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Inspiring Stories from San Tan Valley

The heart of our mission at VoyagePhoenix is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our city. In the recent weeks, we’ve had the privilege to connect with some of the Greater Phoenix area’s finest artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and rabble rousers and we can’t begin to express how impressed we are with our city’s incredibly deep talent pool. Check out inspiring stories from San Tan Valley and surrounding areas below.

Kyle Auga

I started making kinetic balancing sculptures near the end of 2011. My first one took me 12 hours to make because I was not just learning how to make things that balanced, but learning how to work with metal from the ground up. I love the fact that the first thing I googled was “how to cut metal”! I had to do it on a budget as well as a near-broke college student at the time. Since then, I have taught myself how to braze, grind, TIG weld as well as metal finishing techniques including polishing and some machining. While my focus is making sculptures that balance, I have also studied a lot of artist sculpting skills as well as drawing, cartoon basics, and an understanding of the human anatomy. My style and designs range from cute and simple designs like a “cartoonified” airplane to very anatomically correct bodybuilders that have a more serious and fine art style to them. Read more>>

Aidan Avery

I’m a photographer, but my background came from documentary filmmaking. In my early 20s, I fundraised for and then shot a documentary in Ghana. After that, mostly worked as a digital video editor, editing documentary work that other people had directed, as well as a few indie films. At 21, all the screentime was getting me down and I wasn’t sure editing was the right profession for me, so I went to college. During college and the years after, I used still used cameras occasionally, but only as a hobby. I mostly shot photojournalistic and “street” photography – kind of like still photograph versions of the documentary work I’d been interested in. I enjoyed taking candid photographs of people, especially when I traveled. I documented students of color protesting in South Africa in 2016 and shot street scenes during a ten-day visit to Cuba in 2017. Mostly, though, photography was a passive, intermittent hobby while I focused on school, work, and the like. Between 21 and 26, there were probably entire years I went without picking up my SLR camera. I definitely didn’t see photography on the horizon for me in any professional sense.  Read more>>

Mele’Ofa Finau ‘Iufoni

Baking is my love language! I have always loved baking. I grew up with a mom who would make the most exciting birthday cakes + sit at our kitchen table and make stunning buttercream flowers. I remember watching her and being in awe that it was all edible – that is ultimately where my obsession began! Fast forward to middle school, my best friend and I would host neighborhood bake sales which turned into making wedding cakes! I ended up taking a little break to serve a mission for my church! Once I returned to the states, I met my husband, Paula through social media, moved to Sydney, Australia to be married, and soon after found out we were expecting our first baby! I moved back to Utah (my home state) to help my family move to Arizona and prepare for the arrival of our son! What was supposed to be a quick passport renewal for my husband turned into Immigration delays and Covid restrictions shutting down the Pacific, where he needed to do his Visa Interview. Read more>>

Taylour Andrews

I started Old School Tap because I wanted something like our truck for my own wedding, but I couldn’t find anything like it. So I convinced my husband to turn his love for cars and my love for working with people and service industry experience into a business. We got to where we are today through the continuous support of or family and friends as well as all of our amazing clients we’ve had the opportunity to work with so far. Read more>>

Joshua Unangst

My passion, like many, for basketball started with Michael Jordan and evolved from there. Here is the interesting part, I started this site when I was 13 years old, I am 15 today! I combined the two elements that I enjoyed being an entrepreneur and basketball. Many people believe that you have to go through a process to become a journalistic website. Go to Syracuse or Northwestern and then hook onto a local newspaper or site. I believe regardless of your age, drive, ambition, and love for what you do are the criteria you need to run a site, business, and be a sports journalist. You don’t need to be a part of ESPN to make that happen. I saw the landscape of sports changing. No matter the side of the aisle you are on, politics and social issues were entering into sports. They have their place. However, there is a HUGE audience out there that just wants sports. To escape life and all that is going on and just have sports!. Read more>>

Tess McDonald

I was born and grew up in the Mojave Desert of California. I started making art at a very young age and was encouraged by a family of artists. I have always been very creatively minded and it just grew more pronounced as I got older. I got an associate’s degree in my hometown, taking mostly art classes, including everything from sculpture to black and white photography. I then went on to do more of the same at ASU, earning a bachelor’s in art studies. My artistic pursuits have always been wildly varied, probably due to my ADD. For a time, my major in school was photography, but then I got interested in fiber arts, aka knitting, weaving, etc. Then at the very end of school, I took several ceramics classes and got into that. After I graduated, I had a few rough years. It was hard to find a job in my field, especially in a small military town, but I started to do some freelance work. I had a few shows in my little town. Read more>>

Jennifer Carruthers

In 2016, my husband and I decided to accept an offer from his employer to move to Arizona from Michigan. We left everything and everyone we knew and moved with our two-year-old daughter to the town of Queen Creek. Two years later, we had our second daughter and we realized that having me stay at home would be better than spending our money on daycare. It was a scary transition since I had been working full time since I graduated college. But I resigned and was excited to start my new adventure as a stay-at-home mom. A year later, we had our third daughter. Once I figured out how to juggle three littles at the same time, I decided that I needed to find a hobby, something that was just for me. I have always enjoyed making wood signs and decided to purchase a Cricut machine. I had so much fun with it! I made a few signs at first but then I started experimenting with other items. Once I got the hang of it, I started selling Christmas wine glasses and Santa plates in my neighborhood. After receiving compliments for those items and knowing how much joy my pieces were bringing to people, I decided to go ahead and open an Etsy shop. Read more>>

Isaac Castellanos

I began my art journey very young always being interested in artwork and creative pursuits. I attended every art class I could find when I was younger and had a real love for it. I started to drift from art and focus on more school/ sports related things as I went into junior high. My passion for art was reignited when I attended the Milan art institutes mastery program for high school students in 2018. The course was once a week every Saturday from 9-2 for eight months. After the course I started selling my artwork in a more professional sense in the summer of 2019. I gained a few commissions and did some works for people on an order by order basis. At this point, I still hadn’t thought of art as a career. That September I attended the Milan art institutes mastery program and was able to attend even though I was not 18 due to the fact that I had attended classes their before and the owners thought I was focused enough to be a productive member and student in the course. Read more>>

Mindy Shreeve

Located in San Tan Valley, Saddle Sore LLC [formerly Saddle Sore Ranch] is a family-owned equine facility operated by Mindy Shreeve beginning in 2013. Since graduating from Arizona State University with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation, Mindy had the vision to create and build an all-inclusive equine program. The heart of her program focuses on providing Therapeutic Riding with the goal of working positively towards promoting the cognitive, physical, emotional, and social well-being of all individuals. It is the mission of Saddle Sore to provide a fun, safe and exciting place to learn the key fundamentals of working with horses. Read more>>

Michael and Sarah Cariño

We started working with investors who were flipping homes in 2008. We watched and learned as much as we could, but They shut their doors down in 2012, which left us without a job. We took on side jobs doing small remodels and lawn care using a borrowed truck that one of the investors lent graciously to us. In 2014, we got on with one of the investors who part-owned that company and started doing the remodel work on his flips up until 2018. At that point, we decided we wanted to start our own business, Flipping Homes. We sold our home and took what equity we had to pay down debt & purchase a travel trailer to live in while we saved money. We lived in that travel trailer on my parents lot for 18 months and paid off our debt. Read more>>

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