It’s hard to believe Matt and I are already home from Raleigh, NC after spending 4 days with 130 creatives for Creative at Heart.
This was our seventh conference in 3 years, and it was longest “gap” between conferences we’d ever had. In 2015, we hosted a conference in January, March & November. In 2016, we hosted a conference in March, July & November. And now here we were (8 months after our last conference) hosting Round 7.
There was a LOT of anticipation for Round 7. A LOT, y’all!!!!
We sold 78 seats in less than 12 hours. Our attendees were traveling from all over the country, giving up time with family & their business to be here. 17 of them were attending Creative at Heart as there VERY FIRST conference, while 14 of them were Alumni coming back home.
See, that’s what C@H is for so many of us… and it’s absolutely what it is for me.
Creative at Heart is HOME.
It’s comfort and permission and a chance to look at your business and feel freedom to be BRAVE. It’s a chance to explore, create & embark on something NEW! My friend Abby Grace (one of our Round 7 Educators & 7 time alumn) says it best: “(Creative at Heart) provides an environment for change, inspiration, and curiosity that attendees didn’t even know they were missing.”
We spend 3-4 days surrounded by women who GET IT … and because they GET IT, they push you forward. They excited you, propel you & all around challenge you to FINALLY do “that thing” you’ve been waiting so long to do. They force you to look fear in the face & say: “I may fail, but I will TRY!”
We had women at C@H who just “officially” started a business (as in, DAYS before the conference!!!)!! We had women who had been in business 7+ years. We had photographers, planners, stationers, shop owners, business partners, virtual assistants, business coaches and so many more represented at Round 7. And believe or not, AT the conference we had women decide to COMPLETELY change direction in their current business … shifting, pivoting & some even closing their doors so they can embark on a NEW adventure.
I’m excited to share more about our time together in Raleigh so get ready for the longest blog post I’ve ever written!:) Next week, we’re doing a special post dedicated to our sponsors; today, take a look at what each day at the conference held for the attendees! (HUGE THANK YOU to our “conference photographer” Holly Felts!! I love the way you captured, Raleigh, girl!)
VENDORS: Venue: Merrimon-Wynne /// Lounge Furniture & Rentals: Paisley & Jade /// Hand-painted Photo booth Backdrop: Emily Jo Lettering /// Pop-up Shops: All She Wrote Notes , Happy Tines /// Photography: Holly Felts /// Videography: The Herrintons
The Saturday before the conference, Matt and I headed down to Raleigh. We checked into our Airbnb, had dinner with Becky & Jesse who just arrived from San Diego & all in all focused on resting & getting ready for what was ahead!!
On Sunday morning, our day started bright and early (hello 7am) with a trip to the Merrimon-Wynne (our stunning venue!) to unload not one, not two but FOUR car’s worth of goodies!!!! Matt, my mom and I set up all the tables & chairs in our keynote space, then went to Costco to purchase the cold beverages / snacks we needed. 2 overflowing Costco carts later, we arrived back the venue to meet the volunteers & finish setting up!!
The girl’s stuffed swag, set out linens, re-arranged Paisley & Jade furniture, organized the kitchen & works so hard that afternoon!!! Thankfully, we were on schedule & able to head back to our Airbnb’s to freshen up before the Welcome Party that evening.
In past conferences, we have always had a Welcome Party the night before the conference for our Educators; this year is the first year we invited attendees to attend! The Welcome Party was laid-back & casual, allowing everyone to mix & mingle & finally put faces to all those instagram handles!:) While I loved our time at the Welcome Party, from a host’s perspective there are a few tweaks (all improvements!) I’m excited to make for 2018!!
On Monday, the team and I met at the venue to finish our to-do list! More swag was stuffed, breakout rooms were set-up and even the photobooth was steamed!:) It was a busy, busy morning but thankfully we were able to get things done in record time!! (Huge thanks to Bethanne Arthur for snagging a few prep shots!)
Our first day of Round 7 kicked off Monday at Noon as attendees filled the venue to kick off our time together! The weather was gorgeous, our attendees were so excited and I was ready to FINALLY welcome this amazing group into the C@H family!
Our first day consisted of 6 amazing speakers, including a SURPRISE by none other than Lara Casey! (Lara and I had been keeping our fingers crossed it would work out in her schedule for her to attend, and I was so happy to receive her email a few weeks before stating that she could be there!!!)
Between her, Shay, Tiffany, Becky & Jesse, Meghan and Katelyn it was a FULL day!!! We closed our first day together with what I affectionately call “floor tacos”. I won’t tell the story since it’s only for attendee ears, but no, it does not include eating tacos off of the floor – ha!:)
Tuesday (day two) started bright & early for Matt, my mom and I! We arrived at the venue to start the coffee & prep breakfast. My amazing volunteers arrived not long after we did to help set out Day two’s swag bags & break for breakout sessions that would take place later in the day!
This was the very first conference we decided to try our hand at breakout sessions! I was anxiously excited to see how they would be received, but the response was amazing!! I have a feeling these sessions will be here to stay!! Our attendees were given a list of 12 breakout sessions & asked to choose their top 6. We then placed them in 4 of their top 6. Breakout sessions varied from hands-on to personal to business intensive, and I loved the variety! It allowed attendees to truly customize the experience & attend sessions that worked for them in their specific season of business.
A huge thank you to our Breakout Session Educators: Alex, Bonnie, Abby Grace, Katherine & Tayler, Lacoya, Ashley & Tyler, Shay & Graham, Caroline, Randi, Jessica, Stephanie, Kelly & Andra and Davey & Krista!!
Of course, let’s not forget Keynote Sessions! Along with their 4 breakout sessions, attendees also heard 4 keynote sessions! It was another full day but hearing from Megan, Elle, Kelly & Andra, & Myrna made it worth it!
On Tuesday night, we hosted an alumni favorite event: The Late Night Treat! We’ve hosted this event since our very first conference, and I never plan to change it!:)
Of course, because of Tuesday’s late night Wednesday morning felt very early! At this point, my voice was almost gone (this is typical for me during a conference!), I was feeling the effects of several 12+ hour days in a row but my heart was FULL! This was IT! The LAST day of Round 7 and we were going to make it unforgettable!!
We kicked things off with two brand new speakers to the C@H family – Ashlyn & Shanna – and then enjoyed another one of my favorites parts of the conference: panel groups! What’s the difference between breakout session & panel groups, you ask? Well, breakout sessions have a specific topic (i.e. email management, work/life balance, instagram styling, etc.) and panel groups are similar to “small groups”. Attendees do not choose their panel group like they do their breakout sessions; attendees are placed in a panel group based on their attendee questionnaire. I spend hours reading each one & determining who should be in each group (and with what leaders) based on their industry, how long they have been in business, the specific service/product they offer & more!! Panel groups are a chance for attendees to ask hard questions & expect real answers. They can dissect the information they have heard in Keynote & Breakout Sessions with a smaller group of women with similar businesses to their own. I love our panel group time & am so glad our attendees love them, too!
After Panel Group, we enjoyed lunch & head-shots! Holly, Tarah & Hope graciously gave of their time & talent to take every single attendee’s headshot & I can’t wait to see how they turned out!:)
We closed out our afternoon with 3 more Keynote sessions: Hope, Davey & Krista and myself! We also gave attendees some extra long breaks to enjoy the photobooth, and make final connections before our time together ended.
Tyler & Ashley surprised our group by showing the highlight film AT the conference … I watched it for the first time sitting on a stool in front of this new family. That in & of itself had me a puddle of tears & emotion!! Closing out the conference is always an incredibly emotional experience for me … and this time it felt like that x 10!! I am always so, so grateful to look out at a sea of creative faces … women who have just been so many days digging into their business, investing in their dreams & saying “yes” to what’s next.
This time last year, I honestly couldn’t tell you if C@H would be a “thing” in 2017. We struggled with public criticism, I made mistakes on the “business” side of things & our family has been through some terribly dark moments. To begin to see redemption in our story, to watch the pieces get picked up, put back together & create what we did in Raleigh was not only humbling but also just what my heart needed.
I left Round 7 in awe of what God did. I left Round 7 exhausted yet ready … ready for what’s next, ready for more & ready to see where this amazing group of women go from here!
(PS. I have to give a special THANK YOU: I have to give a special “thank you” to those who showed up in the nitty-gritty behind the scenes details; those who stayed late, took out trash, stacked chairs, picked up food, cried with me, laughed with me & showed me and Matt just how much C@H means to you. I cried my eyes out in the shower last night because I was filled with GRATITUDE. Thank you Krista, Davey, Becky, Jesse, Abby Grace, Matt, Katelyn, Michael, Ashley and Tyler.
I’m blessed by the Alumni Volunteers who came to serve this group of attendees!! They got up wayyy to early every morning, stuffed swag, captured every detail, helped me organize the various events & constantly made sure I was doing okay! Hannah, Jenn, Katie, Suzie and Holly, thank you.
And there’s no way I can write a post like this and not thank the three people who served by my side tirelessly: my right-hand girl & one of my best friends: Emily; my amazing, servant-hearted mama; and my teammate, high school sweetheart & partner for life: Matt. I tear up when I think of all you did for my dream this week. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I could NOT have done this without you. Not only did you work 12+ hour days this week but more than that, you were there for me through every low & every high of conference planning. Over the last 12 months, you have believed in me, cried with me & reminded me that anything that’s worth it takes hard work. Thank you; I love you.
To every single one of our Round 7 attendees: thank you. Thank you for making my dream a reality. Thank you for reminding me to be BRAVE. Thank you for every heartfelt moment, silly boomerang & lightbulb moment. Thank you for showing up and investing in YOU. Welcome home. <3 )