Earlier this month I flew (or so I thought) to New York for the Create & Cultivate conference. The conference was to be an all-day event on Saturday, so most of my other activities were planned for either Friday or Sunday. My flight left at 7:30am on Friday morning, giving me plenty of time to get settled in my Airbnb, get some exercise in, and explore the city. Wellllll that didn’t exactly go as planned. During our flight both Laguardia and JFK airports closed due to rain and high winds, so we were diverted to land in Albany. ALBANY! We all got off the plane with no clue as to if our flight was ever going to take off again that day. They assured us it would, but hour after hour we continued to get news that neither airport has reopened. We had been just 1 of 6 diverted flights to Albany alone, and the agent at the desk was getting some serious harassment. I decided just to take matters into my own hands and buy an Amtrak ticket – a 2.5hr ride into Penn Station. Well 12 hours after my original flight left, I finally made it to my Airbnb, exhausted, hungry, and annoyed that an entire day I had planned in NYC was shot.
I couldn’t bear to travel anymore, but I was starving, so I walked over to Sunday In Brooklyn and grabbed a seat at the bar. All I remember saying to the bartender was something along the lines of “wine and food please”, like I was lost in the desert and had just found an oasis. I’m hoping what was actually said can off a little more elegant, but I honestly didn’t really care. Several glasses of wine and about three quarters of the menu later, I had finally come to, and the restaurant was packed to the brim. The wait seemed to be long and the people standing behind me were anxious for either a drink or a table. In classic form, I ordered a whiskey and asked for the check. I was satisfied and one more seat in the joint would probably satisfy someone behind me – and the host. Let’s be honest, a chaotic and busy restaurant may be preferable to the owners, but it’s a nightmare for a host, even a good one. The longer you linger at your table, the more chaotic the night gets, and let me tell you, people do NOT like waiting!
The conference was the next morning with a strict start time of 8am. Hundreds of women (and a handful of men) herded to the The Knockdown Center, a massive industrial building in Queens. We were all waiting in line, shaking hands and handing out business cards before the doors opened. Once they did, HOLY SHIT. The prettiest booths I’ve ever seen were lined up all the way around the building. The weather had turned to warm, cloudless skies, and the interiors of the building seemed to mimic that. There was one little coffee shop out back that got hit with the brunt of everyones morning caffeine fix, however, with some stroke of genius, I had brought a little cold brew coffee with me allowing me to browse around before the crowds came. I headed over to Vital Proteins for one of their beauty waters. I opted for the Matcha Latte with their Aloe water. So damn good – I ended up finding myself here several more times throughout the day.
There were so many drink options from Health-Aid Kombucha (my absolute favorite) to Kopari’s coconut water. I was basically just walking around to find another drink. While I was beverage hopping, I did get to check out the insane amount of other things happening. I created my own mini-Birchbox, and fell IN LOVE with Clarin’s Multi-Active Jour cream. The smell is so yummy. There was a glam booth where girls were getting their hair braided and curled, or you could get your makeup touched up with Laura Mercier products (obsessed!). I bought the most beautiful ring set at Gorjana. I’m so happy about this purchase. I literally could have bought everything there. I also had a notebook case pressed with my initials. I have something of a notebook addiction. I’m currently writing in four different notebooks, not including anything on my computer. It’s a problem, I know.
While it seems like I may have only been there for the goodies and free drinks, I had a full day packed with panels of badass #girlbosses and one f*cking. These chicks ranged from very successful bloggers to designers to brand VP’s. It was a great mix of backgrounds that brought up interesting discussions and new points of view.
The conference was mainly focused on social media, blogging, e-commerce and marketing, which ended up bringing together many women working in fashion, beauty, and/or wellness. While I tend to work with and speak to an audience connected to the hospitality industry, I constantly find myself talking a lot about these topics i.e. women’s fashion in fine dining. So there was an automatic connection I could make with everyone I met or heard speak. I met with brands, designers, influencers and chief marketing officers who were all offerings ideas about best practices for a successful business. I soon realized that what I was taking away from each person was universal knowledge (not subject to one industry or another) about the necessity of successfully utilizing different online platforms.
It was comforting to hear these highly successful women talk about what it was like for them when they first started because it mimicked the trenches myself and the other women sitting around me were going through. We weren’t alone, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. For me, an over arching topic that was brought up time and time again was authenticity. Being yourself, finding your voice and creating consistent and authentic content seem to be paradigm to these ladies’ achievements. Be inspired by what other’s are doing, but don’t lose YOU. There were some other really great points made regarding engagement, conversion rates, negotiating contracts, and affiliate programs. You know its good when everybody’s intensely taking notes. What I found to be the most intriguing nugget of information was from Lauryn Evarts of The Skinny Confidential. First, I love her, she’s f*cking hilarious. Second, she laid down some serious knowledge about growth hacking.
Growth hacking is about diversifying content and distributing followers to your different platforms. The first part means that your different platforms should offer different kinds of content. For instance, you should NOT be sharing a photo to Instagram and then, though Instagram, sharing that same post to Twitter and Facebook. The content won’t be presented the same way, and if your content is the exact same, it doesn’t give your audience a reason to be engaged or even follow you on your other accounts. This leads into the second part of growth hacking, distributing followers. Once you’ve diversified your content, then you can start nudging followers to your different sites. If you post on Twitter saying you’re debuting a new Spring menu, then you should let your followers know that they can check out your Instagram page to see some photos. Once they’re on you’re Instagram account, you can let your followers know that the new Spring menu is up on your website and that they should check it out. Diversifying your audience allows them to feel more of a connection to both you and your business, which in turn gives them more incentive to make an investment, in this example, a reservation. Evarts says she growth hacks all day every day, and it has become essential to the success of her business. Hell Yes.
My absolute favorite panel, however, was lead by Bobby Kim from The Hundreds. It was all about representing people on the fringe, whether thats women, minorities, or people of different body types. It was eye-opening and empowering. Bobby did a phenomenal job at directing the conversation and keeping things light. Topics went from realizing that only you can direct your own life, to finding a voice for black women in fashion, to rape culture. It was vastly different from anything else that day, and incredibly refreshing. It was inspiring to hear all these women using the platforms they worked hard to gain (by being themselves) to speak out about issues they see or have gone through.
The day ended with me making a last lap to collect all the cool little snacks that were lying around and grab a coveted coffee that seemed to be the hottest commodity of the day. It was a whirlwind, but I learned a ton, made lasting connections to incredible women pursing their passions, and left more inspired than I could’ve imagined.
I headed back to Chicago on Sunday, and thankfully had a smooth flight without any glitches. It was a long and tiring weekend, but I squeezed out of New York all that I could (as you one does), and am more anxious than ever to go back.
**Watch out for a follow-up post on my exquisite dinner at Aska Saturday Night!