Growing Your Business: 6 Things to Look for When Choosing a Trade Association

When you talk to Handcrafters, you hear many positive things. Handcrafters love to help people feel beautiful, love to innovate when it comes to formulation, and especially love to educate others about their products.

One thing that the majority of Handcrafters we’ve spoken to also voice is the loneliness of the industry. Because the art of making handcrafted soap and cosmetics is still a growing industry and Handcrafters are located all over the globe, they sometimes feel disconnected or isolated.

Another common negative is the lack of insurance options, and the desire to protect their business. Handcrafters want peace of mind so that they don’t have to worry about what might happen-they want to focus on growing their business and expanding their line.

These are a few common reasons why Handcrafters seek us out, and the HSCG prides itself on being dependable, trustworthy and full of benefits for ever Handcrafter level. So today, we are going to lay out six ways you can differentiate the great trade associations from the not-so great ones so that you can get the most out of your business.

  1. What benefits does it offer? Let’s be honest; when you seek out an organization to join, you’re probably searching for something that directly benefits your business-that’s just good business sense! Take a serious look at the benefits that offered by the organization you’re considering before you join. Will you use them? Will the benefits help further your business? If one of the benefits is insurance, have you read the coverage to understand if it truly envelops your whole business? If you’ve answered no to any of these questions, keep searching. (Check out the HSCG’s benefits to get an idea of what you should be looking for)
  2. Does the organization have a good reputation? This is important. Put those Facebook stalking skills to good use and do a good ol’ fashioned search for the organization you’re considering. Do they have positive reviews, and are they recent reviews? Take a look at the content they are posting. If they post educational material on social media or on their own site, browse through it and check for obvious errors. Ultimately, you will be aligning your business with this organization, and if they are not reputable your business reputation may also take a hit.
  3. How is their customer service? This one is very important, especially if you are considering purchasing insurance through the organization. In this age of digital communication, most businesses have a Facebook page with the option to message, a listed email address and/or a chat option on their website; make sure that the organization you’re considering does too. If they have a phone listed, give them a call and ask your questions over the phone. Checking for comprehensive customer service first will help you avoid any surprises if they don’t communicate well later.
  4. How does the organization further the industry? This is a big one. Does it exist only to offer insurance, or does it provide advocacy in the changing world of legislation? Check to see if there are educational opportunities like certification programs, listed teachers and classes that you can either take advantage of, or participate in. (The HSCG’s main goal is to further the industry-check out our Legislative Advocacy and Certification Program.)
  5. Why does the organization exist? Learning the reason why the organization started in the first place will give you insight into what their goals are. If they do not exist to further the industry, keep searching.
  6. Most importantly, is the association legitimate? We want to think that when we see a company’s website or talk to a customer service representative in their office, they are honestly representing themselves-but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Are they claiming to be a non-profit? You don’t have to take that at face value! A simple search will usually tell you if the organization is actually a registered non-profit. Take a peek at the way their organization runs, too. Do they have bylaws and policies in place? This may seem like it doesn’t affect you, but it will; official bylaws and policies mean that the organization has plans in place to keep business running fairly and ethically. (The HSCG’s Bylaws are available for public view; Members may log in and access the HSCG Policies through the Member Area.)

Final Thoughts 

Choosing an organization to join when it comes to your business doesn’t have to be the most difficult decision you’ll ever make. Take into consideration what you hope to gain from your experience and membership with them. Also take into consideration their dependability; if they promise to deliver experiences, education and services but fail to do so, look elsewhere! Your organization should be as dependable, trustworthy, and downright awesome as you are…never settle for less!

Honesty in Marketing: Why Transparency is Important

Imagine walking into a store; let’s say it’s a grocery store. You’re doing your weekly grocery shopping, ready to pick up your weekly supplies. As you meander down the vitamin aisle, you stop; a bottle on the shelf reads “Drop 25 pounds in one week AND grow 4 inches taller!”.

Now, most people will pass by this very confident weight loss/height enhancing bottle, but there are some that won’t. The people that do not walk past it will spend whatever amount is on the sticker and will inevitably be disappointed when seven days have passed and not only are they still the same height, but they are also the same weight. This is an example of dishonesty in marketing, and we’re going to talk about why that’s a no-no.

Staying in the same diet pill vein, think of the diet pill industry as a whole. Typically, that industry has been riddled with bogus products that claim to offer benefits that are never delivered. At this point, it would be very difficult for consumers like you or I to trust a diet pill claim, even with medical proof to back it up.

This is exactly the same case with handcrafted soap and cosmetics!

Perhaps you have a fantastic product, a beautifully moisturizing, luxuriously lathering product that you are selling at your local farmer’s market. A few tables down, a competing handcrafter is selling exactly the same product, but they are saying it will cure eczema, treat psoriasis, and turn back your face’s clock ten years! People will buy this, hopeful people that suffer from these sometimes severe skin conditions, and they will be disappointed. The following week, they will come back and see your stand; but they won’t buy from you. It isn’t because you’ve been dishonest, but because your competitor has failed to deliver on their claims; in the eyes of a consumer, you are no different.

As an industry, the production of handcrafted soap and cosmetics has grown by leaps and bounds. Despite its growing popularity, there are still many who falsely advertise their products as curing or preventing a disease without being approved as a drug by the FDA; this is the type of marketing that must be avoided. Industry standards are not the same as herd immunity; it should not be assumed that if the majority follow the rules, others will be protected. In order to protect the integrity and quality of handcrafted soaps and cosmetics and more importantly to earn and keep the trust of the general public, it is imperative to be honest and legally compliant with your claims!

What Can I Say? 

There are many words that you can use to describe your product’s benefits without tripping and falling into FDA drug territory. For example, you can say that your product is moisturizing, since this is a way to beautify the skin. You can also say that your product is conditioning, calming, beautifying, deodorizing, hydrating, and cleansing! That is a pretty great arsenal of descriptive words that can help set reasonable and attainable expectations for your customers.

You cannot say that your product cures or prevents acne, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, sunburns, or provides an SPF or anti-aging benefit unless you have registered your product as a drug with the FDA. If you are making these claims with no legal grounds, you may be opening yourself up to financial disaster, leading up to and including the closure of your business.

Your product takes you precious time and effort to produce, and no curative claim is worth losing all of the blood, sweat and tears that you’ve poured into your products (hopefully not literally)! Do yourself and your fellow handcrafters a favor and check out the FDA Cosmetic guidelines, and the drug guidelines too; your industry thanks you!

Building Your Empire: The Basics of Starting a Handcrafted Business

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We probably don’t have to tell you this, but Handcrafters are a very unique group of people! When you speak to someone who makes handcrafted soap and/or cosmetics, you are talking to a creative mind that is a blend between science, art and a desire to make products that genuinely make the consumer feel good. While some Handcrafters achieve a great level of success, it is important to remember that everyone has to start somewhere. If you are standing on the precipice of beginning your own business but aren’t sure whether you are ready to take the leap, keep reading!

The Testing Phase 

Before you begin to sell your product, it’s a good idea to make a number of test batches to use on your own or give to a small group of family members or close friends. Give yourself some time to perfect your recipe and be patient; sometimes, finding the recipe that will set you apart might be hiding behind a few recipes that weren’t quite right.

Nailing down a recipe that you love can be frustrating, and formulation can be difficult when you are first starting out. Make sure to check out the resources at the bottom of this article to help you along your way!

The Product Line 

Once you have honed in on a recipe, it’s time to set your sights on a reasonable product line. To do this, it is a good idea to do a little research about what scents are the most popular and mix in a few of your own creations. Aldreamstime_xl_19300074though making a simply lavender scented soap or lotion can seem too basic when you are trying to make ripples in the big handcrafter pond, these are products that customers love. Be creative with your colorants and additives, and those basic tried-and-true scents will fly off the shelves.

Equipment and Ingredients 

Making products to sell versus making products as a hobby means that your production capabilities will need to expand. Buying or making additional molds, investing in quality immersion blenders, bulk colorants and scents, purchasing drying racks and bulk packaging are all considerations that you should figure into your startup costs. Although there are many things that you can purchase and upgrade as you go, it is important to have the basics purchased and ready to use as needed.

The uncertainty of starting your own business might tempt you to buy lower quality equipment in the beginning, but investing in high quality supplies from the start will help you turn out the kind of high quality products that your customers will love.

Valuing Your Product 

You’ve likely gone to a farmer’s market or craft fair and seen handmade products for sale, and if you are trying to get into the same venues it can be appealing to set your prices lower so that customers will be drawn to your table. Be very careful doing this! Do not undersell your own time and investment for the sole reason of beating your competition’s pricing. This is a dangerous way to potentially sink your business before it has a chance to swim; instead of focusing on the prices of other Handcrafters, focus on making a quality product that is truly worth whatever price you choose to charge. You can do this by using reputable suppliers for your ingredients, making sure to follow good manufacturing practices, and providing education about your products; nothing beats good customer service.

Labeling Your Products 

Following proper labeling regulations, federal and state guidelines is absolutely crucial to building a reputable and legal business. The last thing you need as a hard-working entrepreneur is to run into legal issues because of improperly labeled or misrepresented products! Luckily, there are resources available to help you understand labeling guidelines. The HSCG offers an article in our How-To Library written by labeling and good manufacturing practice pro Marie Gale; Marie also has a treasure trove of useful information on her own site-make sure to check out the links at the end of this article for more information.

Branding 

Let’s touch on branding for a moment. What will make your business recognizable? What visually will set you products apart? Having complimentary packaging and a relatively easy to spell and pronounce brand name will make your products stand out before your customer ever lays a hand on them. Stick to easy to read fonts, make sure that everything is spelled correctly on your signage and labels, and use only high quality images for any artwork you’ll be displaying on both. There is immeasurable value in a cohesive label and brand!

Insurance and Membership 

There are different options for insurance, but whether you choose to be protected by the HSCG’s policy or a different company, make sure you are protected. This is so very important! Carrying insurance means the difference between losing everything to a lawsuit, or bouncing back. Peace of mind is invaluable, to both you and your customers. At the HSCG, we offer insurance coverage for every budget and business level through Veracity Insurance Solutions (U.dreamstime_xl_6168250S) or Steer Insurance (Canada). This insurance will cover you in a wide variety of circumstances. For example, say you are set up at a craft fair and the place is crowded! You’ve got a fantastic new tablecloth on your table and your setup is beautiful. Along comes a customer, peering in to take a look at your amazing products when suddenly, her shoe catches on your tablecloth and she trips right into your display. Now, she wants to sue you because your tablecloth was a tripping hazard. At this particular moment, it doesn’t matter whether she is right or wrong; all that matters is the insurance policy you bought or decided you didn’t need because your business was not big enough, or you only planned to sell at a handful of craft fairs during the year. It only takes one moment to bring down a business; do not let the size of your operation or the frequency of your sales dissuade you from purchasing a policy that could protect you from disastrous legal consequences later on.

Specifically in regards to the HSCG, insurance comes at a significant discount if you are a current member. Memberships start at $140.00 per year and have many, many benefits! Supplier discounts, shipping discounts, optional personal insurance and an annual conference that is the biggest and most vibrant of it’s kind are only a handful of the fantastic benefits at your fingertips with a membership. Joining the HSCG community gives you resources beyond discounts; the ability to network with fellow Handcrafters via our Member’s Only Facebook Discussion Group is a great way to keep up with industry trends and get real-world advice from those with the same passion as you.

What to Expect When You’re Entrepreneuring 

First and foremost, do not expect that you will turn a profit immediately. Starting a business with the expectation of immediately making money will lead you to disappointment. Start your business because you truly love your craft and as cliché as it may sound, the money will follow. Passion and genuine creativity are like the frosting on a quality cake; it is the first thing people will see when they look at and use your products, and it will be the first thing they remember when they decide to buy your products again.

Final Thoughts 

Starting a handmade business is a challenge, but there are many resources available to help you through each step. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, but stay the course. Hard work and determination will help you make a standout product and build your entrepreneurial empire.

For helpful tips and information regarding regulations, check out the links below:

HSCG Radio: https://www.soapguild.org/how-to/radio.php (for podcasts you can listen to on the go!)

HSCG How-To Library: https://www.soapguild.org/how-to/ (an ever-growing resource for the beginner and experienced handcrafter)

State Regulations: http://www.mariegale.com/state-agencies/ (a comprehensive listing of available online resources state-to-state)

HSCG Insurance FAQ: https://www.soapguild.org/insurance/insurance-faq.php

HSCG Insurance Comparison Chart: https://www.soapguild.org/insurance/compare.php

HSCG Membership Overview: https://www.soapguild.org/membership/