This weekend, I’m tired, swamped with work, but feeling pretty damn good. Jodi and I officially launched Boston Parent Bloggers this week with a fete at the Barefoot Books Flagship Store and Community Center in Concord, MA. This has been such a long time in the making for me that it was all a bit surreal and I was very nervous about everything coming together. The funny thing is that most of the people in my life didn’t think twice about it. Big Guy knew it was a big deal to me (I said it quite a few times), but I’m not sure he understood just how big, and I think my mom kind of got it. Everyone else seemed to think I was just having another party. And, since I do that on a regular basis with friends and family, no one really got how important this was for me.
I can’t speak for Jodi, but I do know that the idea for Boston Parent Bloggers has been kicking around in my mind for over a year and a half. There were other local blogging groups out there in the US that created a sense of community (SV Moms as a perfect example), but none that I knew of that were specifically designed to build community. In-person, face-to-face community. Our PR contacts keep asking us about our website, and I keep trying to explain that, while we do have a website, that’s not what we’re about. We’re about getting together, talking with one another, supporting each other, and having fun. And we’re about engaging with brands, as well. Basically, we’re about engaging with local parent bloggers, regardless of the size of their blog, the style of their blog, or their blogging goals. It’s a dream of mine. And when I dream, I dream big.
In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how it would come together. I had NO idea how many established bloggers are in this area, and I wasn’t entirely sure that other people cared as much about the community aspect of parent blogging as I do. Attending BlogHer Boston in 2008 really changed me. Meeting so many other women who are engaged in telling their own stories was empowering and inspiring. And, I think we all deserve to be empowered and inspired. That planted a tiny seed in me, which blossomed in 2009 when a PR representative said, “I didn’t know there were bloggers in Boston.” I wish I could remember now who said it, because it was the moment that I committed in my heart to Boston Parent Bloggers, even if I didn’t know it yet.
An idea this big needed at least two people and I thought long and hard about who I wanted to work with. I suppose it was fate that Jodi and I decided to take a trip to New York together, despite the fact that we didn’t know each other particularly well. Because when I told her about Boston Parent Bloggers and that I was hoping to tackle it with someone else, she said, “I’m interested!” She didn’t know that I wanted to ask her, but was afraid she was far too busy. And whether or not Jodi had been consciously planning something similar, it’s obvious that she felt the same way about community, and the power of bringing people together. When we started talking about a vision for the group, we were in complete alignment. Our first big task? A big party to welcome our members, give people a chance to meet in person, and announce to the world that we’re here.
I have experience with event planning. In fact, I have experience with event planning when you haven’t yet found the money to pay for anything. That didn’t make this any less nerve-wracking. Jodi and I were trying to plan a really nice party for a group whose initially small membership was growing over time, but who had no history. Better still, we were planning it at the onset of the holiday season when event space was at a premium and budgets were stretched thin. We heard “no” a LOT. Frequently, we heard nothing at all. But we had some fantastic people who believed in us and jumped right on board to help out. Great folks like Laura Tomasetti at 360 Public Relations and Leah Lesser at Barefoot Books. Barefoot Books donated their gorgeous space for us to use and 360PR started reaching out to their clients. Eventually, we found major sponsorship support from Peapod (who provided ALL of our delicious food), Stonyfield Farms, and Isis Parenting. These fantastic brands took a chance on a brand new group and helped us kick things off in style. We can’t thank them enough. We also had some amazing giveaway and gift bag sponsors that I can’t list here (it’s too long!), but you can see them on the Boston Parent Bloggers launch party page. Because of them, our members went home with tons of goodies.
We spent the day of the party running around and then stuffing 120 bags (2 for each member!) with two of our fantastic members, Kim from Mommycosm and Melanie from TheCouponGoddess. They kindly helped us stuff the mounds of gift bag items for a couple of hours before heading off to get ready for the party. Jodi and I arrived at Barefoot Books a bit later than we intended, and spent the next 45 minutes scurrying around trying to get everything in place on time. We had plenty of help from the wonderful staff we hired from Party Servers, the Barefoot Books staff, and even our sponsor, Peg from Peapod! By this point, I was a bit of a wreck, although I was trying not to let it show. I was nervous about the mix of bloggers and whether everyone would feel comfortable. I was anxious that our members feel properly celebrated. And, having been pampered with goodies at events like BlogHer and Blissdom, I was a bit concerned that it wasn’t enough somehow. Yeah, I’m a bit dorky that way.
There are plenty of recaps of the event from our members and I think they say it better than I ever could because I was far too close to the situation. Suffice to say, the event was a success. The Barefoot Books store is beautiful and browsing through their gorgeous items was a good distraction for anyone feeling nervous or overwhelmed. The food was delicious and in abundance (I came home with mounds of untouched platters!). And our members were… amazing, fantastic, delightful, thoughtful, kind.
At the risk of sounding like a total sap, every single time someone came up and thanked me, I wanted to give them a hug and thank them instead. You can’t have a group without members. And you can’t have an amazing launch party without people who are having fun. More importantly, this was the sort of dream that required other people to dream it, too. And they did. And they still do.
As of right now, Boston Parent Bloggers has 96 members and we’re still growing. We’re getting ready to launch an online space for our members to connect. And companies are starting to take note. I feel a bit like a kid who just found their entire Christmas list under the tree. Not a bad place to be.
P.S. If you were at the party and I convinced you to become a Barefoot Books Ambassador, here’s my link to more info (it should have my code embedded in it). It’s great timing, because you can save money on your holiday gift buying. =}