6 Things I Learned at #Craftcation15


Last week I flew to Ventura, CA. to attend Craftcation15. In its 4th year, Craftcation is a conference dedicated to small business owners who work within the creative industry.

Billed as an event that "ignites the entrepreneurial spirit, strengthens craft and business skills and builds relationships in the creative community." I can safely assure you that this is all true from first hand experience.

 Investing in my business and going to Craftcation helped me in so many ways, both professionally and personally.

Investing in my business and going to Craftcation helped me in so many ways, both professionally and personally.

The first thing I noticed about Craftcation was the honest to goodness camaraderie and encouragement to get to know each other. I felt absolutely no odd, professional roostering up or that panicked running around trying to usurp THE NEXT SPEAKER feeling I have at other conferences. I only felt excitement and eagerness to meet and connect. Everyone I interacted with felt to me, genuinely interested in what the other person did or was involved in, and how they could help in some way.

We were surrounded by wonderful, creative people all waiting to connect, share, and learn. It was an incredibly special experience. I've been to many conferences over the years, and I can say hands down that Craftcation is the best conference I've ever been to because it truly achieves the very tenets its built on.

 Things I brought home with me from #Craftcation15

Things I brought home with me from #Craftcation15

Boston has had one of the worst winters on record in history, we received over 9 feet of snow within a 2 month period that literally shut the city down a number of times. By the time I was ready to leave for LA last Wednesday, I literally thought I might cry because I was so tired of the cold and being alone here in Boston. Showing up to the color, the energy, and so many of my friends was a welcome respite from a brutal winter. The warm sun, the sound of the ocean and the seagulls, and the washi tape allllllll over the hotel made me feel alive.

There is something so special about meeting your online friends in person and getting to spend time with them. It's like nothing else I've ever experienced, and this was another aspect that made Craftcation truly special for me.

The very first workshop I attended was Shibori & Indigo Dying taught by Kaari Meng of French General, and there were many wonderful examples of online friendship in this 3 hour workshop for me. My friend Lisa Solomon and I walked over to MAKE Ventura where it was being held and walking there it felt like we had just seen each other yesterday, when in fact I hadn't seen her in almost 2 years. While standing 12 people deep over vats of gorgeous indigo dye, Sandi Sawa Hazelwood of Crafty Planner introduced herself to me and we immediately hit it off talking about podcasting. Meanwhile, 5 feet away stood Molly Meng of 8mm Ideas one of the very first friends I made online, 9 years ago -- this was the first time we met in person! It was like we were old friends, we immediately hugged and figured out when we could catch up. I could go on and on about these sorts of interactions but suffice to say that Craftcation was an incredible experience for me.

Beyond catching up with old friends and making new ones, I learned and reaffirmed many new things to apply to my business and personal life. I wanted to share the things that really hit home for me, so that maybe you too can apply them to your life or are encouraged to seek out the people I learned them from.

1. I get to make my own hours as a small business owner

I'm a night owl. I always have been. Now that I've been in business for myself for almost 3 years, I continually feel bad that I don't jump out of bed at 7 A.M. If I'm lucky I crawl out of bed at 9:30 A.M., and don't really get started until around 11 A.M. This quote from Kari Chapin helped me see that it is imperative that I define when I work best, and its important for my business. I've written it on a piece of paper and hung it above my desk, so I can stop the guilt. I started this business to do things my way. It's about time I give myself permission to do that.

"Step one in being a better boss to yourself is figuring out when you work best" -@karichapin nailing it at #craftcation15

— Rachel Mae Smith (@thecraftedlife) March 26, 2015

2. Being an "Ideas Person" doesn't mean anything unless you are making them happen.

The below quote from Amy Tan of Amy Tangerine was a definite light dawns on marblehead moment for me during the Diversifying Income Stream workshop. I can't tell you how many ideas I have come up with over the past 3 years for my business. I love to think of new and interesting ways to connect with people...but hearing this quote made me see that this might actually be a procrastination technique I'm not aware of. It's so easy to come up with many ideas, the real work is in making them happen. I made a promise to myself that this year I will focus on making my ideas a reality. To be fair, I have been really good about this over the past year -- ever since I really stopped my workaholism -- but I think I can be better at working to make more of my ideas tangible.

"It's not about how many ideas you have, it's about how many ideas you make happen." @amytangerine#craftcation15

— Meighan L. O'Toole (@meigs) March 28, 2015

3. As a small business owner, you belong to a community -- consider this when selling your services.

I have gotten a lot better about pricing my services in a way that I feel recognizes the amount of work I do. It's been a long, and at times painful (and exhausting) process. But I finally am at a place where I can tell people how much I charge with out dancing around the topic. These two quotes continue to remind me of that.

YES. "When you undersell yourself and your work, it hurts everyone." Diversifying your income. #craftcation15 — Meighan L. O'Toole (@meigs) March 28, 2015

Price communicates value. - @TaraSwiger#craftcation15

— Caitlin Bacher (@littlefarmmedia) March 26, 2015

4. Look it square in the eye.

Many people think running your own business is AMAZING, and for good reason. There are so many aspects to running your own business that are truly wonderful. But there are also a handful of things that are downright terrifying. So terrifying that they can end your business in one fell swoop. I'm talking about personal and business finances; taxes, credit reports, bills, budgets, et al. UGH. I took a really illuminating workshop with Lauren Venell about finances that helped me to start addressing many things I don't want to around finances. Two of them being cleaning up my credit report and saving for retirement. Money. What a mind f%&!k! Lauren was so fun and real, and shared openly and honestly about her own path to financial freedom that it was truly inspirational in helping me see the actions I have to take to make my business as successful as it can be. I'll share more about this in the future.

"Sometimes you get identitythefted. That's not a word. But shit happens." @lvenell on dealing with credit reports #craftcation15 — Meighan L. O'Toole (@meigs) March 27, 2015

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Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 8.07.17 PM

5. Freaks like me.

Out of everything I brought I home with me, I think being with my community was the most nurturing thing I walked away with. I'm an introvert, if you met me in person you may not believe this, but I am. I love spending time by myself, and I've found its very important to my productivity. BUT. I also like to take it to the next level (especially in the winter months) you know what I'm talking about here: isolation. This is detrimental to my energy and and my business on many levels.

Even though I'm an introvert, I get a lot of my inspiration and energy through interacting with others, and experiencing things. Craftcation was like a super, giant shot of this. For those of us who work online, and make things, it is so important that we push ourselves to be around our people and get out of our comfort zone. Being with your people is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your business. It doesn't need to be a conference (although these are wonderful, and kill many birds with one stone, and they're write offs!), but do make it a point to get to a meet up, a workshop, a stitch and bitch, or some other event where your people are gathering. If it isn't happening, maybe organize it yourself. Getting offline and connecting with people face to face should be a priority for you and your business.

"There's no other place in my life that I can walk up to any one of 400 people and say hi." @Craftcation#emotionalfrisson#craftcation15 — Meighan L. O'Toole (@meigs) March 29, 2015

6. Let your peers inspire you!

Delilah and Nicole made a decision this year to not have a keynote speaker. They did this for a number of reasons, but the main one was that they saw the community that grew at the tables during the opening dinner and they wanted to foster that. When Nicole got up and spoke about why they opted not to have a keynote, she shared that she really believed that everyone in the room that night was a keynote speaker to someone else. I absolutely loved that. It literally gave me goose bumps. I'm so inspired by countless women and men that are all around me. I want to remember that. Being part of a community has so many benefits and I think one of the biggest is being inspired to continue on our paths side by side.

Loved this so much. @Craftcation discusses why they opted for no keynote speaker this yr "We're all each other's keynotes." #craftcation15

— Meighan L. O'Toole (@meigs) March 27, 2015

I filled my journal with so many thoughts, walked away with numerous resources, and made a bunch of new friends, that I can't possibly share it all here. But I do have a few blog post ideas I hope to share with you, so stay tuned!

Can I ask you what you have done for yourself or your business that has totally given you a mental refresh? I'd love to hear what it was and how it affected you. Let me know below or on Twitter.

Meighan O'Toole

Always all in.