TxSC 2015: Creating a Meaningful Presence at Texas Style Council
photos by Chelsea Laine Francis
What do you say about something that is the last of its kind? Something that left an indelible impression on you? Something that created lasting memories, friendships, and sparked inspiration? I’ve been struggling to find the words to sum up the final TxSC, but I’m sure gonna try…
When Ashley and Carlie and I went to TxSC together in 2013, I came away from the experience with a lot of ideas and inspiration. But that event was so much bigger (at least twice as many attendees as this most recent experience), and the traditional conference structure made it easy to stick to our comfort zones. While I made a few new friends at TxSC ’13, nothing can quite compare to the way fast friends are made when you’re stuck in an airport for hours waiting for a shuttle or sharing a Girl Scout camp cabin together.
After I arrived at the Austin airport, we had about 3 hours to kill, waiting until there were enough of us to take the shuttle trip one hour outside of Austin to CAMP. I got to hang out in person with rad girls I’d connected with pre-event on Instagram, like Hilary and Vana, and got to meet lots of new ones, including Bobbie, Toni, Susie, Brittany, Lisa, Emma and Maddie, who was also one of my cabin mates.
Once at CAMP, I met the rest of my cabin mates, henceforth known as Troop 1092. (We got really into the whole Girl Scout theme for the Saturday night party – I found a vintage Girl Scout dress on Etsy with patches reading “1092,” which we adopted as our official troop #.) I bonded fast and furious with lovely, intelligent ladies like Maddie, Michelle, Melissa, Lauren and Lauren, Rachael and Rachel, Jordan, Courtney and Natasha. I also got to hang out with Becky, whom I met at TxSC ’13. I became fast friends with Mia. (Seriously – so many mutual interests… in Mia’s words, “How are we not already best friends?”) I met wonderful women like Whitney and Tara. And God bless Cyndie for being so amazing and generous with her time and wisdom. (And for not being weirded out when I totally fan-girled out on her.) And a huge THANK you to Valerie for that early ride back to the airport!
photo by Logan Pearce Photography
On the brand activation and sponsorship side of things… TOMS was amazing, but more on that in a minute. The girls from Outlaw Creative were so kickass – I left a comment on an Instagram photo they posted before the event, mentioning one of their keychains they were bringing with them to the event, and they tracked me down in person to hand-deliver the one I’d mentioned. Talk about surprise and delight! Brands, take note: THAT is how you keep the online conversation and brand awareness going offline.
My cabin mates from Honest Tea served up yummy floats at the Saturday night party, and I must say, the food we dined on all weekend long from The Real McCoy Catering was excellent. SquareSpace was one of the big sponsors of the event, and I loved that they hosted a design lab all weekend long where people could sign up and get one-on-one feedback on their websites and blogs. I was also a big fan of the VERB hair products and Milk & Honey hand soaps that were in all of the bathrooms. (They both smelled SOOO good.) Basically, if you want to create a memorable experience as a brand, do it in a way that closely aligns with who you are as a company. Make it seamless and so natural it doesn’t even feel like marketing.
A HUGE HUGE thank you and all sorts of high five emojis to Indiana for sending off her baby in the grandest of styles. I know putting together an event of this scale is not easy, but you did a fabulous job! And a huge thanks to all of the volunteers, and double extra Brownie points to Chelsea Laine Francis for taking gorgeous photos (like the ones seen here!) all weekend long.
photos by Chelsea Laine Francis
TxSC 2015 Takeaways…
I had a lot of intangible takeaways that cannot be adequately described here with words. But the theme of TxSC 2015, “Create a Meaningful Presence,” did not fall short. My two big takeaways were these: the concept of friendtors and the importance of storytelling.
The buzzword of the weekend became “friendtor,” i.e., a friend who is also a mentor. It seems obvious but sometimes it can be easy to forget the importance of relying on the wisdom of your friends. Just because someone is a friend, doesn’t mean they don’t also have wisdom to convey to you. Likewise, it’s important to remember that newfound mentors with more experience don’t have to simply be sage old gurus – they can become your friends too. Instead of viewing people in your niche or industry with more experience or a bigger following as competition, seek to make them your friendtors instead. For women, I think this is a particularly important concept – we need to learn from each other, support each other and grow together.
One of the most memorable keynotes, and definitely the most Oprah-like moment of the weekend, came from Bethany Joy Clark. She is Director of Global Customer Engagement for TOMS. While I knew that TOMS had begun branching out from their original product line of shoes, I didn’t realize exactly how large the impact of their One for One® philosophy had become. For example, they supplied us with coffee from TOMS Roasting Co. all weekend long. Each bag of coffee provides a week’s worth of clean drinking water to a person in need.
During Bethany’s keynote, she shared a short video that told the story of how TOMS gives back, but more importantly, WHY they give back and do what they do. Their story is a great one – it’s hard not to love a company with such a compelling story of doing good. Bethany told us about TOMS’ newest products, a line of backpacks and tote bags. For each bag purchased, TOMS will help provide a safe birth for a mother and baby in need, plus with each purchase, $5 will go to support Every Mother Counts’ global advocacy efforts to improve maternal health.
As Bethany told these stories and shared their WHY, the room was already hooked. We were IN. You could feel it in the room. Then she outdid herself – at the end of the keynote came the Oprah inspired moment as she announced that each attendee would get one of these new backpacks. Not because it was something they had to do. Not because it was a cheap marketing ploy. But because Bethany really wanted that moment of giving, and wanted to share it with us. Don’t get me wrong – the bag is RAD. It is a seriously well made and oh-so-nice backpack, and if you’re in the market for a new travel bag, you should totally consider one of these. (Damn straight I’m taking mine with me on the two trips I have coming up in the next few weeks…) But the thing that will stick with me is not just that I got some free swag. The thing that will stick with me is WHY that bag exists in the first place.
And so my biggest takeaway of the weekend, a marriage of my B-School studies and TxSC, was this… Always lead with your WHY. As a brand, as a blogger, as a human being, look in your heart, seek out your WHY, and put that at the forefront of all you do. In the words of Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
What’s my WHY?
I’ve been thinking about mine, more and more.
I want to see equality in the world. Gender equality, racial equality, equality for everyone to love who they love and be who they are, regardless of if it lines up with another person’s vision of the world.
Equality of opportunity. We may all be born under different circumstances, and some of us may have an easier road, but for those of us who do… let’s try to even the playing field for those who don’t.
I want to share, inspire others, and spread love and joy. Life is short, a precious gift. Do not squander it, and do not allow those around you to squander it either. Seek to lift others up rather than bring them down.
The placebo effect is a real thing, you know. “Attitude is everything” is not simply a platitude. It is an actuality. I choose to live in lightness, and seek to help guide others from the dark.