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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.

Jaymie Gerena

Through the power of conditioning, Jaymie Gerena transformed my life. By the age of 22, I hit an all-time low. I was fatherless due to drugs, brotherless due to gangs + a divorced, lost, single mom to two daughters under the age of 3. I was left with no job and no hope. I wanted nothing more than to find my purpose again. I was looking for the light in the midst of a really dark tunnel. It was in my darkest time, I found my greatest identity. I had this divine encounter with courage. I was so busy feeling sorry for myself that I forgot the miracles that lived within me. Read more>>

KT Vandyke

Growing up in Whitewood, Virginia there wasn’t much to do. Geographically isolated and sparsely populated, it required some imagination to entertain yourself. Fortunately for me, my father was a musician. A drummer to be exact, who had a long-running tenure with various rock’n’roll bands in the area. He was also an avid collector of various instruments around the house. It wasn’t uncommon to have a complete four/five piece worth of gear stashed in the corner of a spare bedroom. I think my fascination with musical instruments was planted at an early age, and slowly grew as I did. Read more>>

Crystal Pena

My mountain biking journey began in 2020, at the peak of COVID. My ex-boyfriend and I decided to purchase a couple of mountain bikes as a weekend activity since everything had been shut down. We would go to some of the local trails here and there but it wasn’t until around September of 2020 that I became fully committed to the sport. My boyfriend and I had split and I decided to start riding a bit more to fill my time. I was at a local restaurant one day and overheard a conversation this girl was having about a mountain biking group that gets together every Tuesday at one of our local trails. Read more>>

Danielle Massi

I started my shadow work journey after a cancer diagnosis in 2018 that completely rocked my world. I was healthy, young, and had no warning signs, so the diagnosis seemed incomprehensible. I became very depressed, and within that depression, I began to realize that my body had been giving me warning signs that I would burnout for years, including illnesses like the shingles virus which is triggered by stress, postpartum depression after the birth of each of my children, and intense anxiety symptoms that had been present for a decade. Read more>>

Aaron Chasteen

I began pursuing stand-up comedy at the age of 20. I would have to sneak into some of the local bars to perform on the open mics due to not being 21 at the time. Performing stand-up had been a dream of mine since I was a child, but I was hesitant to begin due to my speech impediment. It was not until my grandfather passed away that I finally gained the courage to get passed my stutter and get on stage. After performing in the Knoxville comedy scene for almost three years, I decided to move to Atlanta to further grow my career in comedy. Read more>>


So, I’m Kindora. I make pop music. I made a cover of a Portishead song on YouTube and that’s pretty much where everything gained traction musically for me because I always loved singing and writing, but I never understood the tangibility of creating my own music until Nerdork and a producer named Rock Floyd showed me after seeing that cover. I’ve been making music since around 2013 and I still am. So there are a lot of tough elements to being a musician. Being able to be social, trying not to be hard on yourself, struggling to have an income to support your art when it’s already so difficult just getting by, making time to make that art and share it with other people without feeling like you’re badgering them are a few things that immediately come to my mind but I’ve tried to keep myself from overthinking everything and moving ahead when I’m ready to. Read more>>

Joe Consumo

I started working downtown in 2003 at a national mortgage company and worked there for 10 years as a Financial Counselor, Marketing Rep, and Credit Manager. After that, my love for food brought a friend and me together and we opened a small restaurant on Clinch Ave called Cafe Du Soleil. While we had great reviews, sadly the overhead was too high and not sustainable, after 4 years we had to close shop. Shortly afterward a friend told me that I should try my hand at real estate and I’ve been doing it ever since. Three years ago another good friend who is a major developer and property owner downtown approached me to work at his Brokerage it has been a great transition and I really enjoy helping my clients find the perfect home. Read more>>

Lynessa Layne

As a kid, I had a rocky childhood. To cope with the emotions, I cut my teeth on R.L. Stine’s Fear Street novellas and graduated to Mary Higgins Clark until binging all there was available before stumbling upon my grandmother’s forbidden romance novels as a teenager. Over the next decade, I read everything I could, finishing way too fast and having a book hangover I’d nurse with another book between taking care of the children I brought into this world. Reading was my escape when I was covered in spit-up and rockin’ an ugly bun. There, between diaper changes, bottles, and elementary school activities, I found Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series, which eventually inspired the show, True Blood. Read more>>

Brett and Leslie Ellis

OG Cabins (Off-Grid Cabins) began after I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer in December 2020. Initially, there was no plan to rent out the cabin, which became The Rowdy Bear. I just needed something to focus on and look forward to while I was going through treatment. The cabin eventually became a family thing that Leslie, Gavin, and I all played a part in creating. The cabin became a labor of love, and we had many memorable weekends at the cabin while it was being built. Initially, we looked at building a standard cabin that you will typically find in the mountains, but we decided we wanted to do something unique. We love the outdoors, hiking in the Smoky Mountains, hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, camping in North Carolina, camping in Tennessee, camping in Georgia, and camping in Virginia. Read more>>

Hollie Reid and Alex Ferguson

I started photography at a young age and my passion grew as I went through school. In college, I took photography classes for fun and even held a senior exhibition of my work. It showcased nature photography at the time and I dreamt of working for National Geographic. I received my BA degree in Graphic Design and began working as a marketing director for a local real estate company. I was still shooting portrait and nature photography on the side attempting to sell prints as my side hustle. Read more>>

Holly Roe

From an early age, my grandmother who is a Lebanese immigrant from Egypt had me in the kitchen baking with her. She fostered a love for food in me and watching and helping her as a little girl seemed magical! It became my dream to own my own bakery or coffee shop one day. Fast forward about 30 years and I was with my family on a trip to Colorado when we stumbled upon a Cinnaholic Bakery in Denver. I ate the best cinnamon roll I have ever had in my life! I saw that it had been on the hit show “Shark Tank” and thought about that classic cream cheese cinnamon roll with blueberries for several months after that. Read more>>

Diana Christmas

I had the privilege of growing up on a farm in a rural county here in Tennessee. I learned early on what hard work and a never give up attitude can accomplish. Watching my parents own and operate their own business was something an adult, I appreciate even more. Like most people, I spent most of my early to mid-’20s working a few different jobs trying to figure out what made me come alive and want to continue to learn every day. These jobs ranged from graphic/print design to being a licensed Realtor®. I was always looking for ways to better myself and those around me. Read more>>

Joshua Farley

Face Tracers Productions is a collaborative effort of artists, musicians, producers, and poets who have come together, combining our capacities of love, mind, and spirit, to contribute to the universal art community while simultaneously fostering honest work for passionate artists from all spheres. By means of our visual creations, our music, our literature, and our general joie de vivre, this is how we wish to contribute our verse to the song of existence. We officially launched our group effort in spring 2022 and have since been curating diverse music events across the Carolinas, ranging from EDM shows to punk shows to multigenre events we like to call the Genre Clash. Read more>>

Jenae Bluhm

Education: I graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU) in 2019, with a Bachelor’s degree in Family Life (think of a cross between psychology and sociology). Despite BYU’s reputation of being very conservative, it was during my time there that I took a sexuality-related course and also gained my first experience conducting research on topics related to sexuality. After completing my undergraduate degree, I started a combined MS to Ph.D. program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). When I arrived at UTK, I actually wasn’t sure what research topic I wanted to focus on but one of my first assigned tasks as a graduate assistant was to research sexual consent. Read more>>

Maya Six

Thank you so much for having me, I’m really excited to be doing this. I’m a Tennessee transplant and am originally from Southern Ontario, Canada. My husband and I moved here from Maryland on an 8-9 month work assignment. Almost 9 years later, we’re still here and I’m beyond grateful that we are. I’m a very proud mommy of 4 now, Sofia (8), Danica (6) and our two newest additions, Nikola and Luka, our 8 month old twin boys. I’ve pretty well much been a stay at home mom our entire time here, and it’s been such a privilege and pleasure being able to raise our children in such an amazing place. Read more>>

Alexa Lett

Vintage and handmade has always been a part of my creativity. Many forms of art have evolved over the years. A handmade gift and accessory business was the beginning, which included 22 sales reps and a sea of moms doing piecework. It later evolved into a book entitled “Homemade” which was full of recipes you could not eat…which then led to creative segments on various HGTV and TLC television shows, magazines, ‘how-to’ styled books, speaking engagements and teaching workshops over the years. But, motherhood began to take more time and a different creative focus began. Read more>>

Jenn McKinney

As a child I spent the majority of time enjoying outdoor activities with my dad. We would go fishing, camping, hiking, and even just drive up to the mountains to take in the views. I loved all of the amazing animals that the Smoky Mountain’s are home to and we would often come across a scared, injured or lost pet and end up taking them to a rescue or fostering them back to help ourselves. I honestly believe at one point we had 7 or 8 dogs at our house that we had rescued. I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have a pet at home, nor a time when I didn’t stop to help an animal in need. Read more>>

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