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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.

Jamie Dorn

I have been in the Real Estate industry in one form or another for nearly 20 years. I was living in WA State (Seatt;e area) and had gone to college to study advertising and public relations. After a couple of years working at a PR agency, I realized I was in the wrong career. I ended up starting my Real Estate career in Property Management and quickly rose to Community Manager at multiple Apartment Communities. I then decided that I loved the industry and wanted to move into a sales role starting with working for a builder. As I was getting into new home sales, the market was right at the beginning of the real estate crash 2007. I was the last agent still working for the builder when the builder closed its doors. In 2011, deciding that I had wanted to make a change but still stay in business, I took the leap and moved across the country to Orlando, FL as they were coming out of the crash and ended up getting a job with a builder that focused in the 55+ market (Resort Living Communities for Active Adults). Read more>>

Robert Brewer

I studied Wildlife and fisheries Science and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at The University of Tennessee. After college, I worked in various fields until finally landing at Cleveland State Community College in Cleveland, TN where I started and continue to run the only 2-year Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries program in Tennessee. One day, a colleague who had moved to New Mexico dared me to find a way to bring my students out to New Mexico to see the different landscapes. I took his dare to heart, and together we founded the Student Wildlands Adventure Program (SWAP). One year, we take students from the east out west, then the next year we bring western students to the east. The program continues to grow. We have had students from 9 different colleges and universities in 3 different states participate so far. My co-founder has now moved to Utah and we hope to start including students from that area as well. Read more>>

William Wright

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with a few movies, specifically with music. Jaws, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and William Sterling’s 1972 BAFTA-winning spin on Alice in Wonderland were obsessions. I guess, looking at the list, I could’ve just as easily gone into puppets and costumes. But, I could get lost in those scores and never come back, and I still can. But, as I explored more film, I added more loves, like anything scored by Bernard Herrmann, but particularly Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and The Birds. I loved that the music sort of guides you through the story, and boasts everything you’re feeling to 11, whether it’s fear or tension, love or sadness. I was also discovering composers like Holst and Stravinsky, but those were musical languages I couldn’t imagine speaking. I wasn’t sure how to make any of this musical world-building a part of my life, but I knew a good start was to just follow the path of musicians. The opportunities were limited in my small town, so I got into marching band, and Marching Band led me to college at the University of Tennessee. But, I was still so green that University-grade music composition sort of chewed me up and spit me out. Read more>>

Rose Farahi

For as long as I can remember, I had an impulse to tell stories. Playing with other children at preschool, I took the lead in imaginative play over dumbfounded playmates who could not grasp the intricacies of characters and plots. Fortunately, my parents encouraged me to write down these ideas instead of just sharing them verbally. As strange as it may sound, I found myself at four years old hunkering down at a laptop pecking out my immature ideas into plays and later, musicals. Instead of envisioning myself as a character, I saw myself as the director in charge of the performances. As I got older, I stopped writing plays and focused on first-person narratives. As a novice writer, my works transitioned to a filmic medium. Live theatrical performances slowly morphed into storytelling that relies on a controlled production environment where scenes could be executed perfectly. At ten, I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter. At twelve, I went behind the camera and became a filmmaker. Read more>>

Amanda and Mattie Wilmoth

We are Amanda and Mattie Wilmoth–two redheaded sisters with one little dream–to share our love for cooking, family, and all the feel-goods with all of you. Now that dream—it was on hold—perhaps forever, as we hustled in everyday corporate America. Then… 2020 rolled around and brought the gift of Covid. Why a gift? Well, you see, we both lost our jobs during restructuring and were forced to take a bet on ourselves—to breathe life into our dream. Some called us brave, most called us crazy… but Wilmoth girls—we do not know how to fail—we know hard work and determination, perhaps even being a bit bullish—is the recipe for success. That being said…”Hey y’all, welcome to Bull Babies!” What’s that name about? Our old man–his name was “Bull” –and this sister pair, are the daughters of Bull. You see, our old man was a bit of a local legend–at least in our eyes, and people generally only knew him by his nickname–Bull–some say because of his size, others for his demeanor. Either way, once you met him, you did not forget him–and we think you’ll think the same about visiting Bull Babies. Read more>>

Darlene Gillett

My husband gifted me a Cricut machine for my birthday, in April of 2020, and I started experimenting with it and decided to make some earrings for myself from faux leather. My sister loved what I had made and asked me to make her a pair. I found out, through a friend, how to buy supplies and make studs, and that’s how my business started! I am a nurse, so I took everything that I made to work in a 3 ring binder for them to look through and purchase. I sold SO many! Eventually, they told their friends and family, who wanted to purchase, which is when I started the VIP Facebook page. Over the last year and a half, I have switched to using genuine leather and have expanded to use many different types of materials for both earrings and studs. I also sell earrings in Culture Hair Studio, downtown Knoxville, Studio 45:11, Sevierville, and you can find them at Faith & Grace boutique, located in Alcoa. I also host online and in-person parties for my customers to share with their friends and family. By hosting, they have the chance to earn free pairs of earrings, based on how many are sold during their party. It’s a lot of fun!. Read more>>

Ben Landkammer

I had been in Tennessee about a year when my best friend ended up in north Florida at Top Tier K9’s School for Dog Trainers. He was there for a 4-day SERE /Search and Rescue with your K9 seminar, then to earn his working dog certification over the following 2 weeks. I had heard all about the school and people for the year prior and went down to hang out and see what it was all about. I was instantly sucked in, and over that long weekend found an unknown to that point passion for training on both the pet and working dog side of things. At that point, I was 9 months into a corporate gig that was… less than desirable. After getting back from the seminar, I signed up for the first live online class, and put myself through a year and a half of schooling and weekend seminars, while working full time. A chance to grow a passion while working on a way out of an untenable career situation-I threw myself at it. Read more>>

Jennifer Trammell

I started out making greeting cards with my mom, and we decided to try our hand at selling at craft shows! We didn’t see a lot of success in the beginning, but we loved what we were doing, and kept it up! I bought a Cricut machine to use for cards, but I ended up venturing into cutting vinyl for signs and tshirts. And then my business really took off! About 4 years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, I wanted to have some things embroidered for him… and I happened to find a used embroidery machine from someone I knew in high school and took a leap of faith! There was definitely a learning curve, but once it clicked, I added embroidery to my list of services. And lastly, just this past June, I bought my favorite toy thus far – a laser! I have been able to offer so many new ornaments, doorhangers and signs this Christmas season!. Read more>>

Patti Jones

I started as a Medical Assistant which led me to what I had wanted to do always Medical Aesthetics, I attended Tennesse School of Beauty and Aesthetics and Laser School. I own and operate Beautiful You Skin Care Studio TN in Sevierville, TN. My website is www.myskincarelady.co. I have been in business since 2015 and my clientele comes in every age from 8 to 88. Come see us for Anti-Aging facials, Acne facials, HYDRA Facials, Microderm facials, Permanent Hair Removal, Cellulite treatments and LED Light Therapy. Read more>>

Gene Owens

I started 11 years ago selling snowcones off a 1978 3 wheel Cushman with the ice cream music playing lol driving around Greenback. Then after about a year of close calls from driving that thing around town and about getting run over, I decided to build myself a cart. So I built a 4×4 foot cart and started selling hotdogs and smoked sausage and snow cones. This was much better and safer than the Cushman also started making pretty good extra money for the next few years. I worked in the boat business for around 20 years of my life and was ready for a change so it was time to go full time. So I had to sell a few things I loved like my Harley I had for 13 years and 100th anniversary Harley Davidson truck to go full time. But I’m so glad I did because I love this business and serving up great food for great people. We purchased our last trailer in 2017 and hopefully, we won’t buy another one. This year, we decided to start up a dessert trailer for funnel cakes and it’s been doing great so I and my wife Pam are full-time running both trailers. We love doing this because we get to meet so many people and hear such great stories and love joking around with people and making them smile. Read more>>

Jennifer MacIsaac

I have always been drawn to art since I was a child, but I never felt like I was “good enough” to make it as an artist. In college, I studied fashion design and art, but after graduating I was not sure what I really wanted to do. I took a variety of different jobs, none of them related o my studies. Eventually, I got married and started a family. For several years, I did not really create anything at all, but in 2015 I had just moved back to Knoxville from a 3-year stint in Portland, OR and I was presented with the opportunity to open a community art studio with my good friend Brynn Crowell of LOX salon. The space under LOX was for rent and we decided to create a fun space where both kids and adults could explore their creativity. We held a variety of classes, workshops, camps, and open studio art sessions. I really fell in love with helping people discover their own creative outlets. One class, I developed was called Creative Self-Care. My mom led a meditation and I led an art prompt that both focused on the same topic. This class developed into a one-day retreat where we were joined by my friend Dorothy Verbick. The retreat was amazing and it sparked another side business, Creating Mindfulness.  Read more>>

Rodnell “KID” Harris

I can remember it like yesterday before the vision of Chicago Playground, when God spoke to me and opened my eyes to becoming a fashion artist, 2006 to be exact, the same year as the birth of my firstborn son, Anerias. Also, this was my first year as a City of Chicago streets and sanitation worker. This day honestly changed my life, because, during this time after the birth of my son, I knew I had to make some kind of transition from being this basketball player with NBA dreams. However, on this particular day, working in downtown Chicago, something came over me, which I like to equate to the fulfillment of the spirit from God. With the opening of my eyes to the love of fashion, God brought into my heart to have the desire to someday fulfill the duty of becoming an influencer through fashion and tell my story. From there, I took the challenge, because with me starting to become aware that the NBA wasn’t scouting me, I knew I had to make an adjustment in the wake of positioning myself for my livelihood and the benefit of my son and family. Read more>>

Skyler Chaney

SageLake is a brand that produces entertaining crafting content, most notably about designing props and collectibles. My girlfriend, Nakai, and I founded SageLake in January of this year (2021) because we both have a passion for creating. We envisioned a brand where we both could make cool things and inspire others to do the same through several media outlets, YouTube being our main outlet at the moment. In addition to creating props to entertain and inform, we also now set up shop at various conventions and events around the region to sell our work, meeting new fans of our brand and other makers along the way. Read more>>

Alex Good

My cookie journey began back in 2011 while a student at Penn State. I needed to learn a new skill for a class project and decided to ask my neighbor, Sharon, to teach me the art of royal icing cookies after admiring her cookies at neighborhood get-togethers. I’ve always had an artistic background, so I loved that this could be a creative outlet I could explore to celebrate special events for my family and friends. I graduated from Penn State in 2014 with a degree in Elementary Education and taught second grade in both Virginia and Pennsylvania. While teaching, I continued to make sugar cookies for friends and family and began working at a local bakery as I continued to improve my craft. My husband and I moved to Knoxville in 2020 in the middle of the pandemic and as crazy as it sounds, it felt like the perfect time to take a leap of faith and start my company. Read more>>

 

Morgan Trammell

My family and my husband were my inspiration to turn my hobby into a full-time career. I grew up with a camera of some kind in my hands at all times. I loved taking pictures wherever I went. I felt like I was telling others stories when I captured them just as they were. Taking pictures was a way to preserve all the places, people, and memories that I wanted to last forever. Throughout my working career, I constantly found myself feeling a need to do more. I needed to find a way to give more of myself to others. I felt stuck and all I could think about was what I could be doing if I wasn’t working for someone else. I finally stopped giving myself every excuse in the book and just went for it! My grandmother told me more times than I can count growing up that I should really consider photography as a career. That sweet voice in my head is now advice she is very proud of. My husband bought my first camera for me a little over two years ago and I immediately fell in love. Building my business has taken a lot of time, money, and hard work. I am constantly practicing and educating myself to better my skill. Fast forward to now and the rest is history!. Read more>>

Brandon Mulcahy

There was a time in Blount County, many years ago, when if you had a kitchen remodel or a new home being built you wanted cabinets by Dan and Carol Carter. That is where our company’s story begins. Kevin Headrick, Keystone’s founder, started his cabinetry journey as the production manager for Dan & Carrol. He held this position for almost 20 years before the owners decided to retire. When the Carters stepped out of the cabinetry limelight, Kevin decided to follow his passion for cabinetry and branched out on his own. In 2004, he started his own cabinet shop in Maryville, Tennessee. At the time, he simply envisioned a small business with a few employees. However, after some massive growth, he quickly found himself running an incredibly successful cabinet shop. During the sixteen years that followed, Keystone Kitchens flourished. With an incredible, family-like team of artisans, thousands of customers from Maryville to Farragut and beyond have been able to enjoy the Keystone experience. The word of their carpentry prowess even grew so strong that customers began requesting not only kitchen cabinetry, but also custom bathrooms, closets, libraries, and mantelpieces. All the while, Keystone has never lost its heart for the customer experience and the incredible carpentry they produce. Read more>>

Ashley James

I worked as a paralegal for almost 10 years. It never fulfilled me and I had some creative side hustle going on through much of that time. I had a home decor and furniture booth at an antique mall, I had a home decorating blog and painted furniture, always something. In early 2020, I was asked to help stage a friend’s home for listing photos. I loved every moment of it. I met her realtor and real estate photographer that day and they encouraged me to launch a staging business. And so I did. It took off beyond what I ever dreamed. I have expanded to also do Airbnb styling as well. Read more>>

Liz Escobar

When I was younger, my mother was the President of Habitat for Humanity. I was young and unsure about the inner workings of that role but loved when I got to witness a family move into one of those homes. My mom and I lived in an apartment in a small town located in Catskills, NY. She was a Registered Nurse and had been saving to buy a house for us. Unfortunately, she passed away in the timeframe that we started to look for one. I was 8 years old. Then, I moved to South Florida, to be with my dad. From that moment on, I had an underlying fascination with homes; their comfort, and how time was spent in them. The joy that people were able to experience in them. My first real job was for a furniture manufacturer, Ancient Mosaic Studios. I LOVED it. It was a more administrative role, where I took their small business and did some major organizing to catch them up to their order volume. One day, an Interior Designer called in, as they usually did. However, this one asked for my suggestions. Read more>>

Marianne Gansley

I’ve been a maker for over 20 years. As a little girl, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. That didn’t come to fruition until I was in my late 20s. Out of college, I worked a desk job for a major corporation and forgot about that dream. And then I began taking basketry classes in the evenings and fell in love with working with my hands and creating. I also enjoyed that it was both a utilitarian and aesthetic art form. I’ve been a maker ever since. Eight years later, a 600 mile move from the Northeast to the South and having a baby a month later coincided with a purposeful break from basket making. A few years later, I found a new passion when I began designing and creating jewelry. I beaded for a few years and then I shifted my style. I began making upcycled jewelry after inheriting exquisite old buttons from my French grandmother. That was 10 years ago and my business has flourished. My style has evolved and I design around antique buttons and make them the focal point to bring out their artwork and history in a modern style. Vintage meets Modern. I also incorporate as many vintage components as possible into my pieces- chains, charms, watch pieces. Read more>>

Kamesha Bowen-Jenkins

My first introduction to sewing was in an 8th grade home economics class. I didn’t sew anymore after that until college where I would do alterations by hand for my friends. A friend had a sewing machine that she never used and asked if I wanted it and of course, I said yes. I got engaged my senior in college and decided that I wanted to make my own bridal gown. Not only did I make my dress, but I also made all of the bridal party dresses as well. After graduation, I worked in corporate America for about 3 years while sewing on the side and decided that I wanted to sew full time. I enrolled in entrepreneur school and many years and countless dresses later I am still happy with my decision. Read more>>

Lisa Rowland

I have found that the journey in a creative field is like no other. There is not a written out plan, and most of it is trial and error. I started by cold emailing and shadowing many photographers whose work I found interesting. I met with photographers who specialized in architecture, fine art portraiture, runway, and so on. I had very little funds, so I said “yes” to practically every gig, while also binging many photographer videos on YouTube, such as Sorelle Amore, Peter Mckinnon, and Lizzie Peirce. I truly appreciate all of those who took the time to offer their advice. When I had saved enough money, I had paid to shadow a wedding photographer. After my mentorship, my entire perspective on the wedding industry had changed. I loved getting to know the couple, and hearing how significant each family member was to their journey in life. I felt even more inclined to represent their story in its purest form. I wanted to capture their beauty at the moment, as well as their silliness and quirks. I knew the images would be a part of their legacy and would be how they illustrated their story to future generations. I wanted to do it justice. Read more>>

Jessie Albright

Absolutely, and hello Knoxville! First, let me start off by saying, thank you so much for the opportunity to share our story and music with you. Today, we are planning our tour for 2022. We are thrilled to announce that our next show is in Knoxville on January 7th at Scruffy City Hall! Last Chance Riders has released two albums, with our most recent, “Fool’s Gold” recorded and released this year. The spark of Last Chance Riders ignited when high school friends John Woods (lead guitar), and Jim Martin (bassist) played a charity concert in north Georgia back in 2015. Phenom songwriter, Dewitt Thomson, was also at the event and played his original songs. John and Jim took notice and they quickly joined forces with Dewitt and thus started the saga of the Last Chance Riders. The guys began playing shows, recording new music, winning the battle of the band contests, and grabbing the attention of the Atlanta music scene. Read more>>

Bernie Colmenares

I was born and raised in Venezuela, in a small town called Yaritagua and I am the youngest of 3 brothers. I consider myself a person with a great sense of belonging, balanced and fair when making decisions. When a was 17 years old, I went to study outside my hometown, I got a university degree in Tourism and when I finished my studies, around 2005, I got my first offer job in a prestigious hotel chain, which made me move again to a much bigger one city. Read More>>

Christon Dilworth

The story so far is brief, yet, I’ve seen many miniature successes over the course of time that compounded into larger ones, helping me to innovate and apply my process for a sustainable future for my company. I started college here at UTK, never saw myself tackling so many interconnected industries like music and art all at once but with a lot of the beginning stages spent researching and experimenting with ways to not only build but also to include an audience, it became something I couldn’t get enough of putting my time toward. It’s only been a year and for us to have weathered the brunt of a pandemic, I’d say we’re in a great place. Read more>>

Stephen Carcello

Being homeschooled wasn’t the plan when my parents moved to Knoxville two weeks after the blizzard of 93′ but very thankfully (with hindsight) my parents saw the value in protecting me from the black hole of being prescribed amphetamines(Ritalin) so I could derive value from the public education system. After just 2 months into first grade, I was no longer a part of the inaugural 1st-grade class at A L Lotts Elementary. A brand new school, I remember vividly the newness because I got in trouble for discovering fresh caulk in the brickwork and having a good time with classmates scraping it back out of the cracks. I digress. My family encouraged and supported art from the beginning and is in many ways was the lynchpin for my success. Ultimately if you have the talent the piece missing is the time to develop it through practice. I grew up practicing through many avenues. Oil painting lessons from Johnny Sue Goodman from Lenoir city touched many lives in her lifetime. Valery Eller with pottery throwing in middle school, KidsU art classes at UTK during the summers. Homeschooling afforded me the freedom to pursue in a way the public education system wouldn’t have and with far fewer distractions. Read more>>

Lynne McCoy

I began wildlife rehabilitation back in 1973 when a little screech owl was hit by a car, and the animal shelter called to ask why it wasn’t eating… I found out they were feeding birdseed and I explained owls don’t do birdseed! So they gave it to me for care and then more wildlife in need and it just mushroomed and this was when I lived in Morristown. I got permitted from the USFWS and TWRA to do wildlife care and it went from there from doing about 50 critters a year to over 1100 before cancer hit. I am permitted for mammals, birds, herps. And a separate permit for doing Education programs using non-releasable wildlife that would not survive due to imprinting or injuries if released. Wildlife rehab is about getting the critters ready to return to the wild, not making pets. Education ambassadors are the exception. I network closely with the UT Vet School, Exotic dept. Dr. Cheryl Greenacre & Janet Jones. Read more>>

Savannah McNeely

I’ve always had an eye and love for art. All types of it, too are honest. But I never really thought about photography till I got married back in 2018. After I got married, I became really good friends with my wedding photographer. I started seeing the work she did and I just LOVED it! It was really the first time I saw a job that I was like “I want to do that”. I’ve always been scared I wouldn’t find a passion I could turn into a job but when I started getting into photography I knew this was a passion I could turn into a career. So, I ended up getting a camera in 2019 and kind of just played around with it. I did it as a hobby for the first year or so. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified to officially start my own business. But, I slowly built up the courage and I officially launched my business in 2021. It’s taken a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, and determination. It’s been a wild ride and has brought me so many fun opportunities! I’m so excited about what’s in store with my photography business!. Read more>>

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