Summit Spotlight: Panel Discussions

Audience interaction will be key to five panel discussions that will be part of The Maker City Summit on September 23. Here’s an overview of two panels that will cover how to balance our personal lives and feelings as a maker. Next week we’ll share more about the panels on branding, growth and finding your target customer. 

Summit chair Alaina Smith, owner of Cold Gold, says the panels are meant to provide usable information about issues that so many of us struggle with. 

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“These panel discussions are super-interactive. We're dedicating the majority of the time to taking questions from the audience using web-based software that can collect those questions. That way, attendees won't feel nervous about asking them,” she says.

Here's a sampling of a few panels at this year's Summit!


Panel No. 1: Rejection

First in the lineup is “Ghosted: Making Rejection Your Best Friend.” Ryan-Ashley Anderson of Smart & Becker, Bob Camp of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Katie Vance of Porter Flea in Nashville and Phil Sanders of Citizen Supply in Atlanta will discuss how to reframe rejection as a tool to better engage with your ideal customers and take your business to the next level. 

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“I don't think there is a maker out there who hasn't struggled with rejection in some way,” Alaina says. “This was especially true for me when I was starting out. I would apply for craft fairs or approach a new wholesale account so nervous about what the answer was. Even worse, when I was rejected, I had no idea why. I believe the panel discussion on rejection will fill in some of the blanks as to why it happens, what you can do to move forward, and how to set yourself up for a resounding ‘yes!’ the next time.”

“It’s key as a maker out there selling your goods to be flexible, have a willingness to pivot, and an ability to absorb information without taking it personally,” Ryan-Ashley says. “I had to learn that a rejection of my goods wasn’t a rejection of me and use what I noticed about the shopping / buying experience to develop handmade goods I enjoyed making AND that evoked have-to-have-it feelings in my audience.”


Panel No. 2: Balance

Following on the heels of that discussion is another topic we struggle with: “Lifework not Work Life: Balancing Life, Work, Family, and Everything Else.” In this panel, Brynn Gonzalez of The Basement Community Art Center, Lox Salon and White Buffalo, Tanika Harper of Harper Naturals, Samantha Lane of Origami Day and Chris McAdoo of Design Sensory will discuss how to put priorities into perspective and find your breath.

Work / life balance has always seemed like a unicorn to me: illusive and non-existent. The holidays are especially tricky, seeing as Cold Gold brings in a huge amount of my yearly income in the span of 8 weeks,” says Alaina. “I've had to set limits and expectations for myself as to when I stop working. I've also had to get comfortable telling people no. There is no use in feeling guilty about how you spend your time, but there is a way to balance all the things in your life so your business can grow and you feel good about your decisions.” 

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Tanika Harper is the single mom of an 8-year-old competitive gymnast and a busy entrepreneur besides. She is founder of Harper’s Naturals, a skin- and hair-care company, and a nonprofit, Shora Foundation, and also is partner and operations manager of Elite Facility Maintenance.  

“Managing my business life has never really been a problem; the work always gets done,” she says. “However, my family life and self-care were suffering to the point that the nonprofit didn't provide services for several years. A few years ago, I realized that I could not go this business road alone, so I surrounded myself with people who could support my efforts. I also realized that being a workaholic was making me miss out on things of most importance, time with my daughter and my mental health. I’m putting work stipulations in place and creating healthy boundaries, and all three businesses are thriving again. I am too.” 


Wrapping it up

“Makers already pay so much attention to their craft, but these other topics may not always get the same care and attention,” Alaina says. “We've put together panels of industry experts alongside local makers so that attendees may hear different opinions and strategies when facing these challenges, rather than hearing only one person's approach. We hope they will spark more conversations between their peers and themselves so they have a network to help them continue to grow!” 

You can read about the rest of the panels here


Save your spot at The Maker City Summit and pick your panels today!