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Inspiring Stories from Downtown

The heart of our mission at VoyageHouston 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 Houston’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 Downtown’s rising stars below.

Mia Salley

I remembered graduating from college and no one would give me a chance. Typical story. “We’re looking for someone with more experience,” was the same line I would hear when looking for an entry-level job in graphic design. I’m sure many college grads can relate. How else could I get experience if no one would allow me an opportunity? That is when Designs by Mia was born. I prayed to God to ask this was His will over my life and He gave me confirmation. I started by taking on small projects to help people that I knew. Eventually, word got around and I started receiving referrals. To be honest, to this day, word of mouth is the number one way new clients find my company. Read more>>

Kii’ana Bates

I started bartending six years ago and immediately developed a love for it. Working at a fast pace, interacting with new people everyday and twirling behind a bar became my favorite things to do. I worked weddings and events with my family’s company for a while then later decided to join a mobile bartending company. After becoming a single mother, filled with passion, I then decided it was time to multiply myself by venturing off and starting my own company. I genuinely enjoy the expressions and positive feedback from clients and guests and I thought how amazing it would be to share my knowledge and love for bartending during multiple events at a time. Then, on March 1, 2020, Pour Habits LLC was established. Read more>>

Olusegun Williams

Funny enough, I was always a class clown but I started small in the church as many do. Hosting the Christmas programs or youth week events. As I got to college, the African student association used to have shows and since I was the funny friend in the group, I’d go up there and do my thing not thinking much of it. I was more focused on being a basketball player. Unfortunately, at the end of 2014, I let my grades slip and I failed off the team and nearly out of college. I was very depressed and basically felt it was all over. Then one day, I got a text from my friend Equality (yes, that’s his real name) basically telling me there’s an upcoming fashion show and they need a host he recommended me. At this time I wasn’t interested because I wasn’t working and needed money. Eventually, he convinced. Read more>>

Devontae Jones

I am a portrait & fashion photographer from Tallulah, Louisiana. Growing up being a “kid in the band” and the only child in my household, my mother would photograph and save every memory I made while in High School. Those memories held great meaning to me and they still do today. Read More>>

Chynell Lee

“My pleasure,” the two words most people know from the famous Chick-Fil-A response, embedded in my brain with the concept of customer service from the age of 15. Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, by a middle-class married couple, I learned work ethic and treating people with love and respect at a young age. My father’s job moved us across the country a couple of times where I landed in Longview, Texas, for high school. With such a focus on sports and small-town values, I really got to engage with and get to know so many different kinds of people. Then, going off to college at the University of North Texas gave me a chance to mix social skills with professional skills to become the person I am today. Read more>>

Brandi Mathis

I was born and raised in Houston, TX. I grew up on the Southwest side of Houston and after graduating from Westbury High School, I attended and became the first-generation college graduate from Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) in 2015. My love for media and extroverted personality came at a very early age. In school, I was always involved in some type of extracurricular activity that allowed me to be myself. My life came to an abrupt halt in 2012 after I had been diagnosed with Leukemia. Read more>>

Gia McCrae

Growing up, I have been told, by all of my relatives actually, that as a child I was VERY chatty and inquisitive. I don’t think that has changed at all! I was taught to be honest, speak my mind and be kind. I have always been clear about my intentions and spoken up for myself, even as a young child. I was active in dance, girl scouts and play groups that were educational and fun. We did a lot of traveling when I was young, so I have experienced diversity in so many different avenues (religious,socioeconomic, etc) Traveling the world gives you a different appreciation for what you have and a perspective to see what others may not have. I am honored to be able to give in a small way to someone. Read more>>

Dr. Teriya Richmond

My story began when I was born in Chicago on the west side and being a part of a family of entrepreneurs. At the time, I did not realize what their influence would have on me as an adult, but my mother and grandmother were examples of strong women who exuded strength and hard work. I was always encouraged that I can be who I wanted to be, no matter what obstacle I may encounter. My community began to deteriorate as I was growing into my teenage years. Early engagement in sex was the norm and teen pregnancy had become commonplace. After I had my first doctors visit with my black female doctor, it came to me that I could make a difference in my community particularly for young black girls and young women and their sexual health. Read more>>

Dominique Yancy “Sunni D”

Born and raised in Louisiana, I was taught to always take pride in who I am and love myself from the inside out. Personally, learning who I am as a woman, loving myself unconditionally, and accepting my flaws became my starting foundation. I’ve always had a desire to help others do the same by motivating women around the world to learn how to build confidence and self-esteem. I published my first self-help book, “Pause Process Proceed” in 2016 and after completing graduate school and moving to Houston, TX, in 2019, I decided to step out on faith and do something different. I launched Sunni’s Secret Intimate Collection with love on August 4th, 2019. Read more>>

Sianni Dean

I’ve always had an Entrepreneurial drive in me ever since I was young. As young as before pre-k, I would find things around the house to do for a couple of dollars. Once I finally got into preschool and kindergarten, I would start selling little bracelets I would make at home from the kits my mom would buy for me. My mom worked at a doctor’s office and had a lot of unused pages and I would sell them at school to the kids for $3 because they looked like mini cell phones. Once I start getting into elementary school, my parents would both take me to the store so I could buy cans from the dollar store or sams club and go back to school and flip it. Read more>>

Ellen Gugenberger

A few years ago, my husband and I developed an idea to serve the food truck industry. We created a mobile application that allows customers to find the real-time location of food trucks and order from them using their mobile phones. Recently, we moved our company to Houston and re-launched the product in a new, improved format. In light of all the COVID-19 struggles food trucks are experiencing, we’re excited to provide a safe, convenient contactless ordering option for their customers. Read more>>


I’m an artist out of Houston. My style is very different. Futuristic in many senses. I pride myself in this. I produce all my own music. I’m a student. I’ve studied classical, jazz, and gospel piano for many years. I started producing music three years ago and have never looked back. I’ve been mentored by a variety of fellow musicians/producers in the South who’ve helped sculpt my production style, sound, and image. Read more>>

Regina Baker

While working in corporate America, my manager walked into my office and asked me to create a website for the Procurement Division (Engineering & Construction.) I had zero knowledge of the Internet and at the time, there was only Yahoo! An avid computer geek, I jumped online and in two weeks produced the first website for our department. I was laid off a couple of years later due to the company merging. It was a dream come true because I always wanted to be self-employed but never started because I didn’t have the time. Read more>>

DEssence Johnson

My business started at home in the summer of 2017. I was asked by my spouse what type of business would you want one day and I said cleaning. It’s funny because growing up, I hated cleaning, but my mom always said when you get older, that will change. It definitely did. I’ve had a lot of obstacles but I push through. There have been times of doubt but I always say one day Ill get where I want to be. My business isn’t where I want it but I’ll get there sooner than later. Easley Notarized is a new business venture I decided upon this year. I now offer mobile notary services. Read more>>

Lucia Gamboa

I started my business Gurlzwitflava May 8, 2018, two days before my mom’s birthday one day before my oldest daughter’s birthday and two days after my mom’s major heart surgery! I have always known I wanted to cook, I been in the kitchen since I was a young girl but as I became an adult, I realize now this is my true calling. I can literally make anything you would want to eat and if I don’t know how I’m going to learn and perfect it, I have some of the best food I’ve ever tasted lol. Something amazing takes time. I’ll be 29 in September and I can honestly say this is only the beginning! Read more>>

Duana Gillard

It’s Demi’s World was founded after becoming parents to our beautiful baby girl, Demi. When Demi started to get a little older and into baby dolls, we realized the minimal options there were to choose from that little brown girls could identify with. This is when the idea of creating our own African American baby doll line came about. Read more>>

Malcolm Farrell

Malcolm Farrell got started in acting ten years ago in Houston, Texas, born in Brooklyn, New York. Raised in Piscataway, New Jersey, after high school, he moved to Houston for college but knew he had to really pursue his true passion, which was acting. Malcolm’s first acting course was taken at San Jacinto College, where he was terrible at it but knew that this was only the beginning and he can improve each and every class. He got his Associates Degree and transferred to The University of Houston. While at The University of Houston acting did have to go on the back burner for Malcolm but nonetheless, his major was Broadcast Journalism so he was always in front of the camera and still building his confidence. Once he graduated, that’s when his drive really kicked on for his passion for acting. Read more>>

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