Behind the Scenes: How Your Conference Comes to Life

It’s a changeable afternoon in Upstate New York; the kind of fall day in this area that makes everyone look a bit foolish. It’s mild, but there’s a cold breeze; the sun shines in the morning, but by early afternoon it’s pouring rain. This isn’t exactly the kind of weather that makes you think of a warm, desert atmosphere, surrounded by hundreds of your passionate, handcrafting buddies-but that’s exactly what Leigh O’Donnell, Executive Director and conference planner extraordinaire, and I are talking about on this particular day.

Leigh has a confident way about her, and when I sat down to talk to her for this interview, I knew exactly the type of answers I’d get; to the point, realistic and honest facts about the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild’s Annual Conference and the immense amount of planning that goes into it. I’ve worked with Leigh for a little over a year now, and I’ve seen her serious, jovial, busy, determined; but not shaken. Planning a conference for hundreds of people? She’s got this.

HSCG VP – Charlene Simon, Leigh O’Donnell, HSCG President – Feleciai Favroth

Leigh attended her first Annual Conference in 2004, was on the conference crew in 2005, and began planning the event in 2006; 2017 will be the 12th conference she’s planned, and you can tell; she knows the welds and rivets of this conference as if she was the captain of a very large, very exciting ship.

When I ask her what distinguishes the HSCG Annual Conference as the premier event in our industry, she says, “the level of professionalism is through the roof with this event.” She goes on to explain that “the participation of vendors, sponsors and speakers is unique because they stay through the entire event; they will interact with attendees at meals, sessions, and parties.” What she’s describing is one of the most amazing parts of this event-everyone is accessible. You may find yourself sitting next to a speaker or your favorite supplier at the Networking Lunch, a favorite for meeting new friends and making new connections. The Networking Lunch is a great example of the comprehensive experience that the HSCG is looking to offer; the point of the conference and the planning that goes into it is to create an immersive attendee experience that gives handcrafters not only the ability to be in the same room as their favorite educators and vendors, but the opportunity to reach out to them on a personal level.


The 2016 Annual Meeting

In fact, this intensive, focused planning is what Leigh says is her favorite part about planning the conference. When I ask her what her favorite part of the organizational process is, she says “I think trying to think three dimensionally. When an attendee walks in, what will they see? What will their experience be?” she pauses for a minute, “We want them to have a successful experience and all the moving parts of the conference are planned with that goal.” If the conference is a huge machine, the attendee’s experience can be thought of as the gears that make it move. Without taking each experience personally into consideration, the conference would be just another event; and this careful planning is exactly why it’s the best and biggest of it’s kind in the world.


A small-scale view of an enormous undertaking-volunteers will move and empty between hundreds of boxes before the event starts.

If you’ve attended one of our Annual Conferences, you know that one of the most amazing parts is the dedication and passion of the volunteers who help keep it running smoothly. I ask Leigh, what do you look for in a volunteer? “Someone who can take physical and mental abuse with a smile!” she says, laughing. “But seriously…a sense of humor, a strong work ethic, and a passion for the event. Someone who understands how rigorous the conference schedule is, and can keep smiling!”


Longtime Conference Volunteer Tom Koenig (Sheriff Tom) and Leigh O’Donnell


Now, I’ve only been to one Annual Conference myself, but I was taken aback by the friendliness and grace of the volunteers, even under pressure. Even through difficult times, the staff stayed cool and more importantly, kind. These are passionate, excited handcrafters who have given their time not only to the HSCG to help keep the conference moving, but to their peers to give them the best possible experience; that passion is at the core of what the Annual Conference is all about.


Many potential attendees ask the same question; How is the venue chosen? When I ask Leigh this, she says, “Cleanliness, but really, how do you feel when you walk in the door?” By putting herself in the shoes of the attendees when considering a venue, from the very beginning, the experience is faithfully planned not just around the educational and networking experiences an attendee will have, but how the environment and meeting space will make them feel. Leigh shared with me that its not all about location, although that’s important. It’s also important to the HSCG that the venue is comfortable, clean, well taken care of and lends its own positive experience to the overall event. Considerations like proximity of the meeting rooms to the exhibitor space, and the general conference area to the guest rooms are all taken into account when choosing a venue. Location does play a part in planning, however; the Annual Conference moves around the country to try to give the fairest chance to everyone that wants to attend. Because the Annual Conference has grown so much in the past 10 years (it has gone from less than 80 attendees to over 600 expected attendees in 2017), it is a challenge to find a venue that can house the event; but that hasn’t stopped the HSCG from finding amazing, engaging resorts and hotels each year! 2017’s venue is no different; the Tropicana Las Vegas is a beautiful property with an abundance of amenities, not to mention its prime location on the Vegas strip. Best of all, meeting, exhibitor and meal areas are all located in the same building and in close proximity to each other and the guest rooms, making the Tropicana Las Vegas a comprehensive experience from start to finish.


It’s a Florida morning-sunrise at the beautiful Saddlebrook Resort (2016)

Planning an event of this size isn’t an overnight task, and when I ask Leigh when planning officially begins, she laughs. “I have a two week rule: no one is allowed to say the word ‘conference’ in front of me for two weeks after the conference. Of course, I always break that rule.” In reality, she says that the conference planning begins nearly 2 ½ years before the actual event. Venue selection is a time consuming process, and it is important to make sure that the desired dates and conference space are available; this is why Leigh chooses the venue locations so far in advance. As for the meat and potatoes of the planning, this typically starts a month or two after the previous conference ends, and the speaker selection process begins.


Planning takes place at every level, beginning with the well-choreographed Registration process.

“If someone has a passion and a fire, it projects onto the attendees.” Leigh tells me when I ask how the speakers are chosen. She says that a few things are taken into consideration: what topics we have had in the past (so that there aren’t many if any repeats), and what credentials a speaker has. By credentials, she explains, she does not mean a degree or certifications (although this helps, too). If someone has passion and knowledge when it comes to the subject they are interested in speaking about, that will translate into a successful speaker session, and those are the speakers she loves to work with. Speakers are also considered based on referrals from fellow attendees, members and vendors; there are many factors to consider when choosing the perfect speaker, and no detail is overlooked.


Infused water from the 2016 Conference, one of the many small meal details that was planned with an experience in mind.

Choosing pieces of the conference like the speakers and venue are obviously very important, but another important consideration when planning the conference is the cost. “The conference eats and feeds itself,” Leigh says, “As a not-for-profit, our goal is to make enough to cover the cost of the conference; we would rather come out ahead by a small margin rather than fall short.” As a trade association, it is the HSCG’s duty to keep the cost of the conference low while presenting a well-planned, innovative event to the industry. Making this event available at an attainable cost level is important to Leigh and the HSCG; it goes hand in hand with the location. Accessibility means traveling around the country and intense negotiations with venues to keep room rates low, while maintaining the type of quality that the Guild has taken pride in over the past years. The registration cost is determined by a few things; expenses for speakers and staff/volunteers, cost of printed materials and graphics, cost of the venue itself and food for the attendees. Relative to other events, the HSCG has managed to keep the cost of the annual 3  ½ day event low compared to many other large-scale gatherings; a goal that the HSCG keeps in mind when planning each event.


Leigh’s least favorite part? “When it’s over, and there’s a whole year until another conference.”

By the time we start to wrap up our interview, it’s been 45 minutes; I get the feeling that Leigh could talk about the conference and her vision for it for hours. When I ask her what she believes the future of the conference is, she is optimistic. The HSCG Annual Conference has grown by hundreds of attendees since it first began, and the trend of additional attendees is a definite goal. The conference has been sold out each year since 2010, and is expected to sell out for 2017 once again. Leigh is realistic about this, though. “I would like to keep growth under control; if we went from say, 600 attendees right to 1000 attendees, there’s a chance of a drop in quality and we want to avoid that.” Maintaining the integrity of the conference is important, which is why the attendee limit is raised incrementally from year to year instead of exponentially. What will a large attendance mean for the locations of the conference? “I could see us settling on 3 or 4 major cities due to our size and the space needed for the event.” Leigh says. Don’t worry though, folks; she also reiterated to me that, even if the event was limited to a few standard choices, the quality of the venue would in no way suffer; the HSCG has high standards to meet.


The 80’s Party, Tampa 2016

This year, as with past years, there are many new faces attending the conference. Attending the conference means something different to everyone, but what everyone seems to share at the conference is a sense of camaraderie. My last question to Leigh was, what is the best advice you can give to a first time attendee? “Lose your fear right away,” she says immediately. “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there-you’re not going to be disappointed.” The Annual Conference is about elevating your industry education and meeting your favorite suppliers face-to-face, sure. But it’s also about meeting and making connections with hundreds of like-minded individuals with the same passion and love for handcrafted soap and cosmetics that you have; a rare sight all in one place. Many attendees, including Leigh herself, have told us that they have made lifelong friendships that started as simply as saying “hi” to someone at their Networking Lunch table, or complimenting another attendee’s outfit at one of the incredible nighttime events at the conference. What you take from the conference personally, if you take the time to get to know your fellow attendees, will be far more valuable than any education you could receive (although that’s pretty great, too).


Preparing for the last event of the conference-the Award’s Dinner.

Whether this is your first conference or your 10th, each conference has its own personality and experiences; there is something different for each attendee, and no two attendees have the same experience. Speakers will be there to energize and encourage you, vendors will be there to give you the tools to implement what you’ve learned, and the passionate and dedicated volunteers will be there to give you a little nudge in the right direction, just in case you get lost-but who are we kidding, getting lost in a sea of handcrafted soap and cosmetic makers doesn’t sound too bad!


HSCG VP Charlene Simon, 2016 (and 2017!) Speaker Kevin Dunn, and volunteer Tina Roberts (in the background, being awesome)

The Premier Rate for the Annual Conference will expire on October 31st at 4pm EST; as always, you can visit to sign up online, or you can reach us in person at our Saratoga Springs, New York headquarters by calling (866)900-7627, Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm EST.

Common Scents: All About Chamomile

Common Scents: All About Chamomile

  Welcome to our series, Common Scents! Common scents is a series of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils and how they became so popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting. chamomile2

In this edition of Common Scents, we will explore the healing history behind chamomile. One of the world’s oldest known herbs used for medicinal purposes, chamomile has become very popular in soap and cosmetics as well. Commonly confused with the prevalent daisy flower, chamomile typically has a compact yellow center and small, white petals.


What’s in a name?

 The name chamomile has its origins in the Greek word khamaimēlon, which means earth apple; it was given this name because its flowers smell like an apple. Later, the Greek form evolved into the late Latin term chamomilla, which later evolved to the French term camomille, which is the closest to the modern form that we use today.


History and Chamomile

 Chamomile has a long history in ancient and modern medicine. It has long been valued for its alleged healing properties, as well as it’s pleasant fragrance. From the ancient Egyptians to modern day aromatherapists, Chamomile has earned the respect of many believers in natural medicine.


Ancient Egypt

 Ancient Egyptians valued chamomile and it’s purported healing properties so much that they dedicated the herb to Ra, the Egyptian god of the sun and worshipped by many Egyptians as the creator god. Chamomile was given such a high value because it was believed to cure malaria; it was also reported to be used in the mummification process because it was said to repel insects. Egyptian noblewomen used crushed chamomile on their skin because of it’s appealing fragrance.


 Chamomile was also revered by the Romans; like the ancient Egyptians, they too dedicated chamomile to their gods, and used it in their baths. Roman physicians used chamomile to prevent and treat headaches, liver and kidney inflammation, among other medicinal uses. Chamomile was also used to flavor drinks, and was used commonly in incense.


Greek physician Dioscorides also reported healing properties in chamomile. He recommended its use to heal intestinal, nervous and liver disorders, and also prescribed it for “women’s ailments” and kidney stones. Greeks were believed to have made garlands of chamomile to wear, not only for the sweet fragrance but because they also believed chamomile to be spiritually calming.

Middle Ages 

In the Middle Ages, chamomile became more widely regarded as a medicinal herb rather than a luxury herb for fragrances and baths. Chamomile was commonly believed to treat asthma, colic, nervous disorders, skin diseases, inflammation, and many more prevalent ailments of that time period. Vikings also believed that chamomile would lighten their hair, and used it frequently in shampoos to brighten their blonde hair and give it more shine.



Modern Times 

Chamomile is still widely considered as a healing herb. Those who practice natural medicine and aromatherapy have an abundance of respect for its purported health benefits. Commonplace modern uses include treatment of:

-Colds, specifically chest colds

-Difficult wounds


-Diaper rash

-Psoriasis and eczema

-Menstrual pain


Although chamomile is reported as having a multitude of healing properties, it does have some reported side effects, too. A reported side effect of chamomile can include uterine contractions; for this reason, pregnant women are advised not to use it. Some have also claimed that those who are allergic to ragweed may suffer a similar allergic reaction to chamomile, as they are from the same plant family.

It is important to note: these observations and claims are made by those who have used chamomile; the FDA has not approved chamomile in a medical capacity, and we are providing this information for strictly educational and entertainment purposes.


Chamomile in Soap and Cosmetics 

Because of it’s soothing properties, chamomile has become very popular in modern soap and cosmetics. Bath tea, tinctures, bar soap and lotion; chamomile can be used in each and every one! Today’s chamomile, when sold in essential oil form, typically comes in two varieties; German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile. What’s the difference?

German Chamomile: Also known as Hungarian or Blue Chamomile (due to the oil’s dark blue color) is native to Europe and Asia. It is also grown in Hungary, Egypt, France, South America, and the United States. German Chamomile contains a higher concentration of azulene, which makes it a preferred oil for anti-inflammatory purposes. 

Roman Chamomile: Also known as Noble, Common, English, or True Chamomile, Roman Chamomile is native to Europe, East Africa, and the Middle East. It is also grown in the United States, South America, England, Belgium, and France. Roman Chamomile is said to have anti-rheumatic qualities.


Final Thoughts 

Chamomile has a long history of promoting well-being of the body and mind. Whether you choose German or Roman chamomile, you are sure to find that is light, pleasant smell will make a great addition to any fragrance or essential oil blends you are currently using. There are many ways to incorporate chamomile into your products that will be a big hit with your customers, and attract new ones too!

Logos: The Do’s and Don’ts of Representing Your Brand

As consumers, we are constantly faced with multiple companies selling the same product. From cereal to clothing to automobiles, we are faced with colorful designs and characters; but what is it that makes a product easily recognizable? You got it-the logo.


A logo tells a consumer which brand they are buying and in some cases, might mean the difference between someone choosing one product over another. In this article, we will explore different types of logos, their benefits, and how to make sure you have the best fit for your business.

Logo Types 

Before you get started, there are a few types of logos in use today. Logos can be font based or text-only, illustrations with text, or strictly illustrated logos. Each type has its own benefits and potential drawbacks; trying multiple logos is a great way to find the right one for you.



Font based or text-only logos are exactly what they sound like-your company’s name in your preferred font, with no illustration or additional symbols. There are a few things to consider when designing a text logo.

  1. Consider your audience, and your product. If your company has a whimsical name, using a rounded, cartoonish font will compliment your product. If you are marketing your product in a more modern, refined way, a thin, sleek font with crisp edges may be the right fit for you. In either case, try to avoid commonly used fonts like Comic Sans; these can give your logo an amateur feel.
  1. Make sure your font is legible. If you are using a clean and simple font, this may not be as much of a concern. Script and other specialty fonts with intricate designs may look appealing, but can be confusing to read if your logo is resized or shrunk. If you are using a cursive or script-style font for your logo, think about adding a simpler font as a secondary logo for small print situations. 
  1. Think about using a custom font. There are a wide variety of online resources you can use when searching for the right font; you are not obligated to use one of the fonts from your computer’s on board word processor (although that’s fine too!). A custom font puts more choices and control at your fingertips-with hundreds of thousands of fonts in existence, the chances are good that you will find one that you love.


You may decide that you’d like a picture or illustration along with your company’s name. This can be a great way to spice up your logo and add a personal touch; but keep a few things in mind.

  1. Relevance is key. For example, if you make a beautiful handcrafted soap and your product is crafted around goat’s milk, using an illustration of a cute goat is acceptable! People will see your illustration and make assumptions about what your product contains, where the product was made, and depending on the illustration, even what your company’s values are. Make sure that your illustration helps current and potential customers to make a quick, positive connection between your products and your business.
  1. Quality is very important. Using a clean, high quality and high resolution picture will make a big difference in the way your print materials look. Keep in mind that your picture or illustration may need to be resized for flyers or branded materials-an illustration that looks great while small, may be pixelated and stretched when resized if the original file is not high resolution.


Companies who have made a name for themselves sometimes choose to drop text from their names and retain the illustration only. As with other logo types, there are a few things to consider if you are going this route.

  1. Will people recognize you? When it comes to dropping your company’s name from the logo, the biggest consideration is whether or not your company has built up enough of a reputation and a big enough following to ensure that customers do not need to see your company’s name in order to know the product is yours. If you do not have this kind of following and reputation, it may be risky to take your company’s name out of your logo.
  1. Change may be difficult. If you decide to change your logo down the road, this may make your brand temporarily unrecognizable, unless your logo is very similar to your previous one. Consider adding your company’s name into your logo at least for a short period to familiarize customers with your new look.


The Design Process 

Once you have decided what type of logo you’d like to go with, the design process begins! If you are familiar with programs such as Photoshop or Illustrator, designing your logo yourself will be an option. If you are unfamiliar with these programs, that’s ok too.  Hiring someone to design a logo for you when you are uncomfortable with using design programs can help to alleviate most, if not all, of the stress that comes with designing the perfect logo.

The Logo Design Checklist 

To keep yourself on track while venturing through the design process, keep the following things in mind:

  • Is this logo unique, or is it too generic to convey my business properly? Too unique, and your logo may not represent your product properly; too generic, and it will get lost in a sea of logos. Strike a balance between intricate and simple. 
  • Have I properly tested my design? This means trying it in different colors, on different colors, and on different materials; testing may be extra legwork, but getting your logo right at the starting gate is easier than switching horses mid-race. 
  • Design multiple logos. You may fall in love with the first logo you design or have designed for you, but don’t stop there-having multiple logos designed will help you in the case of a trademark infringement or even in different advertising situations. 
  • Go through the proper steps to make sure you are not infringing on another company’s trademarked logo; then consider trademarking it yourself. This can be a tricky process, but it is well worth it. Consider speaking to an attorney who specializes in trademarks after your logo is designed. This is another good reason why designing multiple logos is a smart choice; if your first logo is an infringement, you’ll be prepared with another one. This tip is all about protecting you and your brand, and you know what they say; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


Final Thoughts 

Logo design can be intimidating, but having a unique and eye-catching logo is a great way to provide easy brand recognition to buyers. Your logo has the power to sell your product by reinforcing its quality and your company’s values through visual cues. By following these simple steps, you will be well on your way to the perfect design!

Would you like to learn more about trademarking your brand? Robert Lippman, a Principal with the law firm of Lemery Greisler LLC, will be presenting a topic titled “Protecting Your Business Brand” at our 2017 Annual Conference! Space is limited, so make sure to visit today to reserve your spot.