Do you host events or support groups focused on connecting and empowering parents dealing with autism?
My goal is to have 3 events a year that focus on autism, rather it be resources for families, or just autism mom meet-ups where we get together and talk. Since I have my nonprofit there will be so much more coming in the new year. I want to do more with the kids for sure.
Tell us about your new non-profit, Be Inspired INC. Was it influenced by your book #BeInspired?
Actually, no. (Laughs). BeInspired the book is like a self-help, go-chase-your-goals type of book. I named the nonprofit ‘be inspired’ because I love the phrase; like ‘be inspired’ to push through any obstacle. The main focus is to empower and educate families affected by autism. I want moms and dads like me to be inspired to live and fight for their kids!
As someone who’s attended one of your events in the past, I know that you’re also big on women’s empowerment. Why is that something that’s important to you?
I’m big on women’s empowerment because I know how hard it is to feel motivated and inspired. I have always worked for myself and had a sick hustle. I have been doing empowerment all my life without the title and platform. Social media plays a major part in the types of careers people are choosing, however everything seems so superficial. I want to create a place where you can get real information, real support, and have other woman there that truly want to see you win.
How often do you do speaking events? Is your focus usually moreso on autism or women’s empowerment?
I speak about every other month. I would like to speak more. I talk about many different things, of course special needs parenting is my thing, but also single parenthood, dating, inspiration—I try to be 100% me and give people the real when I talk. I have been through a lot in my life and I know how to program myself to bounce back. My overall goal is to have someone say, ‘Wow, if she can go through that and still keep going, so can I.’
I know you started out in the entertainment industry as a hair and makeup artist. Is that still something that you’re into? Can we find you beating any celeb faces these days?
I just wrapped-up a few shows this fall where I did hair and makeup. Kinky Boots was my favorite this year. [Sheena did hair at the Philly stop for the Broadway hit]. I still work in the theater when I can. My life has been nonstop over the past few years, but I still love makeup—I still love the industry. I want to open a beauty bar/ medi spa [medical spa] one day. I have to have a foot in the industry somehow.
Being that you’re schedule is so full, how could you possibly manage all of these hustles that you have going on and still maintain a personal life?
My personal life is my hustle in some ways. I literally made my life my business. My books, my brand—it’s really just my life. It’s hard, but I know there is someone that needs what im trying to bring to the world. As far as dating and me trying to ditch the ‘single’ mom status, it’s really hard! It’s hard to find someone that I can trust enough to bring around my kids. Plus find someone that will appreciate a woman with a strong hustle and personality. I gave it to God. In due time, it will all work out.
What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur thus far, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge has to be money management. Everything I’ve done thus far has been self-funded, from events to publishing, my books—everything! And it’s hard trying to make sure the bills stay paid, kids stay good, and my dreams come true. I have learned to prioritize and have patience. When there are things I want to do, I start saving for them. I have also been able to get sponsors, finally, for some of my events. So for me it’s all about being realistic about what I can really do, and not feeling like a failure if things don’t go as planned.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I got an award in April 2017 from the United States Government where they honored me for my efforts to raise awareness for autism. It came as a complete shock and that had to be one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I’m also proud of Monroe—how far she has come, how hard she works. Im proud of myself that I didn’t let this [autism] defeat me, that I’m willing to push towards my goals no matter what.
Any more books in the future?
Yes! Im going to be releasing a new series in 2018. It’s non-fiction. It’s going to be really spicy, unexpected, and really good. I can’t tell you the title yet, but its going to be so bomb!
What else, besides novels, can we expect from Ms. Sheena E. in the future?
Also the relaunch of IAmSheenaE. as a brand. I’m going to add some apparel to the site, some of my favorite things—makeup tips and so much more. It will really be a one-stop shop for all things Sheena E.
Any words of encouragement for people out there going through the struggle that taking care of someone with autism can bring?
I would tell anyone going through a hard time to keep the faith, pray, keep God first, and never, ever give up. Don’t let people put limits on your child. Find out what they love and try to use that as a learning tool. Also, there’s never too much therapy. Therapy will save your child’s life. Be the voice, speak up when things don’t feel right! The biggest thing is LOVE!
Any helpful resources you can share for parents raising autistic children?
I always refer people to Autism Speaks’ site because they have resources listed by state. They have been very helpful.
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