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Conversations with Yelena Trepetin and Justin Williams

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yelena Trepetin and Justin Williams. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Coming from the former Soviet Union, Yelena’s parents instilled in her a passion for travel. Although a picky eater when she was younger, she grew to love all kinds of foods and will try anything once.

Justin also had a deep passion for food and travel stemming from growing up in an Italian-American household. His parents are great cooks and are always competing against each other to make the perfect meatball.

Before Yelena and Justin met in 2019, most of their text messages consisted of going back and forth about favorite cities and favorite restaurants. When they finally met for their first date, they both took out their phones to take photos of the delicious food and decided to share everything.

Throughout 2019 and 2020, Justin and Yelena would travel almost every weekend and write small blurbs about their travel itineraries as well as the food they ate on their personal social media accounts. They were highly focused on highlighting the hidden gems and the small businesses all over Baltimore City. After friends and family insisted that they needed a blog to share their tips on local favorites and recommendations for travel was born.

Although the blog details tips for travel around the world, they are also passionate about spreading the word for local Baltimore restaurants and their owners. One of their favorite blog posts was about the owner of the restaurant Urban Deli (located in Federal Hill) and her focus on helping and serving the local community. There’s nothing more rewarding to them than seeing the hardworking owners of local businesses gaining success and building relationships with the community. The Baltimore food and tourist scene has so much to offer and there are so many wonderful people involved in both industries that need to be brought to light. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The COVID-19 pandemic severely changed the way the world operated with respect to dining and travel. Obviously, a big part of writing about travel and food is the ability to patronize restaurants and fly to various destinations. Justin and Yelena decided to focus on take-out from local restaurants and road trips focused on Maryland areas, as well as destinations out of state that were easily accessible via a relatively short drive. The focus also moved to highlight activities that could be done safely during the pandemic, mostly taking place outside. Justin and Yelena’s re-engineering of their travel and food blog to focus on local areas and businesses has really paid dividends. They enjoy creating more than they ever have due to their passion for Baltimore and the surrounding areas. The ability to get to know and develop relationships with local business owners is something they truly appreciate.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
By day, Yelena is an attorney working for a firm in Rockville, who currently focuses on transactional matters, business litigation, and dispute resolution. Her current clients are small businesses and individuals throughout the Maryland/DC/Virginia area. She previously focused on securities litigation, helping shareholders recover monies they lost as a result of fraud and represented shareholders in corporate takeover litigation. She also was the Chief Legal & Compliance Officer for School Group, a non-profit organization in the education arena, where she was the recipient of the 2019 President’s Service Award for creating and managing the legal department. Finally, she has served as General Counsel for small healthcare businesses in the Maryland area.

Justin is in the software world where he works on data science projects, software implementations, and various other software-related projects. He has been in this field for the last decade and absolutely loves it. He has a very deep interest in programming and likes to work on his personal software projects in his free time. Justin also is interested in various applications of blockchain-based software programs and has even created his own NFT for fun, among other things. Although their careers keep them super busy, they make time to focus on their blog in the evenings and during the weekends.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Yelena has turned to advise from alumni from her colleges and her law schools. Prior to the pandemic, she tried to attend networking events in the Maryland area as much as possible. She has found that her best mentors have been people that she has previously worked for and maintained consistent contact with.

Justin has found that the cliche advice of “being yourself” has worked the best for him. The ability to form genuine connections with others is one of the most rewarding and meaningful things you can get out of life. He has life-long friendships with professors from his undergrad college (UMBC), as well as friendships with professors from Loyola University (his graduate school). Knowing successful and motivated people from college, from his professional life, and from his personal life has helped him find mentors and opened up opportunities for growth.

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