I recently attended BlogHer 14, BlogHer's annual blogging conference in San Jose. This was my very first conference where it seemed all the moons aligned for me to go. I have been blogging for over six years and, besides being with my husband, this has been one of the longest commitments of my life. The thing is, blogging has always been on my terms and at my speed. Which I love and am so thankful that it can be. But this time around, it was time to reinvest into my blog and off to my big girl conference I went.
The conference was in San Jose, just about a two hour drive from home making this conference a reality. Getting a last minute discount on the ticket price, not having to pay for a plane ticket, and kind encouragement and a split hotel bill from my sweet blog friend Amy, this thing was happening.
The weekend was a whirlwind of meeting new people, visiting with brands, learning new blog tricks, and being inspired to continue sharing my voice. BlogHer is a very large and broad conference, but by the end of the weekend, I was thankful for making the investment.
The main factor that pushed me over the edge in going was the location and knowing a few people. There were quite a few local bloggers I knew that were going which gave me just enough confidence to attend. Knowing now how friendly people are, how many different things there are to fill up your time, and the opportunities that are presented by being a conference attendee, it might just be enough for me to say, that next time, it wouldn't be so scary to attend by myself.
As the conference kicked off, it all was a little surreal. Seeing those three ladies who are the backbone of the BlogHer community triggered my emotions. It took me back to years ago when I signed up for that dreaded BlogHer waiting list to join their network. Within the week I was invited to be a part of their amazing community and I remember feeling so excited that my blog meant something to them. So often I have felt alone in the blogging rat race. Never growing as fast enough or doing all the "right" things. As I continued to pave my own way with blogging, it was BlogHer that provided me with my first paycheck and the encouragement to know that I had a place of value in this blogging community.
This conference was a turning point for me. It helped me to value my blog professionally and provided me with the courage to know that my voice matters no matter where I stand in comparison with others. As I look back to those early days of blogging up through now, I see BlogHer playing such a key role in some of my biggest blogging moments. I am so thankful for those women and how much they believe in the voice of women on the internet.
One of the biggest opportunities of attending the conference was that I got to work alongside Angel Soft, promoting their #SheetHappens and #SheetOutOfLuck campaign (make sure to scroll down to the giant giveaway at the end of this post!). Being able to work with such a creative and awesome team has been such a great experience. And it was the reminder that by choosing to reinvest in my blog through attending this conference, provided new opportunities I would not otherwise have access to.
As part of Angel Soft's campaign, I got to to do a video interview sharing my own #SheetHappens moment. They had one of the most impressive booths at the brand expo. A full on bathroom set with a real mic check and video cameras made for a fun experience!
Along with that they had a really fun photo booth for attendees to get their pictures taken.
Here I am with some of lovely foodie blog friends, Karen (The Food Charlatan), Amy (Amy's Healthy Baking), Trish (Mom on Timeout), and Dorothy (Crazy For Crust).
I'll admit I was pretty obsessed with the expo. I came fully prepared with my media kit in hand, plenty of business cards, and lots of blog prompt ideas in attempts to make my blog shine to potential brand partnerships. And in case you are wondering, I ended up giving out about 100 business cards and 33 media kits. I had to use the printer at the hotel to print more media kits after giving away almost all 20 I came prepared with on the first night. Serious business y'all.
So often correspondence with brands is done over email and so being able to sell myself face to face with products I already love was such a huge opportunity! It was another turning point of learning to value my own voice enough that I believed that others can value it as well.
Besides the brand expo, my other favorite part of the conference was the keynote speakers. Arianna Huffington, of The Huffington Post, was a huge inspiration sharing her thoughts on success and simplifying your life. She encouraged us that everyday people are influencers and that we have an opportunity to share our voice. She shared the importance of sleep, giving yourself occasional digital detoxes, and that it is okay and important to say no. But by far my favorite quote from her was this, "Everyday the world will grab your hand and tell you what is important. Grab you hand and put it on your heart and say, 'no, this is what is important.'"
Kerry Washington, well known for her role in Scandal, was also a very inspiring keynote speaker. She was extremely down to earth and reminded us that we are robbing women by not stepping up in our leadership roles. Instead we need to stand up and lead with grace and responsibility. She shared, "I do not let my public figure restrict me from having a voice. I speak out not because I am a celebrity. I speak out because I have a voice."
Such a great reminder in blogging when sometimes it can be so scary to hit publish when it comes to sharing matters of the heart. I was encouraged by Kerry to continue to be brave and lead with my voice the story I believe that needs to be shared with other women.
Besides all the new ideas and encouragement, one of the most life changing moments was being introduced to The Mrs. The Mrs. is a band of everyday women who decided to get together and remind women that they are enough.
They set up a mirror that you looked at while you were reminded of some beautiful truths that you are enough. You can see their promo video below to get an idea of what it is all about. I was literally balling by the time my turn was over. It was a beautiful and healing experience that I will never forget.
Click over to view if you cannot see this video.
I unfortunately did not attend a ton of break out sessions but the few I went to were valuable. I attended a crafting mini-con which proved to be the best networking opportunity for my niche but really I just wanted to meet one of the speakers, Kim from Today's Creative Blog.
If you have been around the home/DIY/craft blog community in the last few years, you will know that being featured on her blog back in the day was a huge deal. Speaking of nostalgic turning points, being featured by her years ago was also a major confidence booster. It was at a time that my blog started getting noticed and so I am extremely grateful for the platform Kim created and how it promoted so many talented women bloggers.
The other session I attended was on monetization. Lots of helpful tips on how to naturally integrate advertisement while still maintaining an authentic voice. In this session I actually got up the courage to ask a question. Introducing myself, my blog, and asking my question put my name out there to a huge group of women that time simply would not have allowed me to meet them all. My heart pounded as I spoke into that mic. But it was a great experience of courage and putting myself out there that proved to help me throughout the conference.
Besides all the great sessions, there were a few special brand events that were put on which allowed exclusive access to brand representatives as well as usually a delicious meal! I got invited to attend one with Keurig complete with a make your own omelet bar!
I also attended another breakfast put on by Lactaid. Tons of lactose free deliciousness to start my day (and not make me run to the bathroom! #SheetHappens right!?).
To close off the weekend, BlogHer and McDonald's put on an amazing closing party. We were a little on the fence about whether or not it was worth staying to attend. I am so glad we decided to stay because it was a ton of fun.
They blocked off an entire parking lot to host all these crazy and fabulous bloggers for one last night of celebration.
They brought in a giant food truck that handed out happy meals and other McDonald's staples.
A few of the beautiful and talented women I met that weekend: Spiffy Kerms, Snixy Kitchen, A Side of Sweet, The Food Charlatan, Alyssa and Carla, Team Wiking.
We closed off the night with a performance by Rev. Run DMC. Just a bunch of women (and about five men!) who sit behind their computer all day blogging, danced the night away. It was epic.
Plus I got to dance with Jory Des Jardins, the president of BlogHer. Gotta love it when the president gets on the dance floor with her bloggers.
And of course, there is also the swag. Driving to the conference allowed us to lug all these free goodies home. A small perk to an already amazing weekend.
And all the business cards. I have yet to even make a dent in these. But so many beautiful women to connect with.
All in all it was an amazing weekend. I learned a lot, talked a lot, and am still trying to recover weeks later! It was a whirlwind of two and a half days but definitely worth it! This blogging community really is the best.
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Angel Soft. As always, all opinions are mine. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Domestic Fashionista possible.
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