Honestly, I knew it would be inspiring. I knew I would learn tons, meet many, and fangirl abundantly. But Create + Cultivate blew all my expectations out of the chicly decorated event venue, even in the first hour of being there.
First things first, as dedicated readers know, last week I was having a bit of an outfit crisis in preparation for the big day. To leather skirt, or not to leather skirt? That was the question. I last-minute opted to wear that minx of a pencil skirt to the networking happy hour on Friday night, a decision I was very happy with the next day about six hours in to creating and cultivating. It is much more a nighttime garment than day—also much more suited for wearing in short-term scenarios rather than long—and I happily sported a navy jumpsuit with lime embroidery on the shoulders with a jean jacket and stilettos instead. Simple, understated, and also basically PJs disguised as a real outfit: it was a winner indeed.
Back to the conference itself. I am going to try to contain this post to less than novel-length, although it’ll be difficult. How do I encapsulate the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE into a few paragraphs? I guess by just starting already, that’s how. So, when I say this was the most beautifully decorated place I’ve been to, ever, that’s legitimate. There were chandeliers dangling from the lofty rooms, cacti and other greenery hanging around signage and lounge tables, the cutest seating setups (see my Instagram, @audswan, for a couple prime examples), Persian and fur rugs strewn throughout the venue, imprints of C+C’s artful logo on every wall. I wanted to get married in there, right then, regardless of not being engaged and of my lifelong stance on never marrying too young. Whatevs.
Then there were the panels and people themselves. I was actually tearing up during the majority of the speakers’ talks while maniacally scribbling down notes to recall later. Instead of going in-depth into each of the panels and keynote interviews (which would take, um, forever, but would also be very fun), I’m just going to pull some of my favorite, most major takeaways that I learned and find important to share with any woman, blogger or not, who has a creative or entrepreneurial itch. Don’t we all? (Yes.)
On monetizing your blog or brand:
- Stalk yourself hardcore if you run a website. Use Google Analytics. Use ShopStyle/RewardStyle analytics. Use WordPress analytics. Pay attention to social media growth. And then learn anything and everything about the people looking at your site; cater it to them.
- Content is your queen. Make it beautiful, make it authentic, make it your best piece of content every single time, and be sure to communicate what you identify with.
- Create a media kit, no matter where you’re at. Look, I’m a beginner (pretty much). My numbers are, like, not very impressive. But I have a few posts that’ve gotten in the hundreds range for views; my Instagram followers have been steadily climbing. Put anything that shows growth and forward motion in your media kit, and then:
- Send it to EVERYONE. Businesses, other influencers, photographers, your mom. Everyone.
On maintaining your brand:
- Allow your content to evolve with your life. I’m not going to be 24 and have no idea what I’m doing with my life forever, and my content shouldn’t, either (or something like that).
- Create conversations. Hey, people who read Freckles and Figs: I just want y’all to know that you can talk to me! I haven’t said that before, but this place shouldn’t be a one-way road where I just ramble a few times a week (although, that’s what it is currently, pretty much). Truly, if you comment or email or talk to me, I’ll respond! This is an open environment! As it should be.
- Tread the line of sharing vs. sharing too much. It’s okay to show flaws and write about what you want to write about (Lord knows I do), but you also want to be careful not to overdo it while still being honest.
On finding a niche:
- Imitate, don’t duplicate. Just because you are obsessed with someone else’s idea (hi, Emily Schuman) doesn’t mean you can’t do something similar, but with your own edge.
- You don’t need to listen to those people who say, “Do something completely unique.” Nothing is completely unique! We’re all just stealing each other’s ideas and making them our own, and that’s ok!
- However, do what you know. If you think starting a pressed juice company looks tres chic (think of the cute labels you could design!) but you hate pressed juice, you probably shouldn’t start a pressed juice company. I’d never write about golf, because I know nothing about golf. Do what you know.
- Add-on to that: also do what you love. It won’t, or shouldn’t, get boring 10 years down the line.
On following your entrepreneurial side:
- If you go for that one thing that keeps you up at night, realize that you’ll be up even more nights to come. But you’ll be doing what you’re passionate about, so really, it’s ok.
- Know that following your passion—starting that business or launching that website—needs to be less leap of faith, more full-throttle obsession. Anyone can jump past the fear and start something; not anyone can maintain the crazed obsession they had at day one, all the way to year five and on.
- Creating a vision is everything. Write down your goals, make your plan, and stick with them. An uncertainness regarding your big dream is the exact thing that will make it fail.
S’yeah. I feel all overwhelmed again just writing that out, and this is just a small sampling. All I can say is, if Create + Cultivate’s next location is anywhere close to you, jump on a ticket. I personally promise it’ll change your world. In the meantime, go for everything you’ve ever wanted. It’s really that easy. Just begin! And then don’t stop.
Photos by my dear friend, Sarah Cook