When I decided to start this adventure in blogging, just over four months ago, I had no clue what I was doing. And, now, four months later, I still don’t. (Actually, somehow I feel like I may know less. How did that happen?) Long before tiny, baby Hello Friday was born, I spent a lot of time just thinking about starting a blog. I would have taken the plunge sooner, if it hadn’t been for two things: fear and doubt. And like it usually happens, all of it was totally self-imposed.
There are a lot of blogs that I really love—successful, established blogs. They look beautiful. They have beautiful pictures and design, and feature beautiful clothes and places. I even imagine that they smell really nice. And, in my sometimes crazy, self-doubting mind, I guess I thought if I wasn’t going to be as good at it as they were, it wasn’t even worth trying. It makes me a little sad admitting that, but it’s true. Who was it that said, “Don’t compare your beginnings to somebody else’s middle”? I can’t remember. Someone smart though, that’s who.
At some point I realized I didn’t have to have all the answers to get started. Hello Friday wasn’t going to be perfect and amazing and All. The. Things. But, it really wasn’t going to be anything at all if I didn’t just take the first step and start.
Last Saturday felt like a big step in my blogging journey. I attended Create & Cultivate—a “creative conference (and online platform) for female entrepreneurs in the digital space.” I’m not quite sure if I fall into that category (there it is again…silly self-doubt), but I’m thankful I decided to disregard that and register to attend anyhow.
I was the first attendee to arrive, if that’s any indication of how excited I was. The security guard at the venue, 19 East in Chicago’s South Loop, had to kindly tell me I was ridiculously early and to please wait outside. Check-in began at 8 AM. I was given a name tag, details on the “track” I would follow that day, and ushered towards a wall of Do-Rite Donuts. No, you didn’t read that wrong. I’m still trying to figure out how I can get one of these walls in my apartment. (If you live in Chicago and haven’t had a Do-Rite—get there, quickly.) As other attendees trickled in, we all hovered around the donuts, making small talk and introductions, taking too many pictures, and sharing in our excitement about the day ahead.
After that, we entered a courtyard for breakfast. (You can imagine my surprise—I thought the donuts were breakfast and really went for it…so, I wasn’t very hungry at that point.) Before I get much further, I need to point out that Create & Cultivate sure knows how to put on a conference. Every detail was perfectly planned—from the beautiful branding, location, pop-up shops, amazing panels of influencers and girl bosses, to the delicious food, and endless supply of iced coffee and green juice.
The track 1 schedule started with a panel on “How to launch your business, create community and stay relevant in the modern marketplace.” Ummm…ok? I started to panic just a little bit. What was I doing here? Launch my business? (Turns out, I panicked for nothing—ask my husband, that’s par for the course.) It quickly became clear to me that regardless if I considered HF a business or not, believing in yourself, your brand, your message and ultimately, your business, whatever that may be, are universal concepts that translate to any creative endeavor—beginner blogger to established entrepreneur. Soon, #girlboss didn’t seem as far off.
Next up was a workshop called “Influencer 101: Negotiating deals, working with bloggers, and monetizing your influence.” The panel for this workshop: Emily Jackson of Ivory Lane, Hilary Sloan of ShopStyle, Lily Berg of DBA, Jessica Sturdy of Bows & Sequins, Geri Hirsch of Because I’m Addicted and Melissa Lawson of Who What Wear, who also served as moderator. These ladies spoke to what it takes to translate your blog into a business. They covered working and communicating with brands and how to negotiate deals and collaborations. (All while I feverishly scribbled notes.) This is an area of blogging I feel pretty unsteady about—the business aspect. I’m open to where this adventure may take me, but I know I’m not there. Wherever there may be.
The 3rd Panel covered, “From Blog To Brand: The art of creating compelling content that translates offline and online,” and focused on how to stay true to your brand and readers/audience when creating content. At this point in the day, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. I was surrounded by rooms full of creative, fun, really well-dressed women and I was finding it hard to feel like I could set myself apart. I kept reminding myself of my mantra of the day, “Creativity is not competitive.” I tried to look at this experience as a community, a network, rather than worry that I didn’t have business cards or a blogging bestie, when it seemed like everyone else there did.
During mentor sessions, I had some up-close and personal time with Maxie McCoy from Levo League, a company that provides young professionals with resources to help them navigate and advance their careers, and Jay Goldmark, who accidentally created a really cool hair tie line with her friend called Emi Jay. I loved these intimate sessions and both mentors were really motivating and inspiring.
In between the panels and mentoring sessions, there was time to wander through the pop-up shops, check out the sponsors, grab a snack, or stop at one of the many beauty bars—facials, make-up, hair braiding and mani/pedis.
The last panel of the day was one of my favorites, “Getting Niche: Finding an untapped market and creating a unique brand online.” I think about this a lot when it comes to Hello Friday and it’s something I’m still working on and discovering. I think I probably took the most notes during this session and I’m still processing what I learned and the ideas and thoughts the discussion sparked. Do y’all know Toast Meets World? He’s a King Charles puppy mill rescue, with no teeth, a tongue that constantly hangs out of his mouth, and 291,000 Instagram followers. And, he was part of this panel. Enough said.
Before the keynote started, possibly the most exciting part of my day—I tried to find some quiet space to organize my thoughts and notes. I think looking back on the day, I wish in these in-between moments I had been a little more fearless. I guess that’s becoming the theme of this post, right? I wish that I had started conversations and networked a little more—a goal I’ll definitely set for my next conference. Can we talk about this wall o’ cactuses? Amazing. I think I took 30 pictures of it.
The keynote was the final session of the day. A conversation about all things creative with Garance Doré. Talk about a lady crush. Garance is a photographer, illustrator and author, who is best known for her fashion blog. She has the loveliest french accent, the coolest hair, and I seriously could have sat there and listened to her talk all day. Her advice was spot on too. I felt like she was just talking to me. Which is probably partly why she’s been so successful. She’s relatable, cool, someone you wish you were friends with—or at the very least, could get a drink with. Her resume and portfolio are pretty incredible. She’s worked with the best of the best in fashion, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Kate Spade, J. Crew and Gap, just to name a few. I loved everything about C+C. It ignited something in me—something that easily gets forgotten during my routine work week. Reminded me of my goals and my dreams. It made me excited to see what’s next for HF. I can’t wait to go again and do all the things I wish I had been brave enough to do the first time. Like get a picture with Toast. I was just too starstruck. The day ended with drinks, mingling and gift bags.
So, here’s my advice, my overall take away from C+C—whatever it is that you’re “sitting” on: a project, a goal, a new beginning, an idea, a dream—stop sitting and just get started. Even if you start small and aren’t 100% sure where you’re headed. And, in that journey, please don’t get distracted with what everyone else is doing. They’re on a different path. Stay focused on your purpose and why you started and then just don’t stop. Ever. Keep Going.
See you next Friday! xx, Devon