Community Over Competition: Creative at Heart Recap

Here we are, 3 days after the conference has ended, and I still don’t feel like I have the appropriate words to share how attending changed me. What I originally hoped to walk away with – clarity on the future of my business, tangible changes to  my marketing & product offerings – were quickly replaced with things I wasn’t expecting. Inspiration. Community. Friends. A new perspective on not only my business, but also on my personal life. The women at this conference left a mark on my heart, and made me feel more confident and inspired than I have in a long time.

One of my fears about this conference was that I wouldn’t learn enough. That maybe this conference wasn’t right for me, or where my business was. Many of the speakers and panelists were professional photographers, florists and wedding planners. What could they share about their businesses that would be applicable to mine? As soon as the very first speaker began her presentation, I knew that fear was completely unfounded.

Do any of you follow Katelyn James? If not, you should start now. No really, click over and read through her blog (after finishing this one!). She is AMAZING. She began her business in college. And now? She and her husband run one of the most well known photography businesses in the world. Brides pick their wedding dates only after hearing when Katelyn James has openings for the following year. You guys – that’s amazing. So when Katelyn started to speak – about the importance of blogging for your business – what she had to say spoke to us all. Stationery designers, florists, event planners, jewelry designers... every single one of us were scribbling away, soaking in all of Katelyn’s wisdom. She didn’t build her business on advertising, or social media. She built her business on blogging. Most, if not all of her clients read her blog. And they want to book her for their wedding day because they connect with her on a personal level. They’ve witnessed her struggles, shared in the joy of her successes, and fell in love with Katelyn before they ever wanted to be a KJ Bride. Katelyn was so inspiring, so full of wisdom and thoughtful advice. She passionately believes in education, and giving, and changing this entire industry to become one of community instead of competition. That’s what made this conference unique. That idea – community over competition – was the heart behind each and every presentation, and is still what I’m hearing days later.

I could write for days about each speaker and what they had to offer, and honestly, all of them were incredible. Katelyn’s presentation most certainly set the tone, but each and every business owner shared their hearts and wisdom with us, and changed each of us for the better. I was fortunate enough to meet some woman whom I’ve admired from afar, during our breakout sessions, and got to know them on a more personal level. I will forever be grateful for their graciousness and willingness to open up to our group. And a huge thank you goes out to Kat & Taylor for pouring their time and energy and their hearts into bringing all of us together. You both saw this vision long before we could, and we are all so thankful for your commitment to cultivating community. 

For those of you that know me personally, you know that I struggle with feeling like my business is real. In the most literal sense, of course it is – I have a tax ID number, a website and a steady stream of orders. But in the back of my mind, I have always felt like this was a hobby, mainly because I was not in a position to take it full time. And what I heard over and over this weekend, was that I was the only one holding myself back. I was the only one minimizing my business. My commitment. My dreams. Nothing tangible was ever going to make me feel legit, until I started to own who I was, and what I did. The amount of hours I devote to my business may not fit into a perfect 9-5 schedule, and that’s OK. Starting, and growing a business is hard work. And whether its 5 or 10, or 50 hours a week that I’m investing in this dream of mine, its still mine.

I’ll be sharing my 2015 goals soon, which have changed slightly since coming home from Creative at Heart. I want to be more transparent with you all, about growing this business, about balancing a full-time job and being a very-present mom and wife. Sharing my goals seems scary, but writing them down and saying them out loud, in this space, will keep me accountable. I feel like this week is my January first all over again – all I see is a blank slate, full of opportunity, and am so excited for the changes to come this year. I hope you all will follow me on this journey!

Are you new here? Hi! I’m Jillian. Wife & mom, and small business owner. Bella Carta Boutique is a custom design studio, specializing in invitations, announcements and stationery for all of life’s most special occasions. We are located in Northern New Jersey, but serve clients in New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and can ship worldwide. If you’d like to work with us, or learn more about what we do, click here!


  1. Yes to every single part of this post!!!! I was worried about the same things...and it all seems so silly now!! So thankful that you let two random girls sit with your dinner table :) Love you & your encouragement!!!!!

  2. I am so glad you came to the conerence! I too was fearful and nervous about it because I did not have a business yet! But I am so glad I did, because like you I was inspired! I can't wait to see the amazing things you accomplish this year! :)


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