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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.

GHEC (Greater Twin Cities High School Environmental Coalition) Environmental Coalition

The 4 GHEC leaders have been passionate and active in climate change and environmental justice. We all are members of our school’s environmental groups. Laura has attended a few YEA! (youth environmental activists) MN climate summits and Mina has been a part of the Earth Echo Youth Leadership Council. We got in touch with each other over email and set up a meeting to discuss how our environmental groups could work together. Read more>>

Valerie Bruder

My name is Valerie Bruder, and I am the owner of Aster & Co. After my first son was born, I started to look into more natural, clean & chemical-free things. I slowly started to take out synthetic fragrances after learning how “Perfumes & Fragrances” wreak havoc on our female endocrine systems. They are cancer-causing agents and are known to do so much damage to our bodies, so that was a huge wake-up call to me, a woman who already had hormone issues, struggling with PCOS. Read more>>

Stephanie Sunberg

Photography has always been a part of my life. Since I was a little girl, my grandfather would let me watch him develop his film after a long day of teaching scuba diving in Mexico to tourists and taking oceanic photographs with his film camera. He would develop and print his images in his makeshift studio/the washroom of our small row house in Acapulco. I also grew up in Hopkins, Mn, and made art my safe space because of teachers like Randi Rood, Michelle Swanson, and Robert Fuhr. Read more>>

Wamisho Dimore

I grew up in Ethiopia and moved to Sibley Manor Apartments when I was 9. After I visited a church, a pastor laid hands on me. I felt the holy spirit, and I gave my life to Jesus Christ immediately after. Now I deal with our reach and music production through my ministry Hosanna Missions. The narrow road is always hard, especially considering our current culture, but I’m always motivated and ready to serve, considering the work the Lord God has done in my life. Read more>>

Izzy Waite

In 2020 I was set to graduate from the University of North Dakota with a double major: a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design and Technology and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing. Well, we know how the story went the world shut down, and I ended up graduating by watching virtual graduation in my parent’s living room. While shuffling the world around me, I also had to shuffle some of my life plans. Read more>>

Matt Mithun

I grew up between Minnetonka and Minneapolis through high school, then went to college in Middlebury, VT. After college, I spent three years in New York, working in Finance and a few small film projects on the side. I moved to San Francisco, where I worked at Lucas Film, then eventually returned to the financial sector. I moved back to MN with my family in 2010, and that’s when I got into the live music and festival business. I’ve also been working in Commercial Real Estate, and a unique property came across my radar. Read more>>

Shelley Beaumont

I was first introduced to the art of mosaics in 2007 when I attended a week-long class in Ravenna, where I learned about the ancient traditional method using the hammer and Hardie (a traditional steel tool used to break stone and glass) and Smalti (glass bricks). While I enjoyed the experience and the art, the material didn’t call to me at that time. Later, in 2013, I met Laurel True, my mosaic mentor, and participated in a large outdoor ceramic tile mosaic mural-making retreat in Jacmel, Haiti; and like Smalti, the tile didn’t call to me. Read more>>

Autumn Vagle

So, there are five members of our band, Keep for Cheap, though it all started as a musical collaboration between Autumn Vagle and Kate Malanaphy. Autumn and Kate met in the fall of 2017 in the Hamline University A Cappella Choir, where they both sang (Ted Tiedemann, who plays guitar in the band, also sang in this choir, though he didn’t join until the following year.) We were both altos with a side project of songwriting, so we began jamming together in Autumn’s college basement and became fast friends. Read more>>

NeTia Bauman

Things like pediatric cancer research and premature babies – are the issues that tug at your heartstrings. I’ve always had this inherent desire to help people, so I’ve coordinated and hosted fundraisers for various charitable organizations for as long as I can remember. This was always a volunteer effort, though my dream job was to start a nonprofit that helped people (it didn’t matter in what way, just that it was an intentional effort). I never thought I’d be in a position where I could earn a living and be rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing that I’m contributing in a meaningful way to society, but here I am doing just that. Read more>>

Clarke Sanders

(I apologize in advance; I write the same way I would talk, haha) I almost don’t even know where to start! My story truly says, “give it a try and see what happens. If you love it, keep doing it!” I began my career as a “Creative” when I attended South Dakota State University to get my degree in Advertising. I had originally applied to become a large-animal veterinarian and work with the Kentucky race horses {but chemistry is tough}. I had little to no idea what/who I wanted to be, and I thought that once I graduated, I would be the world’s best project manager! {I was for a short period and still use those tools today} Read more>>

Nick Patton

Talking Waters Brewing Co. opened in July of 2016 (we just celebrated our 6th birthday!). It was originally started by 3 friends and Montevideo locals who loved craft beer and wanted to share that love with western MN. At the time, this area was a “craft beer desert.” Nick Patton, one of the three owners, had been home brewing for quite a few years and honed the craft to the point where he felt ready to give this idea of opening a brewery a fair shot.  Read more>>

Alyza James

In the 1980s, finding a great and satisfying cup of coffee wasn’t easy. Leveraging my dad’s Master’s in Chemistry, he began experimenting with the art of roasting at home. The love of this craft and finding the intersection where art meets science triggered my mom and dad’s desire to start a roasting company. In 1990, Alakef Coffee Roasters was born in the basement of an old school building by the lake in Duluth, MN. Read more>>

Gustavo Barette

I am a musician, arranger, and musical director. I have been a professional musician for 20 years. I was born in Venezuela, I moved to the US more than a year ago, and I previously lived in Mexico for 8 years. I studied music when I was 12 years old; my first musical instrument was “cuatro Venezuelan” a teacher played an instrument similar to a guitar, but I felt its sound in my soul. I asked the teacher what the instrument was. He told me ¨a bass¨ from that day on. I just wanted to learn to play the bass. I have a sister and a brother. Read more>>

Kent Estey

I still live on the same piece of property as I did as a child, so I haven’t gone very far physically. I chose to teach children and serve my community of Naytahwaush on the White Earth Reservation. This is a good place, a small place, a welcoming place to live; it’s all I know. Of course, I’ve traveled, but my heart always is here, in this place that shaped and influenced who I am as a person and artist. Besides, we have the most beautiful sunsets; all I have to do is walk out my front door for inspiration. Read more>>

Christine Henne

I am a Wisconsin girl but have been in the Twin Cities since 2007. I attended the University of Northwestern Saint Paul and graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. While in college, I enjoyed taking photography courses and soon found myself exploring photography’s world and business side. I shadowed a few weddings, offered free portrait sessions, and eventually turned my services to income! You know that saying, “fake it ’til you make it?” well, if life starts to open doors for you, you need to walk through them confidently even if you feel blindfolded. Read more>>

Xaulanda Simmonds-Emmanuel

I am Xaulanda. In the simplicity of that introduction. My first name lies in the essence and diversity of who I am and my story. I am often challenged with the “Who are you?” question as it typically comes with unspoken expectations. To sum up, the multidimensional elements of a human being like it is a 30-second elevator pitch accompanied by a laundry list of titles regarding what we do or the roles we play vs. who we are. Read more>>

Erin Lucas

Food has always played a rather big & important role in my life. My first job was at an apple orchard & shortly after, I worked at a small hometown bakery. I watched the food network relentlessly growing up & always helped my family in the kitchen. When it was time to figure out where to go after high school, culinary school was a no-brainer. I enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America & graduated with a culinary degree.  Read more>>

Lena Yong

I was raised in the restaurant industry since I was 3. My parents, Joleen and Banrith Yong, own Suzette’s Restaurant in Jordan, MN. My father is a Swiss-trained Chef. I grew up in a household of Cambodian refugees and immigrants who came to this country with nothing, but they always ensured the fridge was full. Food is everything to us. I was far from an academic star student in school, but I have always loved science and art. When I attended Winona State University, I’d spend roughly 8hrs in the ceramic studio daily. Read more>>

Kaci Mohagen

After graduating from UMD with a business degree, I found a clerical job at a local clinic. I worked there for a few years, and during that time, I discovered my love and passion for photography. I started by photographing the wedding of a family friend. I quickly learned how much I loved documenting special moments. I felt fortunate to have such a supportive client base and local community! I was able to go full-time in 2019, though 2020 did prove to be a difficult year as a small business. Read more>>

Nakara Forje

I started my journey in creative writing poetry at nine years old. The writing was an outlet for me and a way to be noticed and celebrated. By the time I got to high school, I was writing songs and began performing at open mics in college. Over ten years later, my music has led me to curate events, create and facilitate workshops for the community, and write the book “7 Day Grief Journal for Hip Hop Lovers”. Read more>>

Kendra Jamieson

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been an artsy kid; my mother was always crafting and creating, which rubbed off on me. I also realized my passion for fashion at a young age and wanted to be a fashion designer. But, growing up, others will tell you you can’t pursue specific careers because it’s not practical or you won’t make any money. Here is where my career took a diversion into graphic design, a more practical art field, to make a living. Read more>>

Darcie Novak

I ended up in real estate, working on a development project that never happened (thank you, 2008); I had gotten my license, was doing a few deals on the side and was pretty good at it. I thought, what would happen if I tried? Fast forward, I started a Team about 5 years ago and joined KW, which had systems and models to help set you up for success; through them, I met Ben Kinney and started training with him, and I joined PLACE, a platform for top teams in the nation, that was created by Ben and Chris Suarez and have found well my PLACE. Read more>>

Sage Leary

I picked up my dad’s old guitar when I was ten, and my aunt got me 10 guitar lessons for my 11th birthday. I took lessons for 3 years before recording my first studio album in 2014. I recorded a second album in 2016. I went to school at UWEC for communications, business, and music theory. Now I am a year into doing music full time and loving it! For the first few years, all I wanted to do was play guitar. I had a growing repertoire of original songs and riffs and wanted them to sound fuller. Read more>>

Geevie & Sophia Wood

We’ve been making our products since our first year of college (2017), and it all started when we discovered the Zero Waste Movement through social media and were inspired to cut back on how much plastic we used. At the time, we couldn’t find our favorite products plastic-free, so we started making our own! We became fascinated with plants’ power and natural ingredients’ simplicity. Along with this lifestyle change came a mindset change. Read more>>

Stephanie Masek

Growing up, I was always sick. Multiple times each month and nearly every single family vacation too. As I entered college, my health continued to decline with more gut/digestive issues, anxiety/depression, psoriasis, fatigue, and hormone imbalances. Deep down, I knew there was more to the story, and I embraced the curiosity about learning how to help my body heal. I started studying the human body, nutrition, and recovering from the inside out using natural means. Read more>>

Derek Lodermeier

Ever since I was about 16, I knew I wanted a career where I could work directly with clients in the financial world as I always had a knack for numbers. Directly out of high school, I worked for a major bank in their mortgage department doing data entry and analysis. Throughout my 12 years there, I held numerous positions in multiple departments, including closing, post-closing, and processing. As my knowledge in the industry expanded, I found that a smaller bank would better help me to achieve my original career goal of working directly with my clients. Read more>>

Maia Rumpho

Pet Project Rescue was started in response to the needs of street animals on Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Many of these animals live in desperate conditions, fighting to stay alive each day on the street. It is a heart-wrenching site for any animal lover, and once you have seen one of these adorable dogs or cats, it is impossible not to want to do something to help them. And this is where the story of starting Pet Project Rescue begins. During our time on Isla Mujeres, we worked with Isla Animals Rescue and their clinic. We instantly fell in love with all the wonderful street animals on the island. Read more>>

John Lannon

I have been intensely interested in visual art from as early as I can remember. My earliest memory involves drawing on the wall of my parent’s house. The original memory was magical; I drew what I described as a “garage” on the wall with only a few lines. I could see into it as if it were real, a 3-dimensional portal into another world. Later memories of the same drawing clarified that it was 3 sloppily drawn lines forming what I can hardly describe as a rectangle. Read more>>

Trina Orton

I have been interested in photography since at least high school. I took journalism and fell in love with that photojournalistic style of photography. Honestly, though, I’ve always been snapping photos partly because I’m a visual learner, which helps me remember people, places, and events. But it also allows me to allow other people to center stage- especially those who aren’t usually comfortable with the spotlight but deserve it. Read more>>

Brian Christensen

I started woodworking as a hobby around 2010 to build furniture for my own home. Eventually, family and friends began asking me to make things for them, and from there, it snowballed into what is now BC Woodshop. Over the last few years, I’ve been taking on 20-25 commissioned furniture builds a year, ranging from smaller furniture to large built-ins. I also have a few home goods items like cutting boards, rolling pins, and spatulas that I sell through a local store and online. Read more>>

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