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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.

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>>

Tom Raney and Tessa Etzioni

There are two stories to tell here. The first belongs to Tom Raney whose story begins in the middle. Tom’s formal background is in music and science. He was not introduced to horses until his mid-40’s (although he feels like he’s known them for a lifetime). He knew in the first year of learning to ride that he wanted to work with and train these amazing animals. He started his training business, Raney Horsemanship, in 2016 with the specific desire to work with troubled and misunderstood horses to help them gain confidence and trust in humans. This is how Tom met Tessa. Read more>>

Denise Karis

Click Bloom started as an art project in the Spring of 2019. I would create these flat lay photos using a vintage camera and fresh florals. After I got a handful of requests to start selling prints, I opened an Etsy shop and started offering my prints there. That same season, I did another series of double exposure images taken on a film camera of cactus in Phoenix and added those to my print collection. From there, I started designing enamel pins and adding fun little gift ideas and in February of 2020, we launched joined the team of Farm Night vendors at Agritopia in Gilbert and launched Click Bloom as a pop up shop! Since the pandemic though, we’ve had to hang out on Etsy but we hope to rejoin farm nights this fall! Read more>>

Courtney Burnett

Having a disability (learning disability) myself and the struggles I had in school impacted and shaped my choice in careers. I started working in a local head start program. I did that for many years after my daughter’s birth and diagnosis (Cerebral Palsy). I started seeking out more information about speech development. Through my research, I decided to go back to school and become an SLPA (speech and language Pathology Assistant). I worked at a local school district for my first five years as an SLPA; in 2014, I decided to go into home health and work with children and adults three years old through adulthood. I have a chance to work with the kids and adults and partner with their families to give ongoing support and resources. Little Champions was born in 2014, and it’s been an exciting journey! Read more>>

Denise Karis

I’ve been a photographer for over a decade now. In April of 2019, I was styling some photos for Instagram and I ended up using a vintage camera with some pressed flowers for a flat lay photo. I loved the effect so much that the next day I tried it with fresh flowers and the idea evolved and I named my new art project “Click Bloom.” Over the next few weeks, I collected over twenty vintage cameras and then started getting requests to sell art prints. Read more>>

Alejandra Duarte

I started ten years ago when I enrolled myself into Avalon School of Cosmetology in Mesa, AZ. My original plan was to do hair but as I was there, I started to lean towards Make Up, both SFX (Special Effects) and Glam. While I was in school, I joined a MAC Cosmetics makeup course and got certified as A MUA (Make Up Artist). My career in hair never took off but it did as A MUA, slowly but it took off. Read more>>

Peggy Butters

Skippy’s was one of the first restaurants to open in queen creek back in 2004-2005. We offered breakfast, lunch and dinner and that was perfect for all the ranchers and workers back in the day… The current owners bought it in 2007 if I remember right. Tom Estabrook and his wife Joanne (aka Jo) owned a little cafe up north and when they came in, they brought some amazing food ideas with them as well as wonderful breakfast. Read more>>

Marissa Nystrom

My story starts back to December of 2015. We were struggling financially and I was barely bringing home anything from my full time job to cover daycare costs, so I did what my husband I thought made sense and I resigned. It was a scary time. I had spent six years at that company and had no idea what the future held. I had no intention of starting a business, that is for sure! My sister-in-law had let me borrow her Cricut machine. Read more>>

Crystal Looker

I have always enjoyed baking for my family and friends. My love for baking actually started 17 years ago when my husband purchased me my very first KitchenAid mixer. I started out baking lots of pies and cookies for family gatherings and once we had children, my love for cake decorating began. I loved watching all of the baking shows that came on the Food Network. Ron Ben-Israel and Duff Goldman were a huge inspiration to me. Read more>>

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