Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Alt Summit 2014: Day 3, Getting Down to Business!

Getting back on track with my Alt Summit recaps . . . here's Day 1 and Day 2 if you missed them! Note: Pictures without my watermark are taken by the official Alt photographers Justin Hackworth and Brooke Dennis.


I slept like a baby after the Green Party but was determined to be up early for Food Photography with Joy Uyeno of Frock Files and Lindsey Johnson of Cafe Johnsonia - I heard the previous day's photography session had a long line an hour beforehand and with only 30 students allowed I was chillin' in line very early. 

It was definitely worth it!

Here are my top 5 actionable items I learned to polish your food photography:
  1. Start with Pinterest - create a food styling inspiration board to capture what looks appealing
  2. Keep it simple - no busy china patterns to compete with the food! Companies like IKEA, Fishs Eddy and Pearl River are great resources for dishware 
  3. Know the ideal manual settings - f/1.8+50/55mm lens+light scoop= SUCCESS! I had never considered a light scoop but Joy said it made all the difference for her and recommended this one. Also, while f/1.8 is ideal don't get stuck using it exclusively - 3.5-5.6 is a good sweet spot to play with!
  4. Go vertical! - especially for Pinterest, vertical images get a better response and you can always crop your horizontal images vertical before posting
  5. Use matte surfaces - check IKEA for clearance services to shoot on; look for scrap pieces from building salvage and hardware stores, fun fabrics from sewing stores and materials at thrift stores

Next up I went to the Growing Your Community session with Jen Hansard of Simple Green Smoothies, Susan Petersen of Freshly Picked, Jessie Artigue of Style & Pepper and Salem Stanley of Vacation Races.

A funny take on overdoing "community"
I have to admit when I saw the word "community" I really wanted to replace it with "readership" but I realized why word choice was so important. I wasn't familiar with Simple Green Smoothies until I saw them mentioned on the schedule pre-conference and as I followed them and learned their story I was intrigued - people are extremely passionate about them and I wanted to find out why. I met Jen and her co-founder Jadah in the line at lunch the day before and Jadah was in my photography class that morning and they struck me as warm and personable - my kind of businesswomen!
Salem, Jen and Susan
During Jen's talk I learned the importance of creating a newsletter (with a "juicy" opt-in!) for growing community as well as being a responsive blogger - something I strive to achieve as well. There's nothing more annoying than an un-engaged blogger or business which you try to contact but doesn't respond. It's not good for business! By being engaging and responsive the 2 SAHMs created a 6 figure business in 8 months. What an inspiration!

I was also very familiar with Freshly Picked the wildly popular baby moccasins recently featured on Shark Tank, and I appreciated Susan's honesty about what motivated her to grow her community: she wanted to make money. Ain't nothin' wrong with that! (and if you're business-minded like I am check out Susan's AMAZING candid interview about her business including how she got 10K Instagram followers, check out her interview here on Smart Creative Women, which is a must-follow btw)

Now it was time for another favorite of mine: LUNCH! I tell ya, baby gets me very hungry lately, and I was so excited when I stepped into the ballroom and saw the beautiful table settings:

The lunch keynote was with Every Mother Counts featuring board members Christy Turlington Burns, Mariam Naficy, Heather Armstrong and Christiane Lemieux. I first learned of EMC at BlogHer in 2012 and was thrilled to see the work they continue to do but as tears filled many of the eyes of the audience I was more interested in action when the Q&A opened I immediately popped my hand up to ask how I could help the next time I travel with my family to Nigeria. They responded that connecting with them to guest blog would help raise awareness, but I'm thinking more along the lines of on the ground help or taking something tangible when I go. Since then I have an idea of how I want to help coupling with resources here in NYC so I hope to have an update later this year on my progress . . .

Brit and Erin
After lunch I headed to Investing in Your Blog with Brit Morin of Brit & Co. and Erin Hiemstra of Apartment 34. Brit reminded me of Eria of P.S. I Made This in her approachable, yet savvy manner. She is super educated and well-versed in all things tech/Silicon Valley and gave us the inside scoop on her business growth as well as future trends she sees (hint: 3D printing ya'll!). This on the-ground-report was eye-opening and while I don't think I need an MBA, it definitely makes sense to stay on top of business trends even as a blogger. 

I also won a cute Brit Kit to make a bracelet which I look forward to making soon:

I was starting to get drained by the time of the closing keynote, but knowing it was with Ben Silbermann, founder of Pinterest helped me perk up. I parked myself next to another lady I didn't realize was also pregnant until she started dozing off, and we empathized on our condition! (It was also during this session that I took a baby-induced bathroom break and ended up with the most gorgeous pillows from Wayfair - more on that later...)

Ben interviewed by Alt Summit co-founder Gabrielle Blair
This piece of advice really struck me: "Focus on what's working; you don't have to fix what's not." Not only for blogging but for life, I think this is a great tip. Ben admitted to certain things being worked out at Pinterest such as spam, questionable images and dead links and that they're definitely working on them and he kinda skirted around the issue of monetization which made me sweat a little about the thought of paying for Pinterest or seeing it laden with ads. I get that bills have to be paid, but I love Pinterest as it currently is. I just pray it doesn't turn into Facebook.

Ben's mantra of "Progress, Not Perfection" in conjunction with his thoughts on making his company family friendly, especially dad-friendly so men don't have to feel like they're blazing trails wanting to have family-friendly hours was fantastic. Rather than wait for change or legislation he said it's up to dads to just do it: make the demand that it's OK for them to leave at normal hours instead of making moms taking the brunt of the responsibility. I wanted to stand up and applaud! So many of my dual-working outside the home friends have the mom giving up so much more in her career to be with the family whether for leave or for handling appointments or activities and I truly believe if more men started standing up for change there would be change. 

When the keynote was over, although I wanted to sleep I went up to my room to get dolled up for the 12 mini-parties. They started at 6:30p.m., but I didn't make it down until 8p.m. and missed quite a few tasty goodies and experiences. While I was a little bummed I know I'll definitely be at Alt again and will make up for it (sans baby bump!).

Here are some colorful mini-party moments:

Loved Bethany's looks the entire conference especially the one on the left!

It would've been very easy to get carried away at MailChimp's tattoo parlor! I opted to take a few Tattly tatoos home with me instead
I wasn't fast enough to snap a pic but I did catch a bite of the mashed potato bar cart before it was wheeled out (thank you to the staff for having mercy on my pregnant, salt-craving belly!) and there was an amazing cheesecake bar I heard about too. I couldn't let the night end there so I went up to my room to join my roommates for a girls foot soak and a bit of indulgence (does that tart look familiar???):

It was the perfect way to end my first Alt Summit.

Still a few more Alt Summit posts to come: business card round-up, fashion and a few giveaway wins! Also my post-Alt experience at Sundance thanks to my cousin Aminah.

P.S. Want to experience Alt Summit this year? There are now two main events in SLC with Alt NYC of the past now being a design camp (date and location TBD) and other cities available. Tickets for Alt SLC Summer this June are now on sale here and be sure to subscribe to their newsletter and follow on social media for your chance to win a ticket!