Q&A with Lauren Goldstein, Founder of the Sugar and Spice Summit
Lauren Goldstein is the Founder of the Sugar and Spice Summit, the only conference connecting college women and young female professionals with influential women working in all aspects of the food industry. I met Lauren, currently a senior at Northwestern University, at a food conference in New York last year and have been excited to see her work with Sugar and Spice grow since then. Lauren is all about empowering the next generation of women in food and I couldn't be more excited to share here story with you.
The Sugar and Spice Summit, returns to Chicago this weekend on April 28th! Tickets are available at sugarandspicesummit.splashthat.com/carolynspantry You can follow along on social at #SugarAndSpiceSummit.
What inspired you to create the Sugar and Spice Summit?
I was studying abroad in Copenhagen in the fall of my junior year at Northwestern University when the 2016 presidential election happened. I felt like the rug had been ripped out from underneath my generation of women, and I felt like I needed to do something to empower young American women. When I started racking my brain for ideas, the first thing I thought of was the connections that I had built with women working in the food industry in Chicago (where I go to school) and New York (where I grew up). I had been writing for a campus food publication since my freshman year, and the stories I loved telling the most were those of female food industry entrepreneurs. I remembered how inspired I felt each time I walked out of an interview with one of these women, and how I always wished more women my own age knew of these stories. I also thought of the community of female college students to which I belonged, one made up of young women who were passionate about food, wellness, and female entrepreneurship.
That’s where I had my light bulb moment. I knew that the thing that I would do to empower my generation of women would be to connect these two communities: the kinds of amazing women in food that I had been interviewing, and my peers who didn’t know that they could turn their passion for food into a career. That’s how the Sugar and Spice Summit was born.
How did you go from ideation to actually making it happen?
I had the idea for Sugar and Spice in November 2016 when I was living in Copenhagen, and I knew that I wanted the event to actually happen in April 2017 in Chicago. My first step was sending a bunch of frantic emails, in what was the middle of the night in America, to any women who I knew who worked in food. Those emails basically said, “I don’t have a date, a time, or a place, but if I were to host an event to connect college women with women working in food, would you show up?”
When I realized that the response from these women was an overwhelming “yes,” I knew I had a good idea on my hands. Initially, I had imagined Sugar and Spice to be a monthly speaker series, held on campus for small groups of students, but soon realized that it would be more successful as a single-day conference once I saw how many women were willing to speak. Plus, I was attracting big names, like Irene Rosenfeld who was the CEO of Mondelez International, and I wanted Sugar and Spice to feel like an elevated experience for both speakers and attendees.
The speakers and the topics for each panel evolved over time. What would happen was I that I would reach out to one woman, and she would agree to speak at the Summit, and then she would connect me to a friend or colleague of hers who she thought would be another good fit as a speaker. I ended up with panels of women who already knew each other’s stories, which was amazing because it allowed them to bounce off of one another so seamlessly.
What were some of the things you learned from the first Sugar and Spice Summit that you’re changing for the second?
Before Sugar and Spice 2017, I had never run a conference. There are so many little things that you just don’t think about. Last year, for example, I didn’t have enough garbage cans. There was literally nowhere to put trash. My mom, who had flown in from New York for the event, was running around compressing trash and moving it outside of the building so that the garbage cans didn’t overflow. One of my goals when I was planning Sugar and Spice 2018 was to make logistics more seamless than they were last year.
Now, my motto is, “think about all of the things you’re not thinking about.” Sometimes, when I’m planning an event, I literally sit down and envision the path I’d take when walking through the event space on the day of the event and I write a list of all of the items and venue facilities that I’d interact with. That helps me remember little pieces, like signage and water and trash cans. Now I’m obsessed with trash removal at events.
What were some of the business challenges associated with running the Summit?
Last year, I had very few costs and virtually no overhead, since I was using a free Northwestern University lecture hall instead of booking a venue. All the costs I did have to incur were ones that I could plan for because they varied on the number of people who bought tickets. I knew how many programs to print, for example, based on the number of tickets sold.
This year, I wanted to upgrade the production aspects of the Summit, and that started with booking a really beautiful venue. That was a scary thing to think about, because I had to put down money for the venue before I started selling tickets. And I love the ticketing platform that I use, but they don’t release funds until a few days after the event, so I’ve had to be really diligent with my budget to make sure everything will balance out when those funds are deposited.
You’re now onto Sugar and Spice year 2! What inspired you to make this a recurring event?
I had a massive adrenaline rush after last year’s Summit – I knew that I wanted to do it bigger and better for 2018. What’s really makes me feel like it’s worth it is the feedback that I’ve gotten from the women who attended last year’s Summit.
After last year’s Summit, I received so many messages from young women who had attended, saying things like, “This was the best day of my year“ and ,“You have to do this again next year.” I recently got an Instagram DM from a girl who was a year older than me at Northwestern, and she told me that attending last year’s Summit re-energized her passion for food and now she’s an editor at Bon Appétit.
Before the 2017 Summit, my main goal was to connect the attendees with the speakers. But, I’ve since realized just how important it is connect women in food within my generation. It’s so important to have role models and to make previously unknown career paths visible, but I think it’s equally as important to start to build connections with the women who will be your coworkers one day. So I’ve definitely thought more about ways to encourage attendees to network with one another, in addition to networking with the speakers.
Interested in more interviews? Check out these features on these amazing women: