Earlier this year I signed up for my first creative conference on a whim, the Creative at Heart Conference. At the time I wasn't sure about starting my own business (I did start working and legalizing my business in mid-July). I was scared and hesitant about being able to run my own business while working a full-time job and not neglect family and friends.
After signing up for the conference I was so excited. I couldn't wait for August to come. I joined the round 7 Facebook group and was able to find roommates and connecting with other creatives before the conference started. It was comforting to "meet" some ladies before attending the conference since I am such an introverted person.
The week before the conference was when I started having doubts about attending. Was this the right decision? Am I in over my head? The list of doubts goes on. I am glad that I didn't listen to the voice inside my head. I ended up having such a fun time that I wish the conference was a week long.
I left two days early before the conference started. I am so glad that I did. It was the first time flying entirely by myself without knowing anyone on the flight with me. It seemed like one thing went wrong after another. I had problems checking my suitcase. The airplane arrived 45 minutes late to the gate. Once we were on the airplane, the pilot told us there were mechanical issues so a maintenance employee will have to come from the hanger to fix it. It turns out after about an hour and a half of sitting on the plane while the work was being done that the maintenance done to the airplane could not be signed off and the FAA had to get involved. People were so upset and angry. They asked us all to get off of the plane and to wait by the gate for further instructions. They ended up having us go to a different gate and board a different airplane. Thankfully there were no more issues until we got to the gate in Raleigh- Durham. The plane wasn't all the way to the gate because they ran out of fuel by the time they got to the gate. People wanted to just jump out of the plane at this point.
After a rough beginning to my trip, the rest was a breeze. I met two of my roommates at the airport and we drove to our Airbnb together. Another roommate came to the house a couple of hours later and we went out for dinner. We were all exhausted from traveling and went to bed early.
The day before the conference officially started, my roommates and I explored downtown Raleigh for a couple of hours before they went to the welcome dinner. I know that I would like to go back to Raleigh to explore more of the city. If I could, I would have stayed longer. We also met two more of our roommates before they went to the welcome dinner. In a way I am kind of glad I didn't end up going so I could rest and take a nap before long next three days.
The first day of the conference was a roller coaster of emotions. We had Lara Casey as a surprise guest speaker. I couldn't believe she was there. I have admired her story and her willingness to help empower other women. One takeaway from her presentation was to "be consistent of aiming your target to your own path". The next speaker was Shay Cochrane on Finding Your Niche. After listening to her speech I honestly thought I was in over my head for starting a business. I didn't have unique niche that went 3-4 layers deep. I am so glad that I didn't feel this way for long though.
The presentations from Tiffany Tolliver, Idealust, Two Bright Lights, and Katelyn James put me more at easy. Some points they made during their presentations were what I already knew, but most were not. I wrote down some notes to use on my business. It would be nice to try and do all of the points they made as I work on my launch, but then I will keep postponing my launch, instead of just starting and making adjustments along the way.
We had dinner with our panel groups. My panel group and shop owners, stationers, and hand-letterers. I was so excited to connect with the ladies in my group because some of them I already "met" on Instagram and have followed them for a couple of months now. We went around in a circle and introduced ourselves and talked about the business we have and what we are looking forward to learning during the conference.
I was really excited for this day of the conference because we got to do breakout sessions with of mix of speakers. The one speaker on day 2 of the conference that stood out to me was Megan Martin's Instagram Mixology. She reminded us to have a consistent look, have a clever bio, and to have different content buckets so we are not just selling, but making a connection with our current and potential clients. Don't get me wrong, I liked the other presentations too. I already knew a bit about SEO from my full-time job, I am not using contracts right now in my business, and I also knew a bit a website design.
The breakout sessions were fun. I learned a bit more about what I might want to outsource and more about using Instagram effectively. It was also nice to have a breakout session to use some creativity after sitting a listening to presentations most of the day.
After the second day, my roommates and I went out for dinner with another group of ladies from the conference. It was nice networking after the conference because there wasn't always that much time to talk to many people during breaks and even during the breakout sessions. There was also a late night treat back at the conference later in the evening. It was another opportunity to network with creatives I have admired for a year now and other ladies in attendance.
I couldn't believe it was the last day of the conference. It went by in the blink of an eye. It was hard to think back about which presentation I took the most from. They were all really good, but I would have to say Shanna Skidmore's presentation on Money Mindsets really resonated with me. I have probably always been stingy with money because that was how I was raised. I was taught to only buy what I needed and to save my money; you never know when there will be an emergency. Although I have been spending more lately, it definitely reminded me to watch where I am spending my money and to look over my finance at least once a month.
During our panel groups, we went around in a circle and each had time to talk about what we needed help with in our businesses. I was told to not wait until everything was perfectly setup. It was suggested to have five card designs done by the beginning of September to be printed. I was also told to have a couple of pop-up shops and was given resources for printers to use. I wish we had met with our panel groups more because there was still so much to talk about.
During our lunch we had our headshots taken. I am so nervous to see how mine turned out. I am not one to have my picture taken often and am pretty harsh on myself with how I look. I got up early that morning to straighten my hair and wear makeup. My hair was not cooperating decided to do its own thing.
It was hard to say goodbye at the end of the conference. I was having so much fun and enjoyed myself. I thanked the panel leaders and other speakers I could talk to for their time. One of my roommates had to leave that night, so we said our goodbyes to her. I am glad I got to connect with her and all of my other roommates. They were very supportive and helped me feel at ease at my first conference.
After all of the goodbyes, my roommates and I went out for dinner and desert with another group of ladies we had dinner with the night before. I had the best chocolate bourbon pecan pie I've ever had. After desert we went back to the Airbnb and ended staying up late talking and having a great time. I hope we can all meet up again at a centralized location for a fun adventure.
All good things must come to an end. It was time to go home, so I packed up my belongings and said goodbye to the ladies I got to know over the last four and a half days. I had no problems traveling back to Chicago. It was bittersweet to be home.
I hope that I can attend Creative at Heart again in the future. I know I have a bucket list of creative conferences I want to attend and now that I know more what to expect with a creative conference, I will be more at ease. I will never forget the experience I had. Thank you to Kat, Matt, Emily, the speakers, panelists, and volunteers for making this conference possible.
Some professional photos of the conference. I didn't take many myself because I was busy soaking it all in and trying to not be on my phone much.
Photos above by the talented Holly Felts.
Photos above were taken by me from the whole trip.
The awesome swag bags from the Creative at Heart Round 7 Sponsors: