Left to right: Carrie Colbert, Courtney Kerr, Sarah Adam Hafez, Lee Anne Benjamin, Jaserah Asadullah, and Agatha Ashiofu.

If Instagramming was a sport, Create & Cultivate would be the World Cup. Founded by Jaclyn Johnson in 2012, the nationwide conference gathers renowned CEOs, content creators, and celebrities like Martha Stewart, Meghan Markle, and Kim Kardashian to name a few. On June 1, influencers and fashion enthusiasts flocked to the Galleria for the fourth annual Create & Cultivate Style Summit to gain insights from some of the leading content creators in Texas and beyond.

“Every moment was an Instagram backdrop,” says Lauren Murray, a local creative marketer who attended the conference for her third consecutive year. Attendees posed for photos in front of a mural made by Houston calligrapher Dionne Christiansen, mastered the art of the Boomerang toast with signature cocktails, and got dolled up in hair and makeup as they made their way through the event’s many activations. 

The main attraction, as always, was the lineup of A-list influencers. Houston was proudly represented by speakers Carrie Colbert, Sarah Adam Hafez, Jaserah Asadullah, Agatha Ashiofu, and Brittany Puerto in sessions throughout the day-long event. The roster also included celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg, Dallas blogger Courtney Kerr, and Austin blogger Lee Anne Benjamin. The day concluded with a keynote interview between Johnson and Audrina Patridge, reality TV darling of The Hills (a reboot of which returns to MTV on June 24 to millennials' delight) and founder of Prey Swim. Last year's summit brought celebrity keynote Elizabeth Chambers Hammer.

Keynote speaker Audrina Patridge (left) chats with Create & Cultivate founder Jaclyn Johnson on-stage at the Houston summit this month.

“The Style Summit provides the motivation I need to keep going with my small business offerings, and shows me I’m not alone in my interests,” Murray says. Along the way, she's met both clients and friends she keeps in touch with three years later. She looks forward to the summit’s “fresh perspective on influencer marketing, social media strategy, and branding,” she says.

One Lone Star-studded panel was moderated by Colbert featuring Hafez, Asadullah, Ashiofu, Kerr and Benjamin. The six Texas trendsetters shared their tips for finding a voice and growing on Instagram. Hafez, a Houston-based Instagram phenom with more than 95,000 followers, offered advice on fostering audience engagement and building a career. She quit her day job to take her YouTube channel and blog, Cultured Fashionista, full-time in 2016—a decision that paid off as she entered Create & Cultivate as a first-time speaker.   

“I want all new and aspiring bloggers to know that as long as you put in hard work and time, you will succeed,” she says. “This was a great opportunity for me to give back to everybody who has helped me succeed over the years and add more value in substance to their knowledge so they are able to better themselves and their businesses.”

With rumors of algorithm changes from social media companies like Sprout Social and Hootsuite, the newsfeed has been a hotly debated topic. While Instagram hasn’t publicly admitted any algorithm changes, influencers are still shuffling to overcome growing pains on the social platform their businesses often rely on.

“It’s always tempting to get wrapped up in negative noise of social media such as the comparison game,” Hafez says. “Focus on yourself and forget about what other people are doing around you. That is the only way you will be to truly cultivate your brand and your craft.”

If you missed out on this year’s Create & Cultivate, you can still get in on the action and insights: Create & Cultivate Insiders receive hours of conference panel footage, early-access to events, online mentoring sessions, and more for $15 a month. And, of course, there's always next year. We’ll have another round of girl power, please!

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