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Portraits of St. Louis

It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them the fundamental questions about who they are and how they became the person they are today. Understanding and empathy are essential building blocks for a better, more compassionate world. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to ask these questions each week through our interview series. Below you’ll find inspiring interviews from in and around St. Louis.

Sarah Kim

For several years, our household had been on a journey to living with less with the intention of making room for more: less waste, less stuff, more time, more experiences. We had also transitioned away from asking our children “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and started asking, “What problems do you want to solve?” Around this time I decided to seriously cut back on plastic waste. When we ran out of something, I made a diligent effort to find a sustainable replacement. It went pretty well for a while, but I hit a roadblock with lotion. I was just not finding lotion packaged in anything besides plastic. I’d heard of household refilleries that refilled soaps, lotions, detergents and more, and I set out to find St. Louis’ refillery because I was sure one existed. But in 2018, it really didn’t. So, I decided I would lead by example and show my children what happens when you think about what problems you want to solve. I founded the region’s first business devoted to refills and sustainable swaps for your household: The Refill Effect. Read more>>

Brittney Cotton

I’m the CEO and Lead Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) at Speak Wonders. I have been a practicing SLP for over 10 years. I began my journey into private practice as an independent contractor, as a side hustle to my 9-5 school district job. I contracted with another therapy company for a few years and overtime didn’t agree with their practices as far as assigning SLPs to work with families. Many pathologists there would turn down certain therapy referrals for families based on the area/city they lived in or only requested county referrals over city referrals. Many times those families were not assigned a pathologist or stayed on the waitlist. I decided the best way I could serve my people and community was to venture out on my own. I started my therapy practice in 2018 and we’ve been taking off ever since. Read more>>

Diamon Hawkins

I started my journey in the beauty industry right out of high school but had to pause the journey due to my going to college. Once I finished my first two semesters Covid hit, and I had nothing ut time to focus on myself and my dreams. I was inspired to start my own cosmetics line HighSadity Cosmetics, which then blossomed into me finding a passion for hairstyling. During the pandemic, I started looking into cosmetology school and what I could do to accomplish my dreams. Once I got enrolled in school I started off building my makeup and hair portfolio, which is continually growing. Read more>>

Allie Menne

I’ve always loved entertaining. The art of a dinner party is lost, and my goal is to bring it back. There is always something in life to celebrate, no matter how small! I started Something Bleau to share my passion of bringing people together. Read more>>

Jess Turnquist

My story started when I was around 7! I have an identical twin sister name Jordan. We’ve been through literally everything together! We moved from aunt to aunts house. My parents were divorced and my mom had a hard time taking care of four kids on her own. Our older brothers went to other family members to live and Jordan and I entered foster care. We had set meetings and times for our parents to come meet with us at the Family Services Department center so they could try to work it out so one of them could get us back. Long story short my mom knew the best place for us she wouldn’t be able to provide so she signed over her rights and Jordan and I ended up getting adopted by our grandparents and raised by them when we were nine!! Read more>>

Jeff Nations

I’ve always been a music nerd. The first song I ever learned the words to was Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” when I was around 4 years old. I’d have friends over to my house in early grade school and I remember sitting them down in front of the stereo to show them Red Hot Chili Peppers or Tom Petty songs. I have always naturally been drawn to music and I’m sure it’s because my parents are big music fans. My dad is a musician and when I was a little kid, I used to go to our basement with him and sing and strum along on my little plastic toy guitar while he would play along to REO Speedwagon and Molly Hatchet records. Just before my 11th birthday in 1995, we were driving around one night and my dad asked me if I wanted to learn guitar. I had never really considered it but I went, ‘Yeah, why not?”. Read more>>

Crystal Lee

I’m the owner of Footwear Retail Brand- Munroe Shoetique! I started my online shoe business May 2014, specializing in women footwear- dominantly high heels. Munroe Shoetique is a lifestyle brand dedicated to bringing together the unapologetic shoe lover community! I focus on embracing the relationship customers have with my products by consistently introducing top shoe brands designs and accessories to serve up some fierce looks. In April 2017, I suffered 3rd degrees burns to my feet from a grease fire, that changed my life forever but the process to healing only inspired me to do more in the footwear industry. For instance: I took every option to hide or shy away from showing my scars because I didn’t want to feel judge about it. But I realized how the fear I had of being myself was clouding the awareness of my purpose I was able to discover an authentic confidence from the inside that I share proudly through my brand. Read more>>

Aiyanna Clark

All my life, I’ve loved making people feel good about themselves. I was always watching my mom, who is also a hair stylist, transform her many clients into the most confident version of themselves. My passion runs extremely deep, and I knew that I had to make this more than a hobby, and my actual career. Would you believe me if I said I was unaware that was possible until my junior year of high school? I was looking into schools to become a psychiatrist, which intrigued me, but it didn’t inspire me quite the same way cosmetology did. As soon as I found the perfect beauty school for me (I was adamant on attending one that taught barbering also) I enrolled. I was so eager, that I chose the July start date, rather than the standard August date. Cosmetology school came and went, and I still find myself missing the unique experiences I encountered while there. Read more>>

Cynthia Chapple

Hi. My last name is pronounced ch-“apple”. I grew up on the south side of Chicago, as 1 of 8 children. Chocolate is my favorite thing to eat all the time for no reason at all. I attended Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis for my undergraduate degrees in Forensic and Investigative Science and Chemistry. I subsequently returned to school and received a Master of Science in Chemistry in 2015. I worked for a state crime lab and also very different industries such as and my most recent employer in the manufacturing industry and electrical coatings market as Senior Research and Development Chemist. Read more>>

Haleigh Givens

In 2017, I received my BFA in fine art from Southeast Missouri State University and my MA of fine art in 2019 from Eastern Illinois University, while schooling has helped me fine-tune my drawing ideas and practices some of my earliest memories include scribbling on any scrap of paper with any writing utensil I could get my hands on. My family and I are both thankful that my art has progressed past just my repetitive horse drawings. Read more>>

Valerie Lee

After I lost my son to SIDS in 1997, I started working for Infant Loss Resources in St. Louis, MO. I taught the Safe Sleep Class and provided a free pack n play to those who attended the class so they would have a safe place for their baby to sleep. I became affiliated with another non-profit that provided baby items for free and would refer my clients to them as well. They too were based out of St. Louis, MO. I started thinking that we needed an organization like theirs in my county, which is Jefferson County, MO. It’s about 45 mins south of St. Louis. It would help those in need that couldn’t make it to St. Louis. I was told that if I found a shop we could go for it! So with excitement, I did! I started running the Jefferson County location for almost a year and when things changed with the grant that they had changed and could only provide items for babies and children under the age of 12. Read more>>

Travis Laws

WIN Warehouse connects nonprofits with excess inventory from corporations at a greatly discounted rate, allowing nonprofits to do more good with the resources our donors have generously given us. This innovative mission was born from my father, business executive and nonprofit leader Clinton Laws, and his passion for helping others. Prompted by discovering the enhanced deduction offered by the IRS for gifts of excess inventory, Dad recognized the unique opportunity this presented to nonprofits and corporations at the same time. Nonprofits can gain access to the products and resources they need, while allowing corporations to move their excess inventory at a great benefit to the company. Read more>>

Tanisha Clay

When I was 18 years old, I began modeling for photographers in Chicago, Kansas City, and Saint Louis. I loved the creative aspect, and went on for around a year- traveling + diving into the wealth of opportunity in the industry. It was around the age of 19 when I realized that I felt stifled in my position; I loved being able to create, but you only have so much freedom as a model. I remember asking a friend, “Can I borrow your camera for a little bit?”; that is when the epiphany hit- I was on the wrong side of the lens. I started small and simple, as we all do. Read more>>

April Mathews

I was born in 1984 in Augusta, Georgia. As a kid, I spent a lot of my days at my grandmother’s house. As long as I can remember, my Grandma Faye was always in the kitchen cooking or baking up something. She was the quintessential Southern grandma- syrupy sweet tea, fried chicken, okra, Brunswick stew, and always, ALWAYS dessert. I loved helping her out and learning all of her secrets and tricks over the years. For example: always rinse your grits over and over and over before cooking. Why? I have no idea, but that’s what grandma did, so that’s what I do. In true grandma fashion, hardly any of her “recipes” were written down, so over the years I would try to write them down and recreate them, but they’re never quite the same, you know? Read more>>

Nina Williams

This is actually my first year in business. I started this as a foundation for a social club, and the common interest was combatting inequalities & injustices of the everyday woman. I decided to construct an impromptu “pop-up” style online shop whose brand stands for women who get easily overlooked, the double standards they face, and the subtle hints of disrespect, we stand for the love sisterhood can represent. Womanhood over at Pretty Phenomenal Lady resonates inclusiveness. I still currently work in Finance for an American Food Distributor & love what I do. But I wanted something that really professes culture appreciation, character rapport, & colleague assistance with abuse in any domestic setting. My online shop is here for those who need help in the “self-love” department. With spur of the moment inspiration, I taught myself several crafts that are retailed in the online shop. Read more>>

Brandi and Brittany

OAM Design Co. started with a friendship formed while working at a brew pub. Both of us came from the service industry so when COVID hit in May of 2020, we knew we needed to take control of our career path and left our full-time jobs behind. With little knowledge of each other and no formal education, we took a risk knowing we had the energy, entrepreneurial motive and dedication to make our passion a lifelong career. Using our own funds and homes we started to DIY each room, wall-by-wall, and shared our creative projects on social media. Within just two weeks, our first client reached out and ROAM was born! Being self taught and working hands-on, we were able to quickly expand our knowledge and portfolio from simple accent walls to creating floor plans, designing interior + exteriors, staging homes, and even had a demand for commercial properties. The last year has been an amazing transition of growth and one we didn’t see coming! Read more>>

Darcy Campbell

From a COVID layoff, to an art career. Some of my earliest memories are me creating artwork. Whether in art class or my own free time, art has always been one of my favorite ways to spend my time. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college, when it came time to declare a major, that I considered a career in art. I was undecided and didn’t have a set career path. I thought about what classes I excelled in, what classes I looked forward to the most and without a doubt, it was art. From there I went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art. While my degree allowed me to touch many aspects of art including drawing, sculpture, print making & so much more, it was always painting that held my heart. Read more>>

Kimberly Brown

I started Perfect Skin Code as a way to bridge the gap we often experience between wanting perfect skin and actually knowing how to get there. As Dermatology clinician, I talk to patients every day about skincare. I found that many people know what they want to achieve but don’t know how to get there. I wanted to share clinically proven, evidenced-based skincare tips that would help busy, active women achieve their skincare goals. Eventually, I decided to offer my most recommended skincare ingredients: Retinol, Vitamin C, and eye cream in the form of our three products. Perfecting Night Serum with Retinol, Bright Eyes Arnica and Vitamin K cream, as well as our Brighter Day Vitamin C with Ferulic serum. I personally selected each ingredient to work together so busy women like me can achieve their skin goals without a 10 step beauty routine. Read more>>

Patrice Johnson

Patrice J. Bridal officially opened January 2020 in a 2 bedroom home I used as my studio space. My goal was to provide all brides to be with an intimate and non-intimidating dress shopping experience. Covid 19 almost immediately caused a pause in business operations, the pause allowed me to pivot and establish processes and procedures and I am pleased to share that we are growing. Patrice J. Bridal studio will be relocating to Bridgeton, Missouri December 1, 2021! The new location will allow me to provide my brides and their tribes with a 5 star shopping experience that will include more dresses to choose from, additional sample sizes, private viewings and bridal shower opportunities. Read more>>

Stephanee Cervantes

“School counselor by day, mom by afternoon, flower farmer florist by night.” I’ve always had a passion for growing things, and the green thumb to go along with it. I remember each spring as a child starting vegetables from seed, each summer helping fill the flower beds, and each fall finding fun spots to hide daffodil bulbs. For several seasons, my parents even gave me a small flower bed of my own to design and care for. That’s probably when the seed was planted (pardon my pun) for future endeavors. The wheels really started turning about four years ago when my husband (Dean) and I bought our first house in the St. Louis area. One of the first things I did after closing on our home was plant a 50 count bag of daffodil bulbs. That winter, I began struggling professionally. Being a middle school teacher is by no means an easy career, but I was in a position where things were especially difficult. My anxiety was high and melancholy feelings were frequent. Read more>>

Marijo Swinnen

I took an interest in health and fitness in my early 20’s. My grandmother gifted me a subscription to PREVENTION Magazine which really opened my mind to all health and fitness. I enjoyed playing tennis and running. I met my husband, while attending college, and he loved to participate in indoor and outdoor sports/fitness activity. Over the years I participated in 5k, 10k, half marathons and sprint triathlons. I found myself enjoying gym workouts in between racing. The physical activity helped me stay strong both mentally and physically. After 5 years of marriage, my husband was diagnosed with ALS, (Lou Gehrigh’s Disease). For the past 29 years, I have been my husband’s caregiver. We also raised 2 sons. I worked outside the home, at different jobs, to supplement our income. Read more>>

Andrea Woods

Thee Doggy Treat is a family business. My godparents, Otis and Earline Walker, owners of Smoki O’s -a St. Louis BBQ staple for over 20 years, were producing a dog treat. In August of 2019, after leaving the profession of education as a middle school teacher for 10 years, with a bit more time on my hands, I pitched to them running an ecommerce business for the dog treat, and Thee Doggy Treat was born. I applied for the BALSA grant in January 2020, and found out, just as the USA was completely shutting down due to the pandemic, in March 2020 I found out I had won the $1000 grant. With time on my hands while quarantining, an initial financial boost, and a weekly entrepreneur learning series through the BALSA foundation, I was ready to launch Thee Doggy Treat. I filed my LLC paperwork in April 2020, and have been growing since. Read more>>

Frederick Brockington

The Dr. Dare Show started in 2020. The Dr. Dare show focuses on mental health issues and hot topics. The Dr. Dare Show was created because I wanted to share my mental health knowledge with the world, I suffered from anxiety for many years because I did not realize that I was having a mental health issue. In the Black community, we are taught to pray to our higher being if we are struggling with life problems. With this show, I wanted people to know that they could have an ally in their journey with mental health while they prayed to their higher being for support. Read more>>

Kareemah Moment

I have always loved dogs but my love for baking came when my dog Ghost came into my life. When Ghost was six months I discovered he suffered from food allergies. After trying various foods I decided to start cooking his food myself. I would meal prep for him on Sunday mornings for the week to come and he loved it. One day I decided why just stop at food and that’s the day I began baking. I started with two treats peanut butter bacon and pizza bones. I didn’t have any idea that other dogs would love my treats as much as Ghost does but they do. Mister Finley was literally birthed from the love of my dog and me needing a hobby. I began to research local farmer’s markets and pop up and the rest is history. I have added cat treats and three other dogs treat flavors since starting. We can also be found at few local retailers. Read more>>

Dominique Taylor

What started as a small and fun idea to eliminate some spare time I had between classes quickly became one of the things I am most proud of today. After losing my job to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was unsure of the direction I wanted to go in regarding jobs and how to make an income during these tough times. I sat down with myself to figure out something I love to do and began to form a business plan. After several ideas passed, Popzz! came to mind. As always, I consulted with my mom who agreed that it was a great idea, especially with the holidays approaching. Growing up with a great deal of love and celebrations, I started Popzz! as a way to bring joy & happiness to those who receive our products. Read more>>

Karyn “Rose Art” Topp

I grew up in Canada and I am Native American-Ojibwe. I started my love of art because my parents used to take me to the Winnipeg Art Gallery and they also enrolled me in art classes there at the gallery. I never really took it seriously but it stuck with me thru life. I was always drawing sketches here and there but it wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s where I started drawing portraits via pencil and a few people told me they looked good and in 2013 I was finally getting my GED at SWIC when a lady in the class saw one of my sketches and commissioned me to do one for her and the rest is history. Read more>>

Orlando Rideout

St. Louis, Missouri –24–year–old local St. Louis musician and songwriter Orlando Rideout, professionally recognized as BMG Lando, continues to make waves through the industry as he continues to expand his talents to both music production and acting. The young artist made his debut into the music scene back in 2019 with his first single Unbreakable, which incredibly made the Top 40 National Radio Hits and the New Music Weekly Top 100 –something most artists aren’t able to achieve in such a competitive industry. After his debut, BMG Lando landed his role as the flagship artist for the Indie record label Big Money Gettas Music Group. He is currently working hard on his current album Love Struggles in the studio, which is expected to drop this year and has a new single titled Crazy that drops in two weeks. BMG Lando’s authentic style and lyrical genius truly sets him apart in the industry and has evidently proved to be an asset in his career, considering the amount of success he has had thus far in the industry. Read more>>

Laurin Thienes

I moved to the area in 2013 from Portland, OR. Portland has a fairly robust outdoor adult soccer league and I was really surprised to not find anything similar in St. Louis, especially given that long history of soccer here. I finally found a casual outdoor soccer league in 2016 that played in Maryland Heights. However, it increasingly became hard to justify driving 45 minutes from O’Fallon IL to play in a shorter game after a few years. In October 2018, I posed a passing question to a fellow diocesan coach about the feasibility of starting a league on the Illinois side of the river. A few days later, he sent me an email saying that he thought we could get 4 teams that first season. Having a business development & multimedia background, I stood up a Facebook page, and subsequently a website, secured access to fields, setup the basic business foundations (business registry, EIN, insurance, bank account, etc.). And with that, a league was born. Read more>>

Stephen Favazza

I started playing guitar junior high school and play in a few high school bands but really never got into music seriously until about 1998. Around then I start a two piece post-punk band from St. Charles Missouri called Musicfor. This is where I start experimenting with live guitar and piano looping. We played a few shows in the city and in Chicago where are we recorded an EP. I moved to Chicago in the summer of 2002 where I spent most of my time listening to records. I mixed an album that Musicfor recorded in our basement with some friends right before I moved away. I made it back to Saint Charles a year later and started the band over again adding a new member. We started playing a lot of shows around town and we did some recording but never released anything. Read more>>

Franann Frempong

Good food has the power to bring people from all walks of life together. Throughout my life food has been the connective tissue linking me to my family and friends. My mother and grandmother were the first ones who showed me how cooking can be an act of love and service for the people you care about. During big holidays, we’d visit my Gran’s house and the whole family would come together and enjoy each other alongside an array of food. In those moments, I was used to hearing and sharing opinions about food. If something was too bland and disappointing, or delightful and tasty, I was going to tell you. After a while, I became a natural food critic. It got to a point where if I didn’t say something about a family member’s food, the rest of my family would get worried. Read more>>

Sarah Shaw

Where do I even start my story?! It’s been such a journey from there to here! I graduated college in 2008 with a Biology major and DECIDED I WAS going to go into pharmaceutical sales. I landed my first job right out the gate and thought that was my forever home! 4 years into it there was a company restructuring and I was laid off..this was the first of MANY layoffs I would experience and I realized this was the life of the pharma industry. Fast forward 10 years later I got pregnant with my son and wanted nothing more then to stay home with him and my oldest daughter. The push for me to get back to work was REAL and fight or flight kicked in for me to find alternative income to stay home with my 2 kids! Read more>>

Dominique Hall

Dominique Hall, a mom, wife, and entrepreneurial creative, is a curly hair specialist and makeup artist of ten years and an educator of 5 years. She has extensive training and the latest certifications in hair extensions, balayage, blonde techniques, keratin treatments, lash extensions and brow lamination. She recently completed a microblading certification and plans on continuing to grow in every way possible. She is a well-rounded, educated and experienced stylist that is such an asset to her clients. Dominique has been a highly sought-after hair and makeup artist for weddings and special events for over a decade and with such a background she has gained her own style: beautiful, polished, natural glam is one of her specialties. Read more>>

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