Chelsi Starr Hector

When you think of great American novels, what key elements do nearly all possess?

Hurdles, obstacles, a rough climb or playful to-do? Maybe a battle in which one declares a sure victory or devastating defeat? Let’s not forget the characters, diverse and multi-faceted. Perhaps a hero or villain or supporting role that draws us in with palpable grit, tenacity or doubt, some with just plain relatable energy and circumstance.

Have you ever met someone that exudes all of these “novel-like” attributes? Who’s climbed the mountain, conquered the giant, and reigned in sublime happiness due to their determination and heart? Well, let us introduce you to our June Rural Trailblazer…Chelsi Starr Hector.

Chelsi lives in LeMars and is a happily married, working momma with a full plate like the rest of us. Her children, Stella, Dash and Marlo, are involved in church activities, sports, and music lessons. They get their love of animals and desire to be immersed in nature’s beauty from their momma. Chelsi’s husband, Karlton, is even cooler than his hip 90’s sitcom name suggests…unwaveringly supportive of his wife and children at every opportunity and beyond.

Then, there’s Chelsi.

What does Chelsi do you may ask?

Oh, you know…she just runs her own businessES, renovates her home BY HAND (doing painting, carpentry, woodworking…saws and all,) proudly raises her amazing children, is a loving and doting wife, blogs and social-media posts like she’s a seasoned teenager, helps her friends with home décor and aesthetic-honing, generously gives of her time to help gift local special needs children bicycles, and ALSO has somehow figured out how to balance her schedule with peaceful transitions, walks with her pup, meditation, and “Chelsi-time.”

I mean, can she write a book already to help guide our lives? Please?!

If you’ve ever spoken with Chelsi you’ll understand why she is so well-liked. Her positive personality, helpful spirit, and can-do/go-with-the-flow attitude have cultivated her into an extraordinary human that believes all things are possible and is here to get that shizzle done.

How does one get to this point of unbridled talent and hopeful professionalism?

For Chelsi, it is a keen understanding that what will be, will be. That all things happen for a reason and God has got this. All of it. Every single step of the way.

Take for instance when Chelsi faced a pretty large decision at a young age. As a young woman she became pregnant. She knew that the best decision she could make for her baby at that time was to place her with a family and thus, lined up adoption for her.

As you may be fully aware, decisions like this don’t come lightly and always have spectator input and judgments cast upon them. But no matter how hard the decision, Chelsi prayed on it and hoped her child would have the best chance possible.

Some may know the pain of loss. The pain of grief or of frustration. But the pain and emptiness that an adopted child leaves in a biological mother’s heart is an unreal reality for many. This relationship would lead to many ups and downs in Chelsi's adult life, in which she still prays upon and gives God the power over.

Even though she endured much emotional, mental and physical repercussions from this decision, Chelsi forged ahead trying to figure out what was next.

Somewhere between putting her daughter up for adoption, enduring immense loss and being diagnosed very late in life with ADHD, she decided to not let society choose her life for her, and let God’s gifts shine through.

Where did all of this lead Chelsi to?

When Chelsi isn’t creating artistically divine charcuterie boards for her children’s after school snacks or taking Karlton a surprise coffee midday, you can find her rocking her two businesses, C Starr Photography and Blank Slate Creative Rental Space.

A desire to capture and embrace the beauty that is within and surrounds us all is part of what drives Chelsi forward. “I used to think that my photography journey started when I had Stella, but after further reflection I realized that my passion and love for photography had truly been there all along.”

From starting with disposable cameras around the house to using point-and-shoot cameras to capture her friends in mini-photo shoots, a love for photography slowly blossomed. The tipping point came when her former boss and good friend, Tim Frank, handed her a DSLR camera. The awe that this new depth of beauty-perception gave her was immense and there bloomed her photography style.

To some, the best form of professional photography is staged and rigid, themed or scripted. To Chelsi, the best form of photography is allowing authenticity and trueness to self.

She states, “My creative process lies in making people feel comfortable, if that makes sense. When they are comfortable with me some pretty cool things can unfold creatively and naturally. I love it. If a couple can let loose and just be with each other (like I am not even there) when I am photographing them, then those are usually the images where I feel like I have been allowed to be the most creative. Capturing real moments is pretty special.”

Chelsi curates a one-of-a-kind experience with her clients by just being her quirky self.

She trusts her process and most importantly herself. Her clients entrust her with capturing memories that last a lifetime. Chelsi knows that the so-called competition is fierce, but to her, there is no competition at all. Just as Bach and Beethoven’s artistic abilities can coexist, so too can numerous photographers in the same zip code. In fact, that diversity allows potential clients to find what truly fits their style best.

After scrolling through her portfolio, it is plain to see why Chelsi is so highly sought. Her love to help others took on a new form when she had the idea of opening her own “creative rental space” for not only her clients, but also for other photographers to use with their clients.

“I love finding ways to serve my wedding couples, Blank Slate was an example of answering a need for my brides. They wanted a clean, bright, “blank slate” to decorate how they wish for their bridal showers, baby showers and so on. Maybe even have a mimosa while there, which is something other spaces weren’t offering. I want them and their parties to take center stage - not the space. That translates into building community, with my brides and other photographers' brides and then to the other photographers. I am passionate about women business owners and I love how much they have loved using my space. Iowa gets cold and for us “natural light” photographers Blank Slate is great for shooting when we cannot go outside, and we are still able to maintain our style of photography.”

Helping others by providing a beautiful space to nurture artistic flare and natural style is only one way that Chelsi has used her talents to help others.

She is also an advocate for the nonprofit organization “Josh’s Ride.” Josh’s Ride raises funds to purchase adaptive tricycles for children who would otherwise be unable to ride a traditional bicycle, their website states, “Because every child deserves to ride a bike!”

Chelsi has graciously donated her time and gifts to photographing as many of the precious bike-gifting moments as she is able, being present for most. These photos not only help to promote this beautiful organization’s efforts, but also are a memento to the families of an exciting and cherished moment in time. In the six years that Chelsi and her 3 “Mom Squad” friends have helped to build and run this worthy cause, a total of 69 bikes have been donated.

Chelsi gets emotional when discussing this important effort: “Josh’s Ride is a huge part of my life and something that I hope to help with indefinitely. Josh, the boy that started it all, recently passed. His beautiful heart and contagious smile live on through this project, helping to give the gift of joy through bicycles and community.”

Chelsi may be seemingly too busy to fit more into her schedule, but this type A list-lover still makes sure to ground herself in faith and self-care. Frequently centering herself in self-reflection and prayer, helping with her church’s youth groups or fundraisers, and making sure to embrace all that lies before her, knowing that everything happens for a reason.

Three ideals ring true for how Chelsi lives her life. Authentically, with kindness, and always finding beauty wherever life leads her.

Her heart is even bigger than her immense talents. “I believe that Jesus walked the streets seeking out those who were cast aside. I try to be like Him in the way I treat people every day.”

And her eye is uniquely fantastic indeed. “I love to see the beauty in all of God's creations. This is partly why I love photography so much. It could be helping a woman who feels like she isn’t enough to feel like the confident and beautiful woman that she really is. Or show-casing the beauty in the love that God gives us in relationships. I often see beauty in locations/things that others may deem ugly. There is beauty all around us, we just have to take the time to fully see it.”

One could look at Chelsi’s schedule and vast array of juggled calendar-fillers and wonder how she stays so positive and full of joy, while keeping her faith and family at the center of it all.

To Chelsi, the key to her success and sanity is an intentional focus on prioritizing.