The inaugural W.E.L.L. Summit kicked off in Boston the first weekend of November and what was once just an idea in the heads of Organic Bath co-founder Gianne Doherty (and a few other talented, inspiring people) launched with more than 150 attendees, all ready to have a weekend full of wellness, empowerment, learning and luxury.
We jumped right into the thick of it on Friday with incredible session offerings from social media hacking (by famed Instagram-er Breakfast Criminals) to how to create an ethical, sustainable home (with Eileen Mockus, CEO of Coyuchi). What I loved about each breakout time was that there was a perfect balance of practical, applicable offerings and more esoteric, thought-provoking sessions. How many conferences can you attend where you could learn how to gain Instagram followers one hour and the next be meditating with a 22-year veteran of the practice?
After morning sessions, the attendees came together for a welcome lunch with a keynote speech from Kristen Arnett, green makeup artist and founder of The Green Beauty Team. This is where it really became apparent that the W.E.L.L. Summit was not just another conference: Kristen had attendees (me included!) tearing up with her powerful insight on how we view ourselves. She leveled the playing field when she said that everyone who sits in her makeup chair, from the most powerful models and female CEOs to everyday clients, speak the same fear—that they’re not enough. That there’s always something to fix or tweak. She encouraged listeners to treat themselves more gently, to begin accepting ourselves from the inside out.
Leaving lunch with new tools to listen to and love ourselves, we attended afternoon breakout sessions that put attendees up close and personal with brand founders and well-known influencers in the wellness industry. Each hour and a half session gave attendees the chance to get to know one another and to learn from experts in a way that made you feel connected, valued and inspired.
And that wasn’t even the best part: Thanks to the W.E.L.L. Summit team’s thoughtfulness, each session was small enough that every attendee could feel included and acknowledged. Speakers were accessible, sitting across from you at lunch and then presenting to small rooms of fewer than 20 or 30 people. You could ask them for follow-up info, or be specific getting help related to your personal story or business. This made the experience invaluable, and made for potential long-term connections between attendees and speakers. I’ve already emailed and chatted with a few of the people I met!
The evening concluded with an incredible farm-to-table welcome dinner, put on by Chive Sustainable Event Design and Catering at the Benjamin Institute of Technology. We were spoiled with hand-crafted cocktails from Prairie Organic and The Owls Brew, while seasonal dishes like roasted chicken and root vegetables graced our plates in a setting that looked like it had hopped off a Pinterest page. There was even incredible thought put into the seasoning of the food, thanks to sponsor Frontier Co-op. Their spices and seasonings are organic and non-GMO, making them a perfect addition to our meal.
Our bellies were full by the time featured speaker and wellness expert Latham Thomas took the mic, sharing insight and validation. This was a highlight of the Summit: Latham’s calm, soothing demeanor and relatable words seemed to create a group healing and catharsis in the room, allowing us to really listen and digest her thoughts. She reminded us that we put too much emphasis on the product of things, instead of valuing the process, which is oftentimes more beautiful than the outcome.
Latham encouraged us to trust our genius, to slow down and to make self-care a priority. Too often, we get lost in our story, forgetting the ways we’ve broken barriers and overcomes obstacles. Taking time to care for ourselves is one way to honor our process, to recognize our strengths and to create a life we love.
Optional yoga led by Emily Griffin opened the day on Saturday. For those of us too tired to get ourselves out of bed before breakfast, we met up at a breakfast bar full of delicious, local food sponsors Thirst Juice Co., Nectar & Green and CocoMama. Vegan, gluten-free overnight oats with delicious toppings and Barrington Coffee and Numi Tea (with the lovely Wedderspoon honey!) got us prepped for a full day of sessions.
Everyone was encouraged to attend the group Healthy Beauty Panel, moderated by Brandie Gilliam of Thoughtfully Magazine and featuring Tara Foley of Follain, Kristen Arnett of The Green Beauty Team and Kathryn Rodgers of the Silent Spring Institute. We listened as the panel discussed why what we put on our skin in the form of cosmetics is just as important as what we eat. Lax government regulations and no law governing the ingredients in personal care products since 1938 has created an industry that isn’t held accountable for what’s gracing the shelves of our drugstores or department stores.
More enlightened and empowered, we dispersed to our morning sessions, including tutorials on how to market yourself or your brand to bloggers and eating for clear, glowing, healthy skin. A gorgeous lunch bar gave attendees time to connect with each other, forming personal and business relationships that I know will last longer than the weekend.
Sprinkled throughout the daily events were little surprises from sponsors, including from monthly subscription box Beauty Heroes. A few lucky attendees were gifted with Beauty Heroes’ November box featuring W.E.L.L. Summit Speaker Josh Rosebrook‘s products.
Two more afternoon sessions wrapped up the afternoon on Saturday before we headed to a beautifully curated L.I.V.E. W.E.L.L. Party that brought attendees, speakers and local, ethical and sustainable businesses together for fun, shopping, organic cocktails and more. The culmination of the wellness and luxury we’d been experiencing for the last two days, the Saturday night party hosted top companies, leaders and change makers in their fields. This gave attendees a chance to get to know trustworthy, ethical brands and it gave local businesses the chance to share their stories, and create an environment of excitement and like-mindedness. More than 15 businesses offered treats and tastings, connection and camaraderie at the party.
One final yoga session was offered by Wellness Leader & Author Sara DiVello and a bookend to the weekend’s packed activities, before everyone met up for a pancake breakfast, sponsored by Birch Benders just-add-water organic pancakes (they served both classic and gluten-free options). Surrounded by our new friends and delicious, made-to-order pancakes, we reminisced about the weekend’s experience. Everyone I spoke with attested to the fact that the W.E.L.L. Summit was a conference like no other—we all came to Boston not knowing what to expect from the inaugural year and we were blown away by the incredibly thoughtful, luxurious, accessible sessions, speakers and activities.
Saying goodbye was the hardest part. It felt like we’d become a small family in the course of a few days, and leaving the creative, inspiring atmosphere of the W.E.L.L. Summit made me only crave another conference opportunity soon. It was truly a unique event, and the success and impact of it on the lives of its attendees will only increase with more summits to come!