Since I started making soap, I’ve met a few soap makers at classes and farmer’s markets, and connected to many more through YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. But none of those online meetings beat the rush of mingling with 500 soap and cosmetic makers in person at the 2016 Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild conference in Tampa, Florida. It was a place where everyone I met was excited to talk in depth about every aspect of making and selling soap and cosmetics.
The makers were as varied as their products. They came from nearly every state and places like St. Lucia, Aruba, and Hong Kong. Some focused on high production wholesale accounts, and many more had been able to become regular vendors at local farmer’s markets. Others, like myself, produce limited runs of artisan soaps. I learned about specialty soap businesses that only produced shaving soaps or soaps made with the olives pressed from their own olive trees. I liked the mission of Abbott Natural Soaps. The information they supply with their soaps help educate customers about the insects that pollinate the trees and plants used for soaping oils and soaping additives such as avocado or pumpkin.
- Making soap in a conference room with 30 other people. It’s hard to focus on making a soap recipe when you want to visit with the soap maker standing at your side!
- Delving into the chemistry of soap making with Professor Kevin Dunn, the Neil deGrasse Tyson of soap making. He explained how to use the characterists of different soaping oils and glycerine separation (normally an unwanted but harmless flaw) as design elements.
- Hearing the inspirational stories of women who started out with nothing and leveraged opportunities, innate smarts, and hard work into very lucrative businesses.