What an honor it was, last December, to hear that I was selected as an alternate for the ACRE Orlando Tradeshow. Knowing I was competing against some of the best soapmakers in the country, the thought of being an alternate was as exciting as actually being selected.
Can you imagine how I felt when, with only 16 days left before the show, I found out that one of the soapmakers chosen to represent the HSMG in Orlando was unable to make the trip? WOW! What a rush, both figuratively and literally! With the busiest time of the year behind us and our end-of-year inventory extremely low, I wondered how we would get it all done. I took a deep breath and then did the first thing that came to mind; I booked two flights to Orlando and made a hotel reservation. Oh no! In all the excitement, we had completely forgotten to call our employers first to make sure we could get off work. Luckily, it all worked out.
Also on our side, was the fact that we had exhibited at our first tradeshow just a year before, but with one big difference – we were able to drive to that one. Now we had to think about shipping our products and a portable display, as well as brochures, business cards, order forms…oh, and did I mention we had very little product in our inventory? But, like everything else in life, if you put your mind to it you CAN do it! Working full-time besides our soap and candle business made it very difficult, but we spent every night and days off making soap, lotion, candles and a sampling of every other product we wanted to showcase at this event. (Thank goodness we were able to bypass the curing process of our soap since this was an order-taking event.) We also elicited the assistance of our daughter on her days off and we got it done!
I must say, this was one of the best experiences we have had since opening our business in 2002. As a team, Tom and I were forced to plan for this event with very short notice, work together even when we were exhausted (without getting on each others’ nerves), and make compromises in order to make use of what we had available (even using outdated 2010 wholesale brochures). Tip: Don’t date your brochures!! We placed an online order for a portable display and had it shipped directly to the show – seeing it for the first time when we were ready to set up. It was slightly nerve-wracking for me!
But the highlight of the entire trip was meeting Deb and Darrell from Big Fat Soap Company and Candy and Jody from Nakee’ Natural. There were a lot of emails between the three of us, but we had never met until the show. What a pleasurable experience it was. To be able to talk shop, laugh and share ideas with fellow soap makers for three consecutive days!! I think we all came away from this experience with more knowledge and, best of all, more friends. Thank you HSMG for this opportunity and for all that you do!
Tom and Julie Koenig