ILC Austin ConFab 2023 Recap

Austin, Texas is home to several boutique hotels that offer unique and personalized experiences to their guests. Some of the top-rated boutique hotels in Austin include the Hotel San Jose, Austin Motel and  South Congress Hotel. Each of these hotels has its own distinct personality and style, ranging from retro-inspired decor to modern minimalism.  While this Texas town was always known for its ranches, rodeos, and eclectic music domain, its enhanced hospitality scene now shifted its distinction into something considerably intriguing and worth visiting on your next vacation or event. 

The Independent Lounge Congress hosted the INDIE ConFab in Austin, TX. The conference took place at the South Congress Hotel on February 7-8, 2023. Its goal is to explore the diverse hospitality scenes and communities of different cities, with a particular focus on how Austin’s hotel industry thrives through immersion, participation, and discussions.

Event Recap 

I’m still energized after returning from the two-day ILC Indie ConFab in Austin. This was my fifth ILC event, so I had the chance to meet and reconnect with old colleagues and even make new ones. 

The event was definitely a remarkable one and unlike any other. This is what ILC refers to as “The Indie Standard” :

  1.  ILC is SACRED. The beauty of ILC is the contribution of the members, not about what we can sell to each other. We seek to enrich lives through connection.
  2.  Rules of engagement: There is no pitch, it’s trust, and it’s earned. This is about connecting not networking, this is a community focused on genuine engagement.
  3.  Authenticity first and foremost, prioritizes uniqueness.
  4.  ILC is here to enrich your life, we are here to INSPIRE, come and be a passenger for inspiration.
  5.  Ask yourself, what is your intention? Why are you coming What are you able to contribute? Are you open to this community?

All these align with my personal values: ‘Don’t sell, be authentic, earn trust, and build relationships.’ I believe that it is inappropriate to simply attend gatherings to pitch and sell. Business is all about building relationships and trusts with the people you serve and whose interests you are trying to cater to.

Day 1 : Walking Tour

The first day of Indie ConFab began with everyone meeting outside the South Congress Hotel at 1:30 PM. I immediately noticed the excitement on everyone’s faces as they were eager to engage with the art, community, and hospitality scene in the greater Austin area. Half of the group started their tour at the eclectic Casa Neverlandia, which I was a part of, while the other half went to the now-iconic Austin landmark, Roadhouse Relics.

Casa Neverlandia, Austin, Texas

Walking into Casa Neverlandia felt like entering a fictional, yet remarkably real playground. Unique bookcases, hand-beaded works, and diverse artworks created a scene of spiritual healing. Although this interesting home felt complete, its wonderful design allows for gradual changes. The next time I have the opportunity to visit, it might already be altogether different, making it even more exciting!

Roadhouse Relics, Austin, Texas

The second stop on the tour is Roadhouse Relics, and it’s hard to ignore at first glance. It’s literally glowing – I mean, really glowing. The gleam from the owners’ colorful creations evokes a lot of nostalgia and is very interesting. It was amazing to see the mural up close and to hear about the inspiration behind the design.

Our third stop was the stunning Hotel San Jose, where we soaked in the beautiful surroundings and enjoyed some much-needed relaxation. The hotel’s design and decor were simply breathtaking, with a perfect mix of modern and vintage elements. It was the ideal spot to unwind and take in the vibrant energy of the city.

Lastly, I wrapped up my trip at the Austin Motel, where I enjoyed a poolside happy hour with some new friends. I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Dasha Gastol of Spherical, who was also a moderator for the panel discussion called “Keeping your Indie Brand Relevant“. I also had the chance to catch up with my friend and collaborator EunHea Kim of Pen 110, which was a lovely way to end an amazing day.

Day 2: Conference and ILC’s Global Reach

The second day of the conference was full of activity, starting early with a delicious breakfast spread at the South Congress Hotel. The session  began with welcoming remarks from the dynamic duo of Bashar Wali and Andrew Benioff. Their energy set the tone for the day. 

Andrew asked the audience how many were first-time attendees.This year, a lot of first-timers from Canada, Italy, and Germany attended, bringing a diverse group of attendees together. This encapsulated ILC’s purpose of gathering visionaries and thought leaders within the independent hotel industry and beyond to collaborate and generate ideas… GLOBALLY.

The morning featured a series of engaging discussions in the forums, covering everything from industry trends to best practices. The panels were amazing, with insightful and thought-provoking commentary from a range of industry experts. From digital marketing to revenue management, there was something for everyone.

2nd day of AustinConFab

After a lunch break, we dived right back into programming with a packed afternoon of sessions. The speakers were top-notch, offering insights and strategies that I couldn’t wait to take back to my own business. It was evident that everyone was there to learn and grow, and the atmosphere was electric.

Two Panel discussions that resonated with me


1. The Power of Intentionality

The first panel, called The Power of Intentionality and led by Alex Cabanas of Pyramid Global Hospitality, emphasized the importance of having aligned goals and visions within a company, from the top down. Cabanas stressed the need to establish clear expectations and behaviors to achieve team alignment, even if this requires difficult conversations to achieve organizational alignment.

This was thought-provoking as I reflect on my own business and how we can ensure that everyone on the team is working towards the same goals. Cabanas also shared the importance of focusing on fewer things better, which struck a chord with me as we try to focus on our core business of BIM modeling and CAD drafting for architects and designers.


2. Keeping Your Indie Brand Relevant

The second panel, Keeping Your Indie Brand Relevant, was also insightful. One question that stood out was how designers find inspiration. Most panelists said that they draw inspiration from experiences such as travel and food. This resonated with me as it reinforced the idea that experiences can be a great source of inspiration.

As the day wound down, we headed to the Imbibe Vibe Happy Hour hosted at the South Congress Hotel. It was the perfect way to unwind and connect with other attendees, exchanging stories and making new connections. I even had the chance to meet Catherine Josey from Studio South, my client, in person for the first time. It was a pleasant surprise and truly a highlight of the trip.

Architect My Life Podcasting on the road

After the conference, I wrapped up my day with a fun and exciting activity: an in-person interview for the Architect My Life podcast with Eunhea Kim, an artist and founder of Pen 110 Studios. We recorded the episode in the South Congress hotel where I was staying, which made it even more special. Podcasting on the road was incredible, and I loved every moment of it. Stay tuned for the release of this podcast episode!

What A Wrap!

Beautiful Lobby at the South Congress Hotel

Attending ILC was an enriching and insightful experience, filled with opportunities to connect with other professionals in the design industry. From exploring unique places like Casa Neverlandia and Roadhouse Relics to engaging in thought-provoking panel discussions and podcasts, the conference provided endless learning opportunities. It reinforced the value of coming together as a community to learn and grow, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of it.

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