Creator Profile: Bobbilee Hartman
Hi Bobbilee! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Bobbilee, pronounced baw-b-lee. I’m originally from Minneapolis, MN, where I live now after long stints in California, Madison, Arizona, NYC and Colorado. I’m the youngest of four girls. I grew up playing a lot of sports and now I’m a software engineer and outdoorsy event producer.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I was really into photography during high school, so my freshman year I went to Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA. After being there for a year, I realized it would be a good idea to find a school with an advertising program because I wanted to work as an art buyer, aka head of photo department for an ad agency. I ended up going to University of Arizona in Tucson. My parents had a second home there so I thought eventually I’d get in-state tuition-- which didn’t end up happening, but I stayed there for four years anyways.
After college it was hard to find an art buyer or photo department role for ad agencies so I started working for a startup as a mobile app mock-up and branding designer. We outsourced all of our software development work to another company near by. We worked with them so much I became very interested in what they were doing instead. So interested in fact that I quit my job and went back to school for web development in Chicago.
After I finished school, I moved back to Minneapolis for my first job as a developer at a company called Software for Good. After a year of working there I decided to look for jobs at a product software company vs. an agency. In 2014, I moved to San Diego to work as a Software Engineer at Intuit (Turbotax / Quickbooks). And finally, while working, trail running and surfing in San Diego, I was inspired to run my first outdoorsy event for web developers called Rails Camp. Rails Camp originated in Australia, I run the USA series on the West Coast specifically. I’ll talk more about this later in interview! The second thing that I did outside of work was and still do is teach web development online at a school called Bloc.
Fast forward two years, still living in California I felt a very strong desire to travel north, work remote and take my event ideas to the next level. Long story short I was homeless for about a year and traveled all over the PNW, Canada and Alaska. After traveling for a while, something was calling me back to Minneapolis. I love the entrepreneurship, creative, and music community here so I’ve decided to make a long pit stop. I’m currently a full-time software engineer for Iora Health, a part-time teacher/mentor for Bloc programming boot camp, and running three different event series.
What challenges do you face in this career?
I’ve been a software engineer for about four years now and for starters, yes it’s true, there aren’t many ladies in this field. I’ve yet to work on a team with another female engineer, so that’s a challenge in itself. I would die to say “AGH I just got my period and I need to go home ASAP!!”
Many developers go through this, but there are times when we’re learning a lot and feeling like we’re making an impact, and then there are days or months where we feel discouraged and distracted. So like any career it has it’s challenges, but it has led me to places unimaginable and I’m very excited to see what the next few years may bring.
How did you become involved with Rails Camp? Could you tell us more about these retreats?
In 2014 I came to the realization that going to tech / work conferences wasn’t really my jam. They are typically in big cities that make me feel anxious, and being an outdoorsy person it’s always hard to find a dirt trail to hike on. So with all that I combined my preference of playing in the dirt over playing on concrete with fond memories of going to summer camp my vision of unplugged non-conferences/retreats came.
Not too long after that I met some folks from Australia running a series of unstructured summer camp retreats called Rails Camp and they convinced me my ideas were very similar to what they’ve been running for years. So I started the first US event on the West Coast in September 2015.
My camp happens once every summer and moves to different camps in different states every year. Registration is capped at 50-60 campers each year and the first three retreats have sold out. The waitlists are getting longer each year! I announced the August 2018 summer location a couple weeks ago and it’s already 70% sold out!
The agenda for these camps are pretty simple, I have a bus arranged to pick everyone up at the airport and when people arrive we have a welcome party and introduction night. Then for the next couple days the retreat is very unstructured and people pretty much do what they want. There are typically self-organized talks and workshops, intense karaoke sessions every night, and a whole lot of people just checking out and playing outside. Even though they are software engineers most people do not open their computers once. It’s amazing. You can learn a lot more about it here.
Did working on retreat production with Rails Camp make you want to create your own type of event series? When did the idea for Lodged Out begin?
Yes it definitely did! Even though no one owns Rails Camp there are still things that I like to keep the same or similar to the Australian camps. In Australia the camps are unstructured and typically cost around $350 or less. So since I’ve been craving more activities, better food / private chef, hands on learning workshops unrelated to tech, and cool speakers at night. It’s just not possible to do this at a camp that costs around $350 with an audience that wants little structure. So for obvious reasons and wanting to meet and be inspired by more people from other professions that’s why I created Lodged Out.
A little story on how I finally launched it…
I launched the first Lodged Out as a private partnered event with a company called Glassbreakers in January of 2016. Unfortunately for their own business reorganization they could no longer be a partner and the event had to be canceled. For years I had this fear that I needed a partner to launch Lodged Out and build momentum for the brand. Hence why it took me awhile to start it again because I was searching for the “perfect” partner. Then April 2017 my dear friend and career coach Suzan Bond came along and basically said ‘What the hell are you waiting for? You don’t need a partner, you know exactly what you are doing!’ After that phone call I immediately emailed Camp Four Echoes, a Girl Scout camp I had been wanting to book for forever, went with my gut instinct on an all-lady maker theme for the first event, designed a new logo / brand and fixed up the website and launched it.
What is Lodged Out?
Unplugged retreats for makers, doers, adventurers, entrepreneurs and more. I want people to meet me in the woods without their daily distractions to learn from and support one another, share stories, collaborate, and make new genuine friendships. The themes will always change and there may be times when it isn’t themed but it will always stay an unplugged series in the woods at summer and winter camp lodges throughout the world.
The next one… “An outdoorsy unplugged retreat for creative doers, makers and entrepreneurs. And for those who want to learn from and collaborate with some neat folks doing neat things. We'll have a couple workshops each day and story telling at night. When we aren't warming up and chatting in the lodge you can get lost in the mountains cross country skiing, snow shoeing and sledding on the camps private trail system!”
How do you decide on your retreat locations? Are there criteria that you look for, specific states, specific lodging types, etc? Where will your next event take place?
Oh man I could talk about this for hours. For starters, I only book medium sized summer camps on bodies of water that are for the most part only used by the camp. I will most likely never rent out a retreat center, hotel or Airbnb. I also only look for camps in big mountain ranges and large forests to get lost in. Ideally the camp has no neighbors so people can feel really remote and feel no boundaries when exploring. And lastly I book locations that have no cell reception, the ability to shut off wifi if they have it, and places that allow alcohol…which is eliminates 80% of all summer camps in the US. What I do best is negotiate a lot of terms that are not listed on their website and have great references from all the camps that I’ve rented in the past! Next camp will be this winter in Leavenworth, WA.
Your retreats are all unplugged. Why are you passionate about bringing people into nature unplugged? Have you had any difficulties keeping people in that mindset?
For starters, my biggest pet peeve is friends on their phones at dinner or when we’re talking / hanging out-- but that’s not the only reason all of my events are unplugged. We all need more silence and the impact being unplugged has on our creativity and connection with people in conversation is beautiful. You’ll feel it at my retreats and I can see the impact when people leave. The workshops and speakers at Lodged Out are fun and inspiring but the real bread and butter of what I’m curating is a space for people to relax, connect with people authentically and to see where their creativity can bloom when it has more space to think. At my last two camps there were areas that you could get 3g cell reception, which totally bummed me out, however it seemed most folks took it on as a rule \ challenge and just turned off their phones.
Do you have a team or are you producing these events on your own?
90% it’s only me for both series. This year I have someone helping me with emailing sponsors and booking the bus. But besides that I do everything.
What are some challenges you have faced when producing these retreats?
1. Location, location; I’m really picky so finding camps that fit all of my criteria is still a lot of work.
2. Rails Camp is easy to get sponsors but with Lodged Out not as much. The audience is broader and it’s a new series.
3. Finding people to attend LO takes a bit of my time. Rails Camp has sold out 3 years in a row (and almost 4!) so this is not something that takes up too much of my time.
4. Designing an agenda for LO that isn’t too packed for a single track event while still having enough variety that it will attract lots of people.
5. Finding workshops that will pull in folks but also leave a lasting impact on their life. For example, a ceramic workshop may look cool when you see it listed on the site and it’s definitely fun in the moment, but it’s not necessarily something that will have a lasting impact on your life like a talk or a panel on mental health would.
6. Lastly, the first Lodged Out event was for female makers, and now a lot of people think this series is just for women who make things with their hands. The website says the themes will change every event and it may not even be for hand making makers.
Do you have any tips/advice for people who are planning events?
Soooo many but I’ll list my #1…
You created your event or conference because there was maybe something you wanted to attend but couldn’t find it. If this is the case, make sure you attend your own event. Go to all the workshops you want to, unplug, meet and talk to everyone, listen to all the talks, partake in everything! I can’t tell you how many times I see people burn out because they don’t do this. I made the intention when I first started running events and I’m so beyond happy that I did because I know this is what keeps me going when this shit is not easy!
You're doing so, so much - do you have any productivity advice?
Honestly, I’m pretty OCD so getting things done as quickly as possible is kind of just what I do. I don’t get super overwhelmed or behind on emails because of this, which then has its disadvantages like being very distracted in times where I shouldn’t be.
This year I’ve been learning to value my time much, much more, so I’ve finally taken some time to record all of my processes so that I can duplicate myself. Because if I keep going at the rate I’m going and if my brain keeps busting out this amount of ideas every day I need to hire 2-3 more people by 2019.
Also, I think dating someone who is balanced and goes to bed at normal hours and wants to hang out a lot has protected me from becoming a full-blown workaholic. I typically don’t work after 4:30 and hang out with friends and go to concerts a lot.
Tools I use a lot are: Trello, Wunderlist and Flume.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Because we can connect on sooo many deeper levels than we can with men. It’s also important to inspire one another to take risks even though we’re scared we don’t know 100% what we’re doing…as this comes easy for men but not for women. I’m in a family of 8 women now and we’ve been raised by one of the strongest women I know. My mother is my biggest fan and without her, my sisters and my niece's support I wouldn’t be pushing so many boundaries.
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you in creating your businesses?
Legalzoom, my mentors and my entrepreneur community of friends who’ve started things before me, Trello, Slack and mint.com
What are some of your favorite places in Minneapolis?
Lake: Cedar Lake
Dance: The old part on the right, of the VFW in uptown every third Friday of the month a DJ called Hot Pants plays…see you there.