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Baltimore’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.

Armando Retana

I was born in Costa Rica. Moved to the United States when I was 15 years old. Did not know any English. Went to college but got kicked out of college due to my immigration status at the time. Got my green card and then was able to finish college. I went to medical school and graduate as a Cosmetic Surgeon in 2017 when I moved to DC to start a private practice. I chose this area because I grew up in the DMV. I went to high school here. I also chose DC due to the fact that we have a huge Hispanic population and there are no Latino doctors that do what I do. Read more>>

Whitney Richardson

My name is Whitney Richardson and this is my square window of how I got started and where I’m at today. It all started when I was the age of six. I had to write about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Of course, I said famous actress without hesitation. Only later in life did the thrill of the performing arts as a career option diminish, but only for a little while. It was something deep within, that brewed at the foundation of my spirit and no matter what…those words I wrote down would come back full circle in my adulthood. Read more>>

Allie Crump

My parents were huge picture-takers and memory-makers. Growing up around the concept of taking a photo and its encapsulating memory in that one shot was ingrained in my head. I took a high school photography course, bought my first DSLR with saved-up paychecks, and shot everything I could. This led me to be asked to shoot a concert series that was brought to our high school and as a concert lover, this was the dream. I shot this G-rated version of Warped Tour at my high school and took those photos and worked with publications around. That summer I ended up taking a workshop at Warped Tour led by legendary photographer, Lisa Johnson where I learned the rules and regulations and the in-between for live shows and it’s been my love ever since. Read more>>

Kim Bryden

Kim Bryden, CEO of Cureate, is an accomplished strategic business development professional with expertise in marketing, merchandising, and supply chain coordination focusing on the food & beverage industry. Kim has consulted 300+ small businesses on growth strategy, building out diversified revenue streams, and identifying new market opportunities. In addition to her commitment to small business growth at-large, Kim’s expertise has led her to develop multi-sector, public-private partnerships across industries such as governmental agencies, food tech start-ups, and Top Fortune 500 retailers and food service operators. Now she leads the growth of Cureate throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Heartland regions, as the business continues to grow nationwide. Read more>>

Gabrielle Smith

I have always discussed with my friends that I was always so interested in starting my own podcast. As I grew older, I have always been so interested in so many career fields that I never really knew what my actual passion was. You always feel like you have to live up to the expectation that society has but that’s not mandatory all the time. It did get to a point where I decided to turn to God so he could lead me to what was really meant for me. I have always been so good with my words and am just always the go-to friend for advice! Read more>>

Brie Boswell

Before becoming a mother and baker-preneur, my first passion was teaching. I taught in DC for 7 years and in Prince George’s County, MD for one year before putting my teaching career on pause to better care for my growing family. However, my love for baking has “been in the oven” for decades. I have loved sweets all my life and in my college and high school days would often, somewhat jokingly, say that I would one day own my own bakery. Looking back, I laugh at my younger self because at the time I was saying such things, I had barely baked more than boxed brownies or cupcakes. Read more>>

Sarah Campbell

These days, I’m known for my big smile, bubbly personality, and lush, over-the-top designs. I spend most of my time as a leader of floral industry education, always on the go, traveling the world and building huge floral installations! But, don’t let me fool you into thinking I’ve always known how to do what I do, I can assure you that is not the case! It has taken years of hard work to transform my business into the powerhouse it has become. When my journey began, I was a beginner. I barely even knew the basics. Read more>>

Disp Queen

As a lab technician, I had started to learn about cannabis from a long relationship with it recreationally, I became medically disabled in 2015 and continued to work until my condition of seriopositive rheumatoid disease caused me to have to reevaluate my life and work, especially at the time being a single mother of a special needs son. I began a cannabis blog called “Ganjabelladonna” and started to discuss not only my own research but also local and National cannabis news and did radio appearances, my longtime advocacy, and openness about being a mother who consumed cannabis helped people relate to me, I began chemotherapy for my condition and created cannabis-infused foods to manage the effects. Read more>>

Lauren DeVera

I’ve always been a natural connector. It was my heart to ensure folks around me felt comfortable and able to be their full selves. Due to growing up in multiple spaces where I felt like I didn’t belong, whether that was in my blended family, being multi-racial, or even in the church, I knew what it felt like to not be seen. The spaces that were meant to be safe didn’t always feel safe to me. Partnering with my passion for dance, and love for people, I decided to create my own space where folks, no matter their background or skill, could come together in one space, have fun, and express themselves!  Read more>>

Kimberly Cross

I am the Happy Skin Formulator and a proud Navy veteran. I served in the U.S. Navy, following the footsteps of a long line of servicemembers. My military service took me from Chicago to Florida to Washington State and several trips overseas defending the country I so love. I often speak of how fascinating it was to experience the different types of planes and jets for the various branches of the military and how each one works together to complete the same mission. It is what inspired me to remain in the aviation industry at the end of my enlistment. Read more>>

Kim Johnson

On the day, VP Kamala Harris was elected, I was so elated that I wanted to celebrate her with a collection of hoodies and tee. I literally spent my entire weekend building my site and designing a collection to honor VP Harris. Some of our most notable sayings were, “Grabbed Him by the Ballot”, “My VP is Black,” and “Your VP is an HBCU Grad.” We received an overwhelmingly warm reception. Read more>>

Andrea O’Shea

Great Frogs started with a passion for wine, and a desire to preserve green space. The vineyard was planted in 1999 and thrived, so the next natural step was to start a winery. Our goal was to make excellent dry wine with locally grown grapes. From there, we opened our doors to customers, and have loved creating a memorable experience to accompany our wines ever since. When we look back to where we were 10 years ago, we love to see how much we’ve grown. Read more>>

Jay Kirkendall

Devil In Disguise started in 2018 briefly after completing a reunion show with our previous band Something Wicked This Way Comes. We enjoyed playing together so much that we decided to start a new project and instead of going in the screaming/ breakdown direction, we decided to go in the hard rock/metalcore direction. We started writing radio-worthy songs but with our harder style background, we decided that we can make whatever style we want and not be labeled. So Devil In Disguise’s first recorded and heaviest song is called “Purge” mixed and mastered by Cameron Mizell the second and third songs “Rise” and “Never Meant” are the radio worthy songs followed by “Cringe” which is more hard rock/metal meets pop punk. Currently, the Purge EP is in production and set to be completed in late 2022 or early 2023. Read more>>

Ketron Wise

In 2009, Koche (pronounced ko-che) was founded to solve a mother’s problem. The owner wanted to provide her son with a holistic way to manage his sensitive, dry skin. Today we’re located in two stores in Maryland (Blank Slate in Annapolis Mall & Sacred Spaces in Hampden) and will be in Flying Solo in NY starting March 2023. No, I originally didn’t set out to sell any products, my goal was to help my son. It just sort of blossomed into a business. Working a full-time job only allowed me to treat it as a hobby. I didn’t put much effort into growing the business until 2020. Read more>>

Samora Hicks

I grew up in a household as the only child and my mother was a single parent, trying to do the best she could to raise me along with my grandmother so I grew up to have my own daughter. I lived on the southside of Chicago all my life, working at the post office as a single mother with my child’s father serving 50 years behind bars, when the pandemic first started, I decided to create a business to help people that are having problems with losing weight and keeping it off I used to be 300 pounds and I lost 70 pounds so I decided to sell waist trainers, Read more>>

Christen Clark

My name is Christen Clark and I am the founder of Healthy Heart Hope Inc. My Healthy Heart journey started as a young girl in junior high school when my older brother suffered from cardiomyopathy. Once he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, it immediately propelled my interest in medicine. ​Between frequent visits to the hospital and anxiety and panic overwhelming our lives, I saw and understood firsthand how heart disease affected my family. At the time, we were uninformed, traveling a journey unknown. Fast forward ahead, my older brother was forced to receive a heart transplant. After one day of being on the donor’s list, he received a call that changed my family’s life forever. Read more>>

Isaiah Jolivet

I started off helping family and friends move and throw away miscellaneous items in the summertime. One day I talked to my mom and we both decided I could make some good money from it so I started my own business. It hasn’t been all smooth but I can’t complain. We go through busy spells and dry spells. It’s all a part of the job though so I love it and I’m thankful. Right now I am just a 19-year-old student trying to get my business off the ground and get a degree. The thing that sets me apart is my work ethic. I know it’s cliche but it’s really the truth. I do at least one thing to benefit my business each day. My thinking is one small thing every day will have big results in the future. Read more>>

Saraya Thomas

I began my journey by taking the time to holistically heal myself from what seemed at that moment in my life as chaos. I began to research different healing modalities in the realm of holistic health and there were several that stood out to me, but very few that stuck with me on my path. Presently today the practices that I use most are meditation, yoga, reiki, and scripting. These are the services that I now offer to help others cope with whatever life brings. I pride myself on teaching individuals how to create a routine of peace within their lives, but also using manifestation techniques like scripting to create a life that they truly deserve. Read more>>

Nakia Booker

I started this project in 2020, right after Brother Floyd was murdered. It was such a painful moment of trauma for Black people in America and around the world, but it also amplified an unmistakable voice through art. I saw all of the beautiful art on Instagram that was being produced during the civil unrest and was utterly inspired to contribute in my own way. It was through this inspiration that I decided to collaborate with the talented souls that joined me in collaboration to create The Black Artivism Capsule. Read more>>

Autumn Ellison

My love for fashion comes from my mother and grandmother, who have influenced so many aspects of my life. Growing up, I watched how my grandmother carried herself and how my mother always dressed to impress me, even if she was going to the grocery store. While in high school, I developed my own passion for fashion through my style blog. The blog was the beginning of So.Fvshionable, it was an outlet to express my personal opinion and fashion sense. It allowed me to be my most authentic self, speaking what I was passionate about in a way I never could. I loved sharing my views on style and helping other women feel confident within themselves. Read more>>

Micah

I started singing when I was really young. Imitating the singers that I was introduced to by my family. I would sing out loud, not realizing my family was listening. It’s not until these days that they tell me they would listen to me sing. I realized eventually that I could hold a note pretty well and so I would record myself singing popular songs and send them to my friends to see what they thought. They all loved it and would urge me to be more confident about it. In high school, I auditioned for plays and talent shows but never booked anything. Read more>>

Kevin Jeremiah Watani

My name is Kevin Jeremiah Watani aka KevJ. I was born and raised in Nyeri, Kenya, Africa on December 11, 1987. I’m the oldest of four siblings. I was very fortunate to have a loving family that provided me with a great childhood as I was exposed to music at a very young age. My father, Dixon, was an avid musician as well. Growing up with my grandparents was when I discovered music and the piano. My grandfather would always listen to African dance and pop music such as Fela Kuti, and Michael Jackson, country western artists such as Kenny Rogers, and Dolly Parton, and funk bands such as Earth, Wind & Fire, and The Isley Brothers just to name a few. Read more>>

Kevin Zarate

Life will push you into the deep end when you least expect it, to test what you are made of and to take you to new beginnings. After working in an industry for 9+ years, I was given the opportunity to become a full-time photographer and to grow and fine-tune so many aspects of my business rapidly due to the amount of time I now had, due to a career pivoting life change. Many people would feel anxious, and nervous about the future but my wife & I took a step back and came up with a game plan to take on life together. I believe your viewpoint of every situation will determine the outcome, and that is the approach I’ve taken as a photographer. Read more>>

Robert Remington

I started Shotokan in 1971 as an undergraduate at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA under Teruyuki Okazaki. I had taken PE courses every semester during my undergraduate years, decided to try the karate class, and fell in love with the art. When I started, training consisted mainly of constant repetition of basic techniques, Kata, and pre-arranged sparring; with little or no technical explanation as to how to improve the techniques. After Shodan, more emphasis was placed on free sparring, with no protective equipment, just precise control of the techniques. In more recent times, greater emphasis is placed on explaining the specifics of the techniques, and, In free sparring, protective equipment is the norm. Read more>>

Prince O

I’m a Bronx-born but Long Island, New York-raised producer, songwriter, and recording artist. I’ve loved music and entertainment since the age of 3. My Biggest influence, like many, is Michael Jackson. I started emulating him by dancing around the house as a child. In elementary school, I started experimenting with loops and ringtone makers which sparked my interest in beat-making. In High school, I started getting familiar with programs like FL Studio, and Reason & Protools. 2 of which I still use to this day. Read more>>

Maurice McKinney II

Transition Real Estate Network (TREN) was founded by two former Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) colleagues Jamal Bell and Maurice Mckinney II. Both of us wanted to focus on helping people of color build generational wealth. Jamal Bell, a lifelong Baltimore city resident, and Maurice McKinney, a Morgan State University alumnus, decided to focus on our demographic of low to moderate-income homebuyers. Read more>>

Aaron Johnson

Yes undoubtedly, my name is Aaron Johnson. I am the CEO of a clothing brand called 1450 AllOrNothinG. I previously started this brand in 2018. Basically 4years ago. I started with a vision of wanting to leave/be a big impact on my family and the community I was raised in. I started with t-shirts first, then hoodies, then sweatsuits, and lastly leggings for women. I continued to push myself and believe in myself with all my energy to be prolific a reach each pinnacle I desire to set for the brand. Learning more about the industry, keeping up with the latest fashion, and bringing back old-school fashion. Read more>>

Luqman Haskett

Luqman Haskett is a native of Baltimore, Maryland, and a lifetime lover of fashion. In 2014, after 2 consecutive military deployments, Luqman decided to share his passion for fashion with the world, and The Dapper Luq blog was created. After his initial entry into the fashion world as a blogger, Dapper Luq also worked as a model, a stylist, and eventually as a designer. Dapper Luq is very passionate about fashion and sharing his love of style with his community. He has hosted several workshops on dressing professionally for both teens and adults. Read more>>

Sondra Diggs

As a divorced mom of two teenage girls, caretaker of aging parents, a CPA, and a corporate CFO of a multi-million dollar international company, life felt like I lived in a constant batting cage. In just one year, I dealt with my mother having a stroke from Lupus, my father being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and aggressive prostate cancer, the loss of my longtime mentor and boss, and unexpected mental health issues with both of my teenage girls. The only time I was truly happy is when I was hosting a party for my girlfriends. Read more>>

Maria-Victoria Checa

I am a self-taught oil, acrylic, and watercolor painter. I learned to paint by reading books, watching YouTube tutorials, and practicing every day. I started painting in May 2018 for practical reasons. I tried to create large abstract paintings to decorate my home as I was ready to list it for rent. I had never painted before. It was a revelation. I loved the process and couldn’t wait to paint again. I started painting part-time and started selling my artwork in the spring of 2019. Read more>>

Maddy Gorczynski

Before I started doing nails, I was in the hair industry for about 5 years. I hated everything about it but I knew I wanted to do something in the industry after receiving my cosmetology license so I kept up in hopes it would get better. That was until my mentors convinced me to give nails a try and I absolutely loved it. The journey was rough, I was constantly in a mental battle with myself questioning if this was the right move but the best choice I ever made was to keep going. I ended up taking a leap of faith and opened up my own studio in the middle of the pandemic and now here we are almost 2 years later! Read more>>

Serena Russell-Thura

I didn’t always know I wanted to do photography but for as long as I can remember I have always been creative. If it involved thinking outside of the box and creating art, I was in! There was no shortage of creativity in my family either; my father was a very talented artist in his free time and we would often spend time drawing together. My grandfather and grandmother both painted and did pottery together. My mother would craft with me and my stepmother is also a very talented potter. No matter how tough times were or how little we had, from the beginning, I always had my parent’s support in doing what I loved and wanted to do. Read more>>

Saumya Sao

The Violet Project was created by individuals passionate about increasing access to sexual and reproductive health for young people living in Baltimore City. My mentor, Jenell Coleman, and I combined our passions for the field to create a comprehensive and community-engaged program. We didn’t get the first few grants we applied to. We sent out dozens of emails to companies to try to get product donations before we got our first real offer. But when we got our first donation and first grant (which was to launch our youth advisory board), things seemed to be taking off. A lot of youth signed up to be part of our youth advisory board, and we had great attendance during the program. Read more>>

Adrienne Wise

I come from a family of diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health issues inclusive of substance abuse. Many family members who have been in denial of their issues and their impact on others. I originally discovered I had a “voice” when I began singing and performing for audiences when I was 10 years old. Fast forward, to over 15-year Mental Health Career, Leading and overseeing mental health departments, providing trauma-informed care initiatives within agencies, and providing counseling services to the entire lifespan as young as 2 years old. Read more>>

Azareah Sims-El

I started doing hair over 20 years ago, braiding the hair of friends and family. I was self-taught and never really had the confidence that I could style hair for a living. It was a side gig, something I enjoyed but knew I could do to make some extra money if I needed to. When I was about 12 years old, an age where you are trying to find where you fit in, I got my natural hair done in the back of a barbershop by a stylist, Masani. She twisted my hair with oils and butter and it smelled divine. The experience was unlike any other that I had had before in other salons. I thought that was what I wanted to do when I got older. Read more>>

Elizabeth Harlan

I always knew where I wanted to end up, but I wasn’t sure how I’d get there. I attended law school right out of college and then jumped straight into the legal profession, clerking for two courts and then joining a prestigious law firm in California. I was living and working in San Francisco and doing interesting work–what more could someone ask for? Around the time I had children, the 2008 stock market crash hit, and legal work started to slow down in the Bay Area. This gave me a moment to assess where I was in life and where I was heading. I realized that I wanted to raise my children on our family farm in Maryland. Read more>>

Todd Gardner

Hot Todd Lincoln! The old Jewish man trapped… in the old Jewish body! I moved to Washington, DC, and had a plan for my life that didn’t quite work out. I was married, and then after 4 1/2 years, I suddenly wasn’t. I didn’t have roots in the area or a lot of friends. I wound up going to the now-defunct Palace of Wonders, a bar that featured burlesque, sideshow, and a variety of acts of all kinds. I found my people. I became a regular attendant and became “Mayor of the Palace” according to an app called Foursquare. As to the shows, I earned the moniker of “Default” as I was called up as an audience volunteer on several occasions. Read more>>

Danielle Branche-Brown

I am couples and family therapist from Baltimore, MD. I was born and raised in the city of Baltimore, raised by a single mother. I knew from an early age that our connections were what create meaning, purpose, and depth in our lives. Our relationships with the people we love, the ones who love us, often can make or break us. I set out to “save” marriages when I initially decided to become a couples therapist. I remember being in college and hearing that the divorce rate was 50% in the united states. I was appalled, but it resonated with me. Read more>>

Eris Aubrie Busey

Eris Aubrie Busey is a native of Washington, DC. This thirteen years old is a Model, Actress and Designer of her clothing line SIRE SEVEN-ONE-ONE. Eris is also the founder of the Eris Aubrie Busey Community Works Project, which is a community outreach program that allows hands-on service to the homeless community and families in need, covering all 8 Wards of DC. Some of these projects include the Back to Basics school drive, the Keep DC Warm coat drive, The Blessing Bag Giveaway and other projects where Eris partnered with DC Child & Family Services to help DC residents. Read more>>

Ivory Morgan-Burton

Storybook Events started as a way to support and assist those with their events. Focusing mostly on weddings and now is an international eco-friendly, sustainable recognized full-service, social and corporate event planning company. Specializing in weddings, luxury events and customized floral. Known for creating unique and captivating designs from the lavish to the contemporary. Storybook Events has an innovative approach to making your event memorable, providing unmatched creativity and extraordinary attention to detail. Collaborating with only the very best professionals on all facets of your event ensuring seamless execution and excellent service. From fresh flowers to permanent botanicals Storybook Events will include all the elements for bringing your vision into reality. Picture perfect in every detail. After all, it is your ‘Once upon a time”. Read more>>

Kenzie Snowden

I always joke that Kurated, with Love is my pandemic baby. For me and many others, the pandemic was a time to explore passions and talents we thought lay dormant. And for me, scent was always a passion and something I was really into. I love smelling good and for my home to smell good. So, candle-making was a natural progression for me. And once it came to light that some of my favorite candles from my favorite big brand retailer were created with toxic ingredients, I was even more emboldened to create something that I could burn with confidence in my home, around my family, and untimely share with others to burn in their homes, around their families, and their pets. Read more>>

3 Comments

  1. Janice Bryant-Baker

    June 30, 2021 at 7:16 pm

    I have enjoyed reading about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

  2. Darlene Cain

    July 13, 2022 at 5:59 pm

    I love reading the stories and they are very inspiring

  3. Larry Darnell Rhodes Jr

    July 15, 2022 at 12:49 am

    Baltimore MD I’m from there .. I feel maybe I need that culture back in my life .. I’m in Texas and it’s tiring .. I love Bmore it’s my home and will always be

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