In my career so far, I have been to a lot of conferences and it’s always the same story. I pack food in my purse that’s stale by the end of the week, I spend most of the time feeling hungry, it’s a business-focused event, I can’t wait to go home.
But FABlogcon was a different story. I felt like I met my tribe of allergy unicorns from the moment I got there. I felt a sense of belonging that I had wished for since I was a kid.
The Food Allergy Bloggers Conference took place in Denver at the Renaissance Hotel. Although I made the mistake of going to the wrong Renaissance Hotel (yes, there are two in Denver), it gave me a chance to scope out the city, and I would love to go back. The flight from Toronto was about three hours so it was an easy trip over. I arrived on the Friday night, right in the middle of dinner, and there was a wonderfully hot (and safe) meal waiting for me, along with some friends.
My favorite part of the experience was being in a room full of people I had met online, and who just “got it”. Putting faces to names, and Instagram accounts, was a fantastic way to connect with online friends and companies in the community. There was no dodging insensitive comments from well-meaning friends or colleagues, explaining my allergies to unknowing servers, or trying to stay motivated despite starvation. Instead I just felt like, well, a totally normal person. I could get used to this.
The majority of guests at the show seemed to be either allergy businesses and apps, and allergy parents/allergy mom bloggers. There were also a few adult allergy bloggers (like Kortney, Allie, and myself).
The days were packed and went by quickly. The morning started out with a breakfast buffet and guest speaker. I ate in my room because I prefer to have coffee and oatmeal as soon as I wake up. I made it down in time for the Enjoy Life presentation featuring their CMO, Joel Warady, on the Saturday. Guests were showered with gratis Enjoy Life products, including their delicious new Breakfast Ovals. I shared mine with my brother (upon my return to Toronto) and he ate them in a single day. How’s that for a good review?
Joel went into detail about the changes to their packaging, and explained the measures the company takes to ensure product safety. He also touched on the new facility disclaimer on the chocolate chips, which some have mistook to mean that the production facility has changed. I was so glad to hear that it hadn’t! He mentioned that some relic products are being reworked, like the Enjoy Life granola, now that they are using certified gluten-free oats in their products (the company was formerly oat-free). I can’t wait to see what delicious new treats they’re coming up with.
The bulk of the days were filled with seminars. Attendees had a choice between blogger info sessions, or treatment/practical sessions. I jumped around between both as the seminars were all relevant and offered new information. I felt I came away from the conference a stronger blogger/Instagrammer, and more informed about food allergy research.
Some highlights include the Advocacy discussion led by Stephanie Lowe of Turn It Teal. The talk opened up to the whole room and people were freely parlaying their thoughts to the group in a way that only those with a shared experience like this can. The travel talk led by Kortney of Allergy Girl Eats and Allie of Miss Allergic Reactor taught me some new tips and considerations (like bringing your own pillow case to a hotel) which I will be implementing on my forthcoming vacations. Hearing about their successful trips abroad motivated me to plan more vacations this coming year. And Missy’s class on how to form brand partnerships blew my mind. As she spoke I formed a list of all the tweaks I needed to make as soon as I got home, and I zealously revised EAF according to her advise.
I was not only representing myself at the conference, but E.A.T (End Allergies Together). During the expo portion I got a chance to meet plenty of new brands and share the EAT mission, as well as my personal story. Everyone I spoke to had some connection to food allergies and could relate. And unsurprisingly, everyone was united in wanting to support research for a cure.
Founder of FABlogcon, Jenny Sprague, announced that next year it will be moving to the east coast and will take place in the summer. I’m already looking forward to it! If you’re considering buying your ticket, whether you’re an allergy parent, a blogger, or have allergies and are looking for a sense of community, I highly recommend you give it a try. And going home with half a suitcase full of free samples was an added bonus. It was a wonderful experience and I’m so grateful for the organizers and sponsors who made it possible.