2017 Soap Conference

May 11, 2017

Another soap conference has come and gone!  I wasn’t supposed to be attending this one (I’m pretty much on an every other year schedule for conferences), but because of a generous friend and my parents I got to attend. A big heartfelt thank you to them!

I wanted to attend this conference for a couple reasons. First, we were introducing the new Expert Test (and revised levels for the the Basic, Advanced, Masters). I was a part of the committee that worked on revamping the tests.  Lots and lots of hours of work went into this.  I mean hours upon hours of all volunteered time.  It was a great experience and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.  I’m really proud of the work that the committee did and I think we have 4 solid tests that will help soap makers truly learn and grow as they complete them.

The second reason I wanted to be at the conference was because we started Local Chapter groups and I wanted to be able to meet with our little New England division and start to get ideas for what to do and how to move forward with this! It was great to meet local soap makers and Marilyn and I will be working on putting together “stuff” (I know that’s still vague :)) for our fellow New England Soapers!

The conference was held in Vegas this year.  It started off a little rough.  I found out my connecting flight was canceled when I landed in Kansas City. The rescheduling meant another connecting flight, a lot of waiting in the airport, and some stress about late planes and making connecting flights.  I just remained positive through it all. There wasn’t anything I could do or control about it other than my attitude.  I arrived in Vegas eventually.  Luckily the flight home went much smoother!


I passed my Advances MP Soap test (so glad that’s out of the way.  I didn’t really need MP…it’s not something I do as I’m totally a CP soap girl…but you know me…never satisfied with just being “basic” at everything so I needed to change that pin on my badge ;).

There were some great speakers and classes I really enjoyed.  My favorites had to be Anne-Marie Faiola’s Key Note Speech and Kerri Mixon’s talk on making lye from scratch.  I’m looking forward to reading Anne-Marie’s new book Live Your Best Day Ever.  Soap Queen was the blog that really truly got me going with soap making and taught me so so much back in 2009-2010 when I first started making soap.  I’ve wanted to meet Anne-Marie for years and I finally got the chance this conference!

It was a busy schedule!  My night’s were unexciting as I was in bed by 9PM most nights…but in all fairness I was up at 3am/4am almost every morning.  Stuck on Eastern Time ;).  I was glad I got to attend this year.  I went home with some new knowledge and some new plans to implement for my business.  Overall, I’d say it was a successful learning trip!  And you know if didn’t hurt that I got to talk about soap for three days straight and no one once told me to “shut up.” 😉

And some total randomness…we (a friend and I) were in the store getting some water when I walked pass these candy bars and burst out laughing.  So, I just had to share!

What is your “Brand Story”?

May 19, 2016

The annual Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild’s conference officially started today.  It’s always a fun event.  This is my third conference now  (Raeligh, Tuscon, and Tampa).  The keynote speaker was Jerrod Sumner and he talked about Beyond the Label and Logo: Are Telling Your Best Story?

Normally “inspirational” type speeches aren’t my thing.  When we sat down I thought this would be another type speech.  It was, but it was much more than that too.  I walked away from the lecture pleased with what I’d taken away from it.

If you make or sell anything then you’ve probably heard the word “branding” come your way a time or two.  When I turned my hobby into a business I’d already been using the name “Jennifer’s Handmade Soap.”  I realized at the time that it wasn’t the most creative name, but when I suggested changing it everyone was like oh no! It’s fine.  This is how we know you! (The maybe 100 or so people I had following me at the time).  I didn’t fight it, or put up much of an argument for changing it.  1) I didn’t know what else to call my business.  2) I liked the name “Jennifer’s Handmade Soap.”  And I figured if I was ok with it, then I was going to go with it.  I had this idea for a logo at the time.  A very vague idea that I described to my best friend and said: “Hey could you create a cool logo for me.”

What she came up with was better than I could have even imagined.  I loved it.  I, to this day, love my logo.  It’s me.  People see my logo and the recognize me and my business.  I didn’t really think much beyond that when it came to branding, because I always felt I had done a decent job.  I knew there was more I could do, but overall I felt that branding wasn’t a priority at the top of my list.

Listening to the lecture today I took away so much more and realized that “branding” and your “logo” hold a hidden story. And that there’s a difference between your Brand Story and your Brand Identiy.

Branding is not a logo or your products.  Branding is a promise to your customers.  It’s a promise to deliver quality products, it’s a reputations, it’s a promise, it’s your story.

People buy products, but they join brands.

We were asked the following two questions:

  1. Why do you do what you do?
  2. What do you want to be known for?

Answering these two questions I realized wasn’t a simple one sentence answer.  And they’re actually questions I will explore in another post once I get home, because those two questions really are the heart of who I am as Jennifer’s Handmade Soap.

Make it matter to you before it matters to them.

We explored the idea of brand storytelling in the seminar.  It’s the first time I have ever heard that term, and I like it.  It’s really quite a cool way to think about who “you” are as a business.  Brand storytelling is what motivates me, and my customers that value my product  (and who tell everyone far and wide what they’re missing out on by not buying my soaps–thank you! You all are the best and put a smile on my face.).  It’s a relationship building tool, a look into who I am as a company, and the heart of who I am as a business.

Good stories give big voices to even the smallest brands.

We discussed many ways to tell your story.  Many which I do to some degree, but many more I can do or do more of.  My business has a voice.  It’s in my style of soaps.  My photos.  My blog/FB posts. My method of teaching.  How I interact with my customers.  It’s in all the little things and I hope that that voice shines through.  I want people to see how much I love what I do.  I want people to feel like they’re along for the ride on this crazy journey of mine.  And so, my challenge to myself this year is to strengthen my voice and tell my branding story.  It was a good start the conference.  And I’m ready for more!

Soap Conference: Arizona Part 3

June 6, 2014

The conference offered some interesting classes. I learned a few new things. Had things I already knew reinforced and overall enjoyed the classes I took.

Tuesday Highlights:

I think the two classes that I got the most out of were “Mastering the Bath Bomb” and “Formulating Fantastic Body Scrubs & Whipped Butters.”  I’ve never had a “loving” relationship with bath bombs, but I think that there is potentially a truce coming in the near future between me and bath fizzies!

I learned about some new ingredients to try in the scrubs/butter class.  I’m going to try a variation of the sugar scrub Maria Bosworth gave us.  I’m super excited about it actually.  I think  I might actually be able to make a sell a scrub over the hot summer months!!

Stay tuned.  I plan to do blog posts on my experimenting over the next few weeks!

night cactus

Wednesday Highlights:

I LOVE Kevin Dunn.  He has a way of explaining science that just makes sense.  His talk last year kind of transformed my understanding of soapmaking.  This year, with a year of knowledge, researching, experiments, reading behind me I have a vastly greater understanding of the chemistry of soap.  I think because of this I enjoyed his chat even more than I potentially would have if he’d given the same one last year.  I’d love for him to do some of his “basic” (or introduction to the chemistry of soap) classes again.  Not as a key note for the day, but just as small hour/hour and a half seminars so all those new soapmakers out there can hear him talk and benefit from his knowledge and the advance soapers can do a different class.

The second highlight of the day was “Making Transparent CP/HP Soap” but Kerri Mixon.  Yes, I wasn’t really too excited about it at first, but after the class I couldn’t wait to get home to try it out.  It’s not as hard as it seems (I’d read about it before and my eyes glazed over at the work that seemed to be involve with it).  I have all these ideas on how to mix transparent CP and regular CP soap together.  You’ve been forewarned!  You will be seeing more on this topic from me in the future.


Thursday Highlights:

By the time Thursday arrived I was exhausted. Lack of sleep was catching up with me. I’d “worked” hard the previous two days at the conference. And my brain was almost on overload at that point. What I remember most from Thursday was my Color class and additives class. Both were interesting. I knew a lot of the information presented, but I definitely took away some new information, so that was fun.

At the awards dinner that night I was not really 100% there. The guild does a series of ten questions. They’re questions about things that happened at the conference, about the people there, and the local area we’re in. The first question the asked was: At the start of this conference how many members did the soap guild have. They’d told us this at the member lunch on Wednesday. I sat there thinking and three numbers popped out in my head: 2, 5, 6. I knew there were 2500+ members. I couldn’t remember exactly how many there were though. I put down 2,556. The answer was 2,560. I was off by four! Anyway, I went through and answered the other questions (in which, surprising myself) I got them all right.

Soap samples from the "Exfoliants in Soap" class.

Soap samples from the “Exfoliants in Soap” class.

They collect the answers and they take all the people that got all ten right (which usually isn’t that many) and then they pull a name from those. You win a soap guild goodie bag. It’s just something fun. Well, I knew I’d gotten one question wrong, but it didn’t click when they got up there and say that no one had got all ten questions right, so they took the two who had 9 out of ten right. When they called my name I just sat there and looked at Jesse going, did they really just call my name.

hotel 2

All in all it was a good conference. I was up at 3am the next day to catch of 6am flight. I made it home (finally) Friday around 5:30pm.

Next year I won’t be attending the conference. I really want to attend a wholesale trade show and I only have a budget for one trip, but the following year I plan to head down to Tampa, FL for the 2016 conference.


(Pictures are from the hotel and its landscape.)

Soap Conference: Arizona Part 2

June 5, 2014

Once I arrived at the hotel I got settled into my room with my two awesome roommates (Jesse and Sister Hope). Registration was at 4 and the first part of my soap exam was at 6. I KNEW the information that was on the advance exam. I’ve been making soap for almost five years now. I’ve read, studied, and continued to expand my knowledge on soapmaking. And despite all this I was still nervous. 😀 I stressed over whether I’d know the answers.

When I got into the test I went through all twenty questions in ten minutes. I went back to reread and double check all my answers. All that stressing for nothing 🙂 Tuesday morning I learned I passed the multiple choice section of the exam. I had to wait till Wednesday afternoon to learn if I’d passed the second part (making my own soap). I have to say I really like the recipe I created. I used Shea butter in almost all my soaps, but I have a couple customers who are allergic to shea. The recipe I created was formulated for them. I used cocoa butter in place of shea. I altered some of the percentages of the oils I used and the end result was a really creamy bar that had small bubbles, but still lots of lather. I love washing my hands with it. They feel silky every time after I use it!

I’m happy to say I’m now an advanced certified CP/HP soapmaker! I’ll do the MP tests this year, just because. I figured I’m teaching classes on both MP and CP that I might as well get the certification for them. And maybe one day in the future I’ll start working on the Master certification. Okay, maybe not “maybe” but probably 🙂 You know me. I want to be the best I can be at my craft and I think the Master test will push me even further.


Soap Conference: Arizona Part 1

June 4, 2014

I’ve finally recovered from my AZ trip (mostly). It’s amazing how much work piles up when you go away for a week. As most of you know I went out to Arizona for a week to visit with my aunt and to attend the annual soap makers conference. I had a lovely time out in Arizona, but I’m glad to be home again.

I was excited to attend the conference, especially after my experience at last years conference. It was my second conference and I can say I learned some new things, got to hand out with old friends and meet some new ones.

Let’s backtrack though and start a few days prior to the conference. My aunt lives in Tucson and I figured if I was going to be in Arizona I had to visit! The trip started off on a not so great note! At 1:30 in the morning I was rudely awoken by a phone call informing me my flight had been canceled and they’d rebooked me on a flight for Sunday. I spent the next half hour on the phone trying to get through to someone to reschedule my flight for that day. It worked out in the end. I got a later flight, just barely (and I mean barely) made my connecting flight. I arrived in Arizona exhausted, but there.

I was greeted with 100 degree temps. It was LOVELY. I love the heat. Saturday was a day to just hang out and try and stay up past 8pm. I managed to stay up that evening, but I woke up every morning between 5 and 5:30 while I was there. There was nothing I could do to make myself sleep. Three hour time changes aren’t the most fun!

Sunday we went to Saguaro National Park. I got to learn more about the history of Tucson, it’s landscape, clime, and habitat. I saw a baby javelina and (yes I realize this makes me geeky) see a jojoba plant. Yes, that excited me greatly. I love jojoba oil and use it in my products.

saguaro 10

Monday we went to Sabino Canyon. We took the trolley up the canyon and walked back down, enjoying the natural beauty of the canyon. We had a nice picnic lunch and then it was time to head to the hotel for the conference.

Sabino 1

Sabino 14

2015: Wholesale Convention or Conference?

January 15, 2014

I know, I know!  You probably think I’m crazy.  What the heck am I doing mentioning 2015 when we’re only fifteen days into 2014.  One aspect about running my own business is I have to plan ahead…sometimes I year in advance!  I’ve already got my calendar of events  roughed out for the year.  Yes, new events will pop up, and yes things will change, but applications are already coming out for events and I pretty much have a good idea what I’m doing for the year by the time January is over!

Anyway, back to the topic on hand.  This year I’ll be attending the Soap Conference in Arizona.  (Yay!!)  Next year it’ll be in Indianapolis, IN.  The following year, 2016, is scheduled to be help in the Northeast somewhere.  In other words…somewhere right in my backyard!!  Can’t wait to find out specifically where it’ll be held, but no matter where it’ll be (relatively) close to me!  What this means is I’m GOING to the 2016 conference.

However I want to attend a Wholesale Convention.  I’ve had my eyes on the January 2015 Convention being help in Florida.  The problem is I most likely will only be able to afford one major trip in 2015.  So, do I do the soap conference in Indiana or the Wholesale Convention in Florida.  I know if I can only do one the Florida convention will be the one I attend.  Business wise it is what I need and what will potentially bring in the most profit to my business.  I’ll miss attending the conference if it comes down to that, but choices must be made.

The upside of this, and why I decided to write about this now, is that planning on this now and thinking about it over a year in advance gives me the opportunity to possibly attend both events, depending on how the business goes this year and the decisions I make throughout the year.  I don’t know what 2014 will bring, but I know what I’d like to be able to do in 2015 and I’ll work hard on trying to make those goals achievable!

Soap Conference: Part 3

May 29, 2013

Game Night and an English Fete = LOTS OF FUN!

Trivia and clickers and soap questions leads to lots of fun and laughter!  Wholesale Supplies Plus sponsored the game night and I had a great time participating in it.

game night 2

game night

I got too involved in the game once it started to remember to take any more pictures 😀

English Fete = English food and drinks and games with prizes…you can’t go wrong!  I have to say I was thoroughly impressed with  The Essential Depot.  They had five different games and they made the games fun and not so difficult that you couldn’t win if you tried.  I won at two events and had a blast playing at all five of them!

I managed to stack them 17 high. When I added the 18th it all fell over :D

I managed to stack them 17 high. When I added the 18th it all fell over 😀

You had to toss two rings around the same bottle to win that item. I did!  Won some lye which I needed so it worked out well!

You had to toss two rings around the same bottle to win that item. I did! Won some lye which I needed so it worked out well!