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Inspiring Stories from the West 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 the West Side’s rising stars below.

Jeanne Stevens

Jarrett and I always felt like we’d start a church someday but it wasn’t till about 10 years ago, while we were working at a church in Atlanta, that we felt God’s whisper get louder and the urge grow stronger. We started dreaming up this vision of ours and after much prayer and discernment decided to move to Chicago to start Soul City Church. We knew early on that we needed to be in the West Loop and so began our search of finding a space. Some friends of ours connected us to a family who owned the property on the corner of Adams and Racine. At that time, it was just an empty warehouse but we had vision and believed we could turn it into what we needed it to be which proved to be enough because in July of 2010 we were handed the key to the building and told, “It’s yours. Rent free for 2 years. Do whatever God leads you to do with it.” Read more>>

Reginald Phillips

Back in 1991 while working as a Design Engineer for a company located in Des Plaines, IL there were a lot of Injection Molding Machines producing plastic components for customers and my Manager noticed we had too many parts falling onto the floor and it was costing the company a lot money, I was asked to come up with something to stop this from happening. Some machines had old Cardboard and square clear thick dirty plastic to try and block these parts from bouncing all over the place. So I designed a shade similar to our home window shades that moved vertically up and down “but” my shade would move horizontally side by side with the machines. After a few months, each machine had a custom shield on it for each customers mold. Read more>>

Juan Del Castillo

Fast Lane Automotive Training was started in March of 2009 because we found that a major portion of the unemployed, underemployed, and high-risk youth that want to learn a career in automotive technology was not being serviced by the traditional education system. Our mission is to provide a unique and customized training experience for each student based on their work and family needs, their level of education, and their financial position. We empower students by breaking the barriers put up by traditional educational systems and provide real world on the job training in a hands-on environment where students learn while they work. Read more>>

Roberta Wentling

Making the decision to start Tiny Toes Music in 2009 was one of those moments in my life that just felt right, and I haven’t looked back since. After seven years in the classroom, I had decided that public school teaching wasn’t fulfilling for me, and I began looking for a second career. My schooling is in both music and education, so in a way I’m not sure what else I would have done with my life. I’m proud to say that we currently serve nearly 300 families a week, singing and dancing the days away in classes for children ages birth through six and their parents or caregivers. Read more>>

Danielle Hollis

I joined the team at Water Street Studios in September of 2015. I was a little over half way through my Masters program in Nonprofit Management at DePaul University in Chicago. After working a series of barista and urban agriculture jobs in Chicago I got a phone call from a friend telling me that Water Street Studios was looking for an Executive Director. At first I laughed because I did not feel qualified to apply for the position. I was only 24 and still in my Masters program. The twist is that Water Street Studios was back in my hometown. Read more>>

William Breuder

I met the founder of The Tidy Queens at a local business introduction event. After a lengthy discussion, it was apparent I could help her expand by increasing her marketing initiatives, more interaction at local events and advertising at local establishments as well as building more of an online presence through social media. Her determined focus and solid business plan coupled with a rigorous marketing plan were the recipe for success. My background of more than 25 years of sales experience and track record of solving customer issues was the perfect complement for The Tidy Queens growth model. Read more>>

Debra Sheridan

In 1989 I was working for a small advertising agency that was merging with an agency handling Mattel, the toy manufacturer. I had brought five accounts into the firm and they no longer wanted to service them. I shopped my band of clients to other agencies to see if they would be willing to accept them as clients with me as the account executive overseeing that they received what had been promised to them. Just like any bad shopping experience, I couldn’t find any firm I wanted to work with and that would give these clients the services they expected and were promised. Read more>>

Shauna Demara

I have been lucky enough to have been practicing Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for the last 8 years. When I graduated I worked for a practice in the city for a few years. It was during this time that I realized what a void there was of acupuncture being provided in the suburbs. We would have patients driving into the city to get acupuncture because they couldn’t find anyone near them. Four years ago, I decided to take a leap and open up my own practice in my home town of Glen Ellyn and in the River North area of Chicago. After splitting my time between both I realized how much I loved practicing just in the burbs and so a year ago I decided to solely focus on Glen Ellyn and couldn’t be happier. Read more>>

Kit DeWitt

Upon receiving my Interior Design degree from Michigan State University in 1982, I embarked on a career in the field of architecture, design and furniture which included positions held at Chicago firms such as Murphy/Jahn Architects and UIDC Management and Real Estate. From 1988 to 2004 I held a designer/sales position at a suburban commercial furniture and design firm, where I built a clientele of corporate, healthcare and senior living accounts. For 16 years I enjoyed transforming my clients’ environments with finishes and furnishings, all with a creative mindset incorporating both aesthetics and function within budget. Read more>>

Shannon Clayborn

I have been dancing since I was 2 and made the decision to continue my education in college. After graduating from the University of Iowa with my BA in Dance, Minor in Spanish, and Performing Arts Entrepreneurship Certificate in 2010, I made the decision to jump in as a studio owner. I opened the doors of A Step Above Dance Academy in August of 2010 in the same building as a gymnastics facility. A few months later there was a devastating fire at that location and I made the decision to move my business to Batavia, to a building of our own. We spent almost 6 years in that location and it was great. Read more>>

Tara O’Dell

I moved to Chicago in 2014 from Omaha, Nebraska where I worked at an amazing chiropractic office and as a doula. I received a bachelor’s degree in theatre from the University of Nebraska Lincoln Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film. A friend from college mentioned how he was enjoying Chicago as an actor and I felt the pull to make a jump. I knew I could massage anywhere and I was really itching to do more acting. I had grown up watching SNL and had always wanted to attend the Second City Training Program. Read more>>

Tina Morton and Kelsey Haliti

Our path in birth work was paved when we became mothers ourselves. We both became infatuated with all things birth and babies right from the start! Tina: In 2012, my husband and I welcomed our first son, and it was almost immediately that I began guiding and consulting others in the maternity world. After a couple of years, I decided to become professionally trained in maternity consulting, which then evolved into becoming a certified postpartum doula. Becoming a professionally trained birth doula and an Evidence Based Birth® Instructor soon followed, and the rest is history! Read more>>

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