Inside the 2014 Martha Stewart American Made Summit
Yes, THE Martha Stewart! I went from spending my mornings with her from afar (see below) to spending last weekend learning from her in person at the third annual Martha Stewart American Made Awards & Summit in NYC. I can't even begin to describe what a dream come true for me this was, but I'm gonna try just for you...
The American Made Awards & Summit weekend is designed to be one part celebration (of) + one part education (for) creative entrepreneurs and small businesses in America. On Friday night, about 700 guests joined Martha and her team at the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) headquarters for a cocktail reception and ceremony for the 2014 American Made honorees. Out of over 3000 applicants, 10 makers, small-business owners, and creative entrepreneurs were selected from fields of crafts, design, food, and style. They each have unique, inspirational stories, which I encourage you to check out here.
On Saturday, about 200 of us gathered again at the MSLO offices to learn from top business experts and innovators from around the country from 8 am-6:30ish pm. I'm really taking a ballpark guess here with the numbers, but it was definitely a much more intimate (relatively speaking) crowd than the night before.
From the moment I arrived on Friday night, it was one non-stop smorgasbord of the best food, drinks and interactive crafts you could assemble, perfectly executed in true Martha Stewart-style. I remember Martha saying at one point during the weekend that she "would rather have an over-the-top party" instead of just a dinner party. By "over-the-top," she wasn't talking about the amount of money spent, but rather the total experience that she provides for her guests. "Make it memorable," she said, "give it a flamboyance that they wouldn't have elsewhere." I can tell you that she definitely stayed true to her word. Nobody, I mean NOBODY throws a party like Martha Stewart.
Here's how it all went down...
The kickoff cocktail party started at 6:00 pm and I arrived fashionably late (around 6:45), mainly due to a horrible Amtrak fiasco in DC (the train left the station w/o picking up any passengers so we all missed it) and the unacceptable shortage of yellow cabs picking up passengers before I finally saw the light and joined Uber (while at the party).
As I was walking in, I met a women who remembered my getting-ready Instagram post (below) and said, "I was so happy when I saw it because that meant I wasn't the only one who was so late." I couldn't help but laugh because: A) There were so many people there that NO ONE noticed (sidenote, she lives in Alaska and I'm guessing that cocktail parties are much smaller there); and B) She actually remembered my photo (I guess I have that impression on people:-).
Both the cocktail party and the seminars on Saturday were held in the large rectangular space in the middle of the MSLO offices. The first photo below is one that I took when I got off the elevator, and I'm guessing that it's the entrance I'll use when I go back to visit during the work week (totally speaking that into existence!). I took the second pic to show you just how hot Martha's shoe game was that night. Yep, smokin' hot.
In the description of cocktail party, MSLO told us that we would "sample cocktails and foods from some of [their] favorite American purveyors from across the country." They did not disappoint one bit. There were various stations set up around the room with signature dishes from different regions of the US. I started in the Northeast and worked my way around the room. I should have taken way more pictures and jotted down way more notes about what I ate, because right now, all I can remember is that I started with clam chowder and ended with shrimp & grits, with lots of yummy goodness (and cocktails) in between:-)
In addition to indulging in food and cocktails until 9:00ish, guests could also go to any of the interactive stations set up around the room to do a little crafting with MSLO editors. I was so interested in talking to the people I met that I barely got through one paper mache flower...LOL. Speaking of people, this next shot is a selfie that I took with Miss Jay, who was one of the judges on "America's Next Top Model" with Tyra Banks. The last shot is one that I took at the photo booth right before I left.
When I left, I went back to my hotel and had such good intentions of watching a movie ("The Hundred-Foot Journey") since I never get to do that at home, but in true #mommylife style, I conked out after 30 mins and enjoyed something else that I never get to do...sleep.
The next day started with a healthy + yummy breakfast that I picked up along with my Field Notes book and a black gel pen provided by MSLO. I write my best thoughts with gel pens and I love a good little notebook that I can easily drop into my Apronini or cross-body bag. I'm still baffled by how Martha Stewart always manages to select (or create) the perfect gifts for everyone in her life, even people she hasn't met yet. Wait until you see the goodie bag!
Photo credit: Vaska_Laundry Instagram
I wore the Apronini in Olivia to keep all of my essentials close by and you wouldn't believe how many people stopped me to ask about it. YES! One of them happened to be Sarah Carey, MSLO Food Editor-at-Large, who you may recognize from the MSLO "Everyday Food" videos. She loved it so much that I'm sending her own to rock in the MSLO test kitchen:-)
The rest of the day was packed with great info from a well-curated group of experts about what it takes to build, grow and sustain a brand as a creative entrepreneur in the US. These are my personal top five nuggets of wisdom that I learned and want to pass on to you too. Whether you're just starting out or still trying to figure it all out, there's something in each of these for all of us:
"Our founder, Martha Stewart, challenges us to be fearless every day."
~Daniel Dienst, CEO Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
"Be humble enough to realize that you can't do everything on your own."
~Ellen Bennett, founder of Hedley & Bennett
"If I can do it, you can too."
~Martha Stewart, Founder & Chief Creative Officer Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
In between sessions, we had breaks to do more crafting, networking, eating, drinking, shopping in the American Made marketplace and even a little yoga (with complimentary yoga bands for each of us, in true MSLO fashion).
Overall, this was an amazingly unforgettable experience that made me proud to be a creative entrepreneur and an American maker. Thanks again, Martha & the whole MSLO crew:-)
A few more highlights...
Our lunch! Photo Credit: MayanDaughter Instagram
Actress & mommy-to-be Blake Lively discussing her site, Preserve.us with Martha
Martha taking a break to do a little crafting
Martha's dog, Ghengis Khan
Closing cocktail reception with local NY purveyors
The ULTIMATE goodie bag
Here are my top six faves, in no specific order:
2. Cup 4 Cup's gluten-free pizza dough (to satisfy my hubby's dietary restrictions + love of pizza (how I landed him:-)).
3. Yoga strap (for when when I need to relax, relate, release).
4. Luxury wine opener (for when I really need to relax:-).
5. Jolt charger for all the times my phone dies unexpectedly (like every day).
6. Alex and Ani charm bangle (for when I want to look fly and radiate positive energy (always:-).
Hey Haute Mamas! I'm Riche Holmes Grant, a modern mom + mompreneur who designs smart + stylish products that make your mommy gig easier.
When I'm not busy taking orders from my #miniboss, I'm contributing to MarthaStewart.com or in the kitchen whipping up delicious family-friendly creations in my BambiniWare Apronini.
Get my FREE book on How to Make the Best Food for Your Baby here!
I live in the Washington, DC area with my husband and daughter. Follow our adventures on Instagram via @BambiniWareLife!
- Riche Holmes Grant