Through our work we have had the good fortune of seeing firsthand how success comes in every shape, size, color, faith, and orientation. More importantly we’ve learned that success is often the result of people embracing their unique backgrounds and so we’ve asked the community to tell us about their background and how it has impacted where they are today.

Gourty Maxx | Grammy Nominated Producer, Artist, Musical Director, Arranger, Touring & Recording Drummer

I’m originally from Brooklyn, NY but I lived in Richmond, VA from middle school to high school years. It was definitely a culture change. NY is more up to date as far as the culture. Food, Music, Fashion, Technology, everything. However, RVA caught onto things when it was convenient. lol. I appreciate RVA because it definitely was a perfect place at a perfect time for me to discover myself as a creative while being discovered if that makes sense. I had some of the greatest big brother role models to learn with and grow within our gifts and talents, especially in music. I was more of the musician (drummer) just playing at every church related event in and out of the city, which allowed me to make a name for myself. At 19, I decided to move to ATL where I could use my gifts to fly even higher. Everything took off at this point. Read more>>

Kelvin Ominiabohs | Online Personal Coach

I was born and raised in DMV metropolitan area but I am also Nigerian by bold. Being a first generation Nigerian American has shaped me tremendously. My work ethic has had the main affect from my background. My parents came here in their 20s to live the American Dream. They instilled in me that hardwork, will, and dedication can get you away in life if you keep those qualities always with you. I am always looking for opportunities to grow, learn, and evolve. Read more>>

Johnakeshia Thompson | Fashion DIY blogger & Fashion editor

I am from Jacksonville, Fl. I believe that my upbringing has molded me into the woman that I am today because of the strength of the women in my life. Growing up, I have never seen my grandmother work a job because she has always had her own business. Whether it was a furniture store, daycare, or rooming house. She has always been a hustler and still one to this day. I also saw my mom work 2 jobs growing up before she started her own business as well as my aunts who are now business owners. I would like to say that being an entrepreneur is something that was passed down to me. If it hadn’t been for the women in my life I am not sure I would have the same tenacity or perseverance. Read more>>

Shannon Gowland | Herbalist, QiGong Instructor, & Food Therapy Chef

My family has always instilled a deep appreciation and respect for nature in me. As the chapters and layers of my life developed, that thread from my childhood was braided into a tether for my future. I was one of those fortunate children who grew up knowing not just their grandparents, but also great grandparents. More than 15 of us would gather around a dinner table together and share the harvests of our family’s farm. I grew up in East Cobb, northwest of Atlanta. Just a few decades ago, the two-lane roads were surrounded by family farms and dense trees. Most of my childhood was spent playing in creeks, ponds, and woods – early on I connected deeply with the Earth and appreciated the relationship and sustenance she provides us all. Read more>>

Ivan Liu | Fashion Designer

I am originally from Hong Kong and growing up in an Asian family, my parents were strict with me when I was young. They wanted good grades on every subject I study, pushed me to do a lot of extracurricular activities like play the piano, the violin, traditional Chinese musical instruments as well as sports. However, I think they have soon realised that I was not going to fit into the traditional mould of going onto doing a law or doctor’s degree, so they have allowed me to develop what I like, which is in the arts. I am extremely thankful for them allowing me to explore these options as compared to a lot of other peers, they weren’t even allowed to think about anything else other than their grades as their whole life has been planned for them in advance. Read more>>

Ann-Kathrin Bahr | Ann-Kathrin Bahr | Visual Artist

I was born and raised in Germany. Growing up in the 90’s I was one of the first generations to get to use the internet. My dad bought our first computer and explained to me how to use it. He was not just a big influence on making me use a computer and the internet but also had a big impact on my music taste. Working as a tour bus driver, he would be on the road during the summer, driving famous artists like Madonna, Sean Paul, Korn, and a lot of Reggae bands through Europe on their tours. His music taste was very diverse. He mostly made me listen to a lot of RnB & Reggae though. Honestly, the benefits of having a dad who knows a lot of people in the entertainment industry was an amazing experience I would never want to miss. I was able to go to A LOT of concerts (the most amazing one back then being Eminem’s Anger Management Tour), along with meeting a bunch of artists. Read more>>

Courtney Goode | Fitness Trainer

I’m originally from Orange County, California. My bonus dad, who was in the Marines, raised my sisters and I. He instilled being disciplined and being productive to us. I didn’t understand what he was trying to teach us at the time. Moving from California to Atlanta straight out of high school, I had to make sure I wasn’t messing around. Everything that I may have forgotten about growing up, came back to me once I left the nest. Read more>>

Kym Williams | Jewelry Designer and Maker

I was born and raised in San Diego, California which was rich in diversity and culture.. I grew up being exposed to a lot of different languages, people, food and beliefs. It was amazing. I think it influenced my love for travel quite a bit and appreciation for art and language. Read more>>

Mattie Cagle | Graphic Designer & Freelancer

I am from Ellijay, a small mountain town in North Georgia. I learned very quickly that there were few job opportunities for me in my rural hometown. I decided to head to the city. Growing up in a small town is a big part of who I am. When I made the move to Atlanta and started attending school, I was hesitant to state where I was from even though my southern accent did that for me. Coming from a small town, my challenge was to have an artistic career and not conform to what my peer group thought I should choose as my career. Moving to Atlanta was definitely a positive experience for me. I learned how welcoming this community can be to people and the different ways they express themselves. I was very lucky to have a supportive family that always inspired me to go after a career in graphic design even when others back home didn’t understand it. Read more>>

Jeanishma Daniels | Chef

I’m from Macon, Georgia. Looking back on my childhood, I was raised around entrepreneurs. My Grandmother had her own house cleaning business, my Great Aunt (my Grandmother’s sister), owns a clothing boutique. My Grandmother would often take me with her to clean houses. I later found out their mother, my Great Grandmother also owned a house cleaning business. My Godparents also owned a catering business at one point as well. Although she opened her business when I was an adult, my Mother helped helped local entrepreneurs launched her business. Sometimes, she’d work in my Aunt’s boutique as well. Seeing that growing up, it was inspiring. I had no clue, one day, I would follow into their footsteps. Read more>>

Sanaa Himani | Social Enterprise Founder & Fintech Startup Team Lead

I’m 2nd generation Indian American woman, born and raised in New York – my parents emigrated from Mumbai, India in the 80s. I’ve also been brought up as Ismaili, a minority sect of Islam, and furthermore Islam is a minority religion amongst Indians. I guess you can say I’m a minority in several different ways. All my life, I’ve tried really hard to fit my identity neatly into a box, and like many children of immigrants, I’ve been unsuccessful. This “failure” is at the core of who I am; it’s been the driving force behind my greatest periods of personal development, it’s pushed me to launch a business, and it’s helped me figure out my purpose early on in life. Read more>>

Brian Culpepper | Graphic Designer/Founder of B. Klean Apparel

I’m originally from Atlanta, Ga. Atlanta has influenced every aspect of my life. From learning the latest dances in various clubs throughout Atlanta; taking cues from my dad, who was a manager for Walter’s Clothing, on how to dress; to art appreciation from visiting the Apex Museum; seeing the Alvin Ailey dancers at the Fox Theater or taking frequent trips to the High Museum when I became of age. Atlanta has molded me into the color coordinated, art loving, easy going, music head that I am today. I was raised by my father, mother, two aunts and my grandparents. I was always around family, which instilled the importance of family. My father worked for the world famous Walter’s Clothing. There he learned how to save money, become a salesman and build relationships from the late great Walter Strauss. Those values stuck with me to this day and have aided in the launch of my brand, B. Klean Apparel. My mother worked for First Union Bank now know as Wells Fargo for about 15 years and then transitioned to Air Touch now Verizon Wireless for over 20 years until she retired. Read more>>

Manahar Kumar | Writer-student EMMY® award winning Director-Actor

Born and brought up around professional English Theatre in Chandigarh, North India, and pursuing my undergraduate degree in Manipal, South India, my worldview expanded, after observing many kinds of India in one India. Being part of classics like The Mousetrap, Mother’s Day, The Night of January 16 and 12 Angry Men, I learned, grew and fell in love with performing arts.
In Manipal, I co-founded a production house, UnTied Laces. This was followed by various projects, across different genres, where I contributed as a writer, cinematographer, director, editor and actor including a music video in collaboration with the non-profit, Men Against Rape and Discrimination (MARD) that sought to inspire and mobilize more men to stand up against everyday sexual violence in India. In 2016, we created a forum for talented artists to express themselves — through stand-up comedy, slam poetry, improvisation, short plays and acoustic sessions by envisioning an event called ‘Baba Nights.’ Read more>>

Kate Cosentino | Artist & Songwriter

I was born and raised by two go-getter parents in Kansas City. Between the two of them, you’d find so much heart and an endless supply of optimism, adventure, & zest for life. (Mixed with a bit of workaholism) From them, I learned to believe in myself and they really affirmed my voice as an artist and musician. They also passed on the workaholic gene so I’ve had to learn (as they are too) not to burn myself out trying so hard to achieve my goals. Growing up in Kansas City hugely influenced me as a businesswoman and musician. To the former, I learned how to put on a show as well as a lot about what it does for a business and artist through performances at Nica’s (now Beignet in the River Market), Take Five Coffee Bar & the annual Festa Italiana in Zona Rosa. The jazz scene and indie/alt music scene in Kansas City hugely influenced my sound and my love for music. Even just local creatives constantly inspired me whether it was one of my friends incredible music projects or the great Peggy Noland’s fashion design work which inspired me to design my own guitar straps. KC is filled with creative, vibrant, and, most of all, kind people. Read more>>

Akua Atakora | Private Chef / Private Caterer

Growing up, I always enjoyed cooking, reading, and writing! I grew up in Toronto, Canada primarily with my mom, older brother Kofi, and older sister Ophelia. I was extremely shy as a kid, but as I got older my confidence began to grow. Throughout elementary and high school, I was always a kinesthetic/hands-on learner. I could retain information better when I was physically completing tasks. When my mom would cook, I would always ask to help. Even if she needed me to peel ginger or grate nutmeg, I didn’t mind. Getting that hands-on experience made me extremely happy. I remember when I would rush home just so I could make a grilled cheese sandwich or hashbrowns. I loved the experience of cooking on my own. Read more>>

Charlissa Rice | Thrifty Fashionista

I was born in Durham, North Carolina and moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in the fifth grade and remained there until college. Growing up in a single mother home and being the oldest of four children you automatically step into the leadership role quickly. My mother and grandmother always instilled in me that working hard pays off. I was the first of many things in my family. The first to graduate from college which paved the way for my siblings to follow in my footsteps as well. We all graduated from high school and college and never gave up because of the way that we were raised. Seeing my mother work hard day after day without complaining and embracing the hand that was dealt to her showed me that I accomplish anything that I set my mind too. Read more>>

Milton Davis | Author and publisher

I’m originally from Columbus, GA. I grew up surrounded by family, 24 aunts and uncles and a bunch of cousins. We were close knit and supportive, and many of my relatives were entrepreneurs. I learned from them the value of hard work, but most of all I learned from them that I could do anything I wanted as long as I put my all into it. Read more>>

Chiara Mecozzi | Fine Artist and Photographer

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and brought up between Argentina and Miami, FL. From an early age I was exposed to the artist life through my mother, Miriam Costanza, a prominent painter. Growing up in an artist studio I was able to develop skills and a curiosity for the arts that eventually led me to pursue an arts degree. Living in Miami, I had a hard time finding happiness and fulfillment. I felt like the city and my surroundings pushed me to be more aware and interested in material possessions, outside distractions, and unfulfilling pursuits, rather than looking inward and finding happiness within myself. I worked really hard to be enough, but it always felt like I needed to do more. After a lot of letting myself down, including a failed marriage, I decided to move to New York. Read more>>

Zachary Tran | Musician & Audio Engineer

I am from the southside of Atlanta and being raised in the south helped shape me into who I am today. I was often the only Asian kid in my class, so I always felt the need to prove myself. Being Vietnamese American, I had to face a lot of adversities. I grew up being called names like Chinese boy, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, dog eater, ching chong, etc. Although it was hard, it helped me have such thick skin. For a while, I hated being Asian because I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to be like everyone else, but I realized that is what makes me unique. My whole life I have been the black sheep. I was often too “ghetto” for the Asians and too Asian for the Americans. It was hard finding where I fell in the line. Read more>>

Alton Pitre | Journalist & Founder of Jungletography, LLC

I’m from Baldwin Village, best known as “The Jungles,” which is a gang-ridden and poverty stricken neighborhood in South Central, Los Angeles. Despite the unconditional love from my grandma who raised me, my inevitable upbringing was impacted by the real world outside, in gangs. I had just got cut from the varsity basketball squad the same year my gang affiliation caught up with me and led me to getting arrested for a robbery and attempted murder that I did not commit. After two years of fighting for my freedom in juvenile court, I declined a plea bargain of a year and a strike and was sent to adult court where I faced a potential life sentence. That was the risk I was willing to take to earn my freedom and it paid off three days later when adult court didn’t file any charges and dropped the case!. Read more>>

Brian Smith | CEO/Founder

Im from Montgomery, Alabama. I came from a single parent household where it was just me and my mom. We didn’t have everything, but my mom made sure that i had what i needed to survive. My mom would donate care packages to prisoners and take me with her while doing it. That taught me that, no matter how hard life gets, always be there to lend a hand to a person in need. I made a promise to myself that if we ever get out of this situation that were in, im going to dedicate my life time and efforts into helping those families less fortunate. As i got older i formed The BlueHeart Foundation 334, which helps low income families here in the Montgomery area. I created this foundation to help families and also inspire others to be great. Read more>>

DANYELLE CLARK | Singer, Songwriter, and Podcast Host

Although I live in Atlanta, I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. I truly believe that my upbringing and background have really impacted who I am. Has the road been easy? Not at all, but I strive to do my best in everything that I do each day. That was something that my parents always told me. I look at myself as my own competition. I challenge myself because, at the end of the day, I am the only one that is responsible for my happiness. I thank my parents as much as possible for all of the knowledge, advice, and love that they’ve given me even still in my adulthood. In my eyes, my mother was the perfect role model and my father was my hero. If it wasn’t for them, I really don’t know where I would be. Read more>>