selling 21 homes within my first 8 months of being licensed in real estate. I sold a total of 66 homes by my 2nd year anniversary. I was voted Top 5 Best Realtor in 2019 and made Top 100 North Carolina Realtors on social media in 2020. In September 2020, I was #7 in the State of North Carolina amongst ROG agents in real estate sales. Read more>>

Cynthia DSilva

I believe we all have a purpose and everyone is fighting a battle, so be Kind to each other. I am blessed with a supportive family – husband, son and my furry baby. We enjoy travelling and have travelled all over the globe (pre covid), meeting people and understanding diverse cultures and lifestyles. I love cooking, country music, tennis, gardening, kissing Dolphins and playing with stingrays. I also love helping out in the community, fundraising and donating to our local foodbanks. Read more>>

Amanda Byrd

And then one day my pain became my purpose. I knew it was only because of something bigger than me. I grew up an only child- living in a broken home with an addict father and a mother trying to hold it all together. I learned how to be a survivor but little did I know my wounds of childhood would one day catch up with me. I became a wife and mother myself- I focused on being what the world would call successful. At this particular time I was working from home for a large pharmaceutical company. I began to face many obstacles related to my parents and their health. The pain I never dealt with now was staring me in the face. This is when the trajectory of my life changed. I began going to Biblical Counseling to work on myself. The more I showed up, the more healing took place. The anger faded and I realized I didn’t really have control of anything but myself. And for the first time in my life I was okay with that. I began transforming from the inside out. Read more>>

Cameron Thompson

My journey into wedding photography was one unlike most! I was often intrigued by the art of photography and loved being behind the camera capturing candid moments of friends and family and would take obnoxious amounts of photos during family vacations. My aspirations of becoming a wedding photographer formed into a reality when I took the plunge of launching my business in 2015; however, I would say that my business really sky rocketed in 2017. As a bride myself, I was overly infatuated by my own wedding day experience and would constantly reiterate that it was “the best day EVER!” (so cliché!) Soon I realized that I could be part of everyone’s “Best Day Ever” as a career and at that point I knew I was hooked! I heavily invested in my photography career by seeking mentor based education, purchasing top of the line camera gear, launching my business social media platforms and prioritizing my client experience. Read more>>

Cathy Gomes

I am the founder and CEO of 700 Rivers. My family immigrated from Bangladesh to the USA right before I was born and I definitely grew up as a product of two cultures. When I was in college, I learned Bangladesh is a top country for human trafficking. In Bangladesh, thousands of women are stuck in human trafficking and remain stuck because they do not have an education or job skills to fall back on to financially support themselves. As a woman of Bangladeshi descent, this felt very personal to me. At the time, it seemed like such a large, multi-faceted issue that I wanted to help fight but it just seemed too big to tackle. It also seemed to have nothing to do with chemical engineering which I was studying so I had no idea how I would even approach the issue. Nonetheless, this fact never left my mind, even as I graduated college and “entered the real world”. Read more>>

Matt Tomko

I grew up fascinated with animals and the outdoors in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Nature has always been a passion for me so I started drawing as a way to keep some small part of it with me. As a child, I used to catch (and release) birds and small animals for the same reason. I had this little boy’s need to literally hold on to nature any way that I could. Now that I am older, experience has taught me that possessing it is less important than letting nature possess you. My art is still a way for me to hold on to nature, but instead of giving me something to literally embrace, my paintings instead provide me with all of the feelings and memories elicited by them. I studied art in my mid-teens under the direction of a wonderful teacher and fellow nature lover, Judith Keats, and experienced early successes in winning competitions and holding my first solo show at age sixteen. However, life took me in other directions for a long period afterward. In 1989, I received a BA in Mathematics from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and worked in various Engineering and Manufacturing Management roles for more than twenty years creating art only occasionally during that time. Read more>>


After graduating with my Associates in Arts Degree, I decided to keep my promise to my mom and pursue my Bachelors of Arts. Upon graduating from North Carolina Central University, I begin searching for my purpose. When professional football didn’t work because of a motor vehicle collision, I started searching for meaning to my life. Receiving my Bachelors from NCCU wasn’t good enough for me and my dramatic history with the university made graduating bittersweet. I found light in children, working with them, and helping them to overcome their struggles. Being a Counselor and Teacher in North Carolina was a great experience, but it wasn’t completely fulfilling. Music allowed for me to articulate the message inside of me without parameters. It seemed spirit-led to help children by spreading my message through music. My focus became, being the light instead of searching for it. Read more>>

Autumn Parker

Explaining how I’ve gotten to the point where I am today feels like telling a very pretentious coming of age story. I’d been baking on the side since I was 18. It started by baking my way through college heartbreaks until I realized that there was money to be made. I left school in my junior year for my mental health and until 2021 I was building my resume with useless occupations. I’d had enough by December of 2020. I started reaching what I could do with my limited resources to get Stoopid Sweet up and running in a legitimate capacity. I quit my job in March 2021 and Stoopid Sweet’s first official day open was April 18th of this year. I day before my younger sister’s birthday. Read more>>

Lori West

I grew up in the Charlotte and Lake Norman area, attended Western Carolina University and spent my years after college owning an interior design business. I am creative and love to help people which led to my next 10 years working as Director of missions with The Cove Church in Mooresville, NC. I have always enjoyed helping and encouraging people to live their best life with passion and purpose. Which led me to where I am today. I recently returned back to school to receive my certification in Nutrition and Counseling, become a Pure Barre Instructor, own a Pure Barre studio as well as a Clean Juice franchise. Nutrition and fitness has always been a priority in my life, although I wasn’t always good at discerning the best way to go about it. I grew up taking ballet and dance, twenties was strength training and running. I was working out harder and longer than ever but my weight was climbing. Fast forward to my thirties and it was everything from boxing, aerobics, running, spin, yoga, Pilates and Cross Fit, however I turned 40 a few years back and discovered Pure Barre. Something clicked. Read more>>

Laureen Bartfield DVM CVSMT CVA CERPV

I wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as I can remember. I rescued and gave a home to just about any animal that graced our farm. But, I did not fulfill my veterinary school dream until going to school at the age of 36. Graduating at the age of 40, I knew that I wanted to do more than treat “Fifi” for a sneeze. I wanted to work in the trenches, helping animals that had no voice and no future without being given the chance. After 6 months in private practice, I moved to spay-neuter and shelter work. I have run the Spay Neuter Assistance Program of NC, a non-profit, low-cost spay neuter group, since 2000 and to date, we have safely sterilized 180,000 dogs and cats in Raleigh and the surrounding 12 counties. During that time, I did some rescue work on my own, but also participated in some large scale operations including dog fighting busts, puppy mill cases and disaster work. That work continues today. Read more>>

Tammy Smith

I have always been the type that loved throwing parties, gatherings, celebrations for myself and my friends accomplishments. From that moment, I decided to support as many women as I can through networking and mentoring. I started women inspired now network in 2017 with my first networking event. From there I’ve done multiple events yearly that brings something new and different to the community through natural hair meetups, educational seminars, beauty expos and more. My goal is to empower women to be their true selves and shine through their professional and personal lives. My grandmother was my biggest supporter in any and everything I’ve done. It doesn’t matter how many times I change my mind on what I want to do, as long as I do what’s true to myself, even if it means trying to find that passion, she supported me. I want every Black woman to feel that same support in whatever they want to do. Read more>>

Nomeka Tyson

I am happily married with 5 children. Ages ranging from 8 to 23yrs old! I started styling hair at a very early age for my family. I particularly remember styling my grandmother’s hair all the time. We would try new trending hair styles and I remember my grandmother always being so excited to get her hair done and it would always make her feel so happy and confident I could tell! Just doing that for her, did something for me! It’s the reason why every head I touch I’m not just styling hair, I’m doing my best to find that happy confident place for every client. So when they leave they not only look good but also feel good and confident about the style they received meaning it’s manageable for their everyday lifestyles. Read more>>

Cassidy Spence

Created in July of 2020, CassidyMade began with a dream manifested years ago, a little leap of faith, a lot of luck. For a while, I honestly believed my business was created out of pure luck. It wasn’t until recently when I stumbled upon some of my old journals. Then I realized I manifested this life years ago, but never thought it could be my reality. I have loved both animals and art for as long as I can remember. Through college I worked as a Vet Assistant, which was my dream job at the time. I truly enjoyed it, until I didn’t anymore. After 5+ years in the field, I ultimately left it entirely in 2018 when decisions I thought were leading me in the right direction, led me to working in a very toxic work environment. I remember using my lunch breaks to search through countless job listing websites trying to find any way out. When I left, I didn’t have a plan, only hope that my savings would last me until I could figure things out (shoutout to my very supportive partner throughout all of this). Read more>>

Marco Espindola

After working for so many restaurants I got tired of not being able to cook what I really want so I got the idea of open a food truck , so I remembered that the homeless shelter that I volunteer they had a food truck park for a while so I ask them if they were willing to sell it and that’s how everything started, it was the scariest but most exited thing that I ever done , it wasn’t easy specially the first year it was me my pregnant wife and my 7 year old daughter, working 7 days a week doing everything from cooking to become a Plumber, mechanic, electrician etc. , but even though it wasn’t easy I didn’t wanna give up , and thank God after our first year we were able to open our second truck , we won’t the first place on a food competition (40+trucks) after our second year we build a 3rd truck (dessert truck) homemade churros “mama churros” but always trying to give back to our community by feeding our brothers of the homeless shelter, donated meals for people that were affected by the hurricane, doing a fundraiser for the local officer that got shot while working , etc. , We love what we do. Read more>>

Anita Hagans

As I was transitioning and looking for guidance into what my purpose was, I decided to get a life coach. During this time I was unclear in what direction I want to go in I just knew I wanted to help others, my coach guided me into deciding I want to coach women who are healing and overcoming self-destructive behaviors. I am the CEO/Coach of Inspired 2 Change Life Coaching, LLC. I am a codependent behavior recovery and wellness coach. I coach women who have been stuck in codependent relationships and guide them into regaining their power through self-love and learning to make themselves a priority. I have first-hand experience in being a people pleaser and learning to make myself number one has pushed me into another level in my life mentally, physically and spiritually and I wanted to show women that you can take your life back and thrive into your Divine given purpose. Read more>>

Kyle Straub

I am originally from upstate NY where I was a radio Dj for a country music station. I got laid off when the recession hit and decided to chase my dream of working in sports. I picked up and moved on my own to Chapel Hill in June of 2009. A couple of months later I landed a job with UNC as a part time sports broadcaster for their Olympic sports. As I grew my career, I worked as a bartender at Goodfellows. I grew in my broadcasting career with UNC to the point that 7 years ago I moved into the radio booth as the full time baseball voice. A position I still hold. Once again though an unforeseen complication threw a monkey wrench in my career plans. When the pandemic came it took away all sports and with that my job. So like last time, I made a change in order to keep moving forward. I went to Real Estate school and got my license. Real Estate was something I was always interested in. I worked in pest control and landscaping for a combine 5 years in my life. Read more>>


After starting my first post-grad job in 2017, I quickly realized that I’d need to learn how to manage my money effectively. I started by reading David Bach’s book, “Smart Women Finish Rich.” After that, I was hooked on all things personal finance! I read a ton of blogs and books related to money management and paying off debt. Sadly I noticed a trend among the creators of that content – they were predominantly older white males or married couples. It was hard for me to relate as a single, Black woman, and I knew I couldn’t be alone. So, I started a personal finance blog called First Hustle Then Brunch to help teach others how to manage their money and build multiple streams of income. Fast forward a few years, and I’ve helped thousands of people all over the world take control of their finances and start profitable side hustles. In addition to my blog, I create and sell digital products related to budgeting and side hustles and share money-related content on Instagram and TikTok. Read more>>

Gabrielle Miller

I started my business during the pandemic. I chose candles as a way to be unique. My business is named after my late grandfather. I’ve gotten where I am my god making a way and hard work and dedication. Read more>>

Emily Barnes

I’m a farmer. My husband (John) and I raise Angus cattle and Berkshire pigs, and we own Bravo Steaks. Bravo Steaks is a meat company that sells and ships beef and pork from our farm directly to homes nationwide. We are a first-generation operation – John and I started our farm from scratch. It’s really hard to start any business from scratch, especially a capital-intensive, experience-intensive business like a farm. Fortunately, from the start, both John and I came in with more experience than money can buy. Both of us were raised around livestock (I showed cattle and raised wool-breed sheep; John showed market livestock through his hometown 4-H). In college, we both pursued and furthered our livestock experience in many ways. We didn’t realize it at the time, but individually we were setting ourselves up with a golden experience that would be useful later in life once we started our own farm. For example, I interned in Consumer Education for a beef company, and I studied beef & sheep production abroad in New Zealand. Read more>>

Christina Archible

I started A’miya Rose Boutique back in 2018 shortly after having my first daughter. I knew I wanted an e-commerce business that offered unique and quality accessories at an affordable price. It started off with sunglasses and flask bracelets and eventually grew to where we are now offering personalized jewelry, anklets, and other accessories anyone would love. We are still growing but proud of how far we’ve come. Read more>>

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