When you’re just launching a business, every waking hour can feel like a hustle. Your days are spent pitching your idea to anyone who will listen, trying to lock down funding, getting leaders in your industry to talk to you about how they made it, and figuring out how to get people to follow you on social media.
More than ever, Instagram is eager to play a role in that quest. On August 14, the social photo giant is partnering with the luxury apron company Hedley & Bennett to throw a day-long educational summit for small business owners and entrepreneurs called the School of Hustle. The event, which will be held at Hedley & Bennett’s L.A. headquarters, will be entirely free for its 200 participants, who will be hand-selected through an application process (The application, which is due July 28, can be found here.) Finalists will be notified on August 3.
“We’re thinking of it as something like a college application,” says Ellen Bennett, Hedley & Bennett’s founder and CEO, who came up with the idea for the event and pitched it to Instagram. “We’re looking for people who are dreaming big and have really inspiring visions for the world. Each of the people we select will get a scholarship to attend the event for free.” (A major part of the application, naturally: tag @HedleyAndBennett and @InstagramForBusiness in an Instagram photo or video post that explains “why you should be chosen.”)
Several speakers have already signed up including Alli Webb, founder of Drybar; Janet Hayes, president of Williams-Sonoma; Jaclyn Johnson, CEO of Create & Cultivate; and Erik Oberholtzer, Chef, CEO and co-founder of Tender Greens. Others will be announced soon.
Bennett wants the panels to focus on the real struggles that entrepreneurs tackle every day. “When I was first starting out, I remember being so frustrated going to conferences where they wouldn’t address the really important stuff that I was dealing with every day,” Bennett recalls. “Like how to close the deal when it comes to landing funding.”
Some of the panels already in the works include: “The Awkwardness of the True Hustle;” “Boss Evolution: The Stages of Building Your Business;” “Social Media Community Online and Off;” and “A New Approach to Retail: Mixed Media IRL.” There will also be a “Speed Hustlin'” event, which will pair attendees with experts in retail, marketing, and HR, to ask their burning questions. There will be a scavenger hunt to teach people how to create engaging content on Instagram Stories that can help drive business.
But the day is going to be about more than just hearing from seasoned entrepreneurs and business leaders. It will also be a massive community party to celebrate Hedley & Bennett’s five-year anniversary. The event will be summer camp-themed, complete with canoes, teepees, relay races, and life-size Jenga as part of the backdrop. Hedley & Bennett’s apron factory is the right place for an event like this. As I described in a recent profile, the 17,000-square-foot downtown L.A. space already has a full-sized indoor tree house built into it and regularly hosts community parties.
Bennett had the idea for the event several months ago. “We work closely with the restaurant community, so we know how to throw a party,” she says. “But we wanted to do more than just have good food and streamers. We wanted to give a gift to the startup community, since so much of our own journey has been about navigating the hustle.”
Bennett, who has used Instagram for Business from the very start to build a following (now clocking in at 75,000), reached out to Instagram, and eventually connected with Morgan Cornelius, the company’s community programs lead on small and mid-sized businesses. She is one of a number of staffers at the company charged with helping grow its “Instagram for Business” platform, which connects with young entrepreneurs and businesses to help them better understand how to use the app as a brand-building and sales tool.
“We’re going all over the world, throwing events similar to this one for the startup community,” says Cornelius. “Telling your story on Instagram can be a valuable way for a business to connect with customers, so we want to be a resource.”