Happy Mom Conference: First Year Reflections
The First Happy Mom Conference
The only way I know how to refer to the Happy Mom Conference is that it was a dream come true. I had dreamt of this event, this space, this community, a long time ago.
It just doesn't feel real... even while looking at all of the gorgeous photos and videos! Somehow, it simultaneously feels like I've been working on it forever but that it didn’t actually happen either.
I couldn't have imagined and dreamed up a more perfect first year for this event. We had the most incredible partners, a speaker lineup that exceeded everyone's expectations (most especially, my own!), a crazy fun host that kept the energy and vibe right the whole time, delicious food and drinks, and most importantly, hundreds of Happy Moms!
Setting up for the big event
After a night of restless sleep with so many things running through my mind, I arrived at the beautiful Skyline Loft in DTLA at 5:30 in the morning—a half hour earlier than planned!
Since the doors weren't yet open to start setting up, I waited in my car and reflected on everything that has happened in the last few years to get to this point. From becoming a mom, to leaving my corporate career, to creating this blog, to having my second child, to solidifying my brand and... finally, this day at the first ever Happy Mom Conference.
Our team of amazing volunteers, decked out in their Happy Mom™ T-shirts, started arriving around 6 a.m. to help set up furniture, pack swag bags, and help get everything ready. Mama Niela, our photographer for the day, came early to get these stunning photos of the airy, open space.
Arrival & the mother's marketplace
Before we knew it, 9 a.m. was here and it was time to welcome our guests to Happy Mom Conference! It was such a joy to see their reactions to the beautiful, naturally lit room... white and bright, ready to get to work and have fun while doing it!
DJ Bennett Schmidt set the mood from the start while attendees enjoyed delicious granola parfaits from KIND Snacks, water from ultra-purified Penta water (the only brand my family drinks!), and the most amazing coffee from Cafe Demitasse for breakfast. Attendees also took this time to explore the Mother's Marketplace, which was beautifully set and ready for fun shopping.
Set up in the pop-up shop were vendors like Jan McCarthy, the talented artist behind all of the beautiful art at the event, including our beautiful stage backdrop. We just loved her gorgeous and inspirational "A Month on the Run" notebooks, which give you a place to host creative mind sessions, plan, dream, record, draw, take notes, learn, and be challenged.
We also had one of my favorite brands—Zanni LA's "Dresses for whatever"—in the space! Those dresses are truly amazing staples for any wardrobe and perfect for on-the-go moms to grab and slip on before running out of the house.
Arbonne was in the house with it's skin and body care line, helping mamas live healthier lives with their all-natural, cruelty-free products.
There were also the gorgeous gals of the By Grace Foundation who empowers women through sponsoring the training and education of women in impoverished communities. Their shop was filled with beautiful one-of-a-kind jewelry, clutches, kimonos, and more.
The beautiful jewelry line, The Giving Keys, by speaker Caitlin Crosby, was there to share their lovely story and products. The Giving Keys is a jewelry company that gives jobs to those affected by homelessness. Each product carries an inspiring message and each wearer is encouraged to embrace their word and Pay It Forward by giving their product to a person who needs the message more. I personally live in and love my mini dream key necklace!
And, the talented Flybrow team was on site to give our Happy Mamas some pampering time with complimentary brow grooming throughout the day. I was lucky enough to have my brows groomed by the lovely founder of Flybrow, Suzie Moldavon, pre-event, and wow.. what a transformation! Thanks, Suzie!
Kicking off the party with Haely White
It was finally time to start the show! Our host for the day was the hilariously cheeky and fun mama, Haely White of @dontcallmemommy.
She brought me on stage to welcome the Happy Mom Tribe to the first ever Happy Mom Conference. That moment was so surreal for me. I'm naturally a bit shy in front of a crowd, but in that moment, when I looked from face to face in the audience... I was just so humbled that this was real and it was happening. For a split second, I was in dreamland again.
Together, Haely and I introduced Talin Hovnanian of Somaya Healing Arts. Talin is a Reiki Master, Sound Healer, Lightworker, and a 200 RYT Yoga Alliance certified teacher who came that day to lead a group meditation session.
You see, early in the planning of Happy Mom Conference, I envisioned how I wanted the mama attendees to feel walking out the door at the end of the evening. I wanted them to feel happy, fulfilled... like what they just experienced was what they needed to hear exactly when they needed to hear it... like every moment was worth their time and investment.
I knew I'd push myself hard to create an amazing experience for the mamas with amazing speakers and panelists and partners... but I also knew that getting them to really accept and take in the awesomeness and knowledge that was to come, they'd need to be in the right mindset.
I'm so grateful that the universe brought me to Talin. She led the room through the most beautiful and peaceful meditation to get everyone's mind right and ready for the day. You could feel the energy in the room shift. It was such a special moment, and more powerful than I even imagined it would be.
The health & wellness panel discussion
After the meditation, it was time for our first panel of the day—the postpartum health and wellness discussion with moderator Jill Simonian and panelists Amy Jordan, Brooke Lichtenstein, and Dr. Pari Ghodsi.
Amy led the room in an awesome core workout that can easily be incorporated into any mama's day. It only takes just a few minutes to get the core working and properly supporting postpartum healing.
Brooke taught us the importance and simplicity of breath and how it relates to healthy parenting. She taught us to take a step and find moments in the day to breathe, even if it's in the bathroom or shower... just take that moment, whenever it is. Find that alone time to check in with yourself during the day.
Dr. Pari did not hold back, at all! At one point, an attendee asked about prolapse, a condition that often affects mamas who carry twins and multiples, or have multiple pregnancies. She described, in detail, what is happening to the woman's body and the changes taking place with pregnancy and beyond. She also shared ways to mitigate the risk of suffering from the various post-baby conditions—like baby blues or postpartum depression—that affect mamas every day.
The major takeaway, agreed upon by the entire panel, is that self-care is critical and necessary to be able to mother effectively and happily. Taking the time to care for yourself first will go a long way.
After the panel wrapped, attendees had their first break to relax in our lounge, grab delicious bites, network, and shop. They also got a chance to meet with Jill Simonian for a book signing of The Fab Mom's Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby.
KIND Snacks provided the yummiest bars and Suja Juice was serving up the most delicious plant-based drinks like Mango Magic (my personal favorite!) and Radiant Probiotic™. Everyone also had a blast playing with the photo booth from Smiley Shots!
We also had a lovely private lounge for our talented speakers to enjoy, including gorgeously curated and custom gifts from Vessel Brooklyn.
Keynote speaker: Lilit Caradanian
It was now time for our first keynote speaker, Lilit Caradanian, who was ready to share her story about balancing career and motherhood. Lilit is the owner and creator of Elcie Cosmetics and more widely known as @MakeupByLilit.
In 2012, Lilit took her skills and raw talent as a makeup artist to new heights by opening her own studio where she teaches workshops, seminars, and her signature LMS Academy curriculum to aspiring artists and beauty enthusiasts.
During her keynote, she talked a lot about intwining family life and work life in a way that works for you personally. As a young makeup artist without kids, she was OK working most nights and every weekend. Once she married her husband, who wanted more of her time, she started cutting back on her artistry hours and began teaching makeup classes and courses.
Once she became pregnant, she started thinking about how this new family would fit into her current career and life. She had her first major wakeup call when she had to tell over 100 brides six months before their wedding, that she could no longer commit to being their makeup artist because of her due date conflicting with their wedding dates.
She felt so bad about letting people down, and began to flip the switch even more from artistry to teaching and training others. From there, she went on to making her salon business something she managed from outside rather than getting caught up inside as an artist. She focused on launching her first product for Elcie Cosmetics—a foundation that would be the signature product for the line.
She reiterated to everyone that it's OK to start small and grow from there. Once she perfected her foundation, she started to focus on other products, like mascara, brushes, candles and more.
One of my favorite quotes from her, while answering an attendee's question about her mentors, was: "Your experience will be your best mentor."
As a mom and a business owner (or even in your professional career), you'll try new things and some will be great and others may fail. But even the failures mean something and teach you just as much as a mentor could.
The overall message from Lilit's speech was about it being OK to have to make career changes choices based on becoming a mom... that if she can build a career around her family rather than vice versa, we can too.
Once Lilit wrapped up, we were off to lunch at the beautiful setup from Au Fudge who brought the yummiest sandwich bites and meringue cookies for our attendees. We also had local gourmet, Beaming, serve the most delicious salads to-go style. Guests were able to enjoy their meals in our lounge areas, network with other moms, get pampered, and shop through the lovely Mother's Marketplace during their break.
Mompreneurship and career transition panel discussion
After lunch was our second panel of the day—the mompreneurship and career transition discussion! Our moderator was Robyn Young, a brand strategist who connects authentic strategy with purposeful design, and she's worked with top commercial brands like Nike and Target.
On the panel, we had Annette Vartanian, of the boutique agency Splendor Digital; actress, singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur Caitlin Crosby; Lauren Gores Ireland, the co-founder of skincare line Summer Fridays; Sarah Boyd, the creator of SIMPLY; and Val Emanuel, the founder of Role Models Management—an ethical talent and modeling agency.
Throughout the discussion was the theme of how motherhood and business collide and how they are often at war with one another. Each panelist gave her own unique take on ways to prioritize both and be as flexible as possible in their day-to-day life.
For example, Caitlin shared a story about a day where she had a full schedule with just a small, tiny window in which she planned for the baby to be napping while she had a shower. Well, of course, baby woke up and wanted cuddles, so she had to make the choice to forgo her self-care time because it's so important to remember to go with the flow and do what is needed in that moment.
Annette shared how important it is for her to separate family and work time and to not let those two blend together. If she's going to the zoo, she commits to that day with her child and disconnects from work and social media entirely.
Lauren talked about how the worlds of motherhood and career will inevitably collide, and shared an example of how she's made that work with her home office space. She dressed the space to inspire her work and she's situated it in the house where she can get separation to really feel like it's a functioning work space.
The mom bosses also talked about the experience of returning to work after having a baby. As mompreneurs, maternity leave isn't a standard 12 weeks of no-contact with your business—you just jump back in when you're needed.
As the owner, you don't get to walk away, but they all made sure to step away as much as possible to honor the time with their babies. With teams and employees of their own to manage, they stressed the importance of giving women the opportunity to take time after having a baby.
Defining your personal brand
We immediately shifted from the career discussion to the branding workshop with Hilary Hartling, a Brand Strategist for Visionary Entrepreneurs who helps women entrepreneurs elevate their brands to captivate their audience and grow businesses they love.
She led attendees through an amazing mini-session of her full branding experience, and it was so helpful for aspiring business owners, stay-at-home moms, and professional ladies in attendance because it was all about your personal brand and not necessarily the traditional business brand.
She talked about how you go about creating an inspired brand and walked everyone through the three basic rules of branding. I absolutely loved her simple mantra, "Clear over clever!"
She also shared the big branding mistakes to avoid and walked us through an exercise to write our own expert positioning statements, so your audience immediately knows exactly what you do and whether its for them.
You could see the lightbulbs going off around the audience during this workshop!
After so much introspection and working, it was time for a sugary-sweet pick-me-up with Sugar Studio LA who brought an amazing geode cake and our very own #HappyMom cookies! Everything not only looked fabulous but they were also so delicious. I actually ended up with some leftover #HappyMom cookies that I brought to Ryan's preschool as a Mother's Day gift to hand out to all of the mamas.
Our videographer, Martin Valles of Raised by Wolves Media, was also walking around capturing the ambiance of the space and the smiling, laughing conversations all around.
Keynote speaker: Kimberly Snyder
It was now time for our closing keynote speaker, Kimberly Snyder! Kimberly is a nutritionist, entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author, and she's appeared on features like The Today Show, Dr. Oz, Ellen, and more! She's one of the most highly sought after lifestyle personalities with her unique, philosophy-driven approach to her expertise in health, wellness, nutrition, beauty and personal empowerment.
Kimberly strives to empower those around her to embrace their own uniqueness and authenticity, which she believes is key to unlocking true success. And you could feel every bit of that during her amazing keynote speech at the Happy Mom Conference.
She went through a list of how to be successful at balancing work life and mom life, and it was SO good. Her tips were centered around self-care, nutrition, and health, and every single mama learned at least one simple trick to bring home with her:
1. Get clear with your vision! Know what your purpose is and what you're going to go after. Not knowing will only put you in a confused space... making it so that you won't be able to flourish in either capacity.
2. Get support and ask for help. Kimberly talked about how her father lives with her and is one of her biggest support people. It's impossible to do it all alone, and I thought it was really inspiring that someone at her level would share that she asks for help, too.
3. Be flexible. She reiterated the point from the earlier keynote that flexibility is key with motherhood. She used the analogy of a tree—where if you're rigid and stiff and inflexible, you might crack and break. If you are more flexible like a willow tree, it might feel chaotic at times, but you'll get through it.
4. Incorporate self-care rituals into your day. She mentioned specific ways to take care of yourself, health-wise, throughout the day. A simple cup of hot water with lemon in the morning can be a great way to start the day. She also gave suggestions to help you sleep better, like turning off screens or showing more than an hour before your bedtime.
After Kimberly's keynote and the closing remarks, everyone was invited to stay behind to meet with Kimberly and get a copy of her book signed.
Before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye. It was such a sweet event because I got to bring my boys on stage to close the show, and everyone there got to understand the real reason behind it all for me.
None of this would have been possible if I hadn't had Ryan. He was the driving force behind me starting the Land of Mom blog and creating a space like the Happy Mom Tribe and the Happy Mom Conference where women can gather for personal and professional growth. That is exactly what I was seeking after I became a mom, but I couldn't find it anywhere, so I created it.
It was such a surreal moment capped by a celebratory champagne toast with all of the mamas in the room. What a wonderful end to the day, and it gave me so much joy to think about welcoming a new crowd of Happy Moms at next year's conference!
Happy Mom Conference
Enjoy the full highlight reel!
videography by Martin Valles