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Phoenix’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.

Jenna Devine

The start of my journey was pretty unexpected. I did EVIT in Mesa, Arizona, where I found my passion for hair. Going into the program I would’ve never believed I’d be where I am today. From there, I went on to be an assistant during the peak of covid. That time was pretty rough. I stayed strong and took that opportunity to continue my education. I was so throaty to do hair, my parents set up a “mini salon” in our back shed for friends and family. I was going to school full time, working in the evenings, then weekends were hair days! I never gave myself a break. I believe that hard work and dedication got me where I am today. Read more>>

Kelsy McHenry

Hi there! Well, If you had asked me 8 years ago to introduce myself, I probably would have told you that I was a happily married mom of three beautiful kids, and living a pretty amazing life with my husband who I adored, Heath.

One year later though, our world turned upside down when our 12 yr old daughter suffered from a chronic mystery illness that left her immobilized and us, her parents, desperate for answers. Read More>>

Daniela Gheorghita

I am from Romania, and I moved here almost four years ago, finishing back home my bachelor’s studies in the economic industry. I’ve always wanted to have my own business, to manage my schedule, but most importantly, to do what I always liked, working with numbers. I am an organized person in my personal life and bookkeeping is the field that allowed me to clean and organize other people’s businesses’ finances. Read more>>

Amber Mikesell

Suivera started as daily texts going between friends. I had a wellness practice and, as part of my daily routine, both myself and my team would send daily messages to individuals to help keep focus for the day. Before we knew it, our messages were being shared around and we found that our little list had grown to include a lot of people from all over the world – most of whom we had never met, all joining together out of a desire to be inspired. Read more>>

David Weibel

I’ve been passionate about photography for nine years, starting as a hobby while working a full-time job. I was lucky enough to be able to pursue a career in photojournalism for a few years, which gave me a unique approach to documenting weddings, where I focus on capturing candid moments and emotions as they unfold. After years of honing my skills and career shifts, I decided to take the leap and turn my hobby into a full-time business. I began promoting myself as a wedding photographer only a year and a half ago, but I’ve been fortunate enough to stay busy and establish myself as a reputable wedding photographer in Mesa. Read more>>

Durraj Murtaza

My name is Durraj Murtaza and I am from Karachi, Pakistan. I am 19 years old and I recently came to the United States to visit and learn more about the art culture here. I have attended many art festivals and galleries and I look forward to being a part of those in the future. Never thought a girl who failed her 1st-grade art exam can ever draw like this. It all started when I was 8. I used to play with coal pieces and used to draw with them. Read more>>

Heidi Wiest

Started my beauty career by going to Avada Institute Minneapolis. I then made my way to vegas where I was the creative director for Brannon hair at the Hard rock hotel and casino Now the founder of Wyld Kī. A celebrity hairstylist, sound healer, reiki master, and yoga and meditation teacher. passion for health, beauty, and spirituality. Been passionate about hair and skin care products for over 20 years. previously had a line of beauty products that were not organic. Once I learned about the harmful effects of many of the ingredients that are regularly used in skin and hair care products, I ceased production and immediately shut down her line of beauty products. Read more>>

Gabrielle “DJ MIZZ G”

I grew up in a sports-loving family, my brother played basketball and football and was overall an amazing athlete, my family was also a true U of A basketball fan, so I was only destined to play a sport. The only sports team that I made growing up was my YMCA basketball team and when I tried out for my school’s cheerleading, and volleyball teams I’d never made it. I ended up making my school’s dance team in middle school and before you say anything about dance not being a sport, dancers put their blood, sweat, and tears into it, I know I did. Read more>>

Heather Dziedzic

After graduating from ASU in the 1990s with a BS in Marketing I worked for Enterprise Software companies and eventually became a Real Estate Broker. During my career I kept pace in the well-oiled machine of a large corporation and know the tremendous satisfaction of starting, operating, and selling my own business. All these experiences are embedded in my business-building DNA. At this point in my professional journey, I am combining passion with skill and experience. A Bergy Bag is all things I love: fun, purposeful, stylish, and full of adventure. I am a mother, wife, and no stranger to adversity. At my core, I am resilient and kind. Read more>>

Tommy (Vildknøs/Vildknos) Knøs

Howdy! My name is Tommy aka Vildknøs/Vildknos I am a one-man band, playing country/outlaw/dark/rock ‘n’ roll/spaghetti western. Born in Denmark, raised like a concrete cowboy grew up in a small town, wanting bigger things yes, that story. My mom worked at a factory, and my stepdad on the farm. My dad was a trucker, and my big brother was out there raising hell. So I learned something from everyone. I moved into the big city, I’ve been screaming in bands for over 20 years, the last one was 9000 John Doe has released three albums with “The Spirit Of The Firewolf” from 2018 being the last one. In 2017 I and my wife took our first trip to the States and we got married to Elvis in Las Vegas, how cool is that? Read more>>

Sarina Siebenaler

I began writing poetic verses when I learned to read as a little girl. I remember reading books by Dr. Seuss, which helped foster the growth of my reading skills. I loved the silly wordplay and rhyme and how these books became the foundation of my early literacy skills, which then began my love of writing. It wasn’t until I became a mom of my three children that I rekindled that same love as a little girl reading for the first time. I would be enthralled by how picture books were the ritual that my children looked forward to. The spark I felt as a little girl was now what I began to see in my children’s eyes. Read more>>

Ashley Cuellar

Let’s start from the beginning! I’ve been in the food service industry for 11 years but I began my cake decorating career in 2017 when I worked in a grocery store bakery. I was a bakery clerk for a few months, but I quickly became bored with it and expressed interest in other areas. I started out learning how to properly frost cupcakes and little desserts, then quickly moved on to learning how to frost a cake. Once I completely transitioned to being a cake decorator, I became submerged in it. I had no idea that there was a whole world of cake. Read more>>

Mark Brathwaite

Mark Brathwaite is an acclaimed hip-hop artist and producer originally from Toronto, Canada. He is known for producing French Montana, Wizkid, Kardinal Offishall, and SonReal with a duo called Burd & Keyz. He has headlined Canadian Music Week, and the TD Jazz Festival, and opened for Machine Gun Kelly as well as The Trews. Other career highlights include a collaboration with Columbia Records artist Coleman Hell, releasing his debut album Phoenix and featuring his singles “Rain” and “Sunrise” on MTV Online / VH1 Soul. Read more>>

Ryder Olsen

We started with a vision to bring modern, professional healthcare to peoples’ homes. I am an emergency medicine physician, and I had seen many people utilizing the ER for various conditions that could easily be managed in their homes. Using the ER is expensive even with insurance, so this was also a very motivating factor for us. Jake, my cousin, was an RN who brought the idea to me and my wife, Josilyn, who is also very passionate about public health. We initially thought this was going to be a small, locally owned business in Utah County, but over the past 18 months, we have grown throughout Utah, Idaho, Texas, California, Washington, and Arizona. Read more>>

John Cogan

In any endeavor such as starting your own business, foresight is invaluable. A person must know his product, his customers, and his production capability. That is as true for starting as an artist as it is for any businessperson. I solved that problem by being an artist part-time and slowly working my way toward full-time. When I was ready, I quit my regular job and set out on my own. That was over forty years ago. Discipline is important as well. You have to make your business THE priority. When you set out, friends and relatives tend to think you “don’t work” and now have lots of free time. You don’t. Read more>>

Khristy Johnson

My journey started when I was around 16-17 years old modeling I felt like it let me become different people in a different world so I wanted to help people feel the same way by taking photos for them so in 2019 I became a Photographer/Videographer to capture memories for families. Since then I have opened my own company after my daughter passed away in 2011 La’Niya Perfect Image LLC where I specialize in Photography, Videography marketing, and advertising. I have continued to model through the years, but I mainly love being on the other side of the camera, editing photos, and creating images for my customers. One day I wish to open my studio and take photos around the world. Read more>>

Carlos Mayorga

My journey into locksmithing started in 2015. As the trucking company I was working for had slowed down significantly, I was only able to work 16 hours a week, making money difficult to come by. Seeing this opportunity to learn something new or new set of skills, I decided to pursue becoming a locksmith and found the Foley Belsaw Locksmith home study course. I dedicated myself every day to learning and practicing the material I had studied that day. Once I completed the course and graduated, I immediately applied for various locksmith positions and was eventually hired by NSBS as a key shop helper in 2016. NSBS then became Miner, a large Facility Maintenance company, and I worked there as an in-house locksmith servicing major retail stores such as Apple, Verizon, AT&T, Ross, and many other recognizable brands. It’s been an incredible journey! Read more>>

OG Hatch

When I think about how I got started it honestly takes me back to when I was 16-17 years old. That is when I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I always wanted to be a sports analyst on ESPN like the legendary Stephen A. Smith. I’ve always felt as if I was destined to be on a TV screen. As I got older I started listening to podcasts and thought it could be something I could be good at. Also, while dealing with mental health issues including mood swings and depression I needed a way to speak my true feelings and the podcast was the best way for me to express myself in a way that made me the most comfortable. Read more>>

Steven Cota-Robles

I was one of those people you hear about when people talk about the “Great Resignation” following covid. I had been working for the same company for almost 15 years and I realized that time is just so valuable, I’d rather be spending it doing something I’m passionate about. I knew that I wanted to utilize my skills and knowledge of the food industry to help my community, but I wasn’t sure how until I talked to some friends who are teachers. They explained to me what food insecurity and hunger look like in our schools in real life, and it was heartbreaking. With that information, I started on my business plan for launching The Tucson Family Food Project – a nonprofit organization that would not only provide food to kids but teaches them skills they need to cook meals for themselves at home. Read more>>

Brandy Walker

We are a family-run nonprofit 501 C3 Corporation that started 19 years ago for the benefit of youth and families in our community. The purpose was and still is to reconnect youth and families with one another through the great outdoors. Now more than ever, this mission is critical to physical and mental health and beyond. We operate out of two locations: A Day camp in Glendale serving much of Maricopa County with day trips, mobile events, and camps with many events featured at Lake Pleasant in Peoria, AZ. We operate commercial tours and outdoor adventures as the main core of our business in Cottonwood, AZ (near Sedona) where we offer kayak tours on the Verde River, rappelling, caving, and team-building activities. Read more>>

Anisza & Frances Moreno

It all started when I was about 5 years old. I remember learning to cook by watching my dad and mom make dinner. I used to watch cooking shows with my dad when we had time to hang out. As an adult, I never thought the idea of opening a business to cook for people would ever cross my mind again! I realized I was interested when I was in the Army. The time I spent in my barracks would cringe in my mind so I would cook dinner for my battle buddies for people to hang out with. They enjoyed my food and to this day they still talk about how much they enjoyed those times with me and how great my food left an impression. After that, I started to become passionate about food! Read more>>

Matt Rose

I moved around A LOT when I was a kid… probably 17 times by the time I turned 17. Naturally, that created a sense of instability that kept me anxious and wanting to fill whatever was lacking in me… more friends, more success, more stuff… more clout. Because surely adding social status would make me feel understood and magically filled up. Right? Like many who have moved around a lot, I never felt like I fit. All the southerners around me in Texarkana, AR loved my California birth certificate (psych). All my SoCal family members enjoyed emphasizing my southern accent as they pondered whether “ArkanSAW” was a state. The fact is, I never felt truly at home. Read more>>

Kat Kasson

My passion for creating has always existed but my love for weddings developed when I was 8 years old. I saw the most beautiful wedding display through the window of The Grand Californian Resort and begged my mom to take a photo with our digital camera. In high school, I was able to do my very first wedding for a couple in a matter of days. Since then I have been able to expand what I do for weddings including planning, florals, and decor rental services. Within the past year, I’ve been able to become an LLC, create my website, and expand my products. Creating my own business started during the pandemic. Read more>>

Taylor Piper

I was working in HR for a big corporation & I was very unhappy. I had big dreams for myself & I gave up. I thought HR was it. It took a huge toll on my happiness, health & relationships. I knew that couldn’t be it. I had been taking Pilates & the instructor told me she thought I’d be a great Pilates teacher. I thought about it & convinced my mom to do it with me. I was certified in Mat 1 & LOVED it. I excelled that weekend. I was so happy. Read more>>

Christopher and Tyler Langford

My brother (Tyler) and I grew up hunting and fishing. We became obsessed with it. Tyler and I were sitting around one day and said we needed to start our own YouTube. So I just on YouTube and created an account. Next thing you know we are making hunting videos and some people are liking it. It has not been smooth. I had to set teach myself how to film and edit videos. I didn’t know what editing app to use or even how to edit. I just figured it out as I went. Read more>>

Kat Levitt

I started my business in the spring of 2021. Treats De Cuisine has been a longtime dream of mine and I finally brought it to fruition during Covid as a lot of the farms we use today were struggling to distribute the product. I have both dogs and cats at home and continued to struggle to find treats for my animals that didn’t contain ingredients I wasn’t able to pronounce or that caused digestive issues. Read more>>

Rebecca Hidalgo Rains

I was originally licensed in 1993 so I have come close to 30 years full-time. I got into real estate because my dad, being a Realtor, sucked me into the business, and afterward I worked for several local builders. I was a sales manager before the market crash, and after the crash, I reinvented myself as a short seller which helped me find a new space in Valley real estate. As the market recovered I returned to my roots in the building industry by working closely with Mesa home builder Bellago Homes and I am now starting a new venture with Kismet Alternative Construction. For the last three years, our real estate firm has been the number one team in Arizona for Berkshire Hathaway. Read more>>

Jess Suworoff

I ended up in a creative career because it always felt like the right fit for me and has always been the most fulfilling. I grew up in a household where one parent was a professional artist, and the other a professional art conservator. This early exposure to two very different forms of the art world (an artist vs a career that supported creative/artistic work) is something I’ve experimented with in my career since I began working in Advertising Photography. To me, being a professional creative is a different calling from being an artist. I identify with the term creative, more so than the term artistic. Read more>>

Charles Hicks

In my late teen years, I graduated from Prescott High School with a passion for modern exotic, luxury, and muscle cars. Since 16 both my brother, Colin, and I drooled over the dazzling Italian eye candy, or bulging American muscle, and knew we were not alone in appreciating these modern marvels. The 21st Century Car Show LLC was promptly born, aptly named because our first-ever car show was only open to vehicles model year 2000 and newer. Read more>>

Trini Guevara

The end of my senior year of high school was approaching and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduating. I knew I had a passion for art and photography but I also had some self-doubt about succeeding in that career. College recruiters started showing up in classes and talking about their schools and nothing sparked an interest. In my photography class, Scottsdale Community College came in and talked about their Film School. Read more>>

Kara Grimes

Karabou Adventures began in 2019 thanks to my dream of escaping the office and spending more time outdoors. I am a free-spirited person who gets excited to travel and explore new places, so naturally, everyone around me wanted to know more about the places I was traveling to. I didn’t want to just simply share my destinations but wanted to provide information about the safest and best way for others to visit as well. Read more>>

Arianna Rodrigo

I was in the military out in Fort Campbell before moving to Phoenix Arizona. I started going to school while I was in the process of getting out of the military. When I moved to Arizona in February of 2022, I wanted to help my husband with our finances since I was only attending school. The way my embroidery business started around Valentine’s Day. I tried to get my husband an embroidered sweatshirt however it was too late to order anything. Read more>>

Drew & Catherine Suggs

Drew and Catherine Suggs has had a passion for years to build an organization to help support an entire community. With their devotion to education and sports, they came together to build Sizzle Academy. We met over 10 years ago and during our early stages of dating, we discussed our passion for children, sports, and education. We had decided that being able to start a non-profit would be the greatest way to help student-athletes, families, and an entire community. Sizzle Academy is a 501(c)(3) and was an AMAZING Christmas gift in 2022. Read more>>

Marissa Simmons

Music and I were always meant to be. When I was 2 years old, my father noticed that I was singing in tune and the proper key of various songs. At age 5 I started piano lessons. After that, I added violin, composition, flute, piccolo, harp, guitar, and ukulele. At age 8, I heard a CD by the pop opera star, Andrea Boccelli, and decided that I wanted to be a professional opera singer.  Read more>>

James Warriner

On April 1, 2022, I retired from the Arizona Department of Transportation, Enforcement Compliance Division, Office of Inspector General, as the Operations Commander for 40 plus detectives. I started this second career with ADOT in January 2011 and through March 31, 2022. I retired from the Arizona Department of Public Safety after 31.5 years as a Lieutenant, during my short two years of retirement I worked as a counselor and trainer to the Public Safety community and their families. In 2006 I graduated from ASU with my Masters of Counseling, and continue to be a Licensed Counselor. I have been a member of the Arizona chapter since 1994. Read more>>

Ashley and Austin Ionetz

I (Ashley) have always had a love for photography and videography and the desire to get into the wedding industry. A friend of ours gave us a chance to film their wedding as our first and it ignited the spark in us both to want to continue and attempt to do this for a living. We both worked other full-time jobs for the first year and a half of operating our business and then I (Ashley) got laid off a week before our wedding. Read more>>

Marti Spezia

I have had pet rabbits for over 12 years and support local rabbit rescues. When I started to follow one on social media, (Tranquility Trails) they were posting about how their bunny-sitting suites were getting full for summer vacations, and I thought, “I can watch a rabbit or two for people!”. I reached out to the rescue to let them know they could refer people to me when they became full for bunny sitting. This is how it started! I started to get more and more calls, clients were using me again for bunny-sitting needs, and realized there was a need for bunny-savvy pet sitters. Read more>>

Pat Watson

I’m thinking the story you’re most interested in is the journey of my art. I was born to a very affluent and self-indulgent family, a group that was strongly attracted to the pursuit of pleasure. For them, I was a joy and a burden. I was recruited for a beautiful baby contest which was also a substantial problem for people who wanted a beautiful baby on the hip for admiration but didn’t want to deal with the complications of some severe childhood illnesses on my part. Read more>>

Brent Ludwig

Therese (my wife) and I started Sweet Moments Company in 2019 and began offering virtual cooking experiences by the summer of 2020. Therese had been an accomplished chef with 15 years of experience and over ten years of chef instructing. This was a fantastic opportunity for her to connect with more people doing what she loves. While Therese quickly transitioned SMCO into her full-time occupation, I provided operations support and development while maintaining my engineering career. However, as the company began to snowball, I was also pulled full-time into Sweet Moments Company. Read more>>

Derek McMonagle

First off, I am thankful to get to share my story with the Voyage Phoenix audience for a second time. It is always a very humbling experience to share my business and my passion with others. So, I got started in the property management space about 4 years ago. I was unemployed, living on my buddy’s couch in downtown Phoenix, studying to become an NBA agent. Little did I know, the Good Lord above had a different plan in store for me. Read more>>

Bree Hunter

Bree has two young daughters she adores. Outside of her busy family life, Bree is a proud business owner. She has helped thousands with their transformations all over the globe. Bree was a pioneer in virtual training long before 2020. When it comes to real life, Bree faces the same challenges most everyone else faces with Health & Fitness. “I know firsthand how to help others implement and sustain a lifestyle for success with everything else life throws at us.” Read more>>

Maya Henley

I started off by making decorations for my children’s and other family members’ birthday parties as a hobby. I never really considered myself extremely artistic but I am crafty. I love event planning and interior design as well. During Covid, I needed an outlet to break up the monotony of my day and I started repurposing furniture, redecorating, and so on and decided that I wanted a Cricut so that I could cut my own designs. My husband bought it for me on black Friday as an early Christmas gift and I decided to make gifts for my friends and family. One thing led to another and more people started asking me to make personalized items for them. Read more>>

Barbara Thompson

I am an Author, and I have self-published most of my books. I have written eight. I released my 8th book in November 2022. I have done a few book signings since then. The book is entitled “Forgiveness For Real.” I have been writing since 2004, and that was when I released my first book entitled “The Pastor’s Wife & Other Women. Since then the books have continued to flow. My inspiration is God and in some cases everyday life and people. I have a book called “Why we do the things our moms did.” Inspired by my mother. My latest is on “Forgiveness, inspired by the life and people in general. Read more>>

Nicole Poppell

Mural Mates have been a long time in the making. I started my career as a commercial interior designer for Gensler in San Francisco. My work there focused on offices and improving the way we experience workspace. There I got to work on projects such as Salesforce and Facebook which were both pushing boundaries of what offices could look like. I was always drawn to the one-off specialty moments in design, which usually involved art in one form or another. I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to shift my career to focus more on the intersection of art and architecture. After 4.5 years of designing and building large-scale artworks for clients such as Google, Adobe, Turner, and more, I decided to launch my own mural painting company, Mural Mates, with the goal to bring more large-scale art into the world. Read more>>

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