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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.

Mathew Aguilar

I grew up watching my dad build each home we ever lived in and always found it fascinating watching how it all came together. But what I didn’t know is that later in life, I would somehow end up working in the same industry myself. Not only did I love selling and buying real estate, but I learned I have a passion for new construction. But like any kid, I rebelled at first and didn’t listen and just ended doing odd jobs here and there until my late 20s. Then something hit me and said, “What are you doing? You are better than this”. I needed to listen to my true calling. So one day, I quit my full-time job and got my real estate license. Read more>>

Paul Slattery

From a young age, I always had a fascination with movies and the fact that they had the ability to transport me anywhere my imagination could conjure up. I would watch them and just wish that I could be where they are taking place. The very first movie location I visited was in Round Rock, an area known to the locals as Quick Hill, where the majority of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Since roughly 2009, I’ve been visiting locations from my favorite movies and television shows on a regular basis. Read more>>

Katy Moore

Growing up outside Los Angeles, I was always enamored with the beauty/fashion industry. I graduated high school with full intentions to attend FIDM to pursue fashion when I decided to fully take a chance and leap into the world of hair at the Vidal Sassoon academy in Santa Monica California. After graduating, my first assisting job was working for celebrity stylist Ken Paves at his Beverly Hills salon. There I learned from the best of the best and absorbed every new technique I could get my hands on. To this day, I feel so lucky to have attended more than 20 classed from celebrity stylists to Instagram’s most followed stylists. Read more>>

Ricky Duran

I grew up with my family in the Worcester, MA area. My parents were immigrants from Guatemala, and my dad was a working musician. He introduced me to music. He was always singing, playing the piano, or the guitar. He’s who inspired me to play music the first place. After high school, I attended and graduated from Berklee College of Music. After some time performing, I made the decision to move to Austin, TX. This is where I was given the opportunity to try out for NBC’s, The Voice. I reached a new level of popularity from that opportunity and got the chance to perform with one of my musical inspirations. Read more>>

Alla Shelest and Mariana Shelestiuk

U cuisine is the first Ukrainian to-go restaurant in Austin. The opening of the restaurant was prompted by many different factors and events from dreams and passion for cooking to terrible events in Ukraine and the desire to contribute. Ukrainians are by nature very hospitable and sincere people who cook a lot and amazingly. Culinary traditions are strong and passed down from generation to generation. When we arrived in Austin, we began to miss traditional Ukrainian cuisine, which means we began to cook even more at home for family and friends. Read more>>

Franchiska Bryant

I have been drawn to fashion and the beauty industry like a moth to a flame since I can remember. I didn’t feel strongly about any other field of work, and so cosmetology school was the path I chose right out of high school. Little did I know, it would end up feeling like destiny. I started at a prestigious salon upon graduating, and at the time it felt like my dream job as I learned and fell in love with the craft. The more I learned, the more I came to love the education around learning new techniques, which helped me broaden my understanding of technical services to offer my clientele. Read more>>

Roger Chappell

Real estate has always been something my wife and I talked about. She was in sales and I was in law enforcement in Houston. We enjoyed locating and remodeling homes. We would then lease them out. We were in the investing business for the long haul. We had a property for lease and our realtor was unable to show it. So, I did. The same scenario happened a couple of times. After these showings, the prospective tenants always submitted applications. Several times we would have multiple applications, but it seemed that it was only when I was showing the properties. Read more>>

Carl Hill Jr.

A decade of living and working abroad has provided me with a wide range of skills, experiences, knowledge, and awareness that has helped me thrive in different areas over the course of my career. As a Director of International Studies in Taiwan, I led a team of more than 20 teachers and administrators from seven different countries in both English and Mandarin Chinese. I also recruited more than 100 students and graduates from my alma mater, DePauw University, to live and work abroad in Taiwan. Read more>>

Diane Lang

About 12 years ago, I got very sick. I could barely swallow any flood or liquids for over a year. In the first two months, I lost 25 pounds due to the illness. It took almost a year to figure out what was wrong. I, unfortunately, have an incurable, pre=cancerous illness but before I even received a diagnosis, I knew I needed to do something to help my mental health. I was falling apart. I started using the science of positive psychology and the happiness habits. These were interventions, I had my clients use and saw results but now it was my turn and it really helped me shift into a more positive place so I could heal. Read more>>

Andrea George

I was only 10 years old when my father had a massive stroke as a complication of Diabetes Mellitus and hypertension. This life experience motivated me to pursue medicine. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto in Neuroscience and Psychology. I later pursued medicine and finished my residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and my Fellowship in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Creighton University School of Medicine. Read more>>

Doreen Lorenzo

I started in film and video many years ago. At some point, I became fascinated with this new thing called the internet. That lead me to learn more about it. I worked for a company that was one of the first to sell computers online. I was leading marketing. There was no e-commerce, we worked with a group of talented young designers that has some experience in software UI design. The site became a huge hit and shortly thereafter I was recruited to the world-renowned frog design to start their digital practice. I went on to grow that practice, become COO and eventually president of frog growing the company exponentially. Read more>>

Jorion Dawson

I’m a musician (Saxophonist, Synth Player and Vocalist) coming up from San Antonio and Texas State in San Marcos. I have been playing music since middle school and once I reached college, I decided to become a full-time musician. Once I decided to make my move up to Austin about a year ago, I was not heard of. However, the band Michael Hale Trio and Mac (Michael Hale, Jimmy Blazer, Dayne Reliford and Mac Macintosh) were kind enough to let me share the stage with them during one of their Tuesday night shows. Read more>>

Jaime Chase

My career path has been a long road with its fair share of dead ends and unexpected twists. The story begins with me as a young girl forced into taking care of herself before graduating high school. I quickly learned it’s on you to make a life you want for yourself—and you don’t have to follow “the rules” if you don’t want to. A surprising passion for building physical strength and a desire to help others combined as the foundation for me to take a chance on creating my own personal training business. In grade school, I was an uptight rule follower who excelled in school and found comfort in doing well academically. Read more>>

Josh Googins

In high school, I was made to leave public school and transferred from Austin High School to The Griffin School in Hyde Park to finish out my senior year. It was then that I picked up mushroom cultivation along with a lot of other skills and interests in the sustainable agricultural space. At first, as a hippie Austin teenager would, I started out with psychedelics and psilocybin but quickly saw all of the implications of the broader world of mycology. I became enamored with books about how they can sequester massive amounts of carbon, fix toxic soil and water, grow into shapes and be hardened into polymers and textiles. Read more>>

Michele Harnish

JH Wall Paints was created from a unique perspective of deep experience, industry knowledge and endless creativity. It is family owned and operated by a husband and wife team, Jeremy and Michele Harnish. We are committed to offering premium hand-crafted mineral lime-based architectural finishes and delivering highly personalized service. Jeremy is an artisan, a licensed California painting contractor and also a talented artist with impeccable vision for interior design. Jeremy works in some of the most beautiful homes in Orange County, California. Read more>>

Baily Olivas

It’s hard to describe exactly everything that I do in one word but I basically help brands, music artists and companies with their branding, digital marketing, creative media for social, and website management. I grew up in a small town outside of Austin called Dripping Springs. I then went on to St. Edward’s University where I graduated with a degree in Business and Digital Marketing. I remember not knowing exactly what I wanted to do for the longest time all throughout high school. I knew that I wanted to do something creative and something that I was passionate about. Read more>>

Danielle Dukes

The end of 2021 was a rough one for me. I was stressed from many different parts of my life. I had just moved from the DMV area after living there for seven years. I was in a new season of my life, in a new relationship, and on the hunt to find a solid friend group. Meanwhile, my main stressor came from my 9-5 role. Working in the tech industry is great, but no one ever talks about the incredible stressful burnout culture it can have. Unfortunately, I was feeling the guilt of imposter syndrome, constant pressure to perform and meet unrealistic expectations to clients. Read more>>

Ashlee Holley

I actually took a very long path to becoming a hairstylist. I was a middle school special education teacher for almost 10 years before deciding I needed a change. I had supplemented my teaching income with styling hair and doing make-up for friends, so I decided to go to school and learn to color and cut as well. Coming into this business being older, it was definitely bumpy. I have responsibilities that couldn’t be put on hold. Luckily, I have a very supportive family, and I had a wonderful opportunity to apprentice with a talented woman. I learned so much from her. Read more>>

Julia Knight

When I was 15 years old, I was sitting in class when my teacher, who owned her own event planning company, approached me. She told me she had a wedding the next day and needed an assistant because her usual assistant couldn’t be there. I was SO excited she trusted me, and I was getting $100! A 15 yeasr old girls dream – a wedding and money. I remember going through the wedding with her and, not going to lie, feeling so cool. I remember I had my own apron with “emergency” bride supplies, and all I could think was “I can’t wait to have my own assistant one day.” Read more>>

Natalie Sideserf

After I graduated from college in 2008, a friend of mine suggested that I try making a sculpted cake in the shape of a cow skull for a birthday party (my very first still life cake!). Although I was unfamiliar with using cake as a medium, I really enjoyed the idea of working with edible materials and saw the potential for realism in cake. When I first started, hyperrealism was pretty much limited to sugar flowers so having a fine art background, I decided to focus on portraits and still life. In February 2013, I made the first realistic bust cake to go viral in the shape of Willie Nelson after it reached #1 on Reddit. Read more>>

Shannon Stott

When I was traveling and living in Europe and Africa, I cultivated flexibility and adaptation in my life in order to keep my mental health intact while shifting between different countries and cultures. When I finally started to grow roots in Richmond, Virginia I began taking Improv classes because I thought that might be my way into the theater (no dice btw). I found that I was re-learning through games the same mechanisms I had developed over the years to help me transition while moving and struggling with loss and uncertainty, as well as acceptance and gratitude. Read more>>

Marie Camacho

I’m a product of the military. My father, a Mexican-American from Tucson, was stationed on an army base in South Korea where he met my mother. They fell in love, married and I was born in Fort Ord, California. We moved briefly to Germany and then rooted in Killeen/Fort Hood, TX. My mother was a typical Asian mom. Nothing was more important than excellent grades and I was to become a doctor or lawyer. That didn’t happen! I completed about two years of college in Austin and dropped out. I didn’t know what I wanted or who I was. Read more>>

Katia Pineda

My story starts at the root of who I am! From my tiniest moments as a child, I was always drawn to anything that included art. Art has always been my passion and it’s helped me grow and heal in so many ways since then. I don’t have any technical training, although I am looking to start a studio art degree in the fall. What I’ve learned throughout my time as an artist is the most genuine and beautiful pieces come from very vulnerable places, good and bad. I believe I started to find my style when I was about 12 or 13. My parents had separated and it affected my art deeply. Read more>>

Urooj Arif

I actually didn’t have a single creative bone in me! It started when the pandemic hit, we had our religious holiday coming up, Eid, and I realized all of us would be spending it alone in our homes not being able to meet our loved ones. That’s when the thought struck me to make gift baskets that we can send to our friends and family. It was a way to spread some love and joy through this horribly depressing time we were going through. It was a hit! People loved the idea! I made gift baskets for adults and for kids. Read more>>

Candice Martin

It wasn’t like a huge long thought-out decision. I was working as a barista (still a part-time barista) and just thinking about what’s next, what do I want to do. Music has always been a passion for me. I love listening to music, making mix cd’s and playlists, and going to concerts. I already had a DSLR and had dabbled a bit with photography so that day at work, I just decided to start bringing my camera to local shows to practice and get a good amount of pictures up on my Instagram and then I started looking into trying to land bigger shows. It’s been kind of a dream realized. Read more>>

Dana Mihaly and Dee Marsh

Dee Marsh and Dana Mihaly started their careers the same way, hundreds of miles from each other, in broadcasting, marketing and public relations. Juggling all the responsibilities of family, their professional passions were often on the back burner. They learned to translate creative talents into part-time marketing and consulting work and volunteering at the local PTA, where they met. They have covered some ground in the past 30 years: marketing director, substitute teacher, television show producer, ad agency exec, college relations director, retail sales, property manager and self-storage specialist at LockTite Storage – where they discovered their career dreams aligned. And now, Marsh + Mihaly Marketing Group is celebrating two years of collaboration. Read More>>

Ambrely Ouimette

I was born in Greenwich, Connecticut and raised in Hudson Valley, New York. My earliest memories are all tied to the kitchen and food: growing up on a small farm miles from a traditional grocery store harvesting from a family garden; my grandmother instructing me how to hold a knife before she could see over the kitchen counter; watching cooking shows; learning the basics of cooking, baking, and realizing both the joy and necessity of providing meals for family and friends. In a household with Italian and Ukrainian roots, Sundays were spent cooking feasts to be enjoyed around the table, sparking my lifelong love of feeding people. It was difficult to work on the farm but so rewarding, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. We created a little self-sustaining oasis from nothing. I lied about my age to begin work in a pizza shop when I was just 14 and haven’t stopped working since. Read More>>

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