Veteran Kim Collins’ unique ride and business has her cheesin’!
Picture yourself: the year is 1991, you are 18 years old and in the Army. You’re being deployed while your grandfather is dying from bone cancer back home, and you’re in the middle of a flight for a reserve deployment trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. All of a sudden, you are being rerouted. War has broken out below you and you’re now on your way to the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi as an active-duty medic.
That was a reality for Kim Collins, the owner of Selfie WRLD in downtown Fargo.
“It really sucked not being able to be there for my grandpa. That was the only thing I was really anxious about at first with the deployment. At first we kind of looked at it as an adventure because the war hadn’t broken out yet, Collins said. “We were 18 at the time and we were excited. Then, as we were flying, I saw something happening outside of my window. It looked like fireworks, but not fireworks, I tried to tell the person sitting next to me about it but he thought it was just the lights on the wings. 10 minutes later, our commander came over the intercom to tell us that the war had broken out and that we were being rerouted. We landed on a tarmac in Abu Dhabi and that was crazy because there were a bunch of snipers in the bushes and there were soldiers with MI65 and we were in formation and it was like ‘this isn’t an adventure anymore.”
From that moment, Collins continued having an eventful five months in Abu Dhabi. On her first day at the hospital, she had her hair pulled because the person had never seen blonde hair before. “It was insane seeing the cultural differences they had going on there,’ Collins said. “Women had to walk 10 feet behind their husbands, they had to be all covered up. I wasn’t even allowed in the male wing of the hospital.
Beyond that, Collins also had to deal with the reality of war up close and personal, seeing and helping treat injuries from the battlefield. And although she was at war, she wasn’t allowed to wear her military-issued uniform as they were undercover in the hospital.
“I was shocked at how advanced the technology was over there,” Collins said. “Everything was state of the art. They were about 10 years ahead of us “My albums from the experience I had over there are so cool, Collins said. “I kept in contact with quite a few of the women met receiving care in the hospital. I’m not sure where they are at today, but I developed some really good relationships.”
Perhaps most importantly of all, Collins received some valuable insight into herself during the deployment in Abu Dhabi.
“I joined the reserves in high school as a way to help pay for school, Collins said. “That’s just the truth. When I got called to war my thoughts were, What? I did this to pay for college and now I’m going to war. Wasn’t expecting that’ The other ironic thing was that I was in college and going to school for nursing at the time that I was deployed. Once I was deployed, I was working as a flight medic, but I learned, over the deployment, that I loved to travel and see the world, but working in the hospital wasn’t really for me. It was kind of a turning point in my life and I’m glad that! didn’t waste four to five years of college just to determine that I didn’t want to do nursing when I got out into the field.”
Instead of continuing along the nursing tract when she returned from deployment, the West Fargo native went to travel school and started her path in the travel world.
Her first job was working in corporate travel where she traveled with companies and made sure that their retreats went as smoothly as possible. This allowed her to travel ‘five or so’ times for free to Hawaii and enjoy 25 cruises. “You name it, I’ve been there,” Collins said.
Quickly, Collins began climbing the corporate ladder. She would continue to climb it, working in management at travel and insurance companies for 20 years.
“I think the leadership skills that I learned in the military really helped me get promotions early in my career, Collins said.
The current Kindred resident gives credit to her “prove you wrong’ attitude for that accomplishment as well as her successes in the business world.
“When I was in basic training, they had a thing called squad leaders. Each squad leader would be given an armband by a drill sergeant and that armband would put them in charge of a group of people and they would have to make the group do what they needed to make them do,’ Collins said “If you didn’t do a good job, they would rip your armband off in front of everyone and give it to someone else. When I got it, we were 10 days into basic training and we had gone through six squad leaders. I remember thinking, ‘I’m not going to be humiliated in front of all these people,’ and honestly, that band never left my arm. I got promoted twice in basic training and I wasn’t even out of high school yet.”
She also credits her experiences at war.
“It really helped me in my career by helping me manage fear. I would go into interviews and ask for way more money because I knew it was kind of a ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ scenario,” Collins said.
Perhaps it was that same elimination of fear that led Collins to her entrepreneurial pursuits.
On The Cover
This fun photo of Collins in front of one of her backdrops was edited to create the veteran-themed cover you see on the front of this magazine.
Yet Another Career Path
Collins’ path toward entrepreneurship began by chance
“I was having headaches and bought a product from Le-Vel called THRIVE which gave me a three-step process in the first 30 minutes of my day to deliver a bunch of plant-based vitamins. It helped.”
That was 9 years ago and Collins has been in direct sales with them ever since selling, originally, on the side of her professional, corporate career.
Eventually, however, it became the sole source of income for Collins, who gave up her career in corporate about four years ago
“I was just ready for a time in my life where I’d be boarding planes because I wanted to. Not because I had to for work.”
Around the same time that she left corporate America, a friend of hers, Ashley Wilkerson, made a career move of her own.
Wilkerson was working as a photographer before the COVID-19 pandemic severely affected her business. However, the cancer Survivor saw an opportunity and pivoted to open the first Selfie WRLD, a selfie museum with multiple backdrops that allow visitors to create fun photos and content that can be used for social media platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok, in Des Moines, Iowa. There are now 31 franchise locations in 23 states.
However, Collins didn’t get into the mix of things until she visited a franchise location in Florida with a friend and current business partner, Robbin Taves.
“I went to check it out with her and just seeing the laughter and the fun everybody was having, I thought ‘Fargo needs this.’ There isn’t much around Fargo that doesn’t revolve around food or alcohol where you can have a good time. And there’s nothing for the younger kids if they don’t like skating or bowling, And the whole world is always taking a picture.”
So, on January 15, Collins and her franchise partner Taves, opened Selfie WRLD in downtown Fargo.
The Entrepreneurial Experience
If you talk to Collins about the experience of running a business that is unlike anything most people in the region have ever experienced, she will be honest about the struggles she has faced.
“We get a mix of people who don’t get it and think this is the stupidest thing ever,” Collins said. “A lot of those people change their minds very quickly once they realize how fun the experience can be. However, we just have to get people in the door.”
Which, she also admits, can be sporadic. Currently, the museum is open from l p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, however, they will schedule appointments at most times outside of what is listed-all you have to do is reach out!
“You don’t have to come in for a special occasion, Collins said “It doesn’t have to be your birthday. It doesn’t have to be your anniversary. Just come and have fun. I don’t care if you’re in yoga pants with a messy bun, just come and have a good time, That’s the message that we are trying to get across to people right now because people think you need a special reason to come in.”
That’s not to say that a special occasion wouldn’t be a good time to come in. According to Collins, Selfie WRLD is a great place for corporate events and can allow companies the opportunity to shoot a large amount of social media content in a short period of time. They will also be rolling at their holiday-themed backdrop in early November, allowing families to take great Christmas card photos for a fraction of the cost. They also plan to have a Santa at the studio on select days.
“I really love being able to see people laugh and let their hair down and not have to worry about all of the troubles going on in the rest of the world;” Collins said. “That’s my favorite thing about this business.”
What else to know about Selfie Wrld
Each visit comes with your very own ring light, allowing you to get easy studio-level photography.
Visits are $25 for one hour, but discounted rates are often available and Collins will often let you stay well past the hour mark.
All you need is your cell phone, but you can also bring your DSLR camera as well.
Visit Selfie Wrld Fargo at:
Cityscapes Plaza, 3, 630 Ist Ave N, Fargo
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Tik Tok (local): selfiewrldfargo