Four years ago, thanks to one evening down an Instagram black hole, I stumbled upon a uniquely colorful and playful Instagram account. That Instagram account ended up introducing me to a world of innovation, compassion, creativity and most of all, ongoing inspiration.
I finally found myself in a position to attend a Create & Cultivate conference in NYC's Industry City on May 4 and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to hear from strong and fearless female entrepreneurs and marketers killing the game in their respective careers. From networking and meeting people from cities far and wide, to (thankfully) running into a Sigma Kappa sister from BU, to taking advantage of all the fun put on by the conference sponsors (including, but not limited to, makeup + hair, photo opps and spritzy cocktails), the day was a complete dream.
The day was long (from 8 AM to 9:15 PM, to be exact) so I won't fill you in on all the boring details (JK, there aren't any!!), but I will leave some highlights from the day and some key takeaways that I experienced as I move ahead in creating + cultivating my career.
Some key speakers...
Becca Tobin. I've been trying to get into podcasts for a while now. I find it hard to find a time that's best to listen to them, but after attending the Pod Squad: Meet the ladies killing the podcast game panel, I'm on a kick. I remember Becca Tobin from my Glee-obsessed days. She currently is 1/3 of the Lady Gang podcast and was keeping it real up on stage. Her interest in starting a podcast stemmed from her frustration from not hearing from Hollywood. Now she's free to produce her own content on her own platform. I'll be tuning in.
Kate Walsh. I know, I'm fascinated with the celebs. Definitely a part of that is just from recognizing them and their work on screen and it's a bit of a trip to see them in person. But really cool. I never was a die-hard Grey's fan, as many are, but I enjoyed the show so it was such an experience to see Kate in person and hear her talk about starting her perfume line, Boyfriend Perfume. Her advice? "When in doubt, go slow." Personally, I go through phases of producing cards and Instagram binges promoting them, but when no results are produced, I get frustrated and abandon ship until my next binge starts. It makes me think: we're accustomed to instant gratification - from the web, from all sorts of communication channels, etc. But success, and especially entrepreneurial success, isn't something that will happen overnight. It's a process, and all it takes is a constant and steady dedication. That's what I need to remember.
Nita Mann + Erin Silver. One of the greatest elements of Create & Cultivate is the small-group mentor sessions with some of the panelists and invited guests. I was able to speak with Nita Mann from Next With Nita (a complete sweetheart) and Erin Silver, Head of Social Media at Volvo. Nita left our group with some inspiration for scheduling content and staying true to your brand. Erin was able to answer my question about starting a social media strategy from scratch - something that I'm excited to do with COP when I start in June. #nomorethanthreehashtags.
Martha Stewart. Talk about iconic. I'm not sure if it's intended, but Martha Stewart is so funny. To her credit, she grew up in the spotlight and became the first female billionare -- that's something to write home about. Some of her responses and insights included comments like, "Be warned owning four houses... with houses come staff," and her go-to #lifehack was "2-3 housekeepers." Things that... well things that your average person doesn't quite relate to. Nevertheless, her bluntness and quick response kept the audience in giggles and it was a sight to see. One of the more useful conversations she had with Jaclyn spread insight into that gruesome "glass ceiling" we always hear that women have to shatter and the "imposter syndrome" many women feel as they advance up the ladder or find themselves in certain situations. Martha's response was, "no, no." And it says a lot about her as a person and a businesswoman. To quote her, "Take the reins. Be a strong, willful, self-possessed person. You have to be if you’re going to be in business for yourself." That really hit home. Confidence is key to success - to advancing in the next step, to becoming a leader, to standing up to what you believe in. Earlier I had been speaking with a rep at the GoDaddy booth, and she asked me if I had my own business. I said no, but I make and sell hand-painted watercolor cards as a hobby. She stopped dead and said, "Do you have a website?" and I said yes. "...Then you have a business." "I guess." She looks at me right then and there, and says, "No. You make cards. You sell them on a website. You have a business. Own it." So moving forward, my resolution is to own it. Check out my cards, here. (:
Ashley Graham. What. A. Firecracker. The energy in the room skyrocketed from the moment she walked onstage, and after a very long (but fun!) day, it was exactly what we all need. A refresh. I've seen Ashley in magazine articles and I'm aware of what roads she's paved for girls who don't fit into the "model thin" role that it expected in that industry, but I can see why she's been such a leader. One story that she told sticks out. She moved to NYC when she was 17 and describes the streets as her "college education." She explained the difficulties and tribulations of figuring out new streets, new friends, finances, and all of the adult responsibilities we all have to figure out. At one point, frustrated and stressed, she called her mother to say she was done - she was leaving. Her mom's response? "Nope." She elaborated, "What you're doing is going to change someone's life." Ashley explained that she didn't believe it at the time, and also was convinced her mother didn't believe it either, but in the end: Here she is. "You are fine, you are beautiful, you are brilliant and you are bold." Believe it.
Some fun brands...
Dynamite Clothing. Let's talk trendy. Dynamite clothing had a pop-up at the C&C market and I had a fun time browsing their new summer line, aka I want all of it in my closet. The combo of cute and inexpensive makes it a winner in my books.
Ketel One Botanicals. I read the brand name now and what first comes to mind is florals. To be fair, I'm currently working a temporary contract job at B Floral, so it's already front of mind, but the company executed their activations and pop-ups beautifully. I stuck with one drink the entire time - the signature Grapefruit Glow - featuring Ketel One's Grapefruit & Rosé Vodka. It's so easy to sip, light and refreshing, and can make the perfect cocktail with just one splash of soda!
Mural Cerveza. Unfortunately for me, it didn't deliver on it's promise to transport me straight to Mexico, although to its credit I went to Sayulita/Puerto Vallarta and not Mexico City, where the drink draws its inspiration from. Regarless, this light, fruity and refreshing beer is top on my list the next time I go to the liquor store. The beer is produced from a partnership between New Belgium Brewing Company and Primus Cerveceria and features flavors like hibiscus, agave, watermelon and lime. Talk about vibrant.
La Croix. In all honesty, ever since the release of Polar Seltzerade, I've been on a pretty serious seltzer kick. I think it's the strong flavor that makes me prefer it to any other brand and type of seltzer but I think I've finally met one that's met it's match. I was able to try LaCroix's Cerise-Limon (that's cherry-lime for all you non-French speakers out there) from their Curate line of seltzer, and I can say that it's just as flavorful and light as Polar's Selzterade. Love it.
At-A-Glance. One of my favorite booths to visit was At-A-Glance - a planner company. They were giving away planners and had a calligrapher on-site to personalize your planner with your name or brand. I chose (naturally) a marble design and had my name written in gold, Sharpie script. I'm such a nerd and can't wait to use it. Also, I'm in the market for another planner, and I have a feeling what my go-to brand will be.
Beyond Meat. Okay, so I heard a lot of negative buzz around the sponsored lunch by Beyond Meat. The company served their vegan burger, very minimalist, with lettuce and the options of ketchup and mustard. The first bite I was skeptical, but with each consecutive bite I was more and more hooked. I'm a huge fan. After a little research, I also found out they do vegan sausages and meat crumblers and have a strong list of recipes on their website. I'll be busy this summer!
Vestique. So Vestique was not a sponsored brand, but at the organized happy hour on the Friday night before the conference, I met a girl who was the Creative Director for the brand. Stylish, of course, in a tight top and a snake-skin printed cotton maxi skirt, we got to bond over Ketel One Botanical cocktails about how many people were crammed into a small bar for the happy hour and I was able to learn a little about the southern-based company. I browsed their Instagram and website and... I'm a huge fan of their clothing. Not only is it trendy, but it's not that expensive either. Win!
Tini Lux Jewelry. This, too, was not a brand that sponsored the conference, but rather came from networking. Also a native Mainer, the founder of Tini Lux started her jewelry company because she kept having reactions to earrings and other jewelry. She partnered with a woman in the dental business that works with titanium to develop hypoallergenic products -- and the results are gorgeous! I can't wait to order a pair of earrings (which I've long been in the market for).
One of the things I enjoyed most about the conference was that there was a sense of community. It comes through online, too, but there is a different electricity and spark of being surrounded by influencers, entrepreneurs and women looking to get ahead and it's another push of inspiration as I make another move.
Create & Cultivate just announced San Fransisco as the conference's next destination, and I'm already jealous of all the attendees. I of course won't make it to that conference, but I'm hopeful that I'll be able to attend another in the future. It's so worth it.