Charleston Wilson and Kehlin Farooq:
When Charleston Wilson began purchasing sodas exclusive to Louisiana and reselling them at a Houston barber shop 7 years ago, he didn’t know that he was starting a company that would grow to have a national network of 70+ stores and 3,000 vending machines. Now, Exotic Pop is known as the “Unique Beverage Boutique” because they offer rare, hard-to-find flavors of beverages and snacks from all over the world. As Charleston says: “Just because it hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.” This mentality led him to expand upon the success of his small soda venture and reach out to his mentor, and eventual business partner, Kehlin Farooq. Kehlin leveraged his degree in broadcasting and communications, as well as his previous work with artists at the BET Network, to seal Exotic Pop’s first major deal with Travis Scott. Houston natives, Charleston and Kehlin, are now working to open Exotic Pop’s flagship store here in Houston, Texas. This milestone is especially important to Charleston and Kehlin because this creates another opportunity to give back to the community that helped build Exotic Pop into what it is today. According to Kehlin: “It’s deeper than what you think. You have to sow into and fertilize anything that you want to grow. And we live by that. That’s how we were brought up.” Charleston and Kehlin are also working to help Houston youth grow. Through scholarships and speaking events, Charleston and Kehlin are making sure Houston’s future entrepreneurs are prepared for when their own opportunities are presented.
Cadillac Shaping: Houston – Charleston Wilson and Kehlin Farooq
For Rosalia Chapa, “dance es mi vida.” Since the age of 2, Rosalia has been dancing. As she got older, Rosalia focused her passion to the art of Mexican folk dance. In high school, Rosalia joined her school’s folklorico group. After graduation, the group’s director opened a studio and recruited Rosalia to teach there. That experience, coupled with her numerous trips to Mexico, helped build the foundation of Rosalia’s commitment to helping young people not only learn to dance, but learn about their culture. Rosalia has brought that commitment to her role as artistic director of Mixteco Ballet Folklórico. Founded in 1992 by Jose Sada, Mixteco Ballet Folklórico is dedicated to the research, preservation, and education of Mexican customs, traditions, and culture through the art of music and dance. Since it was founded, Mixteco’s goal has been to provide Houston area youth with cultural activities that are rewarding and increase artistic awareness within the community…and they are doing exactly that. Rosalia and Mixteco have traveled to Macedonia, danced for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and toured through China. Even though Rosalia has been around the world with Mixteco, she loves being able to connect with the youth and communities here in Houston. According to Rosalia, “I’ve lived in different cities, but I’ve never had the sense of community like I have here in Houston.”
Cadillac Shaping: Houston – Rosalia Chapa
Jacque Daughtry is tackling illiteracy. With a relationship-centered strategy, Jacque and the reading nonprofit organization Literacy Now make it a purpose to uplift children and empower their parents. Jacque has a lifelong relationship with Houston education: Growing up in West Houston, Jacque is a product of Houston ISD. Jacque received her postsecondary education from the University of Houston. After becoming a mother, Jacque served as PTO president of her children’s Houston schools for six different terms. These experiences, matched with her volunteer efforts and desire to help children who didn’t have the same benefits as her kids, laid the foundation for Jacque’s work with Literacy Now. Founded by Jerry Davis in 2006, Literacy Now is a Houston nonprofit whose goal is to meet kids and their families where they are through a system of support, an early reading curriculum, and targeted programs that provide foundational skills for the children that need them. Jacque knows that Literacy Now can’t do it alone. However, Literacy Now’s roots in Houston brings hope. Jacque loves Houston because she believes the city is a community with a spirit of togetherness. After seventeen years, Jacques has more passion now than she did at the beginning. For Jacque, there’s nothing like when a child learns something new.
Cadillac Shaping: Houston – Jacque Daughtry
For Lizbeth Ortiz art is a language, and she speaks it fluently. Lizbeth’s art is a reflection of her Mexican American culture, and truly represents who she is. With influences from her Mexican Catholic upbringing and Indigenous expressions, Lizbeth’s art is full of color and life. As an artist and an oldest child, Lizbeth has a strong spirit. That spirit led Lizbeth to apply to, and attend, Houston’s Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) and later New York’s Pratt Institute. After societal discouragement spurred an artistic hiatus in Lizbeth’s life, she was brought back to Houston where she rented a space in the Warehouse district. Moving back to Houston has been fruitful for Lizbeth both locally and nationally. In 2005, Lizbeth and a community of Houston artists created the Frida Festival, an art show that invites artists from all walks of life to express what Frida Kahlo has inspired them to do. In 2008, Lizbeth was honored as the official artist of the Latin Grammys with her Houston-inspired work of art. Lizbeth believes in the freedom of expression, and she’s doing her part to provide a safe space here in Houston for as many artists as possible to access that freedom.
Cadillac Shaping: Houston – Lizbeth Ortiz
Dr. Tameka Maiden:
Dr. Tameka Maiden is striving to build a foundation for children to go out into the world and conquer anything. Dr. Maiden is a schoolteacher turned pharmacist who founded the educational teddy bear company Cubby Love Bears. The goal of the company is to bridge the gap in language development in children, all the while teaching them new languages. The inspiration for the company started at home, with Dr. Maiden’s daughter Tori. Tori made Dr. Maiden a believer out of the old adage: “Children will make you into a better person.” In Dr. Maiden’s case, her desire to help her child learn her colors made her an innovator. With her teaching background, Dr. Maiden knew learning is best served through repetition. This coupled with the feel and interaction of a teddy bear was the key to helping Tori not only learn her colors in English, but in Spanish too! After sharing this invention, which gave her daughter the foundation of learning a second language at the age of 1, with her friends and colleagues…Cubby Love Bears was born. Now. Dr. Maiden has her hands full designing the newest Cubby Love Bears, being a full-time pharmacist while running her growing educational toy company, and raising her daughter as a single mom. However, her passion has fueled her success. Dr. Maiden is living her purpose here in Houston with Cubby Love Bears, and if she can change the life of just one or two kids, she feels like she’s done her job.
Cadillac Shaping: Houston - Dr. Tameka Maiden
To Franky Cardona, Art is Life. Ever since he was a kid, the accomplishment of creating something out of nothing breathed life to Franky’s passion for the arts. As a child of a father in the military, Franky moved around a lot growing up. However, his family eventually settled in Houston, where a city full of building-side murals and notorious graffiti art fostered Franky’s love of art. Even with the endgame goal of becoming an artist, Franky didn’t know he could turn his dream into a full-time reality; the advent of Instagram showed him that it was a real possibility. After showcasing his art on social media, Franky’s work was commissioned by former Houston Texan Andre Johnson…and the rest was history. Now with a new studio in Houston’s East Downtown “EaDo” neighborhood, Franky is reveling in the result of all of his hard work: “I guess I am living the dream…my dream.”
Cadillac Shaping: Houston - Franky Cardona
"I’d like for people to remember Josh Paul as a light…He was positive, he always believed in you, even when he was fighting the toughest battle.”
Through her own grief and healing, and on the anniversary of her brother Josh Paul’s passing, Kristin Banks founded the Josh Paul Foundation. Kristin is committed to continuing her brother’s legacy of helping others feel seen, heard, valued…and worthy. The Josh Paul Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that’s focused on the advancement of continuing education for students who have faced adversity. The foundation helps local students further their education through an annual scholarship fund and in-school activities in Houston-area school districts. The opportunity to connect with Houston, a city her brother loved so much, is a passion of Kristin’s: “Josh loved the community and the community loved him back and they still do.”
Cadillac Shaping: Houston - Kristin Banks
For Vincent Gardner, music is in his blood. Growing up a child of music educators and becoming a trombonist at the young age of 13, Vincent was born to play. After playing “every type of music that you could put a trombone part in,” and touring with the likes of Lauryn Hill, Vincent and his wife Belinda were ready to leave New York. After searching different cities, nothing had the feeling of Houston. So, Vincent and Melinda moved down South and started Jazz Houston. Jazz Houston is an organization dedicated to jazz music through performance, education, and community outreach. Through this organization, Vincent’s goal is to help bring a little light to all of the great Texans and Houstonians that have contributed to jazz music throughout the years.
Cadillac Shaping: Houston - Vincent Gardner
For Safir Ali, dry cleaning is in his blood. Growing up, Safir spent a lot of his time at his family's dry cleaning business. It might have not been his favorite place as a kid, but his time there laid the foundation for his business venture. In 2016, Safir and his brother Mubeen created Hamper, an on-demand dry cleaning company that touts they are "dry cleaning and laundry reinvented." Hamper aims to give Houstonians an easier and more affordable way to get their dry cleaning. Safir hopes to answer the laundry industry’s somewhat outdated service problem, with Hamper’s convenient kiosks that enable customers to get clean clothes during their regular work commute. At first, Safir had doubts about starting a tech company in Houston. However, he’s found Houston to be the perfect home for Hamper. Whether it was through partnerships like Hamper’s kiosk manufacturing and the offices they’re located in, or being a member at Station Houston, the Houston community has welcomed Hamper with open arms.
Cadillac: Shaping Houston - Safir Ali
Ever since Edgar Median was a child, he was a creative person in love with color. Due to Edgar’s young health conditions, his parents had to keep him indoors. However, they fostered his creativity with coloring books and watercolor paints…and an artist was born. After moving to the States from his hometown in Tamaulipas, Mexico, Edgar was able to really develop his skills. Edgar’s art teacher took him under her wing and fueled his passion for creating art. Now Edgar has transformed as an artist, and his work reflects his journey. Edgar describes his artwork as a fusion of his two cultures: It’s colorful, bold, and reflects his lively Latin American heritage. Yet, the contemporary influences of American artistry are reflected in his work. To Edgar, Houston is a city full of opportunities, because it has given him a platform as an immigrant, a person of color and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s very important to Edgar for kids to have someone to look up to that looks like them, and he hopes he can be that role model.
Cadillac Shaping: Houston – Edgar Medina
When Scotty Sheridan isn’t shredding it down at the local skate park, he’s at the Scotty’s Fermented Foods headquarters making, as you can guess, fermented foods. Scotty knows that there is sort of a notion that fermented means “rotten.” However, he’s out to prove it's actually far from it. Scotty’s Fermented Foods cultivates live anaerobic bacteria that processes the foods, and essentially preserves them. According to Scotty, this creates a living culture that is extremely healthy and beneficial for gut bacteria. Scotty was born and raised in Houston, and he regularly finds ways to be active in the community. One of those ways is by keeping a constant presence at the local farmer’s markets. They are where Scotty’s Fermented Foods started, and Scotty considers them essential to his business. Scotty also likes to give back to the community by educating people on how to ferment food in their own kitchens. By showing people how to ferment and explaining its benefits, Scotty aims to break the stigma around fermentation. When reflecting on the city that he and his business calls home, Scotty takes pride in his Houstonian status: “Houston is such a wonderful town. There's so much going on in Houston that it's exciting to be a part of it. So many business opportunities, but so many cultural opportunities.”
Cadillac Shaping: Houston - Scotty Sheridan
With his company Goodfair, Topper Luciani is leading a counterculture movement…and his rally cry is “Think secondhand first.” Due to the creation of fast fashion, clothing consumption has increased tremendously. However, the re-emergence of thrifting has shown to be a worthy adversary. Topper himself has a long relationship with thrifting. Born to a fashion-loving family, Topper always loved the treasure hunt aspect of thrift shopping. Later, that love of thrifting, coupled with his environmentalist nature and entrepreneurial spirit, led to Goodfair. Being fundamentally a thrift brand, Goodfair is based on helping the environmental crisis that is unfolding in the apparel industry. That help starts with Goodfair’s mission: To make thrifting more accessible and seamless. With an online store and conveniently shipping out of the port city of Houston, Texas, Goodfair is doing just that. Topper has a message to other entrepreneurs trying to make the world a better place: “If you're not in Houston right now and you're an entrepreneur, this is the place to be.”
Cadillac Shaping: Houston – Topper Luciani
Ever since she was three years old, Marlana Doyle had a passion for dance. After graduating college, with a B.A. in dance no less, Marlana was faced with a decision on where to continue her career in the arts. After a suggestion from her artistic director about an “unknown dance gem” of a city, Marlana looked to Houston…and she’s still here 20 years later. Upon getting to know the city and dancing professionally, Marlana felt like it was time to make the next step. Marlana believed Houston needed a new centrally located space that encompassed all things dance, and that space was the Institute of Contemporary Dance. Created with acceptance and accessibility in mind, the Institute for Contemporary Dance not only serves as a hub for the contemporary form, but it features classes for other dance forms like ballet and jazz for young and mature dancers alike. Marlana also, along with 5 other founding members, created the Houston Contemporary Dance Company: A small nonprofit dance organization that has collaborated with music organizations such as Apollo Chamber Players and Loop38. As Marlana reflects on her choice to move to Houston, she knows she wouldn’t change a thing. According to Marlana, “it's a young city. It's a fun city, and it's a place maybe you could start your career.”