Haven Conference Recap: The Sessions & Swag

Aug 9

Last year I attended the Haven Conference, which was my very first blog conference. I had every intention of sharing a recap, but that never came together because my big take away was finally making the leap from Blogger to WordPress. Upon arriving home from Atlanta, I contacted Lesley to immediately hammer away on the new site and branding. Then there was that WordPress learning curve. #ugh By the time I figured out how to add a post, the conference was months behind me. This year I’m sharing a recap – right away!

It’s intimidating to step out from behind the computer to meet the bloggers you’ve been reading for years. And also put yourself out there to meet people that have been reading your blog for years. Haven was and still is my only blog conference experience. Of all the conferences available, this event best fits my niche. It’s for DIY and design blogger’s. Therefore the overall theme, sponsors and sessions cater to those who either create (woodworking, painting, building and otherwise) or design / decorate beautiful home spaces. I fit into both groups.

Since there’s much to share about the conference itself and personal takeaways, I’ll break it down into a few posts.

Also, I haven’t had a chance to upload all the pictures off my phone. And my house is trashed. So, there’s that.

Today I wanted to talk about the incredible sessions I participated in. I’ve made sure to link to each speaker’s blog so you can check them out too. We love new blogs to read, right? I also added some links to additional bloggers I met throughout the 3-day event.

8.5.16 Haven Friday Grand Hyatt BuckheadIMG_0003

The conference opened with a casual yet meaningful speech by a duo of blogger’s – Marian Parsons of Miss Mustard Seed and Shaunna West of Perfectly Imperfect.


Last year, Jon Acuff was our keynote. While he was incredible, motivating, is a polished speaker and has written several books, I totally enjoyed these ladies! I appreciated that they are “one of us”. They’re bloggers. They started out exactly where I did, felt the same vulnerabilities putting yourself out there, spent time building tribes of their own, built a brand for themselves and they understand the ups and downs of blogging. The highs and lows. The negative comments and the excitement when your favorite brand contacts you to partner on a project. They know how it feels to have a project succeed or bomb. No need to explain who their audience was – we are them. DIY bloggers and creatives. No matter if you were a new blogger or veteran, it was a great casual conversation that spoke to each of us – wherever we fall on the blog spectrum. They were real and genuine.

For me personally, their speech (which was really more of a casual conversation – they sat at a small table with mics and spoke from the heart) set the mood for the rest of my conference experience. They reminded me why I started a blog in the first place. And THAT is what my goal / takeaway will be from my overall experience this year. This blog is the heart of my business. It’s where my connection to all of these wonderful (and very real) blog friendships began. And most importantly, where my connection to YOU began.

This coming year, I’m going to blog more from the heart and work toward balance between client work and projects in my own home. I want to get back to building and creating…which I’m sometimes limited in my ability to do in a client’s home. In my own home I can bang tons of holes in the walls and not worry about liability. Anyway, it was a great opening and in closing they read “a letter to you” for the new bloggers in the audience. Very touching!

My first session was Basic SEO presented by Brooke Ulrich of All Things Thrifty.

Yep, figured I’d ease my way in with a “stress-free” topic.

For my non-blogger readers, SEO is Search Engine Optimization. It’s a blogger’s worst nightmare…and best friend. Sorta like laser hair removal. SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of your website. And if you’re a blogger, you want your site easily searchable. The internet is constantly changing so we are constantly educating ourselves on how to keep those posts searchable…and get a high page rank in order to show up on that first search result page. For example, if you hopped on google and searched “trash bags simply organized” guaranteed my blog DIY project would be the first to show up.  That’s the result of good SEO and a good website that web crawlers have approved.

Brooke is a total doll and did a phenomenal job keeping the topic light and funny. One of the many a-ha moments in her session was the need to educate myself more on google analytics. There’s a wealth of information to be found that I wasn’t aware of. She also shared a GREAT resource – SEO For Creative Bloggers, written by her brother.

In the afternoon, I had to get my hands dirty. I love Ryobi power tools. Truth – not getting paid to say that. These are the only power tools I own because they are easy to use, cordless and all work off the same battery model. They make it simple to get projects done for clients because I can toss a drill into my bag and not worry about the need for an extension cord. In this session, I learned about their entire line of impressive products, including outdoor lawn tools and their new garage door system. Very cool!

Now, these are centerpieces I can stand behind…

haven conference 2016 recap by simply organized


We played with drills, nail guns and sanders to create a small chalkboard entry sign…


The Ryobi workshop wrapped early leaving me with 30 minutes to pop into Tasha’s affiliate marketing session…

Was beyond excited to finally meet Tasha in person after following her blog and reading her affiliate marketing e-book. (affiliate) If you’re a blogger and want to know how affiliate marketing works / how to boost your blog income – her book is a MUST READ. The book went through a revision and the updated version is on sale now.

Since I’ve read the book, I wanted to sit in for just a bit of her session. She is such a sweetheart!

Friday closed out on the early side so I walked through the sponsor hall to chat with some of the brands represented. Then went to dinner with a great group of bloggers. I’ll share more about my personal friendships in another installment, but here’s a fun picture of us “hanging out” in Anthro waiting on our dinner reservation…


( simply organized / addison’s wonderland / zdesign at home / sunny side up / haneen’s haven / house of silver lining )

Clearly having way too much fun. This crew is permanently banned from ever again stepping foot in this Anthro location.

Saturday was a full day of sessions and ended with a beautiful summer soiree. My first class was The Science of Massive Facebook Reach presented by the dynamic, energetic duo behind Blogging Concentrated; Rachel Martin (of Finding Joy) and Dan Morris (founder of Blogging Concentrated) were ah-maz-ing. Seriously. The best!

Haven Conference DIY Bloggers Atlanta Buckhead Grand Hyatt Event IMG_0482

Facebook has become a difficult place for blogger’s to connect with their followers because FB controls much of what we share. It’s true. You’re likely noticing it on your personal FB feed as well. Ask any blogger how they feel about Facebook and you’ll hear a strong negative response. Facebook controls its content and I suppose it’s their right since we’re posting and sharing on their site. Ultimately, Facebook is looking out for Facebook. They want you to stay on their site and not leave to jump over to our blog posts. Anything that keeps you engaged and scrolling on Facebook is good for FB. And now Instagram (purchased by Facebook) and Pinterest are doing the same thing.

Rachel and Dan are the experts on how to create more engagement with your audience…and how to create more engaging posts that your friends will want to share. I was on the edge of my seat and wish they were speaking the entire conference day, to be honest. They barely scratched the surface in their very condensed presentation.

You can see the back of my head here…I was totally engaged!

Haven Conference DIY Bloggers Atlanta Buckhead Grand Hyatt Event IMG_0477

After a quick lunch, I met up for the first time with my mentor group. This is the first year Haven tried this out and think it was a huge success! Our meet-ups were quick, wish they could’ve been longer, but am planning to stay in touch via their blogs and maybe e-mail. Our mentor leader was Chris of Just A Girl Blog

Such a doll! She’s one of the Haven team members who organizes this amazing conference each year – AND she’s a teacher…you know…on the side. #notworthy  She took a photo of us that I hope to pop in here soon but here’s a rundown of my fellow mentor group bloggers…all amazing blogs to check out!…

Chelsea of Two Twenty One

Leigh Anne of Houseologie

Lindsay of Crazy Organized

Amanda of Our Storied Home

Brooke of Cribbs Style

Shaun of The House Of Silver Lining

Kim of Hunt and Host

Chelsea of Making Home Base

Brooke of Start At Home Decor

Haneen of Haneen’s Haven

Hope I didn’t miss anyone!

After lunch I attended the session on Maxing Out Your Ad Income with Andy and Kelly, the sweet couple who started AdThrive. As a reader, you may hear me say “ad”, see visions of flashing squares on the sidebar, and want to barf into your handbag. I do too! I want to keep my site as ad free as possible. AdThrive is changing the way ads are seen on your end. Learned a ton in the session, but since many of my readers aren’t bloggers I’ll skip the boring details.

My final session of the day was one of my favorite. Two of the sweetest, most talented, woodworking girls taught a session on decorative cutting. Jen of House of Wood and Jaime of That’s My Letter. Seriously, two of the kindest, down to earth women you will EVER meet. My spirit animals. Or spirit bloggers, I should say.

I may have gone deaf but sure had fun playing with saws! Imagine 30+ bloggers drilling, scroll sawing and sanding in a small ballroom…all at once. We had the option to create a couple projects but I chose a little phrase sign…that clearly needs some sanding and a cleaner cut. Not too bad though right?…


I know exactly where this sign is going and will be sharing it soon. Shared a little action video with my Facebook friends…

After all the fun, I hung in the lower lobby with more sponsors for a bit and then headed up to the main lobby for a glass of wine. Ended up meeting 2 fun girls – Heather from Southern State of Mind and Rachael of This Is Our Bliss.

If the day wasn’t full already, time for the Summer Soiree. So fun! Great food and drinks, dancing, chatting with old and new friends…many of us left on the early side because our feet hurt. Personally, I wanted to be ready first thing Sunday because at 8am one of my very favorite blog couples was teaching a class.

Again, more details soon in another post about a few of my favorite people…


( build-basic  / addicted to diy / sawdust to stitches / pretty handy girl / diy huntress / fix this build that / simply organized / that’s my letter )

Sunday morning I hopped out of bed to attend the Rock Solid with Rustoleum session taught by Katie and Jeremy Bower of Bower Power. Ack! I’ve looked up to them (and John and Sherry of Young House Love) for yeeeeears. I was grateful to meet both couples during the conference. Am not a big photo person so don’t have the proof to show you…but trust me, it was a dream come true to give them all a hug.

Katie and Jeremy were hysterical and adorable. Exactly as you’d imagine IRL and the class was very fun. Rustoleum has a new product called Rock Solid, which is a floor coating intended for use in a garage or basement.We followed along while The Bowers taught us how to use the product from start to finish – I can’t wait to try it in my own garage…and if my clients are brave enough, for them too!

Here’s the finished product at Katie’s house…can you even?!…

My final session of the day was Working With Brands. This was a panel style conversation with lots of info. I’ve been working with brands for quite a while but you can always stand to learn something new, especially from fellow bloggers. The biggest lesson being I will continue to work with brands that allow me to be me…not try to change my voice or make me sound like a sock puppet. #lambchop

The 3 sitting on the panel were Brittany Bailey of Pretty Handy Girl, Mandi Gubler of Vintage Revivals, and Kim Wilson of Sand and Sisal. Great group of ladies!

Our mentor group gathered together one more time for lunch. Sad to say goodbye to them!

What was even more depressing? The fact I couldn’t stay for the closing ceremony. My flight to the west coast was the only direct so I booked it months ago when I knew I was coming to the conference…and not knowing what time the conference would end or who was speaking. Was so bummed to miss Sherry and John’s speech, but in this day and age, I’m sure someone has it on video!

My bummed out attitude didn’t last long however because I ended up with a surprise rider in my uber to the airport – Toni of Design Dazzle. She was waiting in the lobby and asked to join me for the ride – so great to meet yet another amazing blogger. You can say I made the best of every last moment.

Check out her kitchen drawer you guys!…

When she found out I was an organizer, she couldn’t resist showing me and I’m so glad. She had this drawer custom made to accommodate her favorite OXO containers. How cool is that?!

No chance to bum around after getting home with conference swag like this!…

haven conference swag

haven conference swag

haven conference swag


pink toolkit

haven conference swag

Well, this post got pretty long, didn’t it – sorry! But I had to share while it’s all fresh on the mind. I’m feeling so inspired and couldn’t want to get in here to share / write / get back to the roots of where this crazy ride all began. I’ll be posting again soon with more personal notes about my blog friendships (new and old). If you’re a maker / decorator and write a blog, please consider joining us next year in Atlanta. You won’t regret it!

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comments +

  1. Great recap! I need to finish writing mine. This was my first Haven conference and I think I had the same thoughts you did after your first one – must switch to WordPress! Leslie was on my list to contact already so I am hopefully heading in the right direction. Did she actually switch it for you or did she just teach you how to do it yourself? I am not sure if I could handle doing it.. . So much to think about but I am happy to hear you enjoyed your second year at Haven!

    • Samantha says:

      Hi Shelley!

      Sorry we weren’t able to meet in person! There were so many bloggers it was hard to spend any amount of quality time with anyone. Such a great experience!

      Lesley helped me with the design / customizations and directed everything else (I migrated with RFE Hosting and Kristy of Robb Restyle designed my logo). Here’s a post with some info. Sad news is, Lesley isn’t offering this service anymore (RFE and Kristy are still however!) Great news is she took a short break and wrote her e-book What The Tech which is now my go-do guide when I have issues pop up. Definitely check out the e-book, but am unsure of who to refer you to for what she did for me. I’m sorry!!

      I would definitely agree that you need to make that leap sooner rather than later. Just this week (a year later) I was troubleshooting some issues and realized all of my pins that had been pinned for 4 years….they all have my old blogspot address. So, while I can change the pins to match where they currently are on the new site…I can’t change the thousands upon thousands my readers made during that time on blogger. It has caused a serious drop in traffic to my site b/c when someone clicks the pin, it takes them to a blogger page telling them the page doesn’t exist anymore and asking if they would like to “redirect”. I think people are scared off by that message and don’t click the yes button.


      If I knew better a long time ago I would have made the switch to WP. So please consider making the jump soon….and there are lots of bloggers with tutorials on how to do it yourself if you’re up for it. 🙂


      • Thanks so much for the very detailed response! I would like to think I could handle doing the conversion myself, but realistically, I would be pulling out my hair if I tried! Thank you for pointing me in the right direction, though. I know I really have to get moving on this!

  2. Pamela says:

    Wow this is such a cool post – so much packed in there. Organized if you will (haha!). Love that drawer at the end with the pop top containers. That is my dream drawer right there. Also I was laughing at that table with all the drills on it. Looks like you went to a really strange wedding!

    • Samantha says:

      So funny! I know!….that’s exactly what I thought when I saw the tools huddled in the middle of the table. Except, I was thinking “this is the most amazing wedding centerpiece ever!!!!” haha!


  3. This was my first Haven and you did a fabulous recap of it, Samantha! I saw you mention Toni. She was one of my roommates and was so adorable and sweet. I’m hoping to get into more projects next year, as I focused more on the business aspect for my first year attending. I love the word signs I saw so many of you carrying around and I’m excited to see what you do with yours.

    • Samantha says:

      Hi Carol!!!

      Thank you so much for popping over and leaving a comment! Will be checking out your blog after leaving this response. 🙂

      It was such a fun event – the organizers certainly put in a lot of work. Just a perfect, amazing time! Toni was a total sweetheart on the ride to the airport – bloggers are a unique crew and I’m so grateful to be a part of this community!


  4. Bree says:

    Hi Samantha! It was so nice meeting you and getting to hang out with you from time to time at Haven, especially at Anthro! Dinner, shopping and just hanging out with the girls was so much fun! Hope to see you there again next year, if not sooner!! 🙂

    • Samantha says:

      Hi friend!!

      Had so much fun getting to know you and spending time together – Such a sweetheart! Looking forward to connecting again soon!

      Am following your blog now as well!


  5. Haneen says:

    Loved this recap, Sam! I had a ball this weekend and I’m so thankful we met! Thank you so much for including links to my page! Xo

    • Samantha says:


      Ahhhh, too much fun…if only we didn’t have to sleep to be back downstairs by 8! Think about how much more fun there would have been. You are such a doll and so fun to hang with! Can’t wait to reconnect again soon!


  6. Amanda says:

    I loved sitting with you at lunch and chatting! I’m your newest follower!

    • Samantha says:

      Hi Amanda!

      Yes, I did too! I have your little blog card here and am including you and many more new blog friends in my next post. Such a fun weekend!

      I’m following you on BlogLovin as well!


  7. Kelley Nan says:

    Samantha, what an awesome recap! And yes, SEO is like laser hair removal! HAHA! I can’t wait to get to know your better 😉 xoxo

    • Samantha says:

      Awe, thanks for popping over! And yes – SEO = laser hair removal. #yikes Hahaha!

      So great to meet you last weekend. I wish we could go back to last Friday right now!!!


  8. Katie Bower says:

    Hey Girl! WHY DIDN”T WE GET A PHOTO!? What is wrong with us!? I am so glad to finally get to meet you in person and I am such a huge fan. You are seriously exactly what I imagined you are like….sweet and instantly friend material. I even said to Jeremy this weekend, do you think we could afford Samantha to come do my closet? He was like only if we took a life insurance policy out on her. #truth. So anyhoo…loved your recap and next time we all have to get together for a meal!
    xo – kb

    • Samantha says:

      Oh my gosh! Loved seeing your comment here!!! And your comment itself?! Nothing short of hysterical of course. Swear you are so funny – just my type of friend b/c I love to laugh and goof off.

      Girl, I don’t like taking photos anyway…but next time! For sure photos and dinner!


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