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So it’s been a week since my fantastic, wonderful, exhausting weekend in Melbourne at Clare Bowditch’s Big Hearted Business (un)conference. Work’s been so busy I feel like I’ve hardly been able to reflect, but now’s the time on this lovely sunny Sydney day.

I’ve decided I’ll post a bit about my experience and vibe of the thing, and then do individual posts about the main ideas I took away from the weekend, rather than conflating them all in one mega post, because there was so much good stuff I want to savour it!

But if you’re a tl;dr person, the short version is: it was wonderful and worth every cent and you should totally come next year.

So I flew in to Melbourne on Friday night, checked in to the Jasper Hotel (just next to Queen Vic Market). I had decided that as I was on my own and already feeling a little trepidatious about the whole thing I would take the path of least stress wherever I could, and planned to just catch taxis everywhere (except to and from the airport – I could manage that on buses). Although Melbourne’s public transport is excellent and Karen had loaned me her Myki card, I just knew that trying to figure out how to get around and the extra time it would take to get everywhere would stress and tire me out.

First thing on Saturday I went to the Queen Vic Markets and bought coffee and a pastry for breakfast from Market Lane Coffee and then some olive bread, delice de Bourgogne cheese and shaved ham – this would form my yummy hotel picnic dinner for the next two nights, and I’m so glad I did it because by the end of the day I had no energy to go out foraging for food (there was a McDonald’s right next to my hotel and I was determined not to set foot in it so I needed to be prepared).

My taxi driver was the kind of guy you want in a taxi driver, friendly, gregarious and interesting. We chatted about all sorts of things on the way to Northcote, which was kind of like a warm up for me in talking to strangers for the day, and unusual because I don’t normally engage in much conversation with taxi drivers.

I arrived at the Regal Ballroom and joined the long queues of smiling women (and a few gents) going round the corner. The interior of the 1912 ballroom was lovely; a soaring ceiling, old fashioned chandeliers, a stage under a proscenium arch, framed by trees, and with a cosy looking couch in the centre. Clare said a few times during the weekend that they had deliberately chosen a space that wasn’t a cold, sterile convention centre, so in exchange for the character of the space there would inevitably be things like AV issues, unexpected sounds (like the sound of our lunch being prepared in the kitchen behind the stage), and bathroom issues (there were only six toilets, one of which got blocked) – but nobody minded.

Because filling the room were over 500 people (apparently around 470 women and 30 men) who were eager to be inspired, encouraged, filled up and who wanted to change the world…in big ways and little ways. A room full of big hearted people.

If I had to choose one word to sum up the vibe of the weekend, I think it would be GENEROUS. Every speaker gave of themselves and their life experience in such a real and honest way. We were encouraged to share our own skills to help others in their creative business by donating a skill or item on the sharing tree, and people gave lavishly (and those who donated a ‘leaf’ were allowed to pick one…though I don’t think anyone picked mine. But that’s okay).

The sponsors donated such wonderful gifts for our goodie bags (I’ll do a sponsor post later). The food – oh! the food – yes, it somehow felt generous too. Not measly little shrink wrapped portions of stuff like at most conferences, but abundant, delicious, fresh and waste-free (everything was served in jars, which were washed and reused). I loved that when Joost Bakker was talking about it, he said he had picked a lot of the food we would be eating himself, and even his kids had helped pick the chestnuts.

Basically I wanted to take the essence of the weekend and just live in it forever.

Part of the idea of gathering us all together was that we would make connections with each other. Now that’s something I was a bit nervous about, and I don’t think I ‘sold’ myself very well to the few people I talked to. But I sat next to lovely women who were easy to chat to, and we agreed that the great part about it was that everyone was in a different place on the journey – it wasn’t like it was a roomful of highly motivated people who all knew how to be successful and were networking (ugh). There were people who didn’t know what they wanted to do, but were exploring; there were people who were already striving in their chosen field but needed inspiration; there were people who were full of experience and willing to help.

One connection I made that was more than ‘so what brought you here’ was with Nerea. I had seen her in the room on the Saturday, her fiery red curls unmissable in a crowd. When I went to the sharing tree on the Sunday to pick a leaf, it was really hard to decide, but when I saw her leaf offering a sterling silver pendant and signed off with a smiling face topped with red curls, I knew that was the one. I found her in the crowd and really enjoyed meeting her. She so generously agreed to have a go at creating my TalulaMei doll logo in sterling silver (and she’s already done it! I will show you when it arrives). Fittingly, her brand name, Rulitos, means ‘little curls’!

As for what the speakers actually said? I went over my pages and pages of notes while on the plane back to Sydney, and circled the words/ideas that kept recurring across the various speakers’ talks (or the ones that resonated with me, anyway). I came up with:

  • gratitude
  • authenticity / honesty
  • clarity, both of why they did what they did and how they wanted to feel in life
  • connection / relationships
  • self care
  • just starting something, even if you’re not sure it’s the right thing
I’ll do individual posts on each of those with tasty quotes from the speakers.
I’m definitely going to go next year (if they hold it next year!). It was such a refreshing drink for my creative self, and an encouragement to keep going and exploring and learning and doing. Time to start my savings plan now!
If you want to come, you should put your name down on the BHB mailing list – they send out excellent inspiration bombs and positive emails, and you’ll be the first to hear about any events or cool things they’re doing (like a creative yoga retreat in Bali with Clare Bowditch and Jess Neave…oh how wonderful that would be!).
That’s all for now…more big hearted business very soon…