There is a HUGE convention held yearly for bloggers, and I have been wanting to go to this ever since I started blogging back in 2009. Last year, when the convention location was announced, my blogging buddy Debbie (Frugal Diva Frenzy) and I decided we were going to make it happen……..and we did!
I took off from Baltimore to Chicago on July 25th and set out for a whirlwind of a trip.
I have known Debbie online for 3 years, so I was super excited to meet her at the airport after all this time. I had nerves, well because I always have nerves when I am meeting someone new, but as soon as I saw her running towards me all the nerves went out the window and it was like meeting an old friend.
We waited for another blogging friend, Carol (All Mommy Wants) to get in so we could all head to the hotel. Carol and I met back in February at the Disney Oz premiere event. She is my “Pink Haired Woman,” and awesome to boot, I knew the three of us would all get along and have the time of our lives.
We made it to the hotel, barely, Debbie’s GPS was pretty saucy and liked to try to kill us b
y sending us down one way streets. If you have ever traveled in Chicago, it’s confusing enough, LOL!
That first night we literally dropped everything off at the hotel, changed clothes and we were off to a few parties. The first was Social Soiree, we didn’t really connect with the brands there as we weren’t approached and had no clue who they were, but the party was very nice. Debbie enjoyed some of the food but they didn’t have anything gluten-free besides fruit on a stick, so that’s what I had, and some delicious wine. Besides having to pay $24 for parking, we were excited to move on to the next party.
We ended up finding parking on the street at these little boxes, way cheaper than the garages. We made our way to the Sweet Suite presented by The Big Toy Book – Holy Moly, two floors of toys! I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the space. Debbie and I just went full force and talked to every single one of the brands who were all very open to working with us. Woo!
The next day we decided to go to the Newbie Breakfast and found it very disappointing. They had a buffet, but it was very limited and again, no gluten-free options besides eggs that were slimy. We sat down with everyone else and found that no one really wanted to get to know us, everyone was in their own click and we found it hard to strike up a conversation.
We didn’t let this deter us at all, we headed to the Expo where we made it down two isles of brands and then had to hightail it to the next event. The Mom Select Swag Suite was AWESOME! There were brands that were there just for us and willing to work with us. You see, at the Expo hall, there were a few brands that just didn’t quite grasp what they were there for, they were treating us like consumers, which we are, but in this environment, we were business partners looking to form a working relationship, not just to buy a product. I digress.
My absolute favorite brand at the Swag Suite was Udi’s, I was in gluten-free heaven and loving the rep. I felt a real connection to the brand, and knew they understood where I was coming from. The entire party was just hands-on, full of information about wonderful products that I can’t wait to share with you all.
Now we are back to the Expo hall where we decided to finish visiting all the brands. Debbie came up with the ingenious idea of attaching our business cards to a cute little bag of popcorn to hand to the brands. Each and everyone person who received one was so touched that she thought of giving them something and loved it. I think we definitely made an impression. Kudos to Debbie!
So before this becomes a book, we ended up going to three more parties, I went to White Cloud where I had my picture taken with Carol, Debbie went to the South Walton party, then we all went to Hasbro where there was more dancing, pictures and drinks. We then ended up at the One Link Software party in the hotel where I met a ton of fabulous bloggers, and some cute little guys who belonged to Maria (Tough Cookie Mommy).
All during these two days I met bloggers I have been dying to meet, Kim (Two Kids and a Coupon), Ashley (Crunchy Frugalista), Myrah (Coupon Mamacita), Maria (Tough Cookie Mommy), Kristen (It’s Free at Last), and I also got my baby fix from Kristy (Adventures of a Couponista) who let me smell her baby’s head LOL.
On Saturday we had a group meet up that was crazy since the location was in a weird spot, then on to The Delivery Man screening courtesy of Disney. It was so great seeing Marshall and Gaby again after all these months, and the movie was AWESOME, we even had a little message from Vince Vaughn himself. We were then treated to a cocktail party afterwards where we met up with Kim (Two Kids and a Coupon).
We all then decided to go to the CheeseburgHer party which turned out to be just what we needed, lots of people, drinks, and dancing. I spotted Mitch (Gay NY Dad), shaking his groove thang, so we joined in, what a perfect ending to the night.
By this time we are all exhausted and hyped at the same time but it was time for us to go back to the hotel so we could all get ready to leave the next day.
Overall I had a FABULOUS experience, I made tons of business contacts, met new and old friends, and partied like no tomorrow. Next year, if I go, I will make sure not to buy a full conference pass, as this experience, and just going to the Expo and parties, provided me with all the networking I needed, and then some.