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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.

Andre Thomas

In the middle of 2020, while most Americans were in lockdown working from home, Andre Thomas and Rick Yates were working together to open their first cigar lounge. They decided the perfect location for this venture was downtown Fayetteville, 147 Maxwell St. The recently vacated, Livery Antique building was perfect because of its history and premier location in downtown Fayetteville. The inspiration for the Livery Cigar Emporium culminated from the shared vision of Thomas and Yates. Both men formerly served in the US Army and decided to call Fayetteville home after their time serving our country. Thomas is from Chicago, Illinois and Yates are from Buffalo, New York. Read more>>

Tanya Frazier

While in college studying chemistry, biology, and genetics I had no idea that I would enjoy floral design until after my own wedding. Afterward my work colleagues, family, and friends would ask me to design their weddings which blew me out of the water. As I loved every detail!!! This eventually grew into designing for commercial clients as well as flying from coast to coast designing for a larger client base including NC, VA, Tennessee, Kansas City, DC, Texas, LA, and Costa Rica to name a few. Sharing this gift from God has been super rewarding as our company has been chosen to design for thousands of weddings on a bride’s most significant life-changing day is an honor that we don’t take lightly. Read more>>

Audra Keenan

I spent ten years as a corporate recruiter and absolutely loved it. I have also always been obsessed with my dogs and pets in general. So, when I was laid off from my corporate job, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. A friend from high school needed help with her dogs and offered to pay me for it during this interim time of not working. It clicked that I could do something I love, caring for animals, and get paid for it. I knew I wanted to offer the highest level of care while making it a fun experience for human clients as well as the furbabies! I tried it out for six months to see if it was something I could do full time and make a legitimate business. When I doubted myself, my very first client told me “A job will always be there might as well try going after what you love” and that has always stayed with me. I spent every day working and building up clients. Read more>>

Sherie Harris

I started this business 13 years ago after I accomplished an MPA, purchased my second home, got my kids off to college, and decided to become a business owner. I wanted to use my education, life skills, and resources to help other women overcome their limiting beliefs and transform their lives. At the time, the business was called Woman2Woman (2009). I enjoyed the way lives were being changed and it motivated me to continue on. In 2011, life happened and I put my dreams on the back burner to focus on the needs of marriage(s), family, friends, finances, etc. I made ME the last priority and so went my purpose. Read more>>

Duraa David

I came from the chaff, many calls it the trenches, the slum, a place with zero opportunities, the dark, but as a young black youth with dreams and vision, I had to make a choice to be the light. Music was my mental escape, I spent major years of my life, playing the drums, and keyboards at churches, concerts, and late-night rehearsals. I wanted to play it all, I wanted to explore more sounds, but where I came from we never had the tools, all we could listen to was the radio and cd players, when a new song comes out, we listen to the radio, I didn’t own a cd player but my half-brother did own one but he was a fan of blues, I ended up scoring all the lyrics to records like west life, Bryan Adams, Michael Bolton, and the likes, I can actually feel them playing in my head right now lol “please forgive me I don’t know what to do, please forgive me I can’t stop loving you” true and lovely records. Read more>>

Kortni Geter

I started in high school, I went to Southeast Raleigh High School, at the time I did not know what I wanted to do but I knew I had a passion for entertainment news, my dad was a music producer and just came out with hit for def jam records the still gets sampled today by many artists. As I was creating an online blog called Teenchop I gather other high school students and we came up with my radio name known today as Kortchop. We talked about proms, best dressed, and more. This brings me to my college years, I started Kortni & Company a full-service PR company to go along with my degree in Multimedia journalism. But I knew I wanted more in life and have worked the 2018 BET Awards with Viacom my rise to being a tv producer was sure to come. Read more>>

Derrick Tre

I was influenced by my grandmother. She’s a seamstress, and she and I are super close. I’ve always watched her create pieces for her clients, growing up. I watched a lot of project runways as and sketch designs on my sketch pad. The passion has followed me my entire life, so I decided to pursue it. I went to Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte and graduated with my bachelor’s in Fashion Merchandising & Retail Marketing in 2017. The following year I took interest in talent management and recruitment; I saw a flyer on Instagram from a new BLACK OWNED agency opening in uptown Charlotte. I applied for the Booking Agent position, got the call for an interview, and the next day I went in and got hired the same day. I also launched my business for styling services in the same year, 2018. The rest was history. Read more>>

Caroline Dargel

Caroline Dargel Art was formed with the hope of creating art that brings peace and beauty into people’s lives and workspaces. Our environments have a direct impact on our well-being. It excites me to play a role in helping others cultivate peaceful and inviting homes. Homes are meant to restore. As we draw near to our loved ones, our homes ready us for what lies ahead. I believe living with intentionality involves slowing down to experience the beauty found in creation — whether it be in a sunset on the water or hiking along a trail, the beauty of creation points to the glory of our Creator. Much of my inspiration draws from the ocean, it’s my favorite place to visit. I’ve painted since I was a little girl & always dreamed of owning my own business. Growing up in a family with creative parents who were always working on a home renovation project, I developed a love for art and design. I knew early on that I wanted to pursue owning a business that would foster community and creativity. Read more>>

Cherie Giordano

Ever since I was little, I was stealing my dad’s old digital cameras and taking pictures of anything and everything I could set my eyes on. As I got older, something just instantly gave me joy about capturing moments in time that I could look back on. I am actually that annoying friend who takes pictures of EVERYTHING because I think it’s so important to capture life in front of you and I am not sorry about it! Right out of high school, I decided to take a plunge and start my business and I have invested in learning and teaching myself the ins and outs of this industry ever since. I’m so thankful for the change and the growth that has come with this industry over the past 11 years and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. Read more>>

Brittney Dorsey

I started making Smoothies & juice back in 2014. I didn’t launch my business until 2020. Seeing how happy people were to try my drinks and like it is amazing. I love knowing that my drinks help people while being on their health journey. Thank you to all my supporters and thank God My business is growing. Read more>>


My story kind of begins in college at Hampton University. While attending, I wasn’t an official DJ but I did “DJ” house parties from an iPhone and my Macbook with a speaker. People always said I should be a DJ but I never really took it seriously until a few years later. That’s when I met DJ mOma through his brother Bas (who I went to Hampton with) attending Everyday Ppl day parties. I saw what mOma was able to do to a crowd while DJ’ing and I decided that I wanted to learn. I ended up reaching out to him and he was able to teach me the basics. From there, I went home, bought equipment, and began practicing. I would DJ little gatherings for my friends for practice until I eventually was good enough to DJ for others. Fast forward to today, I just DJ’ed at Dreamville Fest on the everyday people stage with mOma and a bunch of other talented DJs from all over. Read more>>

Josh Caudle

My passion is to help people grow mentally, spiritually, and physically. Watching people work to achieve their goals really gets me excited every day. Along with my position here at OsteoStrong, I’m the pastor of a church in Raleigh, we are fortunate to reach many different types of people young and old. Over the years, I have been able to see great things happen in the lives of so many in the area. I really enjoy spending time with friends and family. Also, I’m a huge football fan and I enjoy fishing, reading, and fitness. For me, life is about helping others achieve their goals and doing that with a positive attitude. Read more>>

Debra Heger and Victoria Marinelli

We just recently opened our brick & mortar shop in downtown Zebulon named Mona’s Mintage Scroungeporium. 25% of our shop sales are donated to the Mona Pants Foundation which raises money to help local rescues, shelters, and animal sanctuaries. For example, we recently bought a wheelchair for a sheep named Buddy and rescued a pregnant horse named Maggie from a kill pen both are now living at Freedom Hill Farm and Rescue. Our nonprofit also buy K9 Officers bulletproof vests. We actually have K9 graduation coming up that we will attend since we bought their vests. Our shop is an eclectic collection of jewelry, art, clothing, furniture, dog merchandise, and homewares. It’s a little different than your average shop. We are a mixture of old and new meaning we accept donations such as clothing, jewelry, decor, glassware, art, furniture, etc. Read more>>

Carrie Peele

I started my first business in my early 20s on three credit cards, newly divorced, and with two small babies. I knew the only way I could control my destiny, was to own my own company. Started a luxury car service. My first limousine, was the wrong color, the wrong size, and made every mistake that could be made. But fast forward 26 years and we were the largest woman-owned luxury transportation company in the South! In 2014 we went after the largest single event in NC, which was the US open and did over seven figures in five days and sold the company on the last day. It was the plan to sell when we got the large contract. In 2015, started Mako Documents a division of a multimillion-dollar medical laboratory. Mako Documents stores, scans, shreds, and manages a broad range of health information including medical records, business records, and radiology films. Read more>>

Caroline Justice Schmidt

My name is Caroline Justice Schmidt and I am the founder/owner of Justice Rae’s Vintage Rentals, LLC. I find so much beauty in the intricate style and weaving of vintage wicker peacock chairs! To me, it’s an art form. I enjoy sharing my personal collection of these beauties with people in and around the Charlotte, NC area! The name Justice Rae comes from my middle name and my cousin Lindsay’s middle name Rae. She often helps me talk through ideas and is the rational voice to my obsessive personality when needed. While out of work as a dental hygienist during the 2020 pandemic I had plenty of time to channel my inner creativity and that is when Justice Rae’s started to take shape. I’ve always had a passion for thrifting and finding vintage furniture, especially wicker, bamboo, and rattan. Read more>>


Starting in 2014 with my former group “The Lo$t Generation” we were one of the few making musics in the area, doing shows, packing them out & inspiring a scene. From there, I was able to take the experiences & connections I gained and apply them to my events outside of the group which ultimately led to Inthafest becoming a reality. Read more>>

Nicole Osborne

My journey to becoming a holistic mental health therapist started in high school. While I was in high school, I knew multiple people who were struggling with their own mental health issues and also knew people who lost their lives to suicide. After seeing and hearing about various people’s mental health issues, I knew that I wanted all people to know that they are not alone and that their lives matter. While I was also in high school, I took AP Psychology and was fascinated by what we were learning in class. After taking that class, I knew that I wanted to major in psychology in college. While I was in college I got a chance to learn more about psychology, social work, mental illnesses, and marginalized communities. Read more>>

Cortez Bass

I first got the idea from my grandparent’s back. In the early 2000s, they had started a Janitorial service in Durham, NC and when I was younger, I use to help them out in the afternoon after school, my grandparents use to show me and my older cousin all the ways of cleaning and good chemicals to use. So later on my grandparents had passed away and I wanted to continue the family cleaning business but I just changed the name to dedication matters enterprises due to me wanting to give all clients ALL dedication in all aspects of the services that we offer. Read more>>

Gaby Ngangola

Rumble Records aka Rumble WorldWide started in my basement. I wanted to publicize my lifestyle because I always got the response that my life should be on a TV show. So I made Rumble because it is a creative conglomerate that has music production, video production, fashion, etc. Read more>>


The idea of Felspar began over COVID quarantine with Brayden and Ely writing their first song “Broken Again” on acoustic guitars, outside, sitting 6 feet apart. Ely’s brother Jackson joined the band immediately after hearing the demo for the first time. After sitting on the song for far too long, we added Garrett Dayton to the lineup. We began playing gigs this past September, and we have been bringing the brutality to every venue in Boone. Our EP is on all streaming platforms, we have much more coming soon! Read more>>

Romey Petite

My name is Romey Petite—I’m a writer, an illustrator, and a performer living in Downtown Southern Pines. I am one half of Studio Holden Petite (along with my partner Laurel Holden) who created and kickstarted the book Spiderella: The Girl Who Spoke with Spiders. I also play a character named Mort the Dead Author. Mort is death as a dramatic persona: He’s a character I employ to read a collection of short stories I’ve spent a decade composing into a body of work called The Exquisite Corpse. The mask allows me just the right distance I need to enjoy reading my own work for an audience. As for becoming Mort, it feels like I’m playing a serious clown or turning myself into a puppet made of my own bones. The spirit of an artist is the inner child: You put all this time and energy into trying to create a profound thing, you can even go to school for it, but that’s really just an excuse to get tunnel vision about details of the craft. Engaging the audience with what you’re trying to share happens when, one day, you just wake up and do something ridiculous. Read more>>

Nicole Baker

My son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, and shellfish as an infant. As a nurse, I already knew how dangerous that diagnosis was but as a mom, I was just learning how life-changing it would be. I’ve always loved to cook and I’m sure that was no coincidence because those skills came in handy as I had to navigate this new normal making most of my son’s food from scratch. It was no easy feat to ensure proper nutrition, as well as safety when dealing with a picky toddler. But armed with my love for my son, and my love for the kitchen I set out on a journey that would eventually lead me where I am today, the owner of a small business providing allergy-friendly cookies, and cakes. Read more>>

Cindy Skocik

I grew up in a hardworking blue-collar family. My parents were first-generation Americans with no college education but believed in working hard and treating people right. Both my parents also believed in being of service to others and instilled that in me from a very early age. My dad started a small business before I was born and I watched him come home dirty and tired and satisfied every day after helping his customers and supporting his employees. I graduated college with a degree in accounting, became a CPA working at Price Waterhouse, then moved into leadership roles (VP Finance, CFO, COO) at various companies. I was always happiest when both my head and heart could be engaged in the business. Read more>>

Ceara Corry

When I look back, I can see that I’ve always been interested in sexual and reproductive health, I just didn’t have that language at the time. I used to read everything I could find about pregnancy, people living with HIV, or reproductive health in other countries. I even did my senior project in high school on teen pregnancy and wrote many papers about women’s reproductive health in undergrad. What I did always know was that I wanted to enter a helping profession; at first, I wanted to be a doctor, then I changed to a psychiatrist. Ultimately, I didn’t want to go to medical school so I decided to become a therapist instead. Read more>>

Matthew Hodge

I have always been fascinated with how and why humans tell stories. Whether it’s on the stage or screen, written down on pages, or told around campfires, we pass down who we are as individuals and communities through our stories. That’s why I’ve always been drawn to the arts and built a career around music, theatre, and writing – all of my favorite ways of storytelling! That fascination as a young kid transformed into a career that I’m proud of and humbled by. Now at 36 years old, I am an award-winning composer, musician, professor, and writer. I turned my fascination with the arts into a livelihood. Read more>>

Geneva McNealy

Art has always been my passion. From DIY projects and making gifts for family and friends, to donating my time to the local school to teach art classes — I truly enjoy sharing my love of art with those around me. But if you would’ve told me two years ago, that I could turn this passion into a career, I probably would have chuckled. I was living in Texas and working full time in corporate America. I dreaded every shift and was quickly working myself into an early grave. Then 2020 hit and I found myself truly questioning what I was doing with my life. That summer, my family and I decided to pack our bags and head to the Carolina coast, a place I had called home for most of my earlier years. Read more>>

Katie Rouleau

When I first started my business, I was a bit nervous. I was transitioning out of my three-year career in EMS due to health concerns and starting my own business seemed daunting. But I was excited about the prospect of continuing to help others by helping them create memories that lasted a lifetime, and that carried me through any nerves. What started as a dream to plan weddings and events turned into the business that it is today! In counting, I have already done over 30 events and have 30 on the books for the rest of the year! I am so thankful for all of the people that I have met during this experience and growth. I have met so many wonderful vendors and clients that have encouraged me and supported me to be where I am now. Read more>>

Kamus Leonardo

As a child, I’ve always listened to whatever my parents listened to at the time. It was a mixture of Gospel & Soul! Until one day, I bought two CDs from FYE (showing my age) and MY WHOLE LIFE HAD CHANGED! The two CDs were “Madvillainy” by MF DOOM & Madlib, and “Late Registration” by Kanye West! That was my introduction to MUSIC. Years later, here we are! Read more>>

Alexanderia Poole

I started bartending in graduate school and always joked about having my own mobile bartending business. One of my coworkers had her own business as a chef and mixologist and was a great inspiration to me. When COVID hit, I finally got the time and courage to start an IG page and begin the journey. I started by making drink videos from home and posting just to share my love of mixology. Once I moved back to NC in 2021, I immediately jumped into hosting events. Now that I have my business it still feels surreal at times. It’s an amazing feeling to have something your own, and I’m always reminded after every event how much I truly enjoy what I do. I’m learning new things every day and am still in the beginning stages of building, but I’m so excited about all the ideas I have and the growth I envision. Read more>>

Versace Parham

Sophomore year of college, I made the decision to put my eggs in my favorite basket, and go to esthetics school. It was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! In 2018, I graduated from Miller-Motte highly motivated and focused, all to later find out I was pregnant. It was a shock to me, and at that time, I thought focusing on motherhood would be best, and decided to take a break from it all. Two years into a vicious loop of dead-end jobs had pushed me to my wit’s end, and suddenly that old flame had been reignited. I applied for my first esthetics job and secured the position. It felt like it was a big step in the right direction. Another year had gone by, and I decided eyebrows were my calling. With no plan and very little money, I made the initiative to start my own business. I bought a spa table, a wax pot, some brow sticks, and strips and that is how VP Esthetics was born. Read more>>

Ariana Tracy

Growing up, I always wanted to serve and inspire others. My parents emphasized the importance of serving the community. At the age of 7, I began regularly volunteering and I knew I wanted to base my career around serving others. At the age of 14 ½, I got a North Carolina work permit and received a golden opportunity to support a community event with Blue Water Spa. I remember using my dial-up internet to research press releases about Blue Water Spa, and I saw that so much of their efforts were centralized around supporting the community. I instantly knew this was the company I wanted to have a career with. After that event, I got a handwritten letter from Kile Law, founder of Blue Water Spa, offering me a part-time position as a Spa Assistant while I finished school. I remember how excited I was to be able to organically combine my passion for aesthetics and helping people feel their best. Read more>>

Nancee Bowers

At about age two, I was found abandoned on the streets of Seoul, Korea. I was fortunate to be adopted by a family from Woolwich, Maine. However, the family was living on a pastor’s small income, and feeding a family of 6 meant consuming cheap food all the time. Proper nutrition was a luxury that we couldn’t often afford. McDonald’s was the standard treatment when the family was able to eat out on rare occasions. At age 14, my parents divorced and the family moved to North Carolina. I began to experience the family falling apart and continued poor nutrition. In my later teenage years, I began researching how to improve my health through a properly balanced diet. This interest eventually led to my working for a general Nutrition store and a Sports Nutrition outlet for many years. Read more>>

Marianne Breneman

I’ve worked with tweens, teens, and college students as a music teacher for over 30 years, always developing an easy rapport with them. I genuinely enjoy their perspective and sense of humor and I definitely enjoy watching them grow into happy, confident young adults. In the last ten years, I noticed changes in the kids and in myself: First of all, I found that kids weren’t as happy or as confident as they used to be and that really bothered me. Second, I realized that I cared more about helping them to be strong, authentic, grounded adults than I cared about the music element of what I was doing! It was time for a change. I wanted to be able to guide clients and their parents in varying areas of health so I became a certified health coach first, then I completed a meditation and mindfulness practitioner course, and lastly, I trained through Teen Wisdom Inc. to become a certified life coach for teen girls. Read more>>

Natalie Rouse

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had quite the entrepreneurial spirit. For the past seven years, I’ve been able to express that through Network Marketing while I stayed home with my three children. During the summer of 2021, my family life went through some major changes, a failed marriage, and the separation of an already blended family. I had no idea what my future was going to look like anymore, as a stay-at-home mom for so long, I didn’t have a stable career or the security that comes with all of that. In the midst of all of these changes and uncertainty, I decided to follow through with attending a girl’s trip to Nashville, TN that had been in the works for some time. I had no idea at the time how pivotal that trip would be for me or my family’s future. Read more>>

Danielle Hood

God called me to start a business, so I became a Notary Public. As I begin finalizing everything for my business, God called me to start a Virtual Assistant business instead. I was a bit hesitant but followed his direction and that’s where we are today. I have worked as an administrative assistant for years. My passion is organization and serving others and virtual assistant allows me to do both. Read more>>

Joshua Moore

It all started with an idea. In 2019, Malik Simpson, the Urban Legends Foundation Co-Founder + Scholarship Chair, founded the Lift As You Climb Scholarship out of the desire to give back to the youth in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. Naturally, supporting him in this endeavor inspired me to create a similar scholarship that served my community in Charlotte, NC – Ascend. Succeed. Change. We both understood the financial burden that college can place on families, and we wanted to do our part in ensuring that minority students have the opportunity to attend the college or university of their choice. Read more>>

Diamone Ricketts

My story goes back way when I was first diagnosed with my traumatic brain injury at 22 months old. I suffered an impact on the right side of my skull. I was almost pronounced dead upon arrival then woke up from a coma and barely remember anything. Throughout my childhood, up till now, everything has evolved from being a creative individual and trying to outshine my disability. When I was growing up in school this whole idea of being famous and getting involved in music was kind of a middle school idealistic dream but at the same time, I’m still fighting with my brain injury. People treated me differently, I was talked to a certain way, isolated often sat alone, and almost every person cost me to side as if they didn’t want to deal with me or my brain injury. The ideal concept of dreaming and being famous was more than a passion, I wanted to discover a way where I can somehow just find something that will help inspire myself at the same time and be loved by people. Read more>>

Sue Ellsworth

I am the manager of a local commercial kitchen incubator, Piedmont Food Processing Center, (PFPC), and a Founder of WE Power Food. What is WE Power Food? WE Power Food is a nonprofit organization that focuses on the specific needs of women food entrepreneurs. WE Power Food is designed for women and led by women to empower and support woman food entrepreneurs. How WE Power Food Started. One day, I contacted one of our kitchen clients and as we were speaking, I could hear the stress in her voice. She told me had been driving around the state for hours delivering her products and she still had to go home and deal with kids and dinner and more. She was totally spent and ready to give up her business and walk away. I had to help. I didn’t know how to help but I knew I had to help her. Read more>>\

Jess and Kim Lawrence

Getting into wedding photography was never in the original plan. We got our start by complete happenstance when we were attending the wedding of a good friend and a hurricane came through, canceling the photographer’s flight. Luckily, we had gotten into photography as a hobby and knew enough about our cameras to be confident behind the lens. So we shot a wedding! Considering that most of the things that could’ve gone wrong did and that we still felt pretty good about the images we captured, we started to consider the idea to turn this into a real thing. A few months later, Party of Two Photography was born! Read more>>

Melissa Cowan Rattray

Getting started… Let’s see! I was invited to a birthday party back in 2018 by Michelle Stevens, at that party I met some amazing people, one to be Roger King a photographer in Raleigh, NC, I also met a Lady by the name of Donna Taylor who is the owner of a non-profit called S.H.A.P.E. She told me I looked like a model and I expressed that I always wanted to be a model, she then mentions that there is an upcoming fashion show and she would see if the lady needed more models. So said so done! I was in my first fashion show thanks to Donna Taylor. I fell in love with the industry from there and have been blessed to walk in a number of fashion shows including New York Fashion Week (NYFW). I was blessed to be on the cover of DSE magazine and published in Farbe Magazine. Read more>>

Aarti Sequeira

As a young girl growing up in Dubai, my dream was informed by having a front seat to the first Gulf War- I wanted to be an international correspondent, just like Christianne Amanpour! My dad generously paid for me to attend Northwestern University where I got my journalism degree. I graduated and worked at CNN for a number of years as a producer in Chicago and New York. I got married to my college sweetheart, Brendan, and moved to Los Angeles to join him, but I had a hard time finding work. I started to really question my worth. It was a really hard, dark part of my life. But two things came out of that; My faith and my love for cooking! I started to cook every day — the kitchen became my sanctuary. Read more>>

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