Even before it was rebranded last year as ART – The Creative Home Furnishings Network , the Accessories Resource Team offered a creative complement to our membership in the American Lighting Assn.  (ALA). ALA was an invaluable resource for technical education and industry advocacy — more important than ever recently — while our involvement in ART was more about inspiration and collaboration. For lighting retailers and manufacturers that also sold home accessories or had a significant business in portable lamps, the two organizations formed a unique yin-yang of necessary perspectives.
Although both groups encompass retailers, reps and manufacturers, their approaches to bringing these segments together are very different. These differences were always most pronounced at their annual Conferences, with ALA  being the more formal affair that got down to business quickly and kept a tight agenda, and ART’s event more about facilitating an open forum where folks felt comfortable sharing — certain ART ice breakers would have made Dick Upton blush!
While I have certainly enjoyed every ART Conference I have attended (dating back to my first-ever business trip in 1993), I also appreciate that they are evolving to make this year’s Conference  program, May 7-9 at The Palms Hotel & Spa  in Miami, stronger and more information-dense than perhaps they’ve been in the past.
Among this year’s speakers: business expert Ira Blumenthal  and 7-Eleven Executive Manager Mike Debnar, who are also leading workshops to help attendees put their advice on “co-opportunties” and “intra-preneurialism” concepts into practice. Marketing guru Roy Spence  and the “Gen Y Guy” Jason Dorsey  are also scheduled to present. Shanna Shamblin will discuss consumer loyalty and retailer Melissa Haberstroh of Melissa Jeffrey Home  will convey her real-world advice for keeping a business moving forward during a personal setback.
Proving that ART hasn’t lost its sense of style amidst all of this timely substance, interior design legend Alexa Hampton  will deliver the Conference keynote and Fashion Snoops  will give its 2014 trend forecast.
In lieu of a community service outing this year, ART Conference is donating $5,000 to Dwell With Dignity , whose partners Lisa Robison and Kim Turner are also speaking at the opening night dinner.
Registration  for the 2013 ART Conference is $689, with daily registrations available for $230 (a great option for curious locals). Now more than ever before, I predict tangible paybacks from this investment beyond the networking and personal fulfillment that’s always been a part of ART’s social “special sauce.” I hope you’ll be able to take advantage of this new, improved ART Conference to enhance both your business and the passions that drive it.