Create + Cultivate Los Angeles Recap

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Yesterday, Create + Cultivate hosted their 2018 conference in Los Angeles. I missed out on the conference last year when it was held right in my own backyard in Seattle. Seeing all the photos that followed completely validated my FOMO. So, this year I hopped on the opportunity to join the fun and soak up some sun at the same time.

If you don’t know, Create + Cultivate is an insanely popular online platform and event series that was founded by Jaclyn Johnson in 2012. It is “a movement for women looking to create & cultivate the career of their dreams,” and each year, hundreds of women gather in a major city for a full day of panels, pop-ups and photo ops. This brand is killing the game when it comes to knowing their audience and producing consistent, quality content that feeds their tribe’s needs. And that’s the main reason I wanted to attend. As a brand strategist, marketer, content creator and, more recently, personal blogger, it just didn’t make sense for me to not be in the room. I was eager to hear what all these highly visible, wildly successful millennial women had to say about crafting their careers. Here’s a rundown of what I experienced there.

 

THE ATMOSPHERE

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The greatest strength of Create + Cultivate is the execution of the overall experience. This brand is super clear on its identity, and every single detail of the event reflects that identity perfectly, from the paper goods you receive in the mail in the weeks leading up to the conference to the numerous large scale photo ops installed throughout the space. Create + Cultivate is made for the hyper-feminine, fashion-forward, social-savvy, young at heart, drink-kombucha-through-a-straw crowd. Confetti and millennial pink abound. You receive at least three branded notebooks throughout the day in both pastel hues and rose gold, optimized for Instagram flatlay. I stumbled upon one of my favorite details when I was headed into my fourth session: a pop-up stand whipping up spools of organic, honey flavored cotton candy (an ultra-light afternoon snack).

The attendees are just as important to the atmosphere as the decor, and they know it. C+C designates a full area to beautifying guests outfitted with hair, makeup and even a mock storefront sponsored by Express. But trust me, the women at this conference definitely don’t need it. Did you ever see that movie ‘Life-Size’ starring Tyra Banks where some sort of magic causes a Barbie doll to come to life? Create + Cultivate is like a ‘Life Size’ convention. It only takes a few brief conversations with attendees to dispel the preconceived notion that this crowd is just superficial. Not just bloggers and influencers, the ladies at C+C are startup founders, tech gurus, former medical researchers turned financial experts (and I’m actually specifically referencing three women I met!).

Moment of transparency? It took a little while for me to feel like I belonged there. I don’t think I ever got completely comfortable. It was sort of like walking in a new pair of heels. You try them on, they’re cute, something is telling you you need them in your wardrobe, but after a while, you’re like “do I even really like heels?” But a few times, women approached me expressing how glad they were to meet me and that they followed me on Instagram. Those moments definitely put a pep in my step. I’ve got to stop telling myself I don’t belong in the spaces I’m in. Hell, if I'm there, I belong there.

 

THE PANEL GUESTS

The influencers I was most looking forward to seeing were Francheska Medina, Jessamyn Stanley, Ericka Hart, and Tess Holliday. Shout out to the fact that they were all a part of my first two sessions. My favorite session, by far, was entitled “Body Positive,” featuring the latter four names I mentioned, plus Mama Cax and Danika Brysha. Whereas many of the panel conversations were marked by self-empowerment mantras and vague, motivational soundbites, I felt like this panel really got to the heart of some meaningful themes to which I personally could relate. Ericka Hart’s commentary and delivery, in particular, made me feel so visible and understood. She addressed the crowd directly, breaking down the flaws with the notion of diversity and inclusion. She drew attention to the demographic makeup of the room, using it as an example to task people with thinking critically about who does or does not feel included in certain spaces and why.

 
I’m really interested in disrupting beyond visibility...Diversity is so much more than visibility.
— Ericka Hart
 

Every single woman on the panel had valuable perspective to contribute to the conversation, and was incredibly poised and prepared to do so. They were also each vocally celebratory of one another. It was a beautiful display of a uniquely feminine way of communicating, marked by vulnerability, strength, humor, and acceptance of each other’s truths.

 

WHY I LEFT EARLY

Around 4pm, I was getting tuckered out. Create + Cultivate is a twelve-and-a-half hour day, and there is no re-entering if you exit. They give you plenty to occupy your time, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve happily powered through it if I had come with a friend. But at a certain point, I just felt like I had gotten the gist of it.

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Like I said earlier, the strength of this conference is the atmosphere and the attendees. The event is designed to revel in the magic of being a 20-something with a poppin’ lease on life. Kudos to Jaclyn Johnson for harnessing the infectious energy of that sentiment and encapsulating it in a brand. But I didn’t feel that C+C offered a lot in the way of tactical advice for building your brand or directing your career, at least not during the sessions. It seemed to be geared toward women who already have the crux of that figured out. I wish it had more intentionally addressed things like the financial investment involved in producing quality content, how to best package yourself for partnering with brands, etc. One of my main grievances with digital culture and the rise in influencer marketing is that audiences are so used to seeing the end-result of success and are largely misinformed about what’s required to reach it.

C+C does a nice job of hosting content on its blog that addresses these topics, but the conference felt more like a day party than a space for learning. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just an observation. I think this light-hearted format is part of what’s garnered its national popularity and success. But it leaves a lot to the imagination in terms of how to practically create and cultivate your career. The other reason I left is because I was hungry AF, and I could no longer survive off of apple chips and kombucha. I mean, they fed us breakfast and lunch, but the fare was light compared to what I’m used to. I had to go find a burrito.

(P.S. I would have loved to see a sign language interpreter at at each session, and more effort in general to accommodate differently-abled attendees. Maybe I missed this piece. But if not, it’s definitely an area for improvement.)

 

MY TAKEAWAYS

I gained three key things from Create + Cultivate Los Angeles:

1. Confirmation that I can, in fact, do it all

This conference gave me every reason to quit second-guessing whether I have the capacity to create my own platforms, invest in my ideas and work full time if I so choose.

2. Motivation to start thinking seriously about what I want next out of my career

While the myth of the overnight success can shroud some important truths about work ethic, persistence and resources, hearing directly from women who’ve turned simple ideas into massive endeavors lit a fire in me to keep pressing forward professionally and pursue clarity on what my next goals are.

3. Inspiration to keep doing what I’m doing 

I can’t even express how humbling and empowering it was to meet women who already knew me from my website and social content. Sometimes you wonder if you’re actually reaching anyone with all the effort you invest into your own platform. Then you meet a woman all the way from the Bahamas who loves your aesthetic and was looking forward to seeing you. And it puts it all in perspective.

 

Women are truly incredible, so I felt fortunate to get to share in that celebration of who we are and what we’re doing. The networking opportunity at an event like this is outstanding. I’m not sure that I would go again as an attendee (maybe you’ll cash me on a panel one day *wink*), but I’m really glad I came. The pros and cons of the event gave me great insights into who I’m becoming as a public figure and just the push I needed to keep exploring that.

- XO, Bri