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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.

Hillary Kline

I am originally from a small town in Wisconsin and went to college at the University of Minnesota where I studied Journalism. Upon graduation, I had an amazing internship with General Mills, promoting their product, Nature Valley. I was able to travel to 10 different National Parks on the West Coast, and it was such a dream! When the internship ended, I moved back to Wisconsin and started my job hunt. I then landed a job as a TV producer at a television station in Green Bay. I worked as a producer for almost 5 years before moving back to Minneapolis and transitioning into Public Relations. Read more>>

Josh Person

After graduating from the University of Minnesota I started my career in advertising, working for an agency that focused on food & beverage branding. From there I moved on to marketing roles at a couple food startups in the natural foods space before joining Foodboro as Social Media and Community manager. Read more>>

Julie Lohman

2 1/2 years ago my only daughter, who was 30 got cancer. It was a rare cancer & it had already spread through her whole body. I felt helpless & needed something to get me through the bleak days.. my new daughter in law suggested I start crafting. I started out making special order cups but my eyesight started declining & I couldn’t see the fine details anymore. I started to browse the internet for ideas & joined some social media groups as well.
Always a fan of bath & body products, I started to make soap. I opened an Etsy shop. As a new shop owner, they encourage you to start with 10 products to sell. Read more>>

Thea Velic

My family immigrated to Minnesota in 1998. I grew up in Rochester, eventually went to college at UMD in Duluth, and landed a marketing job after graduation in the twin cities. While I loved my job, and everything I did I just didn’t feel fulfilled. I didn’t have a whole lot of interaction with people, and I didn’t feel like I was making a difference. My dad asked if I had ever thought about Real Estate (I hadn’t), but it prompted me to start looking into it. I reached out to friends I knew were in the industry, and decided to take the leap in 2018! I have since helped over 100 clients buy & sell homes, and I couldn’t be happier in this industry. It’s been life changing, and I’ve gotten to connect (& reconnect) with so many wonderful people. I’ve made friends with clients as well as friends in the industry. It is by far the most hardest job, but equally the most fulfilling! Read more>>

Sairey Gernes

Six for Good started in Rosedale Mall because the mall approached Lauren, of Essence One, to open her own retail location. However, the space offered is quite a bit of square footage, so Lauren asked all of us if we’d be interested in partnering on the venture. The brand owners, Lauren, Ginger, Anna & Nikki, Robyn and Sairey, all were familiar with each other via the Pop-Up Show circuit of the Twin Cities. We got together several times to work out the details and opened the store in the Spring of 2019. And since then, we’ve had the absolute most fun, seen each brand grow through ups and downs and developed some of the most amazing and strong friendships. Read more>>

Brian Ingram

I got into the food space, because I was the worst student ever growing up in Alaska. My mom put me into an apprenticeship culinary program and I fell in love with cooking. Since then I’ve been working in the restaurant industry for over 30 years, at all different levels and positions. From being a dishwasher to a line cook to creating new brands to setting trends to innovating the world of restaurant design. While cooking is my passion, my wife actually calls it my love language, concept ideation (everything from furniture to food) has become my specialty. Read more>>

Anastasia Albert

I started practicing with CorePower Yoga in December of 2008, when I’d just graduated from college. I no longer had access to a free gym and needed a new way to move my body. I knew immediately that I wanted to learn more about the practice, but wasn’t brave enough to take the steps toward becoming a teacher until 2013. I was fortunate to join CorePower Yoga’s teaching team shortly after completing my 200-hour training and took on my first leadership position the following year. Since then, I’ve pursued four additional trainings, cumulating in 825 total hours of yoga education. Today I still teach while also serving as the District Manager for our Minnesota and Kansas City studios. Read more>>

Elyse’ Jokinen

I’ve always been creative but it took having my first son to really propel me into a life of the arts. Becoming a mother wasn’t an easy transition for me and I knew I had to find a way to slow down, be more present and express myself. Inspired by my dad, who is a photographer, I purchased my first DSLR and that was that! I’ve been carrying around my big camera for almost 5 years and it’s changed my life! I love to take classes to learn about composition and light, it feels a bit like magic. My favorite part is connecting with other artists. Since then, I’ve also started sharing collage art which I’ve been creating for many years and I’ve even been writing again! Being an artist/mother is not an easy thing to do, it’s definitely a lot of juggling. However, I wouldn’t trade a second of it — this is what I was meant for! I feel incredibly grateful for the help and inspiration I’ve received along the way and have no intention of putting down my camera, scissors or pen anytime soon. Read more>>

Nicholas Brewer

My introduction to the recovery business started when I was getting injured frequently while competing in Strongman and Powerlifting Internationally. I’ve torn muscles, herniated discs, been stabbed, and more… Physcial Therapy was costing me thousands and doing nothing for me. I finally started doing my own research and began utilizing Graston, cupping, and Active Release to help me get back in the game. I finally decided to attend Miami Dade College to get fully accredited to provide those services to others who were just as eager to be their best selves. It’s been an amazing journey so far! I’ve lived and worked in Miami, LA, Dubai, but fell in love with the Midwest. This is home now and HQ for all future endeavors. Read more>>

Xavier Goodman

Hey my name is Xavier Goodman I was born in Baltimore Maryland but I grew up in the twin cities. Went I was in elementary school I loved watching tv/musicals so much, that I tried out for theater in middle school and high school not thinking anything of it I found myself landing a lead role in every play I auditioned for! While that was happening I was also creating skits, writing my own plays, scripts and songs while learning cinematography, editing and photography on the side while public speaking at events and hosting talent shows. At this time vine was popular so I would post my content consistently on there. Read more>>

Jose Lara

I started training at a national franchise big box gym over 20 years ago. I loved it. I have always being involved with fitness playing professional baseball. That is how my love for fitness began. I wanted to have my own gym, but the time wasn’t right I guess. A non profit organization MEDA saw my business plan few years back and believed in my vision, they granted me a business loan and here i am now. Recently I even purchased the building where my gym is at. So i guess we are not going anywhere. It has been a challenge through COVID of course, but we have great members that support my vision and they stood there with me throughout those first initial difficult times. We are growing slowly but surely. We have a gym where in one side we offer Kickboxing combined with Resistance Training group classes and on the other side we have a fully equipped 24/7 open gym access. Our members get the best of both worlds and our classes are like no others. Read more>>

Sean Glessing

My father was a carpenter and as a child, he would bring me along to job sites and I would help out in any way that I could. When I entered high school I took a woodshop class and fell in love with it. It didn’t take long and I knew that this was something I wanted to do as a career. I worked out a deal with my aunt and uncle in Hutchinson to have my shop in their 400 square foot garage. My uncle was making custom fly fishing rods in the space so he had some of the basic equipment to get me started on some projects. In the first year or so I built almost 100 fireplace mantles for a local fireplace dealer along with several other projects like a drift boat and a fly rod. Read more>>

Lisa Beth Lentini Walker

When I was a young girl, I always told people that I wanted to grow up to be an international business woman. At the time, I’m not sure that I had any real clue about what that meant other than traveling in planes and seeing the world. I knew that I wanted to make the world a better place as I went about making my career, but I had no idea how all of the would work together. Fast forward to 2001, I was working in Washington, DC at the US Securities and Exchange Commission after getting my law degree and masters in business administration. Read more>>

Brittany Brown

Hi, I’m Brittany Brown, a commercial and beauty photographer in Minneapolis. Growing up I was raised by an art teacher mother and a business manager father, so it came as no surprise when I constantly had equal parts business and artistic aspirations. I spent 5 years at Target corporate as a Marketing Manager until— in the middle of the pandemic in 2020— I realized life was just too short to do anything except the things that set your heart on fire. Since then, I have turned my side business into a full-time career working to capture beauty in all of its forms. Read more>>

Nicola Peterson

Peterson Farms was first settled by Sever Peterson I in 1890. That very same homestead is where Sever III and his wife, Sharon, still live and where the 4th generation of Petersons comes to work daily. The farm is a traditional grain operation where we also grow pumpkins, sweet corn, apples, squash, gourds, and hemp as well as keep bees. Sever Peterson III created the yellow and green gazebos you still see around town as a way to market his fresh produce directly to consumers; however, our family sold this business in 2015 to focus on the Fall Festival. Read more>>

Josh Nelson

I started in real estate in 2016 and worked under a successful team in the metro area. There I learned the valuable lessons that were the foundation of my career. After several years with this team I felt a burning desire to change a few things about how my business was done. I left that team and founded the Josh Nelson team. We fine tuned my services to my passion- creating a unique and tailored experience for each and every client. Since then our mission of delivering our clients not only a great result but that from their perspective they received what they deserved and desired. Read more>>

JoJo Spencer

I started my photography journey by purchasing a DSLR camera from one of my friends, just a simple entry-level camera. I had no intentions of doing it for a job. I just wanted to take pictures because it was fun. I started to receive good feedback from people, but I wasn’t sure if they were just being good friends and lying t e by saying the photos looked good, or if they really looked good. All I knew for certain was the photos looked good to me. So I decided to throw myself into the photography industry to see if there was any interest. Since the first day of booking a client, we have had a tremendous amount of momentum that we continue to build off of. Read more>>

Jessica Winnie

We started our collective in May of 2020 with a mission to serve as a platform to highlight and promote Black business. Our curated monthly boxes are limited as we are not a subscription box. MN Black Box drops on the first of every month. Our hope is that you try out some new products, leave reviews for those businesses and shop again in the future directly with those companies. To date we have been able to financially support and build up over 150 Black businesses. Read more>>

Kathy Peterson

I have always had a love of vintage and collectible treasures. I have several keepsakes from my parents and grandparents and my husband’s family. I grew up having and going to thrift sales so it’s always been in my blood. A few years ago I was asked to help some family friends sell a few items for them after they had moved into an apartment. It ended up being a lot more than a few items. They had several rooms and a shed full of treasures so after a few months of selling items for them, I developed a local customer following. Along this same time, my husband took me to my first auction and I was hooked! We found an antique Coca Cola clock at the auction, posted it on Facebook and sold it before the auction ended! Read more>>

Edymar Diaz

I have always been a person who likes to set goals and meet them, I am from Venezuela and 3 years ago I arrived in this great country that has given me many opportunities, I arrived with many dreams that I wanted to fulfill and as time goes by I have been fulfilling little by little . I graduated in my country as a teacher and all my life dance, and I always wanted to have a business made by me, create something that I have always loved to do which is to comb, and what better than to combine it with girls, women and men. I make braids with different designs and colors, every time I am adding new things to my small business, the last thing I have added is the spa for girls where it is the best solution for that group of girls who love to be made up and combed. I am very happy with what I have been creating. Read more>>

Levi Janssen

I have always loved being behind a camera, but it wasn’t until 2013 when I really found it was my passion. When I picked up my first DSLR camera, I really fell in love with nature through a lens. Photography is not only a passion but an outlet for me to show my creative side by showing the world what I see. Through the years, I have upgraded my gear and found little gems to photograph along the way. I mainly photograph landscapes and have also dabbled in family/senior portraits, but really anytime I am with my camera is my favorite. I also have done some timelapse photography, and am always experimenting on how to perfect my passion. Read more>>

Tess Vergara

My story of awakening started in 2009. I was at the top of my career as a finance director of a local nonprofit in Minneapolis. Then all in one year, I kept getting whacked in the head by what I call cosmic 2×4. Several incidents all in 1 year! It started with my rental/vacation property in Duluth on Easter Sunday. Police called me to ask where I was, (in Minneapolis) and informed me my property burned to the ground. The investigation was upsetting as I was at first the primary suspect. Unbeknownst to me, that time of market crash, there were a lot of owner-started arsons. But it turned out to be my tenant whom I evicted for not paying his rent for several months. We were having such extreme cold temperature that I waited until it was was warm enough to evict them. But even then, arson was the thanks I got. I was so disheartened and I was also afraid they’d go after my house in the city, so I let the investigators and the police take care of things and did not get involved. Read more>>

Angela Abernathy

My first in- person encounter with goats was at my daughter’s 4th birthday party almost 10 years ago at a hobby farm where I got to bottle feed a baby goat. It was such a heart-warming experience and their sweet and playful nature left an impression on me. One morning back in 2017, I was watching a talk show where an actress was sharing a new fitness trend she was doing to stay in shape- goat yoga! Seeing the clips of people laughing and cuddling little goats and doing yoga poses with goats hopping on them- I was bewildered! Everything within me lit up and I knew this was something I wanted to experience and possibly share with others. Read more>>

Kayla King

In 2011 my husband and I had our first child, a boy, and 13 short months later had our twin boys who were born at 27 weeks gestation. They spent three months in the NICU where they learned to breath, eat and grow. After we brought them home, we juggled life with three kids 1 and under. As the boys grew, it was clear that one of our twins, Charlie, struggled. He didn’t sleep, cried constantly and always needed to be held. As our son continued to grow my husband and I had more and more concerns. At age three he still hadn’t slept through the night and our concerns heightened.  Read more>>

Alyssa Akerman

I started my craft business officially in 2019. A few months before that, I had found a beautiful Mountain Range String Art piece on Pinterest, and I wanted to try my hand at it. I was very proud of my first attempt, and it prompted me to try other products. The first Christmas after learning how to do String Art, I gave different pieces as gifts to my family members. I did the Enchanted Rose from Beauty and the Beast for my dad, complete with twinkle lights that could be turned on or off. I made the Minnesota Wild logo for my stepdad, hummingbirds for my mom, a Mason jar for my mother-in-law, and a 1957 Chevrolet for my father-in-law. Read more>>

Sam Castillo

From a young age I’ve always been very connected to music and what it does for the soul and with discovering who I am as a person I’ve been able to express myself through my fashion and experimenting with different genres in music. In 2018 I put out my first EP “The West Cost” With an underground lofi sound The West Coast was the first EP where I released original songs In The Summer of 2019 “Flores “ was released. Flores was my first body of work where I experimented with synth pop and mixed with my alternative sound. I made this record in my bedroom with little promotion to release and Is still known as one of my best body of work. Read more>>

Camila Sanchez

My wife and I tried mead for the first time about 15 years ago and really enjoyed it. We looked for mead in various liquor stores over the years with little success. Til the day I told my wife I wanted to open up a Meadery about four years ago. Now, White Bear Meadery has been open for a little over two years. A small family owned business that currently serves up 17 varieties of mead out of our tasting room. Made with Minnesota Frown honey and as many Minnesota Grown ingredients as possible. Support local, Drink local. Read more>>

Benjamin Wagner

I grew up in a very musical family. My mother was a piano teacher and father was a drummer for years and that really instilled a passion for the arts in me at a very early age. I was able to be very active cultivating my passion through my church and their professional music program, as well as having several teachers that really pushed me to be better and improve. I went through highschool and began finding extra arts programs and statewide/national bands before going to college. I ended up at Minnesota State University, Mankato as a saxophone performance major and began actively touring while in college. Read more>>

Chris Page

Cooking has always been a passion of mine, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that I realized it was what I wanted to do as a profession. I had been competing in BBQ competitions for several years, sponsored by my friend and butcher at Grundhofer’s Old Fashion Meats in Hugo. About 5 years ago, Spencer Grundhofer approached me with an offer to run a food truck that he was planning to open. I had never set foot in a commercial kitchen before, so this was a great opportunity for me. We had some success with this truck; in 2019 we were nominated as one of the top 5 food trucks in Minnesota by the readers of Growler Mag. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Spencer made the decision to close the truck permanently and I began construction on my own food truck. The plan was to have construction complete by late June; unfortunately, due to COVID related shipping delays, we weren’t able to open until October. We have now been open for just over a year, and are excited as we head into year two! Read more>>

Nick Daniel

My story begins in 2013 when I was court ordered to serve a civil commitment in a psychiatric facility. I was off my medication and began writing a book about my mental illness that eventually lead to some mania that caused a psychological breakdown. I worked on my manuscript for six years after I was released and the story about my commitment was eventually published in 2019. Due to my experiences I have become an advocate for mental illness and disability issues. In 2016 I became a caregiver, working with individuals who suffer from severe physical and psychological disabilities. So, it seemed my struggles had finally come full circle as I become a provider myself. After my relapse I decided to dedicate my life to the welfare of others and I began volunteering within the twin cities community. Read more>>

Tess Kaardal

I’ve always been a creative person, for me it was simply where to put that energy. When I was a kid I got one of those plastic cameras with all the games and the extremely loud shutter release? You know the one. It was pink, probably cost about twenty-five dollars, and solely consisted of zoo animal pictures I’d promptly glue to hundreds of printing paper sheets to create little albums when I got home. Thats kind of where it all started. I would drag one of my seven siblings on countless photoshoots planning outfits and locations to create the perfect autumnal vibe. Sometimes they’d put up a fight but I would always win. Eventually the people started coming to me and my business grew from there. Read more>>

Neal Kielar

I usually tell people that we’re an “accidental business.” It started innocently enough when my partner and I moved into an amazing modern home. We brought along furniture that was perfect for the old place but just didn’t fit the new space. So we started to sell it and discovered we were pretty good at that. Then we went on the hunt for what we really wanted, with a focus on mid-century and Danish modern. This was a while ago and the pickings were good. Really good. We not only found pieces we wanted – and that my partner was skilled at refinishing – but lots of other things we didn’t need but just couldn’t leave behind. So we snatched up the extras and started to sell them as a side hustle. I had a full-time job that required a good bit of travel, but also had an irregular pattern – a lot of hurry up and wait. Read more>>

Lanae Rhoads

Hello, I am Lanae Rhoads, founder of Mix Cosmetiques. Anything that contains the word handmade shouts to me, “Can I do this? Try me, make me, figure this recipe out!” Soap, skincare, lotions, makeup, enhancing your beauty or caring for your skin naturally is my passion. Herbs, essential oils and tincturing have been my hobbies since I was a teenager. I started making gentle, sustainable skincare scented with essential oil blends (soaps and lotions) in 2005 after I had been struggling with my skin for years. A friend gave me some handmade goat’s milk soap from a farmer’s market and it changed my life. Within a week my skin was cleared up and within a couple months I thought, “If they can make it so can I”. I was off and running and haven’t slowed down since. If you can imagine a cosmetic or body care product I probably make it or am in the process of learning how. Read more>>

Allison Jagoda

I moved to Minneapolis in 2001 to open a photography studio fresh out of college where I majored in commercial photography. While most of my classmates moved to NY or LA I knew I would have a better chance of success in a slightly smaller pond. Minnesota is home to a lot of great companies and creative advertising agencies- but with the hard working- no ego attitude that I wanted to work with. My first 11 years in business I photographed advertising campaigns for companies and editorial fashion magazines. I grew a reputation working with young talent for international companies like Fisher Price, Great Clips and Target. I’ve been able to do fashion shoots in places like Israel, Mexico and NY and shoot on beaches in Hawaii, Galveston, and Florida. But my studio has always stayed in Minneapolis. Read more>>

Gregory and Sierra Austin

We are a husband and wife team, who took a bad circumstance and turned it around. Before March 2020 we never thought we would be where we are today. Gregory was a Sous Chef and in the midst of a major promotion at a large worldwide hotel he had been working for the last 6 years. Sierra was working part time at the same hotel but was mainly a stay a home mommy to their adorable 1-year-old boy. Then the pandemic hit and everything changed in an instant. We found ourselves furloughed with no idea when or if we would ever be asked back. We waited for a few months to see if things would improve but the hospitality and culinary industries remained decimated. Instead of sitting around and waiting we decided why not take control of our own jobs. Read more>>

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