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The Crown Diaries: SXS Founder Retreat Weekend with Alex & Anna Laura

Photoshoots, Rent the Runway, weddings, late night meetings... and tacos

Welcome to The Crown Diaries, an SXS look at the real-life experiences of women running businesses, crushing their career, and rocking their passion projects. For each Crown Diary, we ask one woman to provide a behind-the-scenes account of “a week in the life”: where did she go, what did she do, who did she meet? Read on to find out!

Interested in submitting a Crown Diary? Contact us.

The Crown Diaries: Alex & Anna Laura, Founders of SXS

ABOUT US: @shexshines

Alexandria Russell


31, Philadelphia PA

Anna Laura Sommer (@AnnaLauraSommer)

29, Austin, TX

MISSION: SXS is a platform for female professionals, entrepreneurs, & the in-betweeners to develop their professional and personal goals, share their knowledge and skillset, and connect them with their local fierce crew through large- & small-scale real-time events, workshops, and classes, as well as digital courses, content & girl talk. We believe in fostering a sense of community, inclusion, and support...with a glass of champagne in hand.  #SHExSHINES

ADDITIONAL DEGREES/CERTIFICATIONS: Anna Laura: Certificate of Clinical Competence, Masters of Speech Language Pathology, ACE Personal Training Certification, ACE Health Coach Certification Alex: Certificate of Clinical Competence, Masters of Speech Language Pathology

FAVORITE SETTING TO WORK: Anna Laura: While I love a coffee shop vibe, I've been loving my office in our new Texas home! Alex: I love working in pajamas from underneath a fleece blanket.

FUN FACT: Anna Laura: I recently rescued a dog while in Peru, and he's just come to live with us in the US! Alex: I was in the Girl Scouts up until senior year of high school. I also had dreams of being a Broadway star!

BUSINESS or LIFESTYLE MEMBERSHIPS/COURSES: Anna Laura: The SHE x SHINES Academy, Class Pass, The American Speech-Language Hearing Association Alex: The SHE x SHINES Academy, Rent the Runway, The American Speech-Language Hearing Association, The Medical SLP Collective, Les Mills OnDemand


You can keep up with SHExSHINES new events, Academy courses, business and career tips, and girlboss inspo by joining our GirlTalk email list! Stay in-the-know here.




Anna Laura: Up bright and early this morning, and out of the house by 4am. I check in for my 6:30am flight to Dallas. Once there, I grab a hazelnut almond milk latte and a bagel at Starbucks, and make my connection to Philly! I spend this flight napping, then making a list of things to do this weekend.


Alex: Up for work and grab a cup of coffee while confirming patients for the day and working on some SHE x SHINES to-do list items. Excited to see Anna Laura today and I have a surprise to tell her! A little worried about the weather since it's been raining all day and we're supposed to have a scheduled photoshoot in the afternoon.


Anna Laura: I land in Philly, and contact cafes for my photography sessions in my Lyft ride over to Alex's. Once there, I drink a shake for lunch.


Alex: Finish up with my patients a little early today and hurry home to see Anna Laura! I surprise her by letting her know I have off of work tomorrow - even more time for hanging and girlbossing together!


Though it's been crap weather all day, we decide to continue with the photoshoot. Even if we only get a few minutes of photos, it'll be better than nothing! We unpack our Rent the Runway bags and get ready. Doing a rain dance and using lots of hairspray to beat the inevitable frizz. PS - We use RTR for all our SXS photoshoots; it makes it super easy for us to coordinate colors to match our branding!


We head over to the Logan Square area for our 4:30pm photoshoot with our photographer, Lizzy. Normally, Anna Laura's husband takes our photos, but now that they live in Texas, we had to search for a new one. Lizzy had DMed us, and we loved her work. We are excited to work with her! Unfortunately, it begins sprinkling right as we exit the car. (So much for doing our hair!!)

We hit a few photo spots in Center City and end on the steps of the Franklin Institute where the Beyoncé winds really picked up. We really wanted to start incorporating more real-life photos from our SXS community into our content, so decided to do an IG story giveaway for 3 women to join us during our shoot! We had so much fun with Genna, Lo, and Jen for some fierce power posing! We hang around with the ladies chatting for a bit before heading home. We're starving, as per usual. 😂


We head back to Alex's, and set up to film some Rosé Ramblings Q&A... by the time we finish, we're a little delirious and silly with hunger - a ring light may or may not have been dropped and nearly broken in the process🥴. We order basically everything on the menu from Teresa Mesa's and settle on the couch for the night with our laptops and notebooks.


With the "No Biz Talk" rule in place, we take a break and stuff our faces while LOLing at The Righteous Gemstones. Of course we can't help ourselves and business does come up again, but we quickly realize it and stop ourselves!






Anna Laura: I slept like a baby last night, and am up and getting ready for my first photography session. I drink a shake and am out of the house by 7:45 (coffee in hand!). I've got shoots until 2pm today, and am feeling excited to see my clients today!


Alex: Pumped to have the day off from work today. I finish some speech therapy work confirming patients for next week, leave voicemails for doctors, and complete evaluations and treatment notes. I run some errands and walk to my favorite nail salon, Boutique Nails Cafe to get my eyebrows waxed.

Since we both still had work to complete from our full time jobs today, we planned in advance which SXS tasks we knew we would still be able to complete despite photoshoots and patient documentation.


Anna Laura: Just wrapped up my sessions! Today I shot with stress management expert, a book editor, and fitness professionals. I make a quick Target run to get a new LED letter board for our SXS Academy filming tomorrow.

Alex: I make lunch for us while Anna Laura gets settled in from her shoots. We talk biz while I whip up some tacos and homemade guacamole.


It's work time! We focus our efforts on mapping our our marketing and content plan for the next few months, including Instagram and emails leading up to next semester's enrollment period in January for the SXS Academy.


Of course we're getting hungry and Alex has some salmon in the fridge. With both of us not having much experience with cooking salmon (thank you husband and fiancé 😂), Alex Googles "how to cook salmon." We whip up a rosemary, lemon, garlic marinade and an arugula salad with feta.


Alex's fiancé, Ryan comes home after a night away, and we all catch up for a bit.


After wrapping up a few more planning and strategizing things, it's off to bed!




Though we've both been up for a bit, actually getting out of bed was another story. This morning, we work over coffee, putting up the SXS News on our IG for the day and prepping emails to our SXS Academy members.


Ryan makes us a delicious breakfast of loaded avocado toast (Anna Laura firmly believes these two need to open a restaurant STAT.) We continue editing the scripts for our filming today, get the office set for filming, and then get ready. We draft our scripts in a Google doc and highlight our parts in different colors before printing.


We've successfully filmed 2 courses for the upcoming semester (bloopers to follow LOL). Super proud of us since this was one of our weekend goals. Alex and Ryan have a wedding in NJ to go to this afternoon/tonight, so it's a bit of a shorter workday, but we got tons done!


Alex & Ryan head off to the wedding (but not before Anna Laura snaps a few shots of them looking glamorous!), and Anna Laura takes a break.


Anna Laura: Though I'd planned on editing the photos and Rosé Rambling videos next week, I can't help myself, and start editing. I eat some leftover Mexican and shamelessly order Insomnia cookies.

Alex: Ryan and I head to Valenzano Winery in South Jersey to celebrate our friends' wedding! Can't wait to catch up with everyone and dance all night!


Anna Laura: After a whirlwind of a few days, an early bedtime is just what I need! Nighty night.

Alex: My feet are about to fall off. We hang for a few more hours before heading home around midnight and spend the night in Jersey.




Anna Laura: I wake up without an alarm, and it takes me way too long to realize that's because it's Daylight Savings Time! I head out for another day of photography sessions- my first is at 8am: a couple of wellness professional mamas, followed by a virtual assistant, and my last of the morning ends at 12pm- a BRCA1 Previvor and advocate. Side note: it's so dang cold!!


Alex: Ryan and I wake up and get ready to head back to Philly. I'm so excited because today we get to shoot our engagement photos with Anna Laura! I forgot a change of shoes from last night and need to borrow my future MIL's slippers. We stop at Starbucks on the way to my hair and makeup appointment. Grande PSL and double smoked bacon and egg sandwich please!


After wrapping up her photography shoots, Anna Laura joins Alex at Glam Salon & Spa , for her hair and makeup appointment before her and Ryan's engagement session this evening (with Anna Laura as the photographer!). While we're there, we help the ladies at the salon with promotion ideas and planning for an event they have coming up.


Alex & Ryan get ready for the engagement shoot, and we spend some time planning out outfits and locations, too. Alex & Ryan plan the shoot into a city-chic date night capturing some of Philly's iconic views & spots.


We head out to the engagement session, and capture some truly gorgeous moments of a gong couple! On the way back, we are all starving and Ryan orders us all pizza from Square Pie.


We are all in our pjs, nomming on pizza and watch Widows (Ryan said it seems very "on brand with SXS", and also that "HE Shines and SXS need to collab".😂)


Alex checks out the vids Anna Laura had edited the night before (and LOLs at the blooper reels!) We use our trusted Trello board to gameplan for what we need to do after this weekend to follow through with all the prep work we did, and head off to bed to rest up for another workweek!




We're up and at it early this morning, as Anna Laura heads off to her last Philly session for this trip, and Alex preps her SLP workday.


We squeeze in a last photoshoot: this time for AnaOno sports bras. We featured the CEO of AnaOno, Dana Donofree, for last month's Crown Diary. You can join us in supporting the mission of AnaOno by snaggin yourself one of their bras - perfect for work or lounging! Dana has given the SXS community $15 off to shop (and says you'll love the Leslie Soft Leisure Bra)! Click here to shop $15 off!

After our minishoot, Alex heads off to see her first patient of the day, and Anna Laura relaxes, edits some photos, and preps some SXS content before packing up to head to the airport.


Anna Laura catches her plane back to Texas.



Anna Laura

In the future, I think I'll take on less photoshoots during these planning/retreat weekends. I learned we really need 2 full days of planning & creating, rather than pockets of time in between shoots and Alex's schedule. That said, I'm so proud of everything we were able to do and how effectively we used our time together!


I could've been more on top of my calendar the weekend Anna Laura was here and the week after. I totally forgot the wedding was the same day as her trip and we could have had more planning time. I also scheduled way too much after Anna Laura left, so I was super tired and didn't manage my time well between work, rest, and hanging with Ryan. Despite scheduling hiccups, I'm really proud of all we were able to accomplish in a short amount of time.

See you for the Q1 Retreat- next time in Texas!


We'd love to connect with you! Keep up with the newest at SHExSHINES for business & career tips, giveaways, and first details on events with our email list, GirlTalk! Get on the list here!


Do you have a Crown Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.


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