What I Learned at the Tennessee Soap + Candle Conference

I had a great time in Nashville last weekend, attending and speaking at the Tennessee Soap and Candle Conference. I thought I'd share a bit about what I learned while I was there.


The conference was a one-day event, which was nice. It was a mixture of business speakers and maker demonstrations, which are always fun.

The Radisson Nashville Airport is very clean and comfortable hotel, and conveniently located just a few miles from the airport. This made for easy access, which is always so important for traveling speakers. An event is a lot more fun when it's not hard to get to!

The conference room was long and narrow, which was very different from the typically wide conference rooms, with people seated all over from left to right and back to front. I loved being able to see everyone just by looking in front of me. It was a different vantage point.


The content was nicely presented, alternating between speakers and demonstrators. Going from listening to speakers to interacting with demonstrations helped keep things from becoming boring and stale. There was also a hall of vendors. Interestingly, I didn't see a lot of vendors servicing soapmakers specifically. Most of them were people selling finished candles or candle making packaging and supplies.

Here's a bit of what I learned.

Lela Barker: The Power of Presence

Lela Barker of Lucky Break Consulting, the keynote presenter, shared how important it is to differentiate your product from similar products so you don't run the risk of becoming just another good product. There are so many of those. (Yawn.)

For example, inexpensive water packaged in cheap plastic bottles costs about .03¢ per ounce. Water packaged in glass and marketed as “bottled at the source,” and so forth, costs .13¢ per ounce or more. The target audiences and price points for two products that look exactly alike outside the package are very different.

Anne-Marie Faiola: Claim Your Power

Anne-Marie of Bramble Berry shared five steps to embrace the fullness of your power. While you cannot control everything that happens in your life, said Anne-Marie, you always have control over yourself. Maintaining an internal locus of control allows you to live in your own power at all times.

Here are five ways to claim your own power:

  • Maintain an internal locus of control, facing situations from a position of power and not victimhood.
  • Include life frameworks and systems, ensuring that you stay on your track, even when life throws a curveball.
  • Take care of your body, so you can be strong, energetic, and ready to handle the considerable mental and physical challenges of entrepreneurship..
  • Manage your own psychology, being careful to put positivity into your brain so you make it more likely that you'll produce positive outcomes.
  • Cultivate positive relationships in every area of your life, so you have personal and business friends who build you up and give you a boost when the going gets tough.

Holly Port: Making Shampoo Bars

Holly Port of Lotion Bar Café demonstrated how to make solid shampoo bars, from start to finish. Solid shampoo bars eliminate the waste of a plastic bottle, and are great for travelers, campers, and gym rats. We learned about which shampoo ingredients are best for which hair types, and got tips on how to incorporate shampoo bars into an existing product line.

Kayla Fioravanti: Topical CBD Products

Kayla Fioravanti of Ology Essentials, introduced us to the power of topical CBD products from the business owner's perspective. In addition to learning about how CBD works, and how it differs from THC and other hemp-related ingredients, we got a great education on the state of the CBD industry. We learned about how CBD is regulated and how to determine whether adding CBD to your product line may or may not make sense for you.

You can buy Kayla's book, Topical CBD, in our book store.

Donna Maria: The Community Economy

My topic was all about how your customers and prospects care less about what you have to say, and more about what others have to say about you.

They are bombarded with hundreds of marketing messages daily, and they can increasingly buy whatever you sell from any number of sources — and frequently at a lower price. In order to overcome these hurdles, you need more than a good product. You also need a community of people who love you and your brand, and who will help you break through the noise so your products can be seen and heard.

My presentation shared the elements of a powerful branded community economy. I also shared real life examples of community economies that are thriving today on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and how they lift of the brands they are associated with and result in new sales regularly.

I wrote more about this here.

Haleigh Doyle and Stephanie Franchini on Beeswax Candles

Haleigh Doyle of Eternal Returns and Stephanie Franchini of One Love Candle and Bath helped us understand why candle making takes more than just a piece of string, some wax, and a match. We got the low down tips and tricks on how to produce quality candles that smell good and burn long, along with some information on different types of waxes. There was a focus on why beeswax is an especially good choice for candles.


Were you there with me in Tennessee? What did I leave out? What did you learn? If you were not there, what's up with that? Post below so we can make sure you are notified when they open registration for next year's event!

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.