Time flies when you’re having fun, and here at HSCG Headquarters, time also flies when you are knee-deep in planning a sold-out conference for 614 registered attendees!
A Conference is Born
Planning for the 2017 Annual Conference actually began several years ago, when Executive Director and conference planning extraordinaire Leigh O’Donnell visited several sites in Las Vegas. She was on the hunt for a great venue that fit her strict standards; quality food, clean spaces and a memorable atmosphere. Eventually, Leigh chose the Tropicana and planning officially began! Newly renovated and boasting spacious meeting areas and great onsite amenities, the Tropicana became the backdrop for the HSCG’s biggest event to date.
Leigh and staff member Sara arrived on site nearly a week before the event was set to start. For several months, exhibitors, sponsors and donors sent hundreds of boxes filled with goodies to an off site unit. About five days prior to the start of the event, all of these boxes were moved to the Tropicana for sorting and unpacking; thousands of pounds of merchandise, displays, etc. would be moved in the days that followed by tireless volunteers.
This year, we were fortunate to have an incredible crew. Along with the HSCG Board which included Feleciai Favroth, Charlene Simon, Julie Koenig, Beth Byrne, Tricia Hoffman, Barb DeLosSantos and Al Gerhold, we also welcomed Jana Rife, Cheryl Mitchell, Brandy McClurg, Tom Koenig, Cindy and Manny Carrasco, Cindy Christ, Kristen Prinzing, Kelly Kuhfuss, Janete Mitchell, Sharon Ray, Kathy Lynn, Tina Roberts, Donna Pixton-Hacker, Suzanne Finley and Stephanie Falsetta.
This year’s crew, along with previous years, worked like a well-oiled machine. Each moving part was efficient and most of all, welcoming. Volunteers moved and unpacked boxes, set up various attendee stations like the Merchandise Table, Raffle Table, Soaper’s Showcase and of course, Registration. Volunteers also offered support to our Speakers and tirelessly worked to make sure attendees had a great experience.
Enter Conference Mode
The very first experience that attendees have at the conference is registration. We call this an experience because we refuse to just hand over a badge and send attendees on their way!
Volunteers and HSCG Staff work together at registration to make sure each attendee has the information they need to navigate the conference. Besides a name badge that included tickets to special lunches and raffle tickets to win amazing prizes, attendees also received a Goodie Bag with branded items and the Attendee Program Book.
Once attendees were welcomed at registration, they had the option to visit the Exhibitor Hall. This year, we offered the majority of the conference meals in the Exhibitor Hall to allow attendees and exhibitors even more time to network!
An Educational Wonderland
Each year, the HSCG strives to present a diverse speaker lineup with a wide range of topics delivered by industry leading experts. This year was no exception.
The 2017 Annual Conference officially kicked off with a keynote speech by Bramble Berry CEO Anne-Marie Faiola. After an inspiring and motivational talk, attendees were able to learn how to transform their retail spaces into visually stunning masterpieces with Lori Ann Gum, before choosing from break-out sessions with Susan Barclay Nichols, Cathy McGinnis and Margaret Neff!
The next morning, Lela Barker provided great insight with her session, Battling Brand Schizophrenia, before Marie Gale, Jordan Henderson and Regina Bauscher took the stage to share great information about legal marketing, laundry soap formulation and essential oils. After the HSCG Annual Meeting, attendees could choose from one of three sessions: a beginner’s session about pet products with Melinda Wolff-Foster, how to make the most of each batch with Angela Carillo, or a session dedicated to swirling with natural colorants with Lori Chandler. To round out the day, Robert Lippman, Craig Ure and Lori Nova Endres offered valuable insight in their respective sessions about brand protection, eCommerce, and how to make money while teaching classes.
The educational steam continued into Wednesday morning, when attendees learned about saponification values with Kevin Dunn before learning the ins and outs of customer service with Charlene Simon and Leigh O’Donnell. After lunch, sessions resumed with Dieshawn Holmes, Kerri Mixon and Sharon Czekala, who spoke about starting a mobile gift boutique, making soap from ash, and creating stunning melt & pour designs. Capping off sessions were Clyde Yoshida, Amanda Gail and Kenna Cote, who spoke about color theory in soapmaking, fatty acid profiles and the secrets to being successful in a handcrafted soap business.
It is this kind of variety that means the conference is truly made for every level of handcrafted soap and cosmetic business owner; topics span formulation, legal topics and advanced methods.
Networking For Days
Aside from expert speakers and knowledgeable exhibitors, attendees also had many opportunities to network with fellow handcrafters!
During 2017’s Networking Lunch, attendees could choose to sit in one of three sections: East Coast, Mid-West or West Coast. Because attendees were not required to sit with their geographical group, this opened up a great opportunity to network with handcrafters who they would not normally see. To keep the conversation going, each table had a set of questions that the designated table captain could use to spark discussion. At the end, a winner was chosen at each table to receive a fantastic centerpiece from Rustic Escentuals!
Face to face networking is perhaps one of the most valuable benefits of the Annual Conference. This year, we were fortunate to have over 30 exhibitors
Final Thoughts, and Looking Forward
The HSCG has a very specific goal, one that surpasses a great venue and exciting in-conference moments. This goal is that each attendee leaves the conference feeling inspired to move their business forward, inspired to experiment with new formulation methods, and inspired to make their brand even more fantastic than it was when they arrived for registration. This goal is achieved through the hard work of incredible volunteers, the extensive knowledge of expert speakers and exhibitors, and the generosity of sponsors and donors.
Looking forward to 2018, the HSCG will be working very hard throughout the year to make sure Atlanta carries the same inspirations and “ah-ha!” moments that made 2017 truly spectacular!