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Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild: Finding Like-Minded Peers

starting a soap business

Recently, I talked a little bit about why you need product liability insurance before you start selling or giving away your soap, and I just knew I needed to catch up with the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild and the Indie Business Network to get the full details on the perks of being a member of each one!

I sent an email over to Leigh O'Donnell, the Executive Director of the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild to get the 411.

Here's what she had to say about the HSCG:

The HSCG at Central Soapers Workshop

MS: How did the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild come to be?

Leigh: The HSCG was originally created as The Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild in 1998 by a small group of enterprising soap makers who were looking for a way to connect, network and jointly promote the handcrafted soap industry. The HSCG has grown from those small beginnings to almost 3,000 members worldwide. Started as a registered non-profit 501(c)(6) trade association, the HSCG is the only international non-profit promoting the benefits of handcrafted soap and cosmetics.

MS: It used to be the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild, when did that change and what does that change mean for members?

Leigh: The change came about in February of 2013 when a vote sent out to the membership in its entirety to change the object and purpose of the association to include handcrafters of cosmetics and allow them to join the association.

Most handcrafted soap makers also make some type of handcrafted cosmetic, whether it is lotions, creams, balms etc and it made sense to expand the association to recognize this faction of the industry. The most significant change we have seen is to our growth rate, there has been a marked increase since the 1st quarter of 2013 which can be partially attributed to this change.

What it means for the members is that we are now adding benefits, services and topics at the conference that not only have to do with handcrafted soap but also handcrafted cosmetics, this expands the opportunities for both the membership and the association.

MS: What is the mission of the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild? Who is responsible for accomplishing that mission?

Leigh: The mission of the HSCG is :

  • to promote and educate the public about the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry;
  • to act as a center of communication among, and to circulate information beneficial to, members of the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry;
  • to foster the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry through education and training; and
  • to represent the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry in matters concerning legislation and regulations affecting the industry.

It is the duty of the elected Board of Directors and the staff of the HSCG (Executive Director, Member Services Director, Administrative Assistant) to carry out this mission.

MS: The HSCG offers a number of benefits to members outside of insurance, can you tell me about some of the benefits HSCG members enjoy?

Leigh: There are many benefits to being a member of the HSCG, we have benefits in different categories: Discounts: From Industry Supplier discounts to discounts on shipping through UPS, discounted merchant services through ProPay, 10% off Soapmaker Software, Office Depot Discounts, Volusion Website Discounts. NEW Toolkits: Wholesale Toolkit, Business Startup Toolkit and Public Relations Toolkit with more to come…

MS: Does the HSCG offer any community-building opportunities for members, like city-based gatherings or discussion groups?

Leigh: Not at this time.

MS: The HSCG gives members the ability to get certified in various soapmaking techniques. What is certification and how is it beneficial?

Leigh: Certification started in 2008 and has three levels, basic, advanced and master. The program began to encourage and promote the highest professional standards among HSCG members, it also presents criteria by which members can measure their soapmaking knowledge and skill as well as creates a central repository for industry-standard information and resources.

Many members find the program beneficial to both hone their skills and knowledge of soapmaking and for marketing purposes. The use of the “Certified Soapmaker” logo on their website, brochures and labels signifies a greater knowledge of the craft to their customers.

MS: A lot of soapmakers have an additional revenue stream built into their business model by teaching soapmaking, and the HSCG has a great program that supports these types of members. Can you tell us about the HSCG Teacher Program?

Leigh: The HSCG Teacher Program was conceived a few years ago as a way to allow Teachers to reach potential students and to bring new people into the industry who were interested in making handcrafted soap and cosmetics. The program allows teachers to post their classes on the HSCG website in different categories, it is then searchable by the public by state, by country or even online classes.

Teachers have to be certified soap makers, have a minimum number of hours teaching and carry Professional Liability Insurance in order to qualify for the Program.

The HSCG Annual Conference

MS: Everyone knows about the HSCG Annual Conference, but if someone has never been, what can they expect?

Leigh: The HSCG Conference takes place over 3 1/2 days, an attendee will be totally immersed in all things handcrafted soapmaking, cosmetics, marketing, business and more. There is an Exhibitor Area and Sponsored Networking Events every night making it possible to spend almost every waking hour concentrating on networking, your business, your craft and what it will take to launch you to the next level.

Typically held in April or May, there are over 450 attendees from all over the country and some traveling from as far away as Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore and more.

Not to leave home empty handed, attendees are presented with an industry goodie bag and are presented with gifts from both the HSCG and industry sponsors. Many attendees have to pack an extra bag or arrange to ship a box home there is so much swag!

The best thing about the conference is the people, everyone is willing to share, help and guide with tips and tricks, you will leave with your head swimming with knowledge.

MS: What is your favorite thing about being the Executive Director of the HSCG? What does your job entail?

Leigh: There are so many things that I love about my job.

I love making the association thrive and grow. I love introducing new and better member benefits and seeking out what the next one will be. I love planning the annual conference and executing it, seeing all the months and months of hard work come to fruition. I love to ensure that members are happy and satisfied with their membership experience. I love working with the volunteers and staff of the HSCG, I have met some of the most wonderful people this way.

Most of all I love that I have a meaningful profession that makes a difference, assisting small business to grow and thrive is a very gratifying job that I would not trade for anything.

MS: If someone is on the fence about joining HSCG, who should they talk to?

Leigh: If anyone has any questions, they can call our Member Services Director (Lani Dake) or our Administrative Assistant (Nicole Carte) in the HSCG Office - 866-900-7627 or [email protected] We are here to help.

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