I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan. . . Scratch that. No time for Miley Cyrus. I hopped off the train at 86th and Lex sans dream but with a cardigan (and my Zola tee in tow) to attend the #140You Conference on Health, Wellness, Fitness and Food at New York City’s 92Y on a mid-June Wednesday. Organized by digital pioneer and entrepreneur Jeff Pulver, the two-day event featured a host of authors, doctors, and health leaders, including Dr. Mark Hyman, Chelsea Roff, Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, and AJ Jacobs (Drop Dead Healthy). Upon arrival, I was given a free tote-n-tee, and directed to the “schmooze” room, a place where speakers, attendees, and uber fans could enjoy refreshments and chat each other up about their respective projects.
There’s an overwhelming sense of cheer in the room—though they are strangers, everyone is smiling, laughing and enjoying themselves standing alongside tables scattered with the ultimate super-foods: almonds and blueberries. There’s some strange soy ice-cream-substitute booth in the corner, but I stay put. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my milk from a cow. For now, I’ll stick with the sweet and savory treats. I soon mark my turf at a lone table, spread out the Zola swag and await questions. After a few . . . well, let’s call them uneventful minutes, I decide I need a better strategy. Nervously, I leave my table and start to mosey around, looking for someone to talk to.
Though I’m younger than everyone here, most of those around me are in much better shape. A bit unnerving. There’s a vivacious group of personal trainers standing by one of the exits. I decide to strike up a conversation with them. As soon as I walk up, they ask me if I want to learn any self-defense moves for when I’m “walking back home late at night and my safety is compromised.” I assure them that I don’t really walk sketchy places alone in the city at night, but hey, free self-defense tips, why not? Though I’m wearing a skirt, they teach me some basic moves. They surprise me by emphasizing that if my attacker ever picks me up, I should let him. This will eventually wear him out, they say, and make him more vulnerable to my counterattack. Food for thought.
At some point, after chatting up a few potential new Zola users, I wander into the concert hall where the actual speeches are taking place. I make it just in time for a panel entitled the “1 Ton Club.” Collectively, the group has lost 2000 lbs. between them. Impressed, I listen intently as they discuss the struggles and successes of losing weight and keeping it off. One of the women is a Canadian author who has published with Harper Collins. After her speech I find her and give her the necessary information to contact Zola should she ever want to work with us. See you down the road, Anne Douglas!
Following a few more speeches—Hey, a winner of Iron Chef!—and a bit more schmoozing, I find Jeff Pulver, a man who has slimmed down dramatically in the past year, part of what he calls his personal “reboot.” The day before, on stage in the 92Y’s packed auditorium, he had even done a one-arm pushup, one of his reboot goals. I had seen him from afar all morning, showing off toned legs in gym shorts up on that stage, but now, post-workout, he’s wearing a blue and white printed button-down and dress pants. To top it off, he sports a fabulous pair of lavender box-rimmed glasses. Although he seems to be in a huge rush, he asks if I’m enjoying the conference and assures me that he’s doing everything to get the name out about Zola. He then asks if there is any way I could make a list of titles that Zola carries for the authors attending the conference. Smiling, I get to inform him that we’ve already created such a thing, thanks to an initiative from our COO Mike Strong and quick work by my wonderful fellow interns at Zola.
I hand Jeff Pulver the “ZOLA HEALTHY HIGHLIGHTS” flyer, and he grins. “Great,” he says. “Add my name to your tweet and I’ll retweet it to everyone at the conference. That way everyone will see what you guys are doing over there.” And with that, he walks away.
Stuffed with blueberries and intern pride, I stand there a moment beaming. I start thinking about how I’ll describe my encounter with this successful entrepreneur. But then the social media rep from 16 Handles comes walking past. I feel the need to say something about my favorite fro-yo place in the city. And so another conversation starts. . . #zolaintern out.
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.