Summer break for me means splashing at the pool with the kids, wasting time at the local library and anticipating the annual Haven Conference. If you're not familiar with Haven, I'd love to tell you all about it. Up until last year, I had never heard of it it either, but then someone on social media shared about this professional DIY & decorating blogger conference and I was intrigued. It sounded right up my alley, with one caveat: I wasn't a blogger. Yes, I DIY-ed all the things and have been obsessed with home decor since a young age, but I was hesitant to attend since I didn't have an "official" blog. I started one in 2014 alongside my handmade home decor biz, but with 3 kids 3 years old and under, I found it impossible to balance the shop and blog at the same time and since I was able to monetize my Etsy shop instantly, the blog got put on the back burner. Thankfully, I held on to the domain name ellisonmade.com in hopes that that I could do something with it when the girls got older.
For a little back story, our family hit some hard times in 2017 and 2018. I'll spare you all the details, but one of the hardest parts was my husband losing his job after he evacuated our family to safety during Hurricane Irma. The months that followed were full of fear of the unknown. So many of our friends gave him job leads and interviews, but nothing was able to come close to the compensation he was making at his old job (the man hadn't missed a day of work in 12 years, including all major holidays). So, we eventually had to sell our first home, we said goodbye to family and friends and we moved out of state for a new job. Even though I miss Florida like crazy, the quality of life we have together here in Georgia is SO much better. All that to say, when I first learned about Haven last year, I was in a dark place. I was mad, sad and honestly, depressed. I knew I just needed to get out of the house and I was craving connection, so I took a step out of my comfort zone and purchased a ticket to attend my first Haven conference, without really knowing anyone. Up until last year, I really didn't understand how people made any sort of income from a blog, I just wanted to share what I was doing in my own home, but if I could do that and maybe make a little money on the side or receive home decor products in exchange for showcasing them in my home, then I wanted to learn how to do that and Haven was just the ticket (pun intended). Remember how I held on to my domain name? Well, spoiler-alert, I have since launched my own shop website and blog - which you're reading now!
I am so glad I took that leap of faith because I formed new friendships, developed relationships with brands, gained invaluable insight into the world of blogging and overall, learned a ton. If you are on the fence about Haven, I highly recommend it. I know how it feels to attend solo, so I'd encourage you to utilize social media to make connections before the conference. My two favorite ways to do this are to join the Haven Facebook group (you will receive an invitation into it once you book your ticket) and to follow & engage with the Haven Instagram account. You can search the hashtags #HavenConf and #HavensHere. Last year, they put out daily prompts leading up to the conference which was a fun way to learn and connect with fellow attendees. Lastly, please know that I'd love to meet you and be that familiar face if you're anxious or overwhelmed at any point.
Enough gushing already, let's move on to what you should pack. Keep in mind that this is particular to Haven, but it can still come in handy for any conference by taking a look at the schedule of events. And if you want to know the specific type of classes that Haven offers, check out this year's schedule here.
WHAT TO PACK
Cocktail Outfit (1-2 Options)
Haven officially begins on Thursday afternoon. After you register and receive your lanyard and swag bag, there will be a Welcome Reception which is the opportunity to dress up a little more than normal, if you want to. Since my daily attire consists of leggings and overalls, I'm very much looking forward to dressing up. Last year I wore a flowy off-the shoulder light blue blouse, white skinny jeans and nude heels with some tassel earrings. Keep in mind since it's the middle of summer and the reception is likely outside again, it will be hot. This year I think I'll wear my blue & white striped sundress.
Business Casual Outfits (2-3 Options)
These outfits are what you will wear for all day Friday and Saturday. Your days will consist of attending classes, eating, mingling, hanging out in your mentor groups, as well as meeting brands and sponsors so make sure your outfit & shoes are comfortable, yet presentable. Dress to reflect your brand, which is an extension of you. Also, keep in mind that the classrooms can get a bit chilly so it's always nice to have a light sweater or cardigan on hand.
Breakfast and lunch are provided as part of the conference, but there is a break after the last afternoon class for you to eat dinner on your own accord. Then on Friday & Saturday, everyone will reconvene after dinner for a fun social event in the evening. Friday's event will be relaxed & casual - it involves snacks, a wine bar and several hands-on group activities. Then on Saturday, after all of the classes have ended, there will be a themed farewell dance party.
I'm adding this specifically for 2019. There was no themed event last year, but according to the schedule, there is an 80's/neon dance party and you can bet your bottom dollar I have my neon leggings, off-the-shoulder tee & chuck taylors ready to go. Last year, after the Friday-Night-In event, I may have requested for the DJ to put on The Wobble, Cupid Shuffle and other songs for an impromptu dance session, so needless to say I'm excited about an 'official' dance party as a part of the conference lineup.
Tourist-y Outfit (Optional)
This is for those of you who are coming into town early or staying late and want to explore all that Atlanta has to offer. It'll be hot here and you'll want to be comfortable walking all day so keep that in mind. The Haven Blog put together a list of things do to in the Atlanta area - you can check it out here!
If you're flying solo in your hotel room, feel free to go commando, but I'm going to say it's a "command-no" if you're sharing a space with a roomie, especially one you've never met before. So to reiterate, pajamas when sharing a room are not optional.
Bag or Purse
I prefer to bring a stylish tote bag or purse that's large enough to hold my notebook and folder, in addition to all of the other items I acquire.
Notebook, Pencils and Folder
You'll want to take all the notes so I suggest a paper notebook unless you like to do so on your phone or tablet. Personally, I prefer old school pencil & paper. I also bring a folder with pockets and/or a small zippered pouch to hold any class handouts, fellow blogger business cards, and other various promotional materials given out by brands/sponsors.
Cell Phone/Camera and Charger
You will probably use your cell phone more than any other thing on this trip. Whether it's to find brands on social, show new friends that DIY project you're working on or just documenting the entire experience, it'll be within reach most of the time so make sure to bring your charger, as well. (PS: if you have a fancy camera, bring it if you intend to take the photography class. I think it's helpful to have your own equipment when learning.)
Last year, I had my shop business cards, but I didn't have any blogging cards (obvi) so I quickly made printable info. cards to give out. These are invaluable since you'll meet so many new people and it can be difficult to remember everyone. Bonus: I even added a photo of myself so that when the conference was over and everyone was thumbing through their business cards, the photo would help put a face with a name.
Your Elevator Speech
This is just a clear, short “commercial” about you. I didn't have this prepared last year, but after meeting a few new people, I quickly developed one. Basically the who/what/where/why of your blog or occupation. My elevator speech this year will go something like, "Hi I'm Brittany and I run Ellison Made, a handmade shop and decorating blog. My family recently relocated to Georgia from Florida and I've been keeping busy decorating & updating our new house one room at a time."
The Haven sponsors load you up with lots of goodies to take home in the form of a Swag Bag. You'll want to make sure you leave enough room in your suitcase to bring this home. If you're flying, check out the best airline option when it comes to baggage and fees.
Mints or Chewing Gum
Because bad breath is never a good first impression.
Toiletries & Accessories
These are a given, but they're also very easy to forget, so make sure to pack your toiletries, makeup & jewelry/accessories. I use a zipper pouch for each.
Okay, you're not actually bringing this with you, but keep track of any receipts that you might be able to use for business write-offs, when applicable.
*I was totally in the moment and didn't take a lot of photos, but here are a few that I did capture from Haven 2018*
The outfit I wore to the cocktail reception. Yes, I got something on my white pants within 5 minutes of putting them on. Oy ve.
Our Haven Mentor group was hosted by the super kind and stylish Haneen of Haneen's Haven. She has the gift of using color and art in her home.
Taniya Nayak is a ball of sunshine. You may recognize her from the Food Network show, Restaurant Impossible, where she serves as the lead designer.
Erin of Cotton Stem and Holly of Our Faux Farmhouse did a class on how utilize Instagram stories.
The Shanty 2 Chic sisters were the closing keynote speakers and they shared their own journey to success. These ladies are incredible at their craft and they're the real deal sweethearts you'd imagine them to be, as is Stephanie from Farm Charm For You
That's it, folks. Remember that this event is for you. Glean as much as you can and enjoy it as much as possible. You're going to have a great time and I can't wait to see you there!