Hey friends! Kirsten here. Heather and I wrapped up our first Home Grown Bloggers event last weekend in Birmingham, AL, and it was AMAZING! We are so appreciative of our sponsors, our community, the attendees, our brand ambassadors, and our families for all being part of this event. We honestly could not have made it happen without all of you. (Couldn’t make it? No worries! Click HERE for the virtual ticket!)
We have gobs of gorgeous photos and memories to share, so Heather and I will taking turns sharing our thoughts on the event. If you were an attendee, we sincerely hope you had a fabulous time! There’s a space at the bottom of this post for you to link up your own recap post so we can read it. Let’s get to it! (And we apologize in advance for the over-sharing of photos. They’re just too good NOT to share!)
The first Home Grown Bloggers event took place on Saturday, September 24, 2016, at Morgan Creek Winery in Harpersville, AL, just outside of Birmingham. We had 24 registered attendees, including 2 brand ambassadors, as well as a few very special volunteers. The goal for this event was to bring a small group of bloggers together for networking, hands-on blog education, and relaxing fun!
Disclosures & Gratitude: Most photos in this post were taken by Joy Sowell of Joy Leigh Photography. Flowers for the event were crafted by Gold Leaf Floral. A huge thanks to Morgan Creek Winery for allowing us to use your venue, and for the tour & tasting. And a massive thanks to our sponsors, especially The Pantry & Eugene’s Chicken for providing food, Icebox Coffee & Southern Breeze Sweet Tea for keeping us hydrated, and Dreamhost & Star From Afar for your financial support. Click HERE to connect with all of them.
Four years ago, I had the first spark of an idea to host a blog event – one that would be much smaller and more intimate than a huge blog conference, allowing bloggers to actually talk “blog” and get to know one another. I wanted something like what goes on in the hotel rooms after blog conferences. If you’ve been to one, you know exactly what I mean.
Fast forward four years, and I’m now on the back end of Home Grown Bloggers. The past six months have been an absolute whirlwind of activity for Heather and I, and I’m so grateful to have been able to do this with her. She’s so talented, spunky, and has an incredible work ethic. This event would not have happened had I tried to do it alone.
I’d by lying if I told you that all of the planning and preparation was fun. It was serious work, y’all. We had no idea how much went into planning a “small” event – working with sponsors, selling tickets, finding the right venue, figuring out food, determining pricing, lots and lots and lots of brainstorming and virtual meetings and late night text conversations….
But somehow, we made it happen, and it was glorious! The day before the big event, my mom (who was amazing and super helpful and wonderful) and I met up with Heather and her intern Megan (who was also amazing and helpful and wonderful) to get set up for the big day.
We packed swag bags (Oh the swag!), set up tables & chairs, sprinkled confetti, walked through the agenda for the day, set up the registration table, did a couple of Snap and Instagram Stories, and a Facebook Live for good measure…then crashed for the night in anticipation of a fabulous day ahead.
Mom and I were up bright and early Saturday morning. And Heather, who is not an early bird, actually beat me to the winery! The Pantry was already there setting up breakfast for our attendees – warm oats, fresh fruit salad, homemade biscuits, and orange juice! Icebox Coffee set up their Nitro Brew station, too.
From the time the first group of attendees began to arrive until we left the winery to go to dinner is all a blur to me, but a really fun, really pretty blur! In an effort to be brief, here are my highlights of the day:
- The food was fantastic. The Pantry’s breakfast and Eugene’s Chicken lunch were seriously amazing.
- Southern Breeze Sweet Tea is really good, despite being sugar-free. I’m a sweet tea snob, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how good this stuff is!
- Confetti. Lots of confetti. We took a group photo throwing confetti in the air, which was gifted to us from The Confetti Bar. It was in our hair, down our shirts, on the floor….a beautiful mess!
- Heather rocked her social media strategy session and had lots of great questions from our attendees.
- I was really happy when Joy from Joy Leigh Photography showed up mid-morning to take over photography duties. She did an amazing job! I love looking through the photos from the day!
- I had a lot of blank stares during my email marketing strategy session, even though I tried to make it as basic as possible. I nerd out on email, but a lot of our attendees are brand new bloggers so I think it was a bit over their heads. (Sorry y’all!)
- We had an amazing Q&A session! We talked a lot about blog sponsorship, Pinterest, and all kinds of other awesome stuff.
- Beth and Stephanie led really awesome focus sessions. Beth showed us how to use Lightroom, and I finally added it to my computer when I got home. Stephanie showed attendees how to create flat lays for Instagram, encouraging them to pull things out of their swag bags to photograph. So fun!
- We drank wine. Morgan Creek gave us a tour & tasting, and I brought home 4 bottles.
- By the time we got to Jim N Nick’s for dinner, I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even eat. I don’t remember much from dinner, honestly. All I could think about by that point was going to sleep.
Our Birmingham event far exceeded my expectations. It was more fun than I’ve had a blog event ever, honestly. The connections that were made make me happy, and it was really cool to finally see a four-year-long dream come to life.
When I think back on what Kirsten and I created in 6 short months, I am incredibly humbled, grateful and ecstatic over Home Grown Bloggers. I have loved planning events since I was in college and for a short stint thought that I would love to be an event planner. Working in marketing, social media, and blogging networks, my passion is connecting to people and specifically bloggers. God has gifted me with a love for people and to get to see how he brought Kirsten and I together and orchestrated everything so perfectly totally took me by surprise.
Kirsten is the logistics queen, y’all. She has spreadsheets for her spreadsheets, runs off of Google Drive almost as much as sweet tea and literally made it happen. If it weren’t for her tech know-how, email strategy, organization, graphics wizardry, and incredible work ethic, I don’t know how we would have gotten it all done. It was MANY hours of work, SO much planning and of course, learning the lesson of being flexible and having a good attitude will pretty much make ANYTHING okay.
My main takeaway is just how grateful I am that you all entrusted us with your brand, and with your blogs. The fact that so many of our fabulous sponsors and attendees believed in us and wanted to be there blows us away. I totally ditto everything Kirsten has already said and am so glad that we got to have this intimate event to connect with each other as bloggers and grow. Blogging can be lonely sometimes, especially in a city where there aren’t many bloggers-only events. Atlanta, Nashville, and other larger cities have large blogging conferences all the time so it was truly a treat to get to bring Home Grown to my home town, Birmingham. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting Kirsten and I dream. We can’t wait to see what the future holds with each of you! Please stay in touch and make sure you share your recap posts below! xoxo
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