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I was 16 years old when I made the brave decision to start pursuing photography as my full-time career. I was 17 when I officially became a business owner and 18 when I made the biggest decision of my life thus far: forgoing a college experience to be a full-time small business owner. I am so grateful for the blessings in my life that have come from those decisions…but those two years were also some of the hardest seasons of life I’ve experienced. Business ownership is tough, especially when you’re 17, and there were times where I felt alone and unworthy and incapable. I know the battles and struggles and insecurities of this journey so, so well…and that’s why The Gathering was born.
Caroline and I were attending a leadership conference earlier this year when we were having a casual conversation over lunch. We were talking about the struggles of being a young business owner, because we both know them all too well (and we have a hard time finding other people that can relate!) We were talking about the lack of education for young entrepreneurs in the industry when Caroline said “well maybe one day you and I could host something together!” I paused and said “actually, I would LOVE that. We should make that happen! Let’s look at our calendars!” That casual comment about hosting an event together quickly began a planning process. And less than two weeks later, The Gathering was officially launched. And on Monday…it all came to life.
80 attendees from 18 (!!!) different states came together at Stevenson Ridge to passionately grow their businesses, bravely pursue their dreams and connect with other young entrepreneurs from around the country. The 5-hour event was more than I ever could have dreamed up. The attendees in the room lit up with excitement for their businesses and passion for the things that they wanted to pursue. There was SO much incredible potential in the room…it was honestly staggering! I am honestly still trying to process all of the incredible things that happened on Monday…and I’m still struggling to find the right words for it all.
As Caroline and I were getting ready before attendees arrived, I looked at her and said “I feel like I’m getting ready to attend a conference…my brain can’t grasp the fact that this event is OURS.” And my brain still hasn’t grasped that fact. A year ago, I could have never imagined that I would be standing in front of 80 young women that flew in from 18 different states just to learn from Caroline and I. What an HONOR. What an incredible blessing. I am so grateful for a God that gives me the opportunity and ability to share what I’ve learned through my journey with others. I will never be able to accurately express my gratitude.
When attendees arrived at The Gathering, they spent the first 30 minutes customizing their own swag bags with goodies from sponsors like Sweetie Jacks, Tonic Site Shop, Littlest Paperie, Twila & Co., The Creative Catalog, Creative at Heart and Honeybook! We all exchanged hugs as we welcomed everyone into the venue and took photos in front of the beautiful backdrop created by Ginger and Blooms. Then, we dove RIGHT into the content as Caroline and I shared our hearts behind some of the struggles and failures we’ve faced in business, as well as practical content that has propelled our businesses to success. We ended the night with a gigantic Chipotle buffet (!!!) and sad goodbyes. I wish I could re-live the event over and over and over again! Here’s what a few of the sweet attendees had to say about their experience:
“The Gathering was the best investment I have yet to make for my business. Being only 16 and owning your own photography business can make you feel like a bit of an outcast since it is so uncommon … But being in a room full of 80+ girls who are all going through the same thing I am made me feel not so alone. I left the Gathering feeling inspired, excited, but most of all READY to step out of my shell and not let my age define me or my business. Thank you Hope and Caroline for giving me the inspiration I needed most!!!” -Katie from K Grace Photography
“Hope and Caroline did such an outstanding job outlining so many dynamic aspects of the photography industry, and I think I can speak for all the girls there when I say we left with a renewed perspective on how we can advertise + manage our businesses to the best ability. When I left the gathering, I felt so inspired to go home and take a deeper look at how I could tweak and upgrade the way I run my photography business and how I can change it to better serve others. I am so excited for the future of my photography and I truly believe that Hope and Caroline launched something great that inspired us all!” -Kayleigh of Kayleigh Lockhart Photography
“When I saw the release of The Gathering Event just DAYS after I got home from Hopes Senior Photography Workshop, I knew I just had to go for no other reason than to hear that amazing girl speak again. The event spoke right to my heart and gave myself and I’m sure every other girl in that room the courage to keep pushing through the hard stuff and make this dream a reality! I have felt stuck, and have struggled through so many things pertaining to my little business and I feel so alone and other just do NOT get it or say “maybe you are too young to do this.” It IS possible, and the inspiration and encouragement Hope + Caroline poured into us is UNREAL! ” -Katie of Katie Hauburger Photography
These ladies were SPOILED!!! Cannot thank the incredible swag vendors enough for their contributions: Sweetie Jacks, Tonic Site Shop, Littlest Paperie, Twila & Co., The Creative Catalog, Creative at Heart and Honeybook!
So much joy and excitement!!! Take me back PLEASE!
One of my favorite parts of the event was surprising the attendees with SO many incredible giveaway opportunities! I cannot thank these companies enough: Showit, PASS, Shoot & Share, Agree, Honeybook, Tonic Site Shop, Creative at Heart Conference, Mile IQ, Align, CG Pro Prints, Creative Catalog!
I’m not sure if there’s EVER been so much potential and talent in one room. Just LOOK at these ladies!
These pictures just crack me up…HAHAHA!! Dance lessons, anyone?
My response when someone asks “Hope, do you ever get tired of eating Chickfila?”
To Kat of Dear Sweetheart Events: Thank you so much for all of your support and assistance throughout the event! We could not be more grateful for all of your knowledge and help with planning the event and keeping the timeline in order. We LOVE you!
To Natalie and Jess: Thank you so, so much for traveling into town, staying the night at my house 3 nights in a row, eating ridiculous amounts of ice cream and popcorn and always cheering me on. And thank you for capturing all of the beautiful images from the event!
To Drew, my mom and my dad: Thank you all for always helping me in any way that you can. Thank you for encouraging me to chase my dreams, dream bigger and never letting me settle. Thank you for encouraging me and being my biggest cheerleaders in life. I could not be more grateful for you.
To Caroline: Thank you for being such an inspiration to me from day one of my business! Thank you for having such an incredible heart and for making me a better person and business owner just by spending time with you. Thank you for hosting this event with me, believing in me and dealing with my random phone calls and text messages over the last 4 months of planning-haha!!!
If you would like to learn more about The Gathering and be the first to hear future announcements, join the mailing list HERE!
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