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San Diego’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.

Adrian Tapia Rivera

I got my first DSLR camera in November 2014 when I was living in Querétaro (a beautiful city in the center of Mexico) after selling cool shirts to my friends and saving enough money to buy a “fancy” camera. I learned by myself reading articles, watching tutorials and experimenting. I already had an idea of how Photoshop worked because I discovered it when I was 12 years old and started using it to make bubbly eyes and funny faces on my friends’ photos or even montages. When my photos started getting better I started with “voluntary cooperation photo shoots” where my friends would just give me as much as they could afford. I did pretty well to be honest. A year or so later I moved to Mexico City and started studying photography in a school where their branding was good and I was sold but then I realized their academic level wasn’t enough for me. My photos would always stand out when we showcased them in class because I was ahead of everyone since the first day. I was too passionate to just go home and stop thinking about photography so I’d always do my own research and experimenting. Read more>>

Dr. Jacintha “Jaz” Roemer

When I was born, the doctors discovered a heart murmur. Diagnosed a congenital heart defect., the doctors waited until I was 3 years old to do an open heart surgery with the technology of the 1980s. I was what was called a “Blue Baby”. My heart was inefficient without the septum between the right and left ventricles. This is called: Tetralogy of the Fallot. After a corrective heart surgery, I was monitored for many years. Typical children have follow up surgeries, however I was told to wait. Over 3 decades later, I have still managed to not have another surgery. Part of my health, stamina and resilience I attribute to growing up on a dairy farm in the Midwest. Despite my setbacks, and the physical limitations that could be a part of this defect. and supposed shortcomings physiologically – my parents refused to treat me differently. Let me translate: I did NOT get out of doing all the farm chores!. Read more>>

Sable Colón

My transformation journey began back in August 2016. During this time, I had completed 4 years and 6 months of active duty in the United States Marine Corps. At the time, I was desperately seeking change in my life.. I slowly stopped living in the “party scene” and began attending church services and the gym. One day, I just felt a pull from God to become a certified personal trainer. In the process of taking courses, I made a decision to also renew my mind. My mind, my choices in how I lived began to change and in time I noticed my physical (body compostion) transforming as well. Fitness is not about the physical but about your overall health and wellness. The decisions I’ve made began in my mind and heart FIRST. God had to change my mental, rebuild my character, renew my entire being and along my journey, I’ve made mistakes, overcame challenges, became resilient and stable in areas of my life I never saw coming.  Read more>>

Danielle Parker, PsyD

I knew I wanted to become a Child Psychologist when I was 16-years-old, and I started my Doctorate degree when I was 20. I have now been a licensed Child Psychologist for the past 3 years, and after providing psychological testing and therapy to children and teens through a clinic for several years, I decided to start my own private practice. With the help of friends and family, I started my practice in 2019, and in 2020, I was able to move into my own suite and am now seeing clients full-time. Read more>>

Julia Warter

Wander Hat Co launched in April of 2020 but I had been working on the launch for years prior to that. Launching during the worst time of the pandemic was not part of the plan, but it was our path nonetheless. I had always worked in commercial real estate, but my real passion was to become an entrepreneur. I saved all the money I had made working in real estate and put it towards my passion. I worked 60 hour weeks, never took a weekend off, and made my dream come true in my tiny apartment in Costa Mesa. I loved wide brim hats and wanted to create a sustainable brand that was made in the United States. It took years to find the right manufacturer, but once it was found we were off to the races and that’s when the real fun began!. Read more>>

Obed Gamino

LeonFc started in 2014 in our community playing Friday night lights or (Mexican league) like some people like to called it. I started coaching unprivileged kids in the community of San Marcos. I volunteered my time to coached kids in our community who couldn’t offered the fees from competitive clubs. After a few years coaching in my community, I was offered to coach at a program called “SDFC or San Diego Football Academy” this program gave me the opportunity to educate myself as a coach but most importantly as a human being. At that time this program was the best in San Diego for players who wanted to take their skills to the next level. In this program I met some of the best coaches and players from San Diego. Since the program was amazing and I saw how much the players were learning I decided to bring some of the kids from my community to experience something different. I traded my income to be able to bring 4 players to train at SDFC. Read more>>

Emma Gonzalez

I got into photography a little over three years ago and started shooting weddings very soon after. My now husband and boyfriend at the time, Caleb, had been a videographer and photographer for about four years already and helped me so much while I was learning. We started shooting a couple weddings together, with me as the photographer and him as the videographer. At first, I started my wedding business just as myself, but at the beginning of this year, we decided to merge our companies into Emma and Caleb Weddings. We also work for Ernie and Fiona Weddings. They have helped us grow so much in both our business and personal lives! Caleb and I got married in March, and since then we have shot about fifteen weddings together! It is so fun being able to work together. We both do our own thing as well; I am a full-time student, and he runs a marketing company. Having our wedding business together is so special because while we’re doing things on our own, we also get to build a business together. Read more>>

Alyssa and Toni Junious

We started Soultry Sisters in 2019 holding monthly workshops in North County San Diego. We created this arts and wellness collective to address the lack of representation of diverse race and socioeconomic status in the wellness industry by providing affordable and accessible events for women of color in our community. We believe that arts and wellness is a birthright and should be accessible to all. We collaborate with female entrepreneurs, women-led businesses, and community-based organizations to increase visibility of the diverse women in our community and connect women of color to these necessary wellness resources. We strive to make wellness more equitable and empower women of color to live vibrant and creative lives. Through our events, we highlight the importance of holistic health and wellness and the connection of mind, body, soul and community. In 2020, we expanded our reach and started hosting virtual workshops, events, and community conversations to continue connecting with and supporting women of color in our community and throughout cities across the U.S. Read more>>

Caylee McFarland

Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed of opening a bakery. I always told myself that I’d open one after I retired. Once the pandemic hit, I decided I didn’t want to wait until I retired to start living this dream. So I started selling baked goods on November 2020 through Instagram. As business started to grow, I expanded to pop-up markets and more online sales, quit my job in March 2021 and haven’t looked back since. Read more>>

Anisha Blodgett and Celeste Hernholm

We were friends before launching A Day Away together! Celeste created her Instagram account @seldomlystill to share her favorite spots in San Diego and support local businesses. Anisha is a small business owner of Powerhaus Wholesome Pizza & Eats in Pacific Beach. Celeste and Anisha both enjoy traveling and love planning trips. Celeste creates an itinerary for all her trips and restaurant reservations weeks in advance! Anisha loves traveling, but with running a restaurant, she doesn’t have the flexibility for long vacations. The vision behind A Day Away was inspired by Celeste and Anisha’s shared love of exceptional and memorable experiences without an elaborate or expensive vacation. We really enjoy scouting Google Maps, Instagram, and physically driving around places to find gems that are otherwise overlooked. The planning for our A Day Away trips plays to our strengths and interests, while we know many of our guests are looking for an itinerary with minimal stress and planning!. Read more>>

Mylinh Arnett

The William Male Foundation awards grants to artists in San Diego County. William Male taught high school in San Diego for over 40 years. He had a passion for the arts and knew how it important it was for our community, so when he retired from teaching, he started a foundation with the idea of supporting individual artists so they could pursue their passion. Bill passed away in October 2015, and the countless stories from students whom he inspired were so moving. He left his estate to the William Male Foundation and continues to change lives through his foundation by supporting artists and contributing to the arts community here in San Diego. Read more>>

Kaitlin Hall

I have always had a love for photography and photographs! I picked up my first dinky little camera before I was 10 years old! My friend’s and I used to set up our own photoshoots in our rooms and dress up and take photos, looking back on those images still cracks me up to this day! When asked what my dream job was my answer was to be a traveling photographer for National Geographic for as long as I can remember. I am obsessed with traveling and capturing present moments and all the feelings that come with them so that I can revisit those times again and again. I have always been passionate about helping people + serving people mixed with learning their life history + the psychology of what makes someone who they are. This is what lead me to major in Social Work in school. I got both my bachelor’s as well as master’s in social work while continuing photography as a hobby on the side!. Read more>>

Miguel Luna

What started out as a misunderstanding has now turned into a brand. It took some time navigating an unknown territory to realize we had stumbled on something truly unique. We come from a soccer background, not your traditional spirits industry background. Tequila has been in my family for many years but never even thought about turning this passion project into a business. A misunderstanding between my long-time family friend, Phil Salvagio, and myself lead to this opportunity. Due to the passion for our tequila, family ties, hard work, and winning mentality, we started to grow this project surrounded by family and now our CaliFino family. We have a big vision for CaliFino and we are just getting started. Read more>>

Karly Kenyon

I have always loved fashion and learned how to use a sewing machine when I was young however I didn’t discover my true passion for design until quarantine hit. I hadn’t used my sewing machine in a while but I broke it out to make me and my boyfriend some fabric face masks. Then friends and family asked if I could make them some and before I knew it, I had made over 1,000 masks sold nonprofit as well as to donate to healthcare workers. After I stopped making masks, I realized I loved creating with my sewing machine and wanted to continue so I shifted my focus to clothing. I have no formal fashion design education but knew with practice and the endless tutorials on YouTube that I could teach myself. Over time my skill set grew and now I make most of my own clothes, I share sewing tutorials, and I launched my sewing patterns business. Read more>>

Bree Torti

I am a born raised SoCal girl, love everything beauty, wellness , and nature .  I strive to make a positive impact inside and outside the salon. I started Hairbybreetorti salon suite two years ago after being a commission and booth renter for ten years. I wanted to create a space that represented me, a light, peaceful, safe and positive, professional vibe. I took the leap to leave a salon space environment and create my space in a Phenix salon suite, located in downtown San Diego. My salon suite is a nontoxic, clean product line, vegan, I always strive to be on top of the latest greatest trends, and products for my clients. Read more>>

Kay Kaplan

At the age of 19, I made a quick decision to pack up and move with my high school friend to San Diego, I had lived in Phoenix AZ. all of my life and had never been to San Diego before, but she had convinced me it’s what we had to do! The thought of getting away from the desert to the ocean was the great appeal and still being fairly close to my family made it an easy decision. Immediately after arriving in San Diego, I began working at a high-end retail clothing store and with in a year, I became their in-house display artist! The experience of waking up every day and creating innovative window and interior displays for seven locations in San Diego, I felt was the opportunity of a lifetime! After 5 years I started my own display business and soon had 17 different boutique stores from Coronado Island to Malibu. It was very creative and rewarding, I won some awards along the way and even a trip to England! Because it was my own hours, it fit in well with raising my young family. Read more>>

Nelli Garton

Nelli Garton, Co-founder & CEO: I am driven by the most pressing global issues of our time. Addressing them has been my lifelong mission. Along with Kelly, I have built a company from the ground up that works at the source of power to transition practices that affect people’s lives, communities and environment. To do that, we help investors invest in companies that matter. How did I get here? I started my career working with abused and neglected kids in residential treatment. That’s where I learned about all of the cracks in the systems meant to protect kids. That prompted me to go back to grad school as a pathway to contribute towards fixing those systems. In my MPA, MA and Ph.D I built the extensive skills and subject matter expertise needed to evaluate and address the greatest challenges that our planet, society and people are facing. Read more>>

Susie Parks

20 years ago, before there was a national chain on every corner, someone had a vision for a neighborhood coffee house in Santee. When we, Duane and Susie Parks, moved our family into the community, we fell in love with the idea and bought the shop, fulfilling a life-long dream for both of us. We learned the business as a family which has been a valuable experience for our three children, two of whom are in the coffee business today 12 years later. Our oldest son, Micah brings his business degree and savvy to help manage our business. Coffee Corner offers a convenient drive-thru on Mast Blvd on your way to the 52 freeway. And has expanded to include a second location in the heart of the city, a roasting division, and strong community involvement. So many hands have shaped who we are today and we wouldn’t have it any other way!. Read more>>

Lisa Lindgren

I became the executive director for HandsOn San Diego in January 2021. I hadn’t been looking for this job, but I think I was always destined to do it. Volunteering and supporting the community have always been important parts of my life. When once answering the question, “What would you do for a living if you could do anything?” I answered, “I would volunteer for a living.” And when I first moved to San Diego in the 1990s, I proclaimed that I “wanted to volunteer and make a difference to my newly adopted community.” For many years I volunteered with projects representing my local Soroptimist International club. I’m known widely for my active participation in the fight against human trafficking. I did that on the side while working professionally as an independent consultant in business and high-tech. I think that background gives me a unique perspective in my work with HandsOn San Diego, combining my business and technology background with my commitment for volunteering. Read more>>

Darlene Cardenas

My story began when I became the owner of Genesee florist and Events in 2015. Genesee Florist is actually one of the oldest flower shops in San Diego, and has been in business for over 70 years! I was happy to learn that only women have owned Genesee Florist in the past and it makes this shop feel much more special that this legacy still continues today. I have always been passionate about design, florals and botanicals. After pursuing different careers in college, I knew one thing for certain, a corporate job was not for me. I always dreamed of a job that would grant me the freedom to express my creative talents and artistic skills. Becoming and a floral designer was the best decision I ever made. At a young age I loved being outdoors and surrounded by nature. I enjoyed helping my mom decorate and care for her plants and flowers in our garden. My mom is a true plant lady! She loves talking to her plants and even gives them names. She was my main supporter when taking over Genesee Florist and she is the reason why I decided to pursue my career in interior design. I am now one year and a half away from graduating at Design Institute of San Diego and I love applying my learning experience with what I do for living. Read more>>

Cindy Tsai M.D.

I was a shy introvert with good girl syndrome. Ever since I was a little girl, I thought I had to be perfect and do all the right things in order to be liked and accepted. I followed in my dad’s footsteps to become a doctor to help people feel better. I worked really hard attending top schools (Johns Hopkins and Dartmouth) to become the best physician I could be. After jumping through all the hoops and completing years of medical training, I was so relieved to finally start working as a “real” doctor. I thought I could finally relax and enjoy my life. Life looked good on paper. I checked all the boxes… But something didn’t feel right. I wanted to help people be healthy and well, not just take medication as a bandaid for the rest of their lives. I felt stuck and didn’t know what else I could do. I tried therapy and other things. Still stuck. And then I started working with a life coach and things shifted completely. I learned tools and skills to manage my stress and overwhelm. I gained confidence to explore other options and speak up for myself. I discovered that I could help people in many other ways. My worth as a human comes not from being a physician in a white coat but from how I felt about myself. This was the best news! And I knew I had to become a life coach to empower other women so they can feel better and enjoy their lives with ease and joy. Read more>>

Ari Raz

Ari Raz here, I’m the founder and President of Naturally San Diego. I’ve been in food and beverage CPG for the past 7 years, as the co-founder and President of Kids Nutrition Brand “Once Upon a Farm” (based in Berkley CA) through July of this year, and more recently, as the CEO of Coconut Yogurt Manufacturer “The Coconut Cult” (Based In San Luis Obispo, CA). Naturally San Diego is an affiliate chapter of a larger organization called “The Naturally Network” which originated in Boulder, Colorado, and was the brainchild of the founders of Naturally Boulder, the original and largest networking group for the natural products industry, founded over 16 years ago. When Naturally Boulder decided to create a National network of affiliates, I was fortunate enough to speak with them about it over 2 years ago at an event I happened to be attending in Boulder. When I was at this event, I saw how Naturally Boulder was able to marshal resources and bring together resources from the city, the University of Colorado and more all to support the growth and diversity of companies and people working in the Natural Products industry and I was inspired. Read more>>


Jeuse Kastoan

I started off making music in middle school in Cypress, Tx. I continued to make music and release my first album in 2005 in high school during the myspace days. This is when I started not only writing but producing music. I continued to make music while I was in college. While in Texas I stopped making music and decided I needed a chance to better my situation. At that point, I joined the Navy and was there for four years. After dealing with my mental health and depression I was no longer able to serve. While in the navy I was stationed in San Diego in 2018 and decided I wanted to make music again. I released my first album Dodo May 10, 2019 and followed that with a music video to my song Drunk Textin. In 2020 I moved back to Texas and started working on my next album Dodo II: Say Less. After completing the album, I just didn’t feel like I belonged in Houston anymore and needed a change. That’s when I decided to move back to San Diego. Read more>>

Ella Gold

I grew up in San Diego and left when I was 18 for Pitzer college in East Los Angeles. At 21, I ended up moving to Austin, TX to pursue holistic healing interests. While I was working in vegan, health-conscious spaces, I began to recognize a curiosity and love for folk herbalism. I enrolled in a 200-hour certification program for botany, western herbalism and medicine-making– essentially learning about each plant from root to bottle. My love for medicine-making flourished and the first sprouts of Rooted Roze began with making herbal-infused medicinal mushroom syrups such as Turkey Tail Elderberry Syrup. Over the next few years I lived a more nomadic life and continued my herbal studies, sharing bottles of herbal flower syrups and tincture extracts I made whenever I could. In January of 2020 I began my Doctorate of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture here at Pacific College of Health and Science. Moving back home to San Diego reconnected me with my high school best friend, Ana Nicole, who is also enrolled in the doctoral program! Ana and I both grew up in the Jewish community where ancestral traditions of community (and food!) were at the foreground of our lives. Read more>>

Melanie Granfors

When I moved to San Diego from the Seattle area five years ago, I called it my “rewirement”. Not retirement. I always dreamed of blending my passion for dogs, and my love of vintage, decor, plants and gardening. I wanted a business where I could devote 100% of my profits to local dog rescues. Dog Devoted, was the perfect name for it. And it laid out my mission — all with those two words. I am Dog Devoted. Supporting causes devoted to dogs. It has taken over three years to really get going. I started selling succulents in vintage pots at San Diego Vintage Flea Market in North Park. I knew I wanted to have a “shop”, and to add boho/vintage garden & patio decor. When Seahive Station opened in June, my heart was set on getting space there. Read more>>

Tracy Owens

I am a retired Navy Veteran and the Programs Manager for Support the Enlisted Project (STEP). I would like to tell you a little bit about my naval career so you will see why I am so passionate about our mission a STEP. I grew up here in Southern California and shortly after high school I enlisted in the US Navy. I proudly served the United States Navy for 30 years, I have deployed on ships around the world in support of Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism. I had the opportunity to serve in many navy communities, submarine, surface, expeditionary, aviation, Seabee, and EOD. I am so proud to have served our great nation! Back in the late 80’s, I went to see a recruiter I expressed to him that I would like to be a Hospital Corpsman, but he explained that the wait was 18 months to get into school, he suggested that I go in undesignated and could later go to corpsman school. Read more>>

Pedro Sun

I’m Pedro and appreciate your time looking into small businesses to support! Hats off to Mayank and Sid for a great platform and thanks for including me in your project and am honored to be sharing my story with you all. Blessed to be here as my parents escaped a genocide known as the “killing fields”, I wasn’t born yet as my parents immigrated to California where I was born. Looking back at my childhood I grew up in poverty but as a child, I really didn’t know how poor I was. I’d say it was a valuable lesson to appreciate what I have and the opportunity this country has given me thus far. My interest in health and wellness started in college where I studied nutrition science wanting to become a Registered Dietitian and specializes in sports nutrition. Who doesn’t love eating delicious and nutritious food? Loving sport, I also wanted to become a personal trainer as I believe food and movement are two amazing subjects to learn about and create a life around helping others understand the benefits of both. Read more>>

Luke Hamel

I’ve been in the HVAC business for almost 25 years, learned the trade from my father, and worked for his refrigeration company. I’m our 3rd generation in San Diego as my father picked up the HVAC business from his father. Our family history in HVAC dates back to 1965 that I can confirm and likely even a few years before. I have started bringing our kids (6) into the business and employ our oldest full-time now, making us a 4th generation business. Family is significant to us, as you can tell by how many children have, a few of which are also adopted. For this reason, we have built our business around helping other families get quality HVAC they can rely upon. Installations and repairs that are done right as we don’t cut corners. In 2021, the San Diego Union-Tribune recognized us as one of San Diego’s Favorite HVAC companies. We’re incredibly proud our small business has been recognized for our quality of service. Read more>>

Lauren Reed

In high school, I began questioning my place in the universe and how much culture has had an effect on how I make decisions on an individual level and how society makes decisions on a larger level. As I matured, these questions translated to even more questions. And the meditation on these existential questions seemed to be in art which ultimately led to my intense interest in art. I became obsessed and exposed myself to anything that intensified my interests. Read more>>

Breanne Sickinger

I graduated from the Hospitality and Tourism Management school at SDSU with a Bachelor of Science Degree and an emphasis in Meetings and Events Management. From there I went on to work in all facets of the industry, including, restaurants, hotels, non-profit organizations and production companies doing large scale events. I’d always dreamt of having my own event planning business and when I became pregnant with my first daughter, it gave me the courage I needed to make that leap. It was important to me to be able to be present as a mother but also continue doing what I loved so much with as much flexibility as I needed in order to achieve my goals. Read more>>

Adrienne Valencia

I started my career as a piano teacher and taught general music to young children and their parents. Over time, I felt the desire to pursue something bigger and bolder within the realm of music education and I obtained a position in the education department of my local orchestra. Being a part of a dynamic organization was such an exciting environment to be in. Over the course of 20 years, I worked for four orchestras across the country creating programs that introduced people of all ages to the power and beauty of symphonic music. In 2017, I joined the staff of Arts Education Connection San Diego (formerly known as Arts for Learning San Diego) as Programs Director and on March 1, 2020, I stepped into the role of Executive Director. The last 18 months have been challenging, but I’m so proud of where we are right now. We have come such a long way in a short amount of time. We have a small but mighty staff, a dynamic and engaged board of directors, and a talented and dedicated roster of Teaching Artists. Read more>>

Ashley Martinez

My story begins at the California State University, Sacramento, where I made a decision that changed the trajectory of my life in a way that I could never have imagined. My original major in college was Kinesiology. I’ve always been an active person and at the time, I was competing in powerlifting competitions and practically lived in the gym. I had this idea that if I majored in exercise science, I would be able to work out all day while simultaneously working towards a college degree. Pretty brilliant I thought, but after a few semesters, I realized that becoming an athletic/physical trainer or physical science teacher was not my calling. I’ve always had a passion for politics, so one day after class I went home and switched my major to Government. Read more>>

Dr Fatma Deif

My journey to Aesthetic Medicine started in my late 20s. At the time, I was in residency when I developed severe cystic acne, happening almost overnight. Acne at any age is traumatizing but nobody expects adult acne. I tried countless creams both over the counter and prescription, in addition to antibiotics, facials, etc. before finally coming across the right tools that helped me. Obtaining clean, clear, healthy skin quickly became a passion. For a long time I felt that acne had been a curse but now when I look back, it shaped my future and led me down a completely different career path that I love. Read more>>

Emerald Gordon Wulf

I was a six year old gymnast when I saw my first circus show. It was a traveling circus and the star of the show was a contortionist, although at that time I didn’t have a word for what she did. I just thought she was a flexible gymnast. For the first time, I saw someone with a body that could bend even more than mine. Up to that point, every day was a struggle. I loved gymnastics, but no matter how much I trained, or how hard I worked, the things that came easy to everyone else, were impossible for me. I could not hold a straight handstand, and my coaches and teammates didn’t understand why. They said I was weak, and I thought that must be true. I went home from that circus show and attempted some of the poses I had seen her do. I shocked myself and my parents by being able to do many of them. My mother is a photographer, so for fun one day we did a little photoshoot with some of my flexible poses. My mother shared them on her instagram and the photos went viral. Together, we started looking for flexible yogis to learn from online. Read more>>

Sky Orozco

I’m 23 years young . Born and raised in Sunny San Diego. Currently living in Imperial Beach with my husband Brandon and our fur baby Hudson. Baking has always been a part of my life since I can remember. Growing up, all I would watch on tv was The Food Network. The baking channel ALWAYS caught my attention. Buddy Valastro in particular. I even went to visit his bakery in New Jersey. It all started 3 years ago when my husband brought to my attention that I should start selling my pastries. I took that idea and ran with it. That night I posted on my Instagram “Who would buy my cookies if I started selling them?” The amount of support I got just from that one post was incredible! I sold over 300 cookies my first round. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude! Ive been motivated and consistent since I’ve started my business. I couldn’t have done all of this without the help and support of my husband🤍To get to where I am today has taken constant work every single day. I am now selling at the Otay ranch Farmers Market every Tuesday. That has always been a dream of mine. And the fact that I’m selling out almost every time, I feel so blessed. It wasn’t easy though. Read more>>

Levi Hilton

I started my apprenticeship in August of 2007 in Shreveport, Louisiana. I was from a very small town filled with small-minded people, myself included. I had no idea what tattooing could be when I sought out my apprenticeship. I thought tattoos were just crosses, flags, and nautical stars. But once I actually started my apprenticeship and going through magazines, I started to realize how much you could do with tattooing and how large the subculture was. I think I had been tattooing for 9 months when I went to my first tattoo convention and was just completely blown away. All these artists whose work I’d seen in magazines were there and I got to see what good tattoos looked like in person. It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget. It really set me on the path of what I wanted my tattoos to look like. Read more>>

Kyra Ellis-Cairns

Shortly after giving birth to my son in late 2015, I decided to quit my full-time corporate job in wireless communications to focus on my freelance makeup career and enroll in beauty school to further my relevancy in the beauty industry. I graduated Master’s Esthetics Program at Bellus Academy in July of 2017 and opened my own Sola Salon suite in March of 2018. Up until the pandemic, I specialized primarily in lash extension services along with sugaring and makeup. I enrolled back at Bellus Academy to gain dual licensure as a Nail Technician however, the very week I was set to start the Spa Nail program at Bellus Academy, studies were put on pause during the state-mandated lockdown. From that point, I was self-taught in nails until I was able to return back to school late August all while maintaining my lash business throughout. Though the curriculum did not change, the style of learning did. All theory was done online and the practical, hands-on was set for designated days. Though it was a learning curve, I am now dual-licensed in Esthetics and Manicuring. My sole focus of my business is now nail art and lash extension artistry. I have been with Sola Salons for over 3 years now. Read more>>


Corinna Goold

Mainstay Academics has 3 founders and each of us has come to education, academics, and business from our own unique experiences and history. Jessica Lemoine has always been teaching in one form or another. She has spent a little over two decades educating students in mathematics and especially loves helping those who don’t believe they can succeed in math to do just that. She has taught in premier schools on both coasts and has served many families, encouraging students helping them to success. The husband and wife team of Billy and Corinna Goold have raised and educated three kids while Billy served in the US Navy. Between regular moves throughout the country and the challenges of learning differences, including ADHD and ASD, flexibility in education was the name of the game. While Corinna was constantly adjusting and finding ways to help her kids get the most out of their academics, Billy was leading by example and earning multiple degrees. Read more>>

Sean Harris

I grew up in Las Vegas. As you can expect, it was a crazy place to come of age! I grew up not really knowing what craft beer was. Everything there was about craft cocktails. After I moved to San Diego, I quickly started to appreciate good craft beer. Unfortunately, my girlfriend at the time had Celiac Disease so she could not get into the craft beverage scene. She was stuck drinking the incredibly sugary, mass-produced ciders that were flooding the market at that time. She hated the sugar-rush and the headache that accompanied it. She couldn’t drink more than one or two. I have a background in science so I decided to be the world’s best boyfriend and make her a flavorful cider that was low in sugar! I started making these ciders in our tiny house in Pacific Beach. As I got progressively better at cider-making, I started wondering if people would enjoy having a low sugar cider alternative. There were hundreds of breweries in San Diego, but no cideries. I decided to quick my job and start making cider full-time. Read more>>

Molly Rossettie

I’m Molly Rossettie, the owner of Hi Sweetheart. I’m an Orange County native who relocated back to the land of sun & palm trees after living on the East Coast for 7 years. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in Art History and English, I packed my bags & moved to the Big Apple, New York City, where I worked at The American Federation of Art in youth art education & later at FXFowle, a green architecture firm, in marketing & public relations. In 2009, I moved about 100 miles south to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, with my husband, John, who was in medical school at Drexel University. Here’s where the story gets interesting. After a fruitless job search and with some time on my hands to pursue my creative outlet of making collage greeting cards, the light bulb went on. I could turn my creative outlet, my entrepreneurial spirit & love of gift-giving into a small business!. Read more>>

Annette Villalobos

I was raised and educated in San Diego, including being graduated from USD with a concentration in International Business. My professional career truly started when I was a young girl, helping my dad to manage apartment rentals in Chula Vista. I literally started from the ground up. I painted. I cleaned. I managed tenant relationships. I learned about leases. You name it– I did it. For many years, after college, I created and owned several successful retail businesses in San Diego and throughout Mexico. I also worked with my father again in his import/export business and honed my skills in not only customer service but in working with clients, customers and vendors from around the world. I returned to my real estate routes after earning a certificate in paralegal services with an emphasis in real estate and business. And, thus began my second career (maybe third) in real estate – representing buyers and sellers throughout the county. Read more>>

Shayne Bradley

The group started back in June of 2021. I started attending car meets with friends. After attending some. I decided that I wanted to start a group. Initially, it started out as an Electric Car Group. However, shortly after, we decided to change the group’s focus. Anyone is welcome into the group regardless of what they drive. Even if they don’t drive a vehicle. We only ask that our members keep drama away from our group. Electric Ecstasy is a car group. But it’s also more than that. It’s a social group. We host/co-host meets, We have social events with the group such as restaurant nights, bowling nights etc.. We do Car Cruises, house parties and anything else in between. Electric Ecstasy is about bringing people together. Creating new relationships that will last a lifetime and being a place of opportunity for those who seek it. Read more>>

Malinda Dalton-Cook

March 13, 2020, as the world entered the beginning stages of quarantines and shutdowns, my daughter’s school closed. All we knew is what we didn’t know. “Distance learning” was a new phrase that I, as a parent of a daughter with special needs, had no idea the real meaning of or what its impact would be on our family. There was no guidebook on how we or our children would navigate this new phase of social isolation, remote and reduced learning options, and a community filled with uncertainty and fear. Paige’s special needs school, which had been amazing and to where she loved going in-person, was suddenly no longer something she and I could depend on weekly. Despite how great her school was, Paige had academic goals on her IEP (individualized education plan) that were not really conducive to learning or doing through virtual meetings. Paige also had numerous community goals and life skills goals because she thrives in the community, but community learning came to a quick halt as well. Read more>>

Sheyda Lale

For as long as I remember, I have loved playing with flowers and event decor. Funny story, when I was finishing high school I had no idea what I wanted to study. I took a career test and a “florist” was on top of the career list, followed by interior design. I did attend a design program briefly but pivoted to business school instead. I ended up getting my dual Bachelors of Science degree in Business Management and Marketing. Working in marketing fulfilled that creative itch for more than 18 years. In all honestly, I feel like it prepared me for what was to come next. All throughout the years though, I continued designing all my own personal events with fresh flowers and making stuff out of nothing. After I had my first daughter, I couldn’t imagine going back to my corporate job. I wanted to start something on my own. This was 2015 and succulents were getting a ton of traction in the marketplace. I started exploring, designing, volunteering, watching webinars to learn all I could learn about succulents and floral design. Read more>>

Rudi Fate

“It’s the first thing you saw of me, literally. When I entered this world of possibilities, who knew it’d be the very thing that defined me. The irony, really. Barrettes, braids, Blue Magic, double-sided combs and afro piks. Thank God for my mum’s friend whose melanin was closer to my skin, ’cause Jo-Anne didn’t have a clue what to do with her little mulatto baby she called Ru” (from “Curls” on Alchemy). I was born in Kings Lynn, England on a Tuesday to an English mum and a military dad from Georgia. My dad always calls me the glue. He says I brought two families together, and now we are a blend of cultures, colors and dreams. I’m so blessed to have spent most of my years traveling around the world, being the new kid & experiencing just how different everyone is yet how similar at the same time. There are 4 of us kids total. Both of my parents had children previous to their union. I have a black brother. I have a white brother. And well, me and my younger sister are the mutts of the family. Read more>>

Susan Meissner

I grew up in San Diego, went to college here, got married here and discovered my love for writing here but I didn’t do anything professionally with it until my 30s. For a long time, I’d thought of my writing as just a hobby, a happy past time; I didn’t think I had the pluck or determination to pursue writing as a career. But it was an itch that had to be scratched. On an impulse and without a journalism degree, I was offered and took a job at a small-town weekly newspaper working as a part-time reporter. And because I was finally doing what I was gifted to do – write – I learned very fast. Within five years I was named managing editor of a sister newspaper in a neighboring town. This gave me the courage to finally try my hand at writing fiction after putting in off for years. I’m so glad I did, as I soon found out it was my lane all along. I have never looked back and am now at work on my twenty-second novel. Read more>>

Luca Zamboni

Ever since I was a kid I always loved eating food (don’t we all?!) but most importantly making food with my mother with many kinds of delicious ingredients that we would grow on our little farm back in Italy. I started working in a very popular pizza place in Rome called Bonci and learned all the secrets from the legendary Gabriele Bonci. Ever since I started making pizza I knew in my heart that one day I would open my own place. I moved to San Diego with my wife in 2016 and got a job as a pizzaiolo at Buona Forchetta. Here I met Giovanni who was in charge of making the gelato for the restaurants and after a few short years, we decided along with Buona Forchetta owner Matteo Cattaneo it was time to join all of our unique talents in one place. And that is how Gelati & Peccati was born. Read more>>


Timothy Bailey

An amazing uncle had type 1 diabetes. He lived a full life that was shortened by complications of diabetes, which included blindness and kidney failure. As a teen, it seemed like there must be a way to avoid the severe effects of type 1 diabetes. After completing medical school and training in Internal Medicine, I had the opportunity to pursue further a 3-year Endocrinology fellowship, mentored and encouraged to pursue diabetes research by the eminent clinician scientist, Dr. Harold Lebovitz, MD. After living my entire young life in New York City, opportunity called from San Diego. I joined the practice founded by Dr. Chandrasekhar Varma, MD in Escondido. We spent 31 wonderful years together until his retirement this year. Medicine had made great progress in the treatment of diabetes since my uncle’s death, but there were so many opportunities to do better. Initially, Dr. Varma and I conducted research as an important part of our clinical practice. Our patients have always had the opportunity to participate in clinical trials, where they can help to bring needed new treatments to the market. Read more>>

Danny Hall

Idea: Dr. Hall recognized in dental school that, while in the pediatric clinic, he was seeing child after child who not only received dental treatment but bounced out of the chair with an increased “pep in their step.” Watching kids succeed was uniquely fulfilling for him. Vision: After dental school, Dr. Hall built a highly varied clinical foundation, providing care for numerous pediatric populations in different settings. A consistent theme emerged as Dr. Hall consistently cultivated confidence within children. Excitement grew as the plan to build a practice of his own developed. Reality: Sunray Pediatric Dentistry in Torrey Highlands of San Diego now stands as “the place” where children can overcome obstacles, successfully accomplish treatment, and cultivate confidence. The team is like-minded in their mission to be a ray of light in the community, spark enthusiasm for oral health, and facilitate success for kids. Read more>>

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