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Kansas City’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.

Joben Baluyut

I got into videography and photography thanks to my amazing wife Charity. It all started when my close friend from Las Vegas moved to Oregon to live closer to us. One of the things that he brought with him was his PlayStation 4. So sometimes after work, we would spend a few hours playing video games just like when we were teenagers. I enjoyed playing again so I asked my wife if we could buy a PS4. My wife thought about it and came up with an idea. One of the things she had wanted me to do for a long time made a few videos of our kids. So she said, “How about you promise to make a few videos of our kids cooking and you can buy the PS4.” I agreed and immediately bought the PS4. Read more>>

Rob Garwitz

Matt and I started Halo + Cleaver with a vision to clean up America’s favorite condiments with low sugar, fruit-sweetened alternatives. As two guys from the Midwest, we loved BBQ and burgers. But, we are also pretty health-conscious and realized that most conventional BBQ sauces and ketchup are packed with sugar and artificial ingredients. That’s where Halo + Cleaver came in – we make delicious low-sugar sauces that are sweetened with fruit like apples and pineapples! We started with humble beginnings offering our products at local shops, and farmers’ markets, and bringing our sauces to local gyms. We’re now in 700+ stores with a growing online business as well. Read more>>

Kemora Williams

During the beginning of the pandemic, I was spending a lot of time at home. At some point, I even began teaching from home. With it being spring, I found pleasure in sitting on my balcony watching the trees and flowers around me grow. One day, I decided to visit a plant nursery and bought my first plant (Golden Pothos). Buying that plant changed me forever. It taught me how to be observant and have patience. From that moment on, I decided to make more and more trips to the plant nursery. I even brought friends with me and they began to develop a love for plants too. Read more>>

Dan Margolin

I was a practicing General Surgeon for 17 years. I was the highest volume surgeon for all surgical specialties in a local health system for nearly my entire career. I have 3 daughters and 2 years ago my teenage twins decided to live with me full time. One of them developed an eating disorder and it became my full time job as a single parent to get her well again. I pulled her out of school and took her to therapy 7 days a week. During that period, I realized that I couldn’t be a surgeon and be present as a parent the way my kids need me to be. That daughter was voted one of the 18 most infliuential students at Shawnee Mission East as a sophomore this year for her outspokenness about eating disorders. Read more>>

Terry Jones

My cousin and I came up with the Idea during the very start of the pandemic and then presented the idea to two of our other friends that we laugh at jokes and have conversations with all the time. The whole idea of the podcast was based on what we actually grew up doing with each other which was being raw real and uncut about our views and opinions no matter the subject or topic. So we felt like this was the perfect time for all of us to be heard and show the world that we have gone say what’s on our minds no matter how we are looked at. Starting off doing pre-recorded shows to now having a live audience 3 days out of the week has been a learning curve with our growth. Our journey has really just begun as we are turning what we started as just a Podcast to now a full entertainment company. Read more>>

Jordan Haase

I always knew I was different. Growing up in a family with 9 kids can get pretty wild! Sometimes you can get lost in the background, but I was never a backup performer. I wanted to be front and center. So many aspects of my life shaped me into who I am today. When I reminisce on my childhood a couple of things always stick out. Music, and Real Estate. I remember showings, home tours, and late nights at the office sleeping on makeshift beds, while my mom worked on writing offers into the night for her buyers and sellers. Raising us kids alone, made parenting and work collide. Running around showing homes after school was a pretty normal routine, and we always had music to get us through. I was always down to go on a little trip to see what homes she had scheduled out for the day. Read more>>

Andrea Crawford

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. was founded on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana on November 12, 1922 by Seven brave educators: Mary Lou Allison Gardner Little, Nannie Mae Gahn Johnson, Vivian Irene White Marbury, Bessie Mae Downey Rhoades Martin, Cubena McClure, Hattie Mae Annette Dulin Redford, and Dorothy Hanley Whiteside. Delta Eta Sigma Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. was chartered in Wyandotte County on September 19, 1973. The chapter was later reactivated in 2009 by 6 phenomenal women: Dr. Stacy Yeager-Okosi, La Shana McGee, Windy Peterson*, Danitra )Peterson) Hayes, Chastity Richmond, and Aketia Seymour. Read more>>

Markcus Sanders

Music has been apart of my life since I was born. I can remember listening to Tu PAC using a cassette player. I learned so much from my journey with music still learning, honestly probably will never stop. The music business is always evolving. So it’s very important to be able to adapt. I consider myself a independent artist. I wouldn’t mind signing if the deal was right. Read more>>

Verlin Hill

My story begins in the inner city of Kansas City where I grew up on the 1200 block of Woodland St. on the east side of Paseo. I was raised by a village of women I called Mom and Auntie, bouncing from house to house in several different housing developments which also meant attending several different schools in the area, from elementary to high school. I didn’t finish high school, I only made it to 11th grade before I ended up hustling on the streets to help take care of my family. Read more>>

Ali Hadley Rich

I’ve been a storyteller of sorts for as long as I can remember. It started back when I was a kid thanks to my camera-wielding Director/DP/Editor of a father. My dad taught me how to edit on Final Cut Pro when I was 10 or 11 and from then on I was making very “high brow” home videos. (This is a joke.) I always knew I wanted to be in the entertainment industry in some capacity but how I ended up in weddings is a long story. This was never initially a goal of mine. After high school, I actually really wanted to get a degree in acting but when I didn’t get into any of the schools I auditioned for I pivoted and applied to film school at Columbia College Chicago thinking that way I could do a little bit of everything and eventually end up in LA – which was always my long-term goal. Read more>>

Emma Hoyt-Lowrey

When I was a senior in high school, my best friend at the time needed senior photos taken last minute and we decided to borrow my grandma’s camera and run around our small hometown taking pictures. I stayed up all night going through them and editing them and then we went out the next day and did it again. I was hooked. Capturing someone’s beauty and making them see themselves the way you see them is one of the best feelings in the world. I convinced more of my friends to do shoots with me and would post them all online. Then, that summer, only two months later while working at a grocery store I had someone come in and say “I want you to take my family’s photos and I’ll pay you $50” – sold! I couldn’t believe that one. Read more>>

Kayla Civil, Ashley Deronville and Ricki Pierre Canel

Ever since we were young, we worked under our youth leader in the church we grew up in, who other than devoted her time to her multiple roles in the church, was a full-time nurse, mother to 3 children, and co-chair of a non-profit. As a service of her non-profit, she would spend money out of her own pocket to provide event decoration services to people in the Haitian community for any event you could think of, free of charge. Every event she threw, you would always find us there helping her plan and decorate, even sometimes into the wee hours of the night. We were all teenagers, but we knew how to make balloon arks and fold napkins into wine glasses the right way. For years, we tried convincing her that her talents were too good to not charge, but she was persistent with her goal of never charging anyone in her community. Read more>>

Lauren Baer

I was born and raised in KC. I went to high school at Blue Valley West. I graduated and ended up at JCCC to ultimately take care of my grandparents that were very ill at the time. I also had a really hard time deciding what I really wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to help people in some sort of way. My mom had actually suggested I go into esthetics a few years ago but I was 100% in the “My mom doesn’t know what she’s talking about stage.” I applied to the JCCC Esthetics program in the spring of 2020(right when COVID started), Got accepted, then got the email that they were going to shift us to online for the first semester. Read more>>

Danika Wolf

I have always had a passion for creating digital media. I was unsure of pursuing this passion because I thought finding the job that I wanted to be hard to come by. But I followed my intuition and got a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Multimedia Production & Journalism, and a minor in Web Communication & Design. My last semester I worked with a non-profit out of the Philippines for a semester-long project in my web design class. After a successful launch of the non-profit’s newly designed website I knew I wanted to seek a career in the nonprofit industry. I loved the feeling of having a bigger purpose in life and helping those in need. I graduated in December 2017 and moved to Kansas City to look for my first professional job. Read more>>

Re DeVine

My passion for music started at a very early age. I can’t remember a time where there wasn’t music playing in my house whether that be albums playing or my parents on instruments. I’m a military brat and a PK so I grew up singing in church but moved around a lot. Everyone in my family from my great grandparents on down either sang or played an instrument. My parents conducted music workshops all over the country so I was always at a rehearsal. Nobody knew I was paying attention to what was going on. I knew every note of every song they ever taught and that’s how I developed my ear. You would think that with all of this exposure, I would’ve been singing everywhere but I wasn’t. I had terrible stage fright all through elementary school until one day I saw a Beyoncé concert. Every time I tell this story, people laugh but it’s true! Read more>>

Nathan Sack

My name is Nathan Sack, at 38 years old I have lived in Kansas City all my life except for two years away for Bible college in Tulsa. I am a family man first, married in 2011 to my beautiful wife Maritza and together we have two children Anna and David. I have worked in retail and the service industry mostly, as a manager serving others and working to create a good job culture. People fascinate me! I like to listen to the stories of people who are on a God-inspired mission. I enjoy asking questions to learn more about the heart of what they are doing. I also like helping these people frame out what they are doing to establish a more focused effort to accomplish the mission they are on. Read more>>

Mikal Shapiro

I’ve always loved the city but I grew up in the suburbs where there was not a lot of variety. Along with Black, Latino, Indigenous and Asian families, Jewish families we’re not allowed to live in Johnson County up into the 1980’s—where racist deed restrictions still exist to this day—so my unconventional family stuck out like a sore thumb. As a teenager, I couldn’t wait to ditch the monotony and I would escape into midtown where I ended up settling in my early 20’s. In 2000, I was accepted into the Kansas City Art Institute and began studying painting, drawing and creative writing. It was at KCAI where I met my band mates in Eudora, a proggy, art rock band named after a small town in Kansas where they worked over the summers. Read more>>

Amy Hursh

I’ve been a licensed esthetician since 2009. I specialize in facials-from relaxation, teen, acne & anti-aging treatments, dermaplane, and a wide range of chemical peels, I also do brows (waxing & tinting) lash lifts, and Swedish massage. I’ve been self-employed since 2018 and I love the professional freedom it allows. Almost 2 years ago I moved to a storefront in Downtown Blue Springs. It’s been a great move for me personally and professionally! In addition to a full line of skincare products, I also retail small boutique items such as accessories, spa sets, warmies, and sometimes plants. I try to have fun seasonal gifts on hand. Read more>>

Maria Song

In 2005, I came to the USA to study and get my MBA degree. Following school, I started working in Los Angeles. I worked for an import/export company. After getting married, my husband and I started our online business mainly selling crank desks, electric desks, ergonomic chairs, children’s toys, and furniture. We moved from Los Angeles 6 years ago to Kansas City. We kept our online business until we had the opportunity to join the franchised chain Appliances 4 Less America two years ago. The chain sells a wide variety of discounted customer returned and scratch & dent appliances, mainly from major global brands such as LG and Samsung. We are dedicated to bringing our customers Quality Major Appliances from brands all over the globe. Read more>>

Rebecca Dickinson

I started my business at the end of 2015 by helping my husband, who is a Realtor, stage a stale listing. The condo I staged was sold to the first person who saw it after it was staged. I was so excited about the results, but more importantly, I had an amazing time staging it. I continued to grow my business part-time, while also working part-time as a School Psychologist at a school near my home. With mixed feelings, I resigned from my position as a School Psychologist last May so I could focus all my energy on my business. We are now offering residential interior design services as well as staging. I continue to love this work and I hope we continue to grow! Read more>>

Shay Lyriq

Initially, I started doing music while in the studio with my big cousin. But officially, I started recording my first records and freestyles at Northwest Missouri State University, where I graduated from. My first performance was at Miss Black and Gold Pageant at my school and then I started going to One Mic Stand at Awaze in Kansas City where I gained most of my traction. Read more>>

Marla Jackson

I was born to create but have always liked to make my own rules. I’m known all over for quilting but to be honest, I was kicked out of sewing classes at two different high schools. In 1968, I was sent out of tailoring class at Cooley High School in Detroit and also kicked out of sewing class at Oak Park High School, in Oak Park, Michigan. I’ve never used patterns to create story quilts, I use my imagination and inspiration from my research instead. One of my proudest moments was in 2017 I hosted the first National African American Quilt Convention with attendees from 35 different states. It was amazing to gather so many talented quilters here in Lawrence and get to exhibit all the beautiful works. Read more>>

Betty Bremser

My brother, whose nickname is Foo, started Foo’s Fabulous Frozen Custard in 1988. His wife received an incredible job offer that would take them away from Kansas City. I asked him what he was going to do and he told me, “I dunno. I guess I’ll sell the store.” I live around the corner, I’m a teacher. I figured, this will be easy; busy in the summer, not so much in the winter (famous last words), and I went to the bank and got a loan. I bought the store in 1996. Read more>>

De’Ajah Carter

My name is De’Ajah , and I’m currently 15. I started my business when I was actually 14. I started this business during quarantine out of boredom and curiosity. I started making basic strawberries and soon expanded my menu. Read more>>

Ebony Williams

My journey into the beauty world begins with my first job ever. At the age of 16, I started my first job as an associate/beauty advisor for a beauty supply store in my area called Tres Bliss. I loved it so much! Helping other people feel beautiful was my thing and I never felt more like myself! I worked there for about 5 years and over that time I learned so much about beauty and all that that means- Brands, chemicals, colors, etc. My customers trusted me, and I formed strong bonds doing what I love. In 2019, my 5th year of working for Tres Bliss I had a thought,” I can do this, I can start my own business in the beauty industry,” and I did! Read more>>

Kristian Gilmore

It started with the transition from college to real life. Switching into adulting was really tough and I missed having therapy(it was free for the college I went to). Since I needed that emotional connection again I started a podcast to help with that. “Not Hiding Sh*t: The Kristian Experience”(May 2021) became my therapy office and I could do it for free. . Since I was a novice it took so much research and overall courage to get me to where I am now-Season 3. I still can’t believe it since this was the first time ever I shared my life so publicly and it’s been received really well. I started YouTube as well so I guess I’m an influencer for someone with a sociology degree I never imagined my route would include this now. Read more>>

Ruben Castillo

I grew up in a small suburb outside of Dallas, TX and moved to Kansas City in 2008 to go to the Kansas City Art Institute. For the past 14 years, I’ve remained in the greater KC area. Because of the time I’ve spent here, I’ve built a lot of connections with the KC arts ecosystem. I’ve seen it change in many ways too (good and bad). But as a result, my time here has really shaped the type of work I engage in, as well as how I work within a larger arts community. Connection is really important to me and that’s really helped by social media. Having a platform to share my work and see the work of my contemporaries is crucial. I took an internship as a studio assistant at a young age with a North Texas artist, and that was incredibly formative in shaping my tenacity towards the arts and my career. Read more>>

Randy Walker

I grew up in Lee’s Summit with a love for sports and history. After high school, I graduated college with a business degree, and always dreamed of owning my own business. I am a huge Kansas City Royals fan and a sports fan in general. In the early 1990s, I began framing my own sports memorabilia. Through the years, I framed many items for family and friends as I worked in the corporate world. After the Royals won the World Series in 2015, I purchased more Royals memorabilia to frame. My wife asked if I had ever thought of opening a framing business. I had thought about it in the 1990s but never figured out how to start up a business and get supplies. So in the spring of 2016, I began researching online (I didn’t have this ability in the early 1990s) how to get a framing business set up. Read more>>

Trish Mitchell

My name is Trish Mitchell. I was born and raised in Kansas City. I am the mother of 3 adult sons and one adult daughter. My background is in Banking and finance, but I quickly learned that Banking was not my passion. Right around the age of 35 (after the birth of my 4th child), I started to realize that there had to be more in life. I had many passions but was not operating in any of them. So, I began to pursue the things that I was most passionate about, one at a time. I love to write, and I possess a solid command of the English language. The first book I wrote was the autobiography called “Testify”. This story was the beginning of me fulfilling my passion to change lives and have a positive impact on others. From there I started writing the children’s book series called Noah Pals. Noah pals is a series that teaches children the importance of kindness, acceptance, patience, and sharing. Read more>>

JaNiece Davis

I started my company because in 2018 My mother was diagnosed Breast Cancer Called Triple Negative which is the most aggressive type of breast cancer, only 3 months after My Grandfather had passed away from Small Cell Lung Cancer. I walked the Cancer journey with my grandmother, my grandfather, and now my mother. I watched my mom go to chemo which left her sick at times and somehow, she still managed to make it to work. I knew I had to do Something to take the burden off of her so she could rest and heal and WIN her Breast Cancer battle so I took a leap of faith and decided to do something I always dreamed of doing since I was a kid making my own lotions and perfumes, except now I was obsessed with lipgloss, that is what triggered me to start DaShay Dìor Cosmetics and it grew faster than I could’ve ever imagined. Read more>>

Kristian Madsen

As a child, I loved making people laugh and entertaining. I would watch all sorts of cartoons and sitcoms and practice doing impressions of people like Paul Lynne from the Hollywood Squares which made my father and mother laugh, then I was hooked. Read More>>

Jessie Vassie

I was born 9/20/88 in Kansas City Missouri of Raymond and Marilyn Vassie. I’ve lived in Kansas City Missouri for about 21 years. I wasn’t always your positive person coming up. I’ve been through a lot to get this little I have and in the position I’m in. Coming up in Kansas City Missouri I was raised  on the forty-three hundred block area where crime was at its most high. Even though we were in a property area my mom and dad made sure that we were taught well and well groomed to know what was going on around us so we wouldn’t fall for it even though I have been to prison I’ve been shot and also sold drugs my parents were guiding me the right way! Read More>>

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