Is the Create Cultivate conference even worth it? Will I be able to attend this thing alone and not be miserable? These questions, plus about 100 others were floating through my head the day I bought my Create Cultivate NYC Conference ticket. I was planning on going alone and I was totally terrified. I don’t *really* have a business. Isn’t Create Cultivate for successful women? Women with 100K+ followers and 7 figure businesses? I am but a lowly writer… I thought.
Thankfully at the time I was reading You are a Badass at Making Money and was feeling particularly inspired to invest in myself. So I finally pressed “purchase” on a $350 GA ticket. I was doing it. I was investing myself. Hell. Yes.
Overall, I enjoyed the conference. I am glad I went, but there were a few hitches. Read along for my completely honest review of the 2019 Create Cultivate Conference in NYC.
Slow Down, What is Create Cultivate?
If you’re reading this like… wait what? Let me slow it down for a second. Create Cultivate is an online platform and conference for women interested in growing and *ahem* cultivating their careers. It was started by Jaclyn Johnson, author of Work Party— all about how she started CC and made a career that she truly loves.
The site and conference may seem like the skew toward business owners, but I met a lot of other writers and different kinds of creatives at the conference. Turns out– you don’t need to be building an LLC to get the benefits of CC! The conferences are your chance to meet and listen to amazing women who are leaders in their fields.
Ok, cool. Now tell me about the day. Like, how was arriving?
So now that you know what Create Cultivate is all about let me tell you about arriving. A couple week prior to the conference I received my badge, a cute pin, and my mentor cards. The mentor card showed me who I would be paired with for mentor power hour — a part of the conference where you get 2 30-min sessions with inspiring women in a smaller group setting. If you pay for a VIP ticket you get to pick your mentors, if you don’t, they just place you. I was happy being placed.
Arriving the day of was terrifying. I had attended the happy hour the night before and met some nice women, but I was arriving alone and spending most of the day alone. My anxiety was peaking so it took me awhile to leave the house. I arrived later than I would have liked, missing breakfast and heading in straight to the first session. I was worried. I had read in reviews (ha, the irony) that breakfast was where you could meet friends for the day. I heard from women throughout the day that breakfast was actually overwhelming and I didn’t miss much. WHEW!
After getting my badge scanned I walked into the conference with my little map.
Hello, I am Overwhelmed!
Women were darting every which way heading to their respective sessions (there are two tracks, with different content and speakers all day long. You can cross over, but I did not.) I was panicky. I wanted to look around and figure out where I was and what was happening but I quickly just sat down for the first session anyway. Heart beating and nerves shaking I made a point to sit next to someone also alone. She was super nice and I felt better having spoken to someone.
Arrival was overwhelming. I thought there might be team members from CC there to help escort or point me in the right direction but I was very much ALONE. Not the best first impression, but I survived. If you’re going alone, I’d recommend giving yourself some time before the first session to acclimate.
The day is long. About 12-13 hours depending on if you stay until the bitter end, which I did! Overall I attended 6 sessions out of 11. And I didn’t feel guilty about the ones I missed. I wish I could have done them all but honestly around lunch time I was feeling exhausted and just wanted to chill out and wander around a bit.
My favorite sessions were the “Pod Squad” and “Mentor Power Hour”. Pod Squad was a panel of podcasters discussing the genre, their own shows, and shared trips and tricks for fellow podcasters, like myself. It was fun, funny and I actually took notes that I am using in structuring my podcast with Frank.
The Mentor Power Hour was two 30 minute sessions with mentors. It is in a smaller group session of about 12-15 women and your mentor. My first mentor Tracy G— was incredible! I felt motivated and inspired after my time with her. We even spoke about my writing one-on-one and we’re currently e-mailing each other. Incredible!
And of course, Martha Stewart was one of the keynote speakers and I just about died. She was funny, brilliant, and honest about building a business and a life alongside it. I was excited to see her, but I was actually surprised by how eloquent she was. She really knew her crowd too.
What about those activities you mentioned?
It took me some time to get comfortable walking up to booths to figure them out. I stood in line for maybe longer than an hour to get my aura photographed. I know that sounds totally crazy but I was really set on it. And I can be incredibly stubborn. For the most part the booths were so-so. The aura photography was a part of LivingProof’s booth and the photo and the swag they handed out was well worth the wait.
I really enjoyed getting my hair done at the Moroccan Oil booth. In fact, the stylist who did my hair explained something to me and I’ve been doing my hair like that ever since! He was brilliant. I also ran into influencer Chinae Alexander at this booth. It was my second time meeting her and she is just a joy to chat with ALWAYS.
Hallmark had a cute booth where we filled out Mother’s Day cards and they mailed them for us. I went crazy and sent a ton to my friends who are mothers of pets. The cards were too cute not to.
There was a booth set-up to take your own music video style video. I couldn’t bring myself to do it alone. Listen, I can be brave, but that thing was just too much even for me! Women were sharing their videos after and they definitely look great, I just couldn’t get there mentally.
Overall, the booths are nice and can be fun (I also met other women standing in line this way) but they’re nothing so exciting that you need to miss important sessions.
Now, what did you eat?
Ok, this is where my review will dip. Pretty steeply. The food game is not strong. For hosting a conference in one of the greatest food cities in the world, the spread was lackluster. I missed breakfast so I can’t speak to that but lunch was one choice only. A vegan burger and chips. I’m a Celiac. So I waited in line for 30 minutes and requested a burger without a bun, only to be told they wouldn’t do that for me. I was so hangry I just walked away. Thankfully we were in Industry City so it was easy for me to grab something yummy. But, I spent a ton of money on this conference only to not be fed. Really disappointing.
Luckily later in the day when I was hungry again there was a vendor handing out granola and superfoods and I hit them up HARD. Even though you are there until 9pm they don’t include dinner. Maybe VIP food was better but to me, VIP didn’t look to be worth it. Unless you want to drink for 12 hours straight.
What were the other girls like?
One of the things Create Cultivate touts is the ability to network with likeminded women. They e-mail way before the conference to make sure you’ll have business cards made up. They suggest the happy hour to meet women the day before, and ensure you that you will mingle.
That wasn’t exactly the case. As I went alone, it was up to me to meet new women and introduce myself. And I did! I actually met a couple women who I spent more than 5 minutes speaking with and had a great time hanging out with. One woman took my number for later and never texted me, lol, but otherwise I did meet lovely people. It was was a long day though and I spent most of it alone. Which is ok!
But I will say this… it is not a networking event. No matter how much they say it is. Most women are there in large groups and they do not break from them. It seems most people attend the conference with their friends and whether they mean to or not, they’re not very open to networking. Trust me, I tried!
You said earlier you could drink for 12 hours straight?
Oh, yes. The alcohol situation. If you’re in VIP you can drink all day. If you’re in GA you can’t. It’s funny, I didn’t find this out until about 4pm. Since there wasn’t a lot of food and I wanted to pay attention, I didn’t want a drink until about 4. It was then I went to the bar and they declined me. But three steps away there was a Chandon booth so I just grabbed a bottle of bubbly to satiate myself.
Ketel One Botanticals was their big sponsor and oh my god do I love that stuff. I have been obsessed ever since I want to Block Island with my mom last year and tried it for the first time. Once I was allowed to drink, around 5, I enjoyed some Ketel One cocktails. Their booze game is pretty strong.
I would go again. While it wasn’t as full of sisterly love as I would have liked, I did learn valuable information and felt inspired to keep on this path I’ve started for myself. The small amount of women I did connect with were worth it too. I think next time I’d try to drag a friend along, the lines were long and it got exhausting not to take turns. Do you know how annoying it is to be in a long line and then have the 5 friends of the girl in front of you join her? I’d also pack snacks. And plan for the worst with food. Definitely BRING SNACKS.