How Yellow Conference 2018 Proved That Taking Ownership Will Change the World

Counting down the hours to my first Yellow Conference, I was too excited to sleep after seeing Instagram sneak peeks of big, bright, illustrative installations going up by The Shift Creative and Hanna Snyder, creating a Yellow universe for us to experience at Hudson Loft.

Used to a mostly solo freelance routine, I was anticipating female entrepreneurship Christmas, and -

A wonderland of creative, ambitious, generous women is exactly the gift I got over two days there.

This year’s conference theme was Our Ownership. The idea of ownership is essential for entrepreneurs, and for women, as we learn to articulate our missions more boldly, more clearly. But this theme was two words, Our Ownership, and the way that sunk in through speakers, organizations, and new friends was clarifying and motivating in a way that I had needed a refresh in.

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Women poured into the first floor of Hudson Loft in downtown L.A., exploring the marketplace of amazing do-good vendors and grabbing that necessary cup of coffee before heading upstairs to begin learning how to work together for the good of the world.

Bustling above the marketplace was the Yellow Collective Member Lounge, decked out with cozy seating areas to chat and refresh, a manicure bar by Restore Blank, a booth to get your watercolor portrait done, and a bar serving up refreshing mocktails all day!

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After committing an L.A. driving mistake I’m too embarrassed to tell you, man that Verve coffee was what I wanted in my system. And it smelled SO GOOD. But upstairs finding my seat next to a friend,

I was quickly eased into the sense that this was a place I was going to be nourished as a woman, an artist, and a somewhat reluctant business woman (exactly where I need to take ownership).

Everyone assembled for the conference kickoff, as emcee Alex Michael May and Yellow founder, Joanna Waterfall, greeted attendees, sharing the layout of the space including two rooms behind the main stage seating dedicated to quiet meditation and creativity, respectively.

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In the Silent Space room, attendees could break off whenever needed to take a little time to themselves amidst the inevitable buzz of social energy. Filled with cozy floor pillows, essential oil diffusers, and the warm, inspiring poems of I Am Her Tribe, the space was a perfect invitation to rest. In the Create Corner, we were encouraged to add to a communal collage by playing with art supplies spread across the room. It was so thoughtful and disarming.

I could see how much passion the Yellow community has for every kind of woman to flourish, no matter her personality, her setbacks or achievements.

There wouldn’t be one answer to success, or one appearance to being on the journey towards it.

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Joanna started the day reminding us, “In this space, we’re all equals.” We all followed with a few, good deep breaths together (literally) led by breathwork and meditation coach, Jenna Reiss, before our first speaker, Nikia Phoenix, uplifted us into paying attention to our self-talk and nurturing our what our heart song might be.

As speaker after speaker took the stage, I was uniquely impressed by each woman’s work, but moreover by her distinct commitment to serving the world where she saw a need.

This year, speakers were asked to choose their favorite nonprofits, and attendees were encouraged to try out the InLieu app to donate to the causes after each talk.

As the day carried on, Justice Rising founder, Cassandra Lee, shared why and how she goes into war zones to catalyze children’s education. She rallied us to see how our generation’s desire to right injustice could be brought to fruition. Author and wellness expert Candice Kumai followed, imploring us to take off our masks and go back to what makes us us. To fight to live up to our legacies and do something significant, rather than just hope to be a “someone”.

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Already filled with lots of wisdom to process, any pretenses we walked in with were dropped at the door, and it was time for lunch. Friends old and new broke off to enjoy some delicious and healthy bites in the marketplace, or adventure off for a meal downtown.

Getting back down to business, we heard practical advice and the good, bad, and not-so-pretty experiences of building a do-good business from the ground up from a panel of entrepreneurs moderated by Bogobrush CEO Heather McDougall. Founders Kathy Terry of InLieu, AmyAnn Cadwell of The Good Trade, Liz Skalla of GIVN Water, and Susan O’Brien of Hail Merry shared about their business “firsts”, and everything learned along the way.

In deep with my note-taking, I was convicted of just how much I need to commit to pen and paper by speaker Allison Fallon’s case for claiming our identity as writers. “Writing is rerouting your neurological pathways for positive change,” she shared. I think when she said, “Writer’s block isn’t writer’s block, it’s life block,” we all felt it in our gut that it’s time to own some truths, and to be better off for it.

To close the day, Miki Agrawal, founder of THINX and multiple other incredible businesses, showed how fearlessness is true disruptive innovation.

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Virality and money are great, but are not as key as being artful, uncompromising, and stirring participation in your community to help address global problems.

We toasted to an incredible first day with drinks and shopping in the do-good marketplace! Every speaker and marketplace vendor was tangible proof that it’s possible to use business for good in so many ways. In the Do Good Goods Marketplace, all products passed a high standard of being ethically made and/or giving back in different forms.

The same went for this year’s goodie bags, a tall market tote packed with clean beauty goods like Cocos Organics non-toxic lip balm, Elate Cosmetics eyeshadow, Ursa Major natural deodorant, and Trilogy organic rosehip oil – not to mention all Saje Essential Oils everything placed around the entire space.

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We also received the cutest mini llama pillow and “Own It” canvas banner by Imani Collective, and a gold keychain from Tumble. Both companies employ female artisans either domestically or internationally, empowering and equipping them with opportunity. It so happened that I have an empty hook in my bedroom where Imani Collective’s banner now belongs, and I promptly put the keychain on my backpack for the next day. Nothing like the feeling of being ready for school.

To top it all off, we’re all ready to write, plan, and reflect in our new journals by B-Corp Raven & Lily, with Ooly Pens, a female-run brand that gives back to schools. Plus – an ethically made bag from Eco Bags to take it all on the go!

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On day two, we hit the ground running by hearing Pinterest’s Head of Culture & Community, Enid Hwang’s, breakdown of what makes good goals and how to start living by priorities rather than drowning in a to-do mindset.

Our time is something to own; it belongs to us. As do our unique personalities, which branding expert, Alison Faulkner, taught us to embrace and feel as awesome as we already are. We danced it out, and then got some serious education on the politics of public art and fashion from activist fashion blogger, Hoda Katebi.

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Pledgeling moderated the second panel on how to integrate and sustain a give-back element in a business. It was fascinating to hear how companies like Fullscreen Media, This Bar Saves Lives, and The Giving Keys have harnessed new media and emerging tech to qualify (storytelling) and quantify (hard numbers) social impact to keep advancing philanthropic efforts. Next up, co-founders Brittany and Ian Bentley shared how they started Parker Clay with community at the heart and generational impact for good in Ethiopia as a goal, citing their favorite African proverb:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

So much wisdom was dropped, but we ended these two very full days with spoken word by Amena Brown that made us laugh from our bellies and remember soberly, confidently, “We are not alone in doing the work we do.”

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No new strategy, algorithm, or way of presenting oneself compares to the power of answering a deep, personal calling to impact the world for good. Each of us has them! Making it our shared mission to own them is the best place to be - with all that we have and all that we are in the present moment.

Attending Yellow Conference 2018 filled me with anticipation for the good to come, and joy over the people to do it with. Together, we can own a generous confidence and be a force for good in the world, no matter who or where we are.

Photos by Cacá Santoro

Melanie Loon

Melanie is a writer and artist in her native Los Angeles. Her words and abstract portraiture discuss communication, emotion, and movement. She’s always hoping the “movement” part includes seeing somewhere new, soon, and she’s more than game to read the dessert menu.