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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.

Eli Miranda

We are a family business with a love for antique art, vintage, and unique rare pieces. We started with a small booth selling our finds and suddenly we were a success after thinking about how well we are doing in our booths in Chattanooga and Dalton we took the decision like a year ago to open our own store with no vendors and only us in this adventure. Our store is lubricated in one of the most beautiful buildings in the downtown of dalton ga with almost 2500 sq feet of space. Read more>>

Cheyanne Oakes

Dogs have always been a part of my family and ancestors. Long ago my Barbareño Chumash and Apache ancestors always had dogs by their side. Well, I am no exception, because I am completely obsessed with dogs. I love all animals but dogs are my favorite, especially the French Bulldog Breed. It all started when I was home at my farm (yes, I farm chicken eggs and rescue special needs small animals like rabbits and Guinea pigs to give them sanctuary for the rest of their days.) and first wanted a French Bulldog. Something about them just screams Totally amazing! Read more>>

Jay and Brooke Frankovich

About 8 years ago, we started BBQ competitions in Texas. We won some, we lost some, but in 2017, we moved to Tennessee for work and started catering out of our home on the side. Our first official commercial kitchen was 8ft x 12ft and passed a health inspection with flying colors! On February 7, 2018, we lost our home, our workspace, and our barn in a fluke electrical fire. Our community around us, many of whom we didn’t even know at that point, wrapped us up and carried us through the next year. Jay says often, “I never felt so loved as the day my house burnt down”. Read more>>

Emily Crisp

I have always loved taking photos, but I started seriously pursuing photography when my husband gifted me a camera. In an attempt to get comfortable and familiar with my camera, I started photographing family members and friends, and I realized I had a deep passion for helping women see their beauty and value. So often, women are behind the camera and shy away from having their photos taken, and I wanted to change that. I also wanted to share hope with women because after living with suicidal depression for nine years of my life, I knew how it felt to be alone with no one you could relate to seemingly. Read more>>

John Quillen

Climbing around the world has given insight into the logistical challenges associated with putting people on mountains and achieving their outdoor goals. Having organized expeditions to seven- and eight-thousand-meter peaks in addition to five of the seven global summits, I started helping people realize their mountain goals through coaching and organizing trips. High altitude mountaineering is inherently challenging and the skill set requires every outdoor experience you can muster. Be it mountain biking, backpacking, rock climbing, and endurance sports, they all come into play. Read more>>

Carl Gombert

I started taking painting lessons at 14, and have been a committed art student ever since. I continued the private lessons through high school and college and paid for them by working in the art supply store and frame shop associated with the school. The private classes gave me a thorough, old-fashioned background in traditional realism. I also did a BFA in Drawing and then an MFA in Painting. I worked as a stagehand and set designer before eventually going on to get a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts which led to a job teaching both studio art and art history at Maryville College. Read more>>

Jennifer Daniels Neal

As a performing songwriter, author, and teaching artist, I love the freedom and power of creativity, and I love connecting people to their own. From a heritage of avid Vol fans, I married a Georgia bulldog, but don’t hold that against me. He’s an excellent electric guitar and mandolin player. We hit the road as soon as we met, and have now been writing and touring for twenty-four years. In that time, we’ve released nine music albums, a novel, a picture book, and two children into the world (boy/girl twins, now thirteen). The latest work is a Southern gothic romance/mystery set in the Great Smoky Mountains. Read more>>

Tanner Burke

I have been singing for as long as I can remember; throughout school, I’ve sung in several All-East and All-State choirs. In addition, I received a scholarship to attend the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts this past summer, where I studied vocal music. Currently, I am a rising senior in high school and the president of my school’s tenor-bass choir. Since I knocked some of my graduation requirements out over the summer, I get to be in all four of my school’s choirs this year, which I am looking forward to. Read more>>

Kat McDearis

As a kid, I would visit my grandpa at his small duplex near Atlanta, GA. Despite having a small yard and limited resources, he had a full garden where he would grow his own food. He would compost all of his food scraps and brush in an old tumbler that was made from some kind of metal barrel–I’m pretty sure he made it himself. At such a young age, maybe 7 or 8 years old, I didn’t know anything about composting or why it was important, but I loved turning that big tumbler. In my teenage years, I became an environmental activist and avid outdoorswoman. Read more>>

Elena Basye

I’ve always been into all types of art, whether music, drawing, theater, etc. So, I knew I wanted to be able to make art in any way I can. I started my venture into makeup in my early 20s when one of my good friends and hairstylist (Teesha Watkins-Hopper at Reflections by Lara) asked if I wanted to do a wedding with her as an MUA. It was when the bride started crying, feeling so beautiful and important, that I knew I wanted to do this as much as possible. So now I freelance as a make-up artist, am a licensed esthetician, and spend some weekends making jewelry and trinkets to sell at comic conventions. Read more>>

Michele Albohn

What feels like eons ago, I had a cake decorating business. I would listen to new brides gush about their visions for their wedding day and what they wanted their wedding cake to look and taste like. I brought those visions to reality and loved seeing the look on their face when they finally saw their dreams come true. Several years and a bachelor’s degree in Health Care Finance later, I worked as a head paralegal in estate planning. I was entrusted by the attorneys in the office to listen to clients during the initial consultation and work with them throughout the process. I specialized in Medicaid planning and applications. Read more>>

Keenan Daniels

My DJ journey started in 2011. Christian hip-hop music was the route for me because I wasn’t a Christian hip-hop DJ in my city. Then I understood why most churches were unwilling to pay for my services. I knew I wanted to play clean music but I had to find a way to get paid at the same time. That’s when someone pointed me in the direction of working weddings. I worked at three weddings in 2012. Stayed consistent and found a way to market myself as an entertainer first DJ second. When I made that slight adjustment business took off. I became full-time in 2015 and I haven’t looked back. Read more>>

Smoky Mountain Wedding Collective

The Smoky Mountain Wedding Collective is the brainchild of Erin Morrison and Derek Halkett. Erin and Derek are elopement and wedding photographers and frequently travel inside the boundaries of The Great Smoky Mountains. Combined, they have over twenty years of professional experience. Erin and Derek absolutely love the mountains and the wedding couples who choose to marry in the area. The Smoky Mountains is known as the “Wedding Capital of the South” and is among the top destination wedding locations in the nation. Annually, the Smoky Mountains, and the surrounding cities, host over 10,000 weddings. Read more>>

Violet Valo

I am a Douglas J Aveda graduate esthetician. Got certified in lash extensions right after graduation, opened my salon, and started modeling as a side gig! Absolutely not! Building my lash clientele, keeping the salon up and running & finding time to model and promote that is not easy. I specialize in the health of the natural lashes, keeping those babies healthy while still giving you the lashes you desire! While modeling I specialize in gothic, dark, alternative, & boudoir. You have to put in the work to get the results you want! Read more>>

Kimberly Sebeck

As a child, I was always fascinated by pregnancy and babies. When I became pregnant with my own daughter 26 years ago, I delved into the world of pregnancy and birth. In reading and taking classes and having my own experience it became clear that support through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum was needed but lacking. Although I had learned about having a birth doula during my childbirth prep classes I decided against it once because as an intensely private person, I erroneously decided I didn’t want a “stranger” at my birth — what a mistake and wrong viewpoint that was! Read more>>

Jon Whitlock

I came to Knoxville in 1991 after finishing Three years of traveling and competing in the Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps as a snare drummer. Married and ready to work on a percussion degree at UTK, I began playing around Knoxville in Latin Bands and instrumental groups as a percussionist. Three years later I got divorced, dropped out of school, and traveled with a rock fusion band called “Kings of the Killerfish”. I was playing congas and other percussion. I had grown up moving every 2 to 3 years to some pretty culturally diverse places such as Macon GA, Riyadh Saudi Arabia, and Thousand Oaks CA. Read more>>

Sarah Larae

Wedding Photography & Photography education is a second careers for me. I graduated with my PharmD at 23 and worked as a pharmacist for 6 years before I started my business. I liked my job as a hospital pharmacist but it didn’t fill my creative cup. I started photography as a hobby and escalated it into a thriving business. When I found photography and my business every part of my life got richer, fuller, and better. I’m so proud of what I’ve created and it’s my true passion in life. I tried a lot of things in my business that failed. I was scammed by an SEO company. I tried random Facebook ads with no strategy. Read more>>

Betty Bullen

Tennessee Artists Association was started in 1972 and is celebrating its 50th Anniversary supporting local artists and promoting fine art in Knoxville and the surrounding area. It is a nonprofit organization. In 2021, with the personal financial support of 10 of its members, TAA leased space in the Emporium, 100 S Gay St., Knoxville, and the Tennessee Artists Association Studio 106 was born.It is a working studio and gallery for TAA members offering exhibit space and workshops and classes in visual art. Tennessee Artists Association’s story: TAA begin in 1972 with 5 members. Read more>>

Maxwell Staver

Starting as a humble, small Quarterback training company, with a handful of athletes, it now hosts athletes at 4 different branches across two states. Our clientele expands the United States, with Quarterbacks who fly into TN, from the West Coast, Northeast, and as far down as Texas. QB Vision has worked with multiple XFL, D1, D2, and D3 quarterbacks over the past 10 years, as well as some of the country’s top high school quarterbacks. Also, the program includes training opportunities for youth and middle school athletes. Read more>>

Claudia Caballero

I was born in Western Honduras the oldest of five children. My mother was a Peace Corps volunteer from Illinois who did work there, and I was raised between the two countries. When I was 16, my parents opened up a restaurant and I worked in the family business until I graduated from college in Honduras with a degree in business. In 2011, I decided to move back to the States. I had just returned from Germany and was beginning to realize the world was much bigger than I had imagined. Living in the U.S. seemed like a way to open up my life some and broaden my experience. Read more>>

Nina Petrus

Becoming a realtor was an unexpected destination. The journey to getting here was long, but every experience has led me to exactly where I’m met to be. The idea of living in a house, was something I fantasized about since I was a child. I grew up in a small apartment in the Bronx (an NYC borough), where I lived with my mother and my great-grandmother. I would see these kids on T.V. that lived in a homey house in the suburbs, with a yard, and I wished I had that. Eventually, my mother remarried, and along came my sisters. My parents decided to leave the city and bought a house in the suburbs. Read more>>

Jeremy Tucker

I’ve worked in the construction field all of my adult life. As a teenager, I started as a laborer on masonry sites. Eventually, I became a block, brick, and stone mason myself. My progression eventually led me to obtain my TN residential contractor license when I was 27. Sadly, literally, as soon as I got licensed in 2008, the housing market crashed. This setback affected my interest in construction–until I discovered acrylic shower systems! Read more>>

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