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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.

Alisha Small

I was born and mostly raised in Brooklyn, New York. I came from very humble beginnings, being the youngest of four children. My journey with entrepreneurship started in 2016 after leaving my job with the New York City Department of Education. That year, I started Dreamer Transportation Services. Dreamer is a private van service for children enrolled in public, private and charter schools. I always wanted to start my own business, and I always had a passion for helping people. Read more>>

Jason Cherubini

Most of my career was in the management consulting industry, working with startups and early-stage ventures to solve financial and operational issues. When I started my firm, Seraphim Associates, we primarily focused on the creative industries, including the Edtech and video game industries. In 2014, I had the opportunity to cofound my current company, Dawn’s Light Movies that financed television and film productions. After a few years of seeing where film productions had gotten themselves into issues, we decided to start producing our projects. Since then, we have financed and produced over thirty films, primarily in the thriller and action genres. Read more>>

Elrody Martin Jr.

I started my dance company in 2014. I originally wanted to create an avenue for someone like me. Someone that was told no so many times as a male dancer because I was not masculine enough. I also wanted to bring the “majorette” style of dance to the DMV area. Read more>>

Emon Surakitkoson

I was born in Thailand and emigrated to the United States when I was 19 years old. I was always interested in the arts, but it wasn’t until 2018 that I began experimenting with painting and mixed media and selling my work. In 2020, I left my job in the hospitality industry to work as a full-time artist. Since then, I’ve exhibited my work around the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area and in Canada. I’ve done projects with the Hyatt Aviara Resort, the Marriott International Headquarters, and the Kimpton Banneker Hotel. I’ve also done mural work with the international mural festival POW! WOW! Read more>>

Rachel Camponeschi

Becoming a graphic designer wasn’t something I had planned for at all. Growing up, I always loved drawing and painting but never thought I could make art into a career. Looking back now, I realize how those things have shaped my career today. Even though I had an artistic side, I was always good at math and science. Math was my favorite subject, probably more so than art classes. As a junior/senior in high school, I began looking at colleges and trying to decide what my major would be. Coming from an engineering family and excelling in math, I decided that would be my path. I applied to many different schools and ended up at Virginia Tech as an engineering major. I quickly realized this wasn’t something I could picture myself doing outside of the classroom. Read more>>

Patricia Watson

Growing up, I was always in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother learning to cook and follow recipes. The majority of the recipes were handed down perfectly over the generations. It was fun for me and something I truly enjoyed. At the height of the pandemic, I was a branch manager for a financial institution and each day provided its owner stressors. I would come home, shower, prepare dinner for my family then bake. Baking allowed me to blow out my frustration of working in the pandemic. At the end of 2020, I said I’m going to do something for myself and another friend gave me guidance on website selection. January 2021 is when Pattycakes By The Pound LLC was born! Read more>>

Karmel’s Nectar & Liqueurs

We are long-time friends and business partners, but more like sisters. Our journey as mixologists dates all the way back 10 years. Working as Starbucks baristas, attending mixology school, and working for a friend’s mobile bartending business is what the early stages of our mixology career consisted of. We later transitioned to working and managing local bars where we worked closely with the owners and learned the ins and outs of the bar business. Over the years, from intimate to corporate settings, mixing drinks and providing excellent customer service has been at the core of our professional world. Read more>>

Carla Byrnes

Growing up, my dad was extremely into photography. It was a hobby of his as he was ALWAYS taking pictures. In fact, in my basement growing up my parents had thousands of photos all over the family room when people use to print and frame pictures instead of having them on their phones. I strongly feel my dad’s passion rubbed off on me as I always enjoyed taking pictures and wanted to model when I was younger. In college, I joined a modeling organization called Limitless Fashion Club which honestly changed my life. It helped me build confidence and introduced me to the fashion industry. We did runway and print modeling, so photoshoots and photography became an instant passion. Fast forward to 2019, I was in a tough place in my life and really wanted a hobby that would bring me instant joy. Around this time a few of my friends commented on how nicely I took pictures on my phone, so I decided to buy a camera to see if I can equally take nice pictures with a professional camera. Read more>>

Mary Veiga

I grew up here in Baltimore on a beautiful farm surrounded by cornfields, and horse farms. I spent much of my childhood riding my horse through this striking abundant landscape and drew much inspiration from my surroundings. I began drawing and painting at a very young age and my favorite subject was my horse. These early drawings received much recognition and awards in elementary school and brought me much joy as well. My dream of becoming an artist began here. I continued on studying art throughout high school and college and after college, I went to the Maryland Institute and College of Art for my Fine Art Certificate and worked as a freelance artist and teacher for several years. Read more>>

Courtney Laws

I’ve had a passion for travel or as I like to call it, “wandering,” for as long as I can remember. Being from Philly, my first baby step (no pun intended) into travel was a train ride to the Big Apple at the age of 2, my first road trip at age 5 to my beloved grandfather Pootie’s birthplace of Virginia followed by my first flight to Disney World the same year, and my first real passport worthy jet setting adventure was an international trip at age 12 to the Bahamas. By the grace of God, I’ve been living WONDERFULLY and have traveled to 33 states, 34 countries & 5 continents to date by being a budget-conscious traveler who prides myself on #travelmorespendless. ​Read more>>

Caroline Kocabay

Coaching. In 2010, I decided to help people holistically and enrolled in a massage therapy program. I worked primarily with athletes and individuals with injuries during my massage therapy career, propelling my passion for health and wellness. In 2011, I decided to take my health into my own hands and lost 50 pounds over the span of a year. After working as a massage therapist for five years, I felt limited by my scope of practice. I realized that I wanted to learn more methods to treat clients for injuries, as well as incorporate my passion for fitness and nutrition into my career. In 2016, I enrolled in Towson University’s Occupational Therapy combined Bachelors/Masters program. Read more>>

Keiana Greene-Page

Selene by KGP is truly a product of my personal afro-artsy and classic style. In 2017, I wanted to recreate a version of a braided hairstyle I saw online with really ornate beads so I went to a craft store and brought some unique wooden and plastic beads. I only have so much hair so I decided to make myself some bracelets too. My best friend asked me to make her some when I showed them to her. When I made them I said to myself “I could actually make some money doing this” and that’s what led me to this particular business. However, I am someone who’s always had side ventures, including a stint as a nightclub photographer in the early 2000s. Read more>>

Alaina Stevens

I started doing photography 17 years ago, near New Orleans, Louisiana when I was a senior in high school. I always loved capturing the best parts of people’s lives and helping them tell their stories. When I moved to Baltimore on January 25, 2012, I was focused on my photography but I needed to find a source of income while I grew my business and I decided to go to Cosmetology School. Read more>>

Donte Fisher

I started with a random desire to take pictures of my kids 6 years ago. Upon my journey in learning the craft, I started to expand my skills and moved into focusing mainly on weddings. In my four years of shooting weddings, I have become one of the top black wedding photographers in my city. As far as my business Fisher Visuals go our mission statement is: “At Fisher Visuals Photography, we offer something unique to our clients: A commitment to crafting personalized, meaningful imagery in modern style. We love our clients and work with each couple personally to create a mutually exciting vision of their wedding day. Life is full of endless possibilities, and so is your wedding day. We can’t wait to get to know you genuinely and translate that into works of art that will shine on your walls for years to come. Read more>>

Christian Whitley

Music has been a part of my life since childhood. With my father being a musician himself, I naturally gravitated towards everything revolving around music. Early music training in elementary school transitioned to private lessons. Private lessons transitioned into enrolling into Baltimore School for the Arts for high school. The high school transitioned into graduating from Berklee College of Music in Boston. So in a sense, each stage of life has had a solid foundation of music training that propelled me towards doing all the artistic and creative things that I enjoy doing today. Read more>>

Dominique Rowe

Well, let’s see while my career is medical billing coding for the past 13 years. I have always had the vision and passion to own my own business in 2019 when the pandemic occurred, I lost my 9-5 job and was forced to figure out what my new opportunities would be. I then started looking into becoming a notary which was not hard but didn’t bring in much income until I came up with the name “run notary” I then became a member of the national notary association which in turn was a great investment because it allowed me to get all materials in needed to be successful and opened doors for me to be able to push my business. Read more>>

Stephen Hart

I was born in Kingston, Jamaica. The son of a chef and a secretary. I migrated to the US at 16 years old, 3 days after graduating high school, and completed my undergrad at the University of South Florida in Tampa. After living in Tampa for 12 years, I met a Maryland girl who I dated in distance for about a year before moving to Maryland (2007). Today, we’ve been married for 13 years (June 2008), and together have two amazing crumb snatchers. Our daughter, Layla is 11, and our son Nigel is 7. Read more>>

Erika Tempro

I am Erika Tempro, a certified lymphedema therapist and licensed massage therapist in Maryland. I have had an interesting journey in the massage industry. Generally, it is an uphill task to set up a successful massage career. I am, however, sure that all professions will relate to my story. I studied massage therapy at Physical Therapy College in Brazil, my home country. I left Brazil about fifteen years ago for the United Kingdom, where I continued my practice. I later relocated to the United States about ten years ago, where I furthered my education to get licensed in Maryland. Read more>>

Keyetta Wallace

I’ve always had a love for beauty. I grew up in the hair salon where I would consistently see my godmother making women cry with her finished hairstyles. I would get my hair done every weekend and it always lifted my spirits. My grandmother is the mother at the church who doesn’t wear the same thing twice. So growing up around women like them, I knew I wanted to lift women’s spirits, but on my own path. I took a Master Brow Artist course from a well know Brown Artist located in GA. I took her course because of her background in the brow industry and because her previous employer was THEE Anastasia Soare created the founder of Anastasia Beverly Hills. Read more>>

Erin Hill

A lifelong dancer, I have always danced to the beat of my own drum. Born in Maryland and raised in Bermuda, I trained extensively in a variety of dance forms since the age of 2. I currently work as a freelance photographer (check out @erinpointandshoot on Instagram) and model. Formerly, I was a cheerleader for the Washington Capitals. I have received acclaim for my dances on TikTok and have garnered more than 50k followers to my channel. Read more>>

Jessica Snowden

Jessica is the owner of For The Love Of Yoni’s LLC. Jessica believes in encouraging women to wellness. She offers vaginal (yoni) steaming as a service and other holistic products. Jessica desires to help women meet their holistic goal by educating women on the correct foods, herbs, detox, and exercise. Jessica’s journey to wellness started in 2017. The focus was to shift what her doctors told her about improving her health. After being skeptical at first, Jessica decided to try an alternative path. She started to receive vaginal steaming services, and after about six months, she noticed a vast difference within her body. Read more>>

Paula Whaley

I have been living and working in Baltimore for the last 20 years. I am originally from Harlem in New York City. My work has come out of a need for healing, after the death of my older brother, who was like a father figure, I was devastated. A young sculptor suggested I put my hands in clay, he said it would be both therapeutic, and healing. He was right, I discovered art can heal. Read more>>

Breonna Robinson

I was born to create. Art is literally in my blood. My granddad and aunt were artists. And my mom is an artist. As a child, I always dabbled in different art projects; creating jewelry, sketching, and sculpting with play dough. It wasn’t until I took an art class in high school, that I became aware of my artistic instincts. In 2011, I attended the Art Institute of Washington to begin my graphic design journey learning about digital art and marketing. Read more>>

Allison Balanc

Allison Balanc is a D.C.-based Neo-Soul singer, songwriter, certified vocal coach, educator, producer, and entrepreneur. Creating music has always played a major role in her self-expression. A GRAMMYs Recording Academy member and New York Vocal Coaching Academy alum, she has lent her talent to multiple artists’ projects. In 2007, Allison was signed to the Grammy award-winning label Compound Entertainment; after winning “Neyo’s Talent Search”. Then again in 2012, the songstress caught the ear of entertainment manager, William “Malachai” Johns. She then won the “Are You the Lipstick Talent Search”. Allison is also an 8x Washington Area Music Award nominee including the 2021 Washington Area Music Educator Award. Read more>>

Mendy Silva

Baking for me has always been a part of my life. My mom would buy cake mix boxes for me and I would always make cakes or cupcakes for my family in my teens. I always knew I wanted to do something with baking but never knew what exactly I would do. In 2016, I decided to try out some cake decorating classes at Michaels. I did it for about 6 weeks, once a week and I loved it. That’s when I really got into the cake decorating world and completely fell in love. I started doing orders for coworkers and family at that time and just started working on practicing my skills. Orders slowly started coming in which was exciting and nerve-wracking that people trusted me enough to do cakes for their special events. Looking back, I have come such a long way with my decorating skills but it has been a fun journey. Now I am taking about 10-12 orders a weekend! I never would have imagined that this would become my life. Read more>>

Dr. David Ajibade

I am a doctor by profession, born and raised in Nigeria, but moved to the USA in 2002. While I was trained as a doctor to treat disease, I have always been interested in optimizing human potential, in making people better, spiritually, mentally, and physically. But I have always had an interest I started my career in medicine as a radiation oncologist in training, during which I felt disillusioned with the results we were getting among our cancer patients and decided to pursue a more complete understanding of health, medicine, and human life. Read more>>

Lolo Gem

My path to where I’m at now has really encompassed my entire life. I never sat down and said, “Hey, I want to be an artist!” or “I want to learn how to draw now!” I have just been always doing it for as long as I can remember, and it has always been the most obviously illuminated path in my life. I was one of the “art kids” all throughout elementary, middle, and high school. In 2014, I moved to Baltimore to attend MICA, where I originally attended for illustration, thinking I wanted to work in cartoons/animation. Read more>>

MaryBeth Hyland

I’m a global workplace culture consultant, author, coach, speaker, and retreat facilitator who is on a quest to become a cowgirl. I started my company, SparkVision, nearly 7 years ago as a response to being lauded as “highly successful” while privately enduring years of toxic cultures, high-achiever anxiety, and a clinically diagnosed work addiction. By learning mindfulness techniques, healing from constant feelings of “not-enoughness”, setting boundaries, and developing a solid self-care toolkit, I now work with people from all over the world who want to stop suffering and start thriving by mindfully living congruently with their values. Read more>>

Ka-ron Richardson

I started my health journey by me dealing with asthma and inflammation in my knee. I did some research and it was said that inflammation is mainly triggered by highly processed foods. If you look at the standard American diet it’s filled with processed foods like cereal, cheese, chips, bread, dairy, packaged meats, and more. As soon as I started cutting a lot of the processed foods out of my diet I instantly felt like a new person. I went from taking my asthma medicine every day to taking it once every couple of months. In 3 months my knee had felt better than it had ever felt in the past 15 years. Read more>>

Max Zakoa

Since I can remember, I’ve loved visiting Baltimore, Maryland, the city that made me and raised me for my first 5 years of life, the dull smell you get when crossing through the tunnel the bright lights the old architecture I’ve always loved my city whilst it seemed like everyone else had something contrary to say. My favorite spot to soak in the true beauty and ambiance of Baltimore is no other than Federal hill park, me starting my photography journey my freshman year in high school, I would beg my parents to take me into the city to capture my sister and little cousins in the city we were all born in on top of the greatest park in America. Read more>>

Michael Mitchell

I started DollarMike as a hobby and personal way for me to help others. In the beginning I never looked at it as a brand or business, but just me making Youtube videos online showing others possible new ways of saving money. That would involve basic savings tips like apps I used to help me save, the places where I’d store my savings and how to save for short- or long-term goals. I then found inspiration from other Youtubers who had channels based around credit cards, so I learned more on them and started to teach that on the channel. I got into more side hustles to earn me more money, so I’d share that on the channel as well. As time went on personal finance, not just saving money was the focus on the channel so that’s what it came to be to this date. Saving, investing, budgeting, credit and more all in one place. Read more>>

Tyanna Smith

After working in Corporate America for close to 20 years, I often wondered what my purpose was. I was amazing at my job but just not fulfilled. All I knew at the time was that I had a passion for two things: solving problems and helping people. Complacency allowed me to stay in that corporate position until August 2018 when I was laid off. After several months of applying for managerial positions, and not landing anything; my husband asked, “What about Real Estate?” My response was, “No, I don’t think I have the hustle for that”. In the days to follow, Real Estate Social Media posts started to stand out to me; along with another close friend asking if I ever considered trying Real Estate. Read more>>

Maya Elizabeth

Hi! I’m Maya Elizabeth–a worship leader, singer-songwriter, and inspirational-soul artist. I believe we were made to live full, not empty. So, I write thought-provoking, inspirational-soul music for the listener who needs a little healing, truth, and love. I was born in Santa Monica, CA then raised mostly in Baltimore, MD. I first started writing when I was 6 and grew up serving on the worship team in the church from around 12 years old. In 2016, I earned my BBA in marketing and was the valedictorian of Howard University’s School of Business. Thereafter, I launched Maya Elizabeth Music LLC and pursued my music full-time. Read more>>

Kenneth J. Tisdale

Like many children that grow up in inner-city Baltimore, life was difficult and complex. I was raised in a 4 bedroom home, located in the Cherry Hill Homes neighborhood of south Baltimore, with 12 of my 18 siblings, by my mother and stepfather. Financially, we struggled mightily, as we didn’t eat some days and, other times, the older siblings went without meals so that the younger ones wouldn’t be as hungry. Times were rough but they only continued to spiral after my mother was shot, when I was 15 years old, over a verbal dispute in the Parkheights neighborhood. Read more>>

JT Funk

I started my career as a professional wrestler in August 2013 at the age of 19. It has granted me the opportunity to travel all over the world while inspiring people from every different aspect of life. With nearly 7 years of wrestling experience under my belt, I could no longer wrestle during the pandemic in early 2020. I embarked on a new journey that forced me to look at myself as an entrepreneur/ business owner. I utilized my demographic and target audience to launch a variation of products such as masks, shirts, wrist bands, and the most popular JT Funk Dolls. With these innovative products, l was able to reach a demographic outside of the wrestling world which allowed me to trademark my name (JT Funk) and also form my LLC. “We all have different journeys in life but whatever journey it is, be thankful because it will allow you to evolve in a way you never imagined”. Read more>>

Alee

I started fresh out of high school modeling for guys in college at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I found a lot of them through MySpace & Craigslist who were in photography classes advertising needing a model. It wasn’t until professional photographers started approaching me to work with them that I realized I could really do this. I began booking more & more with professional locals, perfecting my posing & facial expressions. Once I felt comfortable enough I decided to start booking myself internationally. I’ve spent the last few years on the international modeling circuit traveling all over the world working with various companies & photographers. Making the choice to go international was extremely beneficial to my career. Read more>>

Jonathan Logan

Hi, my name is Jonathan Logan. I became a photographer 4 years ago. My decision to become a photographer was based on two events. The first event was two trips I took to Berlin in 2016 and 2017. During my trips, I visited many museums. One museum, in particular, was dedicated to the work of photographer Helmut Newton. Seeing a museum that focused exclusively on photography left a strong impression on me. Helmut Newton would later become one of my biggest influences as a photographer. Read more>>

Ernest Ricks

My name is Ernest Ricks, Jr. I never set out to be a business owner or an entrepreneur of any sort. As a member of a phenomenal Christian Media company, called Trackstarz, I simply wanted to play a role and add to their outstanding content. Trackstarz has a weekly Saturday show from noon to 2 pm and a very loyal following. I noticed that their fan base, at least the men in their fan base like to talk about sports in the chat section before shows, so I thought a fantasy football league would make their fanbase feel more like a community. They allowed me to start the league. Read more>>

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