The Mom 2.0 Summit began as a connection between two women trying to figure out their place in new technology and emerging social media in 2007, or maybe 2008, in Houston. "After you have kids, everything is a blur," says Carrie Pacini, 44.
"In internet years, that's 50 years ago," says Laura Mayes, 48. "Every year counts as 10."
Mayes and Pacini were at a Houston Chronicle event for people in tech. They connected over being two of the few women in the room as well as both being on Twitter.
"I thought Carrie was cool," Mayes says. "It was back when Twitter had just started. It really was one of the things: 'Oh, are you on Twitter? There's, like, five of us.'"
"That was our secret place where you could go and no one knows you," Pacini says.
No one knew what they were doing in this new space, and "we were some of the only females," Mayes says. "It was a very male-oriented space."
They were drawn to each other. "She was another female to talk to," Pacini says.
"You're a female, you're a mom, let's do something together," Mayes remembers thinking. Pacini was working for Hewlett-Packard, and Mayes was in public relations.
Now, Mayes says, "I feel really lucky that we found each other," she says.
What Mayes and Pacini created was Mom 2.0 and its Mom 2.0 Summit, a convention for mostly women, often moms, who are doing interesting things, from launching startups to becoming speakers or bloggers.
Mom 2.0 Summit comes to Austin for the first time April 24-26. It sold out in a week.
The summit brings both celebrities doing interesting things and people who are making a name for themselves. This year's speakers include author and professor Brené Brown, actress Amber Tamblyn, stylist Camille Styles and musician Kathy Valentine.
The original Mom 2.0 Summit in 2009 had 175 people and was in Houston, where Pacini still lives. Mayes and her family moved to Austin in 2010.
Mom 2.0 spoke to what they were looking for as mothers who were working in tech and with emerging social media.
Pacini had been attending leadership conferences for people in tech, but nothing spoke to her as a woman or a mom.
She also had a young family and she remembers "feeling my personal guilt. I wanted to be at home, but I didn't want to leave my career." Son Adrian is now 17, and daughter Giulia is 14.
Mayes noticed when she was on maternity leave with son Harry, 13, that when she would look for answers to baby questions, she would often find mom blogs. Those writers were connecting with one another and forming communities even though there was nothing formal to connect them.
Mayes and Pacini wanted to help companies trying to market to the mom bloggers by putting them in the room with the moms, not somewhere down the hall in a convention center.
Now, it's a flow of ideas from moms trying to brand themselves and figure out how to make money in this new medium and the companies who saw value in what women were bringing to the table in a target community.
While that first Mom 2.0 had topics like "Twitter: What Is It?" and how-tos on Flickr, Mayes and Pacini have seen the democratization of social media and the rise of mom influencers. They've had panels on things speakers predicted would become huge, like podcasting (in 2011), and they did. That same year, a speaker talked about YouTube and the compartmentalization of media."Yeah, that happened," Mayes says.
Even if Pacini and Mayes couldn't exactly see what speakers were talking about, they created an environment for out-of-the-box ideas to be showcased, and many turned into a future reality.
The connections formed at Mom 2.0 built other women-led connections throughout the year and launched whole careers. Before she was famous for her life-changing advice, Brené Brown was at Mom 2.0 talking about what to do if you don't have a publisher, which she didn't. Design Mom blogger Gabby Blair attended and discovered Joanna Gaines of "Fixer Upper" fame. Cool Mom Picks creators Kristen Chase and Liz Gumbinner helped discover and promote many women-led products such as the Georgetown-based June & January clothing line.
"They come from the perspective of storytelling," Mayes says of all these women.
Speakers continue to sign up, knowing that they won't be paid (even the celebrities), because they want to connect with this audience.
"It's a super vibe of support: 'What do you have going on, and what can I do to help?'" Mayes says.
Often, they hear from women who have become successful in this space that they met their agent at Mom 2.0 or they launched something one year at Mom 2.0 that then became a big thing the next year.
They have been strategic about how to grow it, though. They add about 100 attendees a year to make sure it still feels right. If it didn't, they would cap it off earlier.
"We didn't make big changes really fast," Mayes says.
They are also intentional about how they plan the event. They build in networking time, coffee time and, if you want, nap time.
"I don't think I've attended a conference that put this much thought into it," Pacini says.
They also train all the staff, including the hotel staff, to never say no to the attendees.
"(The attendees) take care of people all day long," Mayes says. "This is three days for them."
Pacini's and Mayes' families are all involved. Pacini's husband, John, oversees the company's brand and media partnerships and co-founded the offshoot Dad 2.0, which was in San Antonio in February. Mayes' husband is a software developer who, while technically not part of the team, will give tips on how to optimize the process.
All of their children help out, from choosing music to videotaping the conference to stuffing envelopes.
"I'm raising a feminist," Mayes says of son Harry.
Their kids also inform where they take Mom 2.0. "Gen Z looks at it very differently," Pacini says.
Mayes and Pacini know that the real magic doesn't happen in the spaces they plan but in the hallway between sessions. It's the networking. It's the community they are building.
That community continues the rest of the year. People can watch feeds of the conference on the website and get some of the tips, even if they can't attend.
"We didn't start this to start a company," Mayes says. "We started this to create a platform for women's voices."
"We didn't realize how huge it would get," Mayes says, but "after the first one, I'm not surprised at all. This is incredible."