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Portraits of Baltimore

It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them the fundamental questions about who they are and how they became the person they are today. Understanding and empathy are essential building blocks for a better, more compassionate world. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to ask these questions each week through our interview series. Below you’ll find inspiring interviews from in and around Baltimore.

Nia Walker-Owens

I have been a professional nail therapist for 31 years. I fell in love with nails when I was 15 years old when my mother became part owner of a nail salon. I was always pretty artsy so it came easy to me. I was an apprentice under Lorena Scott, she taught me how customer service and having knowledge of what your doing were so important. This made me want to become a master at everything she taught me… I began to go to beauty shows all over the country to extend my education, meet other nail technicians, get valuable business strategies, and elevate myself from the rest. I have been applying this concept since 1990 and counting… I value each client that I have and continue offering them great service, a clean environment, following all-new Covid19 regulations, and educate them on what services they are having. Read more>>

Anna Hartman

I launched my blog in 2013 while finishing up college, living with my boyfriend in Baltimore city, and working full-time at a windowless corporate job. My first blog, Anna Elizabeth Events, was born out of a need for creativity and passion. I dreamed about planning luxurious, over-the-top events in the city and when no one would hire me in the area, I decided to explore that world myself through inspiration photo collages and styled photoshoots. Over time, event planning morphed into lifestyle writing with an emphasis on fashion. Years later after finding my niche with feminine, petite style and a blush pink aesthetic, I rebranded my blog as Lifestyle by Anna Elizabeth and refocused on the business aspect of growing a successful blog. Since then, I have attended 2 fashion weeks in New York City, worked on countless fashion, travel, food, and home collaborations, and been featured in publications such as Lauren Conrad Co and photographed for the home banner of websites such as ChicWish. Read more>>

John Waller

I am originally from Chattanooga, TN but I met my now wife in the Army. I decided to move to Baltimore to be with her, but didn’t have a job in the area. While I was looking for a job and being a stay at home dad, my wife said “why don’t you sell custom suits”? I had always worn suits as my primary garments, and I have more suits and dress clothes than casual clothes. I don’t even own a pair of jeans. So ever since then, I began building my business of supplying people with custom suits. Read more>>

Enrique Pallares

We grew up in a gypsy way, moving a lot but with the constant gravitational pull of the kitchen table. We were raised with books, nature, good food and good drink, and being in the wine and food industry was always a family dream. In 2016, that vision began to take form when along with my wife, Laura, and my brother, Felipe, we founded Casa Carmen, a small sort of winery, vermutería, bodega, tapas bar and tinned fish paradise in Chestertown, Maryland. This is when we met our partner, California winemaker, John Levenberg. John had been making great wine as a consultant for years and was a wealth of knowledge, a brilliant mad scientist winemaker, or as we like to call him, a wizard. Our two families then set on a path of creating a vision for a truly special project: a winery that would act as a gathering place for the bounty of this region and that would push the boundaries of quality and sustainability. We had always deeply cared about living a life of authenticity and responsibility towards nature and others, and with this new project, we were able to start working on making natural wine and vermouth, experimenting with different methods of fermentation and maceration, a giant artisan workshop with a tasting room and tapas bar at its very center. Read more>>

Tiffany Hoang

I was born and raised in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. In 2010, I immigrated to the United States. At first, I was shocked with the culture and new environment. In addition, I wasn’t fluent in English, so I was often stressed and didn’t know where to start. I went to Community College for a couple of years, and in 2013, I started my first part-time job as a Cocktail waitress at Maryland Live Casino in Hanover, Maryland. After 9 months of working in the casino business, the opportunity arose for me to start my professional career as a casino host, then Manager of Relationship of Marketing, and finally to Senior Manager of International Relationship Marketing. This all happened within 2 years. After 7 years of holding that position, I had begun earning myself a six-figure salary with bonuses. I was one of the top performers in the team by bringing a 7 figure increase in revenue every quarter. Read more>>

Salvador Vega

For the last 6 years in this country, I first overcame the transition from living in a new environment, in which I didn’t understand the culture or was experienced with before. I got my first opportunity to help in a body shop in the automotive industry as a wash bay guy. I used to broom the floors of the shop and ask colleagues how to move up for promotion. I was constantly seeking to learn and help my coworkers, so I could become more enlightened about this industry. There were challenges that I overcame, but leveraged my team and relied on my patience. I was always looking for how to make my efforts more productive by adding extra capabilities to my tasks. I focused on learning in every job I was given from helping a co-worker unscrew a bumper cover to helping the painter mix paint. Read more>>

Jane Chase

I have always been guided by the motto “Happy hands, happy life”. I am a creative person and found satisfaction and joy through different outlets over the years such as theatre, music and visual arts. This past year, my older sister and I were baking together (virtually) and we took a deep dive in all things sourdough. The more I learned about working with sourdough cultures, the more interested I became in how to make simple, healthy and beautiful bread. So much to discover and plenty of time at home to learn. Figuring out our “new normal” post-COVID routines, I found myself still completely in love with breadmaking. The daily lessons of practice, patience and humility checked all of my creative boxes. My lifelong daydream of working in a bakery became a reality this summer with the launch of Heart in Hand Bread. I discovered the “menu preorder/pickup” model through the wonderful baking community on Instagram and wanted to see if it could work for me. My amazing network of family and friends all pitched in to help with the website, production, best of all, “research and development”. Read more>>

Lauren Grote

Rill’s Bus Service is a four-generation, family-owned and operated school bus and motorcoach business. Our story began in 1968 when Paul & Anna Rill purchased their first school bus to supplement their farming income. In 1984, the business expanded adding one motorcoach to the fleet for charter trips and company tours. The Rills’s two daughters, Dianne and Doreen, operate and manage the business today with the third and fourth generations following in their footsteps. The company currently operates over 40 school buses and 5 deluxe motorcoaches offering a wide variety of transportation services. Rill’s Bus Service meets all U.S. DOT regulations for passenger vehicles and carries the highest Department of Transportation safety rating. They are proud members of the American Bus Association, United Motorcoach Association, and Maryland Motorcoach Association. Read more>>

Rosalyn Jefferson

After giving birth to my daughter and becoming a mom of two, I just knew returning to the stressful and toxic work environment I was in prior to maternity leave was not an option. Hotel management was all I knew and what I dedicated the majority of my time and attention to for years, but it was no longer serving me as much I was serving it. I was at crossroad; how would I provide for my family and was walking away from my career and two degrees in hospitality management without a solid plan be worth the risk? Let me tell you….It WAS! Thankfully my supportive man and incredible family gave me the push, support and idea to walk down a different path. My mom purchased a wax kit for me about 7 years ago so I could save money by waxing myself and her eyebrows. I was horrible at waxing and lost skin as a result. ouch! so it sat in the cabinet collecting dust until my sister said, why don’t you go to school and learn to wax professionally? And from there the idea to go to esthetics school was born! Fast forward a year later I was graduating from esthetics school and landed my spa job as a licensed esthetician.  Read more>>

Maya Tyler

My passion for empowering and inspiring women began years ago. Going to Western Senior High school, an all-girls high school in Baltimore, taught me the importance of sisterhood and how self-confidence and self-care could really make a difference in how you approach life. I started mentoring a middle-school girl when I was in college and that experience inspired me to start my own non-profit mentoring organization for young ladies called T.R.E.N.D (Talent, Respect and Education Never Die). It was not only a mentoring program but the participants also modeled, danced and put on a fashion show at the end of the program to display their new found confidence. In addition, I formed a group called Sister Circle, co-led a program at church called G.L.O.W (Godly Ladies of Worth), and started a support group for women called Queens With Rings. In 2018, I along with two friends started the Pretty & Purposed Podcast in which we share the lessons that we learned through our experiences to inspire our listeners. Read more>>

Tatiana Mullin

I stumbled upon photography after leaving Baltimore School for the Arts. At my new school, I took a photography class as an easy way to get an A. After my first class, I was hooked. From seeing an image appear in the darkroom, to making my own pinhole camera and experimenting with light, it was a release that let me be introverted and creative at the same time. After high school, I went to Maryland Institute College of Art for Photography and while I only stayed for 2 years, my creativity thrived. The darkroom was my favorite place and I loved the fun mistakes that can happen to make a photo even more original. While in college, I started getting more realistic with who I could be as an artist and my purpose. I left MICA to work full time at Nordstrom where I enjoyed the fashion and photographing my friends for fun. I fell more in love with marketing and how I could creatively make a comfortable living. After 3 years, I got tired of the corporate work and dove into working for local businesses. I lit up again, loving the conversations with creative business owners and felt thrilled I could use my love for photography to help businesses make money. Read more>>

Victoria Johnson

I was recruited for a mortgage company straight out of college (Let’s Go Mountaineers!) where I began my career as a Loan Officer. I got my licenses, learned the business, got my feet wet and landed a fantastic opportunity to join my current company, Draper & Kramer Mortgage Corp. This allowed me to expand my business and really run it on my own, along with gaining the ability to work with my fiance as my Realtor partner!. Read more>>


I have always had a love for the arts. I loved visiting art museums, school art projects, and helping others with their creative needs. I am thankful my parents recognized my gift and nurtured my craft growing up. I was an art assistant in elementary school. Then, I enrolled in a magnet middle school and transitioned to an arts and technology high school. This all led to me majoring in art in college. I obtained my B.A. in Visual Communication and Digital Media Arts from Bowie State University. I believed that my major would be best to marry my love for the arts and the lucrative technology field. My art teachers over the years have also played significant roles in my life that have since influenced my career: Ms. Helen McIntyre (Elementary school), Ms. Helen Nachby (Middle school), Mr. Robert Miller (High school), Mr. Clayton Lang and Gina Lewis (College). Read more>>

Tamira Adair

Tamira recognized her passion for makeup, hair care and fashion at a young age. Growing up, she was the girl that always kept her hair done thanks to her mom, she always had to match, from her shoes, the bangles she wore on her arm even as far as her eyeshadow lol. Mind you during this time she didn’t know the first thing about makeup and how to apply it correctly so you can only imagine how she looked but you couldn’t tell her nothing! After years of struggling with the idea of starting her own business, she finally convinced herself and in 2018 she launched Admira’ Kozmetics.mTamira wanted something to call her own and something that was a part of her. She came up with Admira’ by taking the first two letters of her last name ADair and the last four letters of her first name taMIRA, and combining them together as one to bring to life Admira’. Read more>>

Ronald Hazell Jr.

The Kreative Print Shop has evolved over the last 21 years. In my freshman year of high school, I began hand-painting apparel for friends after being inspired by a graduating student and encouraged by my drawing and painting teacher Ms. Z. After a while, I was creating shirts for fellow students, student organizations and other schools and religious organizations. I attended school the North Carolina A&T State University and grew the business while studying Business Management and Entrepreneurship. I was mentored by experienced business owners and other professionals and began to explore ways to speed up the decorating process of the apparel and ways to replicate the work that I was doing. After research and unsuccessfully looking to partner with a fulfillment shop, I started working with small print shops to help produce some of my designs.  In 2009, I began to study the craft of screen printing. I took many classes and traveled the country learning from some of the best in the industry. Meanwhile, was also studying textiles and was fortunate enough to tour many textiles facilities here in the United States. Read more>>

Ranea Triplin

I’ve always had a likeness for high-quality hair, especially because I have alopecia in particular. Therefore, I went to North India two years ago and partnered with a manufacturing shop Videhee Raw Hair factory… I wanted to earn more profit from selling raw hair, so I cut out the middleman and started my own company in Punjab, India with my partners Hassan and Arleen. I’ve put in the leg work ensuring that my partners and I re-sell the highest quality donor hair which is youthful Indian hair.’ I journeyed to India for several weeks- gaining a lot of vast knowledge about raw Indian hair industry. I came back to America and educated tons of hair companies the difference between youthful and older donor hair. Youthful donor hair has a lot of strength and durability vs the older donor hair that’s weak and fragile. Dozens of hair companies are partnered with us to this day here in the USA because of the high-quality hair we offer. We’ve worked alongside celebrity hairstylists and multi-million dollar hair salons in West Hollywood. Read more>>

Joshua Distenfeld

Originally from Long Island, NY. Started as a dishwasher at age 12 and worked my way up through ranks of the kitchen through apprenticeships and the school of hard knocks. Certified Executive Chef for 18 years. Worked in NY, Spain, Vegas, Philly and Baltimore. Came to Baltimore via the casino industry in 2011 as the Executive Chef for the Baltimore Orioles. Was asked to come up with a signature item for the ballpark and my Bacon Skewer idea was born. Original is the Hungarian Slab Bacon with Maple Chesapeake Bay Seasoning. It did so well that by 2014 it was in every MLB park in America. The goal was to always to own my own business so I took everything I learned at the ballpark and transitioned over to JD’s House of Bacon. We currently have online sales, do private labels and have a food truck. We feature 6 different glazes to appeal to the masses. During the holidays or special events, we create custom glazes as well. Even with COVID, we have expanded our operation and are on our way to being a fully automated USDA production facility for Bacon Skewers that include the Big Sticks, Appetizer Size and Bacon Crumbles. Read more>>

Libby Francis Baxter

I began my career in floristry almost by accident. In 1989 I was hired as the c0-manager of a wonderfully eclectic little shop in Woodstock, VT. It was a breakfast/lunch cafe, old fashioned soda fountain, and full-service florist all in one space. While I had experience with food operations, I was completely unfamiliar with the floral business. My co-manager, who ran the floral side, suggested we all get cross-trained. And so began my apprenticeship with Lucia Armstrong Williams, a noted floral and landscape designer and judge for the Garden Clubs of America. At the time our cut flowers and plants came from local greenhouse growers and flower farms. Imported flowers were rare and expensive. Within a few years, this dynamic began to change as the US “war on drugs” program funded farmers in South and Central America to grow flowers instead of illegal drug-producing plants. Soon we were regularly bringing in roses from Colombia and not the rose greenhouse that was only 20 miles away. Read more>>

Claude Jennings

Claude is a local media veteran, while working at a local radio station he was approached by Hubbert Broadcasting to develop content for their platform. Being an avid golfer and knowing that the segment was not being addressed in the DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia), the show was born. The show initially started with Claude interviewing local golf course managers about their courses, but it quickly included Claude’s fellow golfers, Lawrence Brooks and Vernon Brown as co-hosts. His thinking being, ‘I play golf all the time with these guys, we have chemistry, and we all love the game, why not. As the show evolved, Vernon brought a strong social media presence that GolfDMV lacked. He creates outstanding photo and video content for all the platforms (Instagram, YouTube, and the website). GolfDMV is continuing the expand its footprint in the golf world. The show was one of a few media outlets to attend and report on the Capital Long Drive Classic, held in Washington DC, October of 2020. The show was also invited to ‘Media Day’ for the PGA BMW Championship at Caves Valley golf club. The team also received its first official PGA ‘media credentials’ for the tournament. Read more>>

Chandra White

My career as an Administrative Generalist began over twenty years ago. Throughout the years, I’ve held many different administrative positions and with each position, I’ve realized that being in the administrative field is my passion. I thrive on what some may call tedious tasks/assignments. I feel comfort in knowing that assisting others with my diverse skill set can bring a bit of peace and organization. In January 2021, still in the midst of COVID-19, there were quite a few resume referrals from friends and family members, as people were looking for work, any type of work, in order to stay afloat in the workforce. I’ve been building resumes for YEARS for coworkers, friends, and family members. I’d noticed that quite an influx of requests was coming in for resume building. I had requests from people to just do a simple update, or to reformat their resume. I’d also received requests from people wanting to go in totally different direction in their careers, and they wanted their new resume to reflect that. Read more>>

Karen Wilkinson

It has always been my dream to do hair. Since I was a little girl. My grandfather would ask me to help him add up his bank books and I was like “WOW! I know what I want to do when I grow up”! It looked like he was rich when you are a little kid. He and his brother had a barbershop downtown. I went to Cosmetology school during high school. Same as my older sister. I am 3rd generation In my family to do hair. I have been doing hair for 34 years now. My business partner is 4th generation. We worked together for about 5 years and decided to venture out on our own 17 years ago. We have survived a recession, 2 bouts of Cancer and now a pandemic! We opened our own salon because we weren’t appreciated where we were and it was important to create an environment where people wanted to come to work and DID feel appreciated. We are a very family-oriented salon. My partner’s mother still does hair here, my younger sister does nails, her daughter, also does hair, our manager is the 3rd sister in her family to work here, and we also have an aunt and niece that work together. We are growing and so happy to have the team (family) we have. #Teamwork makes the dream work!. Read more>>

Jordan Harris

Started off as a young kid loving food. A former principal of mine in Virginia created a chefs club for our school to teach kids the fundamental principles when it came to cooking; from there I fell in love. Fast forward to high school always had culinary in my mind but never went toward it because of my heavy involvement with sports (Basketball and Football). An ex-girlfriend of mine created a food blog and would travel around Northern Virginia and try out places and it started to get traction amongst our peers. So we kept with it and then created (Kjfoodies) out it which was our Two initials of our first names. Later we moved to two different areas of the country and Maryland (Baltimore) and New York and I decided to take more charge of it and Renamed it to (Eatingwithtex) with the help of my family with the choices of a few names I came up with. Read more>>

Raven Temple

My journey to creating Farm to Temple started off as a passion to make eating healthy and local as accessible to my community as possible. I grew up all over the US, but once I landed here I knew it was home. While in college I worked every hospitality position you could imagine; Whether it was fine dining, front of the house or back of the house, food was ALWAYS a constant. I went through a period of time where I had many health issues, which lead me to explore how food and lifestyle modifications could truly change the outcome of the diagnosis. That lead me to getting my Master’s in Alternative Medicine and Nutrition. Farm to Temple was created based on that mission. Baltimore being a known food dessert, especially in the urban populations, I wanted to offer people a chance to eat good, healthy, delicious food, at an affordable price…delivering weekly meals helps people overcome the hurdles of needing to drive to get quality food, or spending hours making lunch for the next day. Read more>>

Shaka Watson

In a nutshell… My wife watered the plant of creation in me which gave me the inspiration to pursue my passion for photography. Today I’m still the vessel of growth with limitless goals. Read more>>

Jenn Moss

I started out as an art teacher, which was my profession for about 10 years. I always wanted my students to feel like my classroom was their home- a safe place where diversity was embraced and represented through their artwork and storytelling. It was so important for me to create a home, within the classroom, where we could build new relationships and learn from one another. I have found that the feeling of “home” is rare. No matter what age, season of life, level of success, or notoriety- there are many people spending their lives searching for that feeling of home, and every student of mine deserved to feel this sense of belonging. When the pandemic hit and we went virtual, and I wanted to find other ways to serve my community with this idea of “home” in mind. Read more>>

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