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Inspiring Stories from Surprise

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 Surprise and surrounding areas below.

DelRae Cicinelli

As a high school student, I was heavily involved in DECA (a business organization), and it sparked a love of entrepreneurship. I knew at 15 I wanted to own my own business, but I was undecided in terms of what type of business I would cultivate. Throughout college, the idea slipped away as I studied for accounting, and then made a switch to premed when I discovered my deep love for biology/medicine. As I changed majors with the goal of becoming a neurosurgeon, a medical discovery within myself put that on pause – well, eliminated the possibility. In 2014 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and my dreams of becoming a surgeon were put to an end. Despite this life-changing diagnosis, I saw it as a platform, as a way to inspire others for change. At the age of 21, I sought out natural alternatives to support my body’s natural processes to improve the symptoms I was having from Multiple Sclerosis. As I navigated my new normal of having full-sided numbness I was introduced to essential oils. It was a quick moment to belief for me; Frankincense reversed my symptoms, and to this day is the oil that stops a flare in its tracks. Read more>>

Audra Romeo

I grew up in Brooklyn with a close-knit huge Italian family. We always ate good homemade food and desserts. Over the years those desserts and sweets caught up to me. Growing up, the fat kid wasn’t fun. Luckily the weight started coming off in my teens and once I hit 18, I started to hit the gym. Back then, around 1984, there were only a few gyms such as Jack LaLane and Elaine Powers and aerobics were all the rage! That’s where my love of fitness began. From then through college, full-time jobs, marriage, children, divorce, and a move from NY to AZ working out has always been in my life. My workouts over the years have varied and my knowledge has increased exponentially. Fast forward to the present. I now have a Health Coach certification as well as a Personal Training Certification. I currently have personal clients and teach HIIT classes three nights a week at Esporta in Surprise.  Read more>>

Arthur Sagami

Growing up, my family always had music playing; no matter where we were going, or what we were doing, music was something that always existed as part of my life. So when I was finally able to start playing clarinet in my school’s band program, it was something that I instantly felt connected with. This turned out to be a huge blessing for me, as I struggled with communication for a long time, had a hard time connecting with others, and understanding myself. But when words were silent, music spoke. When a feeling had no name, a note told its story. Music was, and still is my greatest outlet. I was fortunate enough to go to a school with a great music program, and I saw the incredible things my peers were doing – their dedication, hard work, and the music that they were able to create together. From that point on, there was no other option, I had to be a musician. Read more>>

Victoria Poull

Although Honeycomb Pastries may be a fresh business to the Flagstaff community, I personally have been professionally working in the baking and pastry field for the past nine years. I was lucky enough to know that I always wanted to be a baker. Books, movies, and baking with loved ones helped to shape this passion, but it took working in the professional field to truly know that this is where I wanted to be. I remember flipping through magazines, watching Iron Chef, and recipe testing all through grade school. I was so excited to finally get into a hospitality class in high school, and then signed up for pastry camp at the Art Institutes of Chicago. That was where I got my first knife kit and chef coat, and learned all about proofing, tempering chocolates and laminating dough. Read more>>

DB Stewart

Growing up with an 80s pop-obsessed father, closet rocker mother, and shared love for Tom Petty, my music taste was destined to be all over the board. Whether we were getting pumped up on the drive to a sporting event, or winding down after dinner, music was always on and storytelling quickly become my first love. My folks put me in piano lessons with this gentleman Ken Roberts. He just made music fun. He put on annual recitals that were a SHOW. I mean, one year was Disney-themed and he came down the aisle of the church it was in dressed to the nines with Mickey Mouse gloves and hat, and put together a full musical routine with backup dancers and everything. He made me fall in love with the process of the show; not only thinking about playing composition itself, but how it’s presented. Read more>>

LaTosha Davis

I am a small town girl with big dreams and vision. I have been a mother since I was 16 years old. I have suffered more losses than most can even imagine,. From homelessness, abuse, living without lights or gas or water. The losses did not break me. They motivated me to learn, build, and repair myself over and over again. After every loss, I won. We all win when we choose to learn from the challenges of life and not let them define us. I define me. I have preserved and pushed continuously to grow into the beautiful being that I am. Even when I thought I would die, when the losses felt so heavy I could not breathe I pushed forward. I went from making $8 an hour to having my first 6 figure year in 2020. It didn’t happen overnight and it took years of learning the lessons, failing and picking myself up. It took tears, it took blood but we made it. Read more>>

Mark Jagodzinski

My journey to now began August 31, 1991. I was a very highly recruited football player at my alma mater Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix. In one play, during the first game of my senior season, my life changed after suffering an ACL, MCL, and medial meniscus tear referred to as the “Unhappy Triad”, a very intentional reference to the unhappiness it creates for the athlete who suffered the injury. For me, it was the beginning of a long road back to recovery and the birth of my intrigue in the field of Physical Therapy. Two years later, after another “Unhappy Triad”, this time on the opposite side, I was sidetracked long enough to meet the love of life, my wife of 25+ years, Mariam. Fast forward another two years, which saw me finally complete my college student-athlete journey at Northern Arizona University as a GTE Academic All-American with a BS in Exercise Physiology and a minor in Athletic Training. Fast forward 2 more years, and I am admitted to the first Doctorate of Physical Therapy class in NAU history. Read more>>

Erin and Paul Johnson

Paul and I married in 2000. I own my own business as a professional portrait and wedding photographer. Paul has worked in residential remodeling for over 20 years also. We got our fist house in Minneapolis right after we got married and did many things to improve the house. We loved giving our house a refresh. A few years after that house we had a baby and moved to the suburbs. We enjoyed the burbs and had 2 more kids. Our businesses continued to grow and we remodeled every room in our second house. We moved a 3rd time just a couple miles away to a bigger home. All that to say we really enjoy houses and we wanted our work to involve working with houses. For years we casually looked into buying an investment property in the Twin Cities. We had it in our minds that we would get a long term rental. For a long time, we put money away each money to create a big nest egg to be able to buy an investment property. Read more>>

Lyn Thomas

My story began with trying to find “AUTHENTIC ” Louisiana food in the valley. I could never find what I was looking for. So this is how Zydeco’s Louisiana Kitchen began. We did our research and waited for the right timing. With my family on board and with God’s help we started our journey. It’s truly a pleasure feeding our customers around the valley. Read more>>

Nancy Christy-Moore

Educated in commercial art at the American Academy of Art in Chicago and later at the Art Center School in Los Angeles, I never pursued a career in commercial art. Instead, I married, had a daughter, and didn’t return to my art until my late 30’s when I realized all I really wanted to do was paint and teach what I loved about painting! I started as a watercolor artist after discovering I was allergic to oil pigments. After attending several workshops with world-class water media painters, I moved on to the world of abstract art using mixed water media such as acrylics and enamels and rice paper collage. During this time, I exhibited my work in galleries in the southern California area where I lived. In Laguna Beach with my watercolors and mixed media. Then when my husband and I moved to Kansas, I continued teaching and my art was shown in several high-end galleries in the Kansas City area as well as two in Louisville and Lexington, KY where my horse series got off to a roaring start. Read more>>

Kayler Kempf

I am a holistic doula, placenta professional, & owner of Instinctual Birth Doula & Placenta Services serving the Arizona valley! I am a mom of three, dog mom of seven, home birth assistant & I have been with my husband for ten years. We are high school sweethearts! When we decided to start a family in 2015, I spent most of my time researching nursery decor and the cutest girl clothes. I researched absolutely nothing in regards to giving birth, the importance of having a postpartum plan, & most importantly signs of postpartum depression and/or anxiety. I struggled greatly postpartum. I felt disconnected from my baby & I wondered why I ever made the choice to have one. I assumed I just wasn’t meant to be a mom. I never wanted to hurt her or myself, I just thought motherhood wasn’t for me. At my six weeks postpartum check-up with my provider, they gave me a postpartum depression screening. The paper asked me if I felt like killing myself or my baby, if I had had any uncontrollable episodes of rage if I found myself crying for no reason. All of my answers were no. Read more>>

Tammy Gann

I started French Candle co. for my love of candles. When I was in a small little village in Holland, I came across a small candle shop. This shop was one of the oldest family-owned candle shops in Holland. This shop hand-poured and hand-dipped all of their candles. Fascinated by the beautifully handcrafted candles, I asked many questions and it was in this small elegant shop, I began to learn all the secrets of candle making. When I returned home, I began the art of candle making for my friend and family. This is something that I take great pride in and only the finest natural ingredients go into my candles, including my passion. Read more>>

Terri Hernandez

As long as I can remember, I (Terri Hernandez) have enjoyed baking and cooking. For me it is relaxing, creative, and brings joy to other people. I baked my first pie, on my own, at age nine. I also won a purple ribbon at the county fair (highest honor) for Gingerbread as a member of the 4-H group. I didn’t even care for the flavor of gingerbread at the time. I don’t quite remember when I started making fudge, or even why, it just sounded good. It was around Christmas time when I was a young teen Mom with two children. Eventually, I was making fudge every Christmas and it became a tradition with my family. Every Christmas, I’d be asked if I was going to make fudge! Of course, I obliged. Read more>>

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