It’s been one week since I had the privilege to attend the VenturePOP! 2015 Conference and I must say it was the best decision I made this year.
Honestly, I did not know what to expect, it was the first year for the conference and I didn’t want to waste my time.
Not sure about you but I’ve sat in conferences that were not worth my time, I did not want to spend money only to sit in hear from people who regurgitate information you can find by doing a Google search with your eyes closed. Overall this conference is a hidden gem in the city of New Orleans, forget about Bourbon Street.
Three creative entrepreneurs came together and pioneered the workings of a conference that would empower creative entrepreneurs to pursue their passion for business and set creatives free from the 9 – 5 cubicles. VenturePOP launched the project as a Kickstarter campaign and the goal was to get at least $12,000 from committed attendees before launching. They quickly exceeded their goal and the conference was set in motion.
Some of the best creative entrepreneurs I know Regina Anaejionu and Cyndie Spiegel were announced as the first 2 speakers and that further increased my confidence this had the potential to be a great event.
I grabbed 3 of my business buddies and planned to drive 6 hours to New Orleans from Houston.
I pulled up to the conference and one of my friends thought… “are we really going to have the conference at this little spot?” Nervousness came over me as I thought “did I really just drive 6 hours through traffic and state trooper speed traps to come to a roundtable discussion?”
I was hoping this was not the case and as I walked closer I was relieved. Registration was quick and easy as I walked through the doors and I was directed to a registration table to pick up my conference materials.
After picking up my name tag I was able to get other memorable SWAG items:
- Conference guide with the schedule.
- Custom VenturePOP! Coffee mug
- Custom Hustle Everyday conference bag by @smallchalk
- Brilliant Ideas into Inspired Action Mini workbook by Kristy Oustalet
- Stand Up and Tell Your Story a Free e-course by Chantelle Adams
- VenturePOP Manifesto Poster
- Button nametag
I appreciated these items not because they were included and I felt I deserved something, but it was nice to get some items that I can use after the conference instead of the normal hoard of advertisements sponsors throw into bags.
The conference was held a Propeller, a nonprofit co-working space in the heart of New Orleans geared towards launching social and environmental ventures to address local challenges. I Introduced myself to some people and engaged in small talk then went to the main conference hall where the action happens.
I like what they did with the place even though I have never been to Propeller I could tell they moved some things around and added subtle decorations which made the atmosphere pop. The place was already a decent setup and the colors which were added enhanced that which was already there.
Sidebar: That’s what design is about, taking what is already there and making it that much better. Nice to know designers were behind the conference and It was reflected in the decorations.
Everyone I met at the conference was either building a business or had a current level of success, but were looking to go to the next level. There were entrepreneurs, designers, developers, bloggers, photographers, filmmakers, youtubers and many more. There were enough similarities between what each person was doing to allow for cultivation of new ideas. These people were fun, the day was full of jokes and laughs but value was still being delivered. It was good to be around people who enjoy what they do and make a living while doing it.
The Power of Story
The first speaker up was Chantelle Adams, who I had not heard of before. I honestly don’t know why because she has spoken 300 times in the last year and has built a 6-figure income while doing so. I’ll simply say this, Chantelle knows what she is talking about and she is good at what she does. Her expertise was reflected in her opening talk for the conference, which set the tone for the rest of the day. Chantelle shared her story about how she transitioned to where she is today. Her talk was probably the most necessary because as creatives one of the essentials that separate us from one another is our individual story. Her session focused on what makes a great story and how we can craft a story of our own. We were equipped with questions and actionable steps we could use to create a compelling story. My favorite part of her session is when she brought someone on stage from the audience listened to her story and then retold the story in an engaging way which had the audience on their seats. That’s what we need as creatives, our story is the catalyst to why people want to work with us.
“You may be alive, but are you really living”
Permission to Profit: How to Wow + Move Your Audience through Your Product Pyramid
Next up was Regina Anaejionu, one of the speakers which gave me the confidence to attend the conference. In my eyes she is a heavy-hitter, a person who has not only built an audience and one of the best bloggers I know but continues to create engaging content all while keeping her personality. You can tell Regina loves what she is doing and wants to help others reach the same level of success she has.
In the session, we explored taking the time to map out the development of products. Potential customers travel through a pyramid based on the level of engagement the customer has reached in your brand. New customers can be pitched an introductory product or free products such as PDFs, guides, and live webinars. Following this new products can be introduced to the as the person becomes more accustomed to your brand and style. Beginning with an email course, advancing to a low-cost infoproduct and graduating them up the pyramid to a course or workshop. Regina served as a great teacher of this session because she has the experience and proof to back it up.
“You need a product for every budget and level of your potential customer, from introductory to complete course”
Make History by Respecting It
The third speaker was Bashar Wali the president of Provenance Hotels. Honestly, my first thought was “it’s cool that a president of a company is here but what does planning a hotel have to do with planning a business for a creative entrepreneur. Bashar is the type of president you want to run your company. He believes hotels should not be carbon copies of one another but should echo the heart of the city. When planning the Old No. 77 hotel in New Orleans he spent time speaking to locals in New Orleans whose feedback affected the look, service and hospitality of the hotel.
It’s about engaging the community of people whom already live in the city and allowing native tribes to define your product. The type of thinking Bashar has can be applied to any business model.
“There are some partnerships I have which don’t make me money, but they help me connect with the city and that’s what matters”
After the first 3 sessions it was time for lunch. We were allotted 1 hour and 20 minutes for lunch, which is more than enough time. There were two available options for lunch all the while conversations and networking began. To me, it felt like halftime of a game we were winning and we planned to continue the winning trend in the second half.
The Speakers Continued…
Lauren Delaney George
The Etsy Revolution
I personally do not frequent etsy.com but you cannot deny the fact that it is a great platform to sell items, especially unique one of a kind handmade items. Lauren gave us a rundown of why sellers should consider using etsy and her success story with the platform. Lauren has many sales on etsy and plans to continue the trend.
“75% of buyers on Etsy are repeat buyers”
Lianna Patch & Julia Sevin
Convert Like Crazy: 10 Design Hacks You Can’t Afford to Miss
This was the first session which featured more than 1 speaker. Lianna and Julia were a great team, on one end you had a copywriter and on the other end you had a designer. These 2 combined gave both considerations when it comes to increasing conversions on a website.
As a web designer, I appreciated this talk very much. Often people want a new website to sell a product or service, what is missed is the fact that the website needs to say something (copywriting) and the website needs to look appealing enough for the user to purchase (design). We were given quick tips to help us increase conversions on our websites.
“If you want to convert like crazy then all of the questions you ask the user on the sales page must have a yes answer in the user’s mind.”
Entrepreneurship is Hard, But so Worth It
This session was by Joah Spearman the co-founder of Localeur, a curated community of local insiders who want to help you experience local in their city. Think Yelp but way more interaction and only locals can leave reviews and recommend places. Joah started out by saying “I don’t have any slides and I’m going to just talk”, I thought to myself “please don’t tell me you are going to wing it”. This turned out to be the best method for Joah because he shared the ups and downs of entrepreneurship in a transparent and honest way. I felt like I was having a conversation with him and entrepreneurial advice was a by-product of a good conversation. This was the most real and honest talk of the conference.
“Entrepreneurship is not about money it’s about Access. If you pursue your passion you will get access to things money cannot buy.”
Leaving a Lasting First Impression Through a Killer Brand
Lauren is a graphic designer blogger behind Elle & Company. She drove all the way from North Carolina because she wanted to invest in the attendees at the conference. As a fellow designer Lauren’s thoughts on branding echoed my own beliefs. Branding is more than a logo it is about communicating consistent message every time someone interacts with your brand. Lauren was the only speaker to have printed handouts so listeners could follow along.
“Your brand is whatever your customer says it is”
How to use Creative Collaboration (Versus Competition) To Build a Small Business
Drumroll please…the anchor leg and last speaker of the conference was small business consultant Cyndie Spiegel. Her talk centered about how to be yourself and how to turn competitors into collaborators. She reminded us that as entrepreneurs there are tons of excuses we can make up, but in actuality we need to overcome those excuses by taking action. One of the focuses of her talk involved asking members of the audience what goals they have and then challenging individuals why they haven’t taken the first step towards reaching those goals.
“People may copy your work but no one can steal your uniqueness.”
The conference concluded with some thank yous and then it was time for the after party. To be honest I felt the after party was just as much fun as the conference overall. It was relaxing to take some time and chill with other creatives in an environment where we can talk to one another in full about our businesses. I have been to networking events in the past but they are also awkward and too professional. This was laid back and the people were open to talk about anything.
Until Next Year
During the drive back to Houston after I left New Orleans I felt the trip was worth it. All of the traffic, 6 hours on the road, gas stops and money spent was all worth it. I knew I formed relationships that would later turn into collaborations and the new found accountability inspires me to reach all of my business goals.
I will definitely be there next year and if you are able you should be there too.