My Top 5 Takeaways from the HSCG Conference

The Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild held their 20th annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia last week. I’ve been making soap since 2002, been a member of Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild for nearly six years, and this was my first time attending this national conference! It’s always great when you can come together with like-minded folks and talk shop. The best part was meeting online soaping friends in real life, including some of the participants from the Soap Challenge Club!

Challenge Club reunion! back: Alicia Wyatt, Bonnie Howard, Sarah Janes, Claudia Carpenter, Marilyn Schendel, Debi Olsen. front: Amy Warden, Sharon Corcoran (Vivian Sullivan also attended, but had to leave early)

I attended some amazing presentations on topics that ranged from product demonstrations to business information. Here are my top 5 takeaways:

1. Customer Experience is King. Charlene Simon, president of the HSCG and owner of five different businesses, mentioned this during a Business Q & A Session, and it really struck me that I can do way better at this!! For example, the new white 4-pack soap boxes weren’t really designed with the customer in mind. It saves me time and packaging, but I didn’t really consider whether my customers would appreciate them. I haven’t received any negative feedback about them, but I’m definitely thinking about what it would be like to receive soaps that are packaged that way.

My new 4-pack boxes – totally chic, right?

2. I have a Product-Based Business, when I should have a Market-Based Business. Perhaps you can relate. Sharon Czekala of Great Lakes Natural Soap Company posed the question, “Do you make products because they are fun to make and then try to find someone to buy it?” (I know, rang true for me!) “OR have you chosen your target market and only make products with them in mind?” Doesn’t sound very fun, does it? Key point: No one says you can’t make products for fun – just recognize that you’ve made it for yourself and don’t try to sell it just because you made it! It’s important to start with choosing your target market.

3. Additionally, product lines should be no more than 6 different scents or types. That’s it!! Any more than that and the customer gets overwhelmed by the decision and won’t buy anything. Several people in the audience who attended this presentation by Sharon Czekala attested to this as well. Sharon suggested looking at your sales report each year and keep the products that were in the top 20% and cut the rest. (As an added bonus, Michelle Rhoades of Mossy Creek Soap informed us in a different session that 65% of people like the color blue, so it’s not a bad idea to include blue in your color scheme – whether it’s the product itself or perhaps your branding or packaging.)

4. It’s possible to make transparent detergent-free melt & pour base from scratch with up to 8% superfat in 15 minutes!! (You might have seen my post on Instagram about this.) Dr. John Mikrut shared his process with us. It’s fascinating!

Transparent melt & pour base made during our class with Dr. John Mikrut

5. My passion is teaching soapmaking techniques and I miss it!! I don’t know if the Soap Challenge Club will ever start up again, but I hope it does! David Fisher gave a presentation on blending passion with profit, and when I think about what I truly love, teaching is the first thing that comes to mind. If you miss the challenges as well, I would love to hear from you!

I would also love for you to leave a comment about what your biggest takeaways were if you attended the conference also! I’m so glad I went and hope I’m able to make it to Dallas next year!

Page with Comments

  1. I miss that soap challenge club sooooo much. I’ve only made one batch since it ended 🙁 I seem to have “soapers block”.

  2. Awww! I have to admit I haven’t made many “fun” batches since then either! I have a technique in mind to start with again…maybe.

  3. I miss the soap challenge. I may not have posted my pictures, but loved the challenges and seeing other soapers pictures 🙂

  4. Thanks so much for sharing those points from the conference, they are definitely great food for thought!!! And yes, I miss the soap challenges badly! I was not lucky enough to participate in them due to a lack of funds, but I’ve drawn inspiration from them all and was hoping to be able to learn at least some of the techniques. Never doubt your contribution’s value, you have truly lifted the soaping world artistry!!!

  5. Hi Amy. I, too, have missed the soap challenges. I wasn’t able to participate but truly enjoyed seeing all the beautiful soaps and the designs that resulted. I would like to participate if you bring it back. The one thing that I enjoyed from the conference was the liquid soap making class by Jackie Thompson. She really demystified the process for me. I loved all of the topics covered and they really gave me food for thought.

  6. I really miss the soap challenge. I loved seeing the amazing creativity from the other soap makers every month. Your point #3 is something I am determined to work on. My soap selection has just gotten completely out of hand. Also, I’m definitely going to the next HSCG conference! 🙂

  7. That’s great feedback, Holly! It’s so difficult to reign in the creativity – BUT I don’t think we really have to. Just find other ways to express it! Belinda mentioned on IG that she uses custom orders to really keep her creative juices flowing, which I agree is great idea as long as you price accordingly for the extra time it will take to design, create new labels and possibly packaging. Would be fun to meet you in Dallas!

  8. Ürünlerinizi, faaliyetlerinizi beğenerek izliyorum. Teşekkürler.
    Translation: I follow your products, like your activities. Thank you.

  9. Hi Amy, I loved meeting up with you and the others at the reunion! Thanks so much for organising it. The conference was great and there were so many takeaways for me too. My favourite event was John Mikrut and his m&p method, I just loved it! I also loved the soap challenge but understand the time it takes to organise. You will find a way to bring the elements you love with a life and some sleep 🙂 Hugs x . Sarah

  10. I was so busy during the last challenge I did not have much time to do the soap challenge. Would love to have
    the chance to try again

  11. I totally agree that the soap challenge should continue. I never participated by sending in a submission but loved seeing the creativity and end results. Because I work full time and am just a hobbyist with limited supplies on hand I could never seem to get soaps made and entered in time, though I really would’ve loved to! Amy if you enjoy hosting the challenge, there are probably many more of us out there than you know who have been inspired by it and enjoyed reading about it!

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