We have a very special series this week with two members who are soapers and upon first meeting decided to road trip to attend not one but TWO handmade conferences together! If this sounds like the recipe for a handmade buddy comedy movie (we'd see that!), well, we don't have video but we will bring you three blog posts. :)
Hey there! I am Christina Wennstrom, founder/owner of Soap Seas in Redondo Beach, CA. Soap Seas is an all natural artisanal-grade soap and bath product business that was founded in the summer of 2015. Born and raised in beautiful southern California, I’ve always been a bubbly beach girl and wanted my business to reflect my playful love with the sea.
My fellow #ahasmember and soap friend, Kristina Nanninga, is the founder/owner of AshaBée Bathworks in Oceanside, CA. Kristina founded AshaBée Bathworks in the fall of 2014 after retiring from the Navy as a Chief Hospital Corpsman and moving to Twentynine Palms, CA for her husband's military Career in the United States Marine Corps. In the beginning, soap making was just a form of therapy for her PTSD and anxiety, but today it continues to be that and more. She is inspired by military life, quality handcrafted soaps in small communities, as well as quality skin care products for deployed service members.
Being a "solopreneurs" in the maker field, there are huge responsibilities that seem impossible to take a break away from. Both Kristina and I are one-woman operations. Yes, we may occasionally get help from our husbands or friends (at times, I've even put my parents to work!) but at the end of the day the major responsibilities are solely ours.
You know what brings us balance and growth? Being involved, taking risks, joining a group, creating new experiences. We thrive on connecting with others and learning from them.
As soap makers living in Southern California, we first met at the AHAS + Dear Handmade Life craft fair workshop at the Makery in Anaheim last year and hit it off instantly. Dear Handmade Life co-founder Nicole Stevenson told us all about the Craftcation Conference coming up in Ventura, CA. Kristina and I were both instantly interested!
Being soap makers, we also both knew about a huge soap conference coming up in Las Vegas for the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild (HSCG), and wouldn't you know it, the two conferences were being held back to back and in driving distance of where we both lived! Our minds started racing-- intrigued and curious. So many buzzing questions were floating in our heads! Can we afford it? Are we crazy? We just met, would we get along?
After careful consideration, we couldn’t walk away from this once in a lifetime opportunity! We both knew we were doing something bigger than just us, bigger than our own businesses; we were embarking on the biggest maker trip in our trade.
This road trip would also serve as self care that up until that moment we weren't making the time for. At the time, Kristina was in the middle of moving from 29 Palms to Oceanside and I was neck deep in all my holiday shows. We both decided we were going to move forward in the midst of our busy businesses and make the trip happen. There were too many incredible experiences awaiting us that we could not pass up; the educational courses that were being offered (um hello, Lela Barker?! Yes, please!), the crafty courses and fun workshops (I learned how to sew for the 1st time in my life), the incredible icons that were attending Craftcation (eek! Amy Tangerine, Robert Mahar, Sarah Deragon, Sienne Josselin).
Similarly, there were so many icons attending HSCG Conference (Anne-Marie Faiola, Cathy McGinnis, Benjamin and Amanda Aaron, Lela Barker again! YAY) and the maker friends we would be seeing for the first time under one roof (not just on social media), and everything in between (fun perks, discounts, giveaways, prizes). There were no excuses to not go, all arrows were pointing towards this road trip!
The preparation and planning for this trip alone was tough, but we were strategic and made it manageable. Remember, we still had our businesses to maintain, but with the help of great communication, a lovely app called Trello (thanks Kristina!), weekly check ins, and pure excitement fueling our new adventure...we were ready! We both were impressed with ourselves that we took that leap for this great adventure, and I'm so glad we did.
We knew a lot of makers wouldn't be able to attend either of the conferences and we wanted to include the maker community in our new adventure, so we created the hashtag #soapfriendsroadtrip2017 to document our journey and make it easier for others to find us and connect. It’s important for us to stay connected to our story and intention; this was our way of expressing our joys in being a maker and the life that comes with it.
Coming into the trip, I didn't have any expectations besides having fun. Both conferences did have two vastly different vibes: Craftcation was more free-spirited and high energy and HSCG was more strategic and class-oriented. The diversity between the two conferences made for a well-rounded experience. There were so many golden nuggets of information and knowledge that we acquired from both conferences that I plan to attend each of them every year.
Through this trip, I now have new friends for life and a support system which makes this maker biz a little less lonely (especially on those high stress days trying to meet deadlines!), and isn't that what we all want?
Make sure you stick around to read more about each conference this week!
If you are interested in the Craftcation conference hosted by Dear Handmade Life check them out at dearhandmadelife.com
For the soap makers who want details about the HSCG Conference (next year will be in Atlanta!) you can find more information at: soapguild.org
You can find Christina Wennstrom on her website: soapseas.com, and on social media @soapseas