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The Change-Makers: stories that inspire

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.

Susan Hardwicke

I wanted to become an Art Therapist. I was 17, and the closest University to get a degree in this was Georgia. I was in SC- I went to UOf SC, got an Art Studio degree w a minor in Psychology. In the process, I went to Paris to go to cooking school. My love since I was about four I had to n Mc are a decision- an awesome man suggested Master of Social Work bc of my love different cultures and people in general. As that started, my brother passed. I didn’t handle it well- I went through a tough section of life. This was the second brother who had died. I ended up in alcohol rehab, so much over a lifetime, and I fell apart. I had been to therapy for years after my first brother’s death. I was 13, starting 9th grade. I took my first psychology class, my life changed. A psychiatrist nearly ruined my life, putting me on a plethora of pills, thankful for my father saving me and finding a therapist who had my back throughout high school, college, and the start of my sobriety and practice. Read more>>

David Callejas

Our founder David Callejas is a born and raised Austinite who grew up with a family boat frequenting the local lakes. In 2013 after a few years of bouncing around corporate jobs, he took a part time gig at a local boat rental company where he realized that the industry needed disruption. The customer service was poor, the employees weren’t taken care of, and the boats were neglected… yet the demand kept pouring in. The following summer, David and a small crew of friends and family, started renting boats on Lake Austin! David’s early focus on customer service, internet marketing, and team culture helped separate Float On from the rest of the operating companies. Back then, it was more of a one-man-show where David took reservations, trailered boats, drove parties, handled the accounting, maintained the small fleet and much more… There’s rumors of David taking new reservations on the phone and inputting them in the calendar all while trailering a boat to the lake. Read more>>

Marissa Hornsby

I started not knowing what to do, not a plan in sight and no idea how I was gonna do it. But I created a clothing brand, ‘House of Noelle,’ I started with maybe 13 styles I handpicked and started selling them to people I knew and even ones I didn’t. I made a hot $250 and I was so proud of myself not knowing what was on the rise for me or “House of Noelle’. As time passed, I learned A LOT from customers, vendors, other entrepreneurs. It was like I opened a different side of myself I never knew and began to connect with people and network with individuals with the same goals in mind. I went through the unthinkable during my first year doing business and every time I was in a bad place or just wasn’t the best me, I turned to God and then to “House of Noelle.” Long nights and early mornings were a routine thing for me, and I began to just put in so much work that after a while, it didn’t feel like work. I look from where I was to where I am and I’m forever grateful. Read more>>

Audrey Gil

Inspired by my childhood bedtime stories made up by my Grandmother, “Wawa,” and my Mother about the “ranita”, I wrote and illustrated a children’s book called Lemondrop using water colors when I was in high school. To this day, it remains near and dear to my heart. This is a children’s story about finding love and acceptance for yourself no matter what you look like. As a Puerto Rican and Cuban girl growing up, I was shamed for being “brown” and teased for being “skinny.” It was my hope that one day I could read this to my daughter and she would learn to overcome people’s ignorance and love herself just the way that she is. As self-acceptance and acceptance of others is at a high in America and across the world, this message is still relevant to our youth today and for many days to come. Read more>>

Lauren Lowe

My husband Josiah and I decided to open a retail shop for handmade goods after we graduated college. We opened up shop in a little house in North Campus. We had so much fun working with artists, hosting neighborhood events, and introducing customers to more handmade products. Along the way, we started making candles and they took off! We made them with funny names because we hadn’t seen any candles with those and wanted a way to make candles giftable and light-hearted. We soon found that candles could be a full time job, and we didn’t have that same passion for our retail shop anymore. We also now had a two and five year old adding to the madness, so after nine years, we closed our retail shop to fully focus on candles. The candles are sold in over 2000 stores worldwide. Read more>>

Nicolette Mallow

My writing career began at Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). I joined the District, an award-winning student newspaper, and started getting published in my undergraduate program. After graduation from SCAD, I left Georgia to begin an internship within the Editorial department at Texas Monthly magazine in ATX. I was then hired as a contract employee to work in their Custom Publishing department for a different magazine. Afterward, I wrote three stories now published on the Texas Monthly website. SCAD and Texas Monthly are the foundations of my professional journey as a writer. But, writing is just one of the art forms I enjoy creating. From childhood until college, I focused primarily on performing arts. Born and raised in Texas and NYC— I’m an artist: writer, dancer, vocalist, thespian, model & (amateur) photographer. Internationally published in the United States and Europe, I’ve obtained 110+ publications thus far. Read more>>

Jim Markunas

I started managing tech projects for large internet television brands, like DIRECTV, in my late 20’s. From there, I went into eCommerce development for American Apparel, and then briefly worked with the Boston Consulting Group on a large project. I found that I had a knack for finding money for the companies I was working for and using project management to increase profitability. Recently, I started an Austin-based management consulting company with a few friends with the goal of increasing profitability for eCommerce and retail businesses. Read more>>

Christina Richardson

I started my modeling career in 2012 by modeling for Midwest Black Hair Magazine in Kansas City, Missouri. Oneday, I was on Facebook and I had seen their ad for hair models and submitted to their advertisement. They had liked my photo, I sent it to them and after that, I became their featured model for their publication. I modeled for Midwest Black Hair Magazine from 2012 – 2015. Over the course of three years, I graced their front cover, back cover, and made centerfold. After modeling for Midwest Black Hair Magazine, I moved on to print/commercial work as a model in 2015. Read more>>

Keren Eldad

I started out as anyone does – I did not like where I was in life and decided to change it. Today, I am an executive and personal coach serving over-achievers, but this did not happen overnight. It took me time to find out what I wanted to do, so how I got here is personal. As my clients and hotline texters, I was once “maxed out” myself: burning the candle at both ends, saying no to nothing and working eighteen-hour days…including weekends, pursuing a life full of ‘things” and “fitting in,” yet suffering an indescribable emptiness and sense of wasted time. I. Was. Miserable. Sound familiar? It should. It’s a rather common story. Then, I lost everything, or rather, decided to blow it all up: I abandoned my career, escaped my abusive marriage, moved countries and took the risk of finally taking a stand for my own destiny. After turning my life around, I learned, above all, how to develop a talent for joy. From years of hands-on work and study in the fields of positive psychology, cognitive behavioral therapy, coaching and crisis counseling, I have also discovered this to be the key not only to wellbeing but to resilience and success. Read more>>

Marcela Kourkova

I started with creating art for the community in Buda, TX by drawing in chalk on a brick wall of one of the merchant’s buildings that is located downtown. It started in May 2019. Each First Saturday, I have been making art there and also I organized art shows at the new City Hall Lobby. I also talked to local merchants showing artworks in their establishments and today, my art and my husband’s artist’s art are at four locations in downtown Buda. I decided to give a name to my artistic adventure Fine Art Buda. I am on Instagram with @fine_art_buda. I organized temporary art shows at local restaurants as well. I also was hired by the owner of Esther’s Tex Mex to re-paint her building and a fence. She applied for the city’s rejuvenation grant and I was able to create a unique mural on her establishment. A local dental office also asked me to paint their windows with a Fall or Christmas theme. And a local boutique has asked me to paint large signage for their shop. My niche is to put up shows and share them with the community, make street art that is family-friendly and can be a photo opportunity. Read more>>

Kristin Kennedy

My journey has been a slow process, but it basically starts with my mom always baking cookies for holidays. She was always baking cookies for holidays, and we would decorate them together just as a fun family activity. As I grew older, I never really pursued baking on my own. I went to Texas State University and started my career as a High School Family and Consumer Science (FCS) Teacher. I was teaching students different skillsets through our FCS classes but really grew to love the Culinary Arts classes. Through teaching my students, I was also learning a lot at the same time. I was lucky that my district granted me the opportunity to go to Johnson and Wales University for three summers to train in the Culinary Arts/Baking and Pastry worlds with their professional chefs. A couple of those summers, my mom was able to join me! It was such a cool, full-circle kind of feeling to be baking in professional kitchens with her. We learned so much together! In addition to teaching food-related classes, I was also starting a Baking and Pastry extracurricular activity club at my school. Read more>>

Tyler Prange

I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. In fact, I was always a bit terrified of the word. To start a business means vulnerability. It means putting yourself out there in a way that I never felt was natural. Everything I once believed about entrepreneurship changed this year when I decided to venture into the waters and start my own Financial Coaching Practice. I was never very good at personal finance. I would have considered myself a complete wreck financially, but a year ago, I decided it was time to get my own money situation in order. Through some great podcasts and a few books, I started to develop a plan for myself to take control of my money, get out of debt and start working toward a solid financial future. Over the next nine months, I was able to pay off all my debt, and this lit a fire inside me, a fire that was determined to tell everyone there is a way out! I wanted the people around me to know that they didn’t have to wonder how they would make their rent payment because all of their paycheck went to assorted debt payments. Read more>>

Lauren Parsons

Just about three years ago I started modeling and through that, I started to become interested in what was happening on the other side of the camera. I began dabbling with photography with my sister and my friends, and I slowly fell in love with it. Recently, I made the decision to pursue this passion and start shooting with more and more people that I didn’t know, building my portfolio and making connections with amazing people. Now all I do is photography, and I could not honestly be happier. Read more>>

Shea Menchaca

In 2013, my husband and I purchased a suffering Bodybuilding gym., Metroflex Austin. With a little TLC, We were able to revive the business. Our goal was to make our gym a gym that not only helped people actually achieve their dream bodies but also to help others suffering from unhealthy dependencies and help them trade those dependent behaviors for healthy ones such as bodybuilding, powerlifting and or through daily fitnesses. We also turned our attention to help those suffering from PTSD. We, at Metroflex Austin, have help numerous veterans organizations with our member’s donations and helped our very own veteran members by giving them a safe outlet and community that understand their struggle and supports them as a fitness family. At this gym, mental and physical health is goal one. In our years growing the gym, We found that many of the members could Follow through with the workouts, but the following the nutrition plan was much harder. Members would fall off progress because they were not able to prep their meals. And proper nutrition is the key to achieving fit and mental goals. Read more>>

Sadie SaVage

One of my very first interviews as an artist was with the Blanco County News and at the impressively young age of ten in only fifth grade. I always believed in my God-given talent and limitless potential. I knew exactly what I wanted to be and I wanted to share my passion and creative genius to make the world a happier place. I have so many talents and I knew as a kid, I needed to create an outlet to let them strengthen, sharpen and grow. In fifth grade I began as Blanco High School art teacher Perry Kuebel’s private mentee. Under her guidance I won many local art contests, participated in art shows and had my artwork published in multiple calendars sponsored by The Texas Department of Protective and Regulated Services. As a multimedia-based artist, I like having no restrictions on where I take my creative genius. Hence, I created an all-inclusive brand that encompasses all my talents in one brand, the fierce lifestyle of having it all and doing it all. Read more>>

Lauren Field

I come from a long line of creatives who work with their hands and had a very creative childhood. Fast forward to my teens, where I started working retail where it was part of my job to work on display windows and editorial sets for a national company. While working for this company nights and weekends I started to have a rapport with local designers and clientele and frequently got asked to help them with their personal or professional projects. I was always surprised because of my age, but learned early on that I was a Type-A creative and somehow managed to juggle a full time school schedule and a slew of miscellaneous design projects alongside my job. After a while, I decided to declare a major and formally study architecture in college, were my two very opposing artistic yet analytical creative types thrived. I learned from some of the most amazing architects, artists, and colleagues when there were only five women in my graduating class. I went on to live and travel alone in Europe and decided to continue my education in Architecture by attending a graduate program in St. Louis when I returned home. Read more>>

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