6 Ways to Secure Your Business and Peace of Mind

Everything is becoming digital. Many things are becoming more simple because of this electronic revolution; payments are becoming easier and more secure, advertising opportunities using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are limitless and mostly free. Your customer base isn’t limited to who comes to your brick and mortar location or your market booth; anyone can buy from you, if you’ve got the right website in place.

With this digital boom comes a new frontier of issues; along with the potential for your physical property to be stolen, you must now be mindful of protecting your digital identity to. Let’s talk about six ways you can protect your business!

Buy a Safe

 This is probably the most basic and classic security upgrade you can make; it protects you against a number of difficult situations. Many safes on the market today are fire proof, blast proof, water proof, and most importantly, theft proof. Depending on the size of your safe, someone looking to take your personal information isn’t going to be able to just carry it off; and if they did, they won’t be able to open it. Safes are easily accessible by visiting your local hardware store, or you can special order them online, too.

This method of protection is great for storing social security numbers, passports, extra keys, titles, deeds, and any number of other important documents that could help an identity thief steal your hard-earned credit. Stay extra safe by carrying the safe keys on a key ring, and stashing a second set somewhere that would be impossible for another person to find.

Password Safety

 Gone are the days when using “Password1234” is a funny joke; yes, it is easy to remember, but please; don’t use it!

Your password is the key that unlocks your digital life. Banking, merchant services, tax records, emails with passwords, etc; all of this information is kept secure, but this security partly depends on the password that you choose.

To make sure you have the most secure password, follow these guidelines:

  • Use a reputable website that will provide a randomized password, or do this yourself by combining non-consecutive letters and numbers.
  • Use a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters (!, ?, #, $, and so on) to make your password more difficult to guess.
  • Do not use: family names, names of pets, names of children, birthdays of any of the previous, your business name or consecutive letters and numbers.

A randomized password can be more difficult to remember. You can get a little help with this by downloading a password keeper app that is secured by a PIN, or, if you must write the password down, do so and keep it secure in the new safe you just bought.

Update Your Device

 How many times do we see “update now?” pop up on a device and groan; the minor inconvenience of taking a few minutes to update your device now is well worth the security it often brings. Most devices update frequently to patch security holes and bugs that could potentially compromise your system. Take a few minutes and update your device so that you are protected against the newest threats.

Speaking of Threat, Do Your Research

 Stay up to date with the newest trends in information/identity theft. Take a few minutes once a month to research new scams so that you can make sure you aren’t in the crosshairs; and if you do, you’ll know what to do.

Use Reputable Merchant Services

 If you are accepting debit or credit cards, make sure that you sign up with a reputable company that has an established security protocol so that both you and your customers are covered. Yes, it may be more expensive, but as we know as Handcrafters, you get what you pay for.

Back Up Your Data

 Sometimes, the worst data malfunction is the one that happens on your own device. There are many data backup services available, some which offer a limited amount of space for free and then more space for a reasonable fee. It will be time consuming at first, but back up your data. Computers and other devices are not immune to crashing, and you will be thankful that you backed everything up if you take the time to do it.

Protecting your identity and business are extremely important; by doing this, you are making sure to shield not only yourself, but your customers from future issues. To take extra security steps, install an alarm system at your brick and mortar location, and if you decide to hire employees, don’t be afraid to screen them.

There is no such thing as being too prepared; a little bit of legwork now will give you peace of mind so that you can focus on what really matters; you and your business!

Having insurance can add an extra layer of security to your assets. Check out the insurance options that we offer at the HSCG by visiting http://www.soapguild.org.

Advocacy Day 2017

As you most likely saw on our social media pages, the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild hosted our very first Advocacy Day on April 5th, 2017. Dozens of Handcrafters including HSCG Board Members and two HSCG staff members participated in this incredible effort to educate members and staff of both Congress and the Senate on the businesses of handcrafted soap and cosmetic makers.

Politics have been on the front of everyone’s mind lately, but my personal lack of experience in anything politically related meant the opportunity to participate in an event this important to our industry was even more valuable. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I can say this; Advocacy Day exceeded any of the preconceived notions I did have.

Arrival

 HSCG Executive Director Leigh O’Donnell and I arrived a few days before Advocacy Day to meet with the HSCG’s advocate, Debra Carnahan. These were not casual meetings and I can personally attest to the amount of work that went into planning these meetings just from seeing the tail end of the process.

To give a little background about the amount of work that went on behind the scenes, Debra estimates that each meeting with staff or Congressmen, Congresswomen or Senators (she calls them “Members”, and that’s how we’ll refer to them in the remainder of the post) took approximately three hours to set up. We aren’t talking about a shortage of meetings either; Handcrafters from around the country participated in 36 meetings total. That is over 100 hours of planning that went into meetings alone.

As Debra worked hard on scheduling meetings, Leigh worked to bring the event together seamlessly. A welcome reception and dinner was provided the night before Advocacy Day started at the Capitol Skyline Hotel in D.C., where Handcrafters were able to meet and greet. The next morning, Leigh arranged for a breakfast before a brief orientation, where she broke participants into groups by state for efficiency. Each participant received a special edition Advocacy day bag, shirt and padfolio, which contained a comprehensive schedule, talking points, maps and important legislative information.

The Big Day

 Wednesday morning arrived and the sun was shining on our group of advocates; after a brief breakfast and overview of the day, it was time to get started. Clad in bright (and I mean bright) yellow shirts, there was no missing our merry group of Handcrafters as we walked from the hotel to the Capitol.

Walking through D.C. on a beautiful spring day brought out the best in our group. There was a feeling of comradery and a palpable excitement that surrounded us as we walked to the Capitol building. We stood in front of its gleaming white walls, across from the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court. Surrounded by history and places where the most important decisions in our country have been made, we made our way between the House and Senate office buildings, ready to tell staff and Members our stories.

The Experience

 Because I’m from New York where HSCG Headquarters is located, I tagged along with the New York group, led by Leigh. She was a woman on a mission! Having spent quite a bit of time in D.C., she knew exactly where she was going, and went with confidence into each of the offices we were scheduled to visit.

Our first meeting was in Senator Chuck Schumer’s office with Matthew Fuentes, a Legislative Assistant or L.A.. We were greeted and waited a few moments until he motioned for us to come in to a conference room; our first meeting was about to begin!

Leigh started the meeting by introducing herself and our small group to Mr. Fuentes, and explained that it is her belief and the belief of the HSCG that each and every handcrafted soap and cosmetic small business owner has the right to grow and develop their business without overbearing legislation. We also talked about how Congress has shown a great interest in updating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 and that there have been at least one and as many as three bills introduced each term.

On the subject of these bills, Leigh says “some of these bills as written, would have been devastating to the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry by introducing burdensome fees, reporting and paperwork requirements that small businesses would have difficulty following. We discuss how any bill that is introduced needs to take into consideration the small businesses of the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry and their unique needs as opposed to the larger cosmetic industry. Lastly, we discuss the products that are made, ho safe they are and that they use mainly food grade ingredients.”

We were well received, to say the least; our meetings were all very positive and we left with the feeling that we had truly been heard.

The Importance of Face Time

 Many of our meetings were less than a half hour; one, less than fifteen minutes. But don’t let the time of the meeting fool you; these meetings were extremely valuable in the journey to have handcrafted soap and cosmetic small business owners heard.

When asked to give her take on the meetings, Debra says “the meetings were productive; one on one time for advocates to tell their stories about their businesses to the people that represent them” is “very powerful and compelling and will be remembered if and when the legislation comes to the floor for a full vote in that chamber.”

Leigh felt the same optimism, and told me that “we received a very open response, each office was very interested in hearing about mostly women-owned small businesses in their district or state. Some members were asked to follow up with their district offices, or were invited to other meetings and gatherings.”

Meeting with staff is just as important as meeting with the actual Member, and Debra explains this perfectly. She says, “think about the over 670,000 constituents that a House member serves with a staff in their home District and D.C. of only 20 people. In the Senate, the Member has an entire state to serve and that size varies from a state as large as Texas and California to Montana or New Hampshire or Rhode Island.” She goes on to explain that staff and Members must split their time between committee hearings, votes, caucus meetings and fundraising, all in the course of one day, along with the pressure of surprise votes that they have only 15 minutes to get to. This, added to the fact that Congress is typically in D.C. from Monday evening to around noon on Thursday before they must rush to the airport and fly home to their District to continue working on meetings and events. She says, “getting a meeting with a staffer that serves the Member on your issue area who will then advise that Member is a big deal. There are over 15,000 registered lobbyists on the Federal level competing for their time.”

That really puts it into perspective; with thousands of lobbyists and many, many duties to perform, the HSCG was fortunate to be able to represent 13 states in one day!

Continuing Advocacy Efforts

 

The push for fair legislation did not begin, nor will it have ended, on Advocacy Day. The Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild will continue advocacy efforts.

When I ask Leigh how the HSCG will continue to advocate, she says that “the HSCG, with the assistance of our DC Advocate Debra Carnahan, will continue to monitor all Federal Legislation aimed at the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry.” She goes on to tell me that an updated bill is expected from Senators Feinstein and Collins this spring, and possibly a bill from Representatives Pallone and Lance later in the term. But, don’t worry; she also tell me that “we will work with all of the Member Offices involved to ensure that there are adequate accommodations for small business.”

Advocacy is Everyone’s Job

 Even if you weren’t able to attend Advocacy Day, there are still many things you can do on your own to advocate for the industry and ultimately, your small business interests. It is very important to stay up to date on current legislation, especially legislation that could affect your small business or the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry as whole. There are a few ways that you can be an advocate for your industry and business.

  • Learn about current legislation and proposed legislation, too. Being educated about laws that could impact your business is the first step in being an advocate.
  • Work with your local district office. One of the most valuable things that you can do on a personal level is visit your Representative and/or Senator’s district office and ask for a meeting. As we discussed above, getting a meeting with a staffer instead of a Member is not a bad thing. Take the meeting and take the opportunity to tell your story.
  • Write a letter or email. There may be times when you are not able to get to your representative’s office; you can still write a letter or email. Make sure that you use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation and keep the communication as professional as you can.

Your Story is the Key

 What really makes a difference in any communication you have with a staffer, Representative or Senator is your story. Take a few moments and write your story out. Keep in mind the following questions when you are writing your story.

  • What is your business?
  • Do you sell in a brick and mortar location? If so, where?
  • Why did you start your business?
  • How would current legislation affect your ability to maintain your business?
  • What alternative legislation would you like to see?

These are just guidelines, but a great jumping point for you to write an effective and moving story.

Wrapping Up

 Meetings concluded around 4:30pm for most Advocacy Day attendees, and our New York group headed to the Small Business Committee room. The SBC room is absolutely beautiful, and we entered the room to group of bright yellow shirts worn by tired, but optimistic handcrafted soap and cosmetic business owners. DC was pretty hot that day, and everyone had walked a lot; but that didn’t dampen the excitement. Some attendees shared stories about how they were able to meet with their Representative personally, and that they felt they had been truly listened to.

This Advocacy Day was important not just for these select attendees, but for the industry. There are hundreds of thousands of handcrafted soap and cosmetic small business owners in the United States alone. This industry has a majority of women-owned businesses and supports a bigger dream of artistic creation, quality products and a sustainable future. Handcrafted soap and cosmetic products are made by the hands of hard working individuals who are equal parts entrepreneur, artist, chemist and perfumer. These small business owners are our neighbors and friends, they are providing the promise of better quality products that make you feel amazing while supporting our communities and building local economies.

Would you like to learn more about the advocacy efforts of the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild? Stay up to date by visiting https://www.soapguild.org/handcrafters/advocacy/overview.php for information about what we are doing and what we have done in the past.

Common Scents: Ylang Ylang

Welcome back to our series, Common Scents! Common Scents is a collection of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils, and how they became so popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting. This week, we’ll talk about ylang ylang!

 This month we are going to talk about everyone’s least favorite essential oil to pronounce: ylang ylang! Pronounced ee-lang ee-lang, this sweet oil is versatile and mysterious, with a heady, floral aroma.

History

Ylang ylang has been popular throughout history for its purported therapeutic and medicinal qualities. The first official documentation of its use as a medicine came early in the 20th century, when two French chemists working on research on the island of Reunion discovered the healing properties of ylang ylang oil. They reported that they believed it to be an effective treatement for malaria, as well as other digestive and intestinal complaints. The chemists also believed that ylang ylang oil had a calming effect on the heart during times of distress or anxiety. They were hardly the first to come to this conclusion though; in the Philippines, healers turned to ylang ylang oil for treatment for snake and insect bites, as well as commonplace injuries such as burns and cuts and cardiac complaints. The cardiac benefits of ylang ylang oil were also noted in Oriental medicine, where healers used it most commonly for calming the heart.

Sourcing 

Ylang ylang oil is derived from the ylang-ylang (cananga odorate) tree, sometimes referred to as the Cananga tree. This tree can grow up to 60 feet tall! Ylang ylang oil is steam distilled from the fragrant flowers of the tree; these flowers do not bloom until at least the fifth year of the tree’s life. It takes approximately 45-50 pounds of flowers to make one pound of oil; special care must be taken in regards to the timing of the distillation to ensure the desired quality.

Grading 

There are three different grades of ylang ylang oil; extra, first, second and third. Extra grade refers to oil that is taken within an hour of distillation, and is considered the most fragrant; this grade is used most frequently in the perfume industry. First is taken up to four hours after distillation begins, second after approximately seven hours, and third can be taken up to ten hours after distillation begins. Typically, first through third grades are used in soap and cosmetic manufacturing.

Medicinal and Therapeutic Uses 

Ylang ylang enjoys a reputation as a versatile healing oil. Let’s take a look at some of its medicinal and therapeutic uses throughout history:

Anti-depressent
Mental stimulant

Muscle spasm relief

Lowers blood pressure

Reverses insect and snake bites

Aphrodisiac

Nerve and muscle relaxer 

Remember: the HSCG is providing this information for informational and entertainment purposes only. The FDA has not approved ylang ylang for medicinal use, and we are not providing this information as a recommendation for medicinal use.

Ylang Ylang in Modern Times 

Ylang ylang is a popular fragrance for soaps and cosmetics; its sweet, floral scent is appealing to a wide variety of audiences in an equally wide variety of products. Considered a base note, ylang ylang mixes well with grapefruit, vetiver, marjoram, sandalwood, bergamot, and many others.

Final Thoughts 

Ylang ylang has a rich history and makes a great addition to any citrusy or warm scents you already have in your products! Be creative with this versatile oil; your customer will love it.

Need a little more inspiration to blend your fragrances? Check out our How-To article called Fantastic Fragrances and How to Blend Them: https://www.soapguild.org/how-to/ingredients/beginners-guide-to-fragrance-blending.php