Marla Bosworth is the founder and owner of Back Porch Soap Company. She teaches classes, corporate events and experiences including candle making, soap making, organic skincare and perfumery.

March 08, 2011

HSMG Conference Tip 2 of 5: Even If You're Shy, Just Say Hi

This blogpost series focuses on tips for attending the annual Handcrafted Soapmaking Guild (HSMG) Conference. This year the conference is held in Miami, FL on May 18-20, 2011. As I mentioned in my first post, the first year I attended I had no idea what to expect. I've picked up little tips along the way (and some thanks to input from other attendees) that I hope you'll find helpful if you're planning to attend.

Meeting other bath and body company entrepreneurs, industry movers and shakers, and networking is one of the highlights of the conference. It's common to be shy, especially if you are attending the conference for the first time by yourself.
If you're not much of a mingler, or have never attended a business networking function to hone your networking skills, here are a few tips to get you making new friends.

First, it really can be as easy as just saying hello. Remember, you're at a soap convention. Just ask someone what kind of soap they make and where they're from - it's that easy. I always joke that one of the reasons I go to the soap conference is because I can talk soap with other people 24/7 and no one fades out or loses interest. But it's true. Everyone is there for the same reason: we love soap and want to promote and sell more of it.

"Jump through the hoop - put fear aside. It's amazing what happens after the ice is broken," says Mary Humphrey of Annie's Goat Hill (Leesburg, OH).
She admits that she was previously a very shy person until she decided to just jump into conversations.

Second, go to Twitter or Facebook to find new acquaintances prior to the conference. "Pick a few people to interact with. Look online to get a feel for someone. Introduce yourself to them," says Kristen Bowen of Kristen Bowen Studio (Hyde Park, UT). One of the easiest ways to do this is to go to the HSMG Facebook fan page, introduce yourself and ask who else is attending the conference. Go to Twitter and follow @TheSoapGuild, @BackPorchSoap, @kbstudio, and @anniesgoathill.

Third, make friends with the wonderful HSMG volunteers. They wear brightly color aprons (easy to spot), have a great sense of humor, are friendly and are pros at making introductions. Even though they are quite busy throughout the conference, they have time for a quick hello, know many of the conference attendees, and are a great resource for meeting new people.

Lastly, use breakfast, lunch and dinner as a time to just simply say hello and talk soap to fellow colleagues. Remember that this isn't a time to sell your soaps. It's a time to be open to new friendships and to potential opportunities.

What are some suggestions you'd like to share?

Check back tomorrow for How to Get Your Social Media Game on During and After the Conference.

March 07, 2011

HSMG Conference Tip 1 of 5: An Open Mind Could Lead to More Sales

This blogpost series focuses on tips for attending the annual Handcrafted Soapmaking Guild (HSMG) Conference. This year the conference is held in Miami, FL on May 18-20, 2011. The first year I attended I had no idea what to expect. I've picked up little tips along the way (and some from other attendees) that I hope you'll find helpful if you're planning to attend.

One of the most important tips for a successful conference is to keep your mind open to new opportunities and possibilities. This is an educational and networking event, so you may not get direct leads for sales at the conference. But you just never know what opportunity may present itself. Here are just a few opportunites that have happened to me:

  • Meeting new colleagues/friends in the industry who later may refer customers to you when they cannot fill their product or capacity needs.

  • Mixing and mingling with industry suppliers who may feature your company or products on their website (to lead to more exposure and orders).

  • Potential collaboration with industry colleagues whom you previously assumed were "the competition." (Like I said, keep an open mind and leave preconceived notions at home.)

  • Picking up a key piece of information from a presentation that is the perfect piece you needed for your business.

Sara Nesbitt, owner of Sara's Soaps 'n Such (Burgaw, NC) said she picked up a key piece of information at last year's conference in Denver. It was just what she needed to hear. "Attending last year's guild conference increased my sales through the use of social media. I'd mostly thought of social media more as a networking tool than a marketing/branding tool," she said.

Sara said Donna Maria Coles Johnson of Indie Beauty changed how she viewed social media. "For example, she talked about adding brief videos via YouTube to your social media life. They don't even have to be directly related to your products or business; they can be about other people's businesses, like those that are local to your community, Sara said. "I'd never thought about that. I had used YouTube to upload tutorials for fellow soapmakers, but not to market other people. My thinking changed from "Social networking" to "social media." Ironically, through "media," I've begun to "network" more, connecting to local people who I've met in real life and befriended in person."

Sara said last year's conference taught her that social media wasn't something to fear. As a result, she now uses Facebook, Twitter, blog, newsletter and has a YouTube channel. "I use these tools to help other soapmakers grow their businesses - swirl tutorials for CP, discussion forum on Facebook, pictures and ponderances on my blog," she said.

Check back tomorrow for my blogpost entitled "Even If You're Shy, Just Say Hi."

March 06, 2011

Blog Post Series: Top Five Tips for Attending the HSMG Soap Conference in Miami

It's March, and I can hardly believe the Handmade Soapmakers Guild Conference in Miami, Florida is only two months away. I've been busy working on my two presentations and demo for the conference. Held May 18-20 at the Miami Downtown Hilton hotel, this fun and inspiring conference attracts entrepreneurs for lectures, classes, workshops and networking.

This is the third year I've been asked to speak at the conference. I'll be giving a presentation on "How to Successfully Wholesale" and a demo called "Wild Child Soapmaking: Combining MP & CP Methods."

This is a six-part blog post series to share what I've learned from attending past conferences. I've been picking up tips each year and thought it would be helpful for new attendees. If you have been attending the soap conference please leave your helpful suggestions and tips in the comments and I'll share them in this series as well.

Here are my top five tips that I'll publish in detail this week:
  1. Proof That An Open Mind Could Lead to More Sales

  2. Even If You're Shy, Just Say Hi

  3. How to Get Your Social Media Game on During and After the Conference

  4. Why You Should Pack An Extra Suitcase

  5. How Not To Miss Each and Every Workshop
The keynote speaker for the 2011 Annual Conference is Barbara Corcoran, head of The Corcoran Group and real estate contributor to NBC's TODAY Show and a "shark" on the ABC reality show Shark Tank. Barbara is also a regular columnist for the New York Daily News and MORE Magazine.

There are many other fabulous speakers: Debbie May of Wholesale Supplies Plus, Kayla Fioravanti of Essential Wholesale, Marie Gale of "Soap and Cosmetic Labeling: How to Follow the Rules and Regs Explained in Plain English,", Larry Plesent of Vermont Soap, Tina Howard of Majestic Mountain Sage, world reknown aromatherapist Robert Tisserand and many more.

In addition to informative workshops, there is plenty of time to network with other business owners (one of my favorite parts of the conference). The evening sponsored dinners and entertainment are relaxing, informal and included in the conference package. Speaking of dinner, you won't go hungry at any HSMG conference. Last year I won more than $250 in raffles and giveaways - in addition to the $100 highly coveted goodie bag!

Two years ago the conference was held in Palm Springs, CA and I spoke about "Differentiating Yourself in the Highly Competitive Market of Soapmaking." Attendees learned how to increase sales by targeting niche and vertical markets. There I presented on how to develop an "eye" for demands and trends in other industries to stay ahead of the competition.

Last year at the HSMG 2010 Soap Conference in beautiful Denver, CO I presented on "New Opportunities in the Melt and Pour Soap Market." After the Palm Springs conference I didn't know how the Soap Guild could possibly top such a fantastic event, but they did.

It's not too late to join us in May. Simply visit the HSMG website and sign up. Hope to see you in Miami!
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