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Modern Luxury's First Annual EmpowHER Conference

Madeline Rothman | August 1, 2019 | Lifestyle Parties

The stage was set for the inspiring two day event.

Modern Luxury’s first annual EmpowHER Conference commenced on June 27 at The Hotel Avalon. The two day event was meant to bring women in business and leadership together in support and celebration of one another. Featuring female entrepreneurs, business experts, and community leaders, the conference delivered inspiration and motivation for all those in attendance. In addition to the meaningful dialogue, guests were treated to goodies from Modern Luxury, Spindrift, Garrett’s Popcorn and Kendra Scott. Porsche, a sponsor of the event, encouraged everyone to ask themselves “What thrills you?” and invited guests to pose with a few of their illustrious cars.

Porsche provided cars to lounge and take photos in.

Following the pop-up shopping and pampering, more intimate talks focused on speakers with a honed passion for their topic. Vice President of Editorial at Modern Luxury, Stephanie Davis Smith presented on the topic of likeable leadership. She spoke about how her own experiences have shaped her leadership style, citing bosses–good and bad–over the course of her career. After gaining experience working for magazines, Davis Smith realized that many women in the field were, to put it simply, mean. Her takeaway? “I guess I’m going to have to be the one that’s not like that,” she says.

This mission is not without its hurdles, however. For Davis Smith, figuring out, “How do you get good work out of people and still not frighten them?” she says, “is kind of an art form.” In practice she’s realized, “If that’s not naturally your go-to, to be mean, then you're not being your authentic self.” Finding the right style of leadership is personal and slightly different for everyone. Davis Smith maintains that remaining authentic and vulnerable are her keys to being a good leader. She mentions that women are often told, “Unless you’re tough and mean you will not grow in any business.” A total myth. Overseeing 45 editors, junior editors, and creative directors, Davis Smith has gotten to the point where she believes, “You can be a kind and loving boss and still be successful.”

Each attendee was met with Modern Luxury magazines and goodies.

A fundamental aspect of what Davis Smith is seeking to accomplish at Modern Luxury is shaping the company culture for the better. She says, “Culture is contagious,” and stresses that it’s on leaders to create a healthy and supportive culture, rather than one fraught with blame and fear. Furthermore, Davis Smith advises that “Culture actually drives a bottom-line,” citing Southwest airlines, which prides itself on encouraging employees to have fun at work, while ranking consistently at the top in their industry. She says, “I want to empower my people under me to enjoy their job everyday.” How she achieves this is surprisingly simple, saying, “They need to own their own little space under you, I’ve found that gives them the best chance to flourish or take chances.” Setting a framework for employees and giving them permission to take these chances, in her experience, leads to better work. She says that people under here never start from a place from being in trouble, saying, “To have people be afraid and not operating from a place where they can effect change, I think is a leadership style that maybe is like 1975.”

A conflict women often face in the workplace is trying to be likeable. Davis Smith advocates for the idea that, “Being a likeable leader is having empathy.” However, she adds, “I think being assertive is super important, and not letting people run over you.” Davis Smith seems to have found a balance in her leadership role. It is by virtue of this that she has kept more talent on board than her predecessors. She says this is crucial for any business, “The more information and prior knowledge that goes out the door,” equals dollars lost. She encourages her audience to be a leader whose employees want to stay around, this includes finding creative ways to motivate your team and maintaining clear and often communication. She adds, “Go with your own gut, in every situation.”

Davis Smith’s address was as heartfelt as it was empowering, and she concluded it on a personal note. She confesses, “To be honest, there are many days where I’m on the verge of being a bad boss and then I’m trying to be a good boss,” stressing, “It never ends. You’re always trying to learn.”

Next on the agenda was a panel of women looking to share their motivational success stories. Berni and Jaque Leonard, Owner and Head Hairstylist of Berni Inc. joined Bevin Mugford, Head of Field Development at Peach, to inspire their audience to be the best versions of themselves. Taking turns the three women shared their mantras and daily rituals, along the way, finding they have a lot in common when it comes to how they aspire to live their lives and lead their teams.

Bevin Mugford, Head of Field Development at Peach.

One of Berni’s key pieces of advice is, “Show up as if the best are watching you.” She stresses that anywhere you go there are potential partners, investors, employees, and clients that you have yet to meet. Her goal is to impart this wisdom to her employees at the salon so that they too feel proud of the work they do each day. This goes hand in hand with her emphasis on self-reflection and intention. All three of the speakers agree that being present and evaluating their own failures and successes has added value to their lives and businesses.

Mugford notes that consistency drives results, illustration her argument by comparing emotional and abstract goals to the physical body. “If you said ‘I want a six pack,” she explains, it isn’t as simple as going to the gym and “Doing 100 crunches to look down and say, “Where’s my six pack?!” Point being: consistent effort in any situation is crucial in reaching your goals.

Jaque preaches, “We can become the best possible version of ourselves if we do just three things: If we continue to grow daily, if we keep learning, and if we can continue to serve those around us.” She also outlined her own morning routine, which she says is a foundational part of overall well being. From practicing gratitude to reading more, even keeping up with regular exercise, her morning is designed to spur success. Berni chimes in to add that she is striving to incorporate just one of these rituals at a time, starting by drinking more water.

Kendra Scott jewelry giveaways.

The conference ended on a high note, with everyone gathered to reflect on their takeaways over the past two days and a final stroll around The Avalon for shopping and happy hour deals. The through line of the conference was a simple but powerful idea. If women support women, there is nothing they can’t do.


Photography by: Kimberly Evans