Wow. I don’t even know where to begin with my trip to Waco, Texas for The Next Level Retreat hosted by Laylee Emadi. It was everything I could have ever dreamed of and more, and exceeded all of my expectations!! Heads up, this might be the longest blog ever and I’m not even sorry about it! I could not have asked for a better group of 12 people to spend a week with building relationships, resting, while brainstorming dreams and goals for each other. I feel so rejuvenated and inspired to push myself and those around me, to build my platform and community with like-minded creative entrepreneurs.
Monday evening we all started arriving at the real Fixer Upper’s The Barndominium house. Jaw on the floor. We were greeted with hugs, love and laughter. Some friends reuniting and some meeting for the first time after months/years of cheering each other on over social media. It’s the best feeling in the world to finally meet your Insta boss besties and getting to connect in person and spark real friendships!
While we spent a lot of the night just walking around the whole house in awe that we were staying where we were staying, we also spent majority of the night getting to know each other more. Hearing each other’s stories of where they’ve come from and grown through in our lives and business. A lot of heart to heart moments and legit *pinch me I must be dreaming* moments. Just spending that time starting to dive deeper into what each of us wanted to get out of the week.
Natalie Franke kicked off Tuesday morning (with all of us in our leggings/sweatpants and comfy sweaters) presenting on how to successfully build your platform and the power you can have by using it in the right way.
“Build something that is strong and sustainable and go a mile deep not a mile wide” – Natalie Franke
Honestly, if you’ve never heard Natalie speak you’re missing out. This was the first time I met her and was fortunate enough to not only learn from her and hear her speak about this industry and where it’s going, but spending time with her on a personal level and learning more about her soul and heart for four days. She really is someone special…even though she will tell you straight up she’s just like everyone else. Which she is but she’s so intelligent and a remarkable human being, you can’t help but feel motivated to do more after spending any amount of time with her.
Later that morning, another remarkable boss babe, SaRatta Murphy of SaRatta Speaks, came in to talk to us all about setting goals and breaking them down into real action items. Goals we can walk away from the retreat with and actually start implementing right away. Y’all I’m telling you, I got big things coming for you! As soon as you meet SaRatta, you’ll be blown away and empowered to conquer anything she makes you write down.
One of the many reasons why I signed up for this retreat, as just the icing on the cake, was the mini watercoloring class with Jessica Peddicord of Simply Jessica Marie. Watercoloring has always been one of my favorite past times, it’s such a beautiful and delicate art form that has interested me for several years. I’m not a patient person, so I’ve never mastered that art even though I love it so much.
After a morning of learning, goal setting and talking business strategies, it was the most relaxing afternoon to learn from Jessica. Now that I’ve learned from an incredibly talented artist, I think I’ll take the time and actually slow down to watercolor more often. It was even more awesome that we were able to connect differently than others because she was actually in a sorority in college with one of my childhood best friends. So that was really cool! Peep the selfie we sent her to make her jealous 🙂
Tuesday was a busy, but really really good day! Our sweet and loving host, Laylee, did a mastermind session that afternoon, where we talked most about how to work ON your business instead of working IN your business. What a profound statement right? I mean I never really thought in that way until she said that. If you think about it, we all get so caught up in doing the day to day tasks that some things just become habitual. We don’t often get the opportunity to step back and look at the big picture and make decisions on how and where we want our businesses to grow.
We ended the night with a relaxing yoga session (y’all my knees were hurting, I don’t do yoga). It helped slow my brain down and just absorb all of the information and conversations that we were all having. Then after dinner, we all connected on deeper levels (still in our comfy clothes). It was one of the best nights and heart to heart conversations that I think I’ve ever been a part of. There were several tears…okay maybe a lot.
Wednesday morning started with a FaceTime session with Hope Taylor! Due to the terrible weather in the Carolina’s, Hope was unable to come and be with us for the week so we had to make do. She’s such a bubbly person and I adore her. I had just spent some time with her in Nashville at her alumni retreat – check out this blog post if you don’t know what I’m talking about. She spoke about passive income and how vital it is for sustainable and scalable business.
Then we headed off to Magnolia Market to meet Chip and Jo. Just kidding on that last part – I wish we would be able to meet them!!! You know that feeling when you’re in a group of people and you all just totally get each other? In the way that you think, do and want the same things? It’s like that for photographers when you’re with a group of other photographers. “Can you take my picture here?” “I want a picture like this!” etcetera. We just get how each other’s minds work. So forgive me as I have a ton of pictures of myself in the most beautiful little city ever.
Once I spent all of my money, took pictures of all the things and ate the most delicious cookie ever we headed to Old Bethany. Which is a GORGEOUS white barn wedding venue in the middle of nowhere that was the perfect setting to learn from Sarah Erickson with Sarah Ann Designs. She talked to us from another wedding vendor’s perspective. To be honest I had never really learned from another wedding vendor that wasn’t a photographer. It was so refreshing to hear a different perspective on how we as photographers can serve another vendor on a wedding day.
Photographers are mostly focused on serving our clients well, which makes the most obvious sense…they hired us. But we often forget that we have a very important role for the wedding day and our talent can be served to so many more people that are involved and not just the bride and groom alone. Sarah is a designer and calligrapher who creates wedding stationery (spelled with an “e”…not stationary with an “a”).
One of my absolute favorite parts of the wedding day is in the very beginning when I get to photograph all of the bride’s details. The tiny details she so carefully envisioned and planned and photographing them all together in one place to bring the whole story together is the greatest feeling. It’s a time that I have control over and can get my creative juices flowing before the whole day gets started. So learning how to a designer loves they way her art work is showcased, was really interesting!
After dinner, we headed back to the house for more heart to heart moments and deep conversations. I think we laughed and cried the most this night. It was bitter sweet but so many great memories made. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this retreat and I can’t be more proud and grateful for Laylee and how she orchestrated and brought all of the right people together for The Next Level Retreat. We truly connected, rested, left inspired and ready to grow our businesses to the next level (pun intended).
Thursday was a really sad day. We had to say “see you later” to everybody and head back to our hometowns. Since my flight wasn’t leaving until later, I was able to spend some more time with my roommates, Quianna and Girl Brett, exploring more of Waco and of course brainstorming over lunch and the long car ride to the airport. Here are some cell phone pictures from the whole weekend!
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