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Inspiring South Bay Stories

The heart of our mission at VoyageLA 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 South Bay’s finest artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and rebel rousers and we can’t begin to express how impressed we are with our city’s incredibly deep talent pool.  Check out the area’s rising stars below.

Tom Barrera

My story begins with early childhood memories of various role models encouraging me to develop confidence, leadership skills, and a good sense of humility when it came to achieving goals. For example, during my 3rd-grade homeroom math competitions, our teacher emphasized learning by repetition as a successful strategy to mastering multiplication tables. Although I never won any contests, these were moments of self-realization which inspired my growing inner confidence. During the same time, and after some encouragement from my parents, I joined the local Cub Scout Troop 667 hoping to make new friends and learn more about the outdoors. Read more>>

Victoria D. Nguyen

It’s funny how our childhood ambitions can find their way back into our lives as adults, even when we thought we said goodbye to them in pursuit of a more predictable, stable career path. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized those same ambitions are manifesting in ways I never considered. I always wanted to write, do meaningful work and be surrounded by inspirational people – to have a voice and use it. I didn’t know what job that’d equate to so I went the corporate route after college and continued to work on creative endeavors on the side. Read more>>

Nancy Kline and Scott Avera

I started in 2003, I was working in the pharmaceuticals, I wasn’t feeling good about what I was doing. I had just adopted another dog from a rescue in downtown LA. It was run out of Modernica, a furniture manufacturing company in DTLA. I was impressed that they rescued dogs off the street and helped the homeless with their pups. I was inspired start a dog bed company and support what this group is doing. Additionally, with several dogs living at the beach and lots of windows, there were no dog beds on the market that matched my decor and accommodated my dogs in nicer upholstery fabrics. Read more>>

Marissa Lauren Stieritz

How I got started depends how far we go back, haha! When I was small, my mom played a lot of the beach boys for me and my sister to dance around to while our dad was at work. That was definitely my first musical memory. It was so bright and fun and positive – I loved it. I still have a major love for the beach boys today. I didn’t start singing though until I got into musical theater. My twin sister was doing it, so I had to do it too. Read more>>

Erica Galia (Kmiec)

How much time do we have? Haha! I’ll try to simplify it as much as I can with this timeline: January 2014 – Moved to California with my gem of a fiancé. March 2014 – Accepted a full-time position at a college marketing agency. June 2014 – Anxiety came rolling in by storm because of unhappiness & apprehension with my career…I was well on my way down a dark spiral. August 2014 – Attended a doctor’s appointment for anxiety and refused western medicine treatment because of my beliefs & values. Read more>>

Katie Oakes

With a background in fine art and art history, I began studying sculpture at UC Berkeley in 2006. After college, I gained experience as an event planner, line cook and private chef in Venice, CA. During these years I developed my skill set in the kitchen and fell in love with all aspects of making and curating events. Whether it was the ingredients, decor, plates, bowls or serving platters, each item became a cherished piece of the experience. Read more>>

Rebecca Swenson

I was born in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, more directly, Beachwood, a stretch of forest near the eastern seaboard, the town I grew up in had only 800 people residing there. I knew I wanted to move to the city and have more of an opportunity to flourish as an artist. I first moved to Philadelphia in 2010 and got involved in the comics and zine community there, while going to school for animation at the PAA. I left Philadelphia in 2013 to move to LA and then I never looked back. Los Angeles was a gold mine of new experiences and opportunities for myself. Read more>>

Alayne Abrahams

My life has always been characterized by what inspires me. Passion and purpose. My commitment and dedication begin with the belief that what I am about to do has reason and meaning behind it. Since childhood, it had been about achievement and knowing I was successful and living up to what I knew was possible if I gave it my all. I loved all things creative- design, architecture, fashion, cooking, and travel. Read more>>

Ashun Williams

There is no “perfect,” there is progress and progress is what matters most. My journey into the world of health and wellness truly began when my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is hard to describe what having a child with a disability feels like. The hardest part is feeling like you cannot “fix” your child. You go through the motions and do what the experts tell you, but it is still scary to trust the process. Read more>>

Tricia Strickfaden

I grew up in Plano, Texas, and moved to the Beach Cities soon after the LA riots. My parents thought I was nuts. After the Northridge earthquake hit, my fiancé, a South Bay native, convinced me not to move back to Texas, that this was life in southern California. So I stayed. I married him and put down roots in the South Bay. I worked downtown in the commercial interior design industry but didn’t begin painting until after the birth of my daughter. An evening oil painting class at a local community college got me hooked. Read more>>

Leticia Clarissa

I came home from a year and a half of backpacking three years ago and felt really out of place and lost. My friends were graduating from college and taking the traditional path, but I knew that wasn’t for me. Traditional has never been a part of my vision. I was also going through what felt like a failure at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I made. I had started a clothing company in the middle of my travels, and after long, self-talk debates, I decided to discontinue and close the LLC. Read more>>

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