One thing that sets a successful business apart from an unsuccessful one is the extent to which the leader of the business makes it a priority to connect with other like-minded business owners. When I launched my first business (which, in case you don't know, was making and selling soap), the first thing I did was join a few trade organizations, and one of them was the Handcrafted Soap Maker's Guild (HSMG).
In fact, I'm proud to say that I was one of the very first members of the HSMG. No wonder it gives me extra special pleasure to be a speaker at the conference in Denver next month. When HSMG president Leigh O'Donnell invited me to speak, my only question was, “How much?!!” LOL! I sat down with Leigh earlier today to ask a few questions about what me and the other lucky HSMG conference attendees can expect this year.
- dM: What are you especially excited about regarding this conference?Leigh: There are so many things to be excited about this year. Having a former Senator as a keynote speaker is one of them. We are also looking forward to fabulous networking events sponsored by Essential Wholesale and Wholesale Supplies Plus. Also, this conference is being hosted at Denver's Inverness Resort & Conference Center, designed especially for conferences. All of our venues have been great, but this is the first event in a formal conference center.
I am also most excited about attendance this year! We have smashed, crashed and obliterated the record attendance for an HSMG conference. The reigning champ venue had been Burlington, Vt (2008), but Denver tops that!
The first conference I planned for the HSMG was the 2006 conference in Portland, Or. We had 120 attendees. That was great, but this is even better. In fact, I think we may come close to breaking the 300 mark. If not this year, then next year!
- dM: What niche does the HSMG fill in the cosmetics industry?Leigh: The mission of the HSMG is simple: To promote the handcrafted soap industry; to act as a center of communication among soapmakers; and to circulate information beneficial to soapmakers.
That pretty much sums it up. Our focus is on soap, both as true soap and as a cosmetic as defined by the Food & Drug Administration's regulations.
- dM: What else will be special about this event?Leigh: We have 21 exhibitors, 16 speakers, including keynote speaker and owner of Ambassador Organics, Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun (pictured). Moseley Braun has served as a United States Senator (1992-1998), as the Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa (1998-2001) and was a 2004 candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. She is also the first permanent female member of the Senate Finance Committee and now, a pioneer in the field of Biodynamic agriculture.
We have over 60 donated sponsorships and prizes, a moderated Legislative Panel Discussion, 2 sponsored parties, scores of raffle prizes three of which are worth $1,200, $1,750 and $2,700, respectively, which will be raffled off once daily. Plus our morning fitness walks (lead by dM) are back by popular demand for the second year in a row.
- dM: Tell me about the team that is supporting your efforts, and working together to make the Denver conference a success over a month before the event.It takes a tremendous amount of effort and I have the best team imaginable. This is a great opportunity for me to point out some of the wonderful people behind the scenes. There have been many over the years, but some return to year after year.
By the way, the structure behind our conference should never be evident to the attendee. We want our events to be smooth, professional and seamless. Any drama or troubleshooting takes place out of the public eye. if we are able to accomplish this goal, we have all done our jobs.
I started as a ground crew volunteer for the HSMG's 2005 conference in Pittsburgh, Pa. The next year, I chaired the event for the Portland location. I then planned and coordinated the 2007, 2008 and 2009 conferences.
I started my term as HSMG president on July 1, 2009. The new conference chair is Feleciai Favroth, and she is doing an outstanding job. She jumped in with both feet and has given the conference her drive and passion. The attendees will see the hard work she has put in and benefit from all the conference has to offer.
Feleciai has a crew of 16 people, a few of whom are back from working previous years. Cheryl Peterson is our sponsor/donations coordinator for the fourth year in a row. Melissa Flick is back as Cheryl's right hand girl. Just wait until you see some of the raffle prizes — many are easily worth thousands of dollars each!
Christine Balch and Stephanie Craig are back as amazing assistant coordinators. Their troubleshooting abilities and the way they stay calm under extreme pressure make them huge assets to the team. Betty Jane Ware is back fro a second year, this time as vendor coordinator. Ground crew members Wanda Gillen and Teri Kalgren are also rising to the occasion once again.
Barb Delossantos is back for a second year as our soaper showcase coordinator. Barb is also a candidate for the Board of Directors, as is Donna Pixton-Hacker.
- dM: It really sounds Herculean to me.Leigh: It is. But we love every minute of it. If you haven't made it to an HSMG conference yet, we hope you can come soon. We rotate around the country to be accessible to everyone. It really is an amazing experience to come and talk soap and business with like-minded people for four days. It boosts your passion, your energy, your ideas and renews your love of the craft. You can register for this year's conference at this link.
Question: Are you coming to the HSMG conference this year? What are you most looking forward to? (And don't say the mango martinis you drank too many of last year!!)