Last week I returned from a weeklong trip to Cancun. When friends asked me if the trip was for work or vacation, my answer was yes, and yes.
I was there for the inaugural Food Blog University held in Cancun, Mexico. A conference that is in its first year can go a couple of ways. It can be a completely disorganized mess, or it can blow it out of the water. It can be a large group and sell out quickly, or can be small and intimate. But in a location like the Dreams Riviera Resort, I figured even if it was a flop, hey, I was in Mexico.
Food Blog University completely surpassed my expectations!
There were two factors that motivated me to sign up for the conference just hours after hearing about it without any hesitation.
Food Blog University
1: The lineup of speakers.
This included some of my favorite food bloggers, Lindsay and Bjork Ostrom from Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro, and Jaden and Scott Hair from Steamy Kitchen. See any commonalities? They are both couples. And the conference organizers intended it to be a family-friendly conference where spouses/partners and also children were not just invited, but also included, which leads me to…
2: I was in desperate need of a family vacation.
The combination of a work related conference that could also extend as a family vacation — in Mexico (!), at an all-inclusive resort, with sunshine, and tacos, and margaritas, and pools (!!!), and learning from some of my food blogging heroes and getting one on one coaching and advice and photography lessons from them — sounded almost too good to be true.
But it actually happened. And it was awesome!
It was incredibly inspiring to be surrounded by a talented group of motivated bloggers focused on growing their blogs. I made some great new friends and received invaluable (and practical!) hands on photography and blogging skills from some of the most successful in the business. And Sean got to be a part of it all too. As a couple building our own business together it was important for us to get some advice from couples who are already succeeding at working together. And in the end that is a key theme the conference reinforced throughout the week; being a business owner and an influencer is a critical success factor in what we do.
I’ll be putting much of what I learned at the conference to work here on this site as well as sharing everything I learned with those of you who couldn’t attend in the weeks to come.
Highlights from Food Blog University
If you heard about the conference and were on the fence about going this year, I highly encourage you to consider it for next year. There were so many positives about this experience, like:
- Being a part of an intimate group. Our group for 2015 was small, but I predict it will grow by leaps and bounds as word gets out about the value of this experience. Having a small group was instrumental in developing some great and I expect long-lasting relationships. Hi guys!!!
FBU attendees & their families, photo courtesy of Dreams Riviera Resort
- FBU organizers Diana and Eric Johnson of Eating Richly Even When You’re Broke and Melissa and Luis Llado of Serendipity and Spice went above and beyond to make sure everything went smoothly, that included lots of behind the scenes organizing and smoothing out hotel issues prior to the event, transportation for all attendees, and so much more. Traveling outside of the country (especially with small children) can be worrisome for some people, and they ensured everything was smooth, safe, and stress-free. You can definitely trust that these people will take good care of you!
- As far as conferences go, it’s hard to beat one located at an all-inclusive resort on the beach. And the staff at Dreams, especially the service at all seven of the restaurants, provided excellent hospitality.
- Photography lessons from Lindsay of Pinch of Yum. I’ve admired Lindsay’s work for years now, and have a whole separate post about how her advice has helped me grow in my own freelance work (coming soon). To be able to get hands on lessons from her was worth the trip alone.
- Blogging lessons, business tips, and inspiration from Jaden and Scott Hair from Steamy Kitchen. Wow! They offered a behind the scenes look at what it takes to succeed at running a business together. Scott’s secret? “An unwavering commitment to success.” What it comes down to for them is hard work and commitment to achieve your goals. There are also practical tools that can help you achieve this success. You will learn those tools at FBU.
One-on-one coaching sessions at FBU
- Did I mention it’s family friendly!? That’s a big deal for me, as someone who constantly travels for work. To be able to combine work with a family time is priceless.
- I should also mention this conference is not just for food bloggers. I’m still primarily a wine writer, but have learned through my own trial and error that certain skills (like photography, and behind the scenes of blogging in general) are vital to my growth, no matter what subject I write about. I was also able to share some of my own wine expertise with others in the group — like talking about the awesome versatility of Malbec with Lindsay and Bjork who have recently become fans of said grape. Go Malbec!
- Making non-blogger friends, like this little guy.
- And finally, moments like this…
… and sunrises like this.
Mellissa Sevigny of I Breathe I’m Hungry relived her favorite treat of the meal, a recipe for Mexican Coffee, and provided 10 reasons you should attend FBU in 2016.
Melissa Llado of Serendipity and Spice, one of the organizers of the conference, provides her thoughts on the behind the scenes and what it was like to hold the conference at a location of “Unlimited Luxury”.
And Marissa, from OMG Food, recounts her highlights from the experience and what it was like to combine vacation with work, including some gorgeous photography.