Yesterday marked the end of 2016 Southern C Summit. This year was our second year in attendance, and it was such an interesting time to reflect on all of the changes that have occurred in the year since our first summit.
Last year's summit was the first conference I attended as a business owner, and it was really the first networking opportunity that I had to begin spreading the word about Sea+Stone. I remember being somewhat daunted walking into the event with such dynamic, successful (and impeccably styled) women. I had just moved to Charleston from NYC less than a month before the Summit, and had set up a little studio but had yet to get production rolling. My small batch of inventory that comprised "Sea+Stone Jewelry" at the time had literally been made on my bed in my small East Village apartment. As I handed out business cards, I did my best not to reveal how much I felt like I was totally batting out of my league. My mantra for last year was truly "fake it 'til you make it". I met so many amazing, successful women who for the next year served as cheerleaders. It was after last year's Summit that I began to understand the concept of having "a tribe". Despite the geographical distance between me and my newly acquired connections, we had each other's back on social media and helped to build one another up over the next year. I was so happy to see all the success that happened for them- many going on to win G&G Made in the South awards!
I took all of the information and inspiration from the Summit and really hit the ground running with it. The past year has been the busiest of my life. It takes a lot of hustle and grind to start a business! But I saw so much growth in the year. I went from 1 stockist to having 18. All of my social media platforms grew from a small following of friends & family to a much larger, engaged audience of customers, stores, and followers. And I finally had to assemble a team to keep the business running!
I hoping this next year will see even bigger growth, and I took a lot from the 2016 Summit that should help me get there!
Mandy Rye of Waiting on Martha shed some great light on social media and on how to convert followers to customers. The importance of social media can't be overstated today. As a jeweler, the 4 C's (Cut, Color, Clarity, & Carat) are rather ingrained in me. I can pretty much recite them like the Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord's Prayer. Mandy's mantra for social media was referred to as the 3 C's, so the parallel to jewelry lingo really spoke to me. The Social Media 3 C's are "Constant Conversation equals Conversion". Which is SO true, and I'm glad I have a team to help me manage the constant conversation now!
My favorite session at the Summit was about the importance of video by Libbie Summers. I'm pretty proud of my stills. I spend a lot of time on my Instagram, and I think I do a pretty good job with my iPhone images. But her session really showed me how much more compelling videos can be at telling a story. And that's really what a brand should do- it should tell a story! She showed me how simple and manageable (even for an amateur like myself) it can be to produce a video that will intrigue and engage your audience. My favorite thing that she said was that you should "tell your story, not sell your story". There is little that I hate more than a pushy sales person. I'm totally turned off by a hard/obvious sales pitch and by blatant sponsored product plugs by a blogger account I follow. This probably stems from being the daughter of a car dealer who is truly the antithesis of the car salesperson stereotype. I think I've adopted that philosophy for my jewelry- I'm never one to push it on somebody. I rely on its story & quality and on my brand integrity for the product to sell itself. And after hearing Libbie speak, I'm totally inspired to start using video to tell the story of my jewelry and my brand!
Now about some of the fellow Summit attendees:
I finally got to meet Kendell and Dana of Deep South Details in real life! These awesome ladies have an Alabama-based podcast about all things Southern! Check them out- they're on iTunes. Not too long ago, I had the pleasure and surprise of listening along & discovering that they were talking about Sea+Stone Jewelry on DSD! I LOVE podcasts. I listen to podcasts like most people watch Game of Thrones. New episodes of my favorite podcasts are the absolute highlight of my week. I don't know what I would do without them to get me through long hours in the studio. So being featured on one was seriously a dream come true. These ladies are just as awesome, funny, and down-to-earth in real life as they seem on DSD.
I also got to see Nan Myers while at the Summit. She is the owner of one of my all time favorite stores, Firefly, in Thomasville, GA. Earlier this year, she entrusted me with some beautiful arrowheads from the Red Hills region to create some custom jewelry with. I was able to give her the finished product while at the Summit, and am thrilled that the jewelry will be available at her store this week! In other happy news- I will be heading down to Thomasville for a Mother's Day trunk show at Firefly next weekend! If you're in the Thomasville/Tallahassee region, please come see us on Saturday, May 7th!!
Another thrilling moment at the Summit was seeing the first copy of Saints of Old Florida. Melissa Farrell owns Joseph's Cottage- another lifestyle store that I love, located in Port St. Joe, FL. She teamed up with Emily Raffield and Christina McDermott to tell the story of Old Florida in this beautiful book. I felt SO privileged to have a sneak peak at the first copy (will be available in June!). Charleston may be home for me now, but The Forgotten Coast is truly my favorite place on Earth and always will be. I grew up spending Summers and weekends at a family cottage on St. Teresa Beach- and so many of my favorite memories are set there beneath the pines and crooked oaks. Saints of Old Florida is so special. Those of us who know the Forgotten Coast understand its magic. This book so authentically celebrates, captures, and preserves the magic in a way that we can share and cherish. I can't wait to get mine in June!
Check them out here: http://www.saintsofoldflorida.com/
If you are a Southern creative, maker, business owner, or blogger, I definitely want to encourage you to check out The Southern Coterie and to consider attending a Summit in 2017! Being a part of this community has been such a tremendous help to my business and has given me inspiration, information, and wonderful friends.
Check them out here: http://www.thesouthernc.com/