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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.

Larissa Lycholaj

I started my business in early 2021 after creating a public artwork which raised funds for a local non-profit. The life-sized painted horse gave me the opportunity to unite multiple parts of my life. It was a privilege to represent both the military and equestrian communities present in Southern Pines, NC and to tell the story of a real war horse named Sergeant Reckless. Seeing people connect with the artwork on a very personal level inspired me to continue sharing my art and aesthetic. Read more>>

Mallory Lauth

Clinical trials, drug manufacturing, and regulatory guidelines are just a few things I never pictured in my adult life. I had aspirations of being a doctor. I was a small-town Indiana girl with little to no career guidance and big dreams. As the first person in my family to attend college, I sure did get a wake-up call. With the cost and the amount of time needed as a biology major, work, and a handful of life events, I realized quickly that an additional four years of medical school was not something I wanted to continue with. After graduation, I felt stuck. Honestly, I didn’t even know what career I could get with a biology degree. I began an internet search and found a position in a lab processing animal samples. This is where my story truly begins. Read more>>

Uriah Bowser

I started my journey in the mortgage industry back in 2012 assisting distressed clients facing foreclosure. From gaining experience with multiple banking firms over the years such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and many more mortgage lenders. Obtaining over 10 years of experience I noticed a system where it can difficult getting financed with less than perfect credit, lack of mortgage knowledge and lack of financial resources. I decided to become apart of a solution of the misrepresentation that exist. I understood how becoming an homeowner or remaining an homeowner can be difficult at times. This is where I became aware of the gap between homeownership and life time renting, at that moment Neighborhood Home Assistance was created and I became your Real Estate Consultant. Read more>>

Suzy Hasanin

I’ve been into fiber arts for as long as I can remember. Being a little kid, I was so entranced by the idea that I could make something out of string that wouldn’t just be stuck onto the refrigerator, but something that I could play with, or even wear. I learned how to do macrame in 2011 and I was addicted to it. I’d be in my high school classes with string taped to my desk, knotting little bracelets underneath. I continued doing macrame and turning it into jewelry up until 2019 when I became fascinated by the idea of making my own clothes; however, although macrame clothing is beautiful, it’s pretty rough on my fingers, joints, and wrists. Read more>>

Lyteccia Little

Sheesh., How did I get started? Music is my life, and it has been for quite some time. We still have videos of me singing into remotes and microphones as a kid. Music has always been something I have felt in my soul and the only way I feel like I can truly express myself. Still, the journey of music, I would most definitely say, started in me as a kid, and as I grew older and older and was told that I couldn’t do it, it only made me want to pursue it more. My real push came from losing my father. I noticed at that moment that we only get one life to live, so why not enjoy it doing what you want to do? So I hit the ground running. I had been writing all my life, so now the focus was putting those lyrics onto some beats. Since I met my engineer Ayo Q, it’s been endless jams pumping out. Read more>>

Chelsea Sellars-Wilson

Chelsea S. Sellars-Wilson is a serial entrepreneur born and raised in Reidsville, North Carolina, currently based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She began her entrepreneurial journey at the age of 21. However, she had started studying entrepreneurship at the age of 15 as she watched her mother run one of the top Behavioral Health Homes in the city. In the 10th grade, while attending Rockingham Early College High School, Chelsea discovered her gift for speaking when she was asked to speak at her former middle school, Bethany Charter School. To enhance her speaking skills, Chelsea enrolled in her first public speaking course; from there, her voice led her to be a part of numerous organizations where she upheld leadership roles. Read more>>

Heidi Mckinney Simpson

I was trained as a personal shopper in 1996. I worked in every facet of retail for over twenty years. In 2009 I found myself as a single Mom of three, working fifty-plus hours a week. I knew I needed a change. In 2010 I had a new man in my life and had moved to a different company in hopes of a better work-life balance. Things did not work out as planned. The new job was a terrible fit, and I was let go. It was the first time I had ever lost a job. My now-husband told me I could cry for the weekend, but on Monday, I was going to register for classes. Read more>>

Charlotte Pottieger

When I discovered I would become a mom, I expected drastic changes to my body. I didn’t expect that that adorable bump would become a baby, and a blob was left behind. It was time to buy some clothes in a bigger size. I thought it would be daunting, but it was easy because I was armed with the knowledge of my colors and style—no tears in the dressing room, no struggles to get dressed in the morning. I effortlessly built a postpartum capsule wardrobe with pieces that flattered my figure, complimented my coloring, and mixed & matched with ease. My confidence soared. Read more>>

Imani Winfield

About the CEO My name is Imani Winfield, and I am the CEO/Founder of The Perfect Touch Printing & Graphics. I am 28 years old and from Greenville, North Carolina. I am an alumnus of North Carolina Central University, majoring in Business Administration. I always knew that I wanted to be the owner of a business. I didn’t know what. Though I have no children of my own, my family and desire for freedom are what keep me motivated and going strong. In 2006 I started creating Myspace layouts and fun pictures for social media friends. Little did I know, I was unknowingly coding like a website developer and creating like a graphic designer. Read more>>

Tamika Smith

In 2014 I relocated to North Carolina from A small Virginia town right over the state line. I came here with my 12-year-old son for a new start. I had over 9 years of private dining experience from a private country club back home. Worked there as a server and occasionally the manager on duty for the Sunday Buffett. Serving I loved, but bartending, I was intrigued by it—the sound in the bar, the smell of cigars. The respect the members had for the bartender, the cosmopolitan he used to make just right that dripped on my hands from the bar to the table. Oh, this was it for me. I wanted to bartend. I would beg him all the time to show me, show me. He offered to come and work beside him, even on my days off. Read more>>

Nikki Fagan

I started my career as a Graphic Designer 20 years ago, where I would help businesses right at the beginning of their brand development journey with their corporate identity. I moved into brand development a few years later, where I would manage corporate brands overall after a few stints as a Creative Director in Bermuda and Jamaica. In 2015, I cofounded The Brand Lion as a full-service marketing and PR firm. After the pandemic, I refined my services to support entrepreneurs more directly as I held their hands and provided advice and accountability. At the same time, they built their businesses via one-to-one services and a group incubator. I also support the small business organization in Bermuda as their Incubator lead. Read more>>

Joi Giovanni

What’s good, Voyage?! I appreciate you reaching out to me to put this interview in motion. Let’s see where to start this thing off at. Well, for those who don’t know, my name is Joi Giovanni, but you can call me JG to keep it short. I would have to write a book to explain how I got to where I am today (JG laughs), but I think I can try to keep it short and sweet for you. I started my entertainment career off in 2013 with modeling. Modeling was the door that led me to a hall with other doors and opportunities for me. I made my way down runways and onto the covers of magazines as a plus model, but I had an urge to expand my brand, so I headed to the stage. Read more>>

Claudia Martinez-Wayman

Snuggly Monkey began as an Etsy shop back in 2008 where I sold handmade Waldolf-inspired baby dolls, baby slings and blankets. Through my years as a handmade Etsy shop owner I came to realize that while I really enjoy making things, I don’t necessarily enjoy making many copies of the same thing. I also did not enjoy the pressure of needing to produce a certain amount of inventory to keep my handmade shop alive and growing. Read more>>

Cecelia Bailey

I am from a small town called Alcolu SC and a graduate of South Carolina State University and The University of South Carolina. I have always had an interest in psychology and understanding the mind and human behavior. I also from a young age had an interest in helping others which lead me to the helping profession of Social Work. I moved to NC and started my career in the NC prison system working with male inmates. During my time working with inmates, I helped to create process groups for anger management, aging, and pre-release groups and worked alongside a psychologist to provide individual counseling. Read more>>

Kendra Leonard

Pregnant at 20, widowed at 30, lost my business after 40…In the summer of 2020, my clothing store, The Art of Style was destroyed in the riots. I was on the brink of building my empire by opening three more stores when the government shut down my business and within two months, 90% of everything I owned was stolen by looters. I couldn’t speak or stand up straight, so I decided to go on a sabbatical to Croatia and Italy. It took me three months to recover fully, but it was during my third week in Italy that I realized that I manifested being there. Read more>>

Twiwan Joyner

Hello my name is Twiwan, I got started on my journey when was 18 back in 2010 and I have worked diligently at my craft and kept the same passion for my art even when I thought I was fading away. Read more>>

Cody Johnson

I first began my journey with Chapel Hill Training (CHT) while I was a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, in the Spring of 2013. I received an email through the Exercise and Sport Science department listserv detailing an open internship with the original owner, Lauren Cruz. On that same day, I also received a marketing flier from CHT in the mail, which kept the internship email top of mind. I applied for the internship, received an offer, and began learning under Lauren for the remainder of the Spring semester before accepting a part-time personal training position during the Summer. Read more>>

LaMonda Sykes

Writing has always been a way for me to release my innermost thoughts and feelings. My mom encouraged me to write—even though I rebelled against her instructions—but it was in 2013 when I began to write more frequently. At that time, I was working a job that wasn’t a great fit and had ended a romantic situation with someone who I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. I used writing as a way to heal and grow. After sending my eleventh-million poem to my mom, she suggested I put them all in a book. Read more>>

Alexandra Rojas

I am Alexandra Rojas Colombian born in the city of Medellin. When I came here 6 years ago, I had 20 years of experience as an early childhood teacher. I graduated with a degree in education in Colombia and worked there during all that time. When I was 20 years old I had a depressive crisis and my family had to leave me in a nursing home for a few months, I was so sad and depressed that I did not want to get out of bed. one day the occupational therapist told my mother that I needed to do something that would occupy my mind in order to get out of this place, then my mother remembered that a few years earlier in one of my first jobs with children, Read more>>

Shelly Conti

I’m a full time elementary special education teacher with a passion for landscape photography. I guess when I stop to really think about it, I’ve loved taking landscape pictures, just for fun, for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until my first trip to Italy in 2011 that I realized how much I had a passion for it. I loved that photography created memories and allowed me to share the scenes with others who had never been. From there, I started taking my camera on all of my trips and took several pictures wherever I went. It wasn’t until 2017 that I finally got the courage to publish my pictures for others to see and buy. Read more>>

Kristina Riehle

I’ve always been a very creative person and in touch with the outdoors as it was a strong part of my childhood. I was always out wandering and exploring. I got a camera when I was a kid in high school and fell in love with taking photos wherever I went. Mostly of the outdoors since that’s my happy place. I went to college in Amherst, NY at Daemen University and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Art. The goal was Graphic Design, but that’s not what happened. Read more>>

Terrick Willis

Terrick’s Moving Company officially started in April 2020, I was laid off from my Job responsibilities as a Safety and Training Manger for NC State at Wolfline. Ive always had entrepreneurial and leadership characteristics which could be attributed to my upbringings as well as work and life experiences. When I received the news from Wolfline I immediately informed my wife who was at home with our newborn son (Tyriq).  Read more>>

Desireé Marion

Well let’s start with my being a bi-coastal transplant, originally from Vancouver, Washington; located near the border of where Washington and Oregon meet. The story of how I found my way to Raleigh begins with a piece of paper, where my father had myself and brother write down our short term and long term goals. I wrote down I wanted to attend college across the country to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, to become a therapist, and to start my own private practice. Read more>>

Joy Caracciolo

I’ve always been a foodie at heart, but I didn’t start documenting my food and drink adventures until June of 2020 during the pandemic. At the time, I’d been reading news articles and reports of many Black-owned businesses struggling to stay afloat as COVID safety protocols were being enforced and it broke my heart. I started making the conscious effort to order take out at local, Black-owned restaurants in the Raleigh-Durham area and decided to make a separate Instagram dedicated to sharing my food pictures and experiences. Read more>>

Keliesia Cross

I wrote my very first poem in 2006 after my Great Aunt passed. In 2008 I started writing poetry to express myself and I’d also share with a few of my peers as well. From that moment on Poetry became my outlet to express myself other than music. In 2017 I decided to share my work with the world. I was very hesitant at first because to share my work was to share the most vulnerable part of me. I created my poetry that year and it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve met so many amazing people along the way. During this journey I found pieces of myself, lost pieces, put them back together again, and it created something new. Poetry saved me from the darkest corners that I’ll never see again. Read more>>

Danika Peterson

I used to teach English and drama to some of the most creative and hilarious high school students in inner-city Minneapolis. Then we moved to North Carolina when I was pregnant with our second child, and I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. After our son was born, we felt called to become foster parents. During our first placement, while also battling chronic migraines, I realized I craved a creative outlet. I started making wreaths for my home. Family and friends began putting in personal requests. They encouraged me to make and sell them, so I started my Etsy journey in October 2018.  Read more>>

Kenayra Brown

Hello, Dolls! My name is Kenayra Brown, and friends commonly refer to me as “Nay.” I am the owner of Just Love Her Hair, LLC., also known as JLHH. JLHH was created in 2018 because after being an educator for four years, and I needed something that would allow me to be creative and expressive. Therefore, in 2018 I enrolled in Paul Mitchell the School Raleigh to study cosmetology. I have always been in love with the beauty industry. As a young black girl whose mother was “hair illiterate,” I spent many childhood weekends inside beauty parlors. I remember always being fascinated with the energy and excitement of all the women who would come in and out of the salon to get a variety of hairstyles. I was always intrigued by the versatility of African American hair and how hair stylist could use their creativity to make women look and feel beautiful. Read more>>

Mackenzie Sottini

I started as an elementary school teacher. When we moved to North Carolina in 2006, I returned to teaching when my children were school-aged. I loved every minute of teaching, growing, and mentoring young adults to be the best version of themselves. I loved being a part of families’ stories and creating opportunities to help in the community and beyond. I didn’t love the feeling that there was “more.” That my time and talents were ready for the next step. That my servant heart had more to give. And at the same time, I wanted to change the trajectory of my family. Read more>>

Tiffany Parker

I started performing as a singer and professional dancer in my early teens. And once I began, I never wanted to stop! It was such an outlet for me and a place where I could put the challenges of life. My journey took me from performing all over as a teen to recording my first professional demo in NYC when I was 17 to flying from my then home in Seattle to Los Angeles every weekend for music videos, recording sessions, and meetings. I began songwriting and recording songs for TV shows, films, and video games in 2010, and soon after, I relocated to LA to continue working in the music industry full time. Read more>>

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