Creative At Heart Conference Recap – Round 8

December 3, 2018

I’m Manali
Coach, editor & brand photographer based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. When I'm not behind a camera or teaching about systems, you'll find me at a vineyard or cuddled with my cat Keegan on our cozy couch!
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Warning before I even start, this is going to be a LONG one!

So, if you’re reading even this first line, you’re awesome and I super appreciate you! In high school I used to inhale other wedding photographers’ blog posts and I’m pretty sure that’s how I initially came across the Creative at Heart conference. I saw educators and other photographers mention it throughout the years and always saw it as a “pipe dream” that was something I was somehow not good enough for yet, professional enough for, dedicated enough for, or worthy of.

I’m saying this out loud right now and I realize how unreasonable that sounds but when I was first starting out, it seemed like something for the “chosen few” who had already kind of MADE IT with their business! Versus me, I was just a fledgling starting out, photography was something that I did for fun in high school and then it was something that I started to do a little bit again in college, and then SOMEHOW I made it into photographing weddings alongside some pretty cool photographers. But still, going to an actual workshop or conference to learn in person from the photographers whose blog posts I’ve read hundreds of times over, seemed so out of reach.

That obviously changed this year! I think when I finally started the business it was more than just getting the ducks in a row. For me, I think it really provided a mindset shift. Photography was no longer just a mere hobby or something I did on and off. Starting the business for me really legitimized that this was something that I had worked really hard at over the years, it’s something that I take seriously and it’s something that I want to continue to grow in.

That first step was a big one towards not just believing in my photography but as cliche, as it sounds, believing in myself and not letting my own thoughts and my own fear hold me back from everything that I knew I could turn the business into.

So when I saw the tickets go up at the beginning of this year, I knew that I was making a change and I was CHOOSING to be one of the few that would be attending this year. It didn’t matter how much PTO I would have to take, what opportunities I would have to turn down, or how many hours it would take me to get there, I was making the change and choosing growth for myself, my business and ultimately for my heart.

I got the ticket back in the spring and then as it kept coming up, there was so much going on! But I made it to the WinMock in Bermuda Run, NC after a crazy few weeks of work, meetings with 2019 brides and shoots. The Winmock itself was the perfect home for Creative at Heart. It’s such a gorgeous venue with tons of rooms that hosted breakout sessions that were so incredibly useful, there was the main loft where all of our keynote speakers spoke, the tented outside area where I had lunch with my panel group and our fantastic leaders, a little enclave with the perfect shop setup and a space for everything the conference had to over!

But the thing that stood out most was just how helpful and kind the staff there was! There someone at the door every single morning early at 8 AM greeting us and opening the doors for us with a smile. When it was pouring out, members were escorting people back to their cars with an umbrella so they wouldn’t get drenched. Anything you needed, they and the Creative at Heart volunteers were there to help you out!!

The actual knowledge that was packed into this 3-day conference was so incredibly helpful! I learned something (or MANY things) from each and every keynote speaker as well as breakout session. But in particular, this conference really struck a chord with me because the theme of the conference was not just about all the business knowledge.

Underlying every speaker’s talk was the understanding of what it’s like to run a business on your own, to feel the pressure there is to keep everything running and growing. These speakers spoke to our hearts about remembering WHY it was that we started this business in the first place.

Also, Group 3’s panel leaders were THE BEST!! A huge thank you to Christa Rene, Ashely Herrinton, and Krista Jones, you three were so inspiring but also I loved that you were able to relate with each girl’s struggles and help us work through everything we learned!

I started this business for the freedom and flexibility to design a life that I LOVE. But if I’m being very honest, over the course of working a full-time job and growing the business, I was not really LIVING much of a life. I was working constantly, I was stressed, I was “busy” all too often and I saw it directly affect my health, my mental outlook, my relationships, and basically every aspect of my life.

I would have people acknowledge how well my business was doing and all I could think of was if they realized how my life really looked behind the scenes they would probably run away. I had built a business that my high school self would be SO proud of but I want to also build a LIFE that I’m proud of as well.

And so this conference was the BEST thing among such a busy season to take some time away, to check where my heart was at, and encourage me to set boundaries between my business and personal life so that I can thrive in both areas! So that I can run this business from a place of gratitude, contentment, and creativity every day. I’m not saying that this happened overnight at the conference, it’s very much still a work in progress and probably will always be.

For anyone that is debating investing in this conference, I can not recommend it enough! I can see myself going back each year to learn from new educators for such valuable things to implement into my business, but also for the sense of community and understanding that is there during those 3 days that you’re surrounded by like-minded creative entrepreneurs.

I can’t wait to see my conference buddies in a year or two and celebrate how far we have all come from this year! So with that, here are some fun pictures from the whole thing 🙂 If you find a more “on brand” conference, let me know! A HUGE thank you to Kat Schmoyer, the Creative at Heart team, volunteers, and sponsors that made this entire conference possible!

Event | Creative at Heart

Planner | Kat Schmoyer

Venue | Wimock at Kinderton

Florals | Green Bee Floral Designs

Gifts | Avenue Twenty One

Furniture | Paisley and Jade

T’s | April Bell Research Group

Late Night Treat | Your Virtual Assistant Co.

Energy Drinks | Drink The Sunshine

Our wonderful speakers:

Shay Cochrane | @shaycochrane

Lauren Carnes | @laurenlcarnes

Christina Scalera | @christinascalera

Shunta Grant | @shuntagrant

Tyler McCall | @tylerjmccall

Ashlyn Carter | @ashlynscarter

Davey & Krista Jones | @daveyandkrista

Graham Cochrane | @thegrahamcochrane

Abby Grace | @abbygracephoto

Katelyn James | @katelynjames

Kat Schmoyer | @katschmoyer

Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-06 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-07 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-08 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-09 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-10 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-11 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-12

The goodies each day were incredible!! Huge thank you to all the sponsors!

Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-13 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-14 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-16 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-17 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-18 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-19 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-20 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-21 Charlottesville-Wedding-Photographer-Loves-Bold-Rock-22

Snagged a picture with my girl Hope, thank you for such an incredible year of second shooting with ya!!


Here’s some more fun behind the scenes 🙂


And THANK YOU!! to Christa for these headshots! Super appreciated!!



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Enneagram 4w3, cognitive & computer science major turned biz strategy nerd!

I went from charging $600 per wedding to over $5k & went full-time within 1 year of starting my biz! Now I help creative small business owners show up confidently behind the scenes with elevated brand photography, business strategy to build their dream biz & life and help managing all the logistics and details along the way! 



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