On September 19, Emily and I packed her car with overnight bags, laptops, and a lot of road trip snacks and set out to Austin, TX. While we both frequent Austin for the music and arts scene, we were traveling specifically for the design community this time.
The second ever Creatives Meet Business Experience (CMBXP) took place September 20 - 22 in east Austin, and we invested in our business this year with tickets for us both to attend. The experience connects creatives with business professionals to learn fundamental skills to run their business, and we left inspired, motivated, and armed with new tips and tricks.
While we are excited to implement everything we learned, there are three overarching takeaways that have stuck with us since we returned:
Surround yourself with experts… but also educate yourself on the basics. Even when Toast was little more than a couple freelancing gigs, we felt it was important to build a strong foundation for our business, and when we (or let’s be honest, Google) didn’t have all the answers, we looked to experts in other fields for help. As we’ve grown in size and experience, we still regularly look to our accountant and lawyer to make sure we have our ducks in a row. This conference exposed us to so many new and amazing professionals in fields outside our industry. Having a basic understanding of niche business practices helps us in three ways: we know enough to know that our chosen experts are really qualified, we know what to ask, and we can also make more informed decisions for ourselves and our clients. Since our clients are usually small businesses like we are, we like to help from a holistic perspective when we can, recommending professionals we trust and sharing tips we’ve learned along the way.
Solutions come from unlikely places. Our very first session of this three-day long experience was a two-hour workshop with a stand-up comedian, and to be honest, we were unsure what to expect. But this turned out to be one of our favorites sessions of the weekend as Carina Magyar taught us how to apply stand-up comedy techniques to the way we pitch to clients. It was truly mind-blowing to see how she broke comedy down to a formula, and then showed us how that formula can be applied to a variety of interactions. It’s easy to look within your field for inspiration, but that limits your aspirations to what is already happening in the industry. We love following designers, sure, but we also look at artists, comedians, musicians, and more so we can draw unexpected insights and apply them to our own practices.
Consistency and cohesion are key. It’s so easy to think “people will feel overwhelmed if I push out the same content on six different channels.” Because you’re putting (almost) the same message together six times, you assume everyone else will see it six times too. But Andrea Genevieve Townson reminded us that is simply not true. People pick and choose where they want to follow you, and they all have different preferred communication methods, so as small businesses, we really need to get over this fear. Now, Emily and I try to remind ourselves that as two working women with careers and passion projects and friends and lives, the likelihood that we are ever over communicating with our Toast followers is so slim it’s laughable. It is way more likely that we are under communicating, so until we get to the point that we feel like we have plenty of time in the day (yea right), we’re going to assume that another post or tweet or gram is never going to hurt.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Most importantly, in addition to leaving with tons of new or reimagined information, we also met a LOT of truly good people. This is especially true of Ashland Viscosi, the creator of CMBXP and one of the most authentic and inspiring women we’ve met in a while.
This conference put us in touch with people who “get” us, and we are excited to connect again at CMBXP 2019.