We had the good fortune of connecting with Sheena LeMay-Nelssen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sheena, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I’m originally from Council Grove, Kansas and moved to Texas with my husband and oldest daughter in 2015. Both my parents were very creative people but worked in fields that weren’t very creative. My dad was an engineer with the Union Pacific Railroad and my mom was a postal clerk at the Post Office. Even though they both worked full time jobs they would work part time jobs on occasion that brought them happiness. My mom made crafts for a local vendor store for a little while and also decorated cakes at Dairy Queen for a short period of time. In her spare time she liked to sew, craft and knit. My dad was a cowboy for a feed lot and liked to do woodworking, rope braiding, leather work and home projects. Both of them taught me to be creative and showed me how to do each of their skills. I got into photography as a kid and my parents encouraged me to keep at it and even in college for assignments they would pose for my work. My mom passed away suddenly in 2006. A few years later I was in a class where I had to create a fake business with a name and logo for a business card. My mom inspired me so I came up with a photography business I named Virgo Immen Photography. She was obsessed with reading her horoscope every night before bed so when she passed I got a Virgo tattoo in her memory. Her maiden name was Immenschuh so I took the first part. I never knew I wanted to start a business but after graduating college I went back to that assignment and decided to make it happen. I started Virgo Immen Photography in 2013. Looking back at my childhood though I found many examples of me wanting to be my own boss. I was always trying to sell creations I made, always had a camera and posed my sister and pets for photos and bossing around my sister and the neighbors on what we were going to play. My parents were such hard workers who were always finding new ways to be creative. They both came from poor families and made something of themselves. My mom took 10 years to graduate from night school with an associates degree. She never intended to graduate, she just liked learning but when she was getting close to enough credits she decided to finish. Both my parents have now passed away and they inspire me to keep trying new things, work hard and even when things seem impossible you find another way to make it work. Even if no one else believes in me, I believe in me.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think what sets me apart from others is just how much I do. I’m never afraid to try new things and I like being a one stop shop for everything. When I started photography I had experience as a photojournalist, sports photographer and portrait photographer. I have a bachelor’s degree in integrated studies with a concentration in photography. And from there I started learning all types of photography. I learned graphic design while I was a copy editor at my college newspaper I was a reporter and photographer at. When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter I started my photography business. I was having a hard time finding everything I wanted in her nursery so I started making everything. I used my photography skills to put up prints on her walls, sewed curtains and bedding, burp rags, blankets, stuffed animals and clothes. As she got older I started making more outfits for her and even made doll clothing. A year before my 2nd daughter was born I started my second business Stitching Star Designs. I focused mostly on baby and kid products but started getting requests for other things. Once I purchased a cricut it really expanded my business to include vinyl and heat transfer products. During the shut down of 2020 I started making all natural self care products to help my rheumatoid arthritis and anxiety. I had an herb garden and since I couldn’t go out I wanted to make something to help me. I then started Virgo Star Beauty. I also was getting requests for masks early on and that turned into me making 1300 masks most of which were free and given to people in my community. I shipped masks to 6 different states and for a while I was working an assembly line of mask making 12 hours a day with my family helping. My husband would cut string, my daughters would lay out fabric or put finished masks in baggies and all of this was done while my husband was working from home and I was homeschooling. It was a lot of work but very important to me because I’m immune compromised and wanted to help any way I could. People would donate supplies or donate money and the money would be then used to help support other small businesses. I had a lot of fabric and thread from my mom’s supplies and know that if she was still here she would have made masks so it was a way for me to donate her supplies to a great cause. Business hasn’t been an easy road. As I mentioned, I have rheumatoid arthritis so some days sewing can seem impossible because my hands swell and hurt. I can’t always climb on a ladder for photography because I get vertigo. Exhaustion is my biggest enemy because my mind never slows down but my body can never keep up. But I push through because of my determination and drive. I lost my mom when I was 20 and my dad when I was 32. Both passed suddenly and with my history of anxiety and depression I have to fight through to keep going because I know it is what they would do. Moving from Kansas to Texas was scary and fast. We had 30 days to pack up and move before my husband started a new job. But moving has been such a blessing. I’ve overcome the challenges with a positive attitude. I know that sounds super cheesy but affirmations and positive thinking have really helped. My kids love to help me with my business and I’m teaching valuable lessons to them along the way, the same kind of lessons my parents taught me. Planning and being flexible are so important. I have to get as much work done as I can when I’m healthy, understand when I need rest and be flexible when my body can’t keep going. My husband travels for work so being flexible and knowing when my kids are going to want to go out to play and working around his schedule. Covid was a little hard for business because I couldn’t go out for supplies so relying on the help of others, planning ahead for orders and being flexible with work as well as homeschooling.
I want people to know how dedicated I am to my work. I’m not going to let my auto immune disease stop me from achieving my goals. My brand is real and I don’t hold back who I am. I graduated from two colleges with two bachelor’s degrees on the same day in 2012. A bachelor’s degree in integrated studies with a concentration in photography from Emporia State University and a bachelor’s degree in public relations at Washburn University. I train for 5k races and have run over 25 races. I’m a PTO executive board member at my daughter’s school and a Girl Scout troop leader. I founded a nonprofit called North Texas Broad Collective in 2018 to support female small business owners and promote shopping local. I homeschool my kids in the summer, am a self professed book nerd and love to dance. Obviously I enjoy being busy but I never want to stop. I love learning new things and eventually want to go back to school to get a degree in business. I’ve recently learned to knit and do embroidery. Before becoming a small business owner I was a preschool teacher, dance teacher, inventory control manager, bridal consultant, photographer for a university and an NAHL hockey team.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Depends on if my best friend is bringing her kids or if she comes alone. With kids we would go to Crayola Experience, Deep Ellum to see the murals and Traveling Man statues, eat at Hula Hut, Magic Time Machine, food trucks in Providence Village. Pookeys for frozen yogurt. Roller skating at a skate rink, Little Elm Beach. Grapevine Christmas stuff or Frisco Square if it was during Christmas. Rough Riders baseball game.
If it was just her I would take her to Fortunata Winery which is like three blocks from my house. Deep Ellum and downtown Dallas to just see the sights. A Stars hockey game.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents for sure deserve a credit for encouraging me to be creative and follow my dreams. My kids who inspire me and push me to make different things for them and to my husband who builds me work spaces and storage for all my creations and supplies. He goes along with every crazy idea I get and is also creative so he helps me out.
Virgo Immen Photography