From Joanna Gaines to Jessica Hische and everything in between:
Alt Summit has come up in a number of conversations over the last few years. This year, two of my awesome clients were planning to speak at the event—Emily Marko, a Visual Problem Solver and Goal-Setting Guru and Aimee LaLiberte, a Profit First Professional and Virtual CFO. The fact that these two ladies were making an appearance piqued my interest in a whole new way. I do a lot of research and development in order to stay aware of trends and technology within my industry for my customers and my own business. I didn’t necessarily need another set of courses to absorb. I do, however, need to meet business owners doing amazing things. All that said, the minute I found out that Joanna Gaines was the opening keynote speaker I knew that these were my kind of people.
The main message that Joanna delivered can be summed up in a quote she stated during the keynote, “Do what you love doing, be passionate about it, and stay true to who you are.” It’s easy for all of us to get off track but very important to recenter ourselves in order to remain true to who we are—both in our business and in our lives. The other truly amazing tidbit from Joanna’s keynote was her publicly thanking the Founder of Alt Summit and Design Mom, Gabrielle Blair, for featuring Joanna on her blog, designmom.com. The original post in 2012 caught the eyes of HGTV and therefore Fixer Upper was born. A lot has transpired in 7 short years. That story, coupled with Joanna’s honesty, inspired me for the week.
Next, I found myself at a panel titled, How to License Your Creative Work. If you didn’t know this already, I’m currently working on this exact idea for my own work. Molly Hatch spoke about her humble beginnings as a studio potter. She was showing her work in a gallery in NYC when a buyer strolled past and thought her work would fit in well at Anthropologie. She spoke about staying focused on what you are making and honing in on your creativity. I found this so encouraging, partly because working with Anthropologie is a dream of mine and the idea that you can stay connected to your creative work by licensing your projects really inspires me. I’ve always needed a balance between my own creative projects and customer collaborations. The idea of monetizing my own creative projects seems like the next logical move.
I finished off the day with another motivating creative panel about selling yourself, or your work as a creative. This reiterated the messages I had heard all day. In between sessions, at the pool, in the hallways, shuttles, and just about everywhere I met amazing women paving their own way. I have to admit that I felt uncomfortable bringing along our daughter until I looked around the room Monday morning and saw so many babies. Moms are incredible. I met a woman who had her 2-week old daughter along and was so relaxed (baby #4). I aspire to be more like her.
I hopped on a shuttle in the morning and headed over to the Saguaro where I joined a group of ladies for an SEO Q&A. I mostly went to this session to make sure that I’m doing the best work for my customers and my own website. I learned about a few new tools and was assured that I’m on the right path. SEO continues to fascinate me. If you have a website and you haven’t tapped into the power of SEO I would suggest creating a strategy sooner than later. There are ways to start small and build overtime. There are so many free tools available. I was introduced to SEM Rush, Keyword Tool, and reintroduced to Moz during this session. All of which have free resources that you can start implementing today. The sky is the limit with SEO so my suggestion is to first make sure your site is set up properly and then take one step at a time. Stay in for the long haul.
Photography is a huge part of the Alt Summit experience. There are professional photographers everywhere. On day two I had a couple of photography sessions. I had head shots in the Flash Truck (pictured above on the right) and a portrait session with Claudia Reyes (pictured above on the left). Both sessions produced a wide variety of images that I’m sure I’ll utilize throughout the next year or more. I’m not sure if this is intentional but the level of confidence and camaraderie that one experiences at this event is unparalleled. I felt this and heard others share the same sentiment. By the end of day two, I started to ease into being away from home and I was really enjoying myself. Did I mention that I fell in love with Palm Springs and the surrounding area? The photos below are from Indian Canyons just outside of the city.
One thing I will say is that you have to prepare yourself for the fear of missing out. There are so many overlapping sessions. Additionally, you’ll need an hour or two per day to digest the content you absorbed and the people you met. Which brings me to the next session I attended, a Roundtable by Emily Marko, that was about Intentional Action Planning. She guided us through a 3-step process that allows you to review and learn from your experiences while creating an action plan for going forward. You can use her process on many different areas of your life—health, financial, work, community, social, etc. She suggested that you could even use this process to digest experiences such as Alt Summit. I love how she couples visuals with her process and I look forward to taking her Relaunch Course in the near future.
In the morning of day 3 I headed to a panel that I was really excited about—From Opportunity to Impact: How We Can Use Our Platforms For Good. There were 5 women on this panel, all whose individual missions related to the greater good. I’ve struggled with how to attach my brand to the causes that I’m passionate about so this was an excellent panel for me to absorb. I had two main takeaways from this. First, it is important to use your voice to share what matters to you. Secondly, connect with your feelings and use that opportunity for good. These immediately prompted me into action. I work with Chester County Women’s Services to provide assistance with their graphic design needs. I asked them recently to share other needs. I learned that many children in my local area don’t have jackets to keep them warm in the winter. I’ll be collecting gently used jackets very soon for next winter. If you’re interested in learning more, email me here. I’ll also be connecting with other non-profits that I support and find out how I can become an advocate for their message. I want to send a special thank you to these ladies for sharing their mission and prompting myself and many others to action—Amy Webb, Archel Bernard, Elizabeth Quintal, Nole Garey, and Sara Chambers.
Following this very intentional mission-driven panel I found myself at another panel: How You Can Use Social Media to Invent Your Career, Make Friends, And Go On Crazy Adventures. I haven’t made any fast friends from social media alone but after hearing this panel I was intrigued. The idea that you can find others who have common interests through social media platforms, like Instagram, definitely seems possible. They also shared about how their businesses took off from using social media. The main lesson that can be learned from this is you should absolutely share what you are passionate about. It will resonate with your people. The panel covered Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. These days I’m most interested in the power of Pinterest, due to the SEO implications. I learned about the Pinterest 100—which forecasts 2019’s top emerging trends. You can also check out a monthly trending update here. When you are pinning, be mindful of the titles and descriptions of your pins for SEO purposes. I would venture to say that it matters on Instagram too. For any content that is searchable online SEO should be considered.
Following lunch, I went to another keynote given by Garance Doré. I’ve been a fan of Garance for about 8 years now. I first stumbled across her beautiful fashion illustrations around 2011. I have some of her prints hanging in my office. Her message was raw and timely. She spoke about how being addicted to her business caused her body and soul to suffer. Her following was accustomed to seeing a version of her and at some point, that version changed—yet she wanted to remain on-brand. When you, as an individual, are the brand this can be a struggle. “Resist the pressure to be an image of something,” Garance shared. She also talked about how it is important to look around when you are bored and see what actually inspires you. Her message perfectly tied into Joanna’s keynote. It’s so easy to get caught up in how others perceive you. Once this happens you are veering off your path. That’s where inspiration can help guide you. Connecting with what lights you up can help to guide your next move.
The final session I attended on day 3 was an email workshop: Next Level Emails — Using Automation to Get New & Repeat Business. This workshop was full of great information. The most important thing you can do for your email subscribers is to provide exclusive, valuable content. Create content that has value to your list by answering the questions they are asking, creating downloadable resources/guides that will help them, or share beautiful and meaningful illustrations or writing that resonate with your audience. Don’t try and sell them. Do them a service. Alternatively, if you are providing valuable content to a large number of subscribers you could charge a minimal fee for a paid subscription. Did you know about Ann Friedman’s email newsletter subscription? It’s $5 per year. Another way to decide what your next step will be is to look at emails you enjoy reading/opening. What can you glean from them?
By day 4 I was ready to move to Palm Springs. The weather at the end of March is absolutely perfect. Did I mention that the desert was in full bloom? I was inspired to create and ready to actually take a vacation. The final workshop I attended was: Business Planning—Tips and Tricks to Manage Your Business Financials. Aimee LaLiberte delivered up so much meaningful content is less than an hour. She walked us through our money mindset, what tools we need in our accounting stack, what our next financial moves should be, how to get a hold of our personal and business spending, how to save for taxes, and creating and implementing a business revenue goal sheet using the Profit First method. Aimee runs a Virtual CFO and Bookkeeping service and she just opened up a YouTube channel where she’ll be sharing more of this great advice.
My fear of missing out was at a height as I decided to take time off from the Summit to visit Joshua Tree National Park in the middle of the day. My husband, Steven, and I just wanted to see if it was worth coming back to and of course, we weren’t disappointed. Next time we are in the area we plan on staying overnight so we can stargaze. I made Steven promise that we would be back in time for the closing keynote.
Jessica Hische was announced as the closing keynote the week prior to Alt Summit. I was beyond excited! Jessica’s work is a huge inspiration for me. She is an incredible lettering artist originally from PA. She worked with my favorite designer, Louise Fili, and she’s pregnant with her third kiddo. Anyone who has more than one child is basically my hero right now. Having Leona has opened my eyes to the challenges of parenting. I recently described it as walking into an SAT test unprepared, every single day. I know that might be extreme, but for someone who loves planning and being prepared (me), it literally does feel that way at times. Jessica’s honesty about motherhood, hormones, and breastfeeding all rang true. She talked about how her capacity to create has changed since becoming a mom. In order to continue doing her best work and spend time with her family, she had to get clear on her focus. She asked some important questions that I still need to work through: What are my true strengths? How can I leverage my strengths? What do I truly love to do? In other words, what is my superpower? I think we can all benefit from running through those questions from time to time. It’s easy to become an expert in so many areas with online learning at our fingertips. Focus on what you love doing, remain on your true path despite outside influences, and create work that is meaningful to you.