What are you doing this summer? I don’t normally feel drawn to large festivals, but something about The Get Together caught my eye and stole my heart. After all, as a female entrepreneur in Toronto, how many outdoor summer options do we really have that don’t include round-the-clock electronic music and a sorta-sketchy bro-chella vibe? I like sleep, k thanks. I am so drawn to the idea of gathering outside the city with up to 300 other like-minded women, listening to big-name speakers share their business insights, frolic in a river, dine communally, practice yoga, and so much more. There will also be a Healing Village where you can book healing treatments from a variety of practitioners. I know for myself, sometimes I can feel overwhelmed or overcome with inspo when surrounded by lots of amazing people & things, and it makes me feel safe knowing there are people I can turn to, to hold space for me if I need it. (Treatments can be pre-booked or booked on-site, stay tuned & follow The Get Together on Instagram!) The idea of The Get Together feels like a breath of fresh air, and a much-needed concept to come to Ontario. Ladies, it’s time! We are so excited to share more from founder Laura, about the inaugural first year.
I’m also equally excited to be attending with camera in hand, documenting all the happenings for Edit Seven. Stay tuned after the fest for a special photo gallery + first-hand account that you will only see here!
Business Name: The Get Together Inc.
Name & Title: Laura Whitney Sniderman, Founder & CEO
Location: Born and raised in Toronto, living in New York City
Education: Currently doing my Masters at Columbia University in Clinical Psychology with a Concentration in Mind Body Spirituality
Edit Seven: Tell us about your gathering The Get Together, what’s it all about?
Laura Whitney Sniderman: The Get Together, is a Toronto-based startup aimed at redefining what being a part of a community means. How? Well, we are creating an annual revolutionary festival for those who identify as women, of all ages and backgrounds to connect around a concept we’ve coined known as ‘wisdomsharing’. This entirely unique approach to the festival model means that every woman who attends our inaugural four-day event this August (all three hundred) will tangibly contribute by choosing to teach a 45-minute workshop, perform live on our main stage, submit art for our onsite art gallery, volunteer, or suggest their own ‘way of wisdomsharing’ if none of the aforementioned options resonate. Why is this revolutionary? Well, because we will be the first festival in the world to incorporate wisdomsharing, meaning that the event is entirely built upon collective contribution, offering attendees a mechanism to experience purpose within the community. Research shows that, “individuals with a sense of purpose and meaning report greater life satisfaction, more positive emotions, higher levels of optimism, and better self-esteem” (Park & Peterson, 2010). We therefore strongly believe that creating a platform for all attendees to be seen and heard, and to celebrate and elevate one another will lead to the enhancement of self-worth and a revolutionary sense of love and belonging.
Along with peer-to-peer wisdomsharing, The Get Together will also offer keynote talks, 2-hour intensive workshops lead by experts in a variety of fields, live music, DJs, luxurious sit down experiential dining in our 80×40 wedding tent, a wellness center where attendees can receive treatments including massage, acupuncture, reiki, and more. Some of the incredible people on our recently announced line-up include: Sarah Britton of My New Roots, Ayo Leilani known as Witch Prophet, Vanja Vukelic of Merakilabbe, Tracy Komlos of Pangea Dreams, Meghan Yuri Young of The Sad Collective, Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr of She Roars Africa, and Amai Kuda & Les Bois, to name a few.
E7: How did you feel called to do this? What inspired you to start?
LWS: I have run women’s retreats for the last five years, in New York City and Toronto, during which I have come to the deep realization that positive social relationships and the development of purpose are two vital aspects of self-esteem and are strong foundations for the framework of successful communities. Through my retreat work with thousands of women-identified people and my ongoing graduate studies research in Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, I have come to believe that as a society, we are experiencing a crisis of ‘enoughness’.
The bonds that tie us to in-person communities are growing sparse, and we are living in a time of social comparison, in which people are measuring their self-worth based on an evaluation of so-called ‘perfect’, curated lives that they see saturated across their social platforms. People are judging their worth in the real world based on a comparison to online personas, which can leave many feeling that they have little to contribute. According to a prominent research study on social comparison, social media, and self-esteem, “the results showed that participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media” (Vogel et al, 2014).
Along with social comparison, for centuries, women have been told that they are “less than,” that they are not worthy of inclusion. Columbia University for example, where I am studying, did not admit women until 1983, in 2017 in the United States, 80.5 cents was earned by white women for every dollar earned by a white man (black and Latina women make 53 cents for every dollar a white man earns!) Less than 5% of fortune 500 companies CEO’s are women today, we’ve never had a female President and it wasn’t until 1960 that all women in Canada were allowed to vote. These are just some examples of why I believe that women specifically, are suffering from this crisis of enoughness. Early on in my career hosting women’s retreats, I was inspired by the mere act of being with other women for multiple days, connecting vulnerably, in person with one another. As the years went by however, I began to realize that the traditional retreat model we were following, in which expert teachers were hired to disseminate information from a top-down approach, was rarely noted as the most impactful and meaningful aspects of the event. In fact, what seemed to be most influential were the opportunities provided for attendees to share their own vulnerabilities, passions, lived experiences, and skill sets. It was in these moments when participants felt a sense of meaning and purpose, love and belonging, because they were being seen and heard. Therefore, over the years, it became increasingly apparent that this trend toward contribution as a mechanism to enhance self-esteem was valid. I also, realized that providing a platform for all women to share their wisdom was, not only a meaningful way to enhance self-esteem, but also that we are conditioned to believe that only experts have wisdom worth sharing, when truthfully, we all do. This is how wisdomsharing and The Get Together was born.
E7: Why do you love what you do?
LWS: I love what I do because I get to hold space for those who identify as women to see themselves, the way that I see them, as incredible, unique individuals who have extremely important things to offer the world. I think that all women are amazing. In fact, I think all people are amazing. I really do, and I fundamentally believe that the world would be a better place if everyone could recognize their own worth, and allow themselves to be seen and heard.
E7: What makes The Get Together special?
LWS: There are two entirely unique facets of The Get Together, that I believe make it unique. Wisdomsharing and our Learning Track model. I have already explained wisdomsharing and its value so I will tell you a little bit about The Learning Track model. One of the important aspects of retreats is their size. They are generally relatively small which provides participants with the opportunity to get to know everyone and to have whole-group shared experiences of transformation. Participants also spend a lot of time with one another and it usually allows for deeper conversations and increased vulnerability. I argue that this alone plays a large role in a feeling of belonging to the group. A festival on the other hand is generally large which creates a different atmosphere and also provides different benefits to the participant. Festivals due to their size allow people to feel as though they are a part of a movement, something… big! They allow you to be on your own “learning journey” and to connect with a much larger group of people when you feel like it or to just wander and ‘do your own thing’ or stick with the friends you came with. Both of these models offer important potential outcomes and so The Get Together aims to implement a retreat model within a festival model. Learning Tracks is our attempt at fostering this. What is a Learning Track? Once we receive all of the wisdomshare workshop submissions we will group them into Learning Tracks. Each track will be comprised of a small number of wisdomshare workshops and attendee’s will self-select into one Learning Track, which will become their “home-base” for the festival. Each track will have a leader that will act as a retreat-like facilitator, holding space every morning for their Learning Track members to connect with one another. Also, all morning, participants will only take wisdomshare workshops within their Learning Track. This will provide attendees with an opportunity to deeply connect with a small group of people at the festival, hopefully providing them with a deeper sense of belonging overall. In the afternoon’s people will be able to select their own learning journey and can decide how they would like to experience the festival. The 2-hour intensive workshops with our expert change makers will be offered, there will be keynote discussions, live music, and opportunities for participants to just hang out by the spring fed pond or go for walks through the endless forest trails on the property.
Overall, our hope is that through the Learning Tracks people will experience a deep sense of connection to a small group of attendees as well as a feeling like they are a part of a movement, that is… The Get Together festival at large!
E7: What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from being in the spiritual gathering world?
LWS: Everyone defines spirituality differently and it’s important to be open to all perspectives, even if yours differ.
Also, many spiritual gatherings I have attended are not inclusive of diverse perspectives and lived experiences. This absolutely needs to shift and more effort on the part of the organizers needs to be put toward inclusivity mandates and education. The Get Together takes inclusion very seriously and we have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind. When buying a ticket participants are required to agree to this policy and are informed that if anyone is found not adhering to it, further action will be taken, including possible removal from the festival. We have also developed an inclusion guidebook full of resources for participants to educate themselves on topics including, creating an inclusive environment, gender identity and sexuality, body image, anti-racism, intersectionality, colonialism, trauma sensitivity and consent. Lastly, our core team has undergone a series of trainings on many of the topics listed above.
E7: What is your favourite part about running your business from New York and Toronto?
LWS: Our goal is to grow The Get Together into the largest annual gathering of women-identified people in the world over the next few years, so I love that through living in New York, we already have international reach and exposure. Also, I must say…New York is full of truly EPIC women doing incredible things in the world, so I feel lucky to be here and have the opportunity to connect with them and involve them in The Festival. It is however, definitely hard to run a business through zoom! Hah! The majority of our meetings happen online, which creates a level of disconnect between members on the team. For this reason, I am returning to Toronto for the whole summer, where the majority of our team resides.
E7: What is your #1 piece of advice to keep in mind when starting your own business?
LWS: You don’t need to do it alone. The Get Together would never be possible if it were not for my co-producers, Taylor Wild and Maxine Shifrin of Brainfood, Heather Allen, and our incredible core team of volunteers and advisors. There is SO much power that comes from a collective vision and if there is one thing that I have learned is that other people have passion, wisdom and skills that you do not. Letting people contribute in ways that inspire them, opens up space for you to actually focus on your overarching vision and that vision will only be enhanced through the diverse contributions of others. This belief underpins our whole motto, You are enough, together we are infinite.
Over the next few years we aim to grow The Get Together into the largest annual gathering of women across North America. We want to break down barriers between women, recognize and honour the beauty in the diversity of definitions of ‘woman-ness’, so that together we can evolve – individually, collectively and globally. As a current Graduate student at Columbia University in Clinical Psychology, I intend on conducting research, through The Get Together, so that we can actively contribute to the literature supporting meaning-making as a mechanism to enhance self-esteem and bolster belonging.
E7: Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting your business?
LWS: Yes, so many things! One main thing would be the importance of clearly defining roles and responsibilities and laying out a timeline of deliverables in as much detail as possible. Sometimes when you’re in the midst of creating something, you just focus on what needs to get done, as it needs to get done, but there is immense benefit in taking time to create detailed structure. Clarity is so key!
E7: What advice would you give to others who are trying to get into the same industry, or trying to start their own gathering?
LWS: Build an amazing team, layout their roles and responsibility and then trust them enough to give them as much autonomy as possible to do their job.
E7: How do you stay organized, balanced and motivated?
LWS: In terms of our team, we use the platform Asana to stay organized, we have Google folders for each volunteer to upload their weekly work, and we have a WhatsApp group to stay motivated and connected on the regular. We also have a bi-weekly call that begins every week with a 15-minute meditation, team progress updates and then we bring on experts from a variety of fields to do educational training workshops.
Personally, my favourite way to stay balanced is to dance! I dance regularly in my home and also go to Ecstatic Dance here in New York.
E7: Who are some of your mentors/role models?
LWS: Whitney Wolfe, the founder of Bumble has become a huge role model for me. Her resilience after leaving Tinder, leading to the creation of Bumble is so powerful. Her passion for women’s empowerment and how she’s changing the conversation around not only dating culture, but now business and friendship as well is deeply moving and inspiring. Recently Bumble also started a new initiative called Moves Making Impact in which women on the app can choose a cause to support – human rights, public policy or economic development and every time a user sends a message to a new match, Bumble will make a donation to a woman who is working toward the cause. Overall, Whitney is making moves in a big way to support women’s empowerment and is doing so in a primarily male-dominated field – the technology industry. Prior to founding The Get Together, I worked in tech and at almost every conference I spoke at; I was one of the only women. I deeply admire Whitney and all she has accomplished with Bumble, and I hope that I, and The Get Together can follow in her footsteps and move the dial on women’s empowerment by providing the largest annual, in-person platform for women to be elevated and celebrated.
One of my greatest mentors is Deepak Chopra. I was introduced to him through my work in transformative technology and he has been an incredible friend and guide over the years in terms of my meditation practice, my business and my educational pursuits.
E7: Do you have a daily or regular ritual you practice that you love? What’s your favourite kind of self care?
LWS: Dancing! I recently came across a grade 6 school project in which I stated that I would become a dance teacher! That has unfortunately not happened, but it is still one of the only things that can make feel entirely present. I took formal dance classes for 11 years, participate in ecstatic dance workshops a few times a month and swing dance with my dad as often as possible! When I dance I feel as though time stops and I am fully immersed in the movement of my body, the music and my breath. I try to dance, at least in my apartment, every day.
I also love to take baths! There is just something so relaxing about being entirely submerged in warm water.
E7: Where do you go or what do you do for inspiration?
LWS: Nature is my greatest inspiration. I grew up spending a month in a tiny log cabin outside of Toronto with my parents and brother. We did not have a television or cellphones at the time, so I spent a lot of time alone in the forest, playing imaginary games, or in the lake swimming. I really believe that this time of connection to something greater than myself… the vastness of nature and the opportunity to just be quiet and to reflect was immensely impactful in terms of the woman I have become. When I am in need of inspiration today, I will go for walks in Riverside Park here in New York, I will sit and meditate in the sunshine, or find my way to a cabin outside of the city.
I also love music. I have been a musician since I was 13 and so I often go see live shows for inspiration. New York is definitely the best place for that!
E7: Who is The Get Together’s ideal participant and why should they try out The Get Together?
LWS: The Get Together welcomes anyone who identifies as a woman. One of the main hopes for The Get Together is that we have a diverse range of perspectives, lived experiences, ages and ethnicities because we want to foster a space for deep connection, to break down barriers that exist between women. We are offering so much, from live music, to knowledge exchange, incredible dining experiences, movement practices (including yoga and dance), the opportunity to be in nature, receive wellness treatments, and share with others your passion through wisdomsharing! Because of this, I believe that The Get Together will appeal to a wide variety of people. I would say however, that the wisdomsharing component will likely speak to someone who has a passion project or “side-hustle” that they want to share with the world, but need a platform to do so. We provide you with the people to test out your workshop or promote your business, to view your artwork, or a live performance. We want to help you develop your passion and create a space for you to be seen, heard and acknowledged in the complexities of who you are. To learn tangible skills, gain valuable knowledge and to build lasting relationships that grow into business partnerships, mentorships and life-long friendships.
E7: What are you most excited about at The Get Together?
LWS: Meeting everyone! I cannot wait to connect with all of the incredible women who attend this inaugural year and to build a badass community with all of you!
I am also excited to see, through the research study we hope to conduct at this year’s festival, if we can scientifically validate the hypothesis that wisdomsharing leads to the enhancement of self esteem and belonging based on self-report pre and post studies using the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale and the General Belongingness Scale.
E7: What’s beyond The Get Together for you, in the future? After this, what’s next?
LWS: As I mentioned earlier, over the next few years we aim to grow The Get Together into the largest annual gathering of women across North America. We want to foster a community that honours the beauty in the diversity of definitions of ‘woman-ness’, so that together we can evolve – individually, collectively and globally. As a current Graduate student at Columbia University in Clinical Psychology, I also intend on conducting research, through The Get Together, so that we can actively contribute to the literature supporting meaning-making as a mechanism to enhance self-esteem and bolster belonging. Personally, I am considering furthering my education by apply for a PHD, but am deciding whether I would like to continue in the field of Clinical Psychology or to shift into Organizational Psychology as I love understanding group dynamics and working with organizations.
(Story contributed by Becca Lemire; Images courtesy of Claire Bourgeois and Amber Ellis)