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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.

Ashlyn McLin

After graduating from Louisiana State University, I moved to Nashville in 2011 to pursue a career in property management. In 2015, I was recruited by one of the largest builders in America and transitioned into the role of a builders agent. I spent 5 years learning the ins and outs of new construction and real estate contracts. I transitioned into general real estate working for a traditional Corporate America style brokerage before opening my own brokerage. Read more>>

Jenelle Jones

It all seems to be a bit of a happy accident, whether or not it seemed like it at the time. I never planned be a business owner – not even on the radar. Growing up, I was always looking for an escape. For example, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer so I could live with my uncle in Florida when I was in middle school. Going to college because “you’re supposed to” and decide what to do with the rest of your life is an insane concept when you think about it, but I figured that’s how one is supposed to move up in life. Read more>>

Jocelyn Loza

In January 2018, I started Latina Professionals of Chattanooga (LPC) as a conversation among amigas (friends) which later grew to a larger conversation of 200 Latinas on a private Facebook group. After days of creating the online group, I saw the need for Latina professionals like myself and wondered what would it take for Latina women and girls to fully embrace our power in the South? A few weeks later, I decided to host our first event which was held in March 2018, on Women’s Month. Read more>>

Josh Hinkin

I’ve been called to this path from a young age, I was always drawn to the natural world as well as the unknown. Growing up in Knoxville, there were often times I didn’t feel safe to express what I felt or saw, or even who I was as a queer person, out of fear. But over the years I started to delve into the metaphysical world where I felt myself being called. Similarly, being queer in the south art became an outlet of not only self expression but of my spirituality.  Read more>>

Erin Archer

Becoming a musician at the age of 10, I fell in love with music and never looked back. I started with the violin and a few years later, added the viola. While being traditionally trained in both instruments, an opportunity to create and perform original music came in college. I toured around the country and performed with Jag Star; a female-led original pop band. Viola was an uncommon sight in pop music at the time.  Read more>>

Kelsi Walker

Around 5 years ago I got my first gig playing music at a bar called Sugar Mama’s. Before that I had been playing a coffee shop in Maryville and that’s about it. I had been writing music since high school and I had an inkling that my songs were relatable and that felt important in this sometimes lonely world. I spent several years hustling and going out to meet people. I eventually started doing the early songwriter showcases that Born and Raised Productions put on when they first started out.  Read more>>

John Phillips

I moved to Knoxville, TN in 1999 to attend University of Tennessee to study Fine Art. After several years of studying art, I began to embark on a professional career in “making things”. For many years, I worked making all kinds of objects from custom furniture to concrete countertops to chandeliers. Until one day, I decided to combine my love of food and cooking with my work of “making things” and I made a knife. Read more>>

Megan Ward

I am a 30 year veteran of the hair industry, education has always been at the forefront of my career. Although i still work behind the chair as a stylist, much of my time is spent on the road educating for Keune haircosmetics . That is where i share with fellow stylist, conducting in-salon workshops. Originally a native of central NY i fell in love with East TN while visiting friends. Read more>>

Nikon Jai

I first started out as a photographer in 2014. I was doing music at the time, and couldn’t afford my own photographer or videographer. So at the time, my mom was working a good job, so she had no problem buying my first camera. It was like a Powershot Cannon camera, nothing special. But I was able to do my own videos, photos, etc. At the time, I had friends who did music too. So I’d do Photoshoots for them, shoot their videos, it was all for fun. Read more>>

Johnny Daniels

I started working out regularity about 12 years ago and in that time have tried many different diets. From paleo to keto, and even vegetarian for a while. Each time I tried a new diet it worked, but wasn’t sustainable. I eventually missed all the foods I had given up and fell back into old eating habits, and gained the weight back. I was tired of repeating the same cycle so I started doing research and ended up going through two different nutrition coaching programs, Own Your Eating and Precision Nutrition.  Read more>>


I have been making some form of music since early 2010. I was kind of just thrown into it. I was at a friends recording session and their vocalist quit on the spot and I was thrown into the booth. I worked with them for a few years and moved out of the area. This is when I downloaded FL Studio and started making Hip-Hop beats. I got over making Hip-Hop beats pretty quickly. I did not like how simple most the artists wanted the beats, it was limiting my creativeness essentially. So I started making EDM, or Electronic Dance Music. And let me tell you…. Read more>>

Florencia Rusiñol

Here is our full bio — Florencia Rusiñol is a life-long singer and songwriter born in 1992. Although she was born in Canada, and grew up in Johnson City, TN, her Argentine parents instilled in her a love of Latin American music from an early age. All through her childhood, there was a mix of everything from Argentine folklore to The Beatles to Manhattan Transfer playing in the house at all times. With all the music flowing around her, it was nearly impossible for her not to want to become a professional musician, and she began working towards that by performing wherever she could during high school, singing everything from choral music to jazz standards. Read more>>

Rebekah Beaushaw

Hi, I’m Rebekah – a creative photographer based in Knoxville, TN . I have been specializing in editorial, headshot, and creative photography for 5 years. One thing that I learned in those 5 years is that I love the people of this city. We are all in fact very different, and have many stories to tell. I love telling those stories and showing off our personal, beautiful quirks through photography. Read more>>

Amber Stumbo

Hi, beauty! I am Amber Nicole Stumbo,22 of Eastern,KY. I have had a love for the beauty and fashion industry since I was old enough to play in makeup and dress up. I began free lance make up artistry at 14 years old. Once I graduated high school I obtained my business degree then followed into cosmetology school. I originally started my business online on Facebook where I had 6 homemade headbands and she grew from there. Read more>>

Denny Kidd

I grew up in a very poor household. Both of my Parents were disabled and relied on Government assistance. Before I was born, my father was a coal miner and during those times – the work conditions were extremely unsafe but the pay was very good. I remember receiving donated clothing for school if my parents didn’t save enough money. I even recall at one point, the bathroom floor was rotted so bad and some parts of it – you couldn’t see; getting to the toilet was a guessing game because if you stepped on the wrong spot, your foot could go through the floor. Read more>>

Wasted Major

Four of us were friends for several years. We always talked about starting a band, but didn’t seriously pursue it for a long time. Two of us wrote a song together and decided we really wanted to find a drummer and see how it sounded with a full band. We put the word out that we were looking for a drummer and within a few days we had found our match. Our drummer had played with another guitarist and vocalist who he said was great, so we invited him to join us.  Read more>>

Mark Enix

Being raised in East TN, I started my journey in Oliver Springs. I grew up with my parents and two older siblings in a house on the main road. We spent our summers fishing in a local pond across the way. My father opened a Jewelry store when I was around 10 years old. Everyday afterschool, I would get dropped off at my dad store. I started doing odd “helper” jobs like cleaning glass and sorting small things. I eventually started polishing Jewelry for a few cents per piece.  Read more>>

Albert Toh

am originally from a small town (City: Sibu, State: Sarawak), Malaysia. I came to the United States as an international student in 2005, after attending 4 years of college. I followed the footsteps of what most immigrants do, I started working in a corporate American environment for 9 long years to pursue my American dream. I was an accountant for most of those 9 years. In 2019, I was sick and tired of the rat race of working in a corporate environment. I decided to resign from my full benefits job and took a path of unknown (I started a food truck!). I started to embark on the journey of the American dream on my own term. Read more>>

Mark McHenry

I started my career in the crazy and interesting music industry in 2008 as a songwriter, not knowing how to write a song correctly but wanting to learn and use my creativity, it was a dream placed on my heart and wanting to be in the music business and around Country music for a while at that point but not having the confidence or where to fit in to do so and this came at a pretty rough time of my life but a special timing, so here starts the journey. Read more>>

Tessera Dance Theater Ken Easterly, Shannon Hayward, Hannah Hayward

We have shared friendship as well as a dream for accessible, equitable arts and dance in Knoxville for the better part of a decade. We each believe deeply in the importance of arts education and its power to transform lives and community; we’ve also all personally experienced its gifts in our own lives and careers. Both Ken Easterly and Hannah Hayward grew up training in the greater Knoxville area, with Ken at Vine Middle School and Austin East High School and Hannah as a competitive studio dancer. Read more>>

Joe Heath

My dad drew comic strips and had written a few things when I was growing up. That creativity rubbed off on me and I started making short films around the age of 14 or so. Shortly after that I made a feature length film called “Life with Death” that wasn’t terribly good, but I did finish it! Then I just kept making things: Short films, web series, podcasts, screenplays, novels. I’ve even worked on a few television series! Now I write pop culture articles for a living while still making creative work on the side. Read more>>

Christopher Jones

It’s been a GRIND since day one! I started off in a tent setup, and had no idea what I was doing. It took a lot of growth and trail and error to get to where I’m at today. Learning the business side of things, working with staff, promoting our brand, and keeping everything efficient has been some of my biggest challenges! CJ’s Tacos has been open for 5 years now. We now have 2 food trucks, and one restaurant. By year 3, I have been working from home full-time doing everything on the business side of things. Read more>>

TC & Danielle

It’s funny how the tiniest decisions can change the entire trajectory of your life in the best way. TC and I met in 2006. I (Danielle) was a solo recording artist in the middle of a summer full of shows. I was looking for a new band member and a friend of a friend recommended TC. I gave him a call and he told me he was too busy to take on any more projects. TC says a week or two later he saw a picture of me and decided to give me a call back! (Hey, whatever works!) Read more>>

Kylie Melbourn

Ever since I was a kid, drawing has been a huge passion of mine. As time went on, my love for creating always remained. I have lived my whole life in Schaumburg Illinois and decided to take a leap of faith and go to college where I didn’t know a soul… University of Kentucky. After hugging my parents goodbye and starting on this Kentucky journey I went back to my dorm room and found that they had left a gift for me on my dorm bed. One of the things inside that bag was a tablet that I can draw with. Read more>>

Eli Sealy

I’ve been fixing cars since I was old enough to start taking them apart. Working at a shop in Asheville, I met my wife, (she doesn’t check her oil) and when we moved to Tennessee, it was tough to find the right fit here. She encouraged me to start my own business, so I began doing some mobile mechanic work in driveways. Soon we were contacted about a small garage for rent – just one lift, no office – next to a boat shop.  Read more>>

Naomi Sowell

When I was little, I was always good at writing. English, Etymology, and Creative Writing came easy, and I could breeze through any project, especially if I got to choose what to write about. I wrote a couple of stories back then that my mom has kept, but no other eyes shall ever see them. They were definitely cringe worthy. At fifteen, after spending three summers teaching music at camps and performing in Eastern Europe with my siblings, The Family Sowell, I wanted to write a story specifically for my friends over there because they are so short of Christian books. Read more>>

Dr. Matt. Keasey/ Kay Baker

Kay and I (Matt) have somewhat unconventional backgrounds given that Kay is a fully trained and very talented Occupational Therapist while I am a neuroscientist. I gained my Ph.D at the University of Bristol in the UK. I believe that we are both good at what we do, but we both are passionate about the environment. We wanted to do something together about the monstrous volume of single use throw-away plastic. Read more>>

Antija Allen

I’m a native New Yorker and grew up in Harlem (New York City). I know that growing up in Harlem specifically is one reason why I’m so driven and work so hard. There’s an energy there that’s unmatched. There is no place in the world like New York City, but I really needed a change of scenery when I was graduating from high school, so I went away to college and studied at a small town in Pennsylvania. While in college I met some of my closest friends that I still have to this day. Read more>>

Kellie Minich

Rescuing animals has been a passion of mine for my entire life. However, I never thought I would start one in college. Upon saving my fourth rabbit from a free Craigslist ad, I found out very quickly that she was pregnant. She gave birth to 6 babies two weeks after I brought her home much to my surprise. A few days later, mama passed away. She was only a baby herself and her body couldn’t handle the stress. I was left with babies that were only a few days old. The odds of survival for handraising babies is 10% and I had never done it before. Read more>>

Latrice Pendleton

I started my business in 2021 after aspiring for so long to have my own business. Due to life changes I was finally able to follow my dream. I wanted to show my kids that there is more to life than to work a 9-5 when they can be their own boss. Since I started, I felt so much joy doing what I love, showing off what I have to offer. I have dedicated time researching fashion, joining membership classes, networking groups as well as participating in pop-up shops. This hard work has allowed me to get to where I am today. Read more>>

Gwendolyn Smith

I grew up in Knoxville and started modeling when I was about 14-15, doing some local runway shows and events. I quit modeling once I went to college, getting my Associate of Science from Pellissippii State Community College, then later transferred to UT and got my Bachelor’s Degree in Plant Science. After graduation I started to look in to modeling again, booking some small test shoots with photographers who were looking to gain experience and add to their portfolios.  Read more>>

Lisa Rayfield and Mikenah Rogers NA

We reconnected after high school when we both were attending our hometown yoga studio. From being students, to yoga training, instructing, and now opening our own studio together; our friendship has grown alongside our yoga practice. Coincidentally we both now reside in Lenoir City and wanted to bring yoga to our new community. Yoga has provided us a place for friendship, community, and a break from the monotony of everyday life.  Read more>>

Jaliyah Teasley

Im 19 I got pregnant at 17 & had my son at 18, which was also my senior year of high school. My son was born in December which is when I also graduated early so I do have my diploma. After I graduated I started at Pellissippi but I didn’t really feel as if it were for me so I tried something else. I now go to Douglas J. Aveda as an Esthiology student. I go to night school during the week I also have a job in the morning 4-5 days a week. Read more>>

Benton Caster

My story…….. I don’t have a lot of memories growing up as a child. I feel like for so much of my life I have tried to suppress memories in an attempt to not have to relive them. My father was a drug addict and a alcoholic. My mother worked relentlessly trying to raise 3 children essentially on her own. I remember that my dad was never really there, and even when he was around, he wasn’t present. I remember living in Western Heights a housing project here in Knoxville. Read more>>

Ashley Youngs

I was 19 years old, a freshman in college, when I decided to get my first residential real estate license. My mom was a top realtor in our hometown (St. Louis) at the time, and I figured I could work for her over the summer and learn the ropes of the business. I went on to graduate from college in 2008 with a finance degree – it was not a great time for this! So, I decided to stay for another year and get my Masters in Accounting as ‘job security’ as my dad would call it, while interning for an urban land developer in St. Louis city. Read more>>

Melissa Mijares

After college I worked in the car and RV business as a finance manager. The work was fun and I enjoyed what I was doing to some degree but never felt fulfilled in my work. It is a transactional business and I really enjoy building relationships. I wanted to contribute my talents and work to leave an impact. I wanted to make an impact on the people that I worked with. I grew up in a house where we did not have a lot. We were always living pay check to pay check and often there was not enough money for necessities. Read more>>

Chloe Hobbs

As a child I was severely immunocompromised and suffered from various food allergies which lead my family to start an organic farm. Due to negative experiences with modern healthcare, my mother and I began learning about and implementing natural plant medicine. It is due to herbal medicine that I no longer suffer from the multitude of health issues i presented as a child. As an adult I pursued a career in nursing and noticed that our health care systems monetize health issues and wholly avoids educating and offering effective holistic solutions.  Read more>>

Joshua Gillespie

Graduated from Gatlinburg-Pittman High School in 1996. Was accepted to the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, and graduated with a degree in history in 2000. Was commissioned as a naval officer and served in a variety of capacities, deploying twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Served my last tour as a military advisor to the Afghan National Army in eastern Afghanistan while also serving as the Operations Officer for the U.S. advisory team there. Read more>>

Jackson Moon

I have always been drawn to different creative endeavors. I’m often one of those people that have one too many plates spinning all at once. Not so long ago I realized that was a great way to remain a “Jack of all trades but master of none”; so I decided to put my focus and energy into only the things I am most passionate about. These days my creative energy goes toward two specific venture. The first is my photography.  Read more>>

Adya Steen

My cousins are the ones who started doing wedding photography, and when I saw how much they loved it I couldn’t help but try it too! After the first wedding I shot I was hooked. Seeing people smile and making them laugh on one of the most important days of their lives means the world to me. And I love that I can give them images to look back on for the rest of their lives. Read more>>

Hannah Silver

I have always loved everything beauty. As a little girl, I would put on my mom’s makeup and always have a lipgloss on hand in my tiny purses. The beauty industry continued to interest me as I did makeup at a department store in high school. However, I did not see cosmetology as an option for me because everyone encouraged college so much. I went to college for business and did fine but my heart was never in it. Read more>>

Brooke Hurd

I became a stylist in 2004, and moved from California to Tennessee in 2005. I spent 16 years behind the chair, and being and educator at Paul Michell the School. I hit every single goal I had in this industry! My biggest dream was fulfilled being a educator and also working at The Wellhouse at Blackberry Farm! In 2010 I started my journey with Reiki. I went through all three workshops and completed them in 2012, Reiki Master Teacher.  Read more>>

Jame Houghton

My entrepreneurial life began at age 19 in the financial services industry. This journey began in Tennessee and brought me to Arizona. At 28 I entered the medical industry. The next year, I started a medical finance company and grew from Arizona back to Tennessee. 2018 was an entertaining year. Purchased the company from partners, later sold the company, and then got to take it back, entertaining indeed. At the end of 2019, we soft-launched SimpleLife. In January of 2020, we officially released the sweet nectar, SimpleLife, for the world to enjoy. Learned about COVID the next month, great timing…Read more>>

Jasmine Morrow

I went to the University of Tennessee to major in Psychology. After graduating with my bachelor’s I realized I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it! Real-world experience at a “grown-up job” seemed like a good step for me to narrow down my path. I found a great opportunity working at CASA of the Tennessee Heartland, a non-profit focusing on advocating for children in abusive or neglectful environments with the child’s needs as a priority. During my time there, I was able to transition from administrative work to some creative endeavors like social media management, content creation, and event planning. Read more>>

Lisa Caprelli

I created Unicorn Jazz as an entertaining way to teach children about reading, writing, music, dancing, and imagination using social-emotional learning concepts. Unicorn Jazz represents the importance of being unique, belonging, believing in others, kindness and happiness. As a Latina entrepreneur and author of 19 books and counting, I am grateful to realize my dream of being a writer and creative director, and songwriter of over ten songs. Growing up poor and shy, my grandmother encouraged me to get an education and inspired me to grow up and help others. I have a soft spot in my heart for teens and children, after all, they are our future and we were once them. Read more>>

Jessica Hyde

Ever since I was a little girl, I was always fascinated with Art. I started painting at the age of 10 and my passion for painting grew into a passion for constructing beauty, as I began Cosmetology school in 2011. I was the small-town girl with big city dreams. I took an opportunity to work for MAC Cosmetics immediately after graduating and I was instantly placed in fashion events, working backstage as a makeup artist. Right away, I felt at home and knew this was exactly where I was meant to be. I continued to work onsite with other photographers, and fashion events and would take my own photos of makeup looks that I did along the way, completely unaware that this would eventually develop into a business all of its own. Clients began requesting photo shoots along with makeup and that’s when my whole experience pretty much branded itself. Read more>>

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