When coal goes through tremendous pressure, a diamond emerges.
For two Volusia County couples, the desire to change and the pressure it created forged two successful businesses.
It was at the height of The Great Recession in 2009 when LaToya Carey, who was in banking, and her husband James, who has a background in media production, picked up and moved.
“I needed what every human being so desperately desires, an entryway that leads to the fulfillment of purpose,” says LaToya.
“The harsh reality is I wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. I knew I was called to do more and that internal frustration overwhelmed me to a point where change was inevitable.”
Our move to Volusia County uncovered how burnt out we really were. We left South Florida during one of the worst economic times. When we moved, we decided to leave all of that behind us.”
The couple picked the region based on their need to be closer to family. It offered a change of pace, LaToya notes, a stark contrast in comparison to the big city chaos they were accustomed to.
“We didn’t come here with such intent in mind but isn’t that how destiny works; it’s discovered, not necessarily planned. I think Volusia County offers business owners fresh soil for growth, figuratively and literally. It’s a hidden gem––not only a place to establish a business but also a place to benchmark your creativity and innovation and even revolutionize the industry you’re in.”
Once settled in Daytona Beach, the couple hired a photographer for their church gala, but unfortunately, they were left with an awful experience and subpar pictures. That experience sparked the idea of doing it themselves.
Their business, Kenneth Grant Inzpirations, the middle names of their two sons, launched. Both LaToya, 41, and James, 44, balanced full-time jobs with their fledgling business.
Then, one day in 2017, LaToya came home deeply discouraged and disturbed.
“I felt stuck, unappreciated and I knew I was lacking the one thing every human craves, the fulfillment of purpose. I shared my heart with my husband and we put an 11-month plan in place to redefine what our future would look like”
LaToya says she and James resigned their jobs, stepped out into full-time entrepreneurship in 2018, and never looked back.
Kenneth Grant Inzpirations offers signature photography and design, including professional business portraits, creative photography for editorial and fashion, photos for personal branding and lifestyle and event photography. They also provide logo development and web design. The business is located in Daytona Beach.
“Volusia County is home by default––extending our family, purchasing a home, raising that family and launching and operating a successful business. We didn’t choose Volusia County; Volusia County chose us.”
“Our biggest challenge was the fear of the unknown, not knowing if any of this would actually work, be productive or be lucrative for our family,” says LaToya. “We continue to develop strategies to overcome obstacles.”
For Brandon Sheppard, 32, and his wife, Robyn, 33, a conversation around the dining table discussing food with best friend Ryan Truong inspired the noted Ormond Beach eatery, 63 Sovereign.
“I always wanted to own a restaurant; I really felt we could bring something different to our culinary scene in the area,” says Brandon. “I felt the area was ready for a progressive restaurant, a restaurant that likes to step out of its comfort zone and educate people on cuisine from all walks of life. The food culture in our area is thriving.”
Sheppard, an area native, decided to stay in the region for his business.
“It was attractive to me because it’s where I call home. I felt there was nothing like us in the county, I wanted to open the type of restaurant that I wanted here growing up, he says.
“I think our county is attractive to many because of its untapped potential. There are plenty of opportunities to modernize our area with new concepts, not just restaurants but many [other] businesses too. I think our area is primed for it, and Volusia County being incredibly beautiful doesn’t hurt.”
The name Sovereign, meaning free from outside influence, was chosen, and the restaurant opened its doors on July 4, 2018.
“We all had careers and worked for someone else, but inside this restaurant, we made the rules and ran it our way,” Brandon, who still has a career as the director of facilities for the Museum of Arts & Sciences, says. Robyn is a medical esthetician for Advanced Dermatology.
In March 2020, the Sheppard’s partnership dynamics changed, with Sergio Faenza stopping in. Folks in the area will recognize Faenza as co-owner of another delicious restaurant, Chucherias.
“He has been essential in helping take Sovereign to its current form but still keeping the identity we stood for at the start,” says Brandon. “When Ryan and Robyn decided to step away in early 2020, Sergio is who I partnered with to continue the business.
“He was very hands-on–– upgrading our kitchen and adding a full bar to the concept. He helped set Sovereign up to grow quickly post Covid and continues to bring his expertise every day. If I am not at the restaurant, he is. “
The charming restaurant, located in a 1920s JC Penney catalog home with front porch and wrap-around courtyard, offers a progressive interpretation of cuisine from around the world and showcases a carefully curated raw bar highlighting an extensive selection of cold water oysters.
But the menu has been one of 63 Sovereign’s biggest obstacles.
“I think one of the most challenging parts for us was to find the right balance of cuisine,” Brandon says. “We are quite the eclectic restaurant, and it took us time to come into our own and to truly put out the product we knew would best represent Sovereign.
“We have residents in Volusia that are truly wanting an elevated experience, but getting your name out there or getting into their normal rotation is extremely hard.”
Both Kenneth Grant Inzpirations and 63 Sovereign also say current challenges include labor shortages.
“We are in a season of DIY, do it yourself,” says Kenneth Grant Inzpirations’ LaToya Carey. “We understand that we will not always be here. It is just a season. When the time comes, our ‘destiny helpers’ will appear. We believe that we don’t even have to search for them; they will find us.”
At 63 Sovereign, Brandon Sheppard says he and his team are pushing through, too.
“There have been plenty of nights where either my partner or I are shaking cocktails, washing dishes or shucking oysters. We limit our seatings and are in constant control of reservations to be sure we can handle the right volume. We try to take care of the staff we have. We are very fortunate; we have an amazing team that works so hard, shows up every day and kills it. They understand what the country is going through right now.”