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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.

Alyssa Ruffin

My mom was my first inspiration. As far back as I can remember, she was always singing and playing guitar. She used to have a photo of me as a baby, sitting inside her guitar case while she played. She took me with her to everything she could. I went along to her band practice, gigs, karaoke shows, her friend’s gigs, and anywhere that would allow me in. She would call up a venue, tell them how old I was, let them know that I could sing, and ask if I could come in. She did this from age 5 until I was 21. Sometimes it was a no, but mostly everyone said yes. Read more>>

Moe Perry

More Creations started as a hobby in quarantine 2020 when my fiancé’s first words were “can you make this shirt for me.” I immediately replied back, yes. This was the start of something new considering I’ve been in my career field of sociology and social work for the last ten years. This was my opportunity to be “crafty.” As I became more creative one thing led to the next. Now, one month later I’m booked with tons of T-shirt orders. Between working my career job and small business I became exhausted. My way of relaxing was going home and hand pouring my own soy wax candles for affirmation. Read more>>

Jacob Olds

I used to draw as a kid and loved it. I took about a 26-year hiatus while I toured as a musician for Family Force 5. We stopped touring in 2019, and during the pandemic lockdown in 2020, I started drawing again. By 2021, people were starting to ask me for commissions, just from posting my artwork on Instagram. By August of that year, my current art started to take form, inspired by iconic fashion and musicians, in a mixed media art form, using pen and ink and watercolor. It has now become what I am doing full time. Read more>>

Hayley Cass

My name is Hayley Cass and I am a blues, soul, and jazz singer in the Nashville area. I have been singing my whole life but I started professionally recording and releasing music around 2014 with a band named “Red Martina” – a hip hop band based out of Philly. I was the jazz/blues/soul singer for the band and it was a pretty successful 2 albums. After singing and writing for years, I decided that I was going to write and record my own songs as a solo artist. I went back to school for sound engineering because I figured that no one else can hear what I hear in my head, so I have to record demos to begin getting my music out there. Read more>>

Jill Wentz

I have been a physician assistant for 22 years. Started in emergency medicine then urgent care. Began medical aesthetics in January 2022. Joined the practice of a long-time friend and have been really enjoying this change of pace. Burnout and COVID have been huge struggles. Medical aesthetics. Dermal fillers, neurotoxin injections (Botox, Dysport), micro-needling, Hydrafacials, Biote bioidentical hormone optimization, chemical peels, dermaplane, ZO skincare. Read more>>

Erica Slocum

Swimming has been a huge part of my life. I joined a competitive swim teacher at the age of 6 and continued this sport through college. Growing up, I not only swam, but I also was a competitive dancer. I always loved to dance more, but swimming was a sport that came naturally to me. I truly never quite believed in the talent I had as a swimmer, but my coaches, parents, and support system around me believed that I had the potential to earn an athletic scholarship if I put my mind to it. Read more>>

Hana Eid

From the time I was maybe eight years old, I knew I wanted to make a career out of music. I grew up learning electric guitar, specifically rock and blues, from the likes of Led Zeppelin to Eric Clapton. With that said, I knew I loved writing, and actually devoted a lot of time to writing short stories and novellas in elementary school. These two passions later developed into a love for songwriting. I grew up in Fairfax, Virginia in a very musical household. My dad was the drummer in an alternative rock band called “emmet swimming” in the 90s. During the prime of the band, they were signed with Epic Records and toured nationwide. Read more>>

Erin Smagala

We each have our own photography businesses– Karen Halbert Photography was created in 2009, and Erin Smagala Photography was created in 2010. We met in 2012 when Erin was invited to join the shared photography studio that Karen was a part of. Over the past decade, we’ve walked alongside each other to grow our own businesses. There are many benefits of being self-employed, but one downfall is not having a team with which to brainstorm challenges, continuing education, and celebrate successes. We may not be coworkers, but we naturally became collaborators as we grew our businesses. Read more>>

Charlotte Pena

Mr. & Mrs. Fix-It may be a newly launched company, but my husband and I have been working towards this dream for years. We’ve been married since 2020 and absolutely love working together. Mr. Fix-It, also known as Dennis, my soulmate, and many other things I don’t need to share here – has been working as a subcontractor in all areas of construction for over 10 years. He comes with 10 years of Navy experience, and I swear, the man can fix anything. Most recently, Dennis held a full-time job in banking, while I finished out the year teaching 7th grade Writing in Nashville.  Read more>>

Marion Simmons

Marion is a Jersey native and Alumni of the foster care system from New Jersey. She aged out of care at 21. Despite the negative experiences in care Ms. Simmons went on to graduate from Elizabeth High School.  She then attended Lincoln University obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services and Sociology. Marion battles with PTSD and MDD both disorders that can cause one to spiral low to the point of suicidal ideation. Read more>>

Kade Simar, Jack Dardis, Brant Broussard, and Matt Barrack

We started out as three friends on a vacation beach house. Matt, Jack, and Kade were all friends and musicians but the idea of a band had just been a thought for the longest time. After some consideration, we decided to make a band. The beach house we were staying at was named “Wave Runner” so we were fortunate enough to have our name picked out for us already. After returning home from the beach, we got to work on our new band. While going around to various small venues, we released two originals on Spotify: “Valentine” and “I Don’t Dance”. Read more>>

Cassie + Joseph Benzinger

Joseph and I have always had a passion for creativity. Our business first started out as a side hustle while we both worked full time. Learning to make our own home decor and gifts for friends and family, from small items like cutting boards and signs to large pieces such as dining tables, bed frames, end tables, and whatever we could think of. We loved the satisfaction of do-it-yourself projects. In his spare time, Joseph honed his woodworking skills while I worked on designs and now we’ve teamed up professionally. Read more>>

James Moore

Where to start. In my senior year of high school (2010), I hurt my back deadlifting. My school had a competitive powerlifting team and most athletes took part. Our coaches were history and math teachers and totally unqualified. One day during practice I lowered the bar incorrectly and blew out my L4 and L5 discs. I couldn’t walk for 6 months. After several consultations with specialists, doctors, surgeons, and chiropractors that all said I would need surgery and never play sports again or be active/ physical. I rehabbed my injury and went on to join the Army. Read more>>

Stu Basham

My story starts when I got a cheap keyboard for Christmas at age 4 or 5. From then on, I was hooked and knew I wanted to be a performing artist. I’ve lived in all major U.S. time zones and played all different kinds of music over the years but I’ve finally settled in Nashville to play country music which is something I finally realize I was born to do. It took a long time to get here but I think I’ve found my place and passion. Read more>>

Amelia Ball

I started MAXIMUS JEWELS in 2015 right after my son Kingston MAXIMUS was born. Maximus means “The Great”. I am originally from Philadelphia, PA so having a kid in an unfamiliar place with no family had me nervous about enrolling him into daycare. My mom had been visiting/staying with me for 3months after giving birth & was ready to go back home to VA. So I had to come up with a Plan B for income. Read more>>

Sam Brooks

It was 2015, I was a Junior at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville studying kinesiology. Deep down I knew I was just going with the grain. My plan was to graduate, take my GRE, go to Physical Therapy school, and settle down… But if I’m being honest, my life lacked passion and was flooded with uncertainty. To my surprise, one little flier would change my entire life’s trajectory. My roommate at the time, and to this day one of my best friends, came into the house holding this flier. It announced that UT film grads were undergoing auditions in Hodges Library to fill the roles of their short film. Read more>>

Michael Goorevich

Originally from Buffalo, NY, I am an architect with a focus on designing bespoke modern homes (and other projects). I have been here for almost fifteen years having moved from Toronto, Ontario. I have always wanted to be an architect since I was young and I am living out my dream here in Nashville. The path to Nashville has taken me from Cincinnati to Cleveland, to Rome Italy, to Boston, to Toronto, and finally to here in Nashville. Read more>>

Anthony Alfredo

I grew up in a family of race fans. We all love anything with an engine, and as an adrenaline junkie, pushing it to its mechanical limits was always my personal favorite part. I raced for fun at the local rental kart facility but never thought my dream of becoming a NASCAR driver was possible. I was pretty good at the rental kart racing and decided to get my feet wet in legend cars in 2015 after playing stick and ball sports along with participating in other extreme sports hobbies of mine for a few years. Read more>>

Cachey Graham

This started in 2017. I started off modeling and breaking off into the modeling industry was really hard for me. I walked in fashion shows with multiple designers and would only get selected by one without even them seeing me walk. There had to be something else I could do to further help myself and other models in Nashville who also pursued modeling. My best friend and business partner Asiana Holloway decided to help me with starting The Black Gala which was created to shed light on upcoming black entrepreneurs and models. Read more>>

Mike and Victoria Henlsey

We met 20 years ago through friends. In truth, Mike was more of a wallflower, while Victoria was the outgoing social butterfly! It wasn’t long before these two found common ground, including their love of photography. Mike, an Erwin native who spent part of his childhood in California, first discovered his interest in the craft when he bought his first drone. Victoria, a Virginia native who spent most of her childhood in Abingdon, has been a picture fiend since middle school; she documented every year of grade school with a scrapbook album and then continued on to study photography in college. Read more>>

Kara Frazier

I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and started taking voice lessons at the age of 10 and did so for over a decade. Originally, I fell in love with R&B and pop music by listening to artists like Alicia Keys, Usher, Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Christina Aguilera, then eventually got into classic soul and jazz, listening to artists like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Billie Holiday, which I believe shaped the style of singing that I like to do. Read more>>

Jorji Demaret

I’ve always loved music but never thought it was a talent of mine. I (loosely) taught myself to play guitar around 14 and wrote some little songs that I never did much with. Then when I was 17-18, I met someone who did nothing but live and love music. They took me in during a really rough time in my life and helped me hone in on my vocals. They taught me to not be scared of messing up—that as long as you’re doing what you love that’s all that matters. And that really carried over into my everyday life. I’m a gay non-binary person who grew up in a very religious and strict household. Read more>>

Amber Autry

I have been performing since I came out of the womb. I use to charge my family a quarter to see my shows in their living room; the quality shows of course with lots of variety. I went to school at The University of TN for acting all the while knowing I wanted to move to Chicago for comedy. I moved to Chicago in 2015 and dove into Improv Comedy, completing the Second City Conservatory and performing on a few improv teams. However, I knew Improv wasn’t it for me.  Read more>>

Jessica Johnston

I originally started as a professional makeup artist and relocated to LA in 2013. I was blessed with opportunities to work on commercials, press junkets, carpet events, and film festivals working alongside some very talented people and artists, which helped me network later on. As a makeup artist, I noticed more and more clients getting spray tans, some good and some not so good. As artists, we had some major conflicts to deal with; color matching to the foundation, some tanning solutions were oily on the skin surface, and others caused dryness due to the alcohol base. Read more>>

Erin Diener

I am a Tennessee native, born and raised in Knoxville. I was interested in art from as early an age as I can remember. I have always considered myself a creative junkie- chasing that high that you can only get through creative expression. I took art classes, I took ballet classes, and attended concerts- whatever I could think of to fill the need. Once graduating, I attended the University of Tennessee as a studio art major, which was in my mind the next step in further pursuing my passion. Fast forward 10 years, and I was a mom of two, barre instructor, and corporate trainer- but very much lacking something in my life. Read more>>

Michael Hinds

Growing up in Tennessee, when you start drinking, you drink Jack Daniels. I used to go to Lynchburg for all things Jack, the BBQ, the bottle releases, the tours. As I got older, I started drinking and collecting whiskey from all over and started to really fall in love with barrel-proof offerings from Willett and others. I would go to stores all over and would buy anything I had not tried yet and could not wait to get home to open the new addition and have a pour. Read more>>

Stephanie Gerber

I started my blog way back in 2011, which feels like forever ago! I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, and the blog was a fun creative outlet. Somehow I managed to stick with it all these years. The site has evolved from its origins as a blog to capture family moments. Now my goal is to share accessible do-it-yourself beauty – from natural skin care tips to beauty-boosting recipes – to help women glow from the inside out. Read more>>

Samaki Nash

I started MBodied Active during the pandemic. While the world slowed down some, I took that opportunity to work on a passion of mine that had been just a thought for a few years. I love all things fashion and have a particular passion for activewear. I wanted to start a brand geared towards the curvier woman that made women feel good and wouldn’t break the bank. Most times, I would find activewear that fit me but was crazy expensive. Or I would find more affordable activewear but it didn’t come in my size, it didn’t fit properly, or had missing features I desired. Read more>>

Thomas Brown

Pastor /Owner Thomas B. Thomas B. (Thomas Junior Brown) is an Independent/Mainstream Christian Hip Hop and Urban Gospel Radio Personality from Lake City, South Carolina. He is the Owner and Radio Personality for the Music Zone and 5 other Radio Stations. Thomas B. was born in Manning, S.C. on April 11, 1975, by two loving Parents and a twin sister and also has an older sister. His love for music started at the early age of 6 to become a DJ. Read more>>

Chris Ewing

I like to joke that I started my website and brand design business by accident. In early 2020, at the peak of the Covid-19 lockdown, I created a few brands and websites for local wedding vendors that were friends of mine. Before I knew it, I had more and more creatives asking for my assistance, and I quickly developed a waitlist of amazing clients. By the end of lockdown, I was a full-time designer & “Ivory & Green” went from the name of my blog to the name of my business. Read more>>

Kevin DesChenes

Executive Chef, “Private Chef to The Stars” & Author of “Beyond My Chef Coat” Kevin Des Chenes has over 25 years of hospitality experience and has become one of the most sought-after Chefs & event producers in the world. He was named “Top Chef” by Las Vegas Food & Wine and is the winner of “Top Celebrity Chef Showdown.” He has been a Chef Expert for Gordon Ramsey is a multiple episode winner on Food Network and has appeared as a Featured Chef on Food Network’s Chef Wanted, Great Food Truck Race & Beat Bobby Flay, as well as The Today Show, Nationally Syndicated Better Show, CT Style, Pickler & Ben, Fox Morning Show & The Rhode Show among others. Read more>>

Ashlee Hall

When I was a young girl, my mother would often take my sisters and me out of school early to go shopping! I believe that is where my love for fashion began. She always dressed us nicely and made sure we were put together before we left the house. I loved fashion so much that I decided to study it in college. I graduated from MTSU with a degree in Textiles, Merchandising, and Design with a minor in Marketing. Read more>>

Kym Moyer

What makes my story unique is that I opened my medical practice without waiting rooms, co-pays/per-visit charges, and every patient has my cell phone number in case they have an urgent issue after-hours or just a quick question during the day. I can do these things because I have removed middlemen from my medical practice. I have no large corporate overhead and I also do not bill health insurance. This boils the relationship down to the patient and doctor only. Read more>>

Suchay Fontz

We are a luxury boutique event production firm and concierge services. I started my company while battling breast cancer about 3 years ago. My background is in hospitality and events, my love for advance came from a very young age as I grew up in that industry because of my mother. My mom was a luxury Bridal Designer and she used to do these gorgeous over-the-top weddings in New York City and back at home in the Dominican Republic. By the time I was 16, I went to Punta Cans to work and hotels and resorts. Read more>>

Heather VanLeeuwen

VanLeeuwen Family Farm is run by owners Tim and Heather VanLeeuwen. Together, we have two very adventurous boys Jason and Noah who we hope will continue to build and pave the way for VanLeeuwen Family Farm. We are the first generation small family farm in Kansas. We use regenerative farming practices which are working with nature not against it. As a first-generation family farm, we have a dream to work in harmony with nature. For these reasons we fed organic grain to our animals and never use any chemicals. Read more>>

Kara Dobernig

How far back do we want to go? I’d say my love for beauty started around age 3 when I got a Tinkerbell Makeup Set for Christmas. There is photo evidence somewhere of how ecstatic I was upon opening this most glorious of gifts. In 4th grade, we created a book to give to our parents with our hopes, dreams, things we loved, etc. Under the section that asked “What do you want to be when you grow up”, I wrote “A high fashion cosmetologist”. Fast forward to 33 years old, I’m going to go ahead and give myself the cosmetologist piece as I am indeed a licensed cosmetologist, but we’re still working on the “high fashion” part. Read more>>

Jada Pope

Basically, everything is centered around my children! I started Boro Babe Events after doing my own baby shower back in 2018. I actually posted everything on Facebook to sell and got a lot of interest! I didn’t really take it seriously until I realized I was doing almost one event a week! It is now a full-time job and I even opened a balloon store to sell supplies to all fellow balloon artists and event planners! Read more>>

Channing Moreland

Grew up playing classical violin, picked up a few other instruments along the way (bari sax, guitar, piano, and singing), and started writing songs. Went to Belmont University and majored in Songwriting. Was amazed by the talent I was surrounded by and wanted to find ways to lift artists up/ find ways to bring them more revenue. My Freshmen Orientation roommate was serendipitously Makenzie Stokel – who would quickly become my best friend and later be, my business partner. Read more>>

Isaiah Ridge

I am a recording artist/producer out of Nashville, Tennessee. I have always loved listening to music. I was raised in all sorts of different genres. The hip-hop scene kinda struck me the most. It has so much rhythm it’s hard not to vibe in my opinion. So my falling more into the rap scene lead to me finding a relatable artist. So following them and really just studying their craft then made me want to try music myself. Read more>>

Peyton Penuel

I was blessed to attend a high school with a media class that introduced me to the film and tv world when I was 15. I can remember going to the local movie theatre during those years and seeing a promo for our school that we made in class which would play about 30 minutes before the movies started. Seeing that play on the big screen really acted as a motivator for me. I try to stay in touch with that teacher, Mr. Campbell, as much as I can to let him know that I wouldn’t be where I am without him. Read more>>

Christina Dix

My love for photography started when I was a little girl. There was just something about clicking the button and seeing the end result that made me so excited! The big joke around our family since I was little was, “you know Christina was in our photo albums if photos are missing.” I can just hear my dad saying this to me. I used to take the photos and obsess over them and the memory that the photo left behind. It’s funny, today, when I go through the very same photo albums and photos are missing, I hear my dad saying, “you know Christina was in our photo albums if photos are missing.” Haha. Read more>>

Raw Proof

I grew up in the 1900’s, specifically the 90’s, when you had to get a pass from black people in the hood in order to go around calling yourself a rapper. If you had no talent or skill, you were not welcomed to step on stage to perform.  People used to do this thing we called “booing” – where everybody in the crowd, in unison, would shout “booo”, “booo”, if they were not impressed by the performer on stage.  The performer would then bow his/her head in shame, and either go home and come to terms with quitting, or he/she would improve and come back to try again. Read More>>

Charlotte Harrison

I started my art Instagram, @peytonjanedesign, many years ago, maybe in 2017? My sister and I have always been creatively-inclined, so our original plan was to make a joint account to post our work! My middle name, Peyton, and hers, Jane, were used to create the name. I didn’t use the account for a few years, but I have rebooted it a few weeks ago to show some of my recent work for fun and as a painting minor at Belmont University. Read more>>

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