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Inspiring Stories from the North Side

The heart of our mission at VoyageChicago 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 Chicago’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 North Side’s rising stars below.

Rachel Schechter

I have always had a love for fashion and realized from an early age my true passion was being able to work with people. I love following trends and became known as a style guru amongst my friends. I studied marketing in college and followed up with getting a Masters in Education. Read more>>

Tori Ulrich

They say to start a successful business, you need to find a problem and come up with a solution for it. Well, I had a solution to a problem that (at the time) I didn’t know existed! I was working as a nanny/babysitter for several families myself and parents would walk up to me at the park, in the store, on the street, all over the place – asking if I had friends that babysat, or where they could find someone like me to work occasionally. Read more>>

Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi

I started training to be an acrobat at the age of 5 and began performing at the age of seven. In my late twenties, after several years of traveling with Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Baily Circus, I decide to move to Chicago. Read more>>

Nick Sarillo

I grew up working in my dad’s restaurant in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago. After working in his restaurant all throughout my childhood and high school I quit and told him I never wanted to be in the restaurant business again. Read more>>

Mark Rosenbloom MD, MBA

I loved practicing Emergency Medicine and did so for 18 years, completing my residency at the University of Illinois and then as an Attending Physician and Associate Professor at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. About 10 years into my practice I suffered a severe neck injury and was twice scheduled for major surgery. Read more>>

Christin Fasuga

Savvy Seconds Inc. was established in 2007 by my mother and I. After many years spent thrifting, she and I had the vision to open our own. We found that while thrift shops were very reasonably priced, they lacked curation. On the other extreme, the quality secondhand merchandise that would be found at designer resale boutiques, sold for an arm and a leg. Read more>>

Rasa Tamulavichus

I immigrated from Lithuania with my parents to finish high school. Upon completion enrolled in Loyola University and completed my professional optometry training at the Illinois College of Optometry. Shortly after graduation, I started my private practice in Evergreen Park. Read more>>

Kimberly Kallmann

Growing up I always knew that I wanted to help people but wasn’t sure in what capacity. It wasn’t until 2003 when I was working in the prison system helping adolescents, who struggled with an addiction that I knew addiction would be my specialty. Read more>>


Our story is a late bloomer! My husband, Frank and I decided to fulfill a dream I’ve had for 10 years. We were married in 1984, raised 2 children, watched one get married! Frank was successful in business and I finished a career in modeling and started a small business doing artwork. Read more>>

Eric Robinson

Face Off Unlimited opened BATSU! on NYC’s historic St. Marks Place in 2010 with just a single Monday night performance each week. Utilizing word of mouth and online reviews, and aided by a handful of unsolicited bloggers and influencers, BATSU! NYC slowly and steadily became one of the East Village’s hottest underground comedy scenes. Read more>>

Francisco Maia

I was born and raised in Brazil and moved to the United States in 2005. In 2012 I graduated from The University of Pittsburgh with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. After working as a physical therapist for a couple of years, I learned that I could get certified to work with animals as well. Read more>>

Antonio Coke

I was born in Montego Bay, Jamaica and moved to Oxon Hill, Maryland in 1987. Ten years later I graduated from Pratt Institute with a Masters of Science in Interior Design. For a few years thereafter I worked at the top design firms of Gensler and Rockwell Group. Read more>>

Mikki Williams

Born and raised in NYC, I married my college sweetheart… he-Cornell, me-Ithaca College. I had aspirations to be a wife and mother as I am an only child, raised by a single parent and wanted the family I never had. I was a professional dancer, physical education teacher and gave it up to be the homemaker I always wanted to be. Pregnant with our second child, in Dec. my father in law died suddenly, in Jan. I lost the baby and almost died with peritonitis and in Feb. My 29-year-old husband died in a car accident while returning from a job-related event for IBM. Read More>>

Christopher Spear

I come from a family of 4 siblings. Melissa the eldest, Andrew, Matthew then Me. Mell and Andy are 10 and 8 years older respectively, while Matt and I are just 10 months apart. We were all raised in the Christian faith. When I was younger, my interest in art was kindled by my eldest brother Andrew. Read more>>

Julie Thomas

One of my earliest memories is from the age of four, running full speed alongside our family dog, Rex, and my mom saying, “You were running like the wind!” That spirit of freedom and exuberance encapsulates my relationship with animals throughout my life. Read more>>

Ana Munteanu

I started in my hometown Chisinau, in the Republic of Moldova. As a kid, I played piano, sang in a choir and watched my mother sing and act on the stage of the music theater. Later I studied at the conservatory, hoping one day to become a jazz singer. I practiced alone, I listened to jazz musicians, trying to imitate their phrases, their tone. Read more>>

Elsa Milani

I have always had a true passion for people, art, and beauty. I grew up with a very artistic set of British grandparents. My grandmother was a painter, and my grandfather; Tony Hepburn was a respected Ceramic Artist. They always encouraged me to be creative, true to myself, and go after what I love. Read more>>

Loretta S. Downs

My first friend died of AIDS in 1985. At the time, I was working as a Regional Sales Manager working in the Chicago Merchandise Mart. It was a world populated by creative people, many of them were gay men, and many of these men were close friends. Read more>>

Jessica Roubitchek

After completing my MBA I was looking to break away from the corporate world and start my own business. I was looking for an opportunity that was locally-focused and that was flexible enough that I could remain actively engaged in my family life. Read more>>

Patricia Staszak

Frustrated with the often chaotic environment of physical therapy where patients are sometimes double and triple booked, I wanted to take a different approach. So in 2000, I rented a room in the Cheetah gym in Andersonville and started Andersonville Physical Therapy and began providing one on one patient care. Read more>>

Andy Pierce

In the early 1970s, a campaign of interested volunteers petitioned the corporate successor to Balaban and Katz to investigate other uses for the c. 1925 Uptown Theatre beyond just movies. This was an attempt to ensure sufficient revenue and interest was generated to maintain the viability of the structure. Read more>>

Maribeth Vander Weele

I launched the Vander Weele Group in 2003 after working as a journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times, then as a member of the Chicago Public Schools’ management turnaround team, and eventually as the system’s Inspector General. With each transition—from journalism, to the government, and then to the corporate sector—I learned new methodologies, new styles of communication, and new competencies. Read more>>

Rita Argueta

I am the Founder & President of Emeric Facility Services, but most importantly I am a wife and a mother of three kids. I attribute my life successes to my family because to me, they give me the motivation to push forward. I immigrated to the United States from the country of Honduras at the young age of 19, leaving my family, friends, and life as I knew behind. Read more>>

Winifred Gundeck

In 2003 I️ founded Winifred Grace, a line of handmade jewelry, which I️ primarily wholesaled boutiques and retailers such as Anthropologie, free people, and Steven Alan. In May of 2014 I️ opened a brick and mortar location selling my jewelry and a few clothing and home accessories. Read more>>

James M. Lynch

I actually began in theatre – I have an MFA in Directing from DePaul’s Theatre School. I worked with a few local groups and had a full-time position with the Chicago Park’s District, leading courses for all age groups, with a theatre club, summer camp, a summer Shakespeare Festival and a really great community. Read more>>

Steve Moon

North Northfield United Methodist Church dates back to early pioneer days and has constructed prominent community landmarks at three of the corners of Sanders and Dundee. The church was born, however, in the simple log cabin of Daniel and Mary Esther when Rev. Jacob Boas preached the first sermon there in 1837. Read more>>

Funda Kahn

After being an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon for years, I saw a real need to help people with high levels of anxiety both before and after surgery. I found, more and more, that a number of patients have a real fear of surgery. Read more>>

Kristin Muller

I’ve been a licensed cosmetologist for four years. I gave my first haircut when I was eight, at a party my parents were hosting. My dad’s friend sat down on the kitchen floor and let me have at it. It was 1999, amid the era of spiky hair. Read more>>

John Barry

John Barry is the CEO & Founder of Star Events, which he developed 22 years ago (1996) to build communities, showcase the arts, and raise money for multiple non-profit clients which he cares deeply about. John is a true visionary. Read more>>

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