Six Lessons from rStheCon: The rewardStyle Conference 2018

A Recap of my Weekend in Dallas
Jennifer Lake Away Luggage
Shop my travel luggage here and my new favorite sneakers here

Each year, rewardStyle invites 200 of their top publishers to Dallas, Texas for three power-packed days of events, parties, brand meetings, classrooms sessions, and keynote speakers. If you aren’t already familiar with them, rewardStyle is the industry-disrupting company that connects bloggers with brands (and vice versa). As of last fall, rewardStyle has helped drive more than $1 billion in sales for the retail industry. The goal of their annual conference is simple – arm bloggers and brands with the tools, knowledge, and connections needed to help grow. This year, rewardStyle Conference 2018, marks my third year attending.

I was truly honored and grateful to be included. Additionally, the rewardStyle team invited me to speak on the brand main stage with Anh of 9to5Chic and Sarah of Sassy Red Lipstick. We had such a great experience at the rewardStyle headquarters on Friday morning. I loved spending time with both women (the three of us definitely became fast friends)!

rewardStyle Conference 2018

Given that rStheCon is attended by both bloggers and brands, they offer separate yet simultaneous experiences on the first morning of the conference. One takes place at Hotel Crescent Court where all of the bloggers gather to experience the main stage presentation. This year’s keynote speakers included rS Co-Founder and President, Amber Venz, Aimee Song, and Kendra Scott. At the exact same time, the massive group of brand representatives are just up the street at the rewardStyle headquarters. This allows them to dive deeper into new analytics, trends, and technology. At rS HQ, the main stage consisted of Tom Sipple (rS Chief Financial Officer), Baxter Box (rS Co-Founder and CEO), and our panel of three bloggers. We were able to share about our experiences with brand partnerships, and I felt so honored be a part of that morning among all of the brand reps.

rewardStyle Conference 2018 Blogger Panel
Jennifer Lake Sarah Tripp Anh Sundstrom
Shop Anh’s look here, Sarah’s look here, and my look here

You may have seen countless bloggers’ Instagram Stories and behind-the-scenes from the weekend, but don’t be fooled by the glamour, glitz, and their awe-inspiring outfits (although, there are always so many incredible looks). At the end of the day, rStheCon is about the business of blogging. Even though Style Charade is about my personal style and luxury travel inspiration, it’s also a business. It means the world that you take time out of your day to stop by, read, click around, comment, and engage. YOU are the reason I love my blog and sharing to social media channels.

Jennifer Lake rewardStyle Conference 2018
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Since I didn’t have the chance to tape every classroom session or take down notes on every data point, I thought it would be helpful to synthesize six of my favorite lessons from the rewardStyle conference 2018. Hopefully, it’s helpful for fellow bloggers/brands and to you as my valued readers. Here goes…..

LESSON #1: The Power of the App

Like so many of you, the app has become my daily resource and favorite tool for shopping and finding outfit inspiration.

Did you know the app went from zero to a million unique registered users in a quicker period of time than Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat? The app is a phenomenal shopping source, and the data supports it.

Have you downloaded it yet? If not, you can visit this link. Once you sign-up, be sure to search my handle @JenniferLake and follow me. I will be sharing exclusive content on the app that you won’t find anywhere else (i.e. not on the blog, nor on Instagram, or anywhere else on the web). In addition, I’ll be doing giveaways and other fun surprises for those who are following me on the app. Trust me, it’ll be worth it! : )

Jennifer Lake app

Download the app here

Best of all? The app is algorithm free. All of the content is in a chronological and easy-to-understand order. Furthermore, we received some exciting news at the rewardStyle conference – they’ve just released a new capability called “wish lists.” This means you can click on my outfit and save products for later. PLUS, when those items go on sale, it will send you a notification! SO good, right?!

Sara Battaglia Pink Dress

Shop this look here

LESSON #2: Sponsored Content is a Good Thing

One of my favorite classroom sessions at rStheCon was led by Courtney Kerr or KERRently. The topic was about the ever-shifting aspects of Instagram Stories, and she also touched on sponsored content. Not only was Courtney absolutely hilarious, she had so many great insights.

In case you’re unfamiliar, sponsored content is dedicated blog and/or social media posts that a brand has paid a blogger or content creator for. How can you tell if something is sponsored? You’ll know when it’s a paid post when you see the words #ad or #sponsored in captions on social media or disclaimers on blogs. We’re required to include this info by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Jennifer Lake rewardStyle Conference 2018
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Courtney explained sponsored content perfectly. “Sponsored content doesn’t just mean I got paid. I’m giving companies dedicated real estate on my blogs and social media channels that I believe in.” She went on to joke about, “As a fellow blogger, can I give a small PSA? Please stop using the hashtag #NotSponsored” in your posts. We are ALWAYS sharing items we love and believe in. Of COURSE you are! You are a BLOGGER. Stop feeling bad for sharing items you like with a hashtag #NotSponsored!”

Preach, Courtney!

Often, sponsored collaborations get a bad rap for most bloggers. I think that’s why the #NotSponsored hashtag surfaced in the first place. Thankfully, you – the Style Charade community – have been very open and understanding to my partnerships. I hope this stems from your understanding of how carefully I vet these opportunities. I only agree to sponsored paid content with brands that I believe in. If you ever see #ad, #sponsored, or a disclaimer on this blog, I have carefully thought through whether it’s a fit or not. Sure, money talks. Furthermore, a lucrative sponsorship is hard to pass up, especially when you have a mortgage to pay. Nonetheless, my passion about sharing content that feels genuinely “me” supersedes paychecks.

Jennifer Lake Pastel ASOS Gown
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For example, earlier this year, I received the largest campaign offer that I’ve ever received. After seeing the email, my heart skipped a beat. I turned to Bob and said, “don’t you wish we could just blindly accept this collaboration? It’s not a fit, yet it’s is so hard to turn down.” I declined the offer and haven’t looked back since. Sponsored content is a good thing, but only when done correctly. I’m excited to collaborate with more brands down the road, but only when it’s the right fit.

LESSON #3:  I’m Proud to Be a Chicago Blogger

Let me clarify this lesson: I don’t believe Chicago bloggers are better than anyone else. My point more relates to how thankful I am to have made genuine friendships and connections with so many publishers from the Windy City. Our bonds are authentic, and we truly advocate for one another. In the blogging industry, competition can be fierce (and not everyone is as nice as they seem). Shocker, right? Lol.

Some days, in blogging, you look around and wonder, “Are we living in a Vanderpump Rules episode?” Too. Much. Drama. Don’t get me wrong, I always prefer to stay out of it. Best to leave that stuff to Jax and Kristen, mmmkay?

All that aside, I can truly say that every single Chicago blogger who attended this year has a heart of gold. In fact, two of my biggest highlights from the conference were with fellow Chicago bloggers.

Chicago Fashion Bloggers
Shop all of these looks (L-R): Blair, Shaheen, Liz, Me, and Anna

First, Bob and I had the chance to grab lunch with Liz and Dave. My stomach (and face) hurt afterwards from laughing so much. They are just refreshingly kind and honest about everything – business, parenthood, and even sleeping habits. Moreover, they’re just good people.

Secondly, I had an absolute blast at rStheCon’s party on the second night, hosted by EXPRESSAnna, Blair, Lauren, Liz and Shaheen, and I hung around chatting with Anh (we adopted her as a Chicago blogger for the night, since she’s so fabulous). The group of us were able to just let loose, have fun, and catch up. It was fantastic. One huge piece of advice I can offer is to surround yourself with women of integrity and character; women who aren’t afraid of another woman’s success. If you aren’t already, be sure to follow the other Chicago publishers who were in attendance at rStheCon (i.e. Anna, Blair, Lauren, Liz and Shaheen).

LESSON #4: Show Up

Anh and I had a great conversation at the finale party about “showing up.” Half the battle for an entrepreneur is to be open when opportunity presents itself, right? Moreover, as in any profession, you must find new ways to invest in your business and stay connected to the industry.

Style Charade 9to5chic rewardStyle Conference
Shop my look here and Anh’s look here
Jennifer Lake Sequin Dress
Chatting with Jillian Harris at the speaker dinner – she’s so lovely! (image c/o rS)

In short, as a blogger, if you’re invited to rStheCon, always say “yes.” Not only that, but do your best to attend every event, be prompt, stay on schedule, and always remain professional. Over the years, I’ve learned that when you don’t show up, whether it’s your intention or not, this is what you’re telling the others: You. Don’t. Matter. 

It was a HUGE honor to attend rewardStyle Conference 2018. The rewardStyle network has 25,000+ global influencers and growing. Trust me, there were countless publishers who flew all the way from Brazil, the UK, China, and beyond. Yes, life is full of calendar conflicts, and family and loved ones must come first. Totally makes sense! Not to mention, a conference can be scary! I work with people 24-7, and I STILL get nervous and anxious walking into a conference like this. Moreover, I’m not perfect! I miss meetings and calls, and I can’t attend every event in the world. Regardless, when things are within your control, show up.

Jennifer Lake rewardStyle Party

(image c/o rS)

Jennifer Lake Rixo London Sequin Dress
Shop this look here

LESSON #5: Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

I’ve always subscribed to this philosophy. When you put out the most authentic version of yourself, you attract those who accept you for you.. This weekend, I had the chance to meet so many inspiring content creators. Best of all, I’ve been communicating with many of them on social media for years. Here are a few examples (although this list is by no means conclusive).

Ally of Allyson in Wonderland:

Ally and I have followed each other for quite some time. SHE IS A GEM. At last year’s conference, we were “neighbors” on our hotel floor, and it was so great to connect in person. This year, we had a blast catching up at Friday night’s party.

Amy of Fashion Jackson:

I’ve DM’d and messaged back and forth with Amy for some time, and she’s the content queen of effortless style. We sat next to one another in the SEO classroom session, and I shrieked when I saw her in the room! We had the best chat, and I liked her immediately. She’s wonderful!

Anh of 9to5Chic:

Where do I start with this lady? I seriously feel like we’ve known each other forever. I RARELY get that feeling! She’s smart, humble, stylish (obvi), kind…the list goes on and on. We hung out for most of the events, and she even got me and Bob to dance for 90% of the finale party. I’m so glad we had time to connect! I can’t to see her the next time we are in San Francisco.

Haley of Alyson Haley:

Haley and I first met on social media about a year and a half ago. I LOVE her content, and she’s even sweeter in person. One of her photographers, Victoria, and I had a chance to work together last November when I was in London. I’m looking forward to seeing what they dream up in the next few weeks (they’re traveling together for new content).

There are so many other incredible and amazing people I was able to see and meet in Dallas. I seriously loved every minute of the rewardStyle Conference 2018!

Style Charade Sassy Red Lipstick
Shop my look here and Sarah’s look here

LESSON #6: Take a Moment and Thank Your rewardStyle + Contacts

Between the Facebook/Instagram API change, PopSugar scandal, launch, and the planning of the conference itself, the rS and LTK teams have been put through the RINGER. Take time to send a sincere thank you for all they do for you (and the larger community).

I overheard someone at the conference complaining about their account rep, and it took everything in me to not (politely) say something. In my opinion, WE are fortunate to have THEM and these platforms. It’s phenomenal to even have a rep at all! rewardStyle wants to see us succeed. Never forget that!

So lastly – a huge thank to you to the rewardStyle and teams for their hard work and dedication. Also, my sincerest gratitude to the brands who sponsored the conference and especially the companies who gave me 15 minutes of their time (looking at you Banana Republic, Bloomingdales, eBay, EXPRESS, L’Occitane and Marc Fisher).

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