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Community Member Spotlights

It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them the fundamental questions about who they are and how they became the person they are today. Understanding and empathy are essential building blocks for a better, more compassionate world. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to ask these questions each week through our interview series. Below you’ll find interviews from our community members and content partners – the folks who’ve been heavily involved with us, collaborating with us on content, sponsoring our mission and spreading the word about the work we do.

Caravan World Music Ensemble Grossmont Middle East Ensemble | Student and community ensemble at Grossmont College

San Diego County is home to a number of music ensembles specializing in various world-music traditions. However, none has been dedicated specifically to the study and practice of music from the Middle East and North Africa. Until now. Read more>>

Mary Gutierrez | Business Owner, Brand Strategist & Designer

Hi! My name is Mary Gutierrez, I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia and at 25 I moved overseas to be with my husband. Since then, we’ve lived in countries like Italy and Japan and traveled to many places, and had priceless experiences. We moved back to San Diego in 2014 and decided to place roots here. I worked a federal job for some time until I decided to start my own business. Entrepreneurship has always been a part of the plan for me, and I’m very happy that it came to fruition. Read more>>

Ryen Toft | Founder & Professional Organizer

Hi!! My name is Ryen Toft and I am the founder of Simply Luxe, a professional organizing team here in San Diego. We service San Diego, Orange County, a little bit in LA and Palm Springs too. I want to spread the love of organizing throughout Southern California. I hope to help people de-clutter their lives, while giving them back their time. Read more>>

Mauricio Santana | Painter

Hi, My name is Mauricio Santana a.k.a. Selloutkid40. San Diego native. I grew up in Chula Vista. Living in beautiful North Park. I paint. Read more>>

Roy Kerckhoffs | Mixed media artist

I am Roy Kerckhoffs, former scientist, now full-time 2D mixed media artist. I love bold textures as these are created by passing time, therefore putting emphasis on bygone days. In particular, I aim to show the beauty that exists in human-made wooden, concrete and steel structures contrasting with soft organic forms from nature. I draw most inspiration from industrial objects, ghost towns and coastal themes with an element of human origin in it. Human-made objects that are aging will show lots of texture and contrast; what’s more, because these objects have been around for a while, there are so many possible stories that are linked to these objects and the scenes that they exist in. Read more>>

Raven Hilden | Founder/CEO of MilVet


My name is Raven Hilden. I am the Founder/CEO of MilVet, a nonprofit that assists veterans and deployed troops worldwide. I founded the nonprofit as a way to give back to the community and those who have served. As a military veteran’s spouse, I understand the complexities that veteran families face and have an admiration and respect for those who have worn the uniform to defend our nation and ensure our freedoms. MilVet has an amazing team of volunteers and supportive network who help make our mission possible. Read more>>

Samantha Hua | Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach

Hello! I’m Samantha Hua, owner of Happy Food since 2009. As a former wildlife biologist, I traveled around the world engaging with communities abroad and studying animals. Each time I came back to the U.S., I noticed family and the general population gaining more weight and suffering from diseases. At the time, nutrition was simply an interest until I realized we have a self-compassion deficit especially with health, nutrition, and overall body image. Read more>>

Erica Salcuni | Director of Programs & Outreach at Grossmont Healthcare District

I’m a native New Yorker who has been living in San Diego for 11 years, and whether I am working or playing, storytelling is a big part of who I am. I love to travel when I can, and I’ve been all over the U.S. and to parts of Europe, Asia, and Central America. I spend a lot of time thinking about what people have in common. For example, we all need to eat. We all have a community, even if that community is online. We all have a health story too. Our ability to reach our potential has so much to do with our health. Read more>>

Julie Roland | Naval Aviator / Entertainer / Producer

I’m Julie Roland and I’m 28, a Lieutenant in the Navy, a helicopter aircraft commander, and a magician. I’m the co-creator of the Just Tryna Make Friends Show, the creator of the Firehouse Variety Show, the host of Tap Fever Studios’ Sunset Sounds, and am about to begin co-producing the Comedy House Show at the Soho House in Los Angeles. I’ve been deployed all over the world, performed magic and music on all kinds of naval vessels, and have hosted shows in SD, LA, SF, and NYC. I am currently working to help certify ships for flight operations at Afloat Training Group SD. I also recently played a French tarot card reader on a 1920s immersive experience, so I suppose I’m all over the place. Read more>>

Sulavon Bollinger | Award-winning Petite Fashion Model, VO, Gamer, & Host of OTT show Sulavon’s SheShed on WWTVN-WOTV

Hello, Everyone! I’m so happy to be here again and thank you for having me! For those who don’t know of me, I’m still an award-winning Petite Fashion Model, VO, Gamer, & Host of OTT show Sulavon’s SheShed… just a wee bit less injured than in our previous interview. I am a former digital marketer, now pursuing cybersecurity and eCommerce. Read more>>

Michelle Lundqvist | Co-owner of Skoy Enterprises

Hi my name is Michelle Lundqvist and I am one of the owners of Skoy Enterprises, LLC. My business partner is Karen Petersen. We started Skoy Enterprises in 2007 with one product, the Skoy Cloth (Swedish Dishcloth) and we have expanded our product line from there. Our focus has always been on sustainability and creating kitchen products that are superior to those currently on the market. We sell to large retailers like The Container Store, Crate N Barrel, Cost Plus World Market and Amazon and to a lot of small kitchen stores, as well. Read more>>


Paul Hunyady | Landscape Designer

My name is Paul Hunyady and I am a San Diego native, born and raised in Ocean Beach. I have been designing my entire life. After opening up and leading a very successful landscape design business, Mooch Exterior Designs, Inc. and its sister company North Park Nursery I made a quality of life, moved to Oh! Landscape Design Build and have now landed at Retro Landscape Design Build, Inc. Read more>>

James Stone | Blown Glass and Mixed Media Artist

My name is James Stone. I am a mixed media sculpture artist working primarily in hot glass and sculpted metal. My main interest is communicating the fragile nature of our environment and the impact our everyday choices have on this precious world. I also like to share my passion for art and glass making with students of all ages. Read more>>

Kyle Moss | Joyful Mindset Coach

As a Joyful Mindset Coach, my mission is to teach & encourage others to elevate their thinking in order to live just a little more joyfully every single day. As a self-proclaimed Purveyor of Joy, I get to provide vibrant mindset coaching & consulting services for ambitious women + organizations looking to live with more bold clarity, firm confidence, & daily contentment – no matter their circumstances. Read more>>

Cecille Ahrens | Psychotherapist, Entrepreneur, Host, Mental Health Advocate

Hi! I’m Cecille Ahrens and I am a passionate, silly human who loves to have fun while pursuing life goals. I love nature and I love life. I am a wife and mom and also a psychotherapist who specializes in trauma recovery. I founded Transcend Therapy, Inc. (private practice), Get Mental Podcast and recently, a mental health non-profit agency called Papillon Wellness, Inc. Read more>>

Kate Mills | Family & Child Photographer

Hi, I’m Kate! I’m a born & raised San Diego-an (bonus points if you catch the reference). I live in the Bonita area (southeast San Diego County) with my husband & two young kiddos, Grayson & Maddie. I originally went to college to be an elementary school teacher, because even though I listed “photographer” on literally all of the Myspace surveys that asked for my dream job, I never really thought normal people actually got to do stuff like that for careers. It was only after I graduated from SDSU & backpacked Europe with my (now) husband for 3 months that I realized just HOW much I loved photography & decided to follow my dreams. I finally gave myself permission to start my business in the spring of 2009, and I haven’t looked back since. Read more>>

Joe Decker | Fitness Professional & Event Director

I am a Guinness World Record Holder for Fitness and US ARMY Vet that has overcome depression and drug addiction. I enjoy sharing my story to hopefully inspire others that are dealing with life’s struggles as well. Plus, my wife and I own and operate Gut Check Fitness which is an international Outdoor Fitness and Event company that hosts workouts and events around the world with the primary goal of motivating and hopefully empowering those that we meet along the way. Gut Check Fitness has been named one of the Best, Toughest and Most Creative in the World. We’d love for you to come see why for yourself. Read more>>

Michael Dergar | Artist and Academy of Special Dreams Founder

Expressionist artist Michael Dergar creates colorful rhythmic patterns through the usage of textures and colors. Dergar connects colors, movement and textures to create the individuality of his art collectors. His artwork is a definition of feelings. His work is an interpretation of people’s energy and emotions. Dergar explains, “While I am painting, my textures, colors and designs awaken another part of me that connects me with another world where time does not exists.” After his childhood in Mazatlan, Mexico and his formative years in California, Dergar discovered his passion to help artists with disabilities by creating the Academy of Special Dreams Foundation whose mission is to bring public awareness and Recognition to artists with disabilities. He lives and works mainly in Pasadena, California Area. Dergar tries everyday to help to make a more inclusive society in the arts exclusively artist with disabilities in the world. His artwork can be seen in galleries and internationally. “I PAINT TO HELP” Says, Michael. “If I can make a difference with my talent, I will definitely use it to bring people together. Art has not borders, no nations, no language, no race. Art is universal and brings people together!” Read more>>

Meryl Klemow | Podcaster | Writer | Founder of Pre-Canceled Apparel

Meryl is the Co-Host and Co-Producer of Campfire Sht Show, a weekly comedy podcast with her podcast partner Beau Hufford, and Co-Host of Unmanageable with Chris Cantore. Meryl works at several podcast production companies such as Podfly, Podchaser, and Strike Fire in numerous roles including copy writing, talent booking, and project management. Read more>>

Savannah Simmons | Artist & Writer

Isn’t it funny how you seem to clam up every time someone asks you to introduce yourself? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that whenever I hear that question I immediately forget everything about myself and everything that I do… Anyway, my name is Savannah and I’m a young artist based out of Big Bear, California. My main mediums are writing and film photography. I write anything from short stories based on my life, to poetry, to music, to social media captions for clients. In terms of film, I love to shoot photos of anything that speaks to me, and have spent a large amount of time perfecting my own unique style of self portraits taken on 35mm film. Read more>>

HUNTRESS Florals | Floral Design Studio & Lifestyle Brand

Hello! I’m Jennifer, Owner and Chief Creative of Huntress Florals. I’m proud to have a varied background, including art, psychology, yoga, and over 20+ years of experience in the event and hospitality industry!  HUNTRESS is a Southern CA-based floral design studio. We specialize in creating gorgeous, enlightened and badass blooms for your wedding, event, or installation. We service local and destination events, and have a library of digital offerings and classes coming very soon! Read more>>

Keeley Miller | Portrait Photographer Specializing in Empowering Photoshoots for Women

Hey there, it’s great to connect again! I’m Keeley, owner of Keeley Miller Portrait and professional hype woman. I am a photographer specializing in contemporary beauty and boudoir portraiture FOR women – not just of women. Read more>>

Thais K M Brown | Creator – Artist/ Tarot Reader/Content Creator/ Photographer/ Creative Director

Hi my name is Thais my nickname is S7ven. And I am an Artistic Creator. From Creative Direction, Photography, Content Creation, to Tarot Reading, and Modeling. I dip my toe into anything artistic. Read more>>

Donna Giraud | Contemporary, Abstract Fine Artist

Eternal optimist. Ambassador of kindness. Painter of positivity. My name is Donna Giraud and I am an abstract artist specializing in large scale, textural paintings with a west coast influence. Living and practicing in North Vancouver, BC, Canada, I have been creating artwork for the last 20 years and my work can be found in private and commercial collections all over North America. Read more>>

Diana Ourthiague | Senior Vice President of Customer Success at

Hi, my name is Diana Ourthiagueand I am the Senior VP of Customer Success at I joined the company 7 years ago after completing my PhD in Biochemistry from UC San Diego. My role at is to develop and manage our day-to-day customer and supplier interactions through our marketplaces. My team helps researchers looking to outsource a research project find the right suppliers and provide top-notch customer service throughout their entire source-to-pay journey. Read more>>

Megan Brickwood | Singer-songwriter

She grew up in a small former mining town in rural northern California. Much of her identity as an artist is rooted there, but she also takes inspiration from artists of the 1960’s like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Neil Young who she grew up listening to on her parents’ stereo. After leaving home to pursue music, Megan landed in Los Angeles and became immersed in the local music scene, playing venues around town while writing, recording, and ultimately producing her music. She has played at locally renowned venues such as The Hotel Café and Genghis Cohen. Megan is influenced by folk, Americana, classical and Celtic musical styles. She writes on acoustic guitar and piano. Her EP, Where the Wind Lays Heavy, pays homage to her rural northern roots and the trials of love, heartache and the road less traveled. Read more>>

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