A couple weekends ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Create & Cultivate Chicago. If you caught my last blog post, you saw that I’ve been going through some major life changes. Around the time of this conference, I had officially settled on my decision to move back to the midwest and I was truly needing some inspiration to get me fueled back into blogging and photography. I had researched the heck out of this conference and all of the speakers (of course there were many speakers I already follow and love) and thought that a conference filled with industry professionals, bloggers and inspiring peers would get my creative juices flowing.
I have never attended a blogger conference before and let me tell you, for the first time in a while, I truly felt like I was where I belonged- surrounded by go-getters, #girlbosses and hustlers (not to mention, a ton of cute #ootd inspo.) At Create & Cultivate Chicago, I was surrounded by amazing women who just GET IT!
There are SO many subjects I want to speak about and I have SO much information to share, but for today’s post, I wanted to share how I found inspiration and Create & Cultivate Chicago.
There were so many speakers lined up for this conference, and unfortunately I didn’t get to hear them all! I wish I could have though because there were a few I wanted to hear that I missed out on (there are two different tracks.) I loved all of the panels I was able to attend, and wanted to share a few things that struck a chord and inspired me:
I was really excited about this panel because, as you know, I love photographing- and eating- food! I was really looking forward to hearing these ladies speak on tips of the trade.
On food photography, iPhone-ography and staging/styling…
• “Natural light is key- I don’t shoot anything unless [there’s] sunshine outside. I like to keep it simple- when in doubt, an overhead shot works. Don’t overdo it- you really want to make it about the food shining through, and the colors and textures.” – Claire Thomas
• “We’re moving away from the messy shots where there’s crumbs… you have to be really careful. If you’re going to use crumbs or utensils, make sure they’re naturally there.” – Mandy Kellogg Rye
• “The best looking food is food that is ready to be eaten. Focus on the details you want to highlight- this translates for lifestyle and fashion too- where do you want their eye to go? Do everything you can to leave them there.” – Claire Thomas
So, after hearing this panel, I was pretty excited and feeling really motivated, because everything they touched on I was already doing- so for me personally, it was a ‘keep doing what you’re doing and keep working hard and you’ll get there’ moment. After the panel, I had the chance to interview both Gaby and Mandy!
• What is your advice on being unique without following trends?
Gaby: “You really have to figure out what message you want to tell people. For me, I just want everyone to live the California-girl life wherever they are. Don’t pay attention to the fact that there are one million food blogs out there- you’re your own voice! No one else can do what you’re doing. That’s who you are- rock it!”
Mandy: “When I first started out, one of the biggest things was high end photography- I’m an image driven person so an image would get me to click on something. I think finding a unique spin and an authentic voice- I know authenticity is talked about a lot but if it’s something you love, you’re going to naturally engage people in it. Being authentic, believing in your brand, great imagery and social media is key!”
• What is your source of inspiration for what you think is a perfect photo?
Gaby: “Color! I’m SO into color and an abundance of things. The reason I cook is to feed people that I love, so I love a party scene, like a bruschetta bar. Something that people would be like ‘we need to do this at our next girls night in!'”
• How do you find passion in a profession that you’re doing every day?
Gaby: “Sometimes you just want to lay in bed and watch Housewives all day! For me, it’s about getting out there and meeting other people in the field. My photographer is an incredible source of inspiration and even going to the farmer’s market. Keeping things new and exciting is helpful especially when you’re doing the same thing over and over.”
Mandy: “I live by the motto ‘Work Hard, Play Hard.’ It’s really easy to get burned out but you have to listen to yourself and take cues from that. When you feel yourself teetering on the edge (it happens to everybody!) take the time and do what you love. For me, it’s either going away for a couple days or running errands- but I leave my phone in the car or at home. I really truly try to decompress and get off of those things. You have to be really careful and listen to what your mind and body is telling you and do what makes you happy.
• What is your advice for finding your next step?
Gaby: “Just not being afraid to do something. I thought about doing my Snapchat cooking show on a Thursday and started it that Friday! Just do it- such a Nike thing to say but I think it’s so important to just go for it. No one’s going to kill you if you did something wrong- you can always re-do it. That’s the beauty of living in a digital world. Not being afraid to taking a risk.
Mandy: “When I started, I had a vision of where we wanted to go. We said yes to a lot of things and opportunities naturally follow. Saying no is harder than saying yes- but your career will flourish and last years and years by staying true to yourself. Be open to whatever comes. It’s an adventure- it’s not always about the end game, its about the journey.”
• What is a piece of advice you would tell yourself when you first started?
Gaby: “To not be afraid of any failures that might come. Everyone has failure- just do your best. If [you’re] passionate about it, you will be successful.”
Influencer 101: Negotiating deals, working with bloggers and monetizing your influence: Emily Jackson of Ivory Lane, Jessica Sturdy of Bows and Sequins, Geri Hirsch of Because I’m Addicted, Hilary Sloan of ShopStyle and Lily Berg of DBA.
Monetizing my blog has been something on my to-do list for a while now, and so I was really curious to hear Lily Berg and Hilary Sloan speak. Thankfully, after the panel, I was able to work with one of the many ShopStyle reps on location and they were able to help me straighten out my account! I thought it was so cool that ShopStyle had reps there, readily available to help with any questions or concerns.
On media kits…
• “Your media kit is the most important thing you can have and just an overall sense of knowing your worth. For your media kit, having your statistics on your website, all your social media followers, but also keeping a deck of what you’ve done- the different partnerships, the content you’ve created, content you’re really proud of. Something to show brands.” – Jessica Sturdy
On agencies looking to sign new talent…
• “I’m always looking to work with someone who is looking outside of the box. My clients are creative and doing really innovative things, like video and snapchat. They’re tackling all their different platforms. They’re thinking of this as a brand. I don’t have patience for someone who just wants to throw up an Instagram and go in front of a pink wall and call it a day. I want someone who’s looking at their [analytics] and who knows what their conversion rate is, who knows whether they should post at 5:00pm or 6:00pm. We want to work with people who are seeing this as a sustainable business and who want to have a 10-year career.” – Lily Berg of DBA
• “As influencers, the thing you really need to think about is what kind of business do you want this to be? Do you want this to be a post on Instagram and have a link or do you want this to be something that you’re in for the long haul? If you’re in it for the long haul, you want to look at partners who can help you build and scale that audience. Being aware of your traffic and conversion insights- start looking at those things and evaluating the opportunities you have in front of you and make the decision that makes the most sense for your business goals.” – Hilary Sloan of ShopStyle
Of course, I loved hearing all of the other panels and the rest of the conference was jam-packed with information, inspiration and tips. I loved being able to hear The Everygirl Co-Founders (aka my boss ladies!) Alaina Kaczmarski and Danielle Moss. Also, hearing Garance Doré speak totally solidified my girl crush on her.
On maintaining a good work and life balance… “You have to find what makes you happy- you have to find a place where you are healthy and happy. But if you love what you do, you don’t mind working.” – Garance Doré
Create & Cultivate was held at 19 East in Chicago. This venue was amazing! I loved the natural light and the outdoor space, as well as how all of the different rooms connected with each other. I also liked being able to try out all of the different sponsored drinks and products (hello Gevalia coffee, you’ve got me hooked!) There were a few pop up shops (Whitney Eve, Lulu & Georgia, Mira, Topshop and more.) There was a beauty bar where you could get glammed up for the day (WISH I would have taken advantage of getting a touch up on my hair!) as well as an ACTUAL bar too!
Overall, this conference was 100% worth it. Not only did I get to hear amazing women speak, but I also got to meet my team of “Everygirls” as well as a few other bloggers I had kept contact with. I truly walked away from the conference feeling inspired in many ways:
• I felt like I was ready to get my business on the road; After speaking with many industry professionals and a few PR reps, I felt like I had the information I needed and the motivation to make my blog into a brand and business, and incorporate my side hustles into my blog and brand to make one GIANT business down the road.
• It was so awesome to be surrounded by other women who KNOW that you’re not just taking a picture of your breakfast or outfit, they understand it’s for a higher purpose and it’s ‘on brand.’
• I have a lot of material to share for a while!
I’ll be doing a follow up post talking about the benefits of going to an industry conference. Have you ever attended a blogger conference before? Did you attend the Create & Cultivate? If so, what were your most memorable moments?