SPPR Retreat: Six Years and Ojai Vibes

The Soda Pop PR retreat is a summer highlight and this year’s festivities might be our favorite yet! To celebrate six years, our team spent a few days soaking in the laidback & creative energy of Ojai. The uber cool airstream hotel Caravan Outpost served as the perfect backdrop to help us unwind and open up.

 

We kicked off an inspiring discussion on connection, growth and getting out of our comfort zones with this fantastic Ted Talk. Our retreats are a great time to think big as a company but also, to bond on a personal level as we delve into the dreams and challenges that shape each of us individually.

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It’s not a Soda Pop PR retreat without some custom Wylie West Creative swag! Our friend Boo put her talents to work on a custom “Troop SPPR” logo for us and gift bag goodies from Shop Summer Camp brought the Ojai vibes home with lavender, sage and rose quartz. We may have been partial to the rose quartz for the pink but its heart-opening abilities paired perfectly with copies of Daring Greatly, a bedside reminder about the strength of vulnerability and importance of staying connected.

If there’s one thing you can say about a Soda Pop PR retreat, we know how to have FUN. We brought in a personal bartender to mix up local orange and lime margaritas for a magic-hour photo shoot. For dinner, our private chef prepared a campfire grilled steak, chicken, salmon fajita bar followed by cast iron peach cobbler.

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As the stars came out at the end of the night, Troop SPPR sat around the fire to connect over music, each of us sharing songs that have shaped us and soundtracked our memories over the years.

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At Soda Pop PR we are grateful to work with such smart, creative and kind people both on our team, and on the teams of our wonderful clients. As we reflect back on our year, we’d like to take a moment to thank all of our clients, partners, friends and family for their continued support. You inspire us and we are happy to know you.

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Cheers to year six and many more,

Team Soda Pop PR

 

* Special thanks to photographer Daybreak and Dusk for all of our beautiful retreat photos.

 

 

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Lunch like an Italian with Lucini

After a long two weeks of winter (sarcasm intended), the sunshine has returned in Southern California and there’s no better way to greet spring’s perfect temperatures than dining al fresco. A few weeks ago, Soda Pop PR and Lucini Italia gathered friends together at one of our favorite succulent sources – Rolling Greens Nursery – to enjoy a long, leisurely lunch in the spirit of the Italian concept of “Dolce far Niente”; the pleasure of doing nothing.

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The afternoon featured four courses of Italian-inspired dishes by La Femme Epicure alongside an epic Lady & Larder cheese and charcuterie board.

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Seasonal herb cocktails were shaken up by our friends at The Spirits in Motion who created photo-worthy signature cocktails unique to the event.

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It wouldn’t be an Italian feast without gelato and if you haven’t had Nancy Silverton’s Nancy’s Fancy gelato yet, we recommend the Butterscotch Budino gelato and Chocolate Fondente Sorbetto with a little Lucini olive oil and sea salt on top. Trust us.

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We hope our afternoon of lunching like an Italian inspires you to gather some friends and enjoy a beautiful homemade meal of your own. Buon Appetito!

Team Soda Pop PR

Five Things We Learned at the First Potluck Conference

At Soda Pop PR we think it’s important to mix it up and get out of the office to attend industry workshops and conferences. Last week we headed to DTLA for the first Potluck Hospitality Conference, to learn more about the business of social occasions and mingle with some inspiring local and visiting creatives. In the spirit of the conference’s “Bring Something to the Table” mentality, we’d like to share a few learnings.

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1. You Get Back What you Put in: Our day kicked off with a pep talk from the infectious entrepreneur Ellen Bennett of Hedley & Bennett who got everyone on their feet with an early morning dance party before sharing her story. Ellen is the poster child for making things happen and “climbing through a window when you can’t find a door” and we always love hearing her talk about having fun in the process of working hard.

2. Do Your Homework: In a session on “Creating Brands That Connect” Lila Theodoros of Oh Babushka discussed the importance of coming to play. For example if you’re meeting with a graphic designer, come prepared with a mood board, key words, color palate, etc. to help them get to know you and your brand before starting a project.

3. Create Connections: We are such big fans of The Modern Proper, a blog dedicated to restoring the lost art of hospitality and loved having the opportunity to meet founders Natalie Mortimer and Holly Erickson. Hospitality doesn’t just describe our clients at SPPR, it describes the way we do business and like Natalie and Holly we believe in the power of creating a community. It was great to hear them talk about how vitally important it is to take time to build and maintain relationships both personally and professional. In a day when the human attention span has decreased to 8 seconds, hosting a successful event and seeing return on investment for experiential marketing is all about creating personal connections.

4. Encourage Engagement: For many brands, experiential marketing now works harder than traditional advertising strategies. We loved hearing what Lauren Sims had to say about her agency’s experience creating “photo moment” heavy activations and what really works when it comes to engagement. She has three main strategies for securing social posts from attendees: offering tools to further their own personal brand through aspirational content, product giveaways in exchange for shares and highly personalized products featuring the attendees name or photo.

5. Do Something New: Martha Stewart Weddings editor Shira Savada is tired of mason jars and bird cages and we don’t blame her! Whether you’re talking about weddings, social media or client events we can all agree that once you’ve noticed a lot of people are doing something, it’s time to move on. Trends happen because someone tapped into their own creativity to offer something personal and we can all use a little more of that!

SPPR New Year’s Goals: 2017, Let’s Do This

Everyone loves a clean slate and at SPPR we’re filling ours with a to-do list of fun projects and foodie goals for the New Year. Read on as the team breaks down our plans to eat, read and travel our way through 2017.

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(Photo c/o Oh Happy Day)

Dyan:
To Go: Sun Valley, Idaho. My husband and I have been talking about exploring a new winter destination for our annual ski/snowboarding trip for years. Aside from the picturesque setting, abundance of runs for beginners and an outdoor ice skating rink, it also has a rich history (Hemingway was a fan, he completed For Whom the Bell Tolls while staying at Sun Valley Lodge!)
To Eat: My dream would be to plan monthly trips to different cities with the sole purpose of trying the best culinary classics and hot spots in each location.  Realistically? I’d like to hit up the Roberta’s Pizza Pop-Up before closes. I’m also looking forward to my friend Steve Samson’s new restaurant Rossoblu which is scheduled to open soon!
To Read:  Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. I’m a fan of his podcast and this book summarizes the best tools, tactics and learnings from his most notable guests. It’s over 700 pages and meant to be digested in small, manageable doses. It’s safe to say, I’ll be reading throughout the year.
To Do: I purchased a journal over the holidays with the goal of setting aside time to jot down my non-work thoughts and creative ideas. I have dozens of notebooks but they all contain work plans, meeting notes, to-dos, etc. Creative writing was a passion of mine in college (I’d die if you found any of my old journals, so “My So-Called Life”) and I’m eager to pick it back up.

Kelly:
To Go: Sedona! Since my husband recently got his pilot’s license, we plan to do a weekend getaway to this beautiful place neither of us has been to before.
To Eat: Erven in Santa Monica
To Read: I was gifted Big Little Lies, so I hope to read it before the TV series comes out
To Do: My goal is to shop my local Sunday farmer’s market more often in 2017. Shopping local is so important and in California we have an abundance of delicious, fresh food, I need to take advantage of it!

Becky:
To Go: Back to Italy; Our new client Lucini Italia has me missing the land of pasta and olive oil.
To Eat: Belcampo; I met the founder Anya Fernald at an event last year and have vowed to treat myself to an organic, highest-quality-you-can-get steak (or at least a Belcampo Burger) at some point soon.
To Read: I bought J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy a few months ago and haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I have so much love for J.K. that I’m feeling guilty for putting it off.
To Do: Refresh my living space. I’ve had the same couch since my husband and I were dating and the same dining room table my parents passed down to me after college. It’s time to make some big girl furniture purchases.

Colleen:
To Go: I am hoping to make it back to Paris this year and spend my days writing in coffee shops and haunting Shakespeare and Company.
To Eat: I know I lose all of my LA foodie cred for this, but I still haven’t been to Gjelina! Definitely need to remedy that in 2017.
To Read: One of my all-time favorite authors Joan Didion has a new book coming out (in 61 days, not that I’m counting) so that is at the top of my list. Also, Infinite Jest. I swear this is the year that I finally finish David Foster Wallace’s epic and exhaustingly long masterpiece.
To Do: In light of our recent election results, I’m committing to take a more active role in opposing injustice and supporting causes doing good work.

Deidre:
To Go: 2017 is all about the U.S.! I have some fun trips lined up, including: Nashville, Austin, Chicago, San Francisco and NYC to name a few. Fingers crossed for an opportunity to go abroad – I’ll even be happy with Mexico if I can make it happen.
To Eat: There are so many in LA I am eager to go to! Especially wanting to hit up the celebrity hot spots, like NOBU Malibu, SUR and AOC.
To Read: The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive
To Do: I really hope to attend another Ellen taping! If not, attend a late night taping like Jimmy Kimmel, learn to meal prep/ spend less money on food and get outside more!

Camryn:
To Go: New York! I’d love to visit my younger brother who’s out there for school.
To Eat: I’ve really been wanting to try Maré on Melrose. You have to use a secret entrance!
To Read: A Gentleman in Moscow, a gift I received through our SPPR holiday book exchange.
To Do: Go to a cooking class!

Food for Thought with Leslie Stephens

We’re back with another “Food for Thought” this week featuring Cupcakes and Cashmere Associate Editor Leslie Stephens. The SPPR team met Leslie over a can of wine and immediately bonded with this friendly foodie. Leslie recently moved from New York where she was a Food52 editor. She now brings her adventurous spirit and an enthusiasm for food, fashion and décor to Cupcakes and Cashmere with fun and fresh coverage. Read on for a real look at what it’s like to turn a penchant for writing and a love of food into an awesome career.

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1. What’s the biggest difference between the NY and LA food scenes?

Historically in New York, the best food has always been equated with high-end restaurants opened by top chefs, like Thomas Keller’s Per Se or Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park, even though there’s recently been a shift towards high-end restaurants opened by previously unknown, young chefs, like Contra and Semilla. In L.A. however, the hole-in-the-wall spots are much more celebrated, which is why you get this amazing culture of street tacos, food trucks, and tiny San Gabriel Valley Chinese restaurants on Jonathan Gold’s 101 list of best restaurants.

2. What do you look for when you’re searching for Cupcakes & Cashmere content inspiration?

When it comes to writing for a lifestyle blog, content is everywhere. A meal at an amazing taco truck can become an article on the Best Tacos in L.A. the same way a simple, unique tradition can become a whole post idea. Since the blog is so interwoven with our lives, the content is really coming from everything we find interesting and engaging in our own lives.

3. What do you do when writers block hits or you’re in a rut creatively?

I feel like there’s no writer’s block or creative rut a quick conversation can’t fix. Even saying, “Hey, what do you think of this?” to my Editorial Director is often enough to span a back-and-forth conversation that can get me back on the right track or guide me towards a new, more interesting direction. To me, that’s the value of working with a tight-knit team.

4. We heard you’re a Pete Wells fan, anyone else you admire or look up to in the food industry?

Food writers are my celebrities: Kate Krader, Sam Sifton, Andrew Knowlton, Phyllis Grant, Adam Sachs, our contributor, Gaby Dalkin, Ruth Reichl, Mimi Sheraton, Dana Goodyear, Jonathan Gold—the list literally doesn’t stop.

5. What advice would you give someone hoping to have a career in editorial? 

Start doing it in any way you can. The hardest part of becoming a writer or editor is creating a body of work you can show as an example at an interview, so if you’re able to write your own blog or even pitch a few freelance articles, every piece of work counts.

Keep up with Leslie Stephens at Cupcakes and Cashmere and on Instagram.

Food for Thought with Jami Curl

We talk a lot about food at Soda Pop PR. The team is constantly swapping restaurant recommendations and deliberations for where to order our weekly team lunch start at 10 a.m. on Thursdays. Which is why we’re excited to announce our new interview series “Food for Thought.” Each month, we’ll explore the business behind the food industry and how foodie creatives find inspiration and get through tough times.

This week we’re kicking things off with SPPR client and candy-extraordinaire Jami Curl who is the founder of QUIN Candy- a small-batch, handmade candy company headquartered in Portland. Jami has been dubbed the “new Willy Wonka” by Bon Appètit and is listed as one of Fast Company’s most creative people in business. She is currently working with Ten Speed Press on a book ‘Candy is Magic: Real Ingredients, Modern Recipes.’ For sale in March 2017, Candy is Magic will share Jami’s candy secrets and best stories. Read on to work up a creative appetite.

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1. Staying inspired is EVERYTHING for a creative and we can all feel stuck sometimes. How do you get unstuck?

I am very thankful to have many things going on at once – so, if I’m stuck on something I’m writing, I can switch over to a recipe I’m trying to work out. Or, if a recipe isn’t quite working, I can walk away from it and focus a bit on marketing or something we’re promoting at QUIN.

I do tend to have zero separation between work and home – I work on work at home and I work on home at work. I work all hours of all days – whether it’s 6am on a Saturday or 11:30pm on a Tuesday. Because of this, ahem, “variety” of types of work and working hours, I rarely find myself stuck.

That said, I never give much thought to inspiration. It might just be because of how serious I am about work – but I rarely sit back and wonder or think about what’s going to inspire me on any given day. Not to get too Psychology Today on you, but I think it has to do with the fact that I rarely seek outside “help” for inspiration or energy. I rely only on myself for that stuff. This self-reliance is threaded through my entire life, not just work life. I rarely ask for help, I don’t look to others for happiness, I know in my heart it’s my responsibility to make myself happy, fulfilled, inspired, and motivated. (Note: I am an INTJ (Myers-Briggs) – so that might explain a lot. And, if you haven’t Myers-Briggs’ed yourself, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.) Anyways, all my motivation and ideas come from the inside – not the outside. I basically just keep working and ideas keep coming. I truly hope it stays this way for the rest of my days because there’s really nothing like it.

 2. Can you share one of your first “pinch me” moments when you realized QUIN’s success was real?

“Success” is tricky because it’s a word that is generally controlled and defined by outside sources instead of the internal self. My self-defined version of success is this: that I wake up each day happy. Happy to be where I am in life, happy that my job is this job in candy. I feel successful when I’m fulfilled. When the ideas in my head tumble out and they somehow make sense to others – these moments are my successful moments.

By that definition, I have to say that one of the “pinch me” moments has to be the first day of the QUIN cookbook photoshoot. A group of very talented women surrounding me, I explained a vision – and they set to work making it come to life in photos. On so many levels I couldn’t believe it was happening – it made the book more real, it validated my vision for the candy in the book, it solidified and made visual thoughts and ideas that previously only existed in my head. I wish I could explain how totally crazy that feels – but, let me tell you – IT FEELS TOTALLY CRAZY!

In terms of success for QUIN – I think the “pinch me” moments are smaller moments – little bits of positive news, or a great new account, or a good piece of press – all of these moments add up to this experience that is overall absolutely, definitely a “pinch me” situation. That QUIN works at all, even in our slow times, is still totally unreal to me.

3. You have a very fun, active social media presence. How do you “unplug” or turn off when you need to recharge?

Oh, thank you. I actually think I’m the worst social media person. The first problem is that I’m pretty much a conscientious objector to the use of hashtags. I can’t get over the full paragraphs of hashtags that people add to posts. I 100% understand their usefulness, but that still won’t convince me to do it. Still, I like to have fun with social media and I’m a total weirdo at home, so I share a lot of that.

I spend a lot of time every day unplugged and turned off because I love to read. When waiting for an appointment or meeting to start, for a coffee or for a table, instead of scrolling through my phone, I’m reading a book. I never, ever leave the house without the book I’m currently reading. Those minutes during the day of leaving my phone in my bag and grabbing my book instead – they’re super essential mini-breaks for me.

I also schedule a full hour of reading every night before bed – it’s my favorite part of every day because I read with my little boy – each of us in a side-by-side twin bed, reading our books. I push through each day to get to this most magic of hours, I love it and treasure the time with him so much.

One other thing – I take a long walk (about 5 miles) every morning. I’ll allow myself to listen to a Podcast or music, but I don’t allow myself to check social media during my walks. Walking is the best because it’s really easy, and it’s mindless enough to allow yourself to be mindful (I swear that makes sense if you think about it.)

4. There’s a lot of buzz around the “habits of highly effective people.” What are some of your own personal habits for productive days and helping QUIN run efficiently?

I don’t keep a calendar or a to-do list electronically. I write EVERYTHING down. On paper. I keep a physical paper calendar/planner with me – and I basically just check it often (super often) to make sure I’m on track. I’m pencil obsessed, so that helps, but writing out lists, calendars, ideas, goals – actually WRITING it (not typing it or merely thinking it) helps to keep me on target.

I don’t sleep in. I get up at 6 every day (even on weekends) and try to do at least three things right away that will make me feel like I’m on track for a productive day. This could be as simple as unloading the dishwasher or starting a load of laundry, answering emails or writing a thank you note, organizing receipts or working on book edits – just three things right away – I find it sets me up for success all day long (three things PLUS coffee, that is.)

5. As a veteran of Feast Portland, what are you most looking forward to this year?

I’m excited about the candy we’re doing for Night Market – something we’ve never done before that has our entire staff TOTALLY EXCITED. I love stuff like that – a super fun candy that we can all get behind.

I think it’s great that Feast is five this year and that they’re putting the effort into celebrating that fact. I am also so happy that QUIN is part of the celebration – we created a special candy to help Feast celebrate this milestone birthday, and I was so honored that they even asked us to do it. I think the feeling of celebration is what Feast is all about – celebrating food and creativity and the bounty of Oregon and the people who work so hard to put out great food in restaurants – it all combines and the result is this string of days that all seem like a party. It’s almost like college again – everyone in town is kind of focused on the same thing, and I love that feeling of crazy unity. I’m looking forward to that spirit settling in on the city for a few days, for sure.

Follow along with Jami’s adventures at Feast PDX and beyond here.