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Fort Lauderdale’s Rising Stars

The heart of our mission at VoyageMIA is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our city. In the recent weeks, we’ve had the privilege to connect with some of the South Florida’s finest artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and rabble rousers and we can’t begin to express how impressed we are with our city’s incredibly deep talent pool.  Check out inspiring stories from Fort Lauderdale below.

Ricardo Ariel Ortega

As a child, I always dressed up as an artist for career day at school. I never put mind into the challenges that came with making a living from art much less running a business. So at the age of 16 I got an opportunity to work as an assistant to an artist friend making murals in homes. Read more>>

Allam Lobo

I’ve always been a fan of anime, since I was in second grade back in Venezuela, every afternoon after school the tv will show around 2-3 hours of different anime series, it was very popular at the time and I was hooked since then. I wasn’t too much interested in American cartoons but anime and I asked my parents for anime figures on Christmas, and they were collectibles. Read more>>

Dorothy Krause and Carolina Garcia-Aguilera

I kill people for a living — on paper. I’ve written 32 mysteries. CHECKED OUT and THE ART OF MURDER are set in South Florida. BRAINSTORM and FIRE AND ASHES are set in Chouteau County, a mythical Midwest county similar to the richer part of St. Louis County, where I grew up. Ten years ago, I had six strokes, including a hemorrhagic stroke, and brain surgery. Read more>>

Andres Estevez

I have always loved bicycles, I think if you ask my parents, they would say I was always riding my bicycle as a kid. When I was in College, I worked part-time in a bicycle shop here in Davie FL. I really loved to be around bicycles, fixing them, assembling them and learning about the new things that came to market from the different brands. Read more>>

Dennis Haas

In 1956, a handful of Broward parents created a preschool so their children with special needs had a place to learn and thrive. 60 years later that same passion and tenacity still drive us to create possibilities for individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities and life challenges. Read more>>

Carmen Telfort

I caught the good, the bad & the ugly of real estate; I started in the real estate industry back in 2005. Originally, I joined in to help myself as a real estate investor and to help fund my music career. However, music got tucked away to the side and real estate became my prime interest. Read more>>

Frank Pontillo

Seventeen years ago, I was part owner of a Medical Imaging Sales & Service Company and I hired Johnny Bravo as a trainee. John had recently immigrated from Columbia and did not speak English so he was used primarily in our warehouse helping to refurbish Imaging Equipment. Read more>>

Chris Sosa

It all started while going to Nascar races in Homestead. When I was about 8 years old and my mom bought a film camera. I remember it was $100 so clearly because she had just gotten it from the bank, and the salesperson jokingly said it was fake. My mom would always take photos of us, 3 brothers. Read more>>

Maryuri Velazquez 

Sixteen years ago, I went to Educating Hands School of Massage in downtown Miami, in the quest of finding a hobby. I fell in love with massage therapy the on the first massage I received from my classmate, as time went by, I knew I had discovered my calling, my passion. Read more>>

Richard Becker

Cross Keys started in January 2002 when I left Wachovia’s investment banking group and formed this boutique to focus on the lower-end of the middle market here in South Florida. More and more businesses were transitioning, and the need for an investment bank was really great. Read more>>

Larry Cohen

Prior to opening this business, I owned a home improvement company. I enjoyed the business, but changes to the industry made it difficult. I always knew I wanted to get back into owning my own company and I wanted to work with seniors, but home health didn’t seem like the right fit. Read more>>

Dr. Tiffany Sizemore

My husband and I met in residency in Miami. We quickly realized that we wanted to grow a business together. Healthcare is an ever-evolving topic and required us to “think outside of the box” in regards to how we could take the best care of patients, yet still have a profitable private practice. Read more>>

Alexa Carlin

Nationally renowned motivational speaker, Alexa has dedicated her life to doing one thing: inspiring people to dream big and believe in themselves. She founded her first company while in high school where she donated a percentage of proceeds to help build schools in Africa. Since then, she has been passionate about making a difference in others lives and in the world. Read more>>

Ellen Schlafer

After multiple mergers and acquisitions in the banking industry, I decided to take my financial services and marketing knowledge and create Electrum Branding. I recruited an account service and a creative team from the industry, my current bank became my first client, and I never looked back. Read more>>

Lacie Smith

I am a Certified Personal Trainer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Growing up in sports helped prep my knowledge of the human body and how it works. I have played collegiate level volleyball, professional level volleyball and also competed as an NPC Bikini Fitness Athlete. Read more>>

Katarina Brown

I actually started my career in merchandising and buying, where I was involved with some marketing aspects. Marketing became very interesting to me, and after going back to school to get my MBA, I got involved with online marketing, which includes SEO, PPC advertising, social media, email, and content marketing. Read more>>

Dominick and Dominique Casale

I have been a jeweler since 1981 from NY who retired here with my family on 9/11. We found a puppy store we partnered with in South Beach, Miami with my daughter and partner Dominique 10 yrs ago. Read more>>

Anna Collins

I’ve been taking photographs all my life. I don’t remember when I didn’t have a camera. I always liked taking pictures because it gave me privy to other people’s lives. I get to go to the inside. There are all these parallel universes to be discovered and the camera gives me access. Read more>>

Mike Guerdon

As I began my current career path, I was leaving the hospitality industry, where I worked for Hyatt Hotels as a sous chef for 10 years or so. My father was an administrator at Nova Southeastern University (NSU), and he encouraged me to get a degree. I began undergraduate studies in Computer Information Systems (CIS) at the age of 27 without even knowing how to startup a computer. Read more>>

Jonathan Rein

Truth be told, fitness came to me later in life than most. I was always a heavy kid and didn’t discover enjoyment in the gym until college. Over the course of a couple of years, I studied how to optimize my workouts and nutrition, leading to a feature in “Men’s Fitness” Magazine in 2012. Read more>>

Natalie Bender

I married my husband who is in the U.S.C.G. and one week after our wedding, we miscarried. I had already started putting on weight due to the pregnancy, and it kept going even after our loss. Then I went into depression. I was unhappy with my body. I signed up to the gym. Read more>>

Marjorie Evans

Broward Children’s Center was incorporated in 1971 as a not-for-profit organization for children and young adults with developmental disabilities. At that time, any child with a developmental disability was institutionalized at one of three State-run facilities – one in Orlando, one in Tallahassee, and one in Miami. Read more>>

Jeffrey Sandler

I started dancing at 16 which has carried through to today. It has been a long song and dance. Trying to start a business. Read more>>

Shawndra Maine

Family Unity started out as part-time work. I previously worked for a therapeutic agency that was doing great work with children, addressing their mental health needs and providing permanency through reunification or adoption. However, I noticed that children were coming back into the foster care system within 3 to 6 months after reunification was achieved. Read more>>

Ina Marjakangas

Born in Montreal, but raised in the Caribbean, I have always had an affinity for “beach life”. I began my career in jewelry at 19, working for a Canadian designer. I loved being surrounded by beautiful things and helping people find a special piece that they could treasure for a lifetime. Read more>>

Glenn Catapano

Fetish Factory was founded by Glenn Catapano and Donna Leone, both whom succeeded in a specialized area of pharmacy in South Florida in the mid 90’s. After selling their company, they decided to leave their professions for something alternative which was more their passion. Fetish Factory opened its doors in 1995 as a small boutique catering strictly to the fetish market. Read more>>

Dongcheng Li

Dr. Li is a Florida licensed acupuncture physician. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM®). Read more>>

Robert Rowe

When I was a child, we lived on the water in New England. My father, who worked full time, built a boat in the backyard which was a lot of work and took a year. In fact, my brother Ron did much more of the work in helping our father than I did. All of my activities were around or on the ocean as a kid growing up. Read more>>

Blake Houser

I started out wearing suits for work at 23 years old. Unfortunately off the rack suits never fit me well. I was faced with buying expensive off the rack suits or buying cheap custom suits with very little craftsmanship. I wanted a handmade suit that was made of the best materials and tailoring techniques. Read more>>

Habdens Vilamar

The decision was made to create DJ Anomaly due to my prior experience with djing and passion for music. My wife, Elischeba Vilamar owner/manager thought it would be a great idea to provide business and individuals the opportunity to experience quality mixes of music which includes less talking and more focus on the individuals that are on the dance floor. Read more>>

Angela Wilson

I grew up in a small town on the Saint John River in New Brunswick, Canada. Working at sea came very naturally to me, so at the age of 19, I moved to South Florida to work in the maritime industry. I spent 5 years working onboard cruise ships as a Purser until I was offered a chance to recruit for some of the most notable cruise lines in the world. Read more>>

Michael Ott

The A-top bottle topper started by myself creating an ordinary bottle of wine with an attachment of chocolates arranged in a type of flower bouquet to give as a birthday gift. At the party, the table was filled with a variety of wines and alcohol bottles and over in the back in the middle was mine standing with the rest yet mine stood A-top of the rest and became the talk of the party. Read more>>

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