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Portraits of Raleigh

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 Raleigh.

Burton Buffaloe & Dustin Smith Burton Buffaloe & Dustin Smith

We are an all-American family living in Raleigh, NC. Our story started 15 years ago when we met at a mutual friend’s house party. We were friends for a long time, and as years went by, things shifted, and our relationship grew beyond our friendship. We got married in 2014 and welcomed our beautiful twins five years ago via surrogacy. We initially started documenting our adventures on social media via Instagram mainly because we were just proud parents. However, it quickly became more than that, seeing the importance of two gay men in the south breaking barriers and educating the broader community about the importance of gay rights and equality. Read more>>

Wesley Johnson

What began as just a conversation amongst friends participating in the Leadership Harnett program turned into a business idea. We recognized that Dunn was missing a family friendly night life option that not only served its residents but also invited visitors to see why so many people have called Dunn home for many, many years. We went about piecing together the business plan for a brewery, restaurant, and entertainment venue in the heart of Dunn. We located a building and began conversation with the owner about the concept. With their support and the assistance of numerous advisors and service providers we have now brought to life the first community owned and directed brewery/restaurant/entertainment venue in the region. Read more>>

Anne Pell Harkness

Harkness grew up surrounded by artists. Her mother was a painter; her grandmother, a sculptor and painter; her dad, an aspiring architect; one brother an architect and a photographer, and her other brother was a builder, sculptor, and painter. Her grandfather traveled the world buying failing newspapers, turning them around then selling them, while his wife, Anne’s grandmother, painted, sculpted, and collected art. Thus, Harkness grew up in a home filled by paintings and lithographs by Pablo Picasso, Valmink, Utrillo, Renoir, Toulouse Lautrec, Andrew Wyeth, and present-day painters from around the world, such as Asoma, Jegart and many Japanese and French painters. Read more>>

Sivys Velazco

I grew up in a family of realtors; when I was 12 years old I used to go to showings with my aunt, she was and always has been a top agent in Texas. I always admired her work and how much she cared for her clients. Seeing her and helping her with her showings while visiting her in Texas had me dreaming about being a realtor just like her one day. I began my career in real estate in Boca Raton, Florida, then moved to North Carolina, where I found my forever home. I specialize in residential buying and selling with an emphasis on marketing properties and consulting for investing purposes. Read more>>

Emma Sokoloski

I always knew that I wanted to own my own business. As a little girl, my “dream job” was owning a dance studio. As I grew up and college came into the picture, I decided on a degree in Business Administration because I knew that it would give me a well-rounded view on how businesses ran. After graduation in 2019, I worked a few jobs in management and recruiting. However, due to the stresses of 2020 and my declining mental health, I was not in a good place within my job. Luckily, I already was doing art on the side, and with the support of my husband, was encouraged to quit the stability of my 9-5 and to pursue art full time! Read more>>

Micah Evans

I grew up in a big family and we grew up in church and I song in the choir so music always stuck with me. Later in life my older brother started doing music so I kind of followed his footsteps. I am a artist that always trying new vibes with my music because nothing should stay the same. Read more>>

Tavaras Jordan

I started as a church musician at six years old – playing drums under the leadership of my grandmother, whom is a Minister of Music. In high school, I began making beats. By the time I graduated from college in 2015, I had beats featured on a few television shows. Musicially, things were slow for a while; but recently I’ve gained momentum by working with a few popular indie artists and YouTube channels. Read more>>

Samantha Briley

The outdoors was a big part of my life growing up through family camping trips to local lakes and through Girl Scouts. However, in college is where I dove deeper into my love for the outdoors by working at my university’s outdoor program. I learned how to rock climb, lead trips for backpacking and paddling, met a wonderful group of friends, and even fell in love. Read more>>

Loryn Winters

I downloaded tiktok after many people my age joked that it was a childrens app and got hooked immediately. There were tons of funny videos and since I had managed a YouTube channel some time back I decided to give it a try. I’ve always had a passion for cameras. Digital or actual film, I’ve always loved them. I decided to make my first Tiktok and it kind of just took off from there. I got a few views and likes and thought “wow I am a star!” When I’m reality it was maybe 500 views. Read more>>

Evan Button

Lua Flora is the soundtrack of your favorite daydream. The Asheville, NC-based group’s sun-kissed melodies are rooted in the harmonies of Appalachia, rhythms of the West Indies, and lyricism of American folk. Releasing a collection of singles, Lua Flora has collaborated with Sons of Paradise, Richard Vagner, Victor Rice, and Karl Vincent Roth (of Satsang). With stellar reviews from publications such as Face the Current and Top Shelf Music, the outfit has established its unique yet home-like voice. Read more>>

Kate Alexander

Ever since I was a little girl I was obsessed with hair, makeup and just beauty in general. After highschool I decided to go to Cosmetology school in Greenville SC, I chose Greenville because I had some family there and I was moving from Western NC , it felt like a big city to me at the time. After I graduated school I worked at a Salon in downtown Greenville where I apprenticed for a year at a boutique Salon. I moved to Raleigh in 2005 and worked at a couple salons after deciding to venture on my own. Read more>>

Alex Newman

I’m a rapper, songwriter, producer, and Co-Founder of the creative collective known as Ten Steps Ahead (T$A). The son of Ghanaian immigrants, I grew to love music of all kinds and most prominently rap music in my teenage years. I think I became passionate about music because it found it’s way to me, I didn’t start out seeking to make it, and it eventually became the vehicle that allowed me to document, reflect, and motivate my everyday experiences and how I saw the world through my lens. Read more>>

Mary Ortiz

I was 33 weeks when my daughter, Izabella was born on April 14, 2017, she was only 2 pounds, 10 ounces due to IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Restriction). Izabella was in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for 5 weeks. During those 5 weeks, I struggled preparing for her to come home. It was extremely difficult to find Preemie size clothing even if it was just basics; but there had to be a better way. I have always had retail and preschool experience and always wanted to start my own business, so on my first Mother’s Day, I went to visit Izabella in the NICU and as I held her, I remember a strong feeling coming over me and knew what I had to do. I whispered in her little ear, “I promise I am going to start my own business dedicated to you.” Read more>>

Jen Holley

Jen Holley Originally from the MidwestBeen in NC for 13 years I work in the pharmaceutical and clinical trials industry for company called IQVIA (formerly Quintiles). I manage the clinical delivery of global clinical trials.My passion is fitness. Formerly a collegiate athlete, now career woman and wife, continuing to put fitness as a priority everyday. I want to encourage and motivate others.In 2019, I had some devastating news, I could no longer do high impact exercises due to previous injuries. From there, I had to change my mindset and find my new balance.  Focus on what I could do, and not what I couldn’t. Read more>>

FanCie Harvey

I’ve worked in the medical field for 12 years as a Phlebotomist and a Medical Assistant. One day I realized that I needed to find a career that would put me in position to own my own business. I was already doing hair part time, so I decided I would get licensed. I graduated from Cosmotology school in 2018, but continued to work at the hospital. As a single mother of three I’ve always kept two or more skills under my belt. One day I realized it was time to move forward; so I stepped out on faith, abruptly left my medical job and focused on marketing and building my clientele. Read more>>

Francis Fan

Born in the republic democratic of Congo and migrate to the united state July 2009. I consider myself a source of light that originates from the Republic Democratic of Congo, and currently living in Raleigh, NC. A light that has traveled through a roller-coaster vacuum over the past 13 years living in the United States (Connecticut, Vermont and now north Carolina). A journey full of memorable ups and downs and challenges. Read more>>

Ka’Miyah McNair

I started my business in 2020 during a battle of depression. Baking was my coping mechanism and still is. It first started as a simple Mothers Day present to my mom and step mom and blew up from there. I adore my customers and built a strong relationship with them! I’m a self taught baker that doesn’t follow recipes lol. Read more>>

Alexis Lawson

I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio but I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2011. I graduated from Appalachian State University with a BA in English Creative Writing and a minor in Criminology at 19 years old. Currently I am an aspiring freelance writer alongside my 9-5 at a publishing company. I have published two books, my own personal poetry collection The Beauty in my Bare Bone, and a student Anthology Unmasked Imagination: An Anthology of small hands and big voices. Read more>>

Irene Williams

I am married with 5 children; 20, 16, 10, 4 and 2 years old. So I have one in every developmental stage in life. I am a recently retired US Air Force veteran, who served for 20 years as a medical clinician. Currently I am a proud stay at home Mom and co-own a vegan fragrance business with my husband. Read more>>

Travis Cherry

I’m originally from Raleigh. Grew up in Worthdale. Started in an R&B group and we ended up moving to Atlanta in 1996. That’s how my production life took off. Read more>>

Sean Kyle

Originally from Pittsburgh, though I’ve Lived in Raleigh most of my life. I always wanted to be an artist/storyteller. While studying animation in college I was introduced to figure sculpting and fell in love immediately. I was never big on company work and once I learned how to not only sculpt but mold/cast and distribute my own work I’ve been all in ever since. I have worked as a Pop/genre character sculptor and designer for over 15 years now, primarily independently. Lately I’ve been focusing on reconnecting with my city and it’s incredible art scene, through live shows, demos and soon full workshops and classes. Read more>>

Justyce Hayes

It took me a minute to walk through the best way to make my journey brief, haha! In my opinion, it may be a bit more unorthodox compared to most. I originally planned to open a very successful franchise, but I didn’t have the money. I didn’t allow this to stop me, though. I created investor presentation pitches for silent investors and applied for every loan you could think of. After a few “No’s,” eventually, I found an ‘investor.’ Unfortunately, after a few months, the partnership failed.  Read more>>

Elizabeth Hughes

In 2009, I had been roller skating for more than 30 years. When a skater friend of mine started coaching the newly-formed Carolina Rollergirls, I was rather intimidated by the whole idea of roller derby, and the “mean girls” who played it. It was roller derby renaissance, though, and leagues were forming around the country. At 41 years old, I just wanted to skate fast to the music at the Cary Jellybeans, and teach my three classes a week in Jellybeans’ Skate School Program. When my friend noted that I was “fast enough to be a referee”, though, I started thinking about reffing. Read more>>

Justin Rosado

I started E-Link in 2018 when I was in college studying criminal Justice. Once I graduated school In the fall of 2020, I published my app. E-Link is a social networking app created for entrepreneurs and business owners to connect with each other and the public. Read more>>

Jen Acevedo

After serving in the military, I was trying to get my footing in the workforce and found myself primarily focusing on improving the systems and processes used. As I continued to do this with each different position I held, I found that this was just natural and easy going for me. Then during the pandemic, everyones lives changed when it came to either working in the office or remotely. I found ways to help me stay focused and organized and realized that I wanted to share my knowledge with everyone else. Read more>>

Quamia Allen

I take pride and joy in being able to build such a company because at one point of my life I was just like many individuals i know; I had poor money management and could not maintain a healthy credit score. I didn’t know anything about credit or how powerful it was. All I knew, I was living paycheck to paycheck, struggling and sometimes robbing Peter to pay Paul. Eventually I started spiraling out of control and went into a deep depression. Read more>>

Amber Grantham

I moved to Raleigh from the Charlotte area in 2012. If you’ve ever been to Amelie’s French Bakery in Charlotte, they have the most amazing pastries, and especially their macarons! After scouring Raleigh in search of any macarons that even compare, and coming up short, I decided to try making them myself. Macarons are extrememly fickle, but I became determined to master the process. After many failed batches that went straight into the trash, I finally got the hang of it and started selling macarons as Southern France Bakery as a side hustle out of my home in 2017. I would do custom orders and deliver around North Raleigh as well as popup markets. Read more>>

Alison Katschkowsky

My first thought in school was I wanted to be a physical therapist—I prepared my coursework for that goal. I began the application process once I finished college–most programs then were beginning to go to master’s programs, so it made sense. I applied twice to several schools and got denied at some and waitlisted at others–and thought I needed to re-evaluate my plan, so I made an appointment to discuss my application with my top choice school–I was advised to get some additional training in graduate work in a related field to help me stand out more. There were thousands of people applying for 30 spots or so in each program, so it was a game of numbers. Read more>>

Tylicia Jones

I’m a single mother of 4 who always wanted more for myself and my family and so Id always envisioned becoming financially free and opening businesses to share with my children to one day have them run once I’m no longer here. After many years of struggling and making poor decisions, I finally said enough is enough and I became laser focused on my and my children’s future and started my businesses, the newest being Bodied By Ty, a Body Sculpting & Aesthetics Studio. I also have an apparel line I created in ode to women who “husltle” like I do and do it all, HUSLHER Apparel Co,, and finally my real estate business I created many years ago, which I dabble in from time to time. Read more>>

Jasmine Galloway

Hello all , I am Jasmine Galloway the Owner of Forty-too Skincare . My journey hasn’t been easy but it has definitely been worth it . After decades of struggling with self worth , love and acceptance of the color of my skin, I began to see what was inside of me the whole time . I’ve never appreciated the color of my skin due to past trauma from family because I wasn’t light enough to be loved , well at least I thought . I didn’t take compliments well , I would always think that the person was lying or trying to make me feel better . I have 4 children ; ages 20,18,17 and 15 . People would always say , “my goodness you look like a baby .” I laughed it off ,but one day I didn’t laugh . Read more>>

Phyllis W Haynes

Mariah’s Relishes, traditionally known in the south as chow chow started with a copy of a family recipe and a challenge. In 2002 at a Thanksgiving dinner, my cousin and I were discussing family cooks and our favorites. Which led to an all-time favorite, chow chow. But more importantly, we realized the younger generation at the table had no memories of the culinary skills of our mothers and aunts. Truly a missing link to their heritage, the way we cooked our foods. My cousin and I decided to collect family recipes for a cookbook with the purpose of bringing the family’s food history to the present. Read more>>

Lei Lei Patterson

I am Leisha “Lei Lei” Patterson, wife to Timothy and momma to Theodore (29), Timothy Jr (14), twins Tisoko & Timia (8), and Gigi to Nasiima (3). We have an American Bully named Jada. I grew up in Tobaccoville, NC and my husband grew up in Winston-Salem, NC. I graduated from Winston Salem State University with a Bachelor of Nursing. I have worked for Novant Health for the last 22 years. I started my nursing career in a Pulmonary Unit at Forsyth Medical Center and then in the summer of 2017, I received a promotion to teach EPIC for new hires at Novant Health. I love being a nurse. I love working with patients and have been blessed to have worked with some amazing coworkers. Read more>>

Megan Black

Hi, I’m Megan! It all started back in 2018 when my husband and I scheduled a cake smash session for our daughters first birthday. If you know anything about kids, then you know they’re UNPREDICTABLE! Am I right?! During the session we may have gotten a total of two smiles out of that poor girl. (Teething + no naps probably didn’t help the cause.) We ended the session, packed her cake up, and left feeling defeated! I had an old camera laying around and decided to try my hand at photography. Read more>>

Brittany Rose

I was a stay at home mom for 7 years, during this time I started experimenting with plants. I quickly realized perennials and annuals were not my speciality and decided to try indoor plants. I was drawn to terrariums and the beautiful coloring in succulents, them being low maintenance was just an added bonus. I started with succulents/cacti and air plants and my artistic side was able to shine by making terrariums and and different types of arrangements. Read more>>

Ashlyn Saba

My name is Ashlyn Saba. At the time of writing this, I am a freelance model and a university student working towards a career in fashion. I’ve always had a passion for art and it took me some time to figure out the kind of art that called to me. It all started with my grandmother. She had an extensive makeup collection, and she always wore really fun makeup. When I was 13 she passed away. Read more>>

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