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The Trailblazers: Rewriting the Narrative

The editorial team has a special attachment to our new series, The Trailblazers: Rewriting the Narrative, because so many of us feel that media portrayals of women have been too one dimensional. Today, women are doing incredible things in all fields – from science and technology to finance, law, business, athletics and more.  With the Trailblazers series, we hope to highlight and celebrate female role models, encourage more equal and just representation in the media, and help foster a more tight-knit community locally helping women find mentors, business partners, friends and more.

Ayanna Lawson

I am a cannabis travel specialist and the founder of Front Row Travels., a full-service cannabis travel agency. I’ve been cultivating travel experiences since 2016 and in 2018, I decided to focus solely on cannabis tourism as a way to help break the stigma of cannabis use. Read more>>

Candice Denise

I am a Creative Director with over ten years in the event planning industry, I was known for creating and curating memorable social experiences for clients. I took the logistics skills, project management and creativity I gained from the event industry, evolved and created CD Creative Loft, helping female entrepreneurs by producing and staging brand photoshoots to showcase their businesses to build brand visibility and expert authority with their audiences. Being a woman of many talents, I’m fueled by a passion to connect with and embrace one’s true self. This was the foundation for shifting my business into a new direction, the Self Care Strategist space. MY JOURNEY OF INNER WORK, EMOTIONALLY, MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY LOVING MYSELF STARTED A FEW YEARS AGO. Once I realized that how I care for myself is a blueprint for how others should care about me, everything changed. My eyes finally opened and I started to see that anybody’s self-love and self-care journey comes from within them. Only I can determine the things that matter to me, and only I can create the moments that bring me peace, happiness and fulfillment. Read more>>

Monica Blakely

I’ve always enjoyed art and using my creativity. In December of 2013, I was a mom trying to find the balance between work and spending time with my 11 months old at the time. I needed to create a job that would allow me to spend quality time, all while providing for her future. I started off making a wreath for a Christmas gift for my family members and posting a picture online. The very next day, I had ten orders. One thing led to another and people have contacted me to make everything from custom shoes, to photo props to Cornhole boards and more. Read more>>

Katie Leary Sebastian

I am the director, designer, do-pretty-much-all jobs person & one of the co-founders of ixöq, a small business that operates from Takoma Park, MD & Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. At ixöq, which means woman in the Mayan dialects, Kaqchikel and Tzutujil, we work with local artisans from Guatemala to create unique, sustainably created, handcrafted, fair trade textiles, totes and decorative containers. I, along with a friend & neighbor from Takoma Park, founded ixöq in late 2017 as a way of highlighting the craft and helping support the livelihoods of artisans we met in Guatemala. We saw beauty in their products and value in sharing their cultural heritage with an audience broader than those fortunate enough to travel to Central America. Our focus was on providing sustainable employment to the artisans while respecting their craft & culture and collaborating directly with artisan groups. We did not want to be ‘those people’ who buy handmade items at discount and turn around and sell them at a big profit while having absolutely no connection to the artisans who made them. Read more>>

Erica Mitchell

Erica Mitchell is the CEO & Founder of TruGoddess Empowerment. TruGoddess started in Baltimore, MD and is an organization that avidly promotes the empowerment of teens, young girls and women. TruGoddess is passionate about young women being socially aware and understanding how to remain true to themselves, not bend under peer pressure and learn skills that will ultimately lead to their success in life. TruGoddess has been able to gain concordance from a huge network of professional women all over the nation. In doing so, the company is enabled even further to reach those that are in need of support and strength at their side. TruGoddess accomplishes this by utilizing events and social networking websites to their advantage. Partnering with fellow business owners, motivational speakers, models, artists and successful women from all walks of life, the company is building upon something phenomenal and unique. Read more>>

LaNiya Williams

I always had a love for fashion. My mother is so creative and fly. Watching her model at Morgan in college or just getting dressed to go out influenced me. In 2017, my junior year in high school, I had an idea to sell hats. I told my mother and we had a meeting with her friend, who was a graphic designer at the time. We sat and talked for about 2 hours just about logos & tech packs for doing custom hats. Two weeks pass & he finished my logo. After that, I bought some hats from online & got them printed it. I wanted to do more so I did logo shirts to match the hats. This was the birth of Prime Apparel. At this time, I would just do sweatsuits, hats or shirts and sell out completely every drop. In 2018 I graduated from City and moved to Atlanta to attend CAU. Feeling so small in a new big city, I had difficulty putting myself out there at times. Though some people knew my brand and I, I could’ve been exposed to more in Atlanta. Read more>>

Stephanie Goldman

I always enjoyed taking care of myself. I spent hours researching hair regimens, shopping, taking care of my skin, and even doing my nails. I really enjoyed my ME time and it gave me so much self-confidence and self-love! Naturally, I am an introvert, but taking that time for myself always seemed to reenergize me! I always imagined that when I had my first child, I would still take care of myself and look so amazing while doing the family thing since I realized it was valuable to me and felt like a much needed break at times! Fast forward to last year, and it had been three years since I had my first child. Being a mother is so rewarding and words could never explain the joy it brings me every day! Unfortunately, around this time last year, I looked in the mirror and realized it had been a LONG time since I had even REALLY had a good look at myself! I had gained about 70 pounds, didn’t take care of my skin and hair, and honestly did not like the way I looked and felt. Read more>>

Angel King

I started my journey as an entrepreneur in July of 2013. I patented the brand Angels Boutique. The vision of the boutique was to create creative fashion while supporting women. From 2013 till today, I have been in 15 well-known fashion shows from Baltimore to New York. I have also been featured in magazine Malvie Edition 223 for my fashion items. I then migrated into Blog Talk Radio in 2016 creating Angel’s List. This allowed me to be a vessel for local artists to get exposure as well with interviewing great artists such as Turk (from the group Hot Boyz), fashion icon Stevei Boi and many more. Fast forward to now, I have integrated my skills and created such platforms as Boss Momz University and The Green Rose Affect where I help moms who are entrepreneurs learn how to balance their maternal life and the life of being a boss. I hold classes, do speaking events as well as post inspirational post via social media for my new tribe. Read more>>

Jennifer Bersentes

“I try to make the store fun for anyone who walks in the door.” My name is Jenny Bersentes. Raised in New Orleans, my flare for the unusual came early. With a BA in Advertising Photography from Santa Barbara, California. My resume includes celebrity wedding videographer, fashion model, milliner, retailer, vintage fashion collector, and Virginia mom. Jenny and her family, husband John, mother Noreen, daughter, Sophia and son Theodore relocated from Southern California to Chantilly, Virginia in 2006. Not satisfied with the available of used clothing shops in the area, Jenny decided to open Consign Mine in 2015 here in Sterling. Combining all the things she liked, wide variety of styles and prices, online transparency, constant change and reducing landfill by recycling. But also eliminate the things that other shops did that she hated, like appointments, brand name and age requirements, limits on amount and unnecessary fees. Read more>>

Chelsea Adinuba

I started sewing at the age of 14 years old. There was a sewing machine that my sister had received for Christmas that was laying around in my house. One day, I decided to teach myself how to sew using that machine. I had a variety of products in mind ranging from shirts, pants, scrunchies, durags, and my bestselling item: bonnets. I started to sew after school and I started to get better as I continued overtime. I come from a predominately Black County – Prince George’s County. I lived in Prince George’s County my entire life before moving into college, and the young women in my community loved my bonnets because they were large, reversible, and made from satin material. I started to take my business seriously during the covid-19 pandemic and I would make sales all around the world. Eventually, I wrote a book at the age of 16 years old titled “How To Be a Young Boss” that is on sale all around the world as well. Read more>>

Amanda Stokes

A wife, mom of two and the owner & designer of Charlee Mae Christmas. My passion for Christmas began when I was a little girl. My mother Ida Mae was a holiday wreath maker and she used to sell holiday wreaths in front of her house to make ends meet. To buy holiday toys for me and for my two siblings. So Christmas was a big deal in my house and looking for a real Christmas tree was a trip out of town to buy a 10 foot tree. My job was to pick a holiday theme and decorate the tree on Christmas eve. I love decorating Christmas trees so much, I decided to ask my neighbors and family if I can decorate their Christmas tree for them. My passion and my talent grew. I decided to apply for a Christmas designer job at a commercial holiday company. While working there, I improved my decorating holiday skills and I became head tree designer. Read more>>

Ashley Marie Gray of Elle and Emma

I started Elle and Emma’s in 2015 with my sisters because we had a hard time finding beautiful cakes that we also delicious. So we began testing recipes and practicing simple designs to sell to family and friends. When we saw that people loved what we baked, we made it official! Elle and Emma’s is a phonetic play on all of our names. L for Elle (Lexi), A for and (Amber), M for Emma (Marie). In 2017 we each began new jobs and had life moments that took us away from the business. The pandemic rolls in during 2020 which presented me the opportunity to re-launch Elle and Emma’s. So now I am the owner and cake artist behind the brand. The vision of E + E is to create luxe occasion cakes that are consistently decadent and one-of-a-kind. We also provide desserts that are a modern spin on loved classics. Read more>>

Lani Mayer

Five years ago, I decided to get serious about my art. I had a studio full of paintings and I felt the overwhelming need to share my heart with others. Although I had the fears of not being good enough or being too vulnerable, I had to conquer those fears to get to where I am today. I started as a booth at farmer’s markets and art festivals. I made some great connections being in the community and have traveled for shows too. Although I’m currently in PA. I have art in Colorado, in a hair salon in Arizona and in a restaurant in Florida in addition to numerous homes. I now do custom paintings and natal charts in addition to my abstract paintings. I’m excited to see where my art and the future takes me. I hope to make a mural in a nearby city soon!. Read more>>

Lena Sinex

3 Gear Games/ Studios is owned and operated by husband and wife duo Lena and Stewart Sinex. After living in Japan for several years, we were called back to the states to help Stewart’s parents run their tabletop game shop, when they retired and closed their business; we decided that there was still a great community of gamers and artists and so we opened up our small business, in the spring of 2019 inside The Historic Savage Mill Mall. Stewart has been in the tabletop gaming industry for 20 years. He has been playing tabletop games since he was eight and even credits Dungeons and Dragons with helping him compensate for his Dyslexia and learn to read. Lena grew up in a geeky and crafty family with a passion for travel and the curation of all things whimsical. She has turned 3 Gear Games into a fun and unique space unlike any other. Read more>>

Nicole Bailey

I was born and mostly raised in Baltimore City. Throughout my youth, I was fortunate to witness my grandparents own and operate a small bar in East Baltimore for years. However, it wasn’t until I attended an all-girl public school called Western Senior High School where I developed a passion for entrepreneurship. While attending high school, I joined a club called FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) and by doing so, I learned how to write a business plan, network, and participate in business competitions. Fast-forwarding to adulthood, entrepreneurship is still a prevalent part of my life. I’ve owned a few small businesses over the years but none like my current one, The Agorá Co. Owning a business that was built on the mantra, gather and grow is something that comes naturally to me. Not only does this phrase fit my current stage of life but it’s one that will continue to stick with me throughout my life. Read more>>

Leslie Robertson Toney

I’ve been a photographer for many years. I started photographing Trinidad carnival as far back as 2002 and continued to photograph carnival and other Black cultural festivals in the Washington Metropolitan Area, Baltimore, and New York, and whenever I traveled, especially to my homeland, Trinidad and Tobago. Before I got my first SLR camera, my parents gave me a point and shoot, and I documented everything. What motivated me to pursue photography further was my love for Black culture, especially carnival culture in the Caribbean, and a desire to document and educate people about it. I realized that when I spoke to Caribbean-American youth in Maryland, where I lived, that they didn’t know much about our culture. In 2009, I had a website developed and I began a blog series where I posted images and talked about the history and Diasporic connections of carnival. Read more>>

Alexandra Daddura

I started as a realtor in 2017. My first two years in the business, I was on a team in Harford County, MD where I learned a lot but wasn’t really able to grow as an individual so I ultimately decided a different broker and setting would be a better fit. The two years following that, I was a part of another real estate group in Baltimore City. I learned even more and began growing my business exponentially in those two years. When COVID-19 hit and everything shut down, I decided that it was in my best interest to switch to a broker that allowed me to focus more on my clients and provided me with the resources I needed to sustain my growing business. I made the switch to Cummings & Company in September of 2020 and never looked back. I have been focusing mainly on a referral-based business and truly cherish the relationships I have with my clients! Someone in the early days of my real estate career told me that I didn’t have what it takes to be a successful realtor. I am the type of person who THRIVES in turning negativity into positivity and those negative comments truly lit a fire under me to become as successful as I possibly could. Read more>>

Brittany James

when I was a kid, I wanted to create bathing suits for women. As I got older, I wanted to be a pharmacist because of what I seen in the streets. I just wanted to do it legally, with that mindset, I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere because success as we all know is a mindset, FIRST! So after I attended University of Maryland Eastern Shore, I came home and pursued an associate’s degree in criminal justice. Still was not satisfied and knew I was destined for greater, I finally dug into my passion which is helping others! I’m good at that part! So I went on to become a nurse and I excelled in being a great Nurse from Baltimore to Northern California. STILL, I’d wake up everyday wanting more and I knew I would be great with my entrepreneurial skills so I decided to become a licensed Bartender. Wearing many hats, I still had hunger and I also stopped and thought I wanted my city of Baltimore to use their “Better Judgement” which also are my initials “BJ”. as I stand today, I make clothing for women, men, and kids and working on digger into a bigger project which are African American Girls – Dive into my stories and Stay Tuned!. Read more>>

Sarah Butcher

My art story begins as a child in a large Catholic family in a middle class neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland. Being the 5th child of 6 and the middle girl, I did not get much attention. Then at the annual 8th grade art show, a lady wanted to buy my watercolor of a poppy. Foolishly, I couldn’t part with it. After that, I had this idea that I could make money doing something that I loved. In college, I created pencil portraits at the Johns Hopkins University spring fair and created illustrations for their night school magazine, Nocturne. In the 80’s I sold work to an interior design firm run by Jim Panonne. Jim was such a wonderful client. Like the lady in 8th grade he loved my work, and this time I was ready to sell.  Read more>>

Kristen Garrison

I never wanted to be a culinary nutritionist. Truth be told, I never wanted to be particularly healthy. I only wanted to “look” like I was. I was unsure whether my weight gain and the decline of my health could be blamed on genetics, quitting ballet at age seven, or my discovery of Little Debbie. I only knew that as friends were getting taller and more active and social, I was becoming wider, more sedentary, and bookish. My story is like so many others: from at least one family member suffering from diabetes to close relatives diagnosed with a range of disorders from Multiple Sclerosis, sleep apnea, hypertension, and pre-diabetes, to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Alzheimer’s. In the last few years, I have lost an aunt and a grandfather to cancer and my grandmother to dementia. By the time I finished my first master’s program, I had attempted more diets than I had had years on the Earth, struggled with an eating disorder, and had unimpressive results after undergoing Lap Band Surgery.  Read more>>

Maria Villani

I have always enjoyed working with people and am a social person at heart. I had talked about becoming a realtor since 2015. I have an appreciation of architecture, design and have lived in some pretty neat cities, including San Diego, Los Angeles, New York City, Baltimore, and smaller beach towns as well. When my husband and I moved to Howard County which is where I grew up, it was a FSBO (for sale by owner) and I was not yet licensed as a real estate agent. The process was daunting and at times, stressful and I thought at the time how I wished we had someone to help us navigate and answer our many questions. After my first daughter was born, I decided it was time to take the classes and get my license! The ability to schedule meetings, showings, inspections, settlements and everything in between around my home life as a mother and wife was really appealing to me. Not to mention I was excited to help friends, family, and those I didn’t yet know to relax as much as possible during a stressful time. Read more>>

Sydney Lee

I’ve always been interested in art and the creative process. For my Etsy journey, my creative process started with a broken wine glass and a candlestick, plus an idea. The wine glass looked to me to be a great glass dome to create something with, it happened to fit perfectly on top of a brass candlestick, and from there I began to imagine a miniature world within the glass featuring a miniature tree. I took these supplies to my studio and began creating the first of many tree terrarium sculptures. Sculpting the trees with clay and preserved moss for the leaves. From there, I opened my Etsy shop UniqueLeeArt in 2013 when I was in high school. I continued making my terrariums and after graduating art school at MICA in 2019, I branched out to also create paper sculptures of pets/animals. As well as beginning to participate in local art fairs and craft markets. Read more>>

Tiffany McKinney

My love of makeup and fashion began at the tender age of five. It was just my brother and I at the time, so the basement in our home was like our playground. For me, it became my creative space. My mom was into makeup and fashion so she had all this fabulous clothing, lots of shoes and this visually appealing collection of makeup. My mom also knew how to sew, so she was always working on new designs and had patterns, fabric and all the latest magazines laying around for inspiration. I often enjoyed putting on my very own little runway fashion show featuring myself, my dolls and my little brother. (LOL). As I got older, my love and passion for makeup grew stronger. Creative outlets such as singing, theater, music videos, beauty commercials, magazines and movies all influenced my intrigue and love of makeup and fashion. When I was in elementary school, started modeling, doing school theater productions, singing and competing in pageants and talent shows, so I really begin to practice basic techniques on myself. Read more>>

Kimberlee “Kimmi” Scott

I am the younger of two girls raised by a single parent in Baltimore, Maryland. I attended private Seventh Day Adventist Schools most of my primary schooling. I am a Registered Nurse by trade, receiving both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. After completing those degrees, I settled in Huntsville for most of my adult life. For over a decade, I have managed a multi-million dollar nonprofit healthcare organization in North Huntsville servicing Madison and its four contiguous counties. Although the genesis of my passion, participation and love for my community began many years ago, like Huntsville and its’ still flourishing future, increases daily. Recently I starred in and completed Season 3 of the market leading reality network series “Love and Marriage: Huntsville” featured on The Oprah Winfrey Network. The show focuses on three couples that are working to help the thriving city of Huntsville, Alabama, continue to grow through their joint Real Estate venture, the Comeback Group. Oh, yeah! I am a Real Estate Agent as well. Read more>>

Daniela Godoy

“The frenzy of arriving Left no time for grieving The life we were leaving Hopes packed in a small suitcase For four Mother was convinced There was moreA place to harvest our dreams Constructed from roots in our blood We’re creating ourselves in new soil And a Nordic sun. – Nordic Sun, by Daniela Godoy 10/19/2015 My name is Angela Daniela Godoy Brito, also known as Daniela Godoy. I was born in Riobamba, Ecuador. My mom moved my siblings and me (my older brother and older sister) to the United States when I was seven, a little over 26 years ago. With next to nothing to our name but that small suitcase for four. We moved in to live with my mom’s brother and sister in a basement. My mom worked in various service jobs to keep us afloat. Two years later, my dad joined us too. My dad applied for a specialized visa to help us attain U.S Residency thanks to his career as a musicologist and the books he has published internationally. We got our residency in five years and then our citizenship by the time I was a senior in high school. Read more>>

 

Rachel Dussell

I have always loved to make things and absolutely love blankets – I have a TON of them. I saw crocheted blankets online and how they were growing in popularity and thought to myself, “I wonder if I could make that”. Well, turns out I can! And people love them. Read more>>

Heather O’Steen

Heather O’Steen Photography began in 2007 under the name Timeless & Treasured Photography. What started as a little side hobby to capture my three little girls as they grew turned into a steadily growing business through the years. Once my girls were mostly grown, I began to invest more and more into my business taking it into a full-time job. My youngest daughter, who is now in high school, has a deep love for dance, specifically ballet. My passion for photography and her passion for dance collided into something beautiful. My favorite subjects to photograph now are dancers. I enjoy the extreme challenge of having to capture the fraction of a second that a dancer is most beautiful. Growing up in the dance world has its own unique set of challenges. We learned quite a bit along the way and decided to take the negatives we experienced and turn them into positives. Read more>>

Samantha McCoy

I got into public relations by accident! After my first job out of college, I was looking for a position that would allow me to use more of my communications skills. A family friend sent me a communications specialist position that was posted for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History & Culture, and that was where I got my start. After a few years there, I left to focus on completing my graduate degree. It was during this time that I started my own public relations business. Read more>>

Kathleen F. McCue

While working as an office nurse in a pediatric office in 1987, I saw the need for new mothers to have lactation care. The need was constant. Women needed help with latching, pumping, infant care, and product selection. One evening I asked a local lactation consultant if I could accompany our patient to her visit and she agreed to allow me to be present for a fee. In retrospect, it was the best $50 I ever spent. I came away with a new perspective on how I could help new mothers. I first needed to become board certified in lactation. After two years and a lot of practice, I was ready to sit for boards to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. I passed and have now been practicing for over thirty years. I was so inspired that I then worked to become a registered nurse and then a nurse practitioner. In 2016, I received my doctorate in nursing. Along the way, I started Metropolitan Breastfeeding and it has grown exponentially. We now work from three offices (one in VA) and have 15 other consultants. Read more>>

Sara Narh

Ten years ago, when I became a hairstylist, I knew it was more to just being a hairstylist, I wanted my brand to stand out the most! Always solid top-quality hair extensions in the Bowie area! Being a hairstylist was always my passion where I now reside in the Bowie area with my own storefront where you can now purchase hair extensions, hair products, waist trainers!. Read more>>

Whitney Martel

A chance knee injury led me to finally have the courage to pursue my dream of opening my own full-service interior design firm. While I had always been interested in interior design, it took a stroke of bad luck to finally pursue it. Funny how life works…. Looking back on my previous career, there had always been elements of design and it all prepared me for my career in interior design today. I have over 15 years of experience in New York City and Washington DC working for various Luxury Jewelry Brands and Home Decor Brands. Eventually, I moved back to my hometown of Baltimore Maryland, where I managed a staging and renovations team for a Real Estate Company, this further ignited my passion for interiors. Working in renovations led to many interior design jobs. Fast forward to more recently, my chance knee injury led to surgery, and months of recovery and honestly probably more couch time than I’d prefer. It was during my recover and that I finally had the epiphany, “What are you waiting for!” And decided to go for my dream by launching Whitney Martel Interiors. And the rest is history (wink!) Read more>>

Rachel Robinson

I’ve been an artist for as long as I could remember. In my early childhood years, this took place in the form of music and singing – I used to sing and play piano and still do enjoy those things to this day. It’s wasn’t until 2018 that I began to dive into painting and eventually tattooing. In the beginning of 2018, I went through a drastic and traumatic shift in my life, and suddenly I needed more in my life to make it worthwhile. Life felt dull and one-dimensional. I was desperately in search for a deeper meaning to my existence, to connect to something much more vast than what I was experiencing. One day, on a whim, I visited the American Visionary Art Museum in The Harbor. Their current exhibit was titled “The Great Mystery Show”. The exhibit was on ode to mystery, featuring artwork surrounding the inherent need for humans to search for the unknown, to make a connection with the things that we can feel but not see, and pursuing a relationship with the sacred and the divine. I felt like I had walked into a world that answered my questions, that helped me realize that my search for deeper meaning was not only valid but realistic. It was during this museum visit that I made a decision that my art was born to find these answers. Read more>>

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