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Jacksonville’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.

Julia Godwin

I grew up constantly having my mom take photos of literally every event in our lives. Even now she always has her phone out snapping pics. I never thought that would have an impact on my life until now. I remember at a young age I would bring disposable cameras with me to class trips and loved seeing the photos after they were developed. It was so cool to capture a fleeting moment in time, and have the memories reemerge seeing the photos again. Years later I attended FAU and decided to pick up a minor in photography, just for fun. And went on to work for a portrait photographer in South Florida. Read more>>

Michael Rakim

My early appreciation for photography was influenced by my Grandfather James Wesley Williams and his vast collection of family/friend portraits. Learning him and his community through photographs gave me a sense of story-telling that I innately would use later on in life to voice my take on life. Even in my earliest years carrying a camera with me almost everywhere, I always found my subject to be the people around me as I was drawn to their quirks and tendencies that made them unique to me. Fast forward present day, I’ve honed that sixth sense into the niches that surround my subjects in their respective fields, arts, and businesses as a Lifestyle photographer which I value greatly. Read more>>

Melissa Lampugnano

I started my business nine years ago and it came from the idea of hosting one of the first craft vendor shows at the Renaissance resort in the world golf village. Nine years ago there was limited options for people that lived in this area to attend or vend at events other than having to go to downtown Jacksonville or downtown Saint Augustine. At that time I had my own small business making diaper cakes for baby showers and I was looking for a venue to promote my business. After the very first craft a vendor show I hosted, I decided to continue hosting them and over the years that has grown from to a year to now 10 to 15 other type community events over the year. Read more>>

Natasha Brooks

Let me see where to start. I’m trying to figure out how to be briefly tell the readers that I was molested as child, became a teen mother, lived in foster care, survived domestic violence, and overcame poverty! You see my life was everything but a happily ever after in the beginning. I became a teen mother at fifteen years old. This made the journey of my life harder, but I didn’t give up. To show you that I’m not a quitter, I had another child at sixteen, and a third at seventeen. By the time I was nineteen, I’ve already had four of my six children. Read more>>

Trisha Padilla

Since a child I was always into the arts, whether it was drawing, singing or dancing. I was studious in school and simultaneously participating in any activity that allowed me to express my artistry, joining guitar club, singing in a few school shows, and showcasing my art projects throughout campus. As a Filipina American having a career in the medical field was considered successful. My family tried to engrain that arts was just a hobby and not a sustainable career path. Shortly after graduating high school I was attending college to get into the nursing program while working a part time sales job. Read more>>


My name is Dr. Pauline Rivers and I am the founder and president of Building Strong Families, Inc. I am committed to helping people (individuals, teams, and families) be great at what they do! I believe that every family, just like every individual, has the potential for greatness. I believe every family has the potential to be a strong, supportive, cohesive unit. Sometimes what they need is simply the information, the resources, the strategies, and the encouragement. And so, in 2014, Building Strong Families, Inc., was launched with the vision of “strengthening families to help them be great.” Read more>>

Emma Cooksey

I fell asleep at the wheel on the Buckman Bridge. I was 30 years old and had my baby in the backseat. That was the incident that finally prompted me to have a sleep study to confirm a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. I had been to numerous doctors over more than 10 years of having all the symptoms of sleep apnea and was always told thin women didn’t have OSA. We normally see obstructive sleep apnea in older, overweight men they told me. It turns out anyone can have sleep apnea and the more I read about the condition, the more I questioned why awareness was so low about sleep apnea but also sleep disorders in general. Read more>>

Sophie Dare Dentiste

Formally trained at Wake Forest, and then a BFA from the UGA, I was taught hands-on creation of typography and design. After eloping in Jacksonville Fla to a navy man, I balanced life as a special needs parent while creating a business as a muralist in Ponte Vedra Beach – a prolific experience of capturing exotic gardens, foliage and wildlife aesthetics to transform a home with hand-painted art. This began my love of fast-drying acrylics and layering old world textures. After a traumatic loss in 2002, of our oldest son (8), Joshua, to a rare heart disease, my art was a necessary outlet to remind me of God’s love, even in our darkest spaces. Read more>>

Terrie Beasley

If I could ask my younger self what are some of the things you can see yourself doing in the future? I would say something that involved helping and protecting people. I think that’s where my life choice became clear of what career paths I would choose when I became an adult. I wanted to help protect people in any way I could, letting them know that I was there to help. When I was younger someone, that’s no longer apart of my life, told me I would never be nothing or I’d never amount to anything and that stuck with me. So when I became an adult I strived to accomplish everything I could. Read more>>

Whitney Johnson

I have always been obsessed with all things beauty related, but at some point growing up hair became the recurring focal point where I considered a career. But like most people after graduating high school I went off to college to secure a career path that would be considered “recession proof,” once I graduated. While in college at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida I found myself also considering cosmetology school aside from obtaining my Bachelors Degree but the timing never aligned. However once I graduated and landed a corporate career in healthcare the opportunity finally presented itself. Read more>>

Cherron Johnson

The concept of the food park started initially with the planned venture of a snoball food truck. This was due to the many childhood summers spent in Mississippi with my grandparents and the nightly trips to the snoball stands. I thought on the concept for over a year before we ended up with a 25ft Trolley now known as NOLA’s Snoballs Sweets & Savory Eats . We added food along with Snoballs to the menu and began servingthe communityin 2021. Main Street Food Park followed shortly after the trolley. My husband and business partner Hector Zayas lived in the community of Springfield before we married in 2019. Read more>>

Breyonna Bryant

My name is Breyonna Bryant, I am currently a 4th year broadcast journalism major at Florida A&M University. I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. I started my podcast, YTDTV, back in the summer of 2020. The very first episode was uploaded on September 26th. The idea came to me very briefly at first, it wasn’t until a few episodes later and learning how to balance school, work, and the podcast all at once that I began to take it more serious. I would describe this as a learning experience, I learn something new everyday about Journalism and the interest for a field like this. Read more>>

Keisha Hickson

I started my entrepreneurship journey in 2017 shortly after I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Facing a life expectancy of 3-5 years thought to myself what would be my legacy. I decided to open shining star kids salon a natural hair braiding salon just for children. The roads entrepreneurship is never a smooth road. Making a decision to join the beauty industry after 25 years in the financial private sector was an adjustment. Even with a solid business plan the is always things that happen unexpectedly. Read more>>

Beth Jones

Go Cozy was started by myself, Beth Jones shortly after I graduated from college. I started Go Cozy as a means to express my passions in life (being comfy cozy always/clothing/art/home decor) all in one place. To be able to share my ideas and products and also have them validated through sales and support is everything to me. Connecting with my brand’s market (mainly women aged 18-35) is also extremely rewarding and makes my career into an everyday fun adventure. Read more>>

Meagan Gaines

I’ve always loved creating and found different outlets for that along the way. I had always wanted to try my hand at photography, but I didn’t have money for a nice camera. I was a teacher at a very small private school at the time and didn’t make much. However, when my husband and I got married six years ago, a dear friend gifted us a camera, and we immediately started watching videos, practicing, and researching to learn this new craft. Two years later, I was able to quit my teaching job, and then the year after that, my husband quit his teaching job. Read more>>

Sarah Wheatcroft

My story begins in high school when I became bulimic. However, the severity began around summer 2005. My mental health was at an all time low. I remember seeking a psychiatrist SPECIFICALLY for medicine to numb my unhappiness. I can actually see myself sitting in her room looking out the window of her Charlottesville Virginia office. I struggled with Bulemia, and had resorted to a level of cutting myself. Bringing pain to my body was my way of dealing with being rejected in relationships. I’d had 1 very serious one in high school that I ended because of pressures from friends. Read more>>

Tara Johnson

Having always had an interest in vintage fashion and decor, I loved the pin-up style of the 1950s and 1960s. I never had the confidence to pull the look off, but as I got older and wiser, I decided it was time to jump into it fully. I began shopping for vintage reproduction dresses and accessories, and having a stylist as a mom, she was well versed in the hairstyles of the time. I started modeling in 2014 and have had many great adventures and met some amazing people along the way. Jacksonville has a great pinup community and I have been part of several local and national pinup groups. Read more>>

Molly Coyne Fedyna

I grew my first flowers from seed to help cope with my mother being diagnosed with a terminal cancer. I used that first patch of marigolds to help me decompress at the end of each day while I was balancing being a caretaker and care coordinator, as well as a professional dance instructor and middle school teacher. No matter how hard the day was, how rough the appointment, or how exhausted I was, I found a lot of peace sitting and caring for the flowers. When my partner proposed we discussed DIY-ing elements of our wedding; I’d always loved flowers but didn’t know a lot about design. Read more>>

Trish Tipton

My Pottery making story started in New Zealand and taking some pottery classes,I soon realized this was to be a long process. I was newly married and pregnant with my first child and decided wheel throwing would have to wait. I became an avid collector and appreciated the time and effort that was required to become a proficient potter. After having two boys and spending 10 years in California school food service and enjoying the art of cooking and after making one form of art or another including stained glass it was time to move on. Read more>>

Megan Borden

Blue Ember came to be when three friends came together with the love of fashion and business. We noticed that there was not a lot of boutiques or stores that had what we were looking to buy. Which is fashion choices that are meant for the person who is always on the go. We want to be able to leave our corporate job change one item in our outfit and be ready for happy hour with out looking like with just left our 9-5. We also are wanting to create a store with affordable products and dependable products that won’t break the bank. Read more>>

Nino Zayy

Ive been rapping since I was 7 but decided to take it serous in 2020. my entire family makes music; Mother was a singer, sister does poetry and sings, brother raps and sings. I never wanted to be a rapper I just could rap well and always free styling. I’m from the west side of jacksonville, I’ve seen a lot and that’s what I speak about. I add my own twist and personality to each song and people are drawn to it so why stop now. has life been a smooth road? NO. not in the slightest. The same goes for music. its expensive, draining, and often hard to really step into that creative space and repetitively think of new songs and content. Read more>>

Nakia Jefferson

I always loved to dance but I didn’t know that I REALLY LOVED dance until January 2022. As a dancer since the age of 4, now 24, I can officially say that I really love dance so much that I created an opportunity for myself to do it every day! Although I’ve been dancing all my life, the dance teacher in me was developed the summer before my freshman year of highschool. I was attending Expressions Dance of Jacksonville summer camp on Main St and now old enough to be a camp counselor, I was given small roles to assist in teaching and choreographing dances. Read more>>

Jaime Hansell

Photography has always been so interesting to me. Being able to create a whole new world behind one lens, tell a brand new story, and finally showcase that to the world, priceless. I started taking photography a lot more seriously when I began my journey to become a YouTuber and bought my first DSLR camera back in 2017. Though I did not seek out that journey at the time, I began to water my interest in photography and would go practice with family and friends being my models and allowing me to just be comfortable on the other side of the camera. Read more>>

Chantay Jennings

I was born in Jacksonville but after being gone for over 30 years, only recently relocated here. I started my business with the desire to have a flexible schedule. I love to travel and after leaving the military, I wanted a business that could be run from anywhere. I have a background in administrative and logistics planning, so I started out as a virtual assistant. That later evolved into my current role as Business Operations Strategist. In my work, I teach women entrepreneurs how to build sustainable businesses ready for growth and scaling using systems, automation, and support. Read more>>

Felipe Vogel

My name is Felipe Vogel, I was born and raised in Managua, Nicaragua and recently graduated from Flagler College this past May. Growing up, my family and I used the weekends to do fun adventures around Nicaragua such as going to the beach, and farmland. We often would bring different varieties of food, one being our smoked salmon. The recipe for this dish has been in the family for over ten years and has always been a hit for our guests and family friends. Regardless of the secret* procedure, the result was always the same, very delicious. Read more>>

Big Val

I have always been into music i loved the art i loved the way people can express themselves through music but I never saw myself breaking out and doing it. I started off with poetry just writing down my thoughts using different rhyme schemes then I just took a leap of faith and went for it. I always put God first in anything that I do and always remember where I come from. My brother passed away recently November 2021 and that took me into a hole but also motivated me to go harder. I go to FSU still getting my degree while pushing out music and hope to soon be an all around VERSATILE artist in the music industry, across all genres. Read more>>

Tekeisha Brown

I Started as a Merchant Seaman sailing across the ocean doing wold tours as a Chief Cook aboard commercial and military ships, I found myself moving here to Jacksonville fl in 2013 from Portsmouth Virginia. In 2016 I had my daughter Vistana the light of my life at that point I knew my shipping days would be shorten even though I love being out to sea being a mom was my first priority, . So once my daughter reached kindergarten and Covid -19 hit the United United States I was undecided on what I would do to take care of my daughter and myself so I used some skills I learned along the way in my culinary teachings and my love for good southern desserts, I thought to peruse my hearts desire by starting a small baking business right out of my home under Florida cottage law and I began to bake for the my community at Beaver St farmers market right here in Jacksonville Florida selling slices of sweet potato pie for one dollar a slice and different varieties of cake slices to my surprise it was a hit amongst the people they loved it they really loved it ! Read more>>

Tricshone Jiles

I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer on June 26, 2013 on my actual 39th birthday. In early February 2013, I found what felt like a lump in my right breast. I was worried because I had people in my life that had been diagnosed with breast cancer so I reluctantly scheduled an appointment with my PCP. I was so nervous to go to that appointment but when my PCP said oh that’s normal breast tissue and proceeded to grab a mold of a breast to show me what an actual lump felt like. I left the doctor’s office happy but still a little uneasy because I felt like something was definitely wrong. Read more>>

Shantese Hills

I have over 20 plus years of experience in childcare. It has always been my dream to establish my childcare center. I wanted my center to be different. Since my background is special needs I really wanted to target those children. I saw that there was a need in the special needs and I wanted to ensure that no child would be turned away. I believe that they too deserve the best care and education without limitations. I opened in the middle of the pandemic and that had its challenges however we overcame every obstacle but before us. Read more>>

Chaunyce Jolly

I have always had a love for the beauty industry. When I was a little girl my mom would allow me to play in her hair. She would bring out rollers, combs, brushes, scrunchies, anything we had in the house for styling we pulled it out. I even gave all my Barbie dolls new hair styles on a regular. I genuinely feel I was born to be a hairstylist. Growing up I tried different career paths. I attended school for medical assisting but life happened and I eventually stopped going. Even while I attended school I was styling my classmates hair. Read more>>

Katy Martin

I started Coastal Coordinating over 12 years ago! It had started off small with just planning friends and families weddings and then blossomed into a full team! I always love to look at the positive and make the best of situations! Starting a business can be tough with a lot of turning points. Learning to grow a team and manage different departments was such a rewarding part! Every year can bring different struggles. Right now we are dealing with inflation and that can drastically effect the budgets / expectations, It’s all about being able to pivot! Read more>>

Monique Hargrow

We are a small wedding floral design company specializing in Luxe Garden Weddings. My mother started our business about 10 years ago, and I reopened it in 2019; we named our business after our grandma, Bertha. She had seven kids, 13 grandkids, and a ton of great-grandkids. She was our Queen Bee! So Bee is for Bertha, and we are her Blossoms. Growing up, our family always had plants in their home. My grandma’s house in NYC had planted all over the AC unit in the window, and my Aunt Jeannie had all kinds of tropical plants in her house. So it just comes naturally that we love flowers. Read more>>

JessicaRose Johnson

When I first started suicide prevention, it was by accident, or maybe you’ll believe in an aligning of the stars. I graduated with my master’s degree in criminal intelligence analysis and religion and culture. At the time, my life was shifting, and I wasn’t 100% sure what I was going to do. Someone I met recently asked if I wanted to help homeless veterans, so I said ‘sure.’ As a veteran myself, I wanted to help my fellow veterans. Read more>>

Dominic Goldberg

I initially gained an interest in video production in middle school. By high school, I had taught myself the basics of shooting and editing through trial and error, doing passion projects with my friends. I was also active in my high school’s TV production and Theater programs. Discovering people making films and doing skits full-time on Youtube inspired me to pursue video further than I already had. When looking for a college, I knew I wanted to continue with digital media and video as a career. Read more>>

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