The weather was delightfully muggy and the company was world class. Thankfully the A/C chilled our conference rooms and there was an enormous super-pool for cooling off outdoors. I spent from May 14 – May 22 in sunny Tampa preparing for and working as a ground crew member for the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild 2016 Annual Conference in Tampa, FL. The three-day conference is the largest gathering of soap-making professionals in the world. I was thrilled to not only attend, but to work behind the scenes to help orchestrate this jam-packed event.
What is the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild, you ask? The HSCG is an international trade association for people in the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry. Probably the most important benefit of my membership is that it allows me to purchase both general liability and product liability insurance for my business and products. It is an abundant resource for information on soap and cosmetic making, and business practices through both their (members-only) How-to Library and Facebook page. The HSCG also works to protect the interests of small business owners by ensuring that our legislators in Washington consider the impact that proposed legislation has on us, and makes suggestions to change problematic or overly burdensome laws.
The HSCG Conference was sold out this year, boasting 502 attendees and was held at the beautiful Saddlebrook Resort. The schedule was overwhelming – breakfast at 7 am, seminars until 6pm, and networking parties put on by our sponsors and vendors until 10pm.
As crew members, we often needed to be on-site to work by 6:30am. I had no idea how much physical work goes in to making the conference what it is – from stuffing the swag bags and wrapping gifts, assisting vendors, selling raffle tickets, and setting up for our speakers, to making sure attendees were well taken care of. As staff, we wore headsets to communicate which was sometimes a little humorous. (Or ear-shattering, if multiple people tried talking at once and the headset emitted a loud shriek.)
The seminars ranged the spectrum from product formulation for serums and shaving soap, to website optimization (SEO) and product pricing, along with inspiring success stories. One of my favorites was Charlene Simon of Bathhouse Soapery who encouraged us to throw out our doubts and be determined to make our business a success (all while wearing 80’s workout attire as a tribute to the 80’s party later on that evening).
Some of the best take-aways from the conference come conversations with other attendees, and in forming friendships with other business owners. Over the past year I’ve enjoyed a friendship with the roommate I met at the 2015 Conference, and can’t wait to grow friendships with the new friends I’ve made this year.
Both exhausted and energized, I’m ready to move forward in 2016!