As you know, I just got back from a week of vacation in New Orleans. I showed up on Monday, drove to Lake Charles, hung out in Baton Rouge for 2 days, and then crashed in New Orleans until Saturday when VenturePOP began. I booked tickets on a whim after finding out that Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon from Being Boss, and Sarah Morgan from XO Sarah were speaking. The decision took me approximately 4.5 minutes to make, if that.
And y’all. It was 100% worth it. Sometimes you go through a little bit of a buyer’s remorse situation when you realize you’ve bought tickets to a conference out of state, you only really know one other person attending, and the conference price actually called for more consideration than the 4.5 minutes you gave it. But the people were so incredible, the conference team worked really hard to put together an incredible agenda with surprises all over the place (they even brought in a brass band for the after party!), and the speakers were ON POINT. I will absolutely be purchasing a ticket in 2017. (Assuming they keep this going… because it would be a darn shame not to.)
If you didn’t have the pleasure of attending the conference live, I’m going to give you some insight into my top 5 quotes from the event, but first, let me set the scene.
From the very beginning, our awesome emcee, Liz, was talking about us being the “slasher” generation. This means that almost all of us need to put slashes in when we explain what we do in life. For example, I’m a construction consultant / blogger / conference mastermind / photographer / singer. It takes far more than just one word to get all of the components of your life into the same sentence. And that’s really cool. It means everybody has a project that they’re really passionate about in their lives. It also means that we’re constantly trying to juggle these personalities.
My mind was buzzing with ideas when I left the conference. Everything from, I should really try out a welcome gate on my blog to I should really start that community Facebook group for hostesses I was thinking about to omg what if I need entirely new branding again. Not being a first time conference attender I realize that some of these ideas will happen, and some of them won’t, but the fact that my brain can’t stop thinking about all of them is exactly what I needed. That’s why people go to conferences, for that kick in the pants they don’t get while sitting in front of their computer. And of course, to meet cool people.
There are two things I’m super excited to work on though:
- The first is to research the crap out of Instagram. Thanks to Jennifer Puno, founder of Made with Map (who now has 107k followers on Instagram) I’m hoping to turn my Instagram game around. She put her all into Instagram for 6 months and saw an incredible return on that investment in her following AND community. She commented on 30-50 new people’s photos a day; creates lists of competitors, partners, and influencers; and really tore through Instagram to understand the best hashtags, visual displays, and content. Of course, she had a team of people working with her for some of that, but I still think it’s really cool to see how the Instagram game is actually a lot more analytical than it initially appears for such a visual network. Also, just in general, Puno (as she goes by) was a genuinely awesome person. At lunch the first day she bounced up to a group I was standing with to introduce herself, no qualms at all, which was awesome.
- The second is to really take a step towards building an online community for hostess friends thanks to an awesome talk by Sarah Morgan (@xosarahmorgan) from XO Sarah titled How to Build a Thriving Online Community. As she pointed out, building a community is a great way to get feedback, to learn something new, and to meet new people. I just need to figure out what the heck this is going to look like now. If it’s something you’re interested in, please let me know in the comments below!
Anyway, I got distracted. Where was I? Ah yes, top 5 quotes from the event.
“They just don’t know how cool you are yet.”
I’d like to thank Shenee Howard (@heyshenee) of Hey Shenee for this quote. Her talk was titled Branding You: Get Paid For Being Yourself. Her presentation started by comparing a beautifully decorated cake with an unfrosted cupcake. They could both be the exact same cake it’s just how you take the time to present it that makes the difference. So after you see that you’re sitting there a little bit nervous because you realize that at best you’re a cupcake with a pretty wrapper, a little bit of frosting, and sprinkles that didn’t all stick to the top (as opposed to the rainbow layer cake with the elaborate piped frosting). But then, she reminds you that “they just don’t know how cool you are yet.” So you’ve got to tell them.
We have to figure out who we help and how we help. We need to figure out our signature story and we need to find the vignettes and feelings in that signature story to determine our battle cry. (And don’t for once think that you can use the word happiness in your signature story, because that is frowned upon. Shenee says to “cross out the words that tell stories and share the stories instead.”)
“Your business starts when you sell something for the first time.”
Right after lunch on the first day Amanda Aguillard (@aguillardacct) of Aguillard Accounting sat down with us to talk about accounting. (As they joked, what a great time to talk about accounting – right after lunch! The funny part was that we totally could have all been happy talking about accounting for the next three hours. Who would have thought for a room of creatives?) When you live in this creative world and walk this fine line of passion project meets side hustle, you are constantly asking yourself whether you have a hobby or a business. And Amanda broke it down really well. “Your business starts when you sell something for the first time.” So that’s when you need get your stuff together, right after (or possibly right before) you sell something for the first time.
Once you become a business you should create an LLC, get a tax ID number, and create a separate business checking account. (Some of which I have done, and some of which I have not done. I’m working on it.) This is similar to the same advice that I got from Elsie of A Beautiful Mess at Texas Style Council back in 2013. Get your stuff in order as soon as possible, it’ll save you a lot of hassle latter.
“I’d love to meet you and just think that you’re awesome.”
This quote is also thanks to the lovely Jennifer Puno (@punodostres). When she was building her Instagram account, she would meet up for coffee with the cool people she was interacting with on the internet. How did she make that happen? She said, “I’d love to meet you and just think that you’re awesome.” How simple! And sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t work, and either way it was a step towards progress.
What a cool way to meet new people.
“Design something bigger!”
I would like to thank Tara Gentile (@taragentile) for this simple, yet mind blowing idea. She started her talk by saying that your business is probably as big as it’s going to get right now because that’s what you designed it to be. So in order to get any bigger, instead of adding an hour to your day or increasing your prices 10% the answer is actually to “design something bigger.” Start thinking about licensing or building an app – and remember, “the profit is in your process.” So even if you’re thinking, but there are a million other people who do this in the world, they don’t have your process. And your process is what’s worth all the profit.
Just going to this conference alone was a great kick in the pants to design something bigger. As a blogger (who’s really not making all that much money, if any from her blog) attending a small business conference your mind is opened up to what could come next. Your brain starts overflowing with ways to take what you’re doing and turn it into a product or service that can really help somebody else. And that’s such a fun space to play in.
“Enjoy the process.”
To set the scene here, this wasn’t said during the conference. This was said at the after party while hanging around with drinks in hand chatting with Emily Thompson (@EmilyM_Thompson) from Being Boss and Indie Shopography. Sometimes when you’re this person with a day job and a side hustle you think that you’re supposed to be hustling towards the side as fast as possible. But sometimes you’ve got a pretty decent day job that allows you to do some cool things in your life and you’re just using your side hustle to add a little more right-brained to your life and you know what, that’s okay. “Enjoy the process.”
That was really great to hear. Because sometimes you start to worry that you’re not doing it right. So when somebody who’s been doing really well at building a business, setting goals, and building a community tells you to see how it plays out, it’s a huge weight off your shoulders (that you realize you’re not sure how it ever got there in the first place).
Other cool things that happened during this conference include:
- Sarah Morgan talking a group of us into going shopping for crystals after night one, so now I am the proud owner of 5 crystals that I really need to look into a little bit more. That was a really fun night. And in general, hanging out with somebody that you’ve taken classes from before and have hung out with over the internet for 2.5+ years is just cool.
- I spent a lot of time hanging out with Mallory Whitfield of Miss Malaprop. Goodness that girl is cool.
- My new friend Kathy Rasmussen and I bonded over being first-time conference planners. (And she gave me the tip that when writing emails I should try using “as it turns out” instead of “unfortunately.” Flipping genius.)
- I met a new coaching friend named Eryn Morgan Goldman who lives in Pittsburgh. We bonded over our love of community.
- At one point I was standing in a small circle of people that included Emily Thompson, Kathleen Shannon, and Tara Gentile at the same time.
- I’d like to thank Tara Gentile for putting the idea in my head to possibly do NaNoWriMo this year.
- They brought in a dance krewe called Move Ya Brass to do a quick 10-minute work out for each of the days. No questions asked that would be my workout method of choice if they were anywhere near Philadelphia.
- I was reminded as all of the people who were from New Orleans knew exactly what to do and how to dance along with a brass band that we were parading around the streets of New Orleans with that New Orleans culture is flipping awesome.
And that’s it. Those are all the things. It was really great meet everyone! And I can’t wait to stay in touch. Because that part’s my favorite.