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Scottsdale’s Rising Stars

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 Scottsdale and surrounding areas below.

Brianna Gomez

I started photography in high school. Not necessarily because I wanted to, but because I had to. I enrolled into high school about a month late. Therefore all the electives were pretty much taken. However, the last class available was photography. So I tell people that I got into photography by destiny. As cheesy as that sounds. Truly, I wouldn’t have thought to have taken photography because in high school, I thought “why in the world would anyone take a photography class?” Of course, I was uncultured and didn’t understand art back then. Four years later, and a lot of graduation sessions later, I got into wedding photography because a friend thought my photos were “nice” (I had never photographed a wedding at this point- only seniors). After photographing this friend’s wedding for free, I realized that there is so much beauty and realness in wedding photography. Being the one person to encapsulate a single moment in time for eternity Read more>>

Dina Preston-Ortiz

For the last 30 years, my husband Don and I have had a front-row seat to Ameri-can history. While we are not famous musicians or global diplomats, we have had the good fortune of experiencing more than our share of exceptional experiences. Through these experiences, we have gained valuable insight that offers the business community something extraordinary. Without a record deal or artist management, we have performed with our band in 43 countries on 26 world tours. We have worked for the United States Department of Defense Armed Forces Overseas Shows and on behalf of the U.S. State Department, performing and speaking on their statecraft initiative for various U.S. Embassies around the world as Ambassadors of Goodwill. Along with our global performances, we continue to successfully work in the Meetings and Event Industry performing for Fortune 500 companies. Our story is valuable because it gives a different perspective on effective business strategy. Read more>>

Chef Jibriel Saunders

Raised in Oakland, California; Jibriel Saunders dealt with an enormous amount of loss at a young age. He lost his mother, sister and both brothers; as one can imagine, this is traumatizing for anyone. Jibriel felt ruined as his entire world was falling apart in front of his eyes. He started to feel abandoned, as his other family members were leaving him, adding to the already somber feeling of loneliness after many losses. He had no family structure to fall upon for the support a young man needs in this life. In the midst of his world falling apart, Jibriel decided that he needed to find a passion. Jibriel has always had a very powerful vision to be the best that he can; he was alive in this vast universe. He decided that no matter what obstacles you may be facing, you can turn that dream into reality!!  When introduced to the culinary world, Jibriel found that very desire he was seeking. Jibriel decided to continue to hold on to his aspirations. Read more>>

Laura Bianchi

I began my journey primarily as a corporate attorney, focused on business law, transactions, mergers, and acquisitions. In 2010 when medical marijuana passed, I began assisting clients in this very new realm of legal practice. I initially assisted in the rulemaking process, providing comments and suggestions on behalf of clients. From there, my career continued to evolve alongside the ever-changing cannabis industry. As a relatively new industry without precedent or a clear path forward, so much of its development is based within the contracts. My job and end goal from the start was really to determine and develop strategies and processes that were in compliance with the program while addressing the unique hurdles and complications of this nascent industry. Over time my knowledge, experience, and of course, expertise grew and developed, as did my practice, which led me to start my own firm with my partner, Justin Brandt. Read more>>

Marla Giordano

I started baking when I was seven. My grandma taught me how to make brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and Italian pizelle cookies. I quickly fell in love with baking and started teaching myself. I watched videos, tried new recipes, and began perfecting my skills. I was always the one to bake for family and friend events. I was always up for a challenge, so I learned to perfect the French macaron at the age of 15. After high school, I started working at a bakery as it was my dream to start my own one day. When covid hit and I lost my job, I took a leap of faith and decided to move to Phoenix from San Diego and start my home bakery. Read more>>

Becca Gartrell

We are Becca and Mark. We are the newlywed owners of Crew Coffee. Becca works as an employee benefits broker and Mark is an accountant. When the pandemic hit, our May 02 wedding plans were canceled and Mark was laid off. We decided to pivot and trade our large wedding for a business and an elopement in Sedona. Mark and I have always talked about potential business ideas on our evening walks. Mark was an accountant but always dreamed about owning a business. I could never get the idea of a coffee shop out of my head. We had taken a trip to Europe in 2019 and on our last day before our flight out of Ireland. We stumbled upon the cutest breakfast/Coffee spot calls Skinny Batch. Read more>>

Alex Fife

I began my journey in content/social media at the end of 2017. I had been in Texas the year before, selling roofing contracts to businesses and homeowners, Returned to Phoenix, and was hauling scrap metal for a local company. I had hurt my back. I needed to find new work. I responded to an add on craigslist for an office manager position for a construction company. I was hired on the spot. Their company was operating as a framing contractor, and one of my tasks was to brand the company as a general contractor and begin selling projects directly to consumers. I emerged into the world of social media via construction with a strong company to create a community and generate sales from our content. Read more>>

Gina B

My journey into beauty, health and wellness, fitness, and women’s empowerment, is indeed a gift that has always been a part of me. It’s safe to say that I fell in love with helping people reach their greatest potential by falling in love with the absolute greatest version of themselves through skincare and fitness since 2012. I never thought eight years later. I would be opening my second business establishment. I have been truly blessed in being able to incorporate fitness and wellness into my everyday lifestyle while also implementing that same drive into helping others overcome their mental and fitness goals. Read more>>

Jenlyn and Matt Long

Long before Daily Dose was around, we first met while working in a restaurant in our hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. Matt, who graduated first in his class at culinary school, was set on opening his own restaurant before his 25th birthday, and I shared his passion. A few years after we met, we decided to head West in search of adventure. We packed up our things and headed to Arizona. Warmer weather and the dream of opening a restaurant was beckoning. In 2003, we opened our first restaurant a few months before Matt’s 25th birthday. The restaurant, called Fusion, was an upscale dining restaurant. After a successful seven-year run, we decided to close Fusion to focus on what had always been our dream – to open a brunch restaurant in Scottsdale where our guests could enjoy delicious food in a fun environment at a fair price. Read more>>

Clark Wu

How my story started is not too different from many others; this is an immigrant’s tale. I was born in China. My mother left behind her family and a familiar world to seek a better future for her children in the land of opportunity. We landed in Los Angeles, California, a melting pot of cultures, and California became home. I was six-years-old at the time. I remember being awestruck when we first landed at LAX—the lights, the people, the high rises, the overall grandeur of it all. It was a bit overwhelming for a young child to take it all in at once. But I loved it. I knew I was home. Read more>>

Baylee Ann

I was born and raised in the weather stubborn Midwest, in Indianapolis to be exact! I moved to Arizona very shortly after I turned 18. I moved here by myself, knowing very few people, just some family friends, as well as one friend I had known since middle school. My number one goal was always to move out of Indiana when I turned 18, and that’s exactly what I did. My hometown was fun, but I craved something more! I thought, “if other people can move 1,700 miles+ away from home, then I can too”. I’ve been in Arizona for a year now. I decided to move to Arizona to pursue acting at Arizona State University. Read more>>

Miranda Rico

I fell in love with photography at a young age when I received my first point and shoot camera for my 10th birthday. Ever since then, my cameras and I have been inseparable. I have since spent the past ten years growing my photography business from the ground up and more recently, I have come to feel at home in my passion for wedding photography. Over the past two years, I have travelled the world and taken photos along the way. Meeting people from different walks of life and experiencing their different cultures has become the lifeblood from which my photography is influenced. I decided to take my wedding photography and my traveling to the next level, and thus, Southwest Sonder was born. Read more>>

Dr. Vanessa Ruiz

I started out as a busy nurse in NYC. During that time, I faced several health challenges, which were really an outcome of my high-stress job and burnout. After attempting to help myself through medications with little success and palliation, I stumbled upon a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Peter Bongiorno, who mentored me and showed me more natural ways towards improving my mental health and well-being. Meeting him changed the trajectory of my life, as it showed me what was possible for health and helping others. While it was a difficult time for me due to my poor health, it helped me to clarify my purpose and calling: to become a naturopathic doctor and help those with mental health issues and to give back to the many nurses who faced the same challenges I did. Read more>>

Melanie Stasny

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a strong desire to help others. I wanted to be of service and inspire people to live their best lives. In 2011 I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Sociology. Two months before I graduated, my brother was involved in an accident and had a severe traumatic brain injury. The left side of his skull was removed from his head due to the swelling. My family was told that the chances of him being able to walk or talk again were slim to none. We lived in the ICU unit with him for nearly a month before he was transferred to outpatient rehabilitation. Read more>>

Tasia Custode

I studied Journalism at University while simultaneously beginning my career in Broadcasting. I credit Rogers TV in Brantford, ON Canada, for allowing me to hone my skills both on and off camera. My time there truly helped launch my television career. After more than a decade of hosting and producing weather, live call-in, and tech shows on Canadian and international TV, I moved to Scottsdale, AZ, in 2014. I quickly noticed a need for affordable, quality video production in Maricopa County. I decided to take the leap into business ownership and Brio Media was born in 2016. Read more>>

Susan Speidel

I started in 1998 with a small coffee shop (450 sqft) in the park where the Scottsdale Culinary and ArtFest are held. Right across from Scottsdale Center for the Arts. After a few years, I outgrew the space and moved in the same building to a larger space and opened Orange Table. Orange Table became quite popular with the locals. We stayed busy and sold in 2011. I stayed out of the restaurant business for six years and the siren song called me back again. I wanted, this time to be in South Scottsdale. I wanted to have something easily accessible for locals. I opened Inner Circle Cafe in November of 2017. This life of food and coffee is definitely a labor of love. Read more>>

Inna Korenzvit

I was born in the former Soviet Union into a working-class family. Despite their long working hours and our very meager living conditions, I grew up in a loving and caring family. Unfortunately, my father passed away at a young age when I was just a child, and shortly thereafter, my mother, my older brother and I decided to leave the USSR to escape political and religious persecution. When we crossed the border and embarked on our journey to a new and better life, our physical possessions consisted of three suitcases, $42, and the clothes on our backs. I was a young teenager when our family arrived in Canada, by way of Italy (so that we could get documentation to enter Canada). Neither I nor my mother spoke English, but our determination to work hard, learn, and succeed had kept us going. Read more>>

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