The Atelier connects and inspires women in business, meet the women behind the magic
All photography provided by Philosophy Studios
One too many trips to an uninspiring conference left Angela Osborne and Taryn Herritt seeking more. Tired of mostly male speaker panels and drab venues, they knew there had to be a better way to uplift and empower women to take charge of their lives and careers.
So, they leaned into their wildest dreams and thought of what would make the perfect conference. Then, they brought it to life.
The Atelier Collective is designed for ambitious women in business. With events that rival even the most beautiful Pinterest board, Herritt and Osborne have created a community—both online and in person—that’s inspiring women to chase their dreams, no matter what they may be.
“When you’re looking for something that’s going to inspire you and motivate you and encourage you to level up, for us, we wanted that to be beautiful,” said Herritt. “We wanted that education wrapped in the most incredible experience. I think we just saw a gap in the market that we were genuinely looking for and decided that that was something that we could fill.”
Beginning in 2017, The Atelier has hosted numerous events, each filled with female-founded vendors and with guest speakers that leave their community in awe. When the global pandemic threatened the magic of their in-person events, rather than throw in the towel, Osborne and Herritt knew they had to bring The Atelier to the digital world.
Beyond 2020 is their upcoming online conference. With a knockout set of guest speakers including Angela Duckworth, Glennon Doyle, Sarah Lewis and Mindy Kaling, the conference is sure to be a much needed day of inspiration during this whirlwind of a year. Where else can you hear from best-selling authors, an award winning comedian and a Harvard professor all in one day?
While the excitement for the event, which happens on Nov. 12, 2020, is high, Herritt and Osborne look forward to the breath of relief they can take after putting the virtual event into the world. As working moms, they’ve spent countless late nights making the digital transition happen.
“We had to shift all of our meetings to after bedtime,” laughed Osborne. “We assessed our brand and we reflected on who we were as a company and how that could actually translate into what was very quickly becoming an entirely digital world. We said, ‘Okay, well, we need to create a beautiful virtual event venue that reflects what The Atelier is as a brand.’ It couldn’t be just a zoom call. It needed to have a virtual lobby, a concierge, it had to have all these different chat features, so people could still network.”
Beyond 2020 is a testament to Herritt and Osborne’s own grit and determination to inspire women in business everywhere—now without geographic restrictions. For this week’s Women Who Lead spotlight, Bay Street Bull spoke with Angela Osborne and Taryn Herritt, co-founders of The Atelier Collective, about following your passions, women in business and The Atelier’s upcoming event.
The Atelier Collective is geared towards ambitious women in business. What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘ambitious’?
Taryn: I think being an ambitious woman means going after whatever your dream looks like—and to be honest, it looks different for everyone. So, when we design our events and when we craft our content, we really have in mind that ambitious women are those at the C-level in their career, pursuing leadership positions; they are female entrepreneurs; they are stay at home moms who have a side hustle. So, I think ambitious women are those that are truly going out there and pursuing their dreams, whatever that means to them.
Ang: Taryn kind of hit the nail on the head. When you have an idea and you have a vision for something, actually putting it out into the world is scary and challenging and it’s risky. We feel that a lot of members in our community are putting it out there and we see them and we want to support them in any way we can. So, it’s truly an honor to be around such a community, because we get inspired through hearing their stories and that kind of fuels our own ambition cause we’re like, ‘Okay, how else can we serve them? What else can we do to provide them with really inspirational examples? Can we create a forum so that we can all level up?’ A really magical part is that when we connect in such a way, we truly all rise together.
Why was it important for you two to put together an event that was very woman-centric and doesn’t shy away from that?
A: When we had started with the idea of The Atelier, we were actually looking for something for ourselves. Tara and I had met for lunch one day and we were talking about various events that we had been to, and they had been leaving us a little bit empty or we weren’t motivated after leaving the event. So, our initial idea was to have a mastermind group, where we could connect with other women who had this drive within them to do great things that elevate their personal and professional lives. Then, it kind of spiraled. We started creating all these ideas about how this event could look and how it could be energized. And I think we just kinda went from there.
T: Totally. When we attended these events, I think we saw a lot of male representation, both on stage and in the audience—there’s a wealth of knowledge there, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that—but I think what was missing for us, is seeing women up on stage with really powerful stories to tell, and also women in the audience that you could network and connect with. And most business events that you attend are very corporate, there’s white linen tablecloths, there’s ice water on the table, it’s a conference room. It serves a purpose, but when you’re looking for something that’s going to inspire you and motivate you and encourage you to level up, for us, we wanted that to be beautiful. We wanted that education wrapped in the most incredible experience. I think we just saw a gap in the market that we were genuinely looking for and decided that that was something that we could fill.
When bringing The Atelier to life that first year in 2017, what kind of challenges did you guys face? Are you still facing them today?
T: I think the biggest challenge that we had right off the bat was that we had this idea and this concept, and it was so well painted in our head, but how do you take something that doesn’t exist and convince other people that it’s something that they want to attend? So, I think the biggest hurdle for us initially was the fact that it hadn’t necessarily been done in Canada before. There wasn’t anything that people would see and think, ‘Oh, that feels right to me. That’s something I wanted to attend.’
Kind of along with that was convincing speakers to jump up on stage at an event that they’ve never heard of before. We were so fortunate with the incredible women that we worked with for our very first event. They just believed in our vision so much and they were so supportive. So, we’re forever grateful for OGs speakers that jumped up on stage for us.
I think the challenges continue to evolve as you grow as a business. Most recently with pivoting to virtual. We’ve been that really tactile and immersive beautiful brand that people have come to know and love, and there’s a very like in-person component to that. And so when we switched to virtual, it changed the game completely. Now all of a sudden we’re a technology company, we’re a logistics company. There’s all these pieces for the business that were brand new to Ang and I, we didn’t have any experience in that.
A: We’re cognizant of the challenges and we’re excited to learn how to solve the problems at hand. And we’re constantly looking for ways to bend and weave and see how we can make this event evolve. 2020 has proven that things change very fast. When we had our first digital conference in June, it seemed like every single month leading up to it, there was a different energy in the world.
I’m the type of person that works really great with an end date and with a goal to be working towards. With the pandemic, you don’t know when that’s going to happen. So, we didn’t know when our live events were going to come back. We wanted to do something to bring a little bit of light to those kind of dark few months. We jumped into action and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to go digital. And we’re going to make this beautiful and immersive and exciting and bring speakers that are going to uplift you and get innovative with how you can actually deal with what is happening in the world.’ I think that that was a really important time for us to kind of open up our own minds to see how The Atelier could evolve.
You kind of touched on it there, but what do you hope every attendee of The Atelier gets out of the experience? How do you hope they feel when they leave?
T: I hope that they leave with this incredible energy of being connected to ambitious women around the world. We hope that they leave with joy and inspiration and knowledge and comfort and confidence in the fact that resilience and grit is something that we all have. We hope they thrive beyond a year that none of us expected and one we will always remember. We’ll never forget 2020. We hope they leave knowing they have those skills that they can tap into and that anything is truly possible. Opportunity comes out of crisis and if you’re looking for it, it’s there.
A: In particular, Angela Duckworth is one of the speakers. When we started The Atelier, she was on our dream list to have on our stage, because her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance absolutely moved us. For Beyond 2020, she’s actually going to be doing a workshop with all of the attendees. People can actually work on their grit and grow their grit—which during 2020 is absolutely essential. So, to actually kind of deep dive into that with the leader in the world on that topic is something that we sincerely believe the attendees will take away with them and empower them to keep moving and keep going forward.
That being said, The Atelier has had a lot of inspiring women on its stage before. Do you have a favourite speaker thus far?
A: Throughout the past three years, we’ve had so many incredible speakers, but I have to say Elizabeth Gilbert. Having her at our June conference was one of those moments where my life was coming full circle. Back in 2008, I had read her book, Eat, Pray, Love, and it came at the perfect time in my life. I had just left university and started my first full-time, ‘big person’ job. Then the 2008 crisis hit and it seemed like the whole world changed. I was laid off from my job, so I would read and reread her book because it spoke to me so poignantly at that time.
I actually went on my own journey—I backpacked through Australia, Bali and Thailand—and it propelled me on an entirely new path where I started setting big goals and living a life without fear. I wasn’t set for a typical job, nine to five, clocking in and clocking out. I knew that there was just something else, a burning desire in me.
That book helped me to go on this journey and know that I had the strength to travel by myself to the other side of the world and come back as a new person. During that time, I actually tapped into my creative side as well. I ended up writing a travel blog—way back in 2008—that ended up being followed by thousands and thousands of people. Over the next couple of years, I ended up adapting that blog into a book. So, through reading Eat, Pray, Love to going on my own journey and writing my own book, then fast forward a number of years later and getting to have Elizabeth Gilbert on stage? She prompted that series of events [in my life], so that was a surreal moment. During the conference I was so excited that I was actually brought to tears by just telling her how she impacted my life. I still can’t believe it.
T: I actually can’t pick a favourite. We consistently have really exciting headliners that everybody gets super hyped to see. But we also have an educational process that we go through where we think, ‘This is the type of content. This is the type of learning that we feel like our audience truly needs.’ What’s really exciting about that, is there’s always these dark horses that people haven’t necessarily heard of. It’s not necessarily someone who’s super flashy and in front of you all the time, but we get all this feedback afterwards and people rave about them. And so my favourites are the dark horses where it’s like, ‘Yes! We picked the absolute right speaker to deliver that message that these women need at this moment.’ So that’s probably what gets me the most excited.
Do either of you have a really great response from an attendee that you hold close to your heart?
T: Honestly, we sit down and read every single piece of feedback that we get, and we take that to heart. Some of the most impactful pieces of feedback that we’ve gotten are from people that have gone to one of our events, and they’ve either met someone that was sitting at their table and it took their business to a new level. Or they got another job. Or they networked with someone, that knew someone else, that was exactly that person they needed. There’s women who have come to our events and worked their way into meeting one of our speakers who was a hero of theirs. Then that turned into the speaker featuring their business on their massive social media platform, which completely blew up their business into something that they never would have expected. I think a lot of it comes down to the connection and the messages they hear at our events that completely transforms their business or their career or their life in a way that they didn’t think possible.
Let’s take a step back from the business and talk about you two as people. What has been the biggest lesson in both of your careers, either before or after launching The Atelier?
A: You kind of go into this box of what you think that you’re supposed to do. And I think that’s what happened when I started my career. I was in the event planning industry, but it was very corporate sales and it was very clock in, clock out. You were doing the same thing all the time. I quickly learned that when you get stuck in a routine, it almost becomes lackluster. I’m a person that needs to be passionate about what I’m doing. I’m ambitious and driven and I’m always goal setting. So, even when I was working the corporate jobs, there was always something on the side that kept me going and kept me creative.
So, this might sound a little bit too fluffy, but follow your passion. Even if you are working a career or working a job, you need to have something that drives you and motivates you and keeps you going. And actually tap into that side of you that keeps you curious and always learning. So when and if you want to make the transition of your passion into a full-time career, the sky’s the limit. I think that sometimes we don’t even consider what we can do because we’re comfortable in where we are. It’s when you are pushing the boundaries, when you are thinking with your heart and passion, that nothing can stop you.
T: The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that opportunities are really, truly everywhere if you have the open mindset to look for them. I think that the one trait that we consistently see across the board with all of our speakers is hands down that grit and tenacity. People will tell you no, and we’ve had that: things that we thought would work out but didn’t. Having that tenacity and that solutions focused mindset is that common thread between everyone that we’ve met who’s successful.
Do either of you have a great piece of advice that you’ve been given, whether it be personal or professional, that you refer back to when you need a bit of guidance or inspiration?
T: For me it’s the concept that everything is figureoutable. I think a lot of people hit a wall when something doesn’t work out the way they think. It’s easy to sit back and sit in it [disappointment or frustration] for a while. However, if you have the mindset that everything is figureoutable, it’s like ‘Okay, I don’t know how to do this, let me watch a YouTube video. Let me Google it. Let me take a course. Let me navigate my way through it.’ If you always have that mindset, I genuinely believe that everything is possible. You can hire someone. You can figure it out for yourself. You can find the answer. We live in a world where literally everything is at your fingertips. We’re so lucky to be in that space now and to be building a business in that space now. So, that would probably be like the biggest piece that stands out to me.
A: I can’t remember who told me this, but the concept that life is not a sprint, it is a marathon. You need endurance to keep going and pursuing your career and pursuing your goals. When I look back at it, really, The Atelier was 12 years in the making. You know, a lot of people say, ‘Oh, wow, you’ve had so much success in the past three years!’ But actually this began in 2008, because I was gaining all the skills and I was learning and I was failing and I was meeting new people that would be part of the journey that is The Atelier. I didn’t know it then, but they showed up in a different and unique way.
I also truly believe that relationships along the way are of the utmost importance. And I think that has helped attribute to our success as well. When we decided to start this event and reach out to people to ask for advice and ask for help and collaborations, we reached out to people that we had pre-existing relationships with—and they were entirely enthusiastic about supporting us. It’s a very common saying that people will remember the way you make them feel. Along the way, that is something that has stuck with me as well. Those relationships are so important in the world of business.
Speaking of relationships, you two started out as friends before becoming business partners. What has been the best part of building The Atelier together?
T: I think that Ang and I are very lucky to have each other. We genuinely have a trust and appreciation for each other’s skill sets as ambitious women, as mothers, as co-founders and business owners. We brainstorm everything together because our perspectives can be different. I think that the beauty of The Atelier comes from the melding of the minds, but also the trust that we have in each other. If we need to make a decision, we talk about it, but we also have respect for the person that is the expert in that space. I think that’s where some of the magic truly comes from. We hear a lot of co-founders that are women draw the line in the sand of ‘This is my area of responsibility, and this is yours.’ Ang and I don’t work that way at all. We’re completely collaborative from top to bottom on everything that we do with The Atelier. Having that trust and respect for another human being and their area of expertise, we’re just so lucky to get to work with each other every day. And I’m glad that we feel that way because we text and talk to each other more than we do our spouses [laughs].
A: Another great thing is being able to share our successes and celebrate together. I think that’s always such an important thing in business. Sometimes you can kind of glaze over it and keep going, but we always take a moment to reflect on what we’ve done. There’s also so much motivation that happens back and forth too. There’s times where if I’m feeling down, Taryn will help pick me up and vice versa. It’s so nice to have that. It’s a true partnership and it’s such a true collaboration. We have the same goal, so it’s exciting as we reach different milestones and secure new keynote speakers. We will literally cheer and dance and put on Beyonce music to recognize that this is happening. It’s really great to share these exciting moments together.
Obviously, The Atelier is still quite young—despite being 12 years in the making as Ang would say—what is your ultimate goal for The Atelier?
T: We have really big dreams and ambitions about the impact that we can have on ambitious women. So when we craft our events, when we plan our content, when we build our business, our goal is to touch and reach as many ambitious women as possible. And that’s the beautiful thing about this pivot to virtual that we never had before. In the past we’ve always dealt with that: venue capacities, geographic boundaries, people would have had to jump on a flight to one of our events. The beautiful thing about digital is that all of that evaporates. All of a sudden you have ambitious women from Europe and all across the U.S. and down in the Caribbean and in Australia. And we wouldn’t have had that before. So I think for us, as we continue to grow, it’s just about how can we positively impact the highest number of ambitious women possible. That’s our dream.
A: I 100 percent agree.