Hi loves! Goodness I have been meaning to write this post for a long time. This weekend is the final weekend to register for the Society for Creative Founders Conference in March of 2017, and so it seemed like the absolutely perfect time to share my experience with this conference and why I love being a part of it so much.
My first time being a part of this conference was in July of 2015, at the Phoenix Session, back when it was called Stationery Academy. At the time, I was a wedding planner with hopes of someday being able to do invitation design full time, but there were so many things that I had to learn that I knew I needed to learn a lot more on the back end before I could make the switch. I can not express how much those four days in Phoenix changed me. I don't think I'll ever be able to really put into words the amount of things that I learned and how ready it made me to make the transition. It is the main reason that Grace & Serendipity is what it is today - there is no way you would see this website and services being offered without this conference and community being such a big part of my creative business journey.
Later that year, I had an amazing phone conversation with Jennifer Faught, the Founder of the Society for Creative Founders (previously known as Stationery Academy) and I was blessed with the opportunity to attend again in 2016, returning not only as an alum, but also as the Conference Event Coordinator (meaning I got to plan all of the details + personalize and design the lunch and dinner experiences for the attendees!). I love that I was not only given the chance to love on a group of attendees that would be going through this conference experience for the first time, but also have a refresher course of the materials I learned again as an attendee when I wasn't planning the details for what we had in store for everyone.
I can not express this enough. This conference is not just something you attend to make amazing friends and become a part of an amazingly tight-knit community. That is one of the many bonuses. This conference will change your life. It will change the way you run your business. If you commit to the time and energy to let yourself fully immerse yourself in your surroundings when you are there, you will come away with such clarity of what you are able to accomplish and so much knowledge and such an amazing community, that it will be hands down one of the best investments of your business life. I do want to say here too, that all of the following opinions are my own - I believe in this conference experience so much, because I am living proof that when you attend this conference and do the work, it works and changes you to see the bigger picture and line up all of the smaller needed pieces to complete your own puzzle. It simply does. This upcoming year, I will return again not only as the Conference Event Coordinator, but will also be speaking, leading the Core Module - something that means so, so much to me. Realizing your why of what you do what you do, what truly matters to you the most, what you were put here to do, and how to make all the pieces fit.
Below, I have recapped my experience during the 2016 Conference, including a few favorite behind the scenes thoughts as well from the planner point of view. This post is a pretty long one, so grab a cup of your favorite beverage and get nestled in to read for a while, because I decided to write in a journal-style of the beginning through the end, and hope you feel like you were a part of this with me too. If you would like to join us in 2017, you can register here at the Society for Creative Founders website.
All photos shown for this entire post were captured by the amazingly talented Ashley Victoria Photography.
Day One, Sunday, March 6th
Jennifer Faught, Cara McGrady, and I were the first to arrive at The Lee House. We set everything up around the entire bed and breakfast home with a quiet but energy-filled excitement, knowing that the experience the 20 women that would be walking through those doors in just a few hours was one that was going to change their lives. We talked about what we hoped for, what we dreamed about for the attendees, and what we were most excited about. Soon after, Olivia Omega, Cathy Olson, and Valerie McKeehan arrived, all right on schedule and before the other attendees. By that time, we had the main room set up, the doors closed, and we could hear the rolling of suitcases beginning to fill the room next door as one after another, the attendees arrived. Whether they flew or drove, everyone arrived right on time, and as the noise level grew outside of the main room we were in, we all knew that we were going to be in for an amazing four days with everyone. On one of the tables outside, I had created nametags for everyone, which they didn't know at the time, but they were color coordinated to later find who their roommates were for the week.
Behind the Scenes: One of my duties was to pair people together that I figured would get along well, since we had to pair people either two or four to a room. Maybe someday I'll show you my excel sheet that had everything on it, and how many different highlighter colors there were to see what would work the best. Early risers and night owls paired together, West Coasters and East Coasters, extroverts and introverts, essential oils users (yes, really!) and those that we could tell from Instagram or Facebook conversations before the conference took place that we thought they might get along. The same went for every day that we were in the room, pairing people next to each other that I thought would grow relationships together as the conference progressed. Everything was done so intentionally, something Jennifer really expressed was important from the start. And you know what? Seeing how the conversations clicked from the get-go and the relationships that have remained strong, I think this was one of my favorite pre-conference things to do!
After Jennifer welcomed everyone into the room and we all stood in one circle and did introductions, Cara McGrady started us off with the Core Module. She talked to us about what it is that we love the most, what our biggest fears are, what our strengths and values are, and finding our niche. We even chatted about comparison, competition, and why to turn away from all of that. The way to tap into our core and what we are each individually truly made for, the ways to make our businesses unique, loved, incredible, and truly an extension of what we want to build, what we want our businesses and lives to reflect. This is always the one that gets me the most emotionally, and starts the wheels turning for the next steps.
Following a short break, Jennifer started on the Your Client Module. This one is always one of my absolute favorites because let's be honest here - our clients are a main part of who we want to build this business for. We chatted about customer experience and product ideas, ways to find our ideal client, narrow down our offerings, and create business details and determine an experience within each of our own businesses to be absolutely perfect for them.
After those two modules, we took a bit of a break for everyone to get freshened up and settled into their rooms, and we headed out to the back courtyard at The Lee House for dinner under the stars. A cocktail party paired with southern staples was the perfect way to welcome everyone in.
Behind the Scenes: Jennifer wanted it to feel southern, so we developed a southern-chic garden style of dinner party, including pale pink gingham table overlays with mint napkins and a bold black and white ribbon to hold silverware for the attendees. Maghon of All She Wrote Notes and I worked together for quite a while on all of the paper details for this one. She handlettered southern sayings from quotes that I sent to her, ones that I thought most reflected the southern lifestyle I live here, including some of my favorites that I hear from locals quite often. She also did the handlettering for the Welcome sign, in addition to the menu for dinner and the bar. Valerie donated an amazing chalkboard sign of a Moscow Mule, which was our signature drink of the evening (of course, served in a copper mug!). Tonya of Toluka Paper donated fun games for everyone to play in between mingling and getting to know each other too! And those amazing tote bags on the chairs? Sent by the amazing Kristen Ley of Thimblepress (a 2015 speaker!) filled with goodies from additional sponsors for everyone.
Day Two, Monday, March 7th
Breakfast started the day off right with fresh from the oven southern quiche and home-made breads, muffins, and fruit galore. One thing is certain, no one went hungry!
We began the day fresh with the Your Brand Module led by Valerie McKeehan. She helped us each to dig deep down into what would create our own signature style and translate it to every aspect of our business. She helped us to go over each of our brand characteristics, inspiration for our brand, and style yes and no list (my favorite part!). Your brand is so much more than your logo and color palette, and this module alone helps you to solidify and strengthen your brand into something incredible. From touchpoints to a brand personality checklist, everything that she taught about led us to each developing our own authentic style.
Following the Brand Module, we had two separate breakout sessions and lunch in the back courtyard. In the breakout sessions, Cara taught us ways to surprise and delight our customers, and Jennifer led a breakout on Wholesale 101. That afternoon, Cara did a breakout session on Photo Styling, and Cathy shared her knowledge about Online Shops.
The afternoon Module was Your Money led by Cathy Olson. This is by far one of the most useful modules for planning ahead , because it helped us to get completely set up financially - before the conference we all received notes with an Excel spreadsheet from Jennifer to be able to know what we needed to have done in advance for this module - from a Financial Checklist to Financial Goals to work on, it set us all up individually for success. It taught us what money blocks we may have, what to plan for in the future, and what to change to make our businesses more profitable in order to let what we love to do aligned with where we wanted our business to go. Hands down, this was also the most intense module, where you really are face to face with your business finances.
After the Your Money module, we all walked a few short blocks to The Fish House for dinner, where we had a private room and could enjoy the evening being surrounded by the women we all were getting to know even more! Especially after the Money module, everyone was a bit elated to go for a brief walk and enjoy an amazing dinner with cocktails as well. After dinner, we headed back to The Lee House for porch chats and conversations that made connections grow even deeper. The most helpful one for me was chatting with other moms about balancing being a mom and a business owner, because I think that there are so many creative ways that we have to learn to do business differently. That conversation for me was a turning point in creating even deeper bonds with the girls I was blessed to meet that week.
Behind the Scenes: The Fish House has an absolutely breathtaking fish tank that fills an entire wall and so we wanted to create a beautiful menu that encompassed that to a tee. Nadine of Endash Designs created an absolutely stunning acrylic menu, each personalized with the attendees name on the left with the menu items listed for appetizers, entrees, and desserts. They were the most beautiful menus I have ever seen. A little before dinner ended, Cara and I snuck out early to put pillows into each attendees room, gifted by Brittany of House Plus Love! We had so much fun setting them up to surprise everyone!
Day Three, Tuesday, March 8th
After another delicious breakfast, we started into my favorite day, including the Your Call and Your Plan modules. Olivia started us off with the Your Call Module which was all about marketing. Y'all, Olivia is returning for the 2017 Conference and the knowledge she has is something you will want to have going into the next year for your business. She taught us about the Elements of a marketing plan, our target clients, and even how to analyze our marketing strengths and weaknesses so that we could learn what to work on. It was incredibly eye-opening and the conversations that buzzed around "ooh! You could do this! Or this! Or I think this would be an amazing idea for your business!" was amazing to see. In these two days, it no longer only became only about our own business, but also the businesses of the women we had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know. We all worked together to create marketing plans that were designed for our own business, and become cheerleaders for each other as well.
The final module of the conference was led by founder Jennifer Faught, with the Your Plan Module. I can not say this enough - Jennifer cares so deeply about every single person that comes to this conference and is a part of Society for Creative Founders, and she puts so much work into this process. In the Your Plan module, she helps you to truly get set up for success, to leave with a plan in place to help take what you learned and put it into motion to act on it once you head home. We set up a plan for the following twelve months, including monthly goals and tasks, along with both a short term vision and long term vision for your life and your business that you can put into place and start taking the steps to make things happen. I still refer to these at this point and it has been amazing to see the changes that have taken place in my business since first attending almost two years ago.
We closed out the conference with my favorite evening, the Graduation Dinner. This one night is the perfect way to end the night, and was definitely my favorite to plan. We had everyone head out from the main room that we had worked in for the prior three days and the speakers and I completely transformed the room. Fiore of Pensacola brought in even more flowers for us to really fill up the room with a bright and gorgeous ambiance, and we added candles galore to really make the room softened a bit more. We used marble tiles with each attendees name written on them as chargers, and when everyone came in, it was apparent that we all knew this night was going to be amazing. After a delicious meal catered again by The Fish House, We each went around the room and shared hopes and dreams, what we learned and what we hoped to accomplish, along with cheering each other on. This night is by far the most memorable and there was more than once that I looked around the room and noticed that every. single. person. was engaged in conversation with the people next to them, across from them, heck, even from one side of the table to the other! After a night filled with laughter and tears, dreams shared and friendships fully formed, no one wanted to go to sleep even though we were all exhausted, so not surprisingly, everyone changed out of their dressy attire and ended up right back in the living room and talked the rest of the night away. The last photo is one of the favorite from the day - it shows that those who all come here as strangers, definitely were no longer. I think that the final group of girls finally turned in around 4am ... which after the days we had had building so much, was definitely a good thing to hear about the next morning.
Behind the scenes: This night was the one that took the longest to plan ahead of time, and we used literally every minute we had to flip the room after Jennifer closed the Your Plan Module. I spent a few hours that afternoon hiding in a large stairwell secretly tying the chair sashes and refilling/rearranging flowers in vases, arranging seating to put those who had bonded the most next to each other, and checking in once more with all of the vendors for the evening, making sure that everything was prepared and set to our timeline so that nothing was missed. I can not say enough good things about the vendors we worked with, and their commitment to make this amazing right along with us was such a breath of fresh air. My favorite detail was deciding to completely think outside of the box and use marble tiles from Home Depot as chargers - my goal was to make the dinner branded to the then new Society for Creative Founders with their colors, style, love of gold that Jennifer has as well and feeling she wants SCF to have for everyone, and I think it was definitely a success. And as an added sidenote, she didn't get to see any of this beforehand on our planning board ... this night was a complete surprise designwise to her as well.
Wednesday morning, March 8th
Individual Coaching and One-on-One Sessions with the Speakers
Wednesday morning started quietly and you could tell that everyone was changed from the person that they were when they came in. One on one sessions were taking place with the speakers to work on whatever it was that the attendees felt they needed more help with - they truly got to have an in-depth conversation with the speaker (or speakers) they felt would be able to help them further their plan going forward. The air was filled with a joy and an excitement even stronger than the first day when they arrived. These women all left with amazing plans in place and incredible goals to make those plans come into fruition.
After the last attendees headed home, the speakers and I had lunch together before they each headed out one by one. Hugs were given all around and it definitely was not an experience any of us will soon forget.
This conference will change you to become more than you ever thought possible on your own. It is like hiring a mentor and going over six months or a year of work into three days, and will absolutely set you up for success. You will learn what it is you love the most, what you are amazing at, what you are capable of, and give you the confidence to be able to put those things you've been dreaming about into place. I truly hope you will join us this March, I would love for this experience to be a part of your story and for you to become a part of this amazing community as well. Whether you are an artist, a maker, a designer, a calligrapher, a graphic designer, a blogger, or any other type of creative business that can bloom with this kind of an intimate environment, I encourage you to join us.