Meet Me In New Orleans

April 20, 2010 · By Sloane Davidson, Founder and CEO, Hello Neighbor

Since I've moved to New Orleans the most magical thing has happened...I've had visitors nonstop. Sometimes they've been friends coming to town to see me, sometimes they've been here for a conference or a wedding or work, but regardless of WHY they were here, they reached out to say something like, "Hey Sloane, I'm coming to New Orleans and I'd love to get together with you." Somewhere in that simple outreach, I've had some of the best and most thought-provoking conversations of 2010.

I wanted to say thank you to those out-of-towners not only for your friendship but also for the stimulating conversation, the opportunity to have really quality one-on-one time with you talking about life, business, politics, life dreams and everything in between. Since my blog is an extension of me, I wanted to have a blog post that I could update with my visitors so I can look back at the end of 2010 and my one-year anniversary in New Orleans and reflect on those who have crossed my path during their own travels to this town I've come to love so much.

Talking about New Orleans to visitors, showing people around, highlighting my favorite nooks and crannies and exploring new ones reminds me of all of the reasons I moved to New Orleans and keep me fresh, excited and inspired. In all honesty I don't have time to meet with everyone who connects or reaches out to me, there is only so much time in the day. But I try, I certainly always try to be a sounding board and to answer questions about New Orleans and its culture, food, people, history and future to be best of my ability and with the same enthusiasm every time. And when I'm out of town myself, I always have NOLAlicious to pass along. That's a start to a good New Orleans experience! The rest, like much of life, is up to you.

I've created a Twitter List for all these visitors (those on Twitter at least) that you can follow!

Drumroll please:

April: Wedding season! Great night on the town with my NYC buddy, Michael Gruen, talking about venture funding, creating opportunity, living remotely and wandering through some of my favorite spots including Marigny Brasserie, d.b.a., and the piano bar at Pat O'Briens.

Best friend and partner-in-crime visit from the one and only Casey Stone. My former roommate in Los Angeles who herself has gone through a transformation this past year from working as a Hollywood studio web-publicist to living in Portsmouth, NH working as a social media consultant plus sandwich-maker (!) and I loved every minute with her. Every minute. I miss my good girlfriends from Los Angeles maybe more than I miss anything else about any other chapter of my life and time with Casey was very much needed.

Carla Schlemminger and I are both collaborators on SocialBrite but we had never met in person. Anyone who knows JD Lasica knows he puts together amazing teams of people so I couldn't have been more excited when Carla said she was coming to town for a wedding and wanted to connect over breakfast one morning. I took her to NOLAlicious pick, Croissant d'Or and had a fantastic morning talking about the future of public relations using social media, new causes and nonprofits to pay attention to, people we are doing cool things and of course New Orleans tips for the weekend.

Bryan Appel and I went to K-8th grade together in Pittsburgh, PA at St. Edmund's Academy and I hadn't seen him since. Facebook allowed us to connect again, but as I say time and time again, it's up to US to take those online interactions and make them real. That's why Bryan did. He was headed to town with the church in Virginia where he is now Youth Minister and invited me to speak to the group at dinner about my "cause-filled life" and personal experiences in New Orleans. I really appreciated his reaching out to me and enjoyed the evening more than I could even begin to say.

March Dave Brand is a buddy of mine from high school at Shady Side Academy. We also went to the same college, University of Vermont, and we also both ended up living in Los Angeles. Needless to say, our paths have always crossed in some way, shape or form, so I wasn't terribly shocked to hear of everyone I know in the Universe, Dave was coming to New Orleans for the annual Ace Hardware Convention. See he owns a company that manufacturers and sells heat lamps, the kind in restaurants or in outdoor living rooms and all Ace suppliers nationwide were in town. We met in the CBD and walked into the Quarter eating at EAT. Catching up with Dave, in some ways, feels like benchmarks for my life since he's really seen me at just about every interval that has ever existed. We weave conversations about people from all the chapters of our lives and it's amazing to think we've been friends for 15 years.

February Mardi Gras brought amazing visitors. It was my first Mardi Gras so it was overwhelming for me to meet with everyone, but two highlights stand out. First Steph Dub was in town, and I just love that girl. You know the kind of people that change their flights so they can stay somewhere longer? Well I'm not saying that is exactly what happened (!), but she is the kind of person who would do that! It was a day-long adventure and my first time seeing a good girlfriend from somewhere else in the country since I returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos and my life seemed to have wings of its own and she was really grounding in reminding me that everything happens for a reason.

Barrett Garese came to New Orleans to explore the entrepreneurial community at the end of a multi-city stop. He didn't know he was coming at the beginning of Mardi Gras, and to be honest, neither did I. Since I've know Barrett for a few years and from jobs past, it was a real awakening to see him and talk about where we both were professionally. Barrett gave me my word of 2010: augment. We talked from a business perspective (but I've since seen how it can be used in a personal setting too) how each project or endeavor should play into another. It's that essence than projects aren't silos that keeps me going and thinking big as I embark on new and exciting endeavors. I owe much of this to Barrett's straight forward nature and honesty about what works in the online space right now and what doesn't.

Sala Udin is a true freedom fighter. Friends with my step-dad for umpteen years, we had actually never met. He was in town with his wife and invited me to dinner with them and friends in the Treme. I walked away from dinner floored from the talent at dinner and also at the power of saying "yes." Saying yes to dinner, going alone, taking my chances, reminded me that sometimes even I need to spread my wings and go out on a limb. I was surrounded by flocks of Sala followers, for he has touched so many people. A true community organizer, he talked about what it takes to bring communities together, especially from a development standpoint having worked with economically and ethnically diverse communities for decades. The rewards can be so great when you don't have all the answers and just go after something and say, "yes."

Part of My Mardi Gras Experience by Tom Martin was to bring in bloggers from outside New Orleans to experience Mardi Gras as a local. Of all of the visitors that came through, I most enjoyed finally getting to meet and talk to Peter Shankman aka @SkyDiver aka Founder of Help A Reporter Out. It was from sharing experiences over Mardi Gras that we got to talking about SXSW that we got to talking about an awesome invite-only dinner he was throwing which I was subsequently invited to and was one of my favorite experiences of SXSW Interactive this year. Meeting Peter was the reminder of what happens when you stop to talk to someone, really talk to them, and what can happen from those conversations. There are many of us that live our lives to some extent "online" but nothing can take away from that offline interaction and connection and our brief encounter during Mardi Gras was an excellent example of that.

January January flew by visitor free!

December Within weeks of arrival, I was stoked to have two of my favorite ladies come to town for separate reasons. Micki Krimmel came to give a talk at Doing It With Drupal and we hung out more in a few days in New Orleans than in a year in Los Angeles. In LA you can love-love someone, but if they live on the other side of town that can be 1 hour+ driving each way and it's just hard to see them. It sucks to say geography plays such a huge role in seeing people, but it does. A few good days (and ever better meals) with Micki in New Orleans took the edge off being in a new city.

Erica O'Grady came into town as part of a pack of food bloggers from Houston to promote the destination weekend getaway from Houston to New Orleans. We spent an afternoon touring around Uptown, eating at Domilise's and talking about life and love. This was before we both embarked on new and exciting relationships and I wonder if the December versions of us knew how the April ones would turn out? This also kicked off conversations about collaborating on a project. Something that is so super exciting, I can't wait one day to tell everyone about it.

Macy's Pathway to Peace had an event in New Orleans and James Andrews and other members of the Everywhere team came to town and I got to hang out with them for the evening in addition to Sarah Evans and Jyl Johnson Pattee. It's also where I started to talk to James about exciting partners and projects they had going on at Everywhere which has become a terrific client for me this year. That was a good night!

October, 2009 The TribeCon 2009 crew. Technically a month before I officially moved to New Orleans, but this crew was in town for the first ever TribeCon and it was fun wandering around the streets of the French Quarter and The Voodoo Experience grounds getting to know these guys: Gerard Ramos, Micah Baldwin, Eric Marcoullier, Andrew Hyde, Mike Karnjanaprakorn and Perry Chen.

So here's to more visitors, more learning experiences and more sharing of adventures for the rest of 2010 and beyond!