If you have been following me for the past couple months, it is no secret that I have been neck deep in planning the details of the 2016 Spring Fount Workshop. This was the second event hosted by The Fount Collective, a one of a kind workshop for photographers of motherhood.
The Fount Collective is an online submission blog and printed publication devoted to the art of being a mother. It is a vision I founded two years ago that I run alongside my own personal photography business. It had grown over the past couple years, and every season I see Fount become more and more confident in vision, mission, and heart. We have taken time to quietly grow our roots deeper, something I wish I had been more intentional about from the start, and now I feel as though we are finally beginning to step into what Fount was born to be all along. The workshop is one of the most fulfilling projects Fount takes on- and my personal biggest of the whole year!
As someone who personally photographs motherhood & family, I spent years seeing all of these beautiful workshops for photographers around the world- beautifully detailed and incredibly inspiring- but they were all focused on the wedding industry. I wanted to grow in my craft, and grow as an artist- but I couldn’t seem to find a workshop that offered what I was looking for. So alongside the most incredible creative team-Rylee Hitchner and Abany Bauer of Brown Linen Design– The Fount Workshop was born. It’s unlike anything out there, and I am beside myself to be a part of it!
We will soon be sharing an official workshop recap on The Fount Collective blog itself, but I wanted to share a more personal post here for you, as well as some of my favorite images I photographed from our styled shoots this year! (More of these coming to the blog this week and next!) This post is more of a personal, behind the scenes recap!
Let me share first of all, the biggest thing I have learned in putting on a workshop- is that it is a lot like what I imagine planning a wedding would be like. It is SO much work and not for the faint of heart. But at the exact time, it is one of the top fulfilling projects of my entire calendar year. Being our second run, there were many things that came easier in the planning this year. At the same time, we used a brand new venue, and I planned it from states away, having never stepped foot on the property, so we had brand new challenges in the mix!
We chose to host our workshop at Serenbe this year. I am not sure how to best describe Serenbe other than it is this magical, dreamy, luxurious, restful, BEAUTIFUL farm to table community nestled off the beaten path- about 40 minutes outside of Atlanta. It was reasonably close to the airport, and we had wonderfully warm weather. We were really pleased with the venue choice this year. It allowed for us to provide attendees with a feeling of intimacy & community, as well as the ability to provide a variety of both indoor and outdoor styled shoots. Each shoot was accompanied with a small time of instruction, as well as dedicated time for each shooting group to photograph images for their own portfolio and practice.
We had such an incredible group of attendees. We left last year’s workshop each saying that we could not even begin to imagine a better group in the future, and we left this year saying the exact same thing!
One of my favorite parts of this year’s workshop was hearing Shanna Skidmore teach! Shanna is a highly sought business strategist and financial coach, as well as the founder of the Blueprint Retreat! She shared about money mindsets and we were all each glued to her every word! We were so blessed and grateful to have her join us this year. I am a huge fan girl myself, so it was a dream for me to hear her teach in-person.
We also heard from Michael Howard of Musea Lab on why Prints Matter, and were so grateful for our additional sponsors including Signora e Mare, Blanche Prints, Sol Natural, Silk & Willow, and more! Sponsors helped us to make each attendee’s experience more detailed, and we don’t take a single one for granted! Molly Stilley did a fantastic job on hair and makeup for each of our models, and since she was also expecting, we included her in our styled maternity shoots!
When I set out to plan The Fount Workshop, I admit that I was incredibly overwhelmed with knowing where to start, or what should be most important in the planning process. Every year, as it should be, I walk away with a list of things to make even better, or add for the next endeavor. There are so many things that you can’t predict how they will work or how they will fit until they happen, so much like I do for my business’s as a whole at the end of the year, I take a good look and what did and didn’t work while my mind is fresh from the workshop. This year I was so grateful to have a longer list on the side of what worked really well! As attendees send us their feedback, it will allow me to put myself in their shoes more, and make future plans with their opinions in mind! If you are thinking of planning a workshop of some sort in the future, I put together my top lessons I have learned for you! (although this list could really go on for days!)
Here are the Top 5 Lessons I have Learned in Planning this Workshop:
- A trustworthy, creative team is everything. I absolutely could not have done this workshop yet again without my team. I quickly learned last year that I could not do it all myself, and still do it well. If I wanted to be present for our attendees, and refreshed in meaningful conversations, than I had to delegate many tasks to others. I had to look at my own weaknesses and ask myself, who on my team could do this better and be a much better fit for this role? Rylee and Abany are not only incredibly skilled in their own artistic crafts and bring SO much to this workshop creatively, but they are also my encouragers and my confidants. I can’t count the number of times that I would be having a really stressful day in the planning and I would in perfect timing receive an encouraging text or email from one of them that really gave me the confidence to keep going, and trust that this it all be worth the hard work. I was able to ask them honestly about areas I was unsure about, and have well rounded feedback. This year we were able to bring Abany’s husband and Coordinator Extraordinaire, Matt on board to run logistics and behind the scenes. The first year in running a workshop, I took so much on myself, that looking back, I wasn’t able to be PRESENT for our attendees. I wasn’t able to really focus and contribute my all, because I was worried about the schedule, or when catering would arrive, or if the next thing was ready. Now that I experienced what NOT having to be focused on all of that feels like, I will never go back!
- Accept feedback from the ones who matter most. Last year we made it a point to LISTEN to what our attendees were saying- both in how they were blown away, and where we could have maybe done better. Will every single person attending be 100% pleased 100% of the time? Probably not. But it’s my goal to make each and every year better and better. Last year our workshop was not an inclusive stay, as our venue was not structured for that, and we were trying to keep the costs down for registrations. But one of the BIGGEST differences I noticed between last year and this one- was that it felt more like a community. Because we worked hard to provide an inclusive stay this year (at one of the most beautiful venues EVER) and so evenings were filled with good conversations as new friendships were being built. It was such an amazing change, and I am so glad we listened to our past attendees to provide it! We have already made a point to be intentional in collecting feedback from this year’s workshop as well, while minds and experiences are fresh. We know the small things as a creative team we would definitely like to do better, or offer more or less of, but our ATTENDEES are the ones we want to hear from! We have already received such thoughtful and honest suggestions for how to make future endeavors even more successful. As a leader, it could be easy to waltz in and make everything the way that I want it myself, and be offended when an attendee makes a suggestion. I have learned that part of growing in leadership is being honest with yourself and with others about how you can improve, and I am trying to grow in that more and more.
- Grace upon Grace upon Grace. There will be things that you may have intentionally spent a lot of time planning for, and perhaps they just don’t happen like you thought they would for whatever reason. There may be deadlines that get pushed back, or a vendor that backs out, a model that doesn’t work out last minute, a miscommunication with a team member or your venue- the fact of the matter is- things happen. Your fault and not your fault. Each year I have concluded how I could have planned for something better next time around, but also recognized the things that were just plain out of my own, or anyone else’s control. This is where grace comes in. This is where taking a deep breath, pausing, and smiling anyway most definitely comes in. Expect that the unexpected will most likely happen at least once. Grace upon grace upon grace. For others, and for yourself.
- Set a Budget. And this includes setting aside an emergency fund! Not being a spreadsheet guru myself, a good friend created a budget spreadsheet for my workshop that quite literally holds the entire workshop together! This helped me to track attendee payments, and expenses for the workshop. Something I was sure to do this year after learning my lesson last time, was to set an emergency fund. Like I mentioned above, unexpected things happen! Like Amazon prime boxes not shipping on time, (grr!) or unexpected venue costs or you name it! And then on this same topic, be committed to sticking to your set budget as closely as you can. The attendee investment number isn’t changing once registration is full, so once you decide how much everything will cost, stick to it!
- Put your attendees first. Something that is really important to me is that our attendees feel as though they are the priority, and that this workshop is indeed actually for them. This meant that when it was their time to photograph, it was really their time to photograph. I did not want a workshop that made attendees leave feeling like they had to have a certain shooting style, or edit their images like we do. In fact, Rylee and I mentioned numerous times last week how amazing it is that we both have such different styles of photography and the way we each approach a shoot has a lot of differences- but that we are able to come together and teach this workshop- and often the same styled shoot! And this goes for how we run our business’ too! We wanted to be sure to share what was working for us, but not make it a set rule that everyone else needed to follow to be successful- because there are MANY ways to have a successful photography business! As artists we appreciate each other’s unique vision, and we want to create that same perspective for each attendee in a room full of other photographers.
If you would like to stay in the loop about future educational opportunities and workshop announcements for The Fount Collective, be sure to SUBSCRIBE TO THE MAILING LIST to be the first to hear! Stay tuned over at Fount for a full recap coming soon!