Congregation of Inspiration

On Friday last week I attended the Congregation of Inspiration, a conference for small businesses organised by Holly & Co (https://holly.co/). Holly Tucker is the founder of Not On The High Street (https://www.notonthehighstreet.com/) and has since made it her mission to support, advise and inspire small business owners and entrepreneurs in the pursuit of their own dreams. The event took place in St Mary’s Church, Marylebone; a stunning venue.

The theme of the conference was about finding ‘your diamond’; that unique thing that you are passionate about and want to share with the world. There was an absolutely packed schedule starting with breakfast at 8:30am and finishing with happy hour drinks at 7pm. In between there was a whole host of speakers and panel discussions covering a range of topics from social media to using your business to create positive change. Some of my favourites included Sahar Hashemi OBE (founder of Coffee Republic) on turning your idea into a business, Fearne Cotton on ‘Happy Is The New Rich’, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones (founder of The Black Farmer) on the danger of playing it safe and Dave Buonaguidi (artist and author) on being distinctive. The content was great and I felt I learnt something, or was at least entertained, at the end of every session.

The whole conference was like one big Instagram photo opportunity. A lot of effort had been put in to the aesthetics of the venue with an amazing neon backdrop to the stage, balloons everywhere and plenty of pretty signage. There was also a marketplace with several small businesses selling a range of items such as eco glitter, etched glass trinkets and art prints amongst other things. Throughout the day there was also a choir performing various songs.

I only found about this event after the early bird rates had finished and I spent quite a while deciding whether or not to attend anyway so my ticket ended up costing £210 plus a booking fee. I felt that this was quite a high price, definitely the most expensive conference I have attended so far. I could certainly see where the money had been spent with the calibre of the speakers and the decoration, however I was disappointed that this price did not include food. It did include pastries at breakfast and coffee (which I don’t drink) in all the breaks, but the lunch options that were offered were in the form of food trucks outside the venue, which were in keeping with the event’s aesthetic, but meant an extra £5 on top; a cost which probably could have been absorbed into the ticket price. The options were limited and the mac’n’cheese I had was pretty bland. To be honest I wish I’d gone up the road to Pret!

The other thing I found disappointing about the event was the networking. Prior to the event I joined the Facebook group where lots of people said that they were attending alone and looked forward to meeting everyone, however during the networking opportunities throughout the day I found that most people seemed to already be in groups and it was difficult to engage people or break in to existing conversations. One of my hopes in attending the conference was that I would have an opportunity to meet like-minded people, but unfortunately this didn’t happen for me.

Despite this I still came away feeling inspired and fired up about my business ventures. The speakers were all obviously passionate about their businesses and you could feel their sense of purpose and drive to succeed.

The tickets are already on sale for next year at the early bird rate but I think I need a little longer to decide if I’ll be attending again…

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