Yesterday I went to the Create & Cultivate NYC Conference. Last year, when I saw a high school friend of mine, Faison Anne, AND my favorite bloggers, Lauryn Evarts, Ashley Rose, and Julia Engel at Create & Cultivate Dallas, I got some pretty severe FOMO. I decided then that if/when the conference came to NYC, I was there. I immediately bought my ticket when they announced the date.
What’s Create & Cultivate?
From their website:
Turns out, Create and Cultivate NYC was their biggest event to date! The first half of the morning had everyone broken up into two tracks: The first one was more focused on bloggers, and the second track was guided toward advancing an established brand.
I did the first track. There were tons of vendors, ‘grammable backdrops aplenty, hair and makeup stylists, and even a ball pit. But, I wasn’t concerned with that. Just networking with a bunch of like-minded ladies, soaking up all I could from successful women, and taking tons of notes in my Erin Condren notebook.
As a thank you to all of the bloggers that take the time to read my content, I’ll share with you my takeaways from the speakers at the event FO FREE. Grab a seat, and a snack, ’cause this is my longest post yet. Hopefully some of this advice will help you with your entrepreneurial endeavors as well.
Style me Savvy
This session was focused on creating a brand around your blog.
- Have your social channels be a separate entity, and be always creating new content through each
- Remove yourself when looking at influencers and just be the best version of you. If there’s something you admire and you’re influenced to do something similar, go for it. But if you’re spending too much energy being jealous, unfollow!
- Stay true to your mission, don’t do something because it’s on trend. If it’s working well for someone else, it’s because it’s authentic to them and they have the passion and fire to create the influence around it.
- Think of readers to your blog as customers to a service you provide. The dress that you’re wearing in the photo is out of stock? Find something similar to link them to. Go out of your way to find solutions for your customers.
- If you’re looking to brand yourself, look through the things you’ve screenshotted. Those are the things you’re most interested in, and you can create a mood board from there.
- Create a content bank for those days when you’re not feeling like writing. Know what you’re going to be writing ahead of time
- Number of followers is low on the list for many brands in reaching out for a sponsored post, and sometimes big name influencers are turned down because they have too big of a reach.
- If you’d like to create a partnership with another blogger or a brand, be sure you have specifics outlined before your approach. You should already have that footwork done before making contact, and remember, partnerships should be mutually beneficial.
Commerce through Content
This session was presented by Amazon fashion and was concentrated around selling products through affiliate links.
- If you’re creating a blog, you should be focused on the value you can bring to the table, not ways in which you can monetize your content, until you are well established.
- That being said, don’t throw money out of the window by not using affiliate links
- People are so worried about blogging being an oversaturated market. Think of it as a restaurant. When there’s a new one in your area, do you say, ‘Ugh, not another restaurant!’ or do you get excited about what new thing they are offering you?
- But, because there are so many bloggers out there, it is harder for you to get eyes on your blog. Make sure you’re producing high quality content frequently.
- “There are people who post once a week who I’m waiting to post, and people who post four times a day who I get exhausted by”
- Make it about your readers
- “The facade is starting to get old. Document, don’t create. Show the behind-the-scenes, because just the finished product gets boring.” -Lauryn Evarts
- Growth hacking is a game changer. What Lauryn Evarts does: Instagram has a beautiful image with a cup of coffee, “look on snapchat for this recipe!” Snapchat says, “Like these mugs? check out my Twitter!” Twitter, “If you like that coffee, check out this blog post for another morning drink recipe!” It’s all rinse and repeat.
- Focus on the things that are yours, so that when Instagram or Twitter change their business models to focus more on sponsored content, you still have things you’re in control of, like your own website or your own podcast.
- “Remember, if you go to a art museum and you see a Rembrandt on the wall, some very wealthy people commissioned him to paint that. Rembrandt was sponsored, but no one thinks he needs a hashtag.” – Mary Orton
- “I’m most creative when I’m exhausted. When things are going wrong in my personal life, I go, workout, and get physically exhausted.
- What’s better than social media is connecting real life people to other real life people.
- You cannot do it all. You have to outsource. Redefine outsourcing if you cannot afford to pay someone else to do a task for you.
- Create a meetup in your community, and then find a group of other creatives whom you can bounce ideas off of. Grow your network of creatives locally.
My second mentor was Maxie McCoy. She’s a writer, a speaker, a woman-empowerer, and a soon-to-be published author.
- Do a self assessment. Ask: What is energizing me? What do I love doing? What gives me fire? What makes me PISSED? These things can help you define what direction you would like to head.
- Do people see you how you would like to be seen? Ask them!
- The women you surround yourself can give you an outsider’s view of what’s to come. They believe in you first.
- Sent out an anonymous survey to the 25 people that knew her best, asking the questions: “How do you see me? Where do you see me bringing in the most value? What do you see in my future?” Years later, her life looks just as these people surveyed expected, but nothing like what she thought she could accomplish.
This session was about creating revenue through sponsored blog posts.
- You’re likely very similar to your audience. Really consider before you post something, especially if it’s sponsored, “Would I want to read this?” If everyone’s already talking about the same thing, would you want to read about it again?
- If you post what is true to you, the right people will engage. It may be a slower growth curve, but you’ll be building an audience that likes what you like.
- Don’t get emotional about analytics! Carly of TheCollegePrepster outsources her analytics because she has a hard time doing this.
- Always remember one analytic: your conversion rate.
When working with sponsored posts:
- Consider it to “advertorial” it shouldn’t be a -cut to comercial- type of ad, it should feel seamlessly in line with what you’re creating.
- Always have a contract when dealing with bramds. Have it include a cluase with a penalty for payment made after 90 days.
- Always negotiate! Read The Art of Negotiation. Try to upsell by suggesting a series of posts. After all, mentioning the brand again some time down the road and again after more time allows your audience time to reconsider buying a product.
The sessions during the second half of the day all definitely had political undertones, which I appreciated. I discussed in my recent blog post, Where am I?, how part of the reason I’m no longer as invested in social media is because it seems so vapid to discuss DIYs when it feels like our country is crumbling.
Beyond the Binary
In this session, a group of physically very different panelists discussed how they use their already established brand to promote social activism to their followers. From the busty blonde Maxim model who promotes feminism to her mostly-male audience, to a lesbian, middle-eastern plus size fashion blogger who says her method is to slip political messages in like wrapping vegetables in the dessert in order for your audience to not become uncomfortable, to Deddeh Howard discussing how her Black Mirror project shed light on how noninclusive the modeling industry is in regard to black women, etc etc etc!
The New Guard
This panel was focused on sustainable fashion. Things got a little heated. Aurora James of Brother Vellies, a sustainable brand that pays women in Africa a working wage to create a high quality, highly sustainable product, was completely taken aback when Arielle Noa Charnas of SomethingNavy.com said that she “didn’t know about fast fashion practices” and she got a bit snippy–“I honestly don’t know how anyone could not know about that! […]”
Honestly, I’m surprised someone so focused on fashion doesn’t know one of the main human issues going on in the industry. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- “We all need to be shopping less. Think about what you want at the beginning of each season and stick with that.” – Arielle Noa Charnas
- “Realize that when Zara steals a design, they are taking money from a woman in another country who needs to support her family.” -Aurora James
- It’s okay to ask ‘where did that fur come from?’ Asking these types of questions and making a stand for what you spend your money on will cause companies to change to better business practices.
- If something is very, very cheap, it came at a very high cost to someone else. Garments don’t magically appear, someone had to make it.
- As thought leaders, we have the responsibility to educate others.
United State of Women
This focused on ways in which we can get involved in the women’s movement. Most importantly, these three things:
- Dig into the issues. Know where you stand.
- Call people out when they say or do something that is not right.
- Encourage women to run for office.
A Conversation with Piera Gelardi of Refinery29
During this talk, Jaclyn Johnson asked Gelardi questions about how she and her company has had to change as the years go by.
- The number one skill that an employee needs to have working with entrepreneurs is the ability to change with the times.
- They decided to create their own stock photography to incorporate a larger audience.
- Though she’s been doing this for many years, she still gets imposter syndrome. “I find myself walking into a room and thinking, ‘You built this city. You built this city.”
- To people getting started, her best advice is to ask for help. People perceive you as smarter when you do so, they enjoy giving advice, and you’re able to grow. Win, win, win!
Create & Cultivate NYC 2017 Keynote: GLORIA STEINEM
I couldn’t believe it when I found out that I was going to see Gloria Steinem, the queen of all queens in person. I just. Wow. I mean, she is bigger than any movie star to me, bigger than Beyonce, anyone. Number one. Queen.
Once I got over the initial shock, I took some good quotes and notes on what she said for ya:
“Ads censor you. It makes me resentful of the fifteen years I spent chasing advertisers.”
“We are Woke”
“The election made me value fact-checking.”
“Being an organizer is like being an entrepreneur for social change.”
- You must get out there and learn about the early cultures of the earth, the ones that were around before the ones we learn about. Native Americans, ancient African tribes, native peoples around the globe, they all had similar beliefs. Society was linked, rather than ranked. The power was in a circle, not a pyramid. Women controlled their bodies, there wasn’t a word for ‘he’ or ‘she’ because everyone was just a human. Learn about when people started, not politics and patriarchy. Do that so we can move forward in a different way.
- Regarding ageing:
- Talk to men about the issues, allow them to have empathy. Ask them, “what would your life be like, how would it be different, if all your thoughts and hopes and dreams were the same, yet you were born a woman?”
- Men don’t have it great either. They have the pressure of masculinity, and we’ve found that the masculine prison shortens your life. We all need to have the freedom to share our masculine and our feminine sides, to be whole people.
- “As women, we need to reverse the golden rule, and treat ourselves how we would treat someone else. Massages are nice. So is sex.”
- “Spend more time on your insides than your outsides”
- The more you tell your hopes and dreams to women and men, you will not see yourself as alone in your doubts. Don’t worry about the future. The best way to have a good future is to focus on the present.