Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending my first ever Create & Cultivate conference. I’ve been wanting to go for a couple of years now and finally I was able to make it happen. Let me tell you, all of the hype I gave this event was totally warranted. The displays and installations were incredible enough to make the ticket well worth the cost. Live flowers, Insta worthy walls, and the most perfectly on brand decor was abundant. On top of the aesthetic, the content that was delivered was top notch and the room radiated serious girl boss energy.
I went with Amy (a la AmyScripts) and it was both of our first times attending Create & Cultivate. Since we were both rookies, we didn’t know what to expect at all. I mean we knew to expect as far as the content and flow of the day but as far as the dirty details and insider tips, we were pretty clueless. There were a few things that I wish a C&C veteran would have been able to share with us beforehand to help us prepare and make our day even better than it already was. I am volunteering myself, as the (now) experienced attendee, to share some insight onto what to expect and a few tips for making the most of your Create & Cultivate experience. Before I dig in, I will say, these are just my opinions based on my experience. Yours may be different if you attended in a different city or even if we attended the same conference! I want to hear your thoughts and tips! Please, please share! And, last, if you are looking for a recap of the event, you can watch my play by play via the Create & Cultivate story highlight on my Instagram.
Okay, here is the scoop…..
1. Dress for the day
This seems SUPER obvious but what I thought I should be wearing was not practical and definitely not sustainable for all day wear. I tried to dress cute but comfortable but also in something the represents me and my brand. My floor length kimono was cute in theory but was literally dragging through dirt by the end of the day. Plus, I was really cold. You certainly should pack a jacket and not make the rookie mistake I did. I didn’t understand that a lot of the event was going to be outside so I needed to be able to layer up or layer down based on the time of day and temperature.
I really tried for practicality by wearing heels but bringing flats. I wore my heels for a grand total of 30 minutes all day. And it was truly a pain to carry them around in my bag for the other 10+ hours. Next time, I am wearing comfortable flats and not bringing another option. There were tons of girls in the most adorable outfits with sky high heels, and if that works for them then go ahead babe, but for me I am not fun to hang out with when I am in pain.
Next time I’m opting for a more casual vibe; either jeans and a cute top or a jumpsuit paired with cute flats and a denim jacket of some sort. I’m telling you guys, I would have been SO much more comfortable if I would have followed this advice.
I've pulled together some items on my 'must have' list for next time.
2. Bring a big bag
*With extra room in it. The amount of swag and free stuff you get throughout the day is truly jaw dropping. I found myself wildly under-prepared to tote around my new goodies in my already stuffed (thanks unnecessary heels) bag. Next time I will probably go with a small bag to carry my essentials and a cute and large tote to store everything else. If you are traveling in from out of town to attend also keep this in mind. The gift bag alone is enough to set your luggage over the weight limit so make sure your re packing light and preparing to carry home your loot.
Here are a few of my suggestions:
3. The start time is a suggestion not a requirement
When it comes to schedules I love to abide. Having a solid plan and knowing where to be and when are two things that speak to my soul. That being said, it gave me MAJOR anxiety when Amy suggested we show up around 9am when the start time was 8am. Turns out, she was right. The world didn’t end, and this is a strategy I will follow next time. Create & Cultivate is a SERIOUSLY long day, so unless you can handle a 14-16 hour excursion, you need to get savvy with your scheduling. The morning schedule leaves a lot of down time for checking in and grabbing coffee/breakfast. We used this time to check out the pop ups and additional activities, which was great, but honestly, we could have fit that in later in the day. I also recommend prioritizing the panels you want to attend. If the morning panel isn’t hitting home with you as much as one of the keynote speakers at the end of the night, you may want to skip out in the morning so you can be engaged later in the day. By time we were exhausted, mid afternoon, we were seeing a whole new group of ladies roll in fresh faced and ready to go. They got the memo on how to do it!
This brings me to my last tip...
4. Prioritize and pace yourself
All of the pop ups, activities, speakers, and photo ops can be overwhelming. They jam pack the day with things to do so you are continuously engaged. I went into the day convinced that I needed to check every booth off my list and do absolutely everything. Have to get my money’s worth, right? That was another expectation that was wildly unrealistic. Going into the day, you have to prioritize what you definitely want to do/ what is worth waiting in line for, and make sure to plan accordingly. Getting to everything, while potentially possible, would be downright exhausting. Prioritizing and pacing yourself can ensure you have a fun day while still getting the most out the conference and not burning yourself out.
Create & Cultivate NYC was such a beneficial experience, like I really feel like I got a lot out of it. I came home inspired and ready to channel my inner boss babe. Now that I have the “insider tips” I can’t wait to see how great of an experience I have next time. To be honest, I considered booking a flight so that I could attend the Self Care Summit in Los Angeles in a couple of months, but somehow resisted. The next time C&C is on the East Coast, consider me in. Now, you have the tips to make the best of your Create & Cultivate experience, too.
So, tell me... have YOU been? What tips do you have that I should add to my list?
I want to first give a shout out to Brandon Cobian Photography who took these amazing photos (and many more to come on the blog). He is currently shooting in the Baltimore area so make sure to get in touch a book something. He has some serious skills and even got Matt to smile during our shoot! Ha!
Having a pretty and cohesive Instagram feed has always been something that has been important to me since the day I realized Instagram was a public facing social media platform that could build your brand. It was a freaking epiphany when I realized it was not just for editing weird pictures of my shitty makeup job or some blurry photo of my college friends and I “just being basic LOL”.
Instagram has evolved from being a glorified, old school Facebook album with filters to being a serious place where you can build your brand, your career, and actually make a lot of money from it.
Now, I am not saying I am an expert by any means, my account, my brand, and my blog are most definitely a work in progress but what I can tell you is, part of building something is the discovery along the way. And part of MY brand is sharing with you the tips and tricks that I uncover. This is actually part of the reason why I didn’t created a new Instagram account for my brand, I just changed my personal one over to @crohnicallyblonde. Why the EFF would I want all of my new followers at 26 years old to see the photos that I thought 19 year old me thought were worthy of Instagram? Well friends, it was a different time back then. Instagram has evolved, and so have I. But I have always had hustle. If you scroll back (not encouraging this but if you want to, be my guest) my Instagram was full of random photos of things that I bought at Nordstrom Rack (or wanted to buy because I was too poor) and where to get them and often their price.
My feed had a ton of makeup posts that shared reviews on the makeup in a super candid real way. Example: I post a hot selfie of myself and talk about Naked Skin foundation by Urban Decay that just came out. Yeah I wanted to post me looking good on a Friday night but I actually was providing people with value. This was actually so on brand for what I was doing back then because I was in makeup sales for almost 5 years, before the days of heavy social media marketing. I had a beauty blog called Beautybombbb (throwback) where I talked about makeup and clothes in a very real and relatable way but never marketed it. I had a decent following of people but I didn’t commit enough to succeed in such and over saturated market. The whole point is, I left this stuff up on my Instagram and I want my followers who stalk the shit out of my account to see that I didn’t just one day wake up and decide to start a blog and an Instagram and BOOM everything is pretty and beautiful. No, there was work and years of practice and honing in and trying out every new app until you find the ones that you like for editing and planning. Plus I kind of like where I came from because it makes me appreciate how far I have come creatively. I like to look back and see how my aesthetic has evolved and matured into what Crohnically Blonde is today. And guess what, it will continue changing an evolving so stay tuned.
What I DO want to share with you guys today are some of the tricks that I have picked up along my blogging/Instagram journey.
1. YOU HAVE TO TAKE BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS THAT MATCH YOUR BRAND
I know this seems so basic that it is insulting that this is one of my tips but it is SO true. Beautiful photos are key because those are the ones more likely to get liked, commented on, and reposted. That is just the truth in it. Lucky for you, you don’t need to have a professional grade camera to take heart eye emoji worthy shots. So many people (myself included) who are starting out building their Instagram feed shot their content with their iPhone. My dad who is a photographer said that more and more professional photographers even are posting iPhone images in their professional feeds because of the high quality that you can achieve. This doesn’t mean that you can just snap a photo on your iPhone and call it great content. You have to think about the composition of the photo, the lighting, and the focus of the photo. It requires practice to get it right. To address the matching your brand piece, this means that you are shooting and editing to match the style of your brand as far as color, tone, products, layout, and everything else that plays into it.
2. Have tried and true editing apps and saved setting/filters for a cohesive look
Does anyone use the filters on the actual Instagram app anymore? This one is huge since there are so many apps out now that are competing to catch your eye. Once you narrow down a few, you figure out your editing process and you can save your settings to make sure your photos are all pretty cohesively edited.
A few of my favorites of the moment are:
Facetune- Not to make you look like a Bratz doll… no no no. I use this app for whitening my whites in photos and lightening up a picture. You use the whiten tool that you would actually use for teeth whitening and use it on your background/feature product. I love this trick for flat lays. This trick has been a total game changer for my feed as far as making photos flow and look like they are part of the same series even if I am shooting in different environments.
ColorStory- I love this app mainly for the tools that you can use to edit curves, exposure, tone, and much more in a photo. You can also save your preferred settings and use them again as a default filter for future pictures. They also have some cool filters that I like as well if I lessen the intensity to about 50% or so.
Looksee- They have some cool filters, specifically for nature and food that I like to take into ColorStory to edit the lighting afterwards.I also like that they have celebrities/influencers create filters that you can purchase for a couple of dollars.
Word Swag- I just recently discovered this app for quotes and I LOVE it. You can use their pre made backgrounds or use your own photo and put quotes of top of them. The quotes can be in a variety of different fonts, layouts, spacing, and styles most of which are pretty well designed. I love this app for making content for Instagram stories and making quote blocks to post that aren’t pulled from Pinterest like everyone else’s.
3. what value are you adding with this post?
My rule is that I try to make 50% of the photos I post on Instagram add value in one way or another. Pretty pictures are great but if they aren’t backed by content they can only take you so far. To me a “value driven post” is a post that is either sharing information about a place/product that your audience will be interested in, sharing a tip, trick, or recipe, or promoting your other forms of content (ie. blog, podcast).The reason why I go for around 50% is because my brand isn’t just about products and blog posts, it is about getting to know me in my natural habitat, knowing my boyfriend, my dogs, my life. If you are all business then it hurts your likeability, authenticity, and people’s ability to relate to you. I do make sure to try and pose a question in my captions to get followers engaged, especially on photos where there isn’t necessarily a direct value add.
4. Make sure your aesthetic carries over to your blog as well
This one is kind of a no brainer but I have to mention it. Make sure the aesthetic of your Instagram matches that of your blog so that users know what they are getting into. If you have a dark and moody Instagram aesthetic and then your blog is light and pink and girly this causes a disconnect in your brand an confuses readers.
5. PRODUCT ENDORSEMENTS- MAKE SURE YOU ACTUALLY LIKE THE PRODUCT/ IT IS BRAND COHESIVE
I like doing product endorsements and reviews. I actually love it. I love being able to influence buying behavior through social media and I love having the opportunity to try new products. That being said, I only do endorsements or ads for products that align with my vision, mission, and brand. Sometimes brands don’t think before they reach out or they don’t do their research. For example, I’ve been asked to partner with brands to promote products that clearly contain gluten. How in the world am I supposed to try and genuinely endorse a product that I can’t even try?! As cool as the paycheck or free stuff can be, if you start filling your feed with BS products that don’t fit with your brand, you lose buy in from your followers. In addition, make sure that if you do agree to endorse a product you can put your own spin on the post both aesthetically and you can use your own words to describe your authentic experience. I just did a post for Roam Fitness and I loved how they handled it. They gave me creative freedom to pretty much do whatever I wanted and it turned into a really informative and authentic post that people responded to.
6. Plan your feed to be aesthetically pleasing and read like a story
I never used to plan my Instagram posts out but the more OCD I get about how it looks the more serious I get. Make sure you are thinking about how the sequence of your photos looks and how the story will flow to your followers. Make sure it is cohesive but also has a healthy mix of content. I use an app Postvu to upload potential posts and arrange them to see how they will look in my feed.
7. Utilize insta story to build your brand
This is something that is newly important due to the increasing popularity of story mode. Utilize your Insta Story to share behind the scenes content and show the more authentic and less curated version of yourself so that your followers can get to know the real you. This is something that I am working on because I am so bad about remembering to do stories. Putting this on my goals list! I love when bloggers and Instagramers that I like put up tidbits of behind the scenes, easily digestible content.
8. Don't make everything so curated that it seems fake
As much as I love a good Instagram feed that is aesthetically pleasing, you have to have a sense of human in your posts. Everything in your life isn’t perfect. If it is then good for you, you are literally the first person ever who can say that. Showcase the realness of your life and the little imperfections. You can do this with photos, with the stories you tell in your captions, or you Insta Story.
As I said before, my brand is still a work in progress but I wanted to share my tricks with you that I have discovered so far. I am so obsessed with the art of social media and human consumption of content. I read so many books about it, listen to podcasts, read articles, it just excites me. I hope this post adds value to you guys and if you have any questions about the apps I mentioned or any of the advice I shared please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.
Welcome to my unfiltered commentary on crushing chronic illness in your 20's and everything that goes along with that.