Rising Tide Society Leaders Retreat | Charleston, SC

Early last Saturday morning, Laura Barnes, the leader of the Atlanta, GA Rising Tide Society TuesdaysTogether group showed up at my house (with succulents in a RTS mug and pup treats for Sophie!) for us to hop on the road to Charleston, SC for the RTS Leaders Retreat. I had been anticipating this since it was first announced and was so excited it was finally here!!

As creative entrepreneurs it's easy to get stuck behind the computer screen and feel isolated from those around us. It's easy to feel "not enough" and to settle for checking items off the to-do list over building genuine connections and friendships with others. In true #communityovercompetition fashion, we spent the weekend investing in the growth of our local communities, uplifting each other, connecting in the most unique of ways, and dreaming big for the future of RTS. 85 leaders from all over the nation learned and laughed and cried and dined in Charleston, and it was pretty epic.

Old friendships were bolstered, and new friendships were formed. And suddenly, the anxieties and self-doubt seemed to fade away somewhere between exploring the streets of Charleston and churro mustaches (yes, you'll need to make it all the way to the end for that one!). I was so expectant for this weekend, but left with so much more than I bargained for and an impact that will last beyond the weekend and into daily life. I seriously can not wait to implement so many things I learned to our Augusta, GA TuesdaysTogether group, my business and life in general!

Here are some of my favorite images from exploring Charleston on our first day in town (seriously, how cute are Wynona Benson & her hub, Joshua, and Laura Barnes in their portraits?!), our Speakeasy party, and more, plus some of my top takeaways from the fabulously talented speakers.

As you can see, Charleston is a beautiful place, and the beauty of the place was only topped by the beauty of the people involved! I have pages and pages of notes from some seriously rockin' speakers that I can't wait to pour over in the upcoming year and apply every day. It was hard to narrow down, and there was some good wisdom shared, so here were some of my major takeaways:

  • God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called. Amy & Jordan Demos (who are even more wonderful in person than they are online if you can imagine that being possible!!) shared about the obstacles and opportunities we face as leaders. In so many moments we may feel as though we are ill-prepared to lead our groups (ahem... March's topic is on taxes, and Lord knows I have hired an accountant for a reason!), but ultimately leading well means showing up and being willing to love and serve. Ultimately, that alone makes us equipped. If we can do that, we are enough!
  • Life is a party! Listening to Shaunae Teske speak on ways to make RTS meet-ups interesting was such a reminder that in everything we do, life is a party! Mimosas with morning meetings, unique locations, a welcoming environment with entertaining ice breakers - all of these things can add to the experience and encourage people to continue coming back! Plus, what a way to lead not only your meet-ups, but your everyday lives!
  • Consistency is key. Kat Schmoyer, the wonderful & joyful boss lady behind Dear Sweetheart Events and Creative at Heart Conference, shared about the importance of consistency and reminded us that when people know what to expect and we follow through on those expectations, a level of trust is built. Her stories of dedication, digging deep and really finding how to serve her specific community well were such an inspiration. In the end: it's quality, not quantity.
  • Be a river, not a flood. One of the most impactful quotes of the weekend to me was Annamarie Akins' challenge to be a river, not a flood. Anna has a heart of gold and instantly makes you feel comfortable being "you." She explained that a river flows deeply in one direction, giving life to those around it; whereas a flood covers shallow & wide, leaving destruction in its path. I've been pondering how I can grow in "river" qualities: deep, intentional, life-giving.
  • Invite others into the experience. Ok, there was a magician (!!!). Jeff Kaylor was one person not many people in the room had heard of before, but I guarantee you, those 85 leaders will be sharing his stories to anyone who will listen. I literally was at the edge of my seat with a child-like grin on my face his entire talk. One thing that really struck me was the idea of inviting others to be a part of something bigger and creating magical moments in the every day. Through his tricks, comedy and warm personality, he aims to break people's patterns & habits to give them a moment of "wow" or "oh my gosh!"- and then later invites them into his tribe to do the same for others. While I'm certainly no magician (but really can I be now??), it was so powerful to think about how we can do this in our businesses, homes and life. Also, now it is basically my goal to visit the Magic Estate in Orlando where he and several other magicians, entertainers and talent live and find unique ways to make people's lives a bit more... magical!
  • Make what matters to the people who matter, matter to you. I absolutely loved Laura Nestler's insight into community building & the power of the experience. She challenged us to remember that ultimately, while I am a photographer, my business is people. In referencing a book by Harley Manning, Outside In, she shared how: "Customer experience is a fundamental business driver. It's your only source of sustainable competitive advantage." In the end, communities build & loyalty grows when provide a superior experience. We can be complacent with the norm, or we can take the extra step to create something of great value for our communities!

And finally:

  • Just say "yes" - even if it's scary. When Krista asked if I'd be willing to speak at the retreat, I immediately was hugely honored, but wasn't 100% confident that what I had to offer would be valuable. Plus, my only other official opportunity to speak was quite a smaller crowd than this one! First thing Sunday morning, I shared about "Community Investment through Intentional Storytelling" and dug back into my public relations days at See.Spark.Go to talk about how public relations, social connections and one-on-one investment can make an impact locally. In the end, I was reminded that skill sets from previous jobs absolutely impact creative endeavors, and also realized that no matter how scary it is to say "yes" to something outside your comfort zone, so much good can come from it! In our family, we call them "God winks" or "nudges" - a gentle reminder that when others call out unique skills in your life or encourage you to pursue something... there just might be something there worth pursuing. I'm so grateful for Krista, Natalie, Davey & Huey inviting me to share, and crazy humbled to have had the chance.

And more than anything, I'm constantly blown away at how their "yes" to a simple idea that began around the table over wine has turned into a movement impacting the creative landscape in the name of community over competition! I'm forever grateful & honored to be a part of this community! Thank you for all you do, RTS founders, and for making this retreat possible! It brought relationships and wisdom far beyond what I could have hoped for!

And now for a few extra Insta-snaps because sometimes too much fun was being had to pull out the real camera! I'm a firm believer in "The best camera is the one you have with you," and sometimes that means iPhone pictures win over no pictures at all!

iPhone images pictured top left to bottom right: 

  1. The most amazing lunch at Minero Charleston with a group of ladies who in just a short couple days became fast friends. Also: my sandwich had cactus in it! How cool is that?
  2. Natalie Franke & Krista Jones, the fabulously talented and genuine souls who dreamed of the Rising Tide Society around the table with their husbands less than a year ago - what once was just a simple idea is now a movement of people in 270 cities and counting impacting the creative landscape in amazing ways! So inspired and encouraged by these two and grateful for their leadership and friendship!
  3. Hey, that's me! I was half excited, half full of butterflies as I prepared to kick off the speaker lineup for the weekend. Jazz hands/spirit fingers seemed the appropriate response.
  4. Just another amazing window box. I love them all so much!
  5. Our scavenger hunt group and Honest Abe. Apparently I thought he was a bit creepy!
  6. One of the kindest hearts I met this weekend, Austyn Elizabeth, who willingly made churro mustaches with me. Now, that's a good friend.

All headshots of me snapped by the wonderful Wynona Benson Photography! Thank you, Wynona!

And thank you to the RTS Leaders Retreat sponsors!! 

Venue: No. 5 Faber | Bar Services: ICEBOX Bar Services | Dessert Bar: Brown's Court Bakery | Rentals: Synder Events | Linens: Kate Ryan Linens | Florals: Charleston Stems | Calligraphy/Signage: Britt Bates | DJ + Sound: Other Brother Entertainment | Retreat Photographer: Austyn Elizabeth Ford | Mugs: Creative @ Heart Conference | Retreat Sponsor: Honeybook | Gift bags: Marigold & Grey | T-shirts: Designed By