#5 – From Scratch: When passion leads to business


#5 – From Scratch: When passion leads to business

Event Date: October 5, 2015

Location: B:Hive Bridgeport

A pastor, an artist, a candlemaker, and a market owner walk into a bar... actually, into a B:Hive. While it may sound like a good start to a joke, there's nothing more serious, energetic, and driven than the passion of these four speakers. The common thread: they all started from scratch. 

With a blazing fire of conviction, these folks took their passion and turned it into their life business. Through all the ebbs and flows of their journeys, they experienced success, rejection, and hope. And once again, Bridgeport had a dose of inspiration through storytelling.

It's not just the stories that left an air of joy and motivation, but each and every individual that came to join in for the night. Hugs were had, laughs were heard, and even an impromptu round of singing "Happy Birthday" occurred. But is it at all surprising? 

This is truly a meltpot of a community. Whether it be culture, talent, language, or economics, diversity in found in every nook and cranky of this vibrant city. And on this particular evening, we heard an array of stories from a multitude of backgrounds. 

A big thank you to those who documented the evening: Kristyn Miller of Kristyn Miller Photography and Maya Oren from Mojalvo films. Click on their links to view more of their beautiful work!

Keep scrolling to see more photos, meet the storytellers, and watch videos from the evening!

Meet our storytellers!

Pastor William McCullough is an influential leader who has served with excellence and integrity throughout his 20 years of ministry. He is the Senior Pastor of Russell Temple CME Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut with more than 250 members and 10 outreach ministries. He is also the Chair of the Bridge-Building Committee of the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, and the Scholarship Chair of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater Bridgeport and Vicinity, an alliance of 86 black christian pastors. The founder of U-Turn Ministries and Safe Street Kids, Pastor McCullough has touched the lives of thousands in Pennsylvania and Connecticut through relief efforts, community service initiatives, and humanitarian projects. His vision is to proactively bridge the gap between churches and schools, creating a safe community environment that promises, promotes, and provides educational enhancement for our children though Faith Acts for Education

Amy Oestreicher is a 28 year old actress, musician, teacher, composer, dancer, writer, artist, yogi, foodie, and general lover of life.  She grew up in Fairfield and actually moved to Westport the day she was discharged from the ICU after her stomach exploded 2 weeks before her senior prom.  Now she's bought a house with her husband in Norwalk and spends her free time with her hubby, going to Hampshire College, blogging about her experiences, leading workshops, creating art and performing.  Surviving and thriving through a coma, 27 surgeries and other trauma has inspired Amy to share her story with the world through her passionate desire to create and help others.  Piecing her life together after her initial dreams of performing musical theatre took on a beautiful detour into broader horizons.  Amy has written, directed and starred in a one woman musical about her life, Gutless & Grateful, has flourished as a mixed media and acrylic artist, with her art in multiple galleries and mounting dozens of solo art shows, and continues to share her story through her art, music, theatre and writings. Her favorite food is anything involving cheese.

Randi Bayne + Jolie Vazquez are both native to CT. They love to travel and attend festivals and concerts, but most of all they love CANDLES. They are the brains behind Rayne Home Decor, where Randi is the marketing and sales side and Jolie is the candlemaker/wax shaker. 

Michele + Rick Torres are the owners of Harborview Market, a staple in the Black Rock community. They have been residents of Bridgeport for over 30 years, raised all 5 kids here in the city, and have been active in bringing change to area. Not only does their market provide the most delicious menu of breakfast and lunch fare (the croissants... don't ever forget to snag a croissant!), their cookies have won Best in State for a number of years. 

Join us for our next Heart of the City event at B:Hive on Monday, November 2!


#4 – Mortified


#4 – Mortified

Event Date: September 14, 2015

Location: The Bananaland

If you're going to divulge your most awkward, mortifying moments to a room full of strangers, you might as well have a stunning backdrop. This fourth HOTC we met one street up from B:Hive, climbed two flights of rickety stairs, and congregated amongst the huge, beautiful space that is The Bananaland. Weekdays you'll find the crazy, talented trio of Marcella, Jordan, and Laurie plugging away within their successful creative firm, but this night they converted their office to a story corner. Little did any of use know just what the night was to hold...

We've all been there. That one mortifying moment that you will never forget as long as you live. It can range from a bad hair cut to a wardrobe malfunction to fumbling in front of your dreamy, too-good-to-be-true crush. 

No one can deny these moments. They shape us. They burn us. They make us first sob from embarrassment and, hopefully, later cry from laughter. 

The best therapy for such horrifying experiences is sharing: Getting it out in the open and knowing others can related. So that's just what we did. We invited five fabulous and brave individuals to share their own stories from the awkward years. 

In turn, we all laughed, got teary, and held our sides as they hurt from the constant giggles. 

To wrap up the evening, we had the talented WPKN DJs Michelle and Justin of Surf Party Apocalypse spin the tunes for us to dance off all awkward and uncomfortable feelings.

Thanks to our talented friends for documenting the night: Catherine Conroy Photography and MOJALVO filming. 

Meet our storytellers and watch their stories.

Callie Gale Heilmann is the 3rd generation to be born and raised in Hartford, CT. She, Niels (her husband) and 2 boys - Quincy and Levon - moved to Bridgeport from New York City on a whim in July 2013 to be closer to family and to be a part of an urban community. Callie received an MA from NYU in Costume Studies and an MS from Hunter College in Education. Currently, she is a partner at Hartford Prints!, an urban goods retail brand she owns with her sister. Callie enjoys live music, crawfish boils, and design for the greater good.

Watch Callie's story here.

Meg Dalton was born in Bridgeport and, though technically lived in Shelton, spent most of her childhood tending to her great grandmother's fig trees in the Park City. By day, she is a freelance journalist and associate editor of MediaShift.org where she covers crowdfunding, virtual reality, podcasts, and all things digital media and technology. By night, she fiddles around on the mandolin, explores her surroundings by foot or bike, and gets (figuratively) lost in nature. She's also working on a dinosaur hip hop album. 

Watch Meg's story here.

Matthew Sulzicki was born in Stratford. A year ago he join the B:Hive and, thus spends his work days here in downtown Bridgeport. He works for a large healthcare company, in which he helps sick patients get the therapies they need through healthcare data analysis. His wife is Pam, his puppy is Emma, and together the three of them like to work on their new house and going on hikes and explorations. And, apparently, he know the best way to get free chocolate milk…

Watch Matthew's story here.

Arielle Polites was born at Yale New Haven Hospital with her twin sister Britney. She is an Aries. She moved to Bridgeport in fall of 2014 after traveling the globe teaching English, volunteering and training in Yoga to take on her current role as Program Coordinator for the non-profit buildOn at Central High School. She currently lives in Black Rock and spends her free time teaching and practicing yoga, cooking delicious healthy meals, and taking walks in nature. 

Watch Arielle's story here.

Maddie Rhodes was born in Mt Kisco, NY. A Craigslist ad brought her to Bridgeport in 2008… she CLAIMS is wasn’t a personal ad. She’s the founder and creative genius of OhMyGemini and Monarch Workshop, which she pursues any time she’s not being bossed around by her almost 1 year son Beau. He hubby is Jordan, who’s office we’re all sitting in right here. Her current hobbies include changing dirty diapers and attempting to fit in reading time when she can… so basically, just dirty diapers. When she was little she insisted on peeing off bridges just like her big brother. 

Watch Maddie's story here.

Join us for our next event on Monday, October 5 at B:Hive Bridgeport. 


#3 – Fireworks!


#3 – Fireworks!

Event Date: July 6, 2015

Location: B:Hive Bridgeport 


Smells of fresh barbeque and leftover firecracker smoke linger in the air. It’s mid-summer. It’s the time of the year we all look forward to. Why? Because as a nation, we collectively celebrate. 

On July 4th, we commemorate the triumphs of our nation’s past by gathering together with family, friends, and neighbors. We enjoy spur-of-the-moment picnics, parades, backyard shenanigans, and an endless supply of bonfire s'mores. We make the most of our freedom. 

At its heart, our country stands for freedom, strength, and opportunities for all to attain success. This philosophy beats loudly at Heart of the City! In the spirit of the holiday, our third event’s theme focused on stories of celebration and triumph. 

Our events are made with a few simple ingredients: fun, music, powerful stories. We sparked up the event (literally) by lighting firecrackers outside at Two Boots! The onset of fireworks also sparked some rich conversations.

After the melodious beats of Chris Cavaliere and the beautifully captured images of Mojalvo and Alex Torres, the night would be one to remember. 


Meet our storytellers and watch their stories.

Matt Rhone was born in New Haven, now resides in North Haven, and sings and plays harmonica for his band Grit Rhythm. If you weren’t at our last HOTC, Grit Rhythm definitely brought the groove to the evening. They’re awesome and play all over CT so be sure to check them out and find them near you. Matt has a habit of replacing the lyrics in pop songs with lyrics related to cheese and types of cheeses. For example,The Beatles "We all live in a yellow slice of cheese." or Taylor Swift's "Parmesan is gonna shake-shake-shake-shake-shake-shake" Apparently, it’s a chronic condition and at one point a band member threw his arms up and yelled "Please for the love of God, stop with the cheeses!" He was replaced immediately.

Watch Matt's story here.


Stephanie Vaughn was born in Warwick, Rhode Island, and raised in Naugatuck, Connecticut. She currently live in Stratford with her husband Jeff and twin sons Shaymus and Morgan. During “business hours,” you can find her as the Digital Asset and Production Manager at a boutique agency in Norwalk, CT. At the turn of the 20th century, her great-grandfather Thomas O’Leary was an acrobat and cook with The Barnum & Bailey Circus -- The Greatest Show on Earth! She’s got Bridgeport pumpin’ through her veins!

Watch Stephanie's story here. 


Scott Davis was born in Cleveland Ohio and now lives in Bridgeport. He occupies his time with bookkeeping, marketing and keeping active in Greater Bridgeport Toastmasters. He is also the Division C Director of District 53 Toastmasters.  He also keeps active in his local church's programs. As a side note, he loves to solve puzzles and finding directions to games.

Watch Scott's story here. 


Amy Henson was born here in Bridgeport and is an elementary school teacher in town. She’s also a co-owner here at B:Hive and active throughout the community. She occupies her time with friends, family, and teaching, but currently she is Summer Amy! 

Watch Amy's story here.


Thank you to all of those who celebrated with us.

We looking forward to see you again!

Join us at our next event on Monday, September 14. 

Have a story to share? Sign up here


#2 – From Little Things, Big Things Grow

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#2 – From Little Things, Big Things Grow

Event Date: June 1, 2015

Location: B:Hive Bridgeport 

Our second event's theme focused on stories about small decisions that lead to life's big successes. And, as we learned from our storytellers, things don't always go as planned: How fitting, considering that the event was to be held outside at Bridgeport's beautiful McLevy Green, but the dark rolling clouds and thick muggy air had a different agenda for us. A down pour of rain forced us back into the cozy, colorful space of our home here at B:Hive. 

It was a blessing in disguise. 

This fully-loaded, energy-packed event included a mini pop up market, a four-piece band, catered dinner, and a slew of dynamite storytellers. While the rain changed our location, the event's schedule didn't skip a beat. 

We welcomed CT-based crafters and artists into the space to vend their incredible handmade goods. Our pop up friends included Hartford Prints!, Kate Stephen Jewelry, Glitter & Bold, Stonehill Design, Made in Bridgeport, Pious Bird, and Commuter Views.

Grit Rhythm filled the space with their soulful, bluesy, non-stop rocking tunes. The deep rumbling voice of lead singer Matt Rhone was perfectly accompanied by the tight groove of guitar, bass, drums and the occasional harmonica. 

What completes an intimate night of shopping, music, dancing, and storytelling better than fresh, hot, straight-out-of-the-oven pizza? Our friends next door at Two Boots Bridgeport provided a most delicious spread of cheesy goodness all night long. 

The cherry on top was, yet again, the documentation of this magical time. We invited Maya Oren of Mojalvo to film the evening, while Kristyn Miller Photography clicked the night away capturing moment after moment of this cheerful time. 

Lastly, the night's heartbeat was found in the lovely storytelling of our speakers and the listening ears of our attendees. Thank you to those who shared, those who came, and those who contributed. 

Meet our storytellers and watch their stories.

Courtney Hartl of Source Coffeehouse is originally from the small town of Charlton, Massachusetts where at one time in the not so distant past there were more cows than people. She now lives in the Beautiful Black Rock area of Bridgeport! Making coffee and hanging out with her wacky and wonderful customers is her jam. If she’s not at the shop, she’s probably sitting on her porch with her hubby reading Harry Potter and drinking a gin and tonic. In sweatpants. Which, incidentally, she would wear every day if it was socially acceptable.

Watch Courtney's story here.


Alex Torres of Alex Torres Photography is a homegrown Bridgeporter. He has often been referred to as 'Bird', 'The Big Guy' and 'Gigundo'. He is passionate about teaching Biology at Central High School (Go Hilltoppers!) and shooting photography on the side. Alex would walk a mile for a good IPA as long as his friends and family would be there to enjoy it with him. His goal in life is to love more, and fear less.

Watch Alex's story here.


Marcella Kovac is partner (alongside Jordan Rabidou) and creative director at The Bananaland, your destination for unforgettable ideas, design, and development experiences. She’s also co-founder of B:Hive Bridgeport, THIS VERY coworking space and community hub. She loves ideas of every kind and helping them flourish with teamwork, clever approaches, and lots of fun. Outside of all this, she’s either a. spreading the love for Bridgeport b. taking photos for The Seasides, c. hanging with her kitty Pixel, or d. exploring interesting places with her husband Luke and two young fellas, Noah and Jasper.

Watch Marcella's story here.


Daniel Trust is a nationally recognized youth motivational speaker and the founder of the Daniel Trust Foundation, a Bridgeport based non-profit organization that helps students from low-income communities with their educational and career needs. The organization also honors educators, who help these students succeed in school and in their personal lives. Daniel Trust has appeared on daytime talk shows like Better Connecticut, Connecticut Style and Our Lives. In 2014, he was listed as a 40 Under 40 Honoree by Connecticut Magazine. He is a Bridgeport resident and lives in Black Rock. I also want to add that Daniel is one of our members here at B:Hive from having worked alongside of him no for about a year, I can honestly say he has one of the snazziest senses of style and is amazing when it comes to pairing patterns. 

Watch Daniel's story here. 


Join us for our next event Monday, July 6. More info HERE

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#1 – Love Letter to the City


#1 – Love Letter to the City

Event Date: May 4, 2015

Location: B:Hive Bridgeport 

Our kickoff event was a huge success! Six dynamic individuals shared their love letter to Bridgeport. Their beautiful words not only touched our hearts, but are building the foundation Heart of the City wishes to see in order to change the narrative of this town. 

It was a magical evening of old friends and new, gathering in a buzzing B:Hive to love on this great city. It was magical. It was honest. It was hopeful. 


It was Bridgeport! 


Thank you to our contributors who made the evening so welcoming and special. John Torres of Oh, Cassius provided a lovely background of melodious tunes. Videos & documentation by Taylor Lenci Photography. Beautiful photos by Cassandra Madeline Photography


Meet our storytellers and watch their stories.

Duanecia Evans is a force of nature here in Bridgeport. She’s a graduate of UB and currently the manager of Community Engagement for Teach for America Connecticut. She is as kind in spirit as she is fiercely passionate about education.

Watch Duanecia's story HERE!


Lena Ruth Yasutake, originally comes to us from Arlington, VA but has been here in Bridgeport for 13 years. She is currently studying at UB, is a proud wife and mother of 3, a teacher at Bridgeport Hope School and Bridgeport International Academy. She’s the Connecticut Chair of Women’s Federation for World Peace, a costume designer, certified personal trainer, instructor, doula, belly dancer instructor, sex educator, and world traveler. Amongst everything she does, Lena Ruth somehow finds time once a year to spend a Jane Austen weekend in Vermont where she dresses up in costume from the 1800s. And she still has energy! 

Watch Lena Ruth's story HERE!


Sophie Scott Pennock Collins was born in Bridgeport with a really long name and 2 moms.  She has lived in Black Rock forever. Sophie plays hard, grows and sells flowers, and reads a lot.  She attends the Six to Six Magnet School in Bpt.  Sophie collects sheep (she has 36) and her moms hope they remain stuffed ones.  She has a big fluffy dog named Lucie and a Black Sheep (often dressed in an evening gown) named Shepe.  

Watch Sophie's story HERE!


Mary Jane Foster is originally from Dever, Co. She came to CT in the 1970’s and first volunteered for the YWCA in Bridgeport in 1988. Actress for 22 years, became a lawyer at 45. Developed the Ballpark at Harbor Yard, co-founded the Bridgeport Bluefish, now Vice President of University Relations at the University of Bridgeport. She loves food, music, food, movies, food, theatre, food, books. 

Watch Mary-Jane's story HERE!


Yolanda Petrocelli was born in Coyoacan where Frida Kahlo. She grew up on the playground playing with Norman Mailers daughter and living among the murals of Diego Rivera.  Growing up in Mexico City within an artist family provided a very colorful life. After living throughout NYC she eventually ended up in Bridgeport in time for the birth of her daughter Maya. She lives in the Read’s Artspace where she loves the diversity of people, ideas, and opportunities. She LOVES Bridgeport. 

Watch Yolanda's story HERE!


Luke Scott was born in the Elm City (New Haven) and then made his way down to Bridgeport because of the love and the cultural magnetism of the city. He runs a marketing and design firm in Westport (16 years), and am one of the B:Hive founders He’s married to the Bananalady with whom he is raising two sons: one rocket scientist, and one wrestler He loves to write, to play guitar and sing, to snowboard, and to travel (with his girl). True story, his parents wanted to name him Ezequiel, but his grandmother tweaked out, and staged some low-level protest at Yale New Haven on the day of his birth. So they went with Luke instead.

Watch Luke's story HERE!


Next Heart of the City event is June 1. More details here.  

To become a storyteller, send us your info here