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Karyn Gets More At The Conference April 27 2015

Last week was the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild's (HSCG) Annual Conference. Joanna and I went with the intention of meeting some of our customers, perhaps making some new ones and generally promoting our company, Mad Oils. We talked with people, made connections, mission accomplished. Right? Well, half right.

For me the conference went a little deeper. Soap makers are a unique group. We talked with everyone from suppliers to competitors to customers and I noticed one common theme. Community. And while Joanna may be well known in this community, I am not. In fact, I’ve never even made a bar of soap. You see, Mad Oils is my chapter 2. So I came into this close knit community expecting to feel like an outsider looking in and, instead, I felt welcomed with warmth. I can tell you as a psychotherapist (my chapter 1) that’s pretty rare. I saw beginners and seasoned soap makers alike working/learning together in an environment of inclusion. Now that’s pretty cool. The level of camaraderie was remarkable. I felt a connection to these friendly, creative, artistic and talented people immediately. Many of these people have known each other primarily on the internet for years. In fact, I’d be remiss not to mention the fascinating role of social media within this community. There are groups and forums, blogs and websites, all aimed at building this cohesive community. But, here, they could meet face to face and connect in real time. They were open and engaging and eager to talk about their craft. They shared recipes and suppliers, what they liked what they didn’t about each. They were helpful, to each other and to me. And I learned so much more than I had bargained for, not just about soaping, but about people. About community.

One of my favorite parts of the Conference, was that this sense of community extended to the speakers, as well. The speakers, all experts in their fields with reputations that preceded them, were never too hurried to answer questions, never too rushed to stay after and explain something in more depth or sign a book they had written. I was even lucky enough to talk with a few over cocktails at that evening’s soiree. It made me feel like no matter what level I was on, I was important and I was going to get what I needed. That’s pretty incredible in a group of 450 people. There was also a plethora of resources for sale, both at the vendor booths and from the HSCG itself. They really were able to cater to soap makers at every level, which I found impressive.

So while I went there with the intention of networking for my company, I left there feeling part of a new community of not just potential customers, but friends.