Tuesday, January 27, 2015

BASH Conference Re-Cap... and Crying it Out with Amy Atlas

I feel like I'm super late to get on the "BASH recap" blog post train and as per usual, I've put pressure on myself to blog this experience in a somewhat timely manner... Damn you Type A self! So here we go...

I've just finished reading through 5 or 6 BASH recaps and a few things (facts) stood out that I'd like to get out of the way before I actually start the post.

#1- Kim from The TomKat Studio is crazy sweet. And beautiful. Damn her! If only she could have been not as sweet and normal, I'd have every reason to hate her.

The TomKat Studio

#2- Michelle Burt, Owner of Maddy Cakes Muse and the founder of BASH is a badass mamma who knows how to put on a show. And a conference. And make people laugh... What is up with all these overachievers?!

#3- Meeting like-minded party gals made me feel way less crazy and took online friendships and turned them in to full blown REAL friendships. I loved my roomies Tali from A Party Studio and Meghann from Always the Occasion... (I have a grand master plan to get Tali to Cali so we can be besties). Meeting Keisha from Cupcake Wishes and Birthday Dreams and Tonya from Soiree Event Design after having exchanged idontknow 1,000 Facebook messages with each of them over the last year and a half...? Priceless. (My husband can no longer call them my "virtual friends"- which he does solely to annoy me). All of these ladies (and many more) I consider my true friends after the BASH conference.

Getting to BASH.
Let me give you a little personal back story with this conference. It was announced about 6 months ago and the minute I heard about a conference specifically for party planners, I was dead set on going. I knew a lot of fellow party gals I'd made friends with online would be there (The Wigwam Resort in Phoenix, AZ) ... And I knew that the speaker line-up would be killer. However, when the dates were released I was borderline ugly tears because I knew my husband would be gone that week and I also knew it was my son's birthday weekend. Hmmm... A party planner's son's birthday weekend... Kind of the only parties WE LIVE FOR?!

As ticket sales approached and the name Amy Atlas (the dessert table QUEEN) was released as a keynote, I was dying inside. I told my husband how it was just terrible timing and how sad I was to not go, and to my total shock and suprise he said, "Well then go! Figure out who can help with the kids and buy a ticket!" No seriously, that was insane that he said that. We do not just throw around money for shits and giggles people. Well, I do... But he is very frugal and tries to control my insanity at every possible chance. So I called my sister, and then my mom and I rallied them to come to Santa Barbara in January and watch my two crazy kids for 3 days, take them to school- the whole shabang. Have I mentioned they've never done this? Anyway it worked- they said yes... It takes a village ya'll! It was like a sign from the party gods that I was meant to be at BASH. And then, to totally pave the way for me to go, my mom said the 6 most beautiful words a party planning daughter could ever hear... "I'd like to buy your ticket"... I think confetti fell from heaven. It did actually... And it was the custom, expensive kind with metallic BASH dye cuts in it.

So there I was, a ticket in to BASH. My party dream come true. I pushed Cormac's party to the following weekend (which just passed, January 24th) and the rest is history... Well, it will be after this post.

Being Me at BASH.
One thing I promised myself upon purchasing a ticket was that I was going to be myself once I got to the conference. In the last year of my life (2014 mainly) I've questioned who I am, what I like, what I wear (a blog post I'll get to eventually) in terms of trying to fit in to certain groups after our move to a new town. At BASH I went in with the mindset that I'm going be 100% me... And if you like it: grand... If ya don't, then don't Facebook friend me after! My goal was to learn, meet and mingle... But I was not going to portray anyone other than me. Now that's it's over- I feel quite successful in this regard. I went in to a new environment knowing almost no one, and left feeling like I met the people I was supposed to meet and that they got to know the real Kenna... (Or Miss Party Mom, if they can't remember my name?)

Jenny Cookies Cookie Class

Shoes, shoes, shoes!
Being me is bringing a pair of shoes for each outfit... and I have no shame in that!

Things I Learned At BASH.
I'm going to get to the story about me and a group of girls crying with Amy Atlas over breakfast, don't worry. No, that's not some weird dream, that really happened. But I'm going to make you wait because I learned other things first, as that happened the very last day.

First I learned that there are successful women in this party industry who are killing it... And that that are seriously hard workers. Savvy workers. Go-getters. I left every class saying to myself, "CRAP that's a lot of work! Where do they find the time? How did they learn that? Were they the valedictorians of their class?!? Am I ready to put in that much work? Do I want to even do that?" I know, this isn't like all confetti filled 36" balloons and shimmery tassel garland here people! I was honestly overwhelmed by a lot of the knowledge given during the 8 classes I took during BASH. I felt incompetent at some points... Like the learning curve was too steep for me- like somehow I was being passed by and not taking good enough notes. I felt like why can't I just be good at styling parties and kill it this way? Why do I have to monetize and vlog and figure out my way around a camera?! I felt like I MIGHT HAVE A PANIC ATTACK AT A CONFERENCE. Pull it together Kenna! For the love of all that is glitter and gold, breathe.

I realized that for most of us, our business success doesn't come over night... You have to grow the business from any angle you can- capturing opportunity as it comes (if that's via the blog, social media, You Tube, etc)... Alison from The Alison Show said she worked for 7 years on her blog, brand and social media before she got to where she is making money on her brand and talents. SEVEN. FLIPPING. YEARS. I'm on year 2.5 and I'm so close to burn out it's ridiculous. I had to ask myself at the end of each night of BASH.... Do I love party planning enough to want to do all of these things to further my business? I DO... I think? I just wish the party gods would babysit from time to time... Is that too much to ask? In all honesty, I'm still trying to figure it out. I'm in the midst of what I'm thinking is a mid-life crisis... But again, that's a blog for another day... When the party gods start babysitting.

The Alison Show
I've been following Alison via IG and her blog for most of 2014... This chick is the real deal and I was so happy to be able to hear her speak.
I took all kind of notes in the classes at BASH... But nothing struck me more than Loralee Lewis' class. Which is crazy because while I was well aware of her and had respect for her work, I was not yet on the Loralee Lewis fan-bandwagon. I almost didn't take her class for that reason. She has a very stylized taste and while it is beautiful and has been all over print and is a wildly successful brand, her style is not what I'm naturally drawn too as it's mainly pastels and a sort of etherial look... (kind of the opposite of my style!). Anyway, I decided to take her class on a whim... and WOW. It was literally a holy moment for me. Holy hour.

Her main point was, "Dreams Never Come with Expiration Dates" and I swear when she said it, I was almost a puddle of tears. I had to hold back some serious emoting (you know- like the emoji with the snot dripping from it's nose?) as I realized I have felt like my dreams very much DO have an expiration date and that because things have not "happened" for me in my first year, or my second year... That I am doomed and will never be successful in this industry. When she started to mention the many woman (Vera Wang, Martha Stewart, Paula Dean, Julia Child, etc.) who got started in their respective industries at 40+ years old.... Well, that was just the encouragement I needed to hear.

"The world will tell you that you only have one chance and if you don't act now, someone else will grab your opportunity- and all is lost. In reality, there is only one you and the universe waits for the authentic." -Loralee Lewis

Her other points, "Believe in Yourself a Little More" and "Don't Be Like the Rest of Them Darling" also resonated with me on a deep level. I heard a dessert blogger I respect say at the conference, "All parties are starting to look the same now if you ask me!". At first I wasn't sure if I should be offended. And then I thought about it and realized there was a lot of truth to her statement... Which brought me back to Loralee's point about not being like the rest of them (darling). If there is one thing I want for MPM, it is to throw parties that are not like anyone else's. I realized that in full at BASH and it's helping me to define, refine and own my personal party style (as Loralee has).

BASH Events.
I loved how the conference was organized. We were encouraged prior to arriving (via the BASH blog) to participate in a roommate gift exchange (fun!), a celebrity dress-up night and have business cards and swag to pass out to fellow attendees (which I got really in to- at the very last minute). I am always looking for a reason to craft my brand up and so I loved making my business cards extra cute with a new iPhone-esque business card inside of a "clutch"... and a few other designs, bringing FIVE different cards with me to pass out. Who makes 5 different versions of business cards?! Me dammit.

cute DIY business cards

Celebrity costumes
Amy Winehouse (Tali from A Party Studio) and myself as Gwen Stefani

Conference SWAG
SWAG! Loved collecting some super creative business cards and then going through them once I was home.
Roommate Gifts
My amazing roomie gifts from Always Occasion (left), CWBD (center), and A Party Studio (right)
On Saturday night a group of about 20 party planners competed in a Gold/Black & White Hollywood Glam table top design competition judged by Eddie Ross from Better Homes and Gardens, Jen from Hostess with the Mostess and Kim from TomKat. This was really fun because each design was so unique and truly beautiful. I LOVED walking around looking at each table- I was so impressed by the talent in the room. One table was as beautiful as the next and I was honored to sit at Kylie's (Made by a Princess) table which had personal touches like name cards a star on the back of each chair with our name...

Tabletop design

BASH Conference
Kylie's table guests... Representing CA Party People!
Tabletop Competition

Tabletop Design
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A huge congrats to Montrilla Jones from Lavender Pudding who just straight killed it with her table top design and won both the judges award and the people's choice... For more pictures, see her Facebook page linked above.

Gatsby Dinner Table

Proud of this Cali based planner for bringing home the prize!

Crying with Amy Atlas at BASH.
Ok... Our breakfast with Amy Atlas... Let's do this. I woke up Sunday morning and started packing and my roomie Tali asked me if I wanted to get a quick coffee before she left for the airport. I protested because I had no makeup on- but she won and off we went to the hotel lobby, (one of us cute and homeward bound... The other with 3 day old hair, no makeup and bags under her eyes from staying out too late the night before.)

We got to the front desk and she had to depart sooner than we'd planned for... I figured I might as well go get some coffee and breakfast anyway and sit and ponder all I'd learned the last few days. I was just about to sit alone when I saw a group of girls I love and respect from SoCal- so I naturally joined them. 10 minutes in to our breakfast and a couple of other ladies joined us and then a few minutes later... Amy Atlas strolls in and casually and as humble as can be stops at our table and says, "Would you mind if I joined you ladies for breakfast?" Like hello... WOULD WE MIND?! Let's see, for me personally I have only been following your every party planning move for almost 5 years, read your book from cover to cover countless times and have submitted and been featured multiple times on your blog... I would not mind Amy. She sits down and within a few minutes I can tell she is genuinely a kind and caring person. I mean up until that moment I had only heard her as the key note and had waited in a line to have my photo taken with her during her book signing night... But I could tell she was easy to talk to right off the bat, like a real person. AND... WAIT FOR IT... She ordered PANCAKES. With syrup. This celebrity party planner was sitting with us eating real people food. I think we were all kind of shocked... And impressed. It made me feel better about not having any makeup on.

As we started to talk about the conference I asked her if she'd herself enjoyed it and as we all chatted about our learnings, the subject turned to our children. For the sake of not over sharing anyone else's personal details I will just say that at some point I began to share about my 6 year old son Cormac, and how I've noticed that he's picking up my Type A personality and is already becoming a perfectionist... And that it kills me. I shared about a recent moment I had with him where he'd drawn a bunch of Star Wars characters and then crumbled them up, because they weren't "perfect"... And then I confessed that I know he's seen me do this with my own work, whether it's been a sketch or a party project... That he is indeed mimicking my behavior. As I shared this, I started to cry... Right there... To a table of other party planners I've known for 3 days... and Amy Atlas. I'd like to mention at this point that I am not a crier. Even though this conference had me a ball of emotions, I rarely cry. But there I am... tears a flowin'. Then other girls started to share stories of raising children while running a party business or blog and they started to cry... And then Amy Atlas shared and she started to cry.

Meeting Amy Atlas

As we all pulled ourselves together, Tiffany from Fizzy Party reminisced about a party photo with a crooked straw flag and how the planner had pointed it out and how silly it was... (and yes, she is right!) and I confessed that was my photo, my crooked straw flag... and that those are the things I can not let go of... that they haunt me! And Amy got it. She got that the flag on the straw is a big deal. And we both knew it sounded crazier than crazy to say a straw flag matters... But that doesn't change the fact that we want that damn straw flag straight. We walked back to our hotel rooms and she looked at me and told me it was not too late to correct Cormac's behavior and teach him that not everything has to be perfect and that there is always room for mistakes. She encouraged me to watch my Type A behaviors in front of him and shared personal examples of how to do so. She begged me to be present at his party the following weekend and not to be a perfectionist but to just enjoy the party with my son. She reminded me that he is a sponge and watches everything I do. I was a sponge as she spoke to me... She gave me so much that breakfast and I will seriously always be grateful for it. She spoke to straight to Miss Party MOM.

So there you have it. My first conference... So much learned... So much TO learn.

Cheers to BASH 2015... and counting down the days to BASH 2016.

xo Party or Die xo


  1. Incredible post Kenna! Now I'm in tears!

    1. Just loved meeting you... Until we meet again my friend!!

  2. Love your re-cap Kenna! And loved meeting you too!

    1. Thank you! So glad we met too and so proud of you for doing the Table Top Challenge, and doing it well!!

  3. Great recap! I hope you had a wonderful time at your son's party :)

    1. Thank you! I wish we'd have gotten a chance to chat... I had a blast at my son's party, we are still recovering from party mode however ;)

  4. love it! so glad you got to go. looking forward to many more years of amazing parties from you, my friend!!

    1. Now if only I could get you to move back to Cali and photograph all of my parties, we'd be set...

  5. Love your re-cap Kenna! It was so great to finally meet you after knowing you online! I hope your son's party was amazing (the photos were fabulous!) and I hope that you were able to be present and just soak it all in with him enjoying his special day! And I love that Amy Atlas is so genuine and down to earth. What an experience BASH was! I look forward to next year! XO

    1. I'm so glad we got to meet and chat too! You're a doll and I love that you and Jen hang out... I need a party buddy close to me!

  6. Gorgeous! Love your post!! Loved meeting you at BASH! It was such a great time!

    1. You too Brenda! You are your daughter are dynamo!

  7. It was amazing to finally meet you in person and I just knew that we'd have a blast as roomies!!! I am actively working on a move to California so that I can be your neighbor and BFF! And you look gorgeous... even with three day hair!

    1. DON'T MESS WITH MY EMOTIONS. Love ya babe.

  8. It was so great meeting you! Wished we could have hung out more. You are a cutie and so genuine! You are a gifted writer. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. I'm so glad we got to meet and that we share so many of the same fun Central Coast memories... Next year we'll have to have a nice big ol' catch up fest!

  9. I love you girlie! Great post and I'm so glad you came. I'mo have to figure out a way to get to Cali so we can really hang!

    1. YES YOU DO need to figure that out!! That would be way too much fun.

  10. Kenna you are the best. I absolutely love this post. Meeting my California friend in person was just what I expected, your personality is just how I expected it to be fun, outgoing and loving. Can't wait to see you again next year xoxo

    1. So sweet Montrilla! I am so glad we finally got a chance to meet too! You did us all proud.


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