Conferences + Coffee Dates: How Stepping Out of the Office Grows Your Network and Generates Collaborations

Apr 21 2017

by Ashley Schoenith

The Southern Coterie blog: "Conferences + Coffee Dates: How Stepping Out of the Office Grows Your Network and Generates Collaborations" by Ashley Schoenith (photo: Kelli Boyd Photography for The Southern C of Mirabelle Cafe in Savannah)
A one-hour chat over coffee has yielded multiple collaboration ideas for designer Ashley Schoenith of Heirloomed. (photo: Kelli Boyd Photography of The Mirabelle Cafe in Savannah)

For some reason people tend to think that because I’m an entrepreneur and not in a big office full of people every day that I might get a little lonely over here. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

I try to make an effort to schedule a minimum of one coffee chat each week, either to catch up with someone I haven’t seen in a while or to meet someone I haven’t met yet. I have yet to have left one of these coffees “empty-handed.” Believe me when I tell you that taking an hour out of my busy week to connect in real life, or even on a phone call (which, let’s face it kind of counts as real life these days when compared to social media, texts and emails …) pays off tenfold and is worth it every. single. time.

I love meeting new people, connecting and collaborating. I thrive on knowing what’s going on, how I might be able to help other people, and when the time comes, knowing new people in my community that could even help me out, too. It’s kind of like having a “big company” worth of entrepreneur co-workers. And it’s the best network out there.

Well, since my last post I’ve been over here taking my own advice. I put together this fun little visual to show you the power of this little network at the Southern C, and what my “nice to meet you” emails have turned into after two months post-Conference.

The Connections

I met publicist Lauren B. Hopkins at this year’s Conference and she connected me to her client, artist Caroline Boykin. This led to us doing a painted-apron product collaboration for Easter with her gorgeous hare paintings, and she just happened to be sweet enough to wear one of our aprons in her Easter Brunch shoot which just appeared over on Elle Decor.

The lovely ladies at Tess + Thorn and I have had several conference calls and have our own secret Pinterest board for a little product collaboration we’re working on. The heart of our businesses align–keeping the craft of the past current for today–so it’s a fun project and an easy fit.

I met the ladies of Dear Keaton a few years back at a Southern C Summit in Charleston. I snagged a seat next to them at one of this year’s sessions and they introduced me to Atlanta artist Melissa Payne Baker  who happened to be sitting at the same table. She was my coffee chat this week and (two hours later) we had so much fun getting to know each other. Our conversation unearthed a fun collection she inherited and I know there is a killer story surrounding it just waiting to come out. I happened to bring her one of our new Studio Aprons, and she happened to bring me a gorgeous painting. I love sharing my work with others but I definitely came out on the better end of that one!

Similarly, I met Alesya many moons ago at the first Summit at Jekyll Island and we became fast friends who have kept in touch over the years. I was happy to see her again this year and she introduced me to underwater photographer Leigh Webber. While we chatted, she got to know more about my business and she happened to mention a special project she had photographed from her Grandmother’s kitchen and I was instantly captivated. We’ll be sharing a story and her photo collection over on our blog soon, and it’s such a beautiful tribute.

Last, but not least, I had the chance to meet Rachel at Schermer Pecans when she sat in at my mentor table at the Summit. I emailed to follow up after the Conference and got a note back from the wonderful Leapfrog PR  who happens to represent them. The three of us tossed around some fun ideas on a call.  And as an aside conversation, a few days later I received the most beautiful Smithey Ironware pan in the mail, thanks to Libba at Leapfrog…which was impeccable timing for a photoshoot I have scheduled next week where I’m making skillet cornbread (recipe coming soon!).

So, if you haven’t made a connection with someone new this week go out there and make the first move. Go in with no ulterior motives, be interested, be kind and be authentic. Get to know people and allow them to get to know you. Share your story, share your business, ask them about their business and find their passion. I promise, it will be the most energizing cup of coffee you’ll have all week.


Ashley Schoenith View More Blog Posts from this Author

Ashley Schoenith is the founder + lifestyle designer at heirloomed (formerly IceMilk Aprons). A collection of "goods inspired by the past, for generations to enjoy," with a mission of keeping the heirloom around for another generation.

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