Did you ever meet a couple of like-minded professionals and think, “We ought to put on an event together?” That’s not precisely how Caroline Golon, Tom Collins, and Yvonne DiVita started BlogPaws, a series of conferences and a community for pet bloggers, but it’s pretty darned close. Perhaps the lesson to be learned from the interview that the Animal Cafe Team — yes, Eric Goebelbecker, Mary Haight, Lori Huston and I all were in on it — did with Caroline Golon and Yvonne DiVita is: When you have a good idea and something clicks, go for it.
And don’t ever forget to have fun.
You know what can happen if you get three passionate people together in a room at a conference…
Ahem. But in the case of this particular conference, what happened was BlogPaws.
Yvonne had started blogging on Lip-Sticking, which focused on woman and marketing to them, and then went on to write a sponsored pet blog, Scratchings-and-Sniffings. Caroline was honing the art of fund raising for shelters through her blog Romeo The Cat. At a BlogHer conference — devoted, as its name suggests, to helping women bloggers — Caroline approached Yvonne, whom she knew through Lip-Sticking, and asked why was there was nothing like this for pet bloggers. Tom, a self-described recovering lawyer and — as it happens — Yvonne’s husband, had long been interested in all things tech, and also studied design. And he had this fondness for animals.
We were too busy doing business to create a business plan
While they were all evangelical about the benefits of blogging for its own sake and for the sake of good causes, the group also realized from personal experience — including by connections with the “mommy bloggers” — that the brands were as eager to meet pet bloggers in person as vice versa, to go “nose to nose” as the expression goes. (Involving cold noses was a bonus.)
In order to serve as a resource, to teach others how to raise money and to get sponsored, they decided to do a “podcamp.” They figured maybe get a group of 20 to 25 people together.
It turned into a conference: Blogpaws East in Columbus, Ohio, held in April 2010.
And the rest is history–in the making
We knew from personal experience that the Be The Change You Want to See segment was going to be popular. We just had no idea how popular it was going to be.
More sponsors and more features — including a separate vet track and a rescue workshop — have been added to the conference; so have the DogTime Petties award (oh, you didn’t really think I was going to mention that without putting in a plug for you to vote for me for funniest pet blogger, did you?). BlogPaws the website is now a community. But the bottom line is the same: “Our goal is to help bloggers be better bloggers, whatever it means to them. We focus on tech issues, including choosing a platform, SEO — but it’s wrapped up in a wonderfully furry package.”
Raising money for animal issues is something all the founders were devoted to beforehand, so they give back a portion of the conference proceeds to several animal organization a year.
But I’m not going to give everything away. Listen to the interview — here’s the link again — to get details about the upcoming conference and also to see how a group of people can work together on a huge project and still clearly have a blast.
A personal note
One of the new features of the conference is a yearbook — kind of like a high school yearbook that everyone will get to sign. Eric Goebelbecker asked the question that was on all our minds, as we inwardly groaned at the thought of high school and the popular kids: How will we get people to sign it?
It was a joke, but it’s also a fear I’d like to address.
Blogpaws is not clique-y; I went to both conferences last year and I never saw any of that. Sure, bloggers who have met each other virtually or who have attended the conference before might gravitate towards each other at first. But think about it. This is a conference with dogs, as well as the occasional cat, ferret and guinea pig. How could people attached to fur-bearing critters possibly be standoffish?