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Inspiring Stories from West LA

The heart of our mission at VoyageLA is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our city. In recent weeks we’ve had the privilege to connect with some of West LA’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 West LA’s rising stars below.

Sam Glaser

I was born into a musical family, with music coming down the generations on both sides. I grew up singing and started classical piano at age seven. I was in bands from high school and on. Upon graduating from the University of Colorado with a BS in Business and a minor in Voice, I supplemented my music studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston and the UCLA Film Scoring Program. I’ve owned and operated my current studio setup for thirty years, Glaser Musicworks, in Beverlywood. My initial clients were songwriters, singers and bands looking for professional song and album production. I also became the in-house composer for the Sports Channel of LA, creating the TV soundtrack for all the Angel, Dodger and Clipper home games. Soon I moved over to the WB Network (Channel 5 here in LA), writing incidental music for a variety of shows and sports broadcasts. Warren Miller Entertainment tapped me to write for both TV shows and ski movies, I scored some films for PBS and I did music for the fashion industry thanks to my garment manufacturer father’s connections. Read more>>

Colin West

I’m 34 years old, and I grew up in a Pacific Palisades on the west side of Los Angeles county. I’ve always loved wildlife shows and National Geographic, and when “The Dog Whisperer, with Cesar Milan”, came out, I became hooked. I was in college around that time, living with nine guys in a house and raising two of my own rescue Pit Bulls and a third rescue Pit Bulls of my housemate. I began to run into problems with aggression with them very quickly, but those were very fun times and started me on my path. I graduated in 2009, and with the economy in such terrible shape, a very difficult job market, and my vision for the future uncertain, I decided to start a dog hiking business. The idea had long been on my mind, but I had pushed it aside for a more established career path, but with so many other options looking grim, in 2010, I decided to go for it. Read more>>

Ariana Chedraui

I was working full-time at a start-up company that had nothing to do with what I studied in college. I was working a job that helped make ends meet while hoping that something I was more passionate about came around. By 2018, I was hearing more and more about how young individuals were exploring passive income and how these entrepreneurs were making the shift to e-commerce to supplement their income. They made their own creative products and I wanted to learn more so that I can make a similar lifestyle part of my daily life. I decided to pursue a passive-income route by creating a unique product involved in something I was passionate about learning more – wine! I love the idea of creating a product so I searched for something that did not yet exist, which became Vino Cards – A Wine Tasting Experience Through Flashcards. I began to see the immense growth opportunity and by 2019, I launched a Kickstarter that helped fund my first production run of Vino Cards and sell successfully on Amazon. Read more>>

Hilary Opheim

I started teaching Pilates almost 30 years ago after finding it due to an injury teaching fitness classes. I opened up my own studio in January of 2005 in Houston, Texas where I was born and raised. I then started my own Teacher Training school to share this passion and teach those that wanted to become teachers in a positive and community/apprentice style environment. I moved to Los Angeles and actually drove in with all my Pilates apparatus in a U-haul on Dec. 31, 2019. I opened up my studio here in the Santa Monica/Brentwood area on January 6, 2020. I have always felt that LA was my “soul” home and when my husband got the opportunity to work on the West Coast, we just closed our eyes and did it! It has been a journey of a lot of unexpected things, pandemic to be specific but, being in LA and having my studio and school here has been beyond what I could have imagined. The love of Pilates here is so wonderful and sharing this work with others is what I truly love doing. Read more>>

James Crist

I met my wife in Eugene, Oregon while I was attending college at the University of Oregon. After I graduated, I moved back to my hometown of West Los Angeles, where I was born and raised. I majored in human anatomy and physiology, however as it turns out, my wife Jamaica is an insanely talented artist and baker. Using her talents in the kitchen, with me running the business side, we decided to open Jamaica’s Cakes in 2006. After a few years of confusion, specifically people STILL looking for Jamaican-style cakes after ten years (even though that’s just her name). In 2017, we rebranded as Top Tier Treats to take the confusion out of it. Our goal is to make gorgeous, whimsical, original cakes while still tasting even better than they look. We always say, “A gorgeous cake makes a great first impression, however it is the quality that leaves a lasting one.” We have been open over 15 years and have navigated the 2008 economic crisis as well as Covid-19, and we’ve not only survived, we’ve thrived. Read more>>

Isabel Brazon

Baila Baila started as an initiative to help parents introduce children to Spanish in the early years and preserve the Spanish roots on children with Hispanic backgrounds. I am originally from Venezuela where I studied education and communication and dedicated most of my time working in the children entertainment field. My idea was to create music that parents can enjoy and children can learn with introducing rhythms from all over the world. At the moment, Baila Baila offers classes in Venice and the west side of Los Angeles, birthday parties, music in all digital platforms and YouTube videos. We have supported the Latin community over the years and gotten some recognition by bringing the Baila Baila joy to festivals, libraries, school events and people’s homes through our music and videos. Read more>>

Mic Evans

Growing up in Philadelphia navigating the inner city definitely was a lesson. There’s turning point in one’s life that propels them to take action. My childhood friend and high school football teammate Alvin Dill was murdered at the age of 17 years old. I realized that your life is determined off the decision you make. I decided to attend Lackawanna college in Scranton, PA, where I played college football. During my tenure, we recorded a record of 18-2 and one undefeated seasons becoming the Valley of the sun bowl champions. Which earned me a scholarship to Jackson State University where I continued my collegiate football career.I had a great experience attending Jackson State as an athlete its history made it magical. I studied entrepreneurship and small business finance. Meeting many people who were instrumental in my life and development. Read more>>

Lukas Czinger

I lead Operations at Divergent3D and Czinger Vehicles. How I got here, that is a good question. I was born in London to a German mother and an American father, was raised across America, and now call Los Angeles home. I have lived on the east coast, west coast, and the mid-west as we followed my dad’s career. My father grew up working class in Parma, Ohio and is a genius-level self-made serial entrepreneur; my mother is German royalty dating back to field marshal von Bluchers defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo. It is fair to say I am a mix of the two. As a child, I loved the outdoors, sports, teaching myself new skills, and creating/building things. These passions have led me on many adventures, teaching me lessons and creating skillsets that I continuously draw on today. Throughout my life, there has also been a theme of persistence. The things I wanted to do, the things I ended up doing, did not always come easily. I have also frequently surprised both myself and others by unexpectedly changing my direction. Read more>>

Carissa Jackson

I got started in events long before realizing it was something I could grow into a career. My mother always likes to say she let me plan too many parties growing up. Which definitely contributed to it, my family did a nice amount of entertaining, hosting celebrations and holidays at our home. But, what also contributed to events being my long-term career was assisting with a Juneteenth Parade and Celebration in Kansas City all throughout high school and college. I literally worked my way up over the years on that event. First year helping with the street vendors, the next year leading and guiding the 3 mile parade along the route, and the next few years mc’ing the celebration that took place at the end of the parade. I didn’t realize it then, but it very much contributed to my passion for events, it was something I truly looked forward to every summer. Read more>>

Markayla Hardeman

I go by Kaylaa *hints* ShadedByKaylaa. I’m from Los Angeles, CA. I not only sell sunglasses. I have headbands, lipgloss, scrunchies and handbags (from time to time) as well. I started my business back in 2018 when I realized how much I loved sunglasses. I figured why not start my own sunglass business, I did my research and just went for it. As time goes on, I notice how much more I’m succeeding in my business and I always find reasons why I should not give up. I’m always looking for new items to add to my business. Read more>>

Raya Dize

Born in Germany, Raya has moved around the world through the years and has a multicultural heritage. Beginning at the age of three, Raya devoted her life to classical music by playing piano and singing opera. At the age of 13, however, Raya turned her sights towards pop music and wrote her first pop song. After attaining her bachelor’s degree, Raya moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams of being a singer/songwriter. Raya writes music, plays several instruments, dances for another artist, and pursues her acting aspirations. Above all, Raya believes in going towards your dreams, staying loyal to them, and always showing kindness to others. Read more>>

 

John Campbell

I’m originally from London and grew up from very humble beginnings. I was brought up by my loving grandparents Mary and Bill after a brief spell in a children’s home but that’s another story. We actually moved out of London when I was young to Colchester which is in Essex.  We lived on a council estate (government housing) it was simple but I had a very happy childhood, we didn’t have tons of money but my parents made up for it in love and instilled in me an incredible amount of confidence and self-belief which I believe still drives me today. I can remember from a very early age they always said to me ‘You can be whatever you want to be’ and I believed them. Our estate although a bit rough and ready was filled with these incredible larger than life characters with my parents being the most animated of all, sadly they have both passed along time ago but I think of them fondly every day. My old Dad (grandfather) taught me to box and I fought competitively for seven years both amateur and professional which he and my old mum loved. I could tell you funny stories for days of things that happened outside of the ring with them that would make your sides split but let me try to stay on topic. Read more>>

Heather Sprague

I began with gymnastics at age five and discovered ballet at 12 years old. Movement of all types – ballroom, lyrical, yoga, qi gong, salsa, west coast swing, etc. – has been a medium for inner peace, self-awareness and growth, emotional evolution, and a beautiful way to build community. It has been a journey of private lessons, coaching, performing, and competing, and to this day, I still get coached and continue to fuel my growth in every way possible so that I continue to have all that I can to give back and share with my community. Read more>>

Sandra Espinet

My dad’s job as a petroleum superintendent kept my family moving, and I grew up in several different countries. Maybe it was the continual packing, unpacking and setting up of new homes. Either way, I was pretty sure interior design was my chosen path at a young age and during art school. It became a reality while doing my bachelor’s degree I did several incredible internships, including the iconic Knoll Studio. I moved to LA in the 90’s and got my master’s in film at AFI but after three years as a production designer, I returned to my true love: Interior Design. It’s what calls me and what I do best. Having the ability to take ugly, old or dated spaces and bring them to life. Being able to be surrounded by beautiful things. Changing spaces into little gems so that the people who live in them will be fuller for the experience. It’s all positive and inspiring to me. I truly love what I do. And living in LA, I have found the most creative people who are like-minded and passionate about lifestyle and design. Read more>>

Dr. Nell Smircina

I grew up comfortable. Middle class, with parents who worked hard and emphasized the importance of being a good person and being educated. I never thought I’d wind up in LA, let alone Beverly Hills. I came out here with someone I was with at the time who forced me to really grow up. It was my first time dealing with grad school, paying my own way, and dealing with someone close to me who had serious issues I needed to navigate. I spent my first year of grad school in LA so poor (and trying to hide it) and trying to make it through a rigorous medical program. Rigor and hard work I had experienced. Being poor and having such influential personal matters going on that I wanted to hide from everyone was something I had not experienced before. Actively choosing to change my situation was difficult, but moving past the guilt of letting myself get into that experience was much harder. Read more>>

Todd Goodman

I grew up in Schenectady, New York, in a very musical family and community, so my primary artistic influence has always been music. I’ve been playing drums and percussion for over 30 years. Other than playing and listening to a ton of music growing up, I was a constant doodler. I left NY to attend the University of Vermont, where I earned a BS in Environmental Studies, then moved to Colorado to be a snowboard bum, but after a couple of years went back to school to earn a Master’s degree in International Development from the University of Denver. Then I moved to Santa Monica in 2007 to work for a nonprofit, which lasted almost two years when the global financial collapse left me out of a job at the end of 2008. After six months of looking for a job, I found myself working with a friend on Venice Beach, making and selling jewelry and art. Read more>>

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