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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.

Heidi Parks

I started baking in 2012, about a year after I graduated, because my brother was having a holiday carnival at school and wanted so badly to participate! While I’m crafty, there was a myriad of craft vendors with goods but I didn’t see anyone with baked items – so we set forth on that. From that, BestBakes! Bakery was born. I’ve since attended from culinary school and have dived into the entire colorful world of food! Since graduating in 2016 I have worked producing meals from small families of two all the way up to a summer camp of ~300 children and staff. In addition to this, I’ve made countless gorgeous wedding cakes, birthday cakes, and everything in between! I also managed a bakery for about five years and very recently stopped working there so I could work full time for myself, pursuing my dreams! That brings me to now – striving for each day to be better than the last!. Read more>>

Sara Houser

I’ve been in love with music since I was a kid. Even before I could play anything, I listened to the radio and my parents’ CDs all of the time. I started taking piano lessons when I was 11 and just kind of ran with the feeling I got from it for most of my life. I practiced so much my Dad had to establish a window of time where I wasn’t allowed to play (Nightly News). I ended up continuing to study music in college (Berklee College of Music) and when it came time for me to enter the adult world I picked Austin as my new home. I started really small here, booking shows for my band and trying to meet other musicians. I waited tables and bartended for money. Eventually, I started playing for other bands and getting a lot of session work as a vocalist and piano player. One of my first sessions was recording background vocals on Spoon’s record Hot Thoughts – which I still geek out about to this day. I’ve been lucky enough to tour internationally and record with some of my favorite songwriters around town. My more recent passion in the last 6 years has been teaching. Read more>>

Jan Seides

I first felt the pull of music when I was three. My mother would always turn on the radio while we ate dinner, and one day I surprised her by singing to her one of the songs by heart. When I was four, my parents bought a piano, but it was my older sister that was supposed to get the lessons. Well! I wasn’t having any of that! So I went to the piano after she was done practicing and played all of her songs. By the time I was four and a half, her teacher was convinced I needed lessons too — especially when it turned out I had “perfect pitch” When I was old enough to leave home, I learned to play the guitar too, mainly because they’re portable, and moved to New York City, and then to Austin, Texas. The decision to go to Austin was spur-of-the-moment. My intention was to go to San Francisco, but just before I left NYC, I met some people from Austin – which they talked about as if it was paradise. I decided to go take a look at paradise, and then go to San Francisco. They were right, and I never left Austin. Read more>>

Christina Collazo

I was raised in South Texas, along the border, in a small town called Donna. I was born to two very young parents. Although my childhood was filled with a lot of hardship, there was also a lot of strong familial connection to my mother’s family. I think it is because of their love, and the love of my mother, that we were able to survive a tumultuous childhood. I was a HeadStart kid which allowed me to foster a love of reading and learning. School was often my escape from the daily traumas that would shape our little brains and create obstacles along the way. When I was growing up I dreamed of getting away from the small town that did not seem to progress or offer real opportunities for all of its citizens, but I was really worried about leaving my mother and brothers. Eventually, our father was incarcerated and through his confinement I found comfort knowing that our family would be safe from his abuse for at least the 11 years he’d be in prison. His incarceration gave me the freedom to leave our small town in 1998 when I graduated high school. Read more>>

Veronica Ceci

In high school in Wisconsin I took a vocational class where I began working with printing presses. That started me on a career that lasted two decades. I went on to receive several degrees in printing with an emphasis on antiquated techniques that are used primarily in fine art, like stone lithography. I moved to Austin after completing my education seventeen years ago. With all the training I had, I found work pretty quickly collaborating with other artists like Luis Jimenez and Michael Ray Charles. Those artists would utilize my niche skill set to realize their vision in limited edition hand printed art pieces. Working so closely with talented people taught me a lot, and I have brought all that experience and those lessons with me into what I do now. These days I keep my skills for myself, I am my own artist. I have an arts business, Flash Collective, through which I curate exhibitions, present events like workshops and talks and also facilitate the creation of public art. Read more>>

Jahleel Johnson

I started off producing music almost ten years ago to the date. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I had a lot of support from my peers at the time. They gave me tons of advice and creative influence. Becoming a musical artist was never really on my mind I always wanted to be behind the scenes. Although my production was pretty good and getting me around the city (Houston) at the time, I still didn’t feel like my production was being accented with the right style and lyrics. So I took it upon myself to turn my then poetry into music and showcase it myself. I was blessed with an opportunity to tour with a popular R&B artist at the time by the name of J. Long, alongside acts such as Webbie and Travis Porter then shortly after spent two years in South Korea essentially in “artist development”. Once I returned to Texas in 2013, I landed in Austin and took my music to the streets, built a name for myself and never looked back. Ever since I have been elevating my game time after time to where we are now. Read more>>

Jasmine Cormier

As a child, I grew up watching my mother self-publish her own books and tour her stage plays around Texas. Since then I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. My mother taught me to be fearless and pursue the things that I want in life no matter how difficult they may be to accomplish or how long it may take to achieve. In 2015, I became a certified 200-Hr Power Vinyasa and Yoga Sculpt teacher. I became more aware of the mind-body connection which helped me during a tough time. I went undiagnosed with depression since a teenager and the effects started physically manifesting. There were several times I had panic attacks at work and home due to stress and having no emotional outlet. My yoga journey helped me realize a lot about myself as well. I enjoyed using various essential oils in our yoga sessions at studios around the Austin area. I started Soy Society Wellness, then called Soy Society Candle Club, in 2018. I wanted to stay true to who I was becoming at the time. I choose to make aromatherapy soy candles that have the ability to positively affect our moods. Read more>>

Audrey Stevens

Tia Nana’s Authentic Salsa was established in 2011. We started as a fundraiser for our son with Autism. When we completed our mission, we returned to tons of reorders. From that moment on, we knew there was no going back, we needed to start our business. Today, we serve via website nationwide, local vendor markets and storefront to our client’s. Read more>>

Melanie Applegate

When I was growing up, photo shoots with friends were one of my very favorite things to do (usually on a Kodak disposable camera!). My mother and grandfather were also very into photography. Mom had more of an artsy style while Granddaddy was very much a documentarian. I have found that over the years, I sort of blended their styles to develop my own. Growing up, I never had a lot of extra money to spend on fancy things, but I always had the best camera I could afford. Just like playing the piano or painting or playing outside, photographing has always been a creative outlet for me. I shot what I wanted to shoot. There was never a real goal or purpose, it was just an experience. It was my way of telling stories. I am driven to capture life as-is, never wanting to alter the natural state of people or things – but only to bring out their very best. I love discovering the little pieces and moments that make up a big picture and capturing them all. Read more>>

Marina Oneill

It all started at a yoga teacher training I was taking – I was longing for adventure. I had become a stay at home mom at the age of 20, so I had this feeling in my heart that I was missing out on the world. This led to me moving to Puerto Rico where I started a jewelry company named Marinawanders selling sea glass jewelry. This is where I started taking photos. I had to have great content to make my online business thrive. I sold out the entire collection the day it was released. This is when my photo passion started. I closed my jewelry company and bought the fanciest camera I could afford. Fast forward a year later – I moved off the island, bought a popup trailer and traveled the west coast. I boondocked all over and started finding gigs on Facebook in every new city I landed, whether it be cleaning houses, taking photos, or teaching yoga. This is where I fully understood the magic in social media. I was able to travel full time, and work off of Facebook. After that adventure was over, I came back to Texas and went through an ugly divorce. Read more>>

Phillip Lybrand

My story as a creative pain-in-the-butt starts back in the early 90’s on the mean streets of Port Tampa, FL where on any given day you might find me playing sandlot baseball, backyard wrestling, attempting to build a PC, or trying to convince my friends we could make a movie with a VHS camcorder. I was the kind of kid that would take apart my dad’s stereo – but not to see how it works. I was more interested in using a couple of the parts inside to combine with some other random electronics I’d found to make a movie prop replica. I still have some of them, too. 🙂 Fast forward to elementary school and you’d find me in the library studio producing the closed-circuit morning show. Middle school had an even better studio. Then came college in Arizona, followed by the big choice: move to LA or NYC and be somebody’s assistant for 10 years… or move to Austin and make ultra-low budget feature films on nights & weekends. I picked Austin. So, I’ve been in Austin for a little over a decade now. In my time here, I’ve produced & directed four feature films and worked as a DP & editor on several shorts. Working on some cool new stuff right now, too. Read more>>

Ben Hollander

Casper Fermentables was started by Ben Hollander in 2016. After years of working in fine dining, and graduating from UT where he studied biology and global food systems (notably under Prof. Raj Patel), Ben decided to start a business of his own. Ben’s mom is Korean and his Dad is Jewish so he grew up eating both of those types of foods. Ben’s mom is a chef and was an owner of Yoshinori Udon in Seoul, South Korea, but moved to the DC area around 1991 to start a family. When Ben moved to Austin to attend UT, he was unable to find authentic kimchi or kombucha anywhere around, so he started fermenting his own kimchi and brewing his own kombucha following his mom’s recipes. The kimchi recipe is actually from Ben’s grandma and goes back thousands of years in his family! Casper Fermentables Kombucha focuses on high quality, ethically sourced, direct-trade tea. Our resulting tea-focused kombucha is low sugar and loaded with honest to goodness probiotics. Read more>>

Rhonda Hale

I have always said I suffer from entrepreneurial disease. It is a funny statement that gets everyone’s attention because no one I have ever met thinks of it that way. I say that because I think it is something that you are born with and although it can be contagious, it is something many people have or don’t have. Some people want it but cannot ever quite get it to stick. I grew up in an average middle class family and although we did not want for much, I was not given much either. My Dad once told me “You can have anything you want but you will have to get it your damn self!” That about sums up my motivation and I never looked back. I opened my first business at the young age of 19 and have owned at least ten unique businesses. My businesses have ranged from a pub to what I currently do now which is graphic design. I think I have a lot in common with other entrepreneurs. For the most part, I did not do well in school – except when I was new to town and had no friends. Read more>>

Timothy Lim

My wife and I moved to the Central Texas area approximately six years ago: she had just finished medical school in Arkansas and was starting her residency. I spend my time between Arkansas and Texas: by trade I am an audiologist, having received my doctorate degree in 2007 and seeing patients / teaching classes since the fall of that same year. My hobby has always been illustration: while I never wanted to be a professional artist, I found out around the same time as my final year that merchandising and advertising artwork pays well, so I kept it up. Eventually I ended up doing comic book covers and finally, after years of people asking my co-creator and I to do a full comic, we pulled the trigger: so far we’ve published exclusively with Texas-based independent publishers. The first is the well-established San Antonio based Antarctic Press: the second is the imprint / fulfillment company Iconic Comics. Read more>>

Jeanette Guardiola – Woods

My business started off as a punchline – in an office. Mounting frustrations that came with being a WOC in a corporate setting led to daily conversations where we would blow off steam and I would say – that should be on a t-shirt. Eventually, that led to me being more serious about this idea. One day, I literally had a vision of the brand. It was like a fire had been lit, and from that point on, I was determined to see it through. The hurdles both large and small kept on coming, but still, I managed to make a trip to L.A to tour factories and print shops to ensure that my new brand would be delivering on quality. It was also important to me to work with business partners that had strong ethos and took their work seriously. Alas, Fuerte and Fearless was launched (officially) in January of 2020, that’s right, just a few months before the pandemic hit. As a result, my business looked a lot different than I anticipated, but it led to growth in different directions. Through this journey, I’ve met so many other passionate business owners, and as my business continues to grow, I look forward to connecting even more with the larger community. Read more>>

Timeca Seretti

I’m originally from Gary, Indiana where I always dreamed of being an entertainer. After I left the US Navy I decided to pursue it. I started doing extra work in Chicago when I was enrolled at Indiana University. I was studying theater. A friend invited me to Austin, Texas and not really knowing what the acting scene was like here, I moved in 2001. I loved Austin’s cool laid back style, but the acting jobs were coming far and few between. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and start creating. I started Wild Child entertainment and since have executive produced, written and directed several projects, including two of my award winning short films. I was recently cast in two feature films which will be shooting in May and June respectively here in Texas. Also since being in Austin I have taken on chasing another one of my passions… music. I mean Austin is the music capitol of the world after all. I am current the lead singer for the local blues/rock band Blue Vibe. And I also write and produce my own music. Read more>>

Cierra Boots

I was born in Anaheim, CA and raised in Las Vegas, NV. I played soccer competitively for 17 years, won seven state championships, and earned both athletic and academic scholarships to fund my undergraduate pursuits. I held the role of Team Captain for the entirety of my athletic career. Except for the couple years I played football – American Football, that is – with the boys of Centennial High School. There I earned my position as the first string kicker and most likely, remain the only player to ever get yelled at for wearing pink nail polish to practice. While following my love of soccer as far as I could, I found purpose in keeping others healthy and playing the game they love, as well. Through the mentorship of Feather River College’s Head Athletic Trainer, Juan Nunez, I got to experience what would eventually become my profession. In 2008, I was the first student to graduate at FRC with an AS in Health, PE and Exercise Science with an emphasis in Athletic Training. I went on to graduate from Cumberland University with a dual major, a minor and achieved academic honors. Read more>>

Natalie Earhart

I’ve been making art, writing stories and using creativity as an outlet to communicate with the world since I can remember. When I was six years old, my Aunt Kathy practically forced me to perform my poetry in front of her and my sisters. They sat around me, spooning rocky road ice cream into their mouths as I quietly recited the words housed inside my fabric-lined journal. After one poem, I thought I was finished but to my surprise, they wanted to hear more. Art continued to be my sacred practice until I committed to it fully in college. There I discovered that art could be made from keys and pine cones and the dried up pieces of paint on my palette. I was lucky to be surrounded by mentors and classmates that challenged and encouraged me. However, after the thought-provoking prompts and deadlines of my college years were gone, my inspiration started to dwindle. I wanted to share my work but no longer had a studio or collaborators to bounce ideas off of. I was lost. I took a full time job in a medical office which left me tired and yearning for weekends to simply “do nothing.” Read more>>

Renee Fouquet

I started CLEAN.FIT out of my personal passion for healthy living. I believe that eating clean, real foods, and staying active can give you the energy to live the life of your dreams!​My focus on wellness came from seeing first-hand what it’s like to not have your health: my little sister Rachael was born with congenital heart disease, which led to a heart transplant at age five. This beautiful gift of life gave us 14 more incredible years with Rachael!.​According to the CDC, up to 40% of annual deaths from the top five leading causes in the US are thought too preventable. In other words, the small lifestyle decisions we make every single day add up cumulatively to either give us health or risk facing disease. This is staggering! Seeing what Rachael went through from having a disease that she didn’t choose made me so passionate about helping people avoid awful diseases that they can potentially prevent!​It’s become my personal mission to encourage and educate others to preserve their most important asset: their health. And because I know full-well how short life is. Read more>>

Annmarie Rosa

The idea of a place like Cityhouse Collective, started in a small three bedroom apartment in Jacksonville, Florida. I had been family portrait photographer by then for about seven years, I was a married, a young mom of three children and I desperately wanted to grow and scale my business but was feeling stuck. As someone who worked freelance mostly, I relied on public places to shoot, in client homes. The majority of my work was done in a small den in that apartment that had no door. It wasn’t uncommon to have client consultations serenaded with a Disney theme song in the background. Shoot days were always a struggle. I was often the outdoor elements and rescheduling for rain in addition to dealing with inconsistent lighting situations. When my shoot days were done it was a second round of meeting with clients on-location to help them place portrait orders at local coffee shops and their homes. Then, lines of work life balance were put to the test. Read more>>

Jan Heaton

I grew up in Detroit. My grandfather was a design engineer for Henry Ford. My father was a display artist, calligrapher and sign painter. My mother was an illustrator at General Motors, and an accomplished artist in multiple mediums. As soon as I could hold a pencil they shared with me the tools of creating art. Mom set up still lives on our dining room table to sketch from on snowy, housebound days. My brother and I learned from our parents how to observe, isolate, and find beauty in the smallest details. I learned that practice, persistence and repetition is key. I attended weekend studio classes at the Detroit Institute of Arts from the age of 10 to 14 where I studied the Diego Rivera murals and sketched with inspiration from the master works. I attended Cass Technical High School in downtown Detroit, a music & art college preparatory magnet school. I discovered watercolor in high school. Read more>>

Allison Macsas

I became a runner as a teenager, competing and doing quite well at the high school and collegiate levels but with no real aspirations of pursuing it seriously after graduation. I moved to Austin in 2006 in pursuit of my first “real” job as a graphic designer, but quickly realized that the 9-5 world was not for me. That realization combined with an ongoing injury that kept me from doing the thing I loved most – running – resulted in what seemed like a crazy decision for my introverted self: I decided to move to Thailand to be an English teacher! My family did not travel and I hadn’t been exposed to much beyond the American south, but somewhere along the way I got the travel itch and had to go scratch it. So, at age 23 I sold what little I owned, packed a backpack and flew to SE Asia where I spent the next year teaching and later backpacking all over the region with my then-new boyfriend / now husband Gabe. It was the most pivotal, educational experience of my life. Read more>>

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