I officially entered my Saturn Return by turning 29 last month. The Saturn Return is when the planet Saturn comes back to meet your natal Saturn. It takes about 29.5 years for this slow-mover to return to where it was when you were born. The Saturn return hits in the late 20s and its impact is felt into the early 30s. (via ThoughtCo). Feeling major shifts in my life, I wanted to set a big goal for the next year ahead. I needed a goal that scared me. One that would make me work hard for the next 365 days. So I made up a goal for the last year of my 20’s…to make the Forbes 30Under30 list, a curation of 600 of the brightest young entrepreneurs, innovators and game changers released each year by Forbes. Because…why not?
So, how do I plan to make this list? I began by hacking my way into this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit, held annually in Boston. I have been working for the past year on the building blocks for my plant-based wellness company, Luna Volta. At Luna Volta, we are honoring ingredients extracted from hemp (cannabinoids), in a regenerative, eco-conscious way. I was especially interested in the event because this year, Forbes was featuring an entire track of speakers dedicated to Cannabis Capitalism.
I looked up how to apply and the costs involved.
To simply attend the conference, you have to be invited as a previous list maker or go through their application process. If approved, then you are eligible to purchase a ticket, which a week before the event, general admission cost $999 a ticket. This does not include flights or accommodations to Boston where the event is held.
My total cost to attend would be roughly:
Ticket price= $999
Flight= $350 RT
Lodging: $150/night for 3 nights = $450
Food + transportation: $20/day = $60
TOTAL = $1,859
About two weeks prior to the event, ForbesUnder30 posted on their Instagram Stories announcing a Forbes Fellowship program, giving away admission to the winners. I figured, “Besides time, there is no cost to apply so… Why not?” I filled out my application in about an hour and hit submit.
The following week and a week before the conference, I received an email that began,
Hello Kayla and congratulations,
We are pleased to announce that you have been accepted into the Forbes Fellows program and have been selected out of thousands of applicants. Once you confirm you can attend and complete your registration with the link below, you'll be granted access to an incredible community at our Under 30 Summit in Boston from September 30th to October 3rd. There, you'll join top entrepreneurs, celebrities, visionaries for endless networking opportunities, 200 + outstanding speakers, a private concert (featuring Marshmello), gourmet food festival, bar crawl, startup hub, and a day of service. It's the worlds most influential gathering of bold, young leaders.
Needless to say, I was over the moon. The email did mention I would still be required to pay a $75 fee for the conference ticket but with over $900 in savings, I figured that was manageable. But, did it include my flight + accommodations? Coming from the west coast with little pre-planning time, flight prices were already high and hotel rooms were already booked. I emailed back right away inquiring for more information about what the fellowship program included.
I waited 24 hours while reaching out to friends in the Boston area to see if they knew anyone with an empty couch I could crash on. I am very lucky to have an incredible community of people in my network and a wonderful friend offered up her guest room right away. I accepted her offer, gave her my thanks, and began trying to plan for my trip. The summit website had a loose conference schedule with the general track information. There I also discovered a sister event, WOMEN@FORBES UNDER 30 : CLOSING THE INVESTMENT GAP, happening that Sunday, the first day of the conference week. The event was a full-day luncheon of speakers, investors, and founders sharing their insights on business. It was listed as a completely separate event, with a separate cost, and was not synced to the Under30 schedule. I had yet to hear back on my email regarding flights + accommodations, so I emailed Forbes again inquiring if the Womens event was included in my fellowship win.
A few days later and with still no reply from Forbes, I struggled trying to plan my trip. Should I show up early on Sunday and try to get into the Womens event? Would they let me in? Would they make me pay the $450 extra price tag for that event? or do I skip it, plan a more comfortable flight arrival time, and take it easy? I wondered, “What would I spend the day doing if I was not able to attend?” I hovered my mouse over a red eye on Saturday night, landing me in Boston at 9am the morning of the Women’s conference. Eventually I hit purchase and committed to a decision. My thought process was “Why not at least try?”
I landed in Boston still unclear about what was included in my Fellowship ticket. I took Boston’s public transportation straight from the airport, suitcase in tow, and showed up at the Women@Forbes event right on time. I went to the check-in desk, gave them my name, and as luck would have it, I did not appear as a registered attendee. The attendant sent me to the manager of the check-in process who looked me up in the Under30 system. I shared with her that I wasn’t sure if this event was included in my Forbes Fellowship, or not. She double checked the system, checked my ID, and then waved me through saying there were enough empty seats for me to join. Victory!! I headed straight to the Bulletproof Coffee table for some fuel before settling in to a full day of inspirational panels from founders + successful women in their fields including:
Yvonne Orji, Comedienne + Actress (HBO’s ‘Insecure’)
Whitney Wolfe Herd, Founder + CEO, Bumble
Karissa Bodnar, Founder + CEO, Thrive Cosmetics
This day was a highlight of the conference for me, being surrounded by so many successful women, and I am so happy that I just went for it. The rest of the conference was just as insightful. As someone quite new to the fundraising conversation, I found the perspectives of the panelists who have gone through rounds of pitching, investor relationships, and fundraising the most interesting.
Some of my favorite panel topics:
Raising the First $1 Million
The Future of Remote Work: Capturing the Virtues of Virtual Talent
Cannabis Capitalism: Adapting to Regulations in a Newly Legal Market
The final day of the conference, each track was set to have an offsite ‘field trip’ to visit a company relevant to their industry. We were meant to sign up for one of twenty spots via the conference schedule. We got an email the night before saying that if we did not see sign-ups for the tours in the our track, the tours were full. I never saw any sign-ups open on my schedule. The theme of my trip resurfaced again and I just decided to show up for the tour. I navigated Boston’s subway thirty minutes outside the city where the office was located and was welcomed into the tour, no problem. Here I was best able to connect to other attendees in my track and get hands-on industry knowledge.
I left the conference connected to some incredibly inspiring entrepreneurs and with a feeling that I have the skills necessary to make my business succeed.
As a first time Forbes event attendee, I had no idea what to expect from the Summit. All I needed was that first door to open - the invitation - and then I made the most of the trip that I could. I did not let any no’s, or worse, no replies, stop me.
The moral of my trip became very simply, ‘Just show up.’
and I am so happy that I did.