In November, I finally had the chance to attend the conference that I’ve been stalking, ooh-aahing over and loving since I first started Lauren Perry Studio back in 2015. The Creative at Heart Conference is one of many conferences for creatives, but stands out above the rest for their commitment to not only education, but to cultivating a family atmosphere.
To be honest, when I first heard about the friendships formed at Creative at Heart, I was skeptical. How could you in three short days jam-packed with breakout sessions and keynote speakers actually have time to get to know any of your fellow attendees, let alone the incredible speakers, well enough to truly consider them friends at the end of the conference? I walked into Creative at Heart Round 8 excited about all of the education, but doubtful that it would truly be the “life-changing experience” that I heard it was.
And boy, oh boy, was I wrong.
I gained all the education and more that I was looking for, but I also came back from the conference with new friends, stronger relationships with old friends, and I FINALLY got to meet people who were long-time social media friends. Kat and her brilliant team found a way to gently nudge (not force) a room full of 100+ people to become fast friends.
I travelled down to Winston-Salem to the Winmock at Kinderton with creative bestie Courtney Inghram, and we stayed in the cutest little Air BnB with Jess Aiken of Wedding Co of Williamsburg! Jess was another one of those friends who I’d known only through social media (despite us living only about 45 minutes away, shame on us haha!). The three of us had the best time together – and the whole week felt like a sleepover for grownups – complete with margaritas and staying up too late talking.
Thank you to Bethanne of Bethanne Arthur Photography for all of these gorgeous photos!
On the first day of the conference, we were greeted with the most adorable little gift boxes, a C@H mug and a darling little notebook by my good friend, Jessica Peddicord of Simply Jessica Marie. The notebook featured a watercolor design she created featuring creatives of all different backgrounds, sizes and styles and was the perfect way to start off the conference. And let me tell you – I filled my notebook TO THE BRIM with notes from each session! We started off day one with keynotes from Shay Cochrane, who taught us the importance of the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the effects come from 20% oft he causes. She taught us to focus your time and energy on that 20% to make the biggest impact on your business – even if that means giving up things that we may think are important, but actually aren’t (ahem, perfect instagram feeds). Lauren Carnes followed up to teach us about owning our pitch, with Christina Scalera after lunch teaching us about the perfect client experience. Shunta Grant followed with her talk on how to delight your customers by helping us hone in on what we do, instead of what we sell. She shared about the loyal league that she has grown and the incredible women she’s connected with and exclaimed “people, I’m just selling hair bows!” (really cute ones, I might add). Next up, we headed into one of the keynotes I was most excited about, Instagram with Intention with Tyler McCall. To be honest, Instagram stresses me out. As a business owner, you can feel SUCH pressure to have a perfect feed, get tons of likes and new followers, and have a new story up every day. Frankly, I’m not one of those people who wants to talk at you unless I legitimately have something to say, so you won’t see me on Instagram stories unless there is genuinely something I have to share. But the small business world pressures you to think that you MUST be on the platform 24/7 or you won’t be successful. I’m happy to report, Tyler agrees – meaningful trumps cheap every day. Last but not least, Ashlyn Carter taught us about copywriting and our message, and we wrapped up Day 1! Yes – ALL of that was just in Day 1. Let’s just say my job is to write hundreds and hundreds of envelopes without my hand falling off, and Day 1 of C@H made me feel like it might.
After the most jam packed creative day ever, we met up with some of our other favorite Hampton Roads creatives, Ruth and Sterling, who serve as C@H volunteers and headed on over to Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar. And yes, we 100% picked it because of the name. And I will now add Bad Daddy’s in front of any and all restaurant names because it’s hilarious.
When we showed up for Day 2, we were elated to see that more gifts awaited us! I had the pleasure of being one of the sponsors for C@H, so all of the attendees received a keepsake print hand painted and calligraphed by me. It reads “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can”. So often as small business owners we feel like we need to have everything perfect before we move forward, or feel like we aren’t good enough to start. I hope that this little print will be a reminder to my fellow attendees to just start!
Day 2 started off with website tips with Davey Jones, and education on passive income from Graham Cochrane. Graham’s talk may have been one of my favorites of the whole conference. With my plans to continue working my full time job in architecture while still growing Lauren Perry Studio, passive income is something that has been very near and dear to my heart! Even thought it is my absolute favorite, I have a very limited amount of time to spend on custom work, which in turn makes that work more expensive. I am so passionate about the art of calligraphy, and the practice of etiquette, and I want to find a way to help that be attainable for all brides. Cue – passive income! Later that day we had four breakout sessions, which each attendee got to pick from based on our interests, and where we were at in our businesses. I attended Messaging Makeover tips with Ashlyn Carter, Systems that Sustain with Abby Grace, Fast Track Your Business with Hope Taylor, and Service & Products that Sell with Jessica Peddicord.
We wrapped up Day 2 with a trip to our favorite – MEXICAN. Fueled by margaritas and cheese, we headed back to the Winmock at Kinderton in our pajamas for the Late Night Treat, where we were greeted with cupcakes, apple cider and a hot chocolate bar!
Day 3 started off with – you guessed it – MORE PRESENTS. I swear, C@H was like creative Christmas. Then we moved on to two breakout sessions – where I heard from Jesse Morquecho about Facebook Ads, and with how to organize your website for your ideal client from With Grace and Gold. Then we all came back together to hear from Abby Grace about Emailing Like A Boss, and finished off Day 3 and the conference with Katelyn James about Protecting Your Passion. Katelyn is no doubt a bit of a celebrity in the creative world (especially with photographers) but she doesn’t act it. She is the most kind, genuine, down to earth person, and had us all in tears by the time her speech was over (and I pride myself on NOT being a crier).
To say Creative at Heart was a moving experience would be undercutting it. When Derek came to pick me up from the conference and head to Blacksburg to finish off our week off, I literally did not stop talking. He told me that he’s never seen me as fired up as I was that night. I came away from the conference with all of what I was hoping for, but so much more than I expected. If you’re looking for an experience where you will find a family amongst creatives who will give you real, good advice (not just blow smoke up your butt, they’ll ask the hard questions), understand your struggles (like how it feels when your family members don’t know what you do) and give you real, actionable steps to take in your business – Creative at Heart is it. I am already looking forward to Round 9 next year!