Creating the perfect selfie isn’t as easy as some Instagram users make it look. Sometimes the lighting is all wrong, or the background is too drab. You can play with filters for hours to get just the right feel and mood—or maybe you’ll never get it.
But if you live in Tupelo, Miss., three entrepreneurial sisters from the University of Mississippi, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, have created a pop-art environment that will make you look like an Insta-wizard for just 20 bucks an hour.
Camille Walker McCallum, Kendall Walker and Chloe Walker opened the city’s first selfie museum, called Love Your Selfie, last July after Camille and Kendall took part in the CEED (Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development) Initiative at Ole Miss. Featuring 20 “Instagram-worthy” sets, the Black women-owned business attracts a social media-savvy crowd to its location inside Tupelo’s Mall at Barnes Crossing.
“CEED showed me the path to entrepreneurship,” Camille said. “After being involved in the program, owning my own business felt like an attainable goal rather than just a dream.”
So-called “selfie museums” started popping up around 2015, starting with 29Rooms in New York, N.Y., a three-day art installation created by the women-focused Refinery29 website. They feature themed sets with colorful backdrops and props designed as immersive backgrounds for shooting selfies. The family-friendly business concept has spread across the nation, from cities like Los Angeles, Denver, Detroit and Las Vegas to Chattanooga and Harrisburg, Penn.
Kendall went to her first selfie museum during a visit to Atlanta. “I came back to Tupelo and told [my sisters], ‘Y’all, this was so much fun’ and thought this was something we needed to do,” she recounted to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
The sisters brought the idea to their parents, who were on board right away. “We always wanted to go in business together, so it wasn’t a big shock for them to hear what we wanted to do,” Camille told the Daily Journal. “They were, like, ‘Here we go again,’ but of all the hare-brained schemes we’ve had in the past, the selfie museum they really liked. My mom has been a long-time photographer, and my dad is really entrepreneurial, so they were really into it.”
To hone their entrepreneurial skills, the sisters turned to the CEED program, a signature initiative of UM’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. CEED empowers business-minded students to partner with Mississippi communities and address their pressing social needs through education, innovation and entrepreneurship.
CEED connected the sisters with summer internships that helped train them for the work they do now. Camille, who earned her bachelor’s degree in public policy leadership in 2016, interned with the Mississippi Development Authority, assisting business advisers with research, pitch decks and financial projections for their clients. This experience helped her write Love Your Selfie’s business plan and secure funding.
During her time with CEED, Kendall participated in two internships while working on a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders, which she completed in 2020.
She first served as a lead for Entrepreneurial Learning Center Charleston, a monthlong program in Charleston, Miss., where students combat summer learning loss and grow academically in a fun and safe environment. She also interned with the Tupelo-based Community Development Foundation, where she worked directly with Judd Wilson, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, and learned how its resources benefit local small businesses.
“Love Your Selfie is the type of business we love to have in our chamber: family-owned, young entrepreneurs coming home and full of energy,” Wilson said. “We are blessed that CDF played a small part of their success story.”
Prior to the launch of Love Your Selfie, Kendall’s experience with ELC Charleston and connections with CEED helped her start her first entrepreneurial venture, KendallGarten, a K-6 tutoring business that has operated since August 2020. She built upon those experiences and relationships in opening Love Your Selfie. She entered the business in the 2021 edition of CDF’s pitch competition, snagging the top prize of $500 cash and professional services to help get the business going.
Kendall also orchestrated a ribbon cutting with the chamber, which resulted in a viral video for both the city and Love Your Selfie.
Visitors to Love Your Selfie get an hour to enjoy 20 unique photo stations, capturing social media content and making lasting memories—all while using their cellphones.
For a more elevated experience (and a higher fee), guests can book a professional photography session with Love Your Selfie’s chief photographer, Ole Miss student Kyion White. A sophomore majoring in integrated marketing communications at Ole Miss, White is also a CEED scholar from Tupelo.
The sisters want to continue engaging with students like White and offering opportunities for them to develop their skills and learn more about running a small business.
“My experiences at the CDF and ELC Charleston helped to prepare me for owning my own business even in the midst of the pandemic,” Kendall said. “Opening a business with my sisters while simultaneously running my own has been one of the greatest joys of my life.”
The youngest sister, Chloe, brings to the group a unique creative perspective. As a true Gen Zer, she quickly finds and adapts to trends, keeping the store refreshed with sets that remain relevant to the target audience. She balances her work at Love Your Selfie with being a student-athlete at Itawamba Community College, playing on the Indians’ soccer team. She is looking forward to completing her bachelor’s degree and becoming more involved in the business.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Chloe said. “Love Your Selfie is the perfect place for me to learn and grow as a business owner, and the work is fun!”
“The CEED program was transformative for Kendall and me, and we want to help create that experience for others,” Camille said. “I know my sisters and I are strong because we have each other, and we want to provide that community and support to as many young entrepreneurs as we can.”
This article was adapted and expanded from a press release appearing on the University of Mississippi website.