Conference Feature Image

Midwest Travel Network Conference 2019 #MWTravelCon19: Why You Should Attend

Are you someone with a passion for writing in the digital space? If so, #MWTravelCon19 may be calling your name. The Midwest Travel Network Conference is heading to Medora, North Dakota in 2019. June 13-15, 2019 is when numerous travel writers, digital influencers and bloggers will set their feet in Medora. If you are seasoned in the space or a beginner, this conference is designed with you in mind. In case you don’t know, Medora is where the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located.


Are you a smaller CVB that tries to find online writers to help you tell your story? At the Midwest Travel Network Conference you will have the opportunity to meet those with a passion of helping you tell your story. This conference is affordable for destinations and it’s also an opportunity to put your destination in front of those that truly do care.



How many times have you attended an event and walked away with connections that were not designed with you in mind? You will walk away with valuable connections in Medora. Anytime I have an opportunity to meet someone face to face, I always walk away with ideas on how to help them. You can attend as a sponsor and showcase your destination in new light. Does your destination market to visitors in the Midwest? This conference is also a great fit for you. Several attendees have large audiences in the Midwest.


If you are a blogger that struggles to find new content, come to this conference! You will walk away with new story ideas and places to explore.

Scoria Point Medora

Attendees will have the opportunity to meet one on one with our booth sponsors. You can find a fantastic sponsor list here! With 9 states represented, the attendees will have opportunities to explore many areas of the Midwest and beyond. Through networking and exploring, North Dakota will be sure to stir up new stories to share.


North Dakota is a bucket list state for many. This is your opportunity to fulfill that bucket list item. If you are wondering how this trip to Medora may look, take a journey on I-94. North Dakota has many stories to tell. If you drive or fly to #MWTravelCon19, you will have some beautiful Instagram photos, as well.


There are several educational sessions at the conference, including how to maximize your Facebook engagement from experts Steve and Ann from the Postcard Jar. Justin Ell of the Medora CVB will share tips on how to keep your destination marketable 365 days of the year.


Are you wanting to kick up your game, in regards to Pinterest? Nicole of Mom Saves Money is an expert when it comes to growing your business through the use of Pinterest.  The list of speakers that rock tourism, can be found here. 

Most of you know that I have a passion for the Midwest and this is one way that you can join me in placing the Midwest on the map! I hope to see you at #MWTravelCon19 in Medora, North Dakota.



Attendee Tickets can be purchased here. 

Sponsorships can be purchased here



Iowa Bloggers Conference

Tips For Attending The Iowa Bloggers Conference: 2017


There’s a blog conference coming to my hometown and I’m excited to be a part of it. Mason City, Iowa is not a large metropolitan area, it’s approximately 26,000 people and offers stunning architecture and art experiences. The Iowa Bloggers Conference is going to be held in the offices of the Mason City Chamber of Commerce, 9 North Federal, in the heart of downtown. The fun will start the evening before, for a smaller get together for those wishing to arrive the evening before.


One of the biggest worries that people have when they attend an event, such as a bloggers conference; the biggest hangup seems to be what to wear. Remember that first impressions can often be last impressions, so my advice is to dress for business casual. This can be a nice pair of jeans paired with a sweater and/or top. If you want to wear a jacket and dress pants, by all means, go for it. But know, that it’s most important to dress for you! When you are comfortable, you will enjoy the day much more.

Rascal Flatts


The Hampton Inn & Suites is our host hotel. It’s located a couple miles from our venue, but easy to get to.  This is one of Mason City’s newer hotels and you will be greeted with smiles and will have a hot, complimentary breakfast. Email: for a discount code for the hotel.


There are not many places where you can book an appointment with a mentor. We have two mentors at the Iowa Bloggers Conference, available for you. Jody Halsted & Miriah Whitehurst are experts at what they do. If you want to kick up your blogging game to the next level, we would encourage you to reach out and book a session with one or both of them.


We have geared this conference towards bloggers or want to be bloggers that want to do things the right way. Each presenter will offer tidbits of information that beginner bloggers, as well as advanced bloggers, will find value in.  For myself, the networking opportunities that a blogging conference provides, are simply priceless! Come ready to learn and you will find yourself eager to apply the things that you learned while at the conference.


Some people don’t like carrying business cards around, but in reality, they still work. If you are a beginning blogger, make sure that you have some way for others to stay in contact with you. Business cards may be your answer.

I look forward to seeing YOU at the Iowa Bloggers Conference. Do you need a ticket? Here you go!  (VIP tickets are still available, as of today)

Note: Sponsorships & Tables are available for business owners & destinations to showcase their community.


Shari Hagen

North Iowa Women In Business Series Featuring Shari Hagen

The North Iowa Women In Business Series continues with Shari Hagen of  Shari has a a passion for helping people live healthy. Her passion is health and wellness, and of course, living life to the fullest. Meet Shari Hagen.

Shari Hagen

Shari Hagen is the owner of  She has been active in her business since January of 2014. It has been fun to watch her business grow the past couple years. Her story will inspire you to follow your passions and your dreams. I personally have enjoyed watching her business flourish and look forward to the bright future that she has ahead of her.

Why Did You Start Your Business?

I wanted to be able to help people with everything health and wellness. My son was diagnosed with Autism and many other diagnoses at a very young age. We were unable to find the resources that we needed in North Iowa when dealing with the biomedical side of it. My family has also dealt with chronic Lyme Disease, for years, without any  help. So, I wanted to provide that resource. In addition, I focus on teaching people how to live healthy on a budget, as many are struggling with their finances.

What Advice Would You Give A Woman Wanting To Start Her Own Business?

The advice I would give a woman wanting to start her own business, is to ignore the naysayers. The perfect example is someone in my community is old-fashioned especially when it comes to business women. I recall being at a business meeting and he saw me and asked, “You sitting in the bosses lap today?” I instantly was disgusted and thought of the different responses I felt like saying. However, I calmly responded, “I am the boss.” Even though we have come far in our society about roles of men and women; there are still people who have not changed their opinion. Don’t let this detour you.

Who Has Mentored You Through The Process of Building Your Business

I have had several great mentors on my business building journey. Val Heard (who has been her own boss for 12+ years), The Colemans of BEWELLness of Clear Lake (owning their own health and wellness store and being very good friends), and Sara Broers (sharing the social media aspect of business).

Tell Us About Your Family

I have been married five years to a wonderful, understanding man and have a six year old son named Levi. My son has been the main reason I embarked on my health and wellness journey. Even though he was nonverbal and had many behavior issues four years ago; through removing toxins, diet changes, and other biomedical interventions today, he is a normal Kindergartener. Our struggles with Lyme Disease are much less severe. Now we love to spend quality time taking trips and being a blessing to as many people as we can.

Shari reminds each of us that it’s important to be an advocate for your health. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong and you are not getting answers you want from traditional medicine, remember that you do have options.

Connect with Shari on Facebook


Rascal Flatts

Top Three Reasons To Start A Blog

I have been blogging for 7 1/2 years and there’s one thing for certain, a blog, is still a blog. Over time, social media platforms have come and gone. But, blogging in general has not changed. Blogs are still a fun way for you to share your thoughts with the world wide web. I am often asked, “Do you think I should start a blog?” Here are my top three reasons why you should start a blog.


When you have a compelling story to share, you will quickly find blogging very easy. Your blog is an easy way to share your thoughts, opinions, and ideas with the world wide web. Once you put it on the world wide web, it’s out there for the whole world to see. If you like the idea of your thoughts being shared all around the world, start blogging!



If your business has a website, you should have a blog on it. According to a HubSpot Survey, 60% of businesses that blog, acquire more customers. If you struggle with content, find a good writer. There are several bloggers out there that would love to be paid to write content for your company blog.


Do you feel as though your voice is not heard? When you start a blog, you will have a reader. There’s always one person that will read your blog. In my mind, that’s all I needed when I started blogging 7 1/2 years ago. Share your passions, your life, your inspirations and anything and everything you want the world to know about. Your voice will be heard, once you start blogging.

Blogging is a fantastic way to heal. Many people start blogging out of some type of tragedy. They often have a story to tell and blogging offers a great platform to get started sharing. If you love to talk, I can tell you that you will be happy that you hopped on the blogging train. Once you find your spot on the train, you will only evolve. You will meet new people, build relationships through your online activity that you never thought were possible.

So, what’s stopping you? These are three top reasons why you should start a blog and never look back! I’d love to hear what you blog about or what you are considering blogging about. I can guarantee you that someone will want to hear your story.

December North Iowa Social Media Breakfast Club

How Small Businesses Can Work With Bloggers

Small businesses owners often ask me how they can work with bloggers, as they have no clue where to start. They then ask me why they should work with bloggers. From my personal experience and helping business owners work with bloggers, I have put these tips together for you, the small business owner. Let’s start with the why.


Your customers and potential customers are on the world wide web. When a blogger writes an article about your product or a business, you now have an article promoting your business across the globe. Bloggers will also share their article through their social media platforms, which will give your business additional exposure.

For example when you google “how to spend a day in Webster City,” four posts that the North Iowa Bloggers wrote appear on page 1. The North Iowa Bloggers visited Webster City, Iowa in December of 2014 and shared their experiences through blog posts and social media. They visited local businesses, ate in local restaurants and shopped.

Amy in shop in Webster City

Another example: Natural Plus Nursery, of Clear Lake, Iowa, hosted the North Iowa Bloggers for an afternoon in Spring of 2015. Mary, co-owner of the nursery, shared the history of Natural Plus Nursery and showed the bloggers what they offer. Google, “what does Natural Plus Nursery have to offer”. On page one through google search, you will find three blog posts written from this visit and on page two, you will find two more.

Google anything similar to these keywords for these two businesses and you will find posts written by the North Iowa Bloggers. This is just one way that small business owners can work with bloggers. Your imagination is the only thing that is stopping you, when it comes to how. Social media and the world wide web offer endless opportunities for both parties.

Now, let’s tackle the how.


Contact your local Chamber of Commerce, as they often have bloggers that are members. Here is where you can get connected with bloggers that can help you grow your business. Attend social media breakfasts in your community, bloggers attend these and love meeting new businesses owners at these types of events.

December North Iowa Social Media Breakfast Club

If you hit a road block with these two venues, ask on your personal Facebook page. Trust me, you will be connected with a local blogger or two in a relatively short period of time


Bloggers will have a contact form on their blog, which is a great way to reach out to a blogger. You can also e-mail them, as they usually have this in their about section or how to contact me section. If you can connect with them through social media, send them a direct message through their Facebook Business Page or a private message through Twitter. Bloggers love interacting with small business owners and will help you.


If you are a small business looking to grow, bloggers can help you grow in ways you never imagined. Bloggers are team players, just as small business owners are. Keep in mind that traditional marketing still has its place for many small businesses. Be ready to expand and grow, as your online customers are waiting to meet you.

Bloggers offer a “new way” of marketing and I hope you will give it a try to see how they can help you. If you don’t try it, you will never know what could have been.




Rascal Flatts

Tips For Getting Ready For Your First Blog Conference

Your first blog conference is on the horizon and you may be asking yourself, “What have I gotten myself into?” Relax. The fact that you have purchased your blog conference ticket and made the commitment to attend is hurdle #1. You are on your way to ramping up your blog.

Blog Buttons

Business Cards

Business cards are important. They are often the avenue that a conversation begins with someone. You may be in a loud room when you meet someone and not be able to talk. By exchanging business cards, you can continue the conversation once the conference is over and you are in a quiet place to gather your thoughts. I will admit it, business cards can float around for a while, but they are important. I personally love it when I can ask someone for their Twitter handle and BOOM- we are connected!

Facebook Groups

Most conferences have a Facebook group where attendees can enroll. Here is where you can often make arrangements to share a cab or even find a room mate while attending the conference. Often times there are attendees that decide where to meet for dinner, as reservations are often needed. By interacting in the conference Facebook Group you will also know some of the attendees before you actually meet in real life.

Be Flexible

Most blog conferences have a schedule listed on their website. Look it over, but be prepared to be flexible. Often times you will find that a session you want to attend is just not what you were looking for. Be open to changing your schedule up and attending a session that you did not think would be a good fit. By stepping out of your comfort zone, you will more than likely walk away with more knowledge than you ever imagined.

Blog conferences are a great way to meet others with the same interests as you. They are also a way to learn how bloggers are monetizing their blogs and what types of businesses bloggers are working with. By going to a blog conference with an open mind, you will learn more and meet more people.

And you just never know— Rascal Flatts or some other awesome music group may show up! A note about this photo: I went to Blissdom and did not know these other conference attendees before this conference. I met Robyn, 2nd gal from left, through the Blissdom Facebook Group and we were room mates. I met the other ladies through the conference and we have stayed in touch, ever since.

Rascal Flatts

If there is one thing that I have learned in my 6 1/2 years of blogging that it is OK to change things up now and then. My path has not been A to Z. Heck, it’s been from C to S and from Z and back to P. Take a ride off the beaten path and your blog will thank you!

So… tell me. What was your first blog conference experience like? I’d love to hear about it!


Social Media

Four MidWest Social Media Events To Consider Attending Fall of 2015

Fall is a busy time of year when it comes to blog and social media conferences. There are several right here in the Midwest, which is where I call home. I’d like to introduce you to four conferences that I think you should consider attending. You don’t have to attend all of them, but why not consider attending one of them? Keep in mind, this is just four of several that are available in the Midwest.

Social Media


Midwest Influencers Conference

Chicago is home to the first of its kind- Midwest Influencers Conference, which is focusing on bloggers that call the Midwest home. Oct. 2-4, 2015 is its first appearance and I am delighted to be speaking at this event. Being a Midwesterner myself, I hope to inspire others to make local connections, as they do matter. Interested in going to the Windy City? Here’s were to register and what you can expect to learn.

Social Media Summit Midwest

Are you a small business owners in the Midwest? NIACC in Mason City, Iowa, is where you will find The Social Media Summit Midwest, on Oct. 24, 2015.                                                                      Marketing MidWest LogoThis may be the conference that is just perfect for you and your small business. As a co-sponsor of this event, I can tell you that you will be inspired and ready to turn up your marketing game. Our speaker line up is a nice variety and our goal is to give you tools that you can use immediately after the conference. How often do you leave a conference and have no idea how to use the tools you have been given? We hope to take care of that issue. Co-sponsors/organizers along with Social Connections, LLC are Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and the Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce. Register here to attend the Social Media Summit Midwest on Oct. 24, 2015. One day packed with information to help you turn up your marketing game in the Midwest.

Bloggy Conference

Bloggy Conference is held in Sandusky, Ohio on September 18-20, 2015. If you want to learn more about stepping up your blogging game in a smaller setting, this is your go to conference in the Midwest. This is the fifth year that I have attended this event and I have made valuable connections every single year. Myself, Jennifer Flaa and Donna Hup of the North Iowa Bloggers, are speaking on a panel and talking about how you can be successful blogging anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you live in a big city, rural America or a farm- bloggers can have success. And another cool thing about this conference, is the fact that it is family friendly.

Bloggy Conference 2015 Preview Video from Bloggy Moms on Vimeo.

While you are attending a conference, your kids can have fun at Cedar Point– the roller coaster capital of the world! Tickets are still available- register here!

Social Media Rockstar Event

Southwestern Minnesota is home to the Social Media Rockstar Event. This conference is held on September 16,2015 and offers a nice variety of sessions on social media. Pat Palmer, a local North Iowan, owns a computer repair business (The Computer Guy) has attended this conference and recommends it to folks that attend the North Iowa Social Media Breakfast Club. He states, “The Social Media Rockstar Event is something I go to so I can gain a different perspective of Social Media. Their conference is fast paced, but has 2 different tracts so that no matter if you are just a beginner or a bit more advanced, you will get something out of the event. This will be my third year going to the event and it looks better than ever. Jason Falls is once again the headline speaker and always provides technical, but practical advice for those who dabble in social media! Sarah and her staff deserve a bit pat on the back for the work they put into the event.” Want to be a Social Media Rockstar in your business? Buy your ticket here.

The Midwest offers several opportunities for all of us to step up our marketing game this Fall. It’s truly up to each of you to make the plunge and jump in and attend. It is an investment of time and money, but in the long run, you and your business will be the winners. I hope to see you at some of these events this Fall.

Your Time Is Now – Make It Happen

If there is one thing we are promised it is the moment we are in, right now! I often see people asking when they should start a business or a blog. Really? Why waste all of your time and energy asking, when it would be much smarter to invest your time and money into the doing! I am an entrepreneur. I get that you want the time to be right, but in all honesty if you wait for the “right” time, you will be waiting your whole life.


Make It Happen

When you dig in with all you have, that’s when things begin to happen. Your blog will not magically appear when you spend all of your time asking others about a title, a hosting service or even when or how often you should post. I see this over and over again…seriously, just do it!

I have learned more from the mistakes I have made by doing. Sure, I have asked a lot of questions along the way, and will continue to ask. Most importantly I will continue the doing part. Once you stop doing, your business comes to a halt. Many people stop because they don’t understand that their customers are changing, yes, that does happen!

There is nothing wrong with evolving. Most successful business owners will tell you that in order to be successful you will need to continue to evolve. I have learned this myself, as I have dug in and made things happen. In 2009, I can tell you that the words North Iowa Social Media Breakfast Club never crossed my mind. In 2012, the words began to cross my mind and in 2013 I dug in and made it happen.

When you actually take the time to DO, that is when the magic happens! By doing you learn what works great and you also learn what does not work so great. The best things I have learned, as a small business owner, is that in order to grow, mistakes will come and I have learned from them. By doing, I have learned so much more than anyone else could ever show me. I could spend 24 hours a day asking questions of others on social media and get absolutely nowhere. Instead, I have chosen over and over again to dig in and make things happen!

So, if you are caught up in asking others what you need to do to get your business going, why not just do it? Life is to short to spend time doing nothing. Share your passion with others and live your life! Trust me, you will be grateful that you took the plunge to make it happen. The people you meet will continue to bless your life in ways you never imagined. Making a difference in the lives of others is a terrific feeling and I hope that each of you can experience the joy that I have been able to experience.

What are you waiting for, Christmas? Please don’t, get out and make it happen TODAY!

Katie Olthoff Stats

Why Bloggers Should Build An Email List: Guest Contributor Katie Olthoff Shares How It Is Working

Katie Olthoff Stats

For months now, I’ve been hearing that bloggers should concentrate on building their email lists.  Facebook changes constantly, Google+ is starting to disappear, Twitter is overwhelming, and even Pinterest is asking you to pay to promote your content.  Email lists are truly the best way to contact your followers.

So I decided I wanted to my list to grow.  But it didn’t.

I tried a few different things:

  • A sign up form at the bottom of every blog post.
  • A Hello Bar across the top of my blog.
  • Sign up forms in my sidebar.
  • Free printables for subscribers.

But my list numbers stayed steady.  When I posted more frequently, people actually UNsubscribed.  (I think I was overwhelming their inboxes.) Not what I wanted to happen.

Finally, I bit the bullet and changed things up.  Instead of just sending an RSS blast automatically every time I posted something new, I made a weekly newsletter.

In it, I shared blog posts from the past week, plus two or three from the archives that are seasonal or just popular.  I share a turkey recipe (because I am a turkey farmer) and ask a question to help me get to know my readers or get advice from them.

Email Newsletter Katie

A weekly newsletter is more work, because I put it together manually.  And it is a commitment.  But it has paid off!

My “open rate” and “click rate” has increased since making the switch.  And my subscribers have been growing by leaps and bounds!

I am working on some tutorials for Mailchimp, which I will be posting on my blog, On the Banks of Squaw Creek.  So if this sounds too complicated for you, pop on over and I’d be glad to help you out!

And if you want to hear more about life on a turkey farm in Central Iowa, sign up for my email list while you’re there.

Katie Olthoff is a former teacher turned writer, blogger, designer, and social media enthusiast.  She blogs about her life on a turkey farm with two little boys and a 100 year old farmhouse at On the Banks of Squaw Creek. Katie also does logo design and blog design for the Blogger platform. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Katy Flint 1

Tips From A New Blogger, Katy Flint On Using WordPress.Com

A huge thank you to Katy Flint of Learning As I Go for sharing her experience with WordPress.Com. Katy is a member of the North Iowa Bloggers and her blog has been inspiring others for several months. I am over the top excited that Katy agreed to share her experience with all of you, as I understand how challenging it can be when it comes to getting your blog up and running.

Katy Flint 1

I can’t believe that it’s been about 8 months since I started my blog, Learning As I Go.  Last summer I found myself blogging for my job, but had so many things I felt like I wanted to “say” and “get out” but the professional blog wasn’t the place for it!  So, I took a leap of faith and started my page.  I knew of other bloggers and what they did and often read their posts, but really didn’t know HOW to blog or WHERE to blog.  I knew that WordPress.Com existed (from Googling it of course) and that it was free (Free is good when you’re starting out, right?)!!  So, I thought….why not? I set up the name of my blog and dug in.  Then you learn things and you learn that it’s not as simple or as easy or FREE as it seems.  A couple things I’ve learned from having a WordPress.Com account and wish I had known before I began:

  • The web address of your blog is going to be really long!  When I started out mine was !  Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.  I’ve since purchased a domain and have it routed to my WordPress site (  A lot more fluid, right?)
  • Widgets – you get what you pay for, right?  Some widgets that a lot of bloggers use are not supported by like Rafflecopter.
Donna Hup Rafflecopter
Screen Shot: Courtesy of DonnaHup.Com


  • Layouts – the layout (or design) or your webpage/blog should be a description and illustration of who you are and what your blog is about…when working with FREE you are much more limited.  Yes, WordPress.Com does offer several nice layouts, the best cost money (typically $69 and up) and then when you want to personalize colors, etc…you add another $99 fee on top!  Starting with the free layouts will cause one to want to change and personalize as your blog grows (trust me, I’ve been there.)

One thing I will say that I love about WordPress.Com is it’s a great app (both Android & Apple).  From my phone and iPad, I can see my stats, edit & write posts, upload media, etc.  It’s great for on the go (which I often am) and when I feel that writing itch start!

So, while free is good when you’re starting out, there are some things to be aware of that can hinder your growth as a blogger!  Good luck and blog on my friends!

Connect with Katy on Learning As I Go, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. and Instagram!