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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.

Catherine Crawford

I began making jewelry in the Spring of 2015 when I was accepted into the Experience Business Abroad program offered by the Bryan School. I needed to earn enough money to pay for the time I would spend in Belgium during that semester. Hanging out with friends turned into us sitting on my dorm room floor, designing jewelry, as the hours passed by. All of a sudden, Bijoux was born. I began metalsmithing at the end of 2019 and now my work is made completely of recycled 14k gold fill and sterling silver. I’m so proud to offer high-quality, lifetime pieces that help women feel beautiful. Read more>>

Glenda Liseth Mendez

I am Glenda Liseth Mendez, 26 years old and Salvadorian, born in Durham, North Carolina. I graduated from Living Arts College in Sept. 2020 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Photography. I have always been interested in the artistic side of the world. I was able to explore different areas of visual arts in high school. I studied photography in high school and then decided to pursue it as a career! I have been searching for my work style for the last six years. That has persuaded me to explore different fields of photography. I have always wanted to learn how to take portraits, family, and event photography. Read more>>

James Shipma

When I moved to Raleigh in late 2019, I was excited to experience the places and people that an unfamiliar city can bring. Unfortunately, with the arrival of the pandemic in early 2020 and the subsequent lock downs, I found myself in search of a new creative outlet to engage with during my increasingly open schedule. I had never engaged with photography with more than a passing interest in the technology involved with top-of-the-line digital sensors, but after seeing a posting on Facebook Marketplace for a film camera for about fifty bucks, I figured I might as well give it a go. It was by far one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. Read more>>

Keekee Lennay

I walked into Nourish Raleigh as a customer. I was broke and broken. I was in an abusive relationship that I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t confident enough to walk away from, I was uncomfortable in my own skin, desperately wanting to lose weight, and like everyone else in the world, I was just looking to belong somewhere. Nourish was the answer to all of those things. I got started on a nutrition plan with Nourish and lost 80lbs, I found the confidence and strength to get out of that relationship, and I had finally found a space I felt 100% safe in. Read more>>

Yanni Papas

With Greek roots, I finished high school in Texas and then studied Computer and Network Engineering in Oklahoma. I started working in the private sector as well as the Department of Defense in government contracts about cyber security and network administration, but I always wanted to own and make my own business. That opportunity came when I decided to join the family business (restaurants) that my parents and sister started in Wilmington, and they all grew it to multiple locations and we started franchising the concept. The name of the restaurant franchise is The Greeks. Read more>>

Gee Rege

For the longest time, coffee has been an accessible luxury for me. I have been passionate about coffee my entire adult life and invested in teaching myself about coffee and the industry. More recently, in 2020, my partner Kevin and I found ourselves preferring the cold brew we brewed at home over the packaged cold brew options we found in the stores. We learned that cold brew coffee products in the market are almost exclusively pasteurized to increase longevity, which has particularly poor flavor results for a cold-processed product like cold brew. Read more>>

James Rackley & John Dunlevy

James and John have known each other for 20+ years. When Covid hit, James, who is an actor, needed to fill the creative void that was left from life stopping. John is in the transportation industry for his day job, but also very fluent in technology and made the idea become a reality. Fast forward 1.5 years and 80+ episodes later, the ‘Rounders community continues to grow. Relatively speaking, yes. I’d say the most challenging part is coming up with topics and content weekly, but for us, we created our own obstacles and challenges by creating a more engaging & audience-driven podcast. Read more>>

Trey Lucas

My entire immediate family Mom, Dad, and Sister played a major supportive role in me being where I am now. In high school, I told my parents don’t worry about paying for my college tuition because I would earn an athletic scholarship and go to school for free. At that very moment, they began to hold me accountable for everything I did to make sure it aligned with my goals to make that promise come true. Without their guidance and support, that goal may have never been realized. Read more>>

Denise Peise

I have always been a creative person. It was not until my family and I moved to North Carolina from NJ that I really found my groove creatively. I have access to a wealth of pine cones, which sparked me to begin creating my pine cone flower wreaths. I also started to create hanging beaded mobiles when I moved to North Carolina. I have so many hiking opportunities and found beautiful root pieces and branches in nature that I wanted to use in my art. I use these as bases for my hanging beaded mobiles. I am always inspired by nature. Read more>>

Betty Cheung

Growing up, I was always trained to think and act the way “society” told us to. Finish college, find a steady job, get married, and have kids and I did just that. Except, I’ve never imagined myself being a stay-at-home mom. I’ve always envisioned myself sitting in my very own office overlooking the beautiful city skyline. But, the moment I laid eyes on my firstborn daughter, I just knew… that this indeed was my destiny, my calling. Being a mom became my passion and the dream I never knew I wanted. Read more>>

Evette W. Smith

The idea of “The Buttercup Collection” started after the July 2018 birth of my youngest daughter, Buttercup. I wanted to create a brand to offer items that were acceptable to my expectations and standards for my daughter and other little girls. The Buttercup Collection launched in June 2022 as a dba of I Fit Out, LLC, with the help of Morgan Williams, Illustrative Administrator, a 2022 Bachelor in Psychology graduate from the University of Mount Olive. The Buttercup Collection is an online boutique focused on toddler girl clothing, accessories, and most recently educational material. Read more>>

Lolitta Stanfield

I started my journey in Corporate America at the age of 19. Throughout the years I’ve served in various roles that ultimately got me to where I am today and helped me realize what I’m really passionate about. What is that you might ask?! It’s having the creative space to help others realize their potential, assisting others in solving their problems and oftentimes helping people tap into what already exists within themselves. I have been doing career coaching for the last eight years of my career and decided to transition into making it a business as well. Read more>>

Nikia Williams Wilson

Hi there! I am a branding photographer + attorney + cupcake connoisseur! I’ve been a photographer at heart since I was a child. I was always the person at the family event, camera in hand, snapping away to my heart’s content. In high school, I loved my photography class but didn’t believe that I could make a living as a photographer. I took a more traditional route and chose the business school and later law school. It wasn’t until a few years later that it “clicked” (pun intended, LOL) and I realized how much photography is just a part of who I am, and my passion. Read more>>

Corey Mungo

Renaissance Cleaning Services LLC, established in 2021, specializes in house cleaning. Deep cleaning and routine general cleaning. With the emergence of COVID-19 and the extra precautionary measures that are taken, you can guarantee that our staff will follow protocol to keep you and your loved ones safe. A professional staff of detail-oriented & hardworking individuals who know nothing, but display immaculate client service skills. With absolute precision & efficiency, our company guarantees 100% satisfaction with your results. We service Raleigh and surrounding areas. Read more>>

Mack Geary

Back in 2005 when I was 15, I got introduced to a DAW program called “Acid 4.0” by my mother who was a computer teacher at the local high school. Keep in mind, that I was never in the school band, never took any music classes, and never even touched a keyboard. That day forever changed my life when I opened Acid 4.0. I immediately stopped doing my homework, stopped playing video games, and dedicated my free time to making beats and burning mixtapes to hand out to friends at school. Read more>>

Scarlett Howell

At this time we were living in Thomasville, NC. This was my hometown, I graduated from high school in Thomasville, and we choose to raise our son here. Thomasville was a special place to me. So much of my life had been spent in this town and while I did move away during college I did return in 2009. Our business story began in March of 2020, COVID has completely changed our daily routine. I no longer had a job to go to. I was no longer getting up and preparing my son for school. The PTO and school soccer organizations had canceled all plans and games. Read more>>

Sharon DiGiulio

Trained “on the board” as a graphic designer, I graduated from Central Michigan University with a BA in Fine and Applied Arts with a concentration in Printmaking. Upon receiving my diploma, I moved to Key West, Florida. I visited my sister there on Spring Break in college and fell in love with the artsy little town. Bicycles, palm trees, water sports, creativity, and lots of artists with a zest for life were everywhere! I’ve always loved the water and sailing, so this was the perfect place for me. I landed a job as a graphic artist at the local print shop, Graphics of Key West. Read more>>

Tony Cope

We started the business playing hacky sack and drinking a few beers. It was when computer-based (nonlinear) editing became a thing, and we felt it would make for a great business, Aug. 2, 1993, Myriad became a thing. I can’t even begin to digest everything that’s happened over almost 30 years – running a small business is intense, every day. However, as simplistic as this sounds, we kept our focus on what seemed right and honest even when that wasn’t comfortable. That seems to me to be the key to our success. Read more>>

Kianna Riley

Cornelia Home was birthed out of my need for home fragrances that didn’t cause debilitating migraines. After undergoing chemo from my second battle with breast cancer, I developed a fragrance sensitivity that caused my body to react to toxic chemicals. I found myself not being able to enjoy store-bought smell goods such as candles, perfumes, or air fresheners. For a while, I went without being able to lite a great-smelling candle in my home, as I always did before (and who doesn’t like a great-smelling home – especially after you clean it). Read more>>

Maddie Perry

My name is Maddie and I am a mental health and disability advocate. I began sharing my story around age 17, using Instagram as my platform (@maddies_recovery). I have struggled with mental illnesses (anxiety, depression, and anorexia) for the majority of my life and began seeing signs of my disabilities around age 12. Throughout my entire life, I have struggled with anxiety. Whether it be anxiety about who would pick me up from school or panic attacks at night, absolutely convinced that I would die in my sleep. Read more>>

Justin Holdren

I started drawing as a child and always wanted to be an artist. I started painting in high school and went on to art school and studied “Fundamentals of Art”. After art school, I became part owner of a start-up graphic and web design firm. Around that time, I took a trip to Africa to visit my wife’s family who was working there at that time. We spent 6 weeks in Kenya, visited towns and villages, and went on safari several times in Tsavo, staying in lodges in the African bush. The amount of beauty and inspiration on this trip made me realize that I wanted to capture the beauty of the landscape and nature on canvas, not continue doing graphic design. Read more>>

Theressa “Sharone” Pack

I always desired to give back to single moms because I raised three children as a single mom. I knew I had a big vision but didn’t know how I would do it or where I would start. I remember watching the movie “Single Mom’s Club” by Tyler Perry and thought I could do that, and it would be a great place to start to fulfill my vision for single moms. With the assistance of other single moms, we started our own Single Mom’s Club in 2014. The group focused on encouraging, loving, and building each other up. Read more>>

Tanya Brodie

In 2019, I decided that I wanted to start teaching this wonderful practice that had started to alter my life. The changes that started to take place were undeniable and needed to be shared with as many people as I can possibly touch in this lifetime. I discovered peace and found a passion for healing myself and others. So I took a trip to Rishikesh India and spent thirty days there expanding my knowledge, embracing the culture, and taking in these amazing healing modalities known as yoga and meditation. While there I also learned the benefits of sound healing and brought that back with me as well. Read more>>

Crissy Rollins

I started my business with a vision of working part-time hours and making a full-time income so that I can eventually have a family that I can build a business around, financially contribute to my household, and make a difference in the lives of others. Although I wasn’t a touchy-feely person, I was led to explore natural healing, my first passion, a bit deeper, and decided to go to massage school. Here, I was introduced to an expanded world of all things holistic and natural and I was hooked! I started my practice in 2006 as a licensed massage and bodywork therapist, which I still am to this day. Read more>>

Gino Lerebours

Raleigh Ecstatic Dance (RED) was originally started by a group of six individuals that (primarily) met through the “Dancewaves” that were being held on Friday nights and Sunday mornings at the Living Arts Collective in Durham. These “Dancewaves” operate as a kind of conscious dance, where people are welcome to engage in “free expression” and authentic movement to music, without shoes or talking. There are no steps to follow; the rhythm of the music will become one’s only guidance and is intended to open the individual to the purest form of ecstasy: life. Read more>>

Dr. Roderick Heath

I am a first-generation college graduate from Monroe, NC. Before graduating, I dropped out of college three times before enrolling at North Carolina Central University at the age of 22. My life consisted of many failures, trauma, and disappointments. Throughout all my childhood issues, I became Dr. Roderick Heath in 2022. Growing up in a single-parent home saw my mother suffering from a gun shoot to her head at the age of 17. Raised by my grandparents, who raised 17 of us under one roof for years. Read more>>

Nikki Speer

Snuggy Buddy was created by mom Susan Bortone, who struggled to help her kids safely sleep through the night. They both needed the comfort of holding a favorite soft toy, but it wasn’t safe to leave it in the crib. After many sleepless nights and trying multiple products that didn’t meet her baby’s needs, she started designing. The first night her daughter used it, she slept through the night (12 hours!). She gave it to friends to try and they had the same success with getting their little ones to sleep better and the Snuggy Buddy was born. Read more>>

Tierra Norwood

I am a native of Rocky Mount, NC. I come from a very close family; you know they say it takes a village! I was my mom’s high school graduation present and at the age of 1 I lost my dad so my grandmother and my grandad played a major part in my upbringing. When I turned 18, all I knew was that I wanted out! I was accepted into 12 colleges and ironically enough accepted the invitation to the college furthest away (but still in-state) which actually awarded me the lowest amount of scholarship funds. I found myself in Charlotte for my first time away from home. Read more>>

Tori Marshall

I have been a lover of everything beauty from makeup to skincare, hair, and plus-size fashion since the beginning of time. I remember being in the 6th-grade dressing like Cher and Dee from the movie clueless. In 2014, I started a YouTube channel about makeup, but I doubted myself and told myself that as a plus-size black woman I was not good enough. Then, I, unfortunately, was hospitalized with a serious medical condition for a total of 6 weeks in 2015, and I conceived myself that I needed to stop creating makeup content. Read more>>

Katrina Williams

We started our growing company due to skin conditions some family members were experiencing. We started doing our research, taking classes, and learning more about the skincare industry. We have enjoyed the journey and hope to continue doing so to help others. Our products are handmade in small batches to give you the best results. We offer natural and vegan ingredients and oils that are sure to moisturize and help regenerate your skin. The road has definitely not been smooth. Some of the hurdles were getting my company licensed, filing taxes, keeping up with social media, finding my clients (still working on this aspect), and maintaining weekly productivity. Read more>>

Zuri Hester

I’m originally from Durham and I attended NCCU where I discovered my love of cooking and creating dishes. I then went on to Johnson & Wales to start my culinary journey. When I returned to Durham, I had no luck finding an adequate position for my skills aka I couldn’t find a job, lol. While working with my step-mom and Dad doing administrative work for them, they encouraged me to bite the bullet and start my own restaurant which is what I truly desired. Looking back now that was pure insanity lol. Read more>>

Ashley Thompson

Growing up, I struggled with self-confidence. Journaling became therapeutic as well as the beginning of healing. My interest grew in dentistry, loving the service and joy dentists gave to their patients. I later realized what I loved about the dental field was the confidence patients had after they left the office. That was very important to me. I continued developing a passion for understanding how the body works and graduated with B.S in Biology. I’ve gained a lot of work experience understanding skin function but it was my career as a cosmetic chemist that gave me insight into how ingredients can impact health. Read more>>

Dwaunika Moss

As a little girl, I always loved doing my hair. I vividly remember around 8/9 years old being so excited because my mom bought me a mannequin head, and taught me how to braid. I didn’t know how valuable those lessons would be until my teenage years when life would present many unforeseen obstacles which prevented me from getting my hair done as often as I liked. I knew that I had the solution I just needed the tools. I would often take my Grandma Mary’s clothing needle & thread, go to the beauty supply store and buy the cheapest pack of hair ranging around $10-$15. It’s hard to believe now since I’ve learned so much over the years but yes, I started with just a clothing needle and thread. Read more>>

Dorretta Richardson

Hi, my name is Dorretta Richardson, I love fashion, make-up, hair, and smiling. It’s how I express my mood and personality on a day-to-day basis. My journey to pursue this career started over 40 years ago as a youth growing up in the Virginia Beach area. Before we called them career centers and early colleges, I was a young teenage girl taking cosmetology classes in VOTEC. From the beginning, I had a desire of having my clients feel their best by having healthy and stylish hairstyles. Being creative is a motivating factor of why I have always LOVED LOVED fly haircuts and trending hair colors. Read more>>

Kyler Evans

I am Chef Ky, a 23-year-old restaurant owner with some of the best Jamaican food and Soul food in Greensboro. I own a business called Vybez Kitchen. Vybez Kitchen started only two years ago out of my parent’s kitchen with my cousin Ari aka Nami in Jersey. I went to A&T so when the summer was over I knew I had to bring Da Vybez back with me to Greensboro and did. I started selling to college students at A&T and then UNCG. I just kept going where eventually I found a late-night Hookah lounge to set up my tent, caught the foot traffic, and sold to their customers. Read more>>

Aja Rhodes

Wildly Cultivated was birthed when I actually began to realize that all things really do work together. One day, I realized that I was in an extremely unfamiliar place. While trying to find me again, I was also fighting to escape the grips of depression, a severe case of anxiety, mixed with a little PTSD. Some days are better than others, and I use the present tense because it’s still a journey of healing but I can say that I have survived my worst days yet and I’m here to help you conquer too! Read more>>

Chris Roy

I started Screen Printing around 15 years ago, just out of Art School. I was fascinated by the printing process and with me spending so much time around bands and the music scene it seemed like a perfect fit. My printing career started out as a side hustle and eventually turned into a full-time gig working at a print shop downtown. After a while, I decided I wanted to do my own thing full time and that’s where I am today. Read more>>

Josiah Russell

I began singing when I was about three years old in church. My first song was “Heaven” by Mary Mary. Throughout school, people knew me for singing every single day. Honestly, some were annoyed, but that never moved me. I kept singing because I knew that something inside of me needed to be shown to the world! Fast forward to college. When I first arrived at NCCU, I tried to hide the fact that I could sing. That lasted for about one month, lol! I began to sing at the volleyball and basketball games in the first year. Read more>>

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