Creative at Heart Conference | Denver, Colorado

I fiddled with my purse the whole ride to the hotel. I tried to carry on normal conversation with my husband as he drove me to the Warwick, Denver, but he knows me too well - my nervousness was clear to him. When he dropped me off at the entrance, words of encouragement sweetly said, I thought I might throw up. I had such an eager heart, but such a nervous stomach. As quickly as possible, I found my friend in the lobby. The buddy system works well you guys - and had it not been for sweet Lacey, I likely wouldn't have been there. For an introvert like me, situations like these can make ya feel pretty shaky!

Lacey and I made our way upstairs to the second floor, and as soon as we walked through those double doors - everything changed. Instantly, two beautiful ladies from the Creative at Heart team greeted us with huge smiles and words of welcome - they seemed SO happy to have us! We were given our pretty little name tags and encouraged to grab some breakfast and find a seat. 

When we walked into the big conference room, right away - timid but friendly smiles came our way. We were with our tribe you guys. So many like-minded wonderful new friends, some just as nervous as myself, and all with open hearts!

Cute bags filled with lots of goodies, just for us, were at every seat. Lacey and I sat down, and before we knew it, it all started. 


Behind the scenes photos by: Alicia Lacey Photography + Bulloss Photography


Creative at Heart is an event I watched from afar for a while, thinking I'd probably never attend, but curiously wondering if I should. And also questioning if I ever did, would it truly be worth it? I tend to be a tangible-item spender when it comes to my business. Money I put back in has always gone towards pieces of gear, client gifts, physical stuff for my office, etc - I hadn't until this point spent money on something like a conference... 

What is this Creative at Heart conference you might ask? For those that aren't sure - C@H is a conference designed for any and all creative entrepreneurs - not just wedding photographers like myself. C@H pushes for building community, real friendship, and support. Combine that with their amazing ways of teaching practical and inspirational education to everyone, to help us take on the world, and be all we want to be as business owners. 

After having spent two days surrounded by some of the absolute best in the business and learning a plethora of take-away information, I can now look at this situation and say it was absolutely worth going to. You guys! ... I don't know if I can even put it all into words?? But I'll certainly try!

Day one started with a crazy awesome welcome message from Kat Schmoyer, founder of this amazing event, plus owner of Dear Sweetheart Events. We then spent the rest of the morning learning from the likes of amazing people such as - Shay CochraneBonnie Bakhtiari, and Reina Pomeroy. Honestly, I knew none of those three incredible women until that morning. But now? All I can say is WHERE HAVE THEY BEEN ALL MY LIFE. Shay is a genius, and I loved her speech! Bonnie blew me away, - her talk about the client experience hit home, and had me writing notes as quickly as possible. I love her for that. Reina? Oh Reina. She's the person you want to be when you grow up. 


Behind the scenes photos by: Alicia Lacey Photography + Bulloss Photography

After those four stole the morning and inspired the heck out of us all, it was time for lunch as one big giant family. Though first, I definitely have to share a highlight/funny story! For those fellow photographers out there, you probably know and understand the gravity of what it would mean to meet Katelyn James. I mean, am I right? She's my favorite photographer on the face of the planet. I was so excited to meet this amazing woman as she has hands down been the sole photographer/business woman/person I've looked up to the most since even back before beginning my own business. She comes across online as being so genuine and kind, and I had been so pumped to meet her in person. I was also terrified that I'd morph into a total fan girl. 

I spent the morning of day one knowing she was in the room, but not having had the chance to speak with her yet. But then, shortly after we all broke for lunch, I ran into her. In the restroom, no less. And while Katelyn might kill for me saying oh yeah, I met her in the restroom for the first time! This is real life y'all! And in that 5-min window, by the restroom sink, I saw that she's exactly what she represents online. With kind words, a warm personality, laughter and hugs - I felt like a little dream of mine had just come true!

After lunch we started what we would do both days, which was to break out into smaller, panel groups - and my group was awesome! I lucked out and ended up on Katelyn's panel, which she led along with some other amazing people. I'm seriously only listing the names of those who stood and spoke in front of us - you have no idea the huge laundry list of other amazing people who were there simply to help in the smaller groups! The list goes on and on you guys! SO many inspirational people!! These groups were much more intimate and you could ask anything you wanted. It was wonderful! Here we are, panel group #2!! ;)


The afternoon of day one started off with talks from - Michael Alsop, Heather Crabtree, Ashlee Proffitt, and lastly, the incredible duo, Amy & Jordan Demos. Michael, - the man is a genius and taught us so much about finances!! Heather? I knew her prior, but after hearing her talk, I'm officially obsessed with her. Ashlee is a rockstar and knows sooo much about social media! And good ol' Amy and Jordan? Yeah. I already knew I loved those guys, but their talk had me in tears. Go figure. 


Behind the scenes photos by: Alicia Lacey Photography + Bulloss Photography

Is your head spinning yet? If that total list of names from just day one gives you any indication over the WEALTH of knowledge we all gained in only 8 hours, then I'm so glad you realize the weight of the situation! In that complete group alone, you have amazing photographers, branders, stylists, designers, business coaches, and business mentors. And every single one of them stood in front of us and poured their hearts out in the best possible way. Teaching us things that took them years to learn, things that will do nothing but help catapult us all to where we want to be in our business and in our lives as a creative entrepreneur! At the end of day one, I was so overwhelmed, but in the very best way. I had learned so much, been so inspired, felt a fire lit beneath me to GET AFTER things like never before.

With all those emotions, I should have known better than to try and talk to Katelyn again...given my state of mind...but....I saw an opportunity, and I took it. I desperately wanted to tell her how much I adore her, how much she's impacted me and my business - and I think that's about as far as I got...Before I could even start describing the why's and how's behind those words, I was bawling. So there I was, trying so hard to eloquently talk to a woman I have so much respect for, and all I could do was ugly cry instead. LIFE. Go figure that once again, Katelyn's true colors came through and all she did was hug me while I basically soaked her shoulder. Pretty mortifying, for sure, but I love her for how she handled it! 

That evening - myself, Lacey, and a group of four new awesome friends got dinner together and opened our hearts to one another, bonding over good Mexican food, and the common thread we all share.

That night was the infamous C@H Pajama Party, and I had an absolute blast! All of us as new friends, bonding over hot chocolate, cupcakes, photo booth pictures, more free goodies, and so much giggling. 

I was lucky enough to get more time to talk with Katelyn when she so sweetly came over to join my table - and HEY I didn't cry this time! We took a pic together - which I was thrilled over, but later realized my first opportunity for a picture with KJ was a time when we were in our pajamas. I mean my shirt said "NAMA-STAY IN BED" for crying out loud. But hey, once again, this is real life! And I made up for it with another photo opp the next day! :) 


My hubby picked me up after 11pm that night and through my utter exhaustion, I couldn't stop smiling - or getting choked up trying to tell him how it all went. Day one had already changed my life in so many ways, and I knew day two would be much of the same! 


For day two - We once again were welcomed in with happy smiles, hugs, breakfast and more goodie bags of awesome swag! By day two you could tell, so many of us had made great friends with one another - everyone was so much more talkative! 

Natalie Franke started off the day with her unbelievable advice. I've followed Natalie for a while, and I think she's amazing - but after her talk?? Oh my goodness! Some of my biggest take-away's came from this incredible lady! Up next, Krista and Davey Jones covered the entire gamut of Google analytics, and yowza...the amount of notes I wrote on that! 


Behind the scenes photos by: Alicia Lacey Photography + Bulloss Photography

After our break-out panel groups, and lunch - it was time to have our headshots updated! And I am soooo unbelievably happy with mine, as well as who took them for me! I loveeee Abby Grace!!


After our fun headshot time, the afternoon talks were about to get underway when something magical happened....Let me explain! Back before, early into day one, Kat had announced and showed off two baskets of goodies for two lucky winners. One basket housed a bunch of C@H loot. The other they dubbed as "the bosslady starter kit". So, in the afternoon of day two, Kat got up to announce the winners of those and there I sat in my seat, shoveling white cheddar popcorn into my face, thinking there's just no way, I had no chance. I never win anything. 

Kat announced the winner of the C@H goodie basket and handed it out and then picked up that bosslady starter kit... Her words began with:
- "And now for the winner of our bosslady starter kit.. This goes to the bosslady of Elizabeth..."
ME: *shoveling in popcorn thinking there's no way the next word will be Ladean*
- Kat ".... Ladean Photography!"
No joke you guys, this entire moment was like something out of a movie scene, and sidebar! I loveeee moments in life that feel so poetically like a movie scene!! As I hugged Kat and accepted this incredible gift, a new friend in the row next to us shouted "AND TOMORROW'S HER BIRTHDAY YOU GUYS!" and the moment simply amplified. It's a miracle I didn't cry. I wholeheartedly believe that in that moment, God knew I needed that. Everything about it felt way too perfect to be true, and there's only one way to explain such perfect moments. Winning something so big and helpful for this little business of mine was like a CONFIRMATION. This is where I'm supposed to be. This is what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm in the right spot. This is it. 


Behind the scenes photos by: Alicia Lacey Photography + Bulloss Photography


The afternoon talks started off with Abby Grace, and also started with the first time I cried that day... haha, "that day". Sigh. Thanks Abby! ;) She's just amazing. What else can I even say? Graham and Ashley Scobey took it away after her, and did an incredible job. I hadn't known those guys prior, but now I'm so glad I do! 


Behind the scenes photos by: Alicia Lacey Photography + Bulloss Photography

Then, then you guys... It was Katelyn's turn. I knew before she even got up there I was going to cry again - Luckily by then, I had made a sweet new photographer friend named Bethanne who GUESS WHAT.. cries as easily as I do! We were in this together. And neither of us survived. Katelyn is just so inspirational, so encouraging. She teaches with her entire heart wide open. There's no other way to describe it. And like I knew she would, she taught me,...all of us, so so much. My notebook and my heart were so full!

Behind the scenes photos by: Alicia Lacey Photography + Bulloss Photography

After Katelyn, precious Kat finished out the day with the final gut-wrenching talk that left few in the room with a dry face. And then, just like that, it was over. 

Behind the scenes photos by: Alicia Lacey Photography + Bulloss Photography

The final thing on our itinerary had been "Bittersweet goodbyes", and that couldn't have been more accurate. I made my way around to thank some of those marvelous speakers, to give and get some final hugs, to take a few more pics, to say bye to new friends, and to finally make peace with knowing it was all over.

I seriously walked into this whole situation so nervous, yet so hopeful, and I've come out on the other side completely incapable of saying enough good things about it all. Creative at Heart was beyond "worth it" - it changed so much for me, it changed ME, and it added a huge new list of wonderful people to my life!


Behind the scenes/Group Photo by: Alicia Lacey Photography

For any creative out there, questioning should I go, should I attend - YES. Don't question it. Just go man, just go. 

Because I love lists, (I mean, who doesn't.) I want to jot down a few take-away's to kind of recap everything! - 

1. GO. :)
2. If deep-down you're an introvert like myself, try to go with a buddy! 
3. You just might get to cry in the arms of Katelyn James. 
4. Your business and outlook of everything will be morphed into something so much bigger than you dreamed.
5. You might win a basket of gifts that will rock your world!