What comes to mind when you think of a gift? Maybe your head goes to something material (one word: jewelry!) or perhaps the gift of TIME (an hour alone with a book, anyone?). But let’s not forget the gifts that live inside us, lighting our way through life. Gifts like knowledge, passion, friendship, and celebration. We’d like to share our appreciation for these and many more priceless gifts received at Vend Raleigh’s Illuminate Conference, 2013.
The New Kids on the Block
We started All Wrapped Up Parties, LLC in April 2013 and have been working tirelessly ever since. Our passion for helping children is ever-present, even in our most fatigued states, but we will admit to many moments of feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and utterly alone in our work efforts. Managing what it takes to build a business from the ground up just doesn’t come without discomfort. We have felt wildly frazzled, in over our heads, clueless, just plain stupid, and yes, even defeated. Having perfectionist tendencies and the instinct to do everything all by ourselves doesn’t help our case. Was this our new life as small business owners? It seemed like our hands were tied.
The knot began to loosen, however, after reading co-editor Emily Uhland’s “Momtrepreneur” article in the August 2013 issue of Cary Magazine. Uhland featured 4 successful business owners, all mothers. What they had to say struck a chord, and just in the knick of time. Beth Richardson, owner of Sweetbottoms Baby Boutique, helped us to see we didn’t have to go it alone. “That’s really the only way to be able to grow,” she said. “To allow other people to help. For some reason we think that we should be able to conquer it all ourselves. No, I’m not supermom and it’s OK.” [Beth’s words inspired us to reach out with a proposal to host our playdates in the Sweetbottoms rental space.]
Also featured in the article, Cary Heise got our mojo moving with her “go-getter” attitude and careful attention to balancing her three businesses with family. We discovered Vend Raleigh, immediately created our directory listing, and poured over the Illuminate Conference and sponsorship opportunities. Wide-eyed, like excited children, we read: “The Illuminate conference is a great opportunity to meet and collaborate with other Mompreneurs and like-minded women generously supporting one another in sharing both their time and talents.” Soon after we had registered and proudly become sponsors. Though we hadn’t met any of these people, we already felt less alone.
In the days leading up to Illuminate, we created and planned our Swag Bag entry, eager to spoil new Mompreneur friends with free birthday cards, stickers, coupons and more. Excitement built through every social media avenue, and we were a part of it! We clicked and scrolled through countless websites, learning all about women we hoped to meet at the conference.
The morning of our first Illuminate conference will always be memorable. Out the door at 7:45 (and not in yoga pants, this time), we really felt “back to work!” On the drive over, we exchanged honest admissions. Julia: “I don’t know what I’m walking into!” Alexis: “I’m nervous!” We won’t ever feel that way again! Our first friendly introduction was 30 seconds through the door, and every encounter thereafter was genuine and meaningful.
These women were just like us! We all shared a passion and wanted to learn more, be better. Asking “What’s your business?” and hearing the answer was the most FUN. Making so many new business connections, Illuminate is a powerful tool for continued growth through collaboration.
Bright Ideas & Full Hearts
Illuminate not only exceeded our every expectation, it has strengthened our business. We learned a great deal and countless business questions were answered. What’s more, though, the committee members, speakers and attendants helped spark new, creative ideas for our business.
Illuminate left us with far too many takeaways for a blog post. Our most memorable came from Irene Gouge (owner of Loving Lessons), who had the idea to create Illuminate and touched our very souls. (We couldn’t leave without hugging her.) She emotionally and honestly spoke about the nature of being a Mompreneur, and the legacy we were leaving for our children. “They’re watching us,” she said. We’re counting on it. It’s the passion behind the words that sets Illuminate apart.
Gifts are those things, tangible and abstract, for which we are thankful. Illuminate rewarded us with a fellowship of real support and a celebration of enduring inspiration. The result? An invaluable foundation on which to move forward.
Did you attend the Illuminate Conference? Share your reactions with us!