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Nashville’s Most Inspiring Stories

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.

Samuel Escoto

When I was 16, I was inspired to work at the Green Hills Kroger as a cashier. I didn’t need to work, but I felt the urge to explore the world and meet people from all walks of life. I also felt the need to help during the pandemic, so I pressed my endeavor on. Being there, I met many new friends and met several new people. Famous or poor I learned that we all have a common friend- each other. Of course, the difference is in applying that. Soon after, however, I decided to help my friend in a Pickup department where we were both leads. He was 23 and I was 17. We never always saw eye to eye and the pandemic only added to the limitations of two young people running the best department in the district on their own. As unfortunate as it is, we both quit that department and walked our separate paths. I am happy to still work at Kroger as a cashier as they are still severely short of staff these days. Read more>>

Sam Anto

I was born and raised in Kerala, India, and earned a Master’s degree in Business administration from University of Madras. I started my career in marketing in 1997 and two years later transitioned into business development for an IT company. Building on my experience in business development I founded a boutique software development firm in Bangalore and ran it until moving to America in 2005. Read More>>

Katelen and Mandi

Pretty Poppin’ Moments is a family business that came about during the pandemic, at a time everyone needed a little fun, hope, and sunshine in their lives. We are a mom-daughter duo that has always loved being creative! From my mom making wreaths, me loving home decor, going all out on school projects back in the day, DIY Halloween costumes, nail designs, you name it!! Balloon decor was a way for us to celebrate moments that unfortunately had to be modified due to the pandemic. It started with my nephew’s (mom’s first grandbaby) first birthday. We went all out with a 20ft organic garland and a 5ft #1 and dinosaur balloon mosaic for the Dino-themed party. We had SO much fun and got so many compliments. Read more>>

Justin Love

I grew up in the church. Son of a youth pastor to be exact, and so my sisters and I (mainly my older sister Crystal), we would sing to a bunch of Christian songs from the early days of Hillsong worship and such. This started when we were about 5 years old. We also had to quote Bible verses as kids in order to get our allowance and so, I started getting really good at that and it started fueling my memory skills at such an early age. My dad bought me my first guitar when I was, I think 9, but I hardly ever touched it. He ended up getting me a drum set and that’s when I fell in love with beats and started writing songs in my head, only issue was I didn’t know anything else so, I had all these melodies in my head and couldn’t play anything to get them out beside my drums. I then went back to the guitar and the first few chords he showed me and I guess that’s what really sparked the musical journey! Wrote my first song around 11 years old which was awful but my second one was a bit more intense and pleasing to people where I got asked to play it for a few weddings. Read more>>

Caleb LaDuke

My dad owns a studio and so I grew up around music. I remember he played a song and it had a guitar part in it that just hit me differently. I knew from that moment I wanted to do music. I got a guitar for Christmas and haven’t stopped playing since. I started writing songs at fifteen after hearing R&B for the first time and got hooked. I honestly just love writing a catchy hook and building music around it. It’s so dope to make something from nothing and watch it come to life. I really got serious about my career in 2018. I released my first single “K.” and it did pretty well. From there, I started writing more and more and fell in love with creating art for people to enjoy. I love movies and the way they suck me in. I get lost in a good movie and I love the emotions that they pull out of me. I wanted to do that with my music. I want every song to be an experience and a journey that allows for reflection. I’m always creating, so I have a massive lineup planned for next year that I’m super excited to share. Read more>>

Amber Ford

I am Amber Ford, a single mama of the best boy I know, Denver. He is my whole world aside from my work. A lot of people ask “What is Native in Nashville?” So I’ll make this as short and sweet as possible. It started off as a blog. Before I had a kid, I was out and about all the time, eating, shopping, going out, taking pictures… and people literally would text me every day asking me various questions about places, restaurants, where should they go for all these types of things. I decided to compile my ideas on a blog. I knew I wanted it to be Nashville-related and wanted a catchy name. Since I’m from here, I went with Native. Kind of used “Sleepless in Seattle” as the basis. I created the logo, website, Instagram, FB, and first blog post in one night (February 2016). Anyways, fast forward to a little into blogging, maybe three months in, I had about five people in one week say “your logo is so cool, you should put it on a shirt. Read more>>

Chris Ciampi

Prior to starting my business, I was working in a corporate environment and doing lots of travel. I was missing family time and being with my kids. I’ve always been interested in running a business and the majority of my family has run their own businesses. I felt like it was in my DNA and something I knew if I didn’t do, I might regret it for the rest of my life. A great friend of mine has been running a screen printing for many years back in my hometown of St. Charles, IL. Shout out to Anthony at The Hairy Ant. During a discussion with him, he asked me why I don’t start my own business doing screen printing and custom apparel in Nashville. After some discussion with my wife, we decided it was a great option and something I wanted to pursue. At that point, I decided to launch Chomp Shop in June of 2020. Doesn’t everyone want to launch a business during a global pandemic? But in all seriousness, it has worked out extremely well and I couldn’t have been happier to take that leap of faith. Read more>>

Danielle Rogers

My company is rooted in over 35 years of legacy as I decided to inherit my uncle’s wedding business in 2012. My uncle, Mr. Mike Leigh started Weddings Unlimited in 1986 in Brownsville, TN and after his passing, in 2012, I became the owner, wedding planner, florist, and coordinator for Weddings Unlimited by Danielle here in Nashville, TN. My love, passion, and purpose for wedding planning and designing begin after planning my own wedding (home business) and skyrocketed to have now planned over 70 weddings and special occasions such as birthday parties, anniversaries, baby showers, etc; in Greater Nashville, Memphis, Jackson, St. Louis. As a naturally talented planner and self-taught florist, I attracted my clients and retrieved constant referrals by ensuring my clients have a stress-free planning experience, delivering elegant and detailed 3D floor plans and mock-up designs, maintaining a connection to exclusive vendors in Nashville, and providing access to our unlimited showroom inventory. Read more>>

Delphine Rouleau

My family and I moved from France to Rhode Island in 2012. I was a legal advisor for a company in France but couldn’t work in the same field in the US, so I decided to start a blog in French to share everything I love about living in Rhode Island and New England, the places to see the things to do and some tips for French ex-pats who want to move in this State. I then started to write a travel book “Entre Boston et New-York” (Between Boston and New York) with all the places to see between those two big cities. Read more>>

Zach Whitmore

The start of my story begins when I attended high school in Springfield, OH. There, I was introduced to Photography. I didn’t intend on taking anything photography or art-related. But due to a scheduling mishap, I selected photography as an elective class my Freshman year. I figured I’d make the best of the situation. So, I said to myself “Why not? Sounds interesting. Not every day do you have the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of photography”. On the first day of class, I was hooked! I enrolled in a photography class every year until I graduated in 2009. Upon graduating high school, I joined the Military. I didn’t even consider touching a camera until many years later. After I was discharged in 2013, I spent 6 years moving around, working different jobs, and trying to find myself and a purpose. As a veteran who has been diagnosed with PTSD, that was a struggle. I’ll be honest and say that I was in a dark place with no out insight. Read more>>

Araba Esoun

I am a self-taught plant-focused edu-chef, who (10 years ago) organically transitioned from the Standard American Diet (S.A.D) to a plant-focused lifestyle through self-awareness and trial and error. As a result, I’ve maintained a 90+ weightloss, reversed skin ailments (eczema), digestive complications, unhealthy emotional eating habits, and overall granted myself a new lease on life, especially coming from a legacy ridden with dis-ease and illnesses (high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc). From this experience, I lead with a grounded approach, to educate, inspire, connect and empower the individual in honing into their highest self when embarking on their health and wellness journey through self-awareness and eating habits. I focus on bringing one (and their family) back home to the sacredness of their sol+self. Read more>>

Matthew S. Santana

At an early age, I developed a strong passion for the arts. I was born in Gary, Indiana. Severely premature at 1 pound and 3 ounces. By the grace of God, I survived. Survival gave me a purpose in life from the very beginning. I knew that I had a mission to fulfill on Earth, and I learned early to recognize my talents and gifts. Being HELPFUL and HOPEFUL were my callings that and I answered early. I became passionate about reading as many books as I could and found enjoyment in connecting with characters, plots, and different styles of narratives. By high school, I found my first job at the local library, the perfect environment to relish in my favorite past-time. As I grew into an adult, my hobby turned into a passion for storytelling that took a life of its own. I began to develop and write my own series of stories, novels, plays, and other creative projects. Currently, I have found personal success in producing my stories, in addition, paved the way for my other talents to make the room as a dedicated entrepreneur and business owner. Read more>>

Anthony Douglas

I started my band Beyond Here in 2018 having no idea what I was doing or how this would work. It’s been a ton of hard work putting and keeping a band together, writing songs, booking shows, and trying to get people behind what we’re doing. But as much work as it’s been, we’ve had so much fun during the process. Looking forward to cranking things up in the Spring/Summer of 2022!. Read more>>

Bryan Segraves

I was born and raised in Smiths Station, AL, and come from a musical family; dad was a blues artist, mom was a total music junky, and several relatives were choir leaders/accompanists for their churches for decades. I’ve been writing music for as long as I can remember, mostly due to the encouragement from my dad, and my mom eventually invested in a baby grand piano. I learned everything I could set my ears to on it, from Elton John to Amy Grant to whatever video games my brother and I would play. Just before my teen years, I joined the concert band and choir programs at school. After a few years of participating in both, I gained massive interest in writing for both band and choir. I started out by arranging pieces for football games, local competitions, that sort of thing, and eventually debuted a couple of pieces before graduating high school. Read more>>

Danette Mahabeer

I am a first-time mother to a 5 years old brilliant daughter named Soheila. I am a Domestic Violence Survivor and Published Author of a book titled Leave Alive, subtitled “Goodbye Domestic Violence.” I am a Motivational Speaker, Women and Domestic Violence Advocate, Entrepreneur, and Certified Life Coach. In addition, I am currently pursuing my Juris Doctorate Degree, after which, I will practice both Family and Immigration Law, advocating for the voiceless. Throughout my life’s journey, struggles, and success, my mother Melaney has always been there with me and for me. She supported, prayed with, encouraged, cried with, and celebrated me. She is my mentor and my best friend. Over the years, we have continued to enhance and nurture our mother-daughter relationship and bond. When my daughter came into my life, I felt a love I have never felt before coming from such a small human, and I have finally realized what my mother’s love for me felt like and the powerful love she also receives from me. Read more>>

Jeff Stauffer

As far back as I remember, music was a part of my life. My mother was a stay-at-home mom while I was growing up, and she loves music. She sang every day, all throughout the house, and if she was in the kitchen, there was music playing. Her father, my grandpa, played guitar and loved bluegrass and country music. Every time, I would go over there for a visit, he would put a guitar in my hand. With so much musical influence around me, It wasn’t hard to learn to play a variety of musical instruments. Both of my brothers also loved music and learned to play as well. We eventually formed a band and toured locally on a regular basis. During high school, I started “messing around” with songwriting and we added some original songs into our setlists. However, it wasn’t until just a few years ago that I got serious about being a singer/songwriter and an artist. In these past few years, I’ve really focused on songwriting and producing my own tracks. It’s a slow process (a marathon,) but I love it all!. Read more>>

Mitzi Galason

As a little girl growing up in Mississippi, I have always loved building and creating things with my mind and my hands. I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit. It is who I am, no doubt. I married and moved away from Mississippi, but fate lead me back to Mississippi about 7 years into my marriage. I have a business major but have always been gifted in interior design and decor, and while living in Mississippi I did the independent design for commercial executive office spaces. My husband took a job in Georgia in 2010, and of course, the kids and I moved with him. Which meant that I surrendered my career in Mississippi. I had no idea what in the world I was going to do in Georgia, so I began to travel to Atlanta, Vegas, and NYC taking Interior design continued education courses with HGTV designers and learning about product development, marketing, social media marketing, wholesale/retail industry, and a wealth of other knowledgeable items. I had NO IDEA what in the world or why I was learning all of these things. Read more>>

Midelli Payne

I’m a journalist sport. I’ve never dreamt to do it before. When I was a child, I wanted to become a footballer. But I failed for various reasons. So one day when I was watching a game on TV. I was impressed by the commentators. Since then, I said I would-be journalist. I add I liked football since 1998 when France defeated Brazil to win World Cup. I started this job in 2014. And I like it now. Read more>>

Bethany Obendorfer

In 2018, after years of studying hemp and cannabis, I took a major risk and opened Montgomery county’s first CBD dispensary, Emerald City CBD. The hoops to jump through were enormous. Banking systems wouldn’t allow me to have a bank account, let alone fund me. No credit card processing company would speak to me, advertisers shunned me and the general public was not as excited as I was. While spending time delving deeper into the legislation and attending senate hearings, I was being shown the only way to make any real progress towards awareness was education. That spurred an even deeper passion: educating and healing the community on this plant, being a safe place for every type of heartbeat, a gathering place for our tribe. Because of the heart and soul that is pumped into this business, we have won numerous “Best of” awards from 2019-2021 and are officially expanding to a larger location with both indoor and outdoor lounge space within a freestanding building around the corner from our current location. Read more>>

Tonisha Gordon

The past decade of my life was a total roller-coaster. I had some amazing highs followed by a spiral of ultimate lows. “Lost” is an understatement for what I felt on the inside. I realized that I was walking around in a shell of social anxiety, just going with the day-to-day flow of things, but not really moving the same intention I once had. I have always been into self-care and music since I can remember. Making sure, I spend some part of my day alone, taking long baths, and listening to music that felt good to my body during the moment has always been my thing. However, I noticed I wasn’t taking the time to do much of those things anymore. I braced myself for a long journey of figuring out who I am and how I can incorporate the parts I loved about myself into the person I am today. I needed to find a way to fuse my old self with my new self to get back to a place of authenticity. Read more>>

Jason Padgitt

I started my career in the music industry by working as an intern with an independent record label in New York before moving to Los Angeles and getting a job with a major entertainment marketing and PR firm in Los Angeles working in film and music. After more than two decades of working with artists, live events, and corporations in the entertainment industry, I took on the challenge of leading the Nashville Film Festival as Executive Director in 2018.I’ve enjoyed a career that has always been driven by creative artists and passionate teammates that love bringing incredible art through film and music to people all over the world. Read more>>

Rashad Rayford

I started out as a spoken word poet in Nashville, TN, I released my first album in 2005. I’ve toured the country and released 14 independent albums along the way. My speaking career begins around 2015, but I didn’t start my business until 2018. When I worked in corporate America for (a short period of time), I would go to conferences and see how monotonous they were. In most instances, the audiences weren’t engaged unless it was a break and they brought up a musician or a poet. For two years between 2015-2017, I would be brought in by many corporations to provide “a break” from the corporate content. That’s when it clicked for me that I could use the spoken word as a vehicle to deliver concise and consistent content. I could deliver keynotes based on my expertise but also tailor talks to give businesses exactly what they were longing for. Read more>>

Ivy Ryann

I have been playing music since I was really young. Despite not having any musical immediate family members I was always interested in it. My parents actually started having me take harp lessons when I was in elementary school (nerd alert) and I eventually convinced them to let me switch to guitar and piano. From there, I picked up any instrument I could get my hands on that had strings on it. I started writing my own music when I was about 11 years old and never stopped. As a teenager, I became severely depressed and music became a means of processing impossible situations and feelings. I didn’t just enjoy music at that point. I needed it. It wasn’t a hobby. It was my lifeline and my only safe place. When I graduated high school, I immediately started to put together an album of songs I had been sitting on and began performing. I played at every brewery and coffee shop that would have me. I got connected with an organization called Sofar Sounds and began doing small tours with their help and a lot of leaps of faith. Read more>>

Joseph Grimaldi

I’m a guitarist in Nashville, TN. I started playing guitar when I was 12. Partially, because my friends wanted to start a band and partially because I stumbled upon my first Metallica song. The band didn’t quite work out but I really took to the guitar. I started writing music soon after and people started noticing I had a decent amount of talent. I studied classical guitar in college at Hartwick College in upstate NY where I wrote 24 etudes for my senior thesis. After college, I moved to Nashville with my then-girlfriend and now wife where I continued pursuing different types of music. I played everything from rock, blues, jazz, country, to classical. I worked as a session musician and started playing regularly with my buddy and talented singer, Adam Carson. I released my first album in 2018 called Song of the Guitar which consisted of 11 classical guitar songs, all recorded and produced by myself. From there, I got married, had a baby, bought a house, and continued playing guitar. Read more>>

Kira Miller

I suffered from common health concerns for a while from my late teens up until my mid-twenties. I had been to a plethora of doctors trying to find cures to my issues, but they would never tell me the source or how to fix them. I was always given a script. After watching my body respond negatively to their recommendation, I started researching the reasons why I was recommended what they gave me and found the answer to my problem: hormonal imbalance. I also found that balancing your hormones was quite easy to do, and was confused on why my Doctor didn’t just tell me what the root issue of my concerns was and handed me medication instead. I also found out that my hormonal issues were the root cause of my acne, which I too had been trying to correct for years! I began working on integrative approaches to healing my body. This sparked a passion for skincare for me and how it was attached to internal health and I began sharing my findings with people across social outlets. Read more>>

John Ntibonera

I am a Christian singer-songwriter based in Nashville, TN. I am originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo Africa but I moved to the United States, Greensboro, NC, 12 years ago with my family. I was born and raised in a Christian family of four brothers and five sisters and two parents mum and dad. I started playing music with my family at a young age in the Congo. In those days, it was very difficult to get a musical instrument, so we improvised. I remember we used to make our own drums by using inner tubes from tires cans. We would go with our peers to perform street concerts. We continued that way for years. we love music so much that we even joined groups that sang secular music. Since we joined secular groups, our parents were Christians so they were not supportive of what we were doing. War Started in our country in the year 1998, so many people were killed. We lost many relatives and friends. We had a good life there but when the war started, we lost everything. We had no clean water, no food to eat, it was a difficult life. Read more>>

Elisa Smith

I grew up in a small town in Illinois. I was raised with music all around me – my dad was our church’s worship pastor and I would listen to him play guitar for hours. He also loved rock n roll and took me to Santana, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young and all sorts of other concerts when I was little. My mother always sang lullabies to me and her version of a lullaby was the protest songs of the 1930s through the 1960s – Guthrie, Dylan, Nelson, etc. And my grandmother LOVED country music. She would always tell me stories about going to the Grand Ol Opry and seeing all her favorites like Lulubelle and Scotty and the Carter Family. And my grandfather taught me how to waltz. I attended Berklee College of Music and got my degree in Music Business and Voice but I was feeling a little burnt out, to be honest. I still loved to perform, but I ended up with terrible stage fright. During this time, I fell in love with teaching and developing music curriculum so I went to Harvard to get my Masters in Education. It was there that I met Garth Brooks. Read more>>

James Lock

I am a San Diego-raised and Nashville-based writer and photographer. I got my start in photography before moving from San Diego to attend college in Chicago. I wanted to document my life on the west coast. I started shooting real estate when I first moved to Nashville and I’ve been able to expand my work to capture environments and tell humanizing stories with my photos and writing. I have an undergraduate degree in English Literature and my photographic work has been exhibited in SCAD Open Studio in Savannah, Georgia in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Read more>>

Mad Welsley

Growing up, my dad was a full-time studio drummer in Memphis, TN and my mom was a designer, so the arts ran very deep in our family. When I was about 5 years old, I started jumping up on stage at my dad’s shows and pretty much haven’t stopped performing since. I wrote and recorded my first EP when I was 17 years old and then in my early 20’s I helped form a 7-piece hip-hop/funk band called Stealing Oceans. We wrote and toured for several years together, but I realized that I wanted to work on my own solo project, which leads us to today. After a couple of years of writing and finding my team, I released my first project “For The Boys I Used To Love” in 2020 with my producer, Jonathon Jircitano, and we started releasing my second batch of songs just last month. Although I’m not actively working towards a bigger project right now, I will be releasing a new single once a month for the next several months, so keep an eye out for those!. Read more>>

Tyler Deaver

I grew up in a small farming community in southwestern Wisconsin. I had a deep love for the outdoors and rural town values. But I also had dreams to go after and for me, that dream was being a country singer. I had to make a choice whether to stay in Wisconsin and try to save/buy my family century farm or move to Nashville and chase my other dreams. I decided to move and the family farm as the story goes got sold for the $. For the past five years, I’ve been trudging my way through the music industry trying to figure out how it works and where I want to put my stamp on country music. I’ve gone from working retail jobs, driving Uber, and doing home improvement work to now playing music full time both in Nashville and across the country. I want to create quality country music that can make people feel something and hopefully help people through hard times or help them to kick back and relax. Read more>>

Jessie Ritter

Based in Nashville, Tennessee, and Northwest Florida, singer/songwriter Jessie Ritter plays a heartfelt brand of country-pop with a breezy, romantic feel and plenty of charm. While studying music at Belmont University in Nashville, she released her EP Stories Told. Ritter then cut her teeth on the cruise ship circuit, releasing her debut album, Coffee Every Morning in 2018. After winning NashFM 105.5’s regional Nash Next competition, she represented the Florida Panhandle in the finals, beating out over 800 contestants to be named the 2018 Nash Next winner. She gained national recognition and a record deal with Big Machine (home to heavy-hitters like Taylor Swift and Florida Georgia Line) making her label debut in May 2019 with the single “Nothing But You.” She then swept the 2019 Northwest Florida Beachcomber awards taking home eight titles including Musician of the Year, Album of the Year, Best Original Song, Best Country Artist, Best Singer/Songwriter, Best Solo Artist, Best New Artist, and Best Female Vocalist. Read more>>

Rubi Rodriguez

Being Latina originally from Chicago, Illinois, I have always been around Latinos! In fact, my elementary school growing up was 90% Latino, and was a dual language academy school. So, moving to Nashville when I was 13 was actually very intimidating. It was hard to make friends initially. Since then Nashville has grown so much in the Latino community and has begun to grasp Latino culture! One of them being, cultural dance! Back in Chicago, I took up Mexican folklore and Aztec dance, and as soon I was able to, I joined probably the only cultural dance groups in Nashville. Never would I have imagined that I would be leading the longest most sought-after dance groups in Nashville. Ballet Folklorico Sol de Mexico was born in 2014. From there we began performing at restaurants, cultural events such as Celebrate Nashville, Plaza Mariachi, Hola Festival in Knoxville. Other performances included The Ryman Auditorium – for Celebrate Nashville and St Louis Missouri International Fest. Not only did we start doing cultural events but we started getting booked for weddings! It didn’t stop there, Danza Azteca Ollin Quetzalli was born in 2017. Read more>>

Juliana De Giacometti Vitti

I’m a 46-year-old Brazilian interior designer, with a substantial amount of life experience. But at my core, I am a wife, mother, and total cat lady. Years ago, I fell in love with art and design, letting my creative drive propel me through life. It was a complicated, daunting, path, but one I would take hundreds of times. If you asked me to pinpoint a specific moment where interior design truly became my everything and took over my life, I couldn’t. It’d been a part of me since I was a child, though one I didn’t explore much. Even after I got older, it was left mostly untouched while I focused on getting a degree in Business and Marketing, and remained that way until I got a chance to leave the corporate world behind. I relocated to Tokyo with my husband for his work. I dedicated those years to travel, art, photography, and design. It was a life-changing experience where I rediscovered myself, my passion, and my talents that were maybe dormant for years. Still, we moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil for a few years, where I worked in advertising. Read more>>

Jhai Keeton

My story began at the age of 17. When I started my first business, Authentic Dime Piece Collection. While I really had NO idea what I was embarking upon, I soon realized that entrepreneurship was a journey that I could easily commit to. By my sophomore year at Jackson State University (JSU), I rebranded the clothing company to B.mek-Inherit Apparel Co. and began participating in on-campus fashion shows, party promotions, and sponsoring local recording artists. During this time, I was able to engage with several entertainment sectors which allowed me to experiment with various marketing and cross-promotion strategies. This was also around the time that I began to experience the need to live this “double life” based on the fact that I was an accounting major preparing for a corporate day job, all the while, transforming into an entertainment entrepreneur each night. The theme of corporate professional by day and entertainer by night continued to reoccur throughout my journey. Read more>>

Nixed

I started writing music at an early age. I was first introduced to the recording when I was 15 years old when my dad bought me my first microphone. Growing up I had severe anxiety and depression and it’s still something that I suffer from today. We were homeless at times and lived in motels for a while. That is when I was able to really dig deep into creating music. I started out writing simple poetry and then elevated to writing hip hop. Having severe depression, music was sort of an escape for me and I knew that I could use this weakness of mine as a strength. That’s how I came up with my artist name “Nixed.” I wrote my first big single “Withdraws” which can be found on all streaming platforms. It tells my story and how I wanted my family to know what I was going through and that I will be ok. Read more>>

Averianna Patton

Averianna the Personality was born back in 2015 on-campus at Middle Tennessee State University where she began studying journalism. She was heavily involved in the newsroom on campus and even did some sideline reporting for ESPN 3, America Sports Network, and BeinSports. Averianna received her bachelor’s degree from MTSU in May 2017, soon after in July 2017 moved to Los Angeles, CA. With no job lined up just graduation money and savings, she begin working at Dominos and grooming dogs at a local grooming shop. After networking a few months she was able to start doing seat filling which was a full-time job at the time in LA. She then was able to work her way into the film and tv industry as set PA‘s which landed her on the set of major shows such as Family Feud, Steve, The Doctors, Dr.Phil, BeatShazam just to name a few. She was able to land a few red carpet freelancing gigs along the way as well. After a year well spent in LA Read more>>

Brink Fidler

My background is in law enforcement here in middle Tennessee where I served 18 years with the Metro Nashville Police Department as well as the 20th Judicial District Drug Task Force where I retired as the director. My journey down this road began several years ago when I was asked by the Director of Education at my children’s special needs preschool to conduct some security training for their staff at in-service shortly after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Of course, I agreed and began to dive into the world of school security, active shooter events, and best practices for mitigation. I conducted their training then and began to investigate the incidents much further as I was asked to return several times. I was no expert on school security or safety but having spent most of my career in narcotics work, I was an expert in defeating every imaginable security feature or device as it was our job to constantly break into places we were not wanted, both forcefully and surreptitiously. Read more>>

Drew Bourke

I got interested in recovery in 2003 when it became apparent that my oldest brother Jeff was struggling with addiction. It was really sad to watch an intelligent, successful, 46-year old family man destroy his entire life in a period of only three years. After losing his business and getting a divorce, he became a full-time addict. In mid-2005 he took too much, stopped his heart, and died from an overdose. Just a few years later having been prescribed the same medications that my brother died from, I realized I was unable to stop taking them, despite a strong desire to do so. I learned first-hand that beating addiction is not a matter of willpower, desire, intelligence, or class. In fact, there is no demographic for addiction – It’s everywhere and affects more families than not. Read more>>

Juliana Aguiar

I  was born in Brazil in 1974.  I went to a hotel boarding school in Switzerland. Back in Brazil, I studied cinema at college. During a tourist trip to Madrid, Spain, I fell in love with the culture and the people and decided to live there and to become a cook. Working in different restaurants and catering. Back in Brazil for four years, I became the head chef of  Atelie Culinario,” a chain of nice local cafes and delis. During my tenure, I was managing seven stores and the catering service. Doing a very hard quality control and also training the staff. In 2008 I decided to learn with Michelin stars Chefs and left Brazil back to Spain. For that reason, I moved to San Sebastian, Basc Country. There I spent 2 years working with names such as Andoni Luis Ardoriz and Martin Berasateg.  After this incredible experience, I decided to go back to Madrid and open my own business. In 2011, I opened “Santo Restaurante & Deli” where I worked until the end of 2015. Read more>>

Dan Bauer

I’ve been a professional marketer for the past 50 years. My story is best framed presented in six chapters. 1. “Ad Agency Madman” My teenage dream had always been to work in an advertising agency. While earning my undergrad degree in communications, I researched and pursued agencies throughout the country. The challenge was getting in without any prior experience — a rarity in that exciting industry back in the 1970s. Incredibly, I met the founder of a well-known Pittsburgh agency and convinced him of my passion and potential. With my first office literally a broom closet, I got the job and advanced rapidly. Then one night, from out of the blue, came a job offer from another agency located in, of all places, Honolulu! Intrigued but cautious, I flew to Hawaii for a one-day visit, fell in love with the firm and the culture, and spent the next 6 years there, climbing to the rank of VP Account Supervisor at age 29. Read more>>

Nick Hertel

Started as a dishwasher at 14 in Portland, OR. Worked in some facet of the Hospitality industry through high school and college. After college, I had the opportunity to travel extensively through Europe during which I decided to become a chef. I worked my way through some 5-star/5-diamond resorts, Michelin starred & James beard winning restaurants such as Charlie Trotters, Mary Elaine’s, and Alinea. Took some time after all the fine dining and extensively traveled the world for a couple of years. Had some really great opportunities after that all over the country but chose Nashville and never looked back. Here in Nashville, I worked the majority of the time with Strategic Hospitality before joining the RPH team! Read more>>

Ashley Guthrie

I grew up in a small town in northern New Jersey, about 30 miles northwest of Manhattan. I knew I wanted to be a doctor from the time I could speak! My mom is a registered nurse and I always enjoyed reading her medical journals- I think that is a big part of where my interest came from. Growing up, I loved playing sports (volleyball was my favorite), and music. I also took classical piano lessons from the time I was 6 years old, and the piano remains a large part of my life to this day. I went to the University of Pennsylvania for my undergraduate education, followed by medical school at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Rochester, Michigan. I had the absolute best time there! In medical school, I quickly realized I loved surgery. It was such a rush to be able to help patients in such a definitive, immediate way. I then decided on Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery for my residency. The anatomy and intricacy of the head and neck fascinated me, and I was drawn to the depth and breadth of the field. Read more>>

Chelbie Engle

I came about equine massage completely by accident actually. When I was in my early twenties, I had been a full-time veterinary technician for several years and thought that is what I’ll do for a career. Well, I got a phone call from a really great friend who said she was going to equine massage school. I thought “huh, that sounds like fun. I’ll go too.” Little did I know that I would find a career and a business opportunity that would completely capture my heart and allow me to find my true calling in life. After massage school, it didn’t take me long to realize there really wasn’t a market yet in southern Mississippi for equine massage. So in 2014, I moved to Nashville. I’m the first person in my family to move away from our hometown and I found out later that there were bets even placed on how long before I gave up and moved back!. Read more>>

Sarah Kelly- Ekman

I was born in Rockford, Illinois, and grew up singing in church. As I got older, my love for worship grew. A passion that ended up leading me to tour all over the world, doing 2,000 gigs in 10 years. I was signed by TobyMac to Gotee Records and ended up with two Grammy nominations! Surprisingly, the same music that won me awards in the Christian genre was also gaining attention in Europe on Rock and Roll stages. Slash from Guns N’ Roses even played on my album. In 2008, I married the love of my life from Sweden, Jonas! After being on the road for so long, I realized my real dream in life was to raise up young artists. I wanted to teach them all the things I wish I knew when I was trying to make a career out of music. I knew I could help them learn from all the mistakes I made on my journey. Read more>>

Snehal Bindra

I was excited to begin the summer of 2018: Beginning my three-month research position at Columbia University, discovering NYC, and living with my boyfriend. Within a few hours of my arrival, I was at an NYPD station: Duped by my landlord and had no accommodations. Later that week, my boyfriend and I hit a rough patch, causing a break-up. All this paled insignificance when I learned that my father and grandfather had been admitted to the ICU in India. The anguish of my mother, grandmother, and brother’s broken voices on the phone was heart-wrenching. My world seemed to crumble. I felt truly alone and helpless; 8000 miles away from my family, in a city without familiar faces. I supported my family any way I could. I showered them with as much reassurance and love as daily video calls would allow, knowing I had to be their anchor. Read more>>

Tracey Hague

I taught high school English for almost twenty years in Rhode Island before making the leap to filmmaking. I directed theatre and taught folklore and film studies, so I began to see my next path through teaching my students. I realized I didn’t want to wait until I was 65 to start my next journey. I had too many stories on a shelf, and I was genuinely afraid of leaving them there, never having seen the light of day. I came to Nashville and attended the Nashville Film Institute. It is a nine-month program with instructors who gave me the background, encouragement, and support I needed. I have made many friends who are so talented and passionate and share my dreams, so right now, I am staying in Nashville to build Candlewick Productions and gain experience creating, writing, and directing. Read more>>

Morgan Holt and Faith Jergens

No Subject Apparel is clothing that connects. Through contemporary, mindful, and gender-neutral designs, No Subject Apparel promotes self-love and expression of identity. Founders and Designers, Faith and Morgan, started (no subject) apparel out of their basement with one mission in mind – to create clothing that made people feel comfortable and empowered – inside and out. We are who we are because of community. It means everything to us. We foster community through our apparel, prints, blog, and Livestream events. We are strong believers in community service, so we also donate $1 of every online order to No More Dysphoria, a queer-run 501(c)3 non-profit with the goal of helping trans and non-binary individuals financially through major aspects of their transitions. Read more>>

Dawn Marie Morris

Born and raised in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, a graduate of Howard University in Washington, DC and blossoming into full adulthood in Chicago, I always sought to do my best to exude beauty, intelligence and love from the inside-out. The field of professional training and development became the place where I could embrace a career that delivers on that goal. “Graduate”. That was the directive God gave me to leave corporate America and begin The World Class Training Insitute in November 2019. Having worked in training and development for over fifteen years, leading organizations across a diaspora of industries, the time had come for me to return to business ownership (I owned CareerLink, Inc. for eight years in Chicago), and, akin to graduation from school, move permanently into this new life. Read more>>

Mayur Phadtare

I came to the US in 2008 to study for a Master’s Degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering. After graduation, I worked with Cummins in purchasing, supply chain, and manufacturing for seven years. In late 2016, I decided to foray into freelancing as a photographer and started Nashbox Studios in early 2017. Like any newbie, I initially tried photographing just about everything, but pretty soon realized that I am inclined towards the commercial, business, and industrial aspects of photography. Five years into this business, I can truly say I have been fortunate to work with some of the largest businesses in Tennessee and around the globe. Read more>>

Maria Arias

My family and I arrived in the United States on March 6, 2016, fleeing the Venezuelan dictatorship, leaving a whole life and history behind, with just a couple of suitcases and many dreams, we arrived in this country, which opened its doors for us. Like all immigrants, we work in multiple things, among which I can mention (me: Cleaning office, painting houses, and Uber) I also worked in a non-profit institution called Catholic Charities as a social visitor to pregnant women and children for three years. My children and husband also worked on multiple things. In 2019, in union with one of my sons, the idea of ​​creating Paradigm615 was born, where we joined my son’s experience in vehicle wrapping, acquired in his previous job. And my knowledge in informational, graphic design, public relations, and administration. Read more>>

Lauren Abels

I started playing the violin at the age of six, which is really where it all began. My family lived just outside of Chicago at the time, and I started taking lessons at a local, family-owned violin shop. About a year later, I joined our community’s Suzuki group and went on the be a part of that group for the next several years, until my family moved to Florida when I was in middle school. After the move, I continued to take violin lessons and attend orchestra camps and fiddle camps all over the country. I had a fiddle trio in high school called “Elle and the Rootabega Boys”, and was concertmaster of my high school orchestra both my junior and senior years. I was always naturally inclined to be a leader, but being thrust into both of these positions at a young age really taught me the value of leading in a way that serves others. Read more>>

Kelsey Gordon

I relocated to Middle Tennessee back in 2012 wanting to, like thousands of other people in this city, pursue a career in the music industry (Artist Management). While on this journey and through some failed attempts, I found myself working in the recruiting field. I live and worked, and worked and lived and found myself attending many concerts and music. All that was fun, but I was looking for more out of my occupation. As time went on I found myself stagnant and needing something new. I decided to get back to my training and decided to get my personal training certification. Through that process of getting certified, I also decide to go back to school and I eventually got a second degree in Exercise Science. I ended up leaving my recruiting job and pursuing a career in the fitness industry full-time. I now am a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and boxing instructor working at TITLE Boxing Club – Nashville. Read more>>

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