The time has come again to welcome new and returning HSCG Board Members for another year. We’re fortunate at the HSCG to have a board filled with incredibly knowledgable soap and cosmetic makers with business and formulation experience that spans a variety of different topics.
To get you better acquainted with the board, we asked them a few questions about who they are, what their business is, what drew them to the HSCG, and what their goals are for the Guild. We also asked them to share the most valuable piece of advice they’ve ever been given, and it’s advice we can all use. So, without further ado, let’s meet your 2019-2020 HSCG Board of Directors!
Gates Councilor, HSCG President
Howdy folks! I’m T. Gates Councilor, and I’m the President of the Board of Directors for the HSCG. Honestly, it feels weird writing that; it’s such an honor that it doesn’t feel real. I’m the founder and owner of Burly Stone – we’re a small men’s grooming company, focusing on soaps made with guys in mind. I’ve taken to calling it a “microgroomery” recently. It started as a side business in April 2014, and it’s been my full-time focus since October of 2014.
The initial appeal of the HSCG for me was the sheer amount of knowledge available on the site. Once I went to my first conference (Tucson 2014), I was hooked. The Guild is a great organization, and all of the members so welcoming, that it’s become incredibly important to me.
We’re all so busy; full-time business owners, or people with full-time jobs who soap as a side hustle, or people who love to soap as a hobby. One thing none of us have enough of is time in our day. I want to work to make all of the knowledge we have as a guild as easily accessible as possible. I helped the inimitable Marie Gale with the HSCG home page redesign last year, and plan on continuing to help her work on the Guild site. Also, I have 30 years of experience as a graphic designer/3D artist, so I hope to use that experience to help not just the Guild, but all of our members, elevate their brands. I’m always eager to talk about packaging, logo design, and other ways to make your amazing products look their very best.
There are two connected pieces of advice that I value the most: “Never let ’em see you sweat” and “Fake it ’til you make it”. I’ve always suffered from imposter syndrome, so I’m always thinking I’m not good enough, or working hard enough, or doing as much as I can. But over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that it’s not just me; almost everyone feels this to one degree or another. So when I’m thinking I’m a fraud, I just put my head down and keep working through it.
On a related note, at our annual Board strategy meeting this year, I gifted each of the board members and staff with notebooks that had inspirational quotes on them. I’d like to close this with the quote that was on my own notebook, because I think it really applies: “If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better”. -Walt Disney
Barb DeLosSantos, HSCG Vice President
I am the owner of Barbs Homemade Soap and More in Adrian, Michigan, as well as Barbs Place a DIY Classroom for soap making classes and other bath and body product workshops. I’m also an HSCG Certified Teacher, and have been a member of the HSCG since 2003. I’ve served on the Board for several terms, first as a Board Member, then as Board Secretary and currently as the Vice President.
After attending the 2003 Annual Conference in St. Louis, I really felt the need to be more involved. I joined the ground crew at the 2005 Annual Conference and have worked every conference since. I’ve worn many hats over the past 15 years, as Soapers Showcase Coordinator, Certification, and now as the head of Speaker Support.
Education is the focus of the HSCG; whether in the making products, business growth and development, or legislative involvement. Being a member of the Board has helped me to do my part in bringing these tools to the membership, as well as help create and institute new programs and ideas.
The HSCG has been one of the single most important decisions I’ve made as a business owner that has helped my business succeed.
Sharon Czekala, HSCG Secretary
One of the things that happens when you’re a solo-preneur, is you can easily find yourself isolated and lacking an effective business network. This is what led me to the HSCG after several years of running The Great Lakes Soap Company. Of course, I was taking advantage of the HSCG insurance, but I had never been able to convince myself that spending a big chunk of cash on travel to the HSCG Annual Conference was a good investment. Boy, was I ever wrong!
Since that very first conference (Raleigh, NC), I have never missed a conference. And I now have an extensive network of creative professionals helping me to grow my business in ways I never imagine. This experience ultimately resulted in my becoming a conference speaker, a committee member, and now a member of the Board of Directors. I was encouraged to pursue Advanced Certifications in CP/HP, MP and Cosmetics, and am now a firm supporter of the Certification process. My goal as a Board Member is to grow and help improve this program so more members can take advantage of this important business tool.
Taking advantage of all the resources the HSCG has to offer has allowed me to grow my original business into a wholesale powerhouse in the State of Michigan. In addition, with help from members that I met through the HSCG, I opened my second company, Places, and quickly expanded to having a national base of wholesale customers. In addition, I am an Advanced Certified Teacher, offering soap and cosmetic classes at all levels. The best advice I have ever received? THINK BIG. My husband works for a large corporation, and takes a more global view of manufacturing and sales. He has always encouraged me to do the same, even when I was just in the planning stages. It’s so important to understand the massive scale of the market, and how capturing just a tiny piece of it can make you a huge success. I hope I can convey this message to my students to encourage them to achieve in a big way.
Catherine McGinnis, HSCG Treasurer
I’m Catherine McGinnis and I hold the position of Treasurer for the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild. My business is two-fold; I am a maker and a content creator. I make and distribute (both wholesale and retail) bath and body care products as The Soap Deli. I also create instructional video content online through Soaping101. I am passionate about both aspects of my business and strive to give each equal devotion.
I was drawn to the HSCG like many soap makers are when searching for insurance coverage. But the HSCG has become so much more for my business. It is an organization of camaraderie, networking, learning and tools to help my business grow. My goals as a board member are to foster new members and watch them fall in love with all the benefits and experiences that the HSCG has to offer.
The most valuable advice anyone has ever given me in regards to my business is to create what is unique to you. If you spend all of your time and attention trying to keep up with others, you have wasted an opportunity to nurture your specific niche in the market.
Julie Koenig, HSCG Board Member
Hi! I’m Julie Koenig, owner of Kreative Kraftwerks LLC and Absolute Soap located just outside Fond du Lac, WI. I began my business back in 2002 after a few years of selling wooden ornaments, tables, wall decor, etc. It wasn’t very long before I realized that the money was in consumables. I began researching candles and fell in love with soy wax. After a few years of selling candles and purchasing all my soap from other handcrafted soap vendors at the craft fairs I wondered, “Why am I not making my own soap?” It was the scary “working with lye” complex. I soon got over that and have been hooked ever since. Now, in addition to soy candles and soap, I also make lotions, sugar scrubs, perfumes and dabble in other bath and body products.
I have given up craft fairs, for the most part, and rely mostly on wholesale and private label for my main source of sales. The website still brings in some income but, I have to admit, I absolutely love and prefer the wholesale and private label aspect of my business.
I was drawn to the HSCG for the conference! I was wholesaling candles to a local soap maker and, in following her on Facebook, came to learn that she attended an HSCG conference in Minnesota. After looking that up, I knew I wanted to attend and I attended my first conference in Palm Springs, even before I started making soap. Shortly thereafter I volunteered to be on the conference crew and have been on the crew ever since!! I also previously served 6 years on the Board of Directors, having served as Treasurer and Vice President. Just this past year, I was again elected onto the Board of Directors and I am so happy to be back!!
My goals as a Board Member are to not only add new members but also retain the members that we have – be it by offering new benefits, adding to the knowledge offered in the How-To Library, or by other means. Because I started out in this industry as a candle maker, I am hoping to share that journey to inspire other candle makers to either continue in that venture or expand their product line as I did.
The most valuable advice I have received in this business is to not acquire business debt but, instead, expand only as funds allow. It has taken me much longer to be able to “pay myself” but, in the long run, I am in total control and owe no one. President Gates provided me with a personalized notebook that says, “I can and I will. Watch me.” By Carrie Green. That about sums it up!
Beth Byrne, HSCG Board Member
I am a maker, formulator, teacher, writer and editor. I have been making bath and body products since the late 90s, although I did not begin selling until several years later. My business, Soap and Garden, specializes in skincare products for gardeners. I also teach others to make bath and body products and am Managing Editor of Making Soap, Cosmetics & Candles Magazine.
When I began selling soap, I realized that I should join a professional association. I joined the HSCG and it proved to be the best choice! I have held continuous membership since 2009 and a seat on the Board of Directors for three terms. I was fortunate enough to speak at the conference, as well.
My focus as a board member is to serve the members and to continue developing the Teacher Program to make it even more useful for HSCG teachers.
Over the years, I have gotten a great deal of business advice, much of it forgettable, but some of it pivotal. Perhaps the best advice I ever took to heart was catering to a target audience rather than struggling to offer something for everyone.
At my home in New York, I spend time with my husband and family, including fourteen grandchildren. You will find me in my garden of weedin’ or wielding a paintbrush in the constant quest for home improvement.
Stephanie Falsetta, HSCG Board Member
Hello, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Stephanie Falsetta. I grew up in Queens, New York, and spent almost 20 years working in the legal department of a major international holdings company in Manhattan.
I basically fell into my business by accident. For years my mother used to buy handmade soap from a local artisan at a farmers market. When she couldn’t find it anymore, I took a couple of classes on how to make soap. I researched the best ingredients and tested and tested and tested. My mom could not get enough of my soap and became my biggest campaigner. Before long, I had my mother’s friends and their friends begging to purchase my soap.
From the very beginning, I saw the importance and value of learning from the best within the industry. So, I joined the HSCG and have attended conferences in Arizona, Indianapolis, Tampa, Atlanta, Toronto, and Dallas. At each of these I have learned so much and met many awesome people who have become great friends.
There are so many added benefits to being a member of the HSCG, like the How-To Library, and how the business insurance includes the deals of their vendor partners.
My personality is that I don’t just want to sit back and let others work; I want to join right in, and get things done and make them better. After I attended my first conference, I knew I wanted to volunteer and to help in any way possible. Now that I’m an HSCG Board Member, my goal is to work with the rest of the team to support the main office, so that it can run smoothly and continue to offer as many benefits to the members at large as possible.
I have been given a lot of really good advice from a variety of sources. A couple of things that stand out are:
- Keep trying to get better at everything you do. I constantly look for better ways to purchase my ingredients, print, and make my soap.
- Never stop learning. There are always new methods or products or ingredients that are coming out.
- Don’t worry about what other companies are doing. Once I tuned that out, I was able to focus my energy positively, into bettering my own company.
- There will be days you feel defeated. And, it’s ok to be upset for a day or two. After that, brush yourself off and learn from it.
Please help us welcome our new and returning HSCG Board Members – we look forward to sharing big ideas and benefits over the coming year!
Are you ready to become a Member of the HSCG? Learn more about membership and sign up by clicking here.
Looking for great resources to help you make products, stay compliant, and run your business? Make sure to check out the HSCG How-To Library!