The womens-only STIHL Summit in the summer of 2017 may have been one of the coolest trips I’ve ever been invited to do.
Chainsaws, power carving, and throwing axes with a bunch of badass women — that honestly seems like way too much awesome stuff for a single sentence! If you have ever wanted to know what it’s like to go behind the scenes or to a sponsored brand event, I’d like to tell you about one of the coolest ones I’ve ever been to at STIHL USA headquarters in Virginia Beach, VA.
The “Women of STIHL” Summit (get it?)
Last summer, I was invited to visit STIHL’s headquarters of US operations in Virginia Beach, VA. The premise for a brand event (in general) is usually pretty simple. They are often at the beginning of a partnership where you learn more about the brand you’re working with, use their products hands-on (safety lessons if it’s potentially dangerous), and do a little networking with other influencers who were also invited (in the past it’s mostly been bloggers, but there were YouTubers there too).
A lot of planning goes into these events, and the team who puts them together has things planned to the minute. In the case of STIHL’s women-only summit last year, I had an absolute BLAST. The weather was kind of crappy, the days were packed, and we never really did much sightseeing other than the day we arrived. But it is also one of the best times I’ve ever had learning what a brand is all about. And got to hang out with some truly badass women.
(Psst… be ready for a picture-heavy post and feel free to scroll on through. It’s not because I like the color orange; it’s because despite the fact that orange looks terrible on me, choosing between pictures that make me feel more confident than a prom dress ever has was insanely difficult. Considering how much I really like an excuse to dress up, that says a LOT!)
Most of the time, these events are tightly planned, and you fly in and out so you can get back to your normal schedule as quickly as possible. I’m always nervous and exhausted when I travel, so I was hoping for a little relaxation before the events began bright and early the next day. After stepping off the plane, I immediately met April Wilkerson — YouTube famous and a DIY woodworker, who I bumped into and asked me if I was there for STIHL, too. The two of us briefly looked around for our ride, and I happily found my friend Jocie from One Project Closer waiting for us (she and I go pretty far back!). The group of us chatted as we went to our hotel, and I texted a few others who I knew would be at the event, including Emily from Merrypad, who I’ve known for years but never actually met in person until this trip (I always feel better knowing I’ll run into friends when I go!).
We had the afternoon to ourselves for a bit before the official meet-and-greet later that evening, but we ran into a few other folks and headed out. Our immediate plan was to walk along the Virginia Beach boardwalk and enjoy the sand for a little while until we found something else to do. It didn’t take us long to find a bar. 😉 It’s one of those times where new folks become instant friends (April is awesome), the people you already know become even better friends, and you all try to soak in the few hours that the weather forecast promises to be actually sunny for the entire trip.
The next day, we had to wake bright and early for the STIHL summit to begin. A lot of introductions, some safety demos, and then…
The STIHL Lightning Battery System
Now, I’m sure I am not remembering the rest of the events in exactly the right order, but it really doesn’t matter anyway. It was awesome. There were stations set up so all of us could go in groups to try out various types of equipment on their new Lightening battery line. Hedge clippers, trimmers, and a robotic lawnmower, oh my! It’s kind of amazing to see the kind of power they are getting from the battery-powered equipment (there are basically 3 different tiers depending on your yard’s size and needs, the largest being for pros or huge yards).
But my favorite was (if you had to guess) the chainsaws.
Demos and Safety Training
We went through several demos and also learned how to properly put chain on a chainsaw.
I also insisted that I get to try the concrete saw / cut-off machine, because my favorite jeans just really needed concrete sludge all over the bottom of them for the rest of the day.
Chainsaw Artist Griffon Ramsey
Speaking of chainsaws though, STIHL introduced me to a new thing to stalk on Instagram: chainsaw artists!
Watching Griffon Ramsey swiftly carve this library book deposit bench in a matter of days sparked my interest in wanting to try power carving. I may never be this cool, but now that I’ve given wood carving a try, I WILL try a chainsaw carving someday!
The next day (I think?), we took a tour of the STIHL facility itself, met a ton of their employees (all super friendly), and got to see how they make everything. Believe it or not, this is the part of my trip that my mom would have been super excited to see; she loves touring facilities like this (she worked in quality management for many years, so this speaks to her inner geek). Emily from Merrypad loved the tour, too!
And no, I’m not talking about overwhelming body spray. One of my other favorites of the event was getting to meet and learn axe throwing by the Axe Women Loggers of Maine. These timber sports athletes were incredible to watch! What you’re seeing in this pic is one of the women standing on top of a log that they race to chop between their feet (they showed us their safety gear too, including chainmail socks to protect their toes).
I got two of their competition demos on camera if you are in need of a jolt of motivation (I can’t watch and not feel compelled to take over the world).
When the competition was done, each of us got to try throwing a full-size axe at a target. I hit it twice and was very proud!
Here’s the video of one of them (it’s the Axe Women doing it first, then I try… wait til the end!):
Cassity from Remodelaholic was incredibly good at it right away… but perhaps it’s in her blood, since her father has a wood carving on display at STIHL!
And just as wonderful, Cassity, April and I got to share seats on a plane back to Atlanta (they had connecting flights) and talk about our various businesses. They are such a wealth of great info.
It was a wonderful two days at STIHL, and I’m so grateful to have them as a sponsor this year. My yard is right in the middle of some huge outdoor transformations, and their new battery line is getting quite the workout at the UDH! I’ll have more details on that in a future post (can’t have JUST one chainsaw post, right?), but it’s heads and tails above all the refurbished and half-broken yard tools I’ve been scraping by with for the last few years. It doesn’t hurt that it makes K’s life a little easier too, since he will be doing most of the yard work until the devil pollen goes away.
So cool, right? Is there anything from the event you would have tried out?