Today is the final part of 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. :) (read part 1 here, part 2 here)
Hello again! 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. I am born and raised here in beautiful sunny Southern California and I have always been a bubbly beach girl. I wanted my business to portray my playful love I have with the sea. Each of my soap a bath products are lovingly handcrafted in little batches to preserve and showcase the integrity of the high quality ingredients that I choose.
My fellow #ahasmember and soap friend, Kristina Nanninga, is the founder/owner of AshaBée Bathworks in Oceanside, CA. Kristina 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, today it continues to be that and more. She is inspired by the military life, the availability of quality handcrafted soaps in small communities as well as quality skin care products for deployed service members.
We both traveled together on our maker road trip of a lifetime that started in Ventura, CA for Dear Handmade Life's Craftcation Conference. That conference lasted from April 26-April 30, 2017. You can read about our experience at Craftcation here.
Once that conference ended, we hit the road and headed to Las Vegas, NV to attend the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild's (HSCG) Annual Conference from April 30-May 3, 2017. Kristina has been a soap guild member for years, and I will be a new member this year. I have always wanted to attend the soap guild conference in the past few years but I really wanted to make sure I had established contacts and enough connections before I went. The Soap Guild is big business and they are serious soapers.
Just the list alone of all the educators, soap stars, soap icons, soap certification courses, and companies that are involved in the conference would make any soaper whether amateur, professional, or even an expert feel a little extra pressure to make sure you mean business.
Each year the Soap Guild hosts the Annual Conference in a different city, and lucky us, this year's choice was the closest location to Southern California. We both knew that we needed to take advantage of the location being offered this year since it was so close to where we lived (last year it was in Florida) so we signed up and bought our early bird tickets asap!
We had just come from such a fun loving, free spirited, easy going vacation-like experience in Ventura, CA that once we arrived in Vegas at the Tropicana Hotel we were still a little buzzed from all the enjoyment that was had. Our car was packed to the brim from all the Craftcation momentos, crafts we made, art we painted, postcard pics, jazzy pins, and cute gifts that were exchanged between our maker friends. Once we arrived in Vegas we both left all those charming trinkets behind in the car and walked inside the hotel ready for our next adventure. It's Vegas Baby, yeah!
Right off the bat, this conference is a whole different vibe than the one we just came from. The HSCG Conference is strategic, serious and focused. Everyone there is in a great mood, eager to meet new people and totally receptive to having a good time, but there is just more of a deliberate agenda on people's brains. You can sense it when you walk through the vast rows of booths lining the huge conference hall (it fits over 500 people!).
There were vendors from all over the country marketing, selling, discounting and teaching all kinds of soap gold to the masses. The soap world is intense. Everyone wants the best recipe, the best molds, the best ingredients, and the best everything for their soap business: and this was the one chance all year that you get to be exposed to all that glorious goodness under one roof for four days! You can't help but get into the zone once you get there.
My schedule was absolutely filled up from 7AM-6PM every single day of the HSCG Conference. I took every class, participated in every seminar, listened to every keynote speaker, wrote notebooks full of lessons, and just powered through it all. You realize when you are there that there is no time to waste and having all these amazing talented soap teachers (Catherine McGinnis, Susan Barclay), moguls (Lela Barker), idols (Benjamin & Amanda Aaron, Kenna Cote, Clyde Yoshida), experts (Charlene Simone), scientists (Kevin Dunn) and CEO's (Anne-Marie Faiola) present is a huge gift. They hold that secret key of knowledge that you want to apply towards your business--Kristina and I were game. We didn't even get to sit down and eat a meal the entire day until 8pm the first night we were there-- that is how focused we were!
Being at the HSCG Conference kinda felt like we were back in college or high school because once the last class ended (around 6PM) we were on the loose and ready to play! I mean we were in Vegas, so we had to let off some steam. Kristina hung out with Lela Barker and her Lucky Break alumni one evening and I was able to connect with some soap friends (Naiad Soap Arts, Scentsational Soaps) I hadn't seen in awhile and was able to have a nice dinner out of the Hotel. It was really cool to catch up and hear about all the great things that have been happening to each other.
I made new soap friends too (The Nova Studio, Jupiter Mermaid, Cee Cee & Bee, Paw Paw Soap Chef, My Magical Star) and am really happy that I got to meet some people in the soap world that I've always admired. I even ran into my own soap teacher along with a soap classmate of mine from years ago, it was a great reunion! Kristina and I of course checked out the Vegas strip to do a little sightseeing. It must have been the twinkle of the Vegas lights, but something about the magic that was happening there gave us a glow full of soap maker pride that I will always carry with me.
The last night of the HSCG Conference was an awards dinner held in the main banquet hall. This is where all the awards and soap certifications were given out along with all the insanely amazing prizes from all the raffles that were played. They also gave out fully paid trips to the next year's conference and free membership to the soap guild to one lucky winner. We also got to sit back and watch a video recap from the past four days that just sweetened my soap maker's soul.
Seeing all the soapers coming from all walks of life and enjoying each other was so cool. Sharing this common thread of love for soapmaking, but still supporting one another and learning from one another enriched my entrepreneurial spirit.
Most of you know I had a bad experience when I first launched my own business with another soaper in my community, and it just put a damper on how I viewed other people in my trade. I was way more cautious and careful and it just didn't sit well with me for a bit. But attending this conference was proof that people in the same trade that have good intentions can benefit from each other and grow in bigger ways than you can imagine. We stick up for each other, we guide each other, and we drive each other to the next step.
I will definitely attend next year's conference (it will be in Atlanta, GA) and it will be a treat being a new member of the guild. Most of us all are doing this by ourselves and all share that same goal--to succeed and grow in our business. At this conference you absolutely are one giant step closer to attaining that vision no doubt. If you are a soap maker I strongly suggest you attend this conference! Reach out if you have any concerns or questions, I'd love to chit chat soap with you.
This was such a euphoric entrepreneurial experience filled with the freedoms to explore, express, and entertain our maker minds and souls! My takeaway from this journey as a whole was to give myself a chance to open up to unknown possibilities.
I am more connected to myself, my business, my mission, and my truth. And with the help of super planning, friendships, support and guidance--we successfully made it happen! I am stronger and more confident in all that I do. I am truly so proud that I participated in this journey, it was an ultimate gift to myself.
Thank you for coming along for the ride, it's been a trip! :)
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