Updated: Oct 14, 2018
If ever something lived up to its name then this was it. The event, the brainchild of the wonderful Holly Tucker MBE of Holly & Co., champion of the small business, had been on our radar for quite some time. We both knew what a fabulous learning experience and opportunity it would be to attend for a relatively newly established small business like ourselves. However, after the expenditure invested into opening our second shop it was just something at that point that we couldn't justify the expense and so with that in mind we regretfully resigned ourselves to having to pass on the opportunity.
But all was not lost. Holly posted on her Instagram page the chance to enter a draw for two free golden tickets to the Congregation. We duly entered and never in a million years imagined that we would be the lucky winners selected - you could probably hear the thud as we metaphorically fell to the floor a few days later when indeed For The Love Of The North was selected. It was our "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" moment. After doing a happy dance we hastily booked train tickets and accommodation.
Our hotel could not have been closer to the venue within the grounds of Syon Park in West London.
A blaze of colour greeted all attendees as we followed the path to the Garden Room within the park.
We both had a moment where we felt overcome that here we were from Whitley Bay representing our small business. The fabulous folk from Hub Dot were on hand with the rather ingenious concept where you chose a coloured dot to sport which represented what you hoped to achieve at the Congregation and could connect with like minded folk wearing the same colour, a great icebreaker. After refreshments it was now time to enter the hall..................
As you entered you could not fail to notice the huge words upon the stage which resonated throughout the day. DO WHAT YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO. Upon each chair was a bag from Holly & Co. containing various goodies and the all important Small Business Bible a great companion to the day and to help with the future. If we weren't already feeling in happy spirits then this was assured by the wonderful surprise of a group of amazing singers launching into an brilliant cover of "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. To say we were warmed up now is the understatement of the century.
To rapturous applause Holly took to the stage and it was clear to see how much the day meant to her and we all knew we were going to take something very special away with us. Throughout the day we were treat to hugely informative and inspirational panels made up of individuals from all spheres of independent business who shared their experiences with huge honesty. There really isn't enough space to go through every minute of the day but the real highlights for ourselves were:
Andy Poplar of Vinegar & Brown Paper @mendyourhead . Andy is someone we have admired for quite sometime and are the proud owners a fair few pieces of his of brilliant etching work. He is so modest of his talents and the story of what led him to do what he does makes you admire him even more.
Natalie Lee of Style Me Sunday @stylemesunday Natalie is founder of the #WarriorWomenProject and an advocate for 'real' women eschewing the false photo shopped perfection in today's world. Natalie was totally frank about the pressures of setting up your own business and whether there can be a work/life balance when undertaking such a venture.
Key speaker of the day was Julie Deane OBE, founder of the Cambridge Satchel Company. The word inspirational could be overused when describing the day but Julie is truly inspiring. It was amazing to hear how her business started from the kitchen table to become a global brand with an annual turnover in excess of £50 million. Her grit, determination and sense of humour shone through the talk leaving us with lots to think about in terms of running our much smaller company.
And of course the woman herself - Holly Tucker. She is genuinely (and yes going to use that word again) an inspiration. She inspires and gives confidence to all and we came away with a totally different perspective on how we look at various areas of our business and tips to put into practice to help us grow and develop. So much had went into bringing this day together and it was rounded off as it began with song and how more perfect and fitting than with our fabulous singers performing "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman.
Before we left there was time to enjoy some wonderful cocktails, say farewell to new friends we had made and the icing on the cake - to meet Holly herself. We wanted to thank her personally for the golden tickets and for a truly, truly inspiring day. Thank you Holly x
Just for info - we were incredibly privileged to win tickets to the Congregation of Inspiration (with no mention of a blog post in the mix) but were so inspired we couldn't help but write this blog about the event. As ever all opinions are our own.