Quick Tips: How to Make it Big

The handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry is one talented bunch and the collective wisdom from the scores of intrepid entrepreneurs and budding business owners is truly astounding. However, it’s easy to miss out on that business savvy when you’re just getting started and aren’t part of any industry groups, pages, or forums. And that’s where the Guild comes in. We wouldn’t be fulfilling our mission if we didn’t try to connect you, our readers (members or not!) with some of the savvy we witness in the industry. Today, we bring you a simple sliver of advice on the (often completely frightening and icky-feeling) topic of selling, generously shared by HSCG Board of Directors member Benjamin Aaron, co-founder of non-profit Lovin’ Soap Project and co-owner of Prairie Soap Company, LLC, in Lees Summit, Missouri.


When you get the chance to get in front of a customer (or even via email / phone), you HAVE to make a proposal. Whether it is wholesale, retail or farmer’s markets…You have to make a proposal. You have to ask for a sale. For whatever reason, society tells us to play it a bit safe rather than to go all in with every customer, every opportunity. And even further, us makers will give the excuse that since we are the creative type we aren’t good at selling or whatever…hogwash.
Be willing to go for it with every customer, every time. All in. Put food on your table by actively engaging with your customers. I can’t tell you how many times I get nos, but I will reload my chips and play again.

Buying Hats

The more you commit, the higher your level of your own delivery and abilities naturally becomes…I really believe that. If other folks are making it successfully in our industry, so can you. But if someone else wants it more than you, than you will resolve yourself to working really hard for very little return.

Hope everyone is doing well and that business is good. Keep expanding your efforts and you will see the benefits. It’s super simple, but you gotta ask. Take MASSIVE action towards what you want and you’ll get it cuz what you want wants you back…real bad.

Your turn – have you put yourself on the line by asking for the sale? Got any tips to make it easier?

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For Your Viewing Pleasure

What happened in Tucson this May is now on film. If you’re wondering what the heck these Guild conferences are all about and why you would consider going to one, check out the video created by Monster Productions videographer extraordinaire, Adam Grogin. This video spotlights this year’s 17th annual Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild conference, held at the Loews Ventana Canyon resort in Tucson, Arizona. Once you see it, we think you’ll want to skedaddle on over to the registration page and secure your spot at the 2015 conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, being held April 18-20 at the Westin Downtown Hotel (and if you’ve booked that, it’s never too early to secure your spot at the hotel). If you need a bit more convincing, check out conference videos from years past right here.

Are you in the video? Give us a shout out, you superstars!

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2014 Conference Recap: Day 3

Miss out on this year’s Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild conference? Aside from sharing social media coverage and announcing winners, more winners, news, news, and more news, we’ve given you an ever so brief glimpse of what happened before the conference and over the first two days. Today, we’re wrapping up conference coverage with a peek at the final day of festivities in Tucson.

silly david

One last time, we gathered outside, poolside, to nosh on breakfast goodies while checking out the local birds scoping out their morning gruel. Voting over, Soapers’ Showcase packed up and prepared a massive soap and toiletry donation for local shelter Sr. Jose Women’s Shelter, in Tucson, which provides services to homeless women, including showers, laundry facilities, meals, clothing and personal toiletries. What a thrill to see box upon box of gorgeous soaps, shampoos, and lotions waiting to be packed up and sent off to a much-needed purpose. Of course, knowing soapmakers, we had to get one last sniff in before the boxes were taped up.

jjamie bentley

Stephenson Personal Care CEO Jamie Bentley shook the sleep out of our eyes with a knockout presentation on Why Being a Social Soapmaker is Important, sharing Stephenson’s journey to being a social soap supplier, lessons they’ve learned along the way, rules of engagement online, and just how having a social strategy can support your long term strategies.

After a quick break to snag hot coffee and tea, chat up vendors, and check winning raffle prize numbers, attendees chose between two sessions. Trademark attorney Dave Purdue presented Trademarks and Branding: Make your Mark, in which he covered the all-important trademark. Dave showed why establishing a trademark is crucial to building a brand, just how to do it, and presented case studies of branding campaigns.

Meanwhile, Shea Radiance CEO Funlayo Alabi taught attendees all about Making Sustainability a Key Part of Your Brand Story. Funlayo shared how Shea Radiance fostered long-term customer loyalty through sharing their ingredient stories and why educating your customer on the story behind the story is important to ensuring your company’s success.


After a jam-packed morning, attendees had a break for lunch before heading into the final breakout sessions of the day, repeating a series of three classes twice for attendees.

Soapmaking maven Kerri Mixon, owner of Pallas Athene, A+ Soapmaking Studio, and more, was back to teach Comprehensive Color and Scent for Soap and Cosmetics, an exhaustive look at what colors and scents are and how to use them, including neat tips to disperse colors in water and how to construct a stovetop still for distilling hydrosols and essential oils.

char exfoliants

Bathhouse Soapery owner and exfoliation buff Charlene Simon was also back, this time showing off Exfoliants in Soap. Aside from demonstrating a multi-layer, multi-exfoliant soap, Charlene shared considerations when using exfoliants, tips and tricks to get the right scrub – and the right look. Attendees had a chance to assemble their own soap exfoliant variety pack, with soap samples that included exfoliants ranging from adzuki bean powder to quinoa.

Bath Alchemy Lab CEO Erica Pence had attendees dreaming up everything from mountain streams to galaxies in her session, Create Amazing Scenery in your Soaps. Designed for both cold process and melt and pour, Erica addressed not only how to translate designs into soap, and step by step instructions for a number of scenery soaps, but how to make them efficiently and profitably.


In between sessions, we had one last chance to redeem raffle tickets, stock up on HSCG merchandise, and visit vendors. After the last session, we took a quick break before reconvening out on the Kiva Ballroom Patio for cocktails, mocktails, and one last round of networking before being whisked off the Annual Awards Dinner. Over dinner, longevity awards were given, certified soapmakers announced, Soapers’ Showcase and social media winners revealed, President’s volunteer of the year declared, and other prizes given. Conference videographer and photographer Adam Grogin had us all in stitches throughout dinner, courtesy of his candid shots, videos, and outtakes from the Learning Library filming sessions. Throughout dinner, attendees guessed at the location of the 2016 Annual Conference – revealed to be taking place in Tampa, Florida at the Saddlebrook Resort.

This year’s conference may be over, but we can’t wait to see you at the 2015 conference in Indianapolis (and don’t wait to register, we will sell out!)

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2014 Conference Recap: Day 2

This week continues our summary of what happened during the 17th annual Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild conference, held this year at the Loews Ventana Canyon in Tucson, Arizona. Catch recaps of day 0 here and day 1 here. Today, we cover Day 2 of the conference.

soapconf14 random cacti

A full day of conference demands a hearty breakfast, so that’s exactly where we started Wednesday morning, with another buffet out on the pool terrace. During breakfast, intrepid soapers had another chance to take certification exams (and over 50 of them did!) and newly certified soapmakers had a chance to have their picture taken. Meanwhile, furious rounds of sniffing and serious evaluating was taking place at the Soapers’ Showcase, sponsored by long time supporter Shay & Company.


Soap whisperer, Scientific Soapmaking author and Elliot Professor of Chemistry Kevin Dunn kicked off the morning with a riveting presentation of his investigation into Protein in Handcrafted Soap, enlightening all of us as to the reactions of goat milk and silks with lye during the manufacture of soap. Finally, inquiring minds have a goat milk saponification value!

After a break with hot coffee and tea, attendees chose between two Nova Studio teacher sessions. For those not lucky enough to make the half-day seminar, Joan McCoy presented a jam-packed, concentrated version of Packaging Your Bath and Body Products, leaving everyone armed to make one of the most important choices in their businesses. The Nova Studio founder and co-owner Lori Nova taught Making Natural Perfume & Cologne 101, elucidating the fundamentals of essential oil blending as well both oil and alcohol-based perfume/colognes.

annual mtg2

Lunch time provided an opportunity for the Guild to hold an Annual Meeting for all members in attendance (and open to all members able to make it, regardless of attendance at the rest of the conference). The annual meeting was action-packed, covering elections for expiring Board of Director terms and voting on bylaw amendments. President Feleciai Favroth reviewed the launch of the beauty box program, teacher enews, Member of the Year, our new eCommerce solution partnership, as well as plans for the learning library and the Guild website. Executive Director Leigh O’Donnell covered changes in the organization, including our growth, the transition from a volunteer to employee work force, insurance price decreases, and an update on the current US legislative landscape. We capped off lunch with a presentation from Amanda Griffin and Benjamin Aaron on the Lovin’ Soap Project.

We followed that whirlwind lunch with an assortment of popcorn and other snacks along with a quick chance to visit vendors prior to launching into our final breakout sessions of the day, repeating a series of three classes twice for attendees.

kerri session

Multi-company founder and 16th generation soapmaker Kerri Mixon taught attendees how to make any soap naturally transparent using simple materials in Making Transparent Cold/Hot Process Soap as well as some of the all-important benefits of doing so.

In Testing Natural Colors in Your Cold Process Soap, Nova Studio teacher and co-owner Ruth Esteves shared her techniques for testing all types of natural colorants. Attendees walked away learning how to get the color from jar to bar successfully.

jackie LS sign

Liquid Soapmaking author Jackie Thompson continues to blaze new soapmaking trails, showing attendees both how to make thick soap gels and jellies without thickeners and taking the fear out of accurately neutralizing liquid soap in her Advanced Liquid Soapmaking sessions.


Finally, there was time for a quick dinner break before a pool party networking session generously sponsored by Essential Depot. We gnoshed on hearty appetizers and desserts while relaxing under the stars and catching up with new friends, before heading off to get a little rest before the final day of festivities!

We’ve nearly covered our conference adventures – stay tuned for a recap of #soapconf14 day 3 (and if you missed out this year, 2015 registration is open now)

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2014 Conference Recap: Day 1

Today, we continue our summary of the 2014 Annual Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Conference, held May 20-22 at the Loews Ventana Canyon in Tucson, Arizona. Tuesday marked the official start of the 2014 Annual Conference in Tucson, Arizona. We welcomed last minute and late night travelers at an early morning registration and served breakfast for everybody out on the terrace near the pool.

leigh orientation

After a welcome and orientation by Executive Director Leigh O’Donnell and President Feleciai Favorth, Prof. Dr. Vijai K.S. Shukla took the stage and delivered a spirited opening keynote on Nature’s Gift to Soap and Cosmetics. He covered an immense breadth of material, from naturally occurring oils found around the globe to oils with amazing potential that are currently unutilized to beneficial oils to eat to why the heck butters go grainy and how to keep free fatty acids and phenols down in fats.

Heads spinning, we headed into our first break. Coffee and tea recharged our brains and attendees cut loose to check out vendors, enter soaps into the Soapers’ Showcase, and enter the raffle.

rustic escentuals

We reconvened in the ballroom, where Lucky Break President Lela Barker taught Decoding the Mystery: A Practical Guide to Product Pricing and shared all her tips and tricks to calculating true costs, which attendees blogged about here. Who knew pricing could be so much fun to learn about?

Doing all that math worked up an appetite, which we sated with a networking lunch. Attendees had a chance to meet up with other soap and cosmetic makers living in their region – and sometimes just down the street.

The Guild presented a little surprise and a coupon book post lunch and then it was back to class sessions. Author and long-time Guild supporter Marie Gale and Bathhouse Soapery maven Charlene Simon offered attendees a choice of sessions, with Marie teaching her ever-popular primer on Getting Started With Your Record-Keeping and GMP and Charlene offering up her business wisdom and how to emotionally connect with customers in From Gel Phase to Sell Phase.

charlene speaker Collage-small

Another break, with snacks, ensued, along with another chance to mingle with vendors, staff, and each other. The afternoon kicked off breakout sessions – 3 different speakers gave classes twice, giving attendees a chance to pick two topics (and possibly mourn not being able to hear the third).

Lotion Bar Café owner Holly Port presented Mastering the Bath Bomb, in which she wowed the crowd with live demonstrations of her recipe for perfect bath fizzies. Aside from sharing her technique and recipes, she also explained ingredient variations, sourcing, and how to scale up production efficiently with or without machinery.

christy rose session

In teaching Nailing New Trends: An Intro to Handmade Nail Polish, KBShimmer Bath and Body owner Christina Rose brought our first ever nail polish session to the Guild, elucidating all of us on the history, potential, key terms, and formulation challenges of nail polish. Attendees blogged about this session here.

Back Porch Soap Company CEO Marla Bosworth gave oodles of tips for formulating sugar, salt, and emulsified scrubs as well as the perfect body butter in Formulating Fantastic Body Scrubs & Whipped Butters, as blogged here.

After a whirlwind first day of sessions wrapped up, attendees had just enough time to grab a quick dinner before heading to a karaoke party generously sponsored by Veracity Insurance Solutions. A cash bar provided lubrication and copious amounts of sugar from the desserts (there was fruit, but we’re not sure any of it escaped a dip in molten chocolate) fueled feats of daring on the microphone. In addition to awarding the best singers of the night with cash awards for most outlandish, best duo, best solo, most creative and more, Veracity raffled off a year’s worth of insurance!!

Stay tuned for recaps of #soapconf14 days 2 and 3 (and if you missed out this year, 2015 registration is open now)

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2014 Conference Recap: Day 0 (Pre-Conference)

Were you at #soapconf14? Wanted to go but didn’t snag a ticket in time? The industry has done a great job of capturing what happened, but if you’ve missed any of their posts, we’ll be recapping each day’s activities right here. Today, we cover Day 0, also known as “technically the day before the conference officially starts”.


Why Day 0, you ask? Well, Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild conferences have added a unique twist in the past few years. Each year, we arrange several different intensive, partial-day sessions for conference attendees who want an in-depth look at topics. These intensive seminars are generally capped at 30 attendees, run for 6 hours, and include lunch. These optional sessions carry an additional cost and are a great way to take a class, particularly for conference attendees who don’t normally have access to teachers locally.

This year, our Day 0 kicked off with the 4 seminar sessions: Taking Your Empire to the Next Level: Sales Reps + Trade Shows, Cold Process Soapmaking Intensive Class, Scaling Production & Masterbatching, and Packaging Your Bath & Body Products.


Lucky Break President Lela Barker taught Taking Your Empire to the Next Level: Sales Reps + Trade Shows, a killer business class covering the fundamentals of finding and using sales reps and all of the ins and outs of trade shows, including how to decide if you’re ready for one, what to pack, how to design a compelling booth, and all the other tips that build street cred for your brand. (Additional blog coverage on this session here.)

Soaping101.com owner Catherine McGinnis taught a hands on Cold Process Soapmaking Intensive Class. Aside from making their own batches of soap, attendees learned about the history and chemistry of soapmaking, how to select various ingredients and tools, ingredient safety, design fundamentals, how to store and cure soap, and all the basics in preparation for the basic cold process certification test.

cp101 students

Modern Soapmaking founder Kenna Cote shared all her tips for growth in Scaling Production & Masterbatching. Attendees learned various methods to scale production, the challenges and frustrations possible when doing so, and tips to maintain their sanity and their bank accounts while taking their business to new heights.


The Nova Studio teacher Joan McCoy brought her wildly popular Packaging Your Bath & Body Products class to the conference, sharing packaging considerations and tips for massage oils, herbs, tub teas, body scrubs, bath bombs, bath salts, lotions, creams, body butters, MP/CP/HP soaps, and perfumes of all stripes. Attendees not only learned market trends in how to wrap it all up, store it, and ship it, but left with loads of reference materials to help pick the right containers, closures, and suppliers.

In between seminars, our teachers and other experts whipped up batches of bath bombs, soap, and more to film the first educational films that will stock our upcoming learning library.


Later in the day, we opened general registration and held a first round of certification exams. After the last certification exams were handed in, all 5 HSCG Board of Director candidates introduced themselves and their passions and mingled with the crowd at an informal opening reception held just outside the check-in area.

Conference staff and current Board of Directors were also on-hand to welcome conference attendees and chat all things soap, cosmetic, business, and HSCG-related. We gnoshed on appetizers (you could call them appetizers, but I called them dinner), dessert, and drinks, while relaxing under the high desert evening sky and recuperating from long car rides and cramped airplane seats. This opening reception is quickly becoming a Guild favorite event and we look forward to continuing the tradition for future conferences!

Stay tuned for summaries of the remainder of conference (and don’t forget, registration for the 2015 Conference in Indianapolis is open now).

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Long Time Coming

Another year, another batch of members to celebrate. You know we like our awards and in this organization, we recognize members with longevity awards. Longevity awards are a bit like winning Survivor, only without the nasty infighting, bug eating, and general lack of hygiene. We award them to any member who’s been with us for five years or more. You’ll notice many members who attain longevity awards also join us at Annual Conferences as speakers or work with us throughout the year as staff, volunteers and board members. It’s a testament to a member’s success to have them with us for so long and we, in turn, feel lucky to have such a dedicated member base.

okay, so maybe not that kind of longevity
Here are the Longevity Awards we celebrated at this year’s Annual Conference:

5 years
Stephanie Docktor
Ruth Esteves
Jennifer Grimes
Jessie Hoffmeier
Jedwards International
Teri Kalgren
Julie Koenig
Patricia Monk
Veracity Insurance Solutions
Pamela Zeirott

6 years
Angelene Bonner
Laurie Clark
Deanna Crowe
Barbara Downey
Pamela Ernst
Feleciai Favroth
Cindy Heinemann
Kimberly McCarty
Donna Pixton-Hacker
Lynn Rodenroth

7 years
Gaily Baughman
Marcia Cunningham
David Fischer
Nina Gerhold
Barb DeLosSantos

8 years
Lori Nova Endres
Donna Johanson
Art Marko
Sheryl Matranga

9 years
Sharon Czekala
Kevin Dunn

10 years
Leigh O’Donnell

11 years
Cindy Christ
Mary Fountaine
Wanda Gillen
Bernadette Mayo
Kerri Mixon
JoAnne Somers

12 years
Margaret Neff
Shay and Company
Jackie Thompson
Sister Cathleen Timberlake

14 years
Val Marhefka

15 years
Marie Gale
Lebermuth Company

And the list grows longer every year…we can’t wait until it gets unmanageably long. Hats off to our longevity award winners (psst, if you’re wondering what the fuss is about, check us out right here).

Members are the reason the Guild exists, so cheers to you!

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Round ‘em up, Social Media Pardners!

Did you attend this year’s HSCG conference in Tucson? You may have caught some of the media coverage (including a live spot on KOLD and coverage in the Arizona Daily Star), but, as usual, attendees were hard at work sharing live updates from conference.

There’s no substitute for being at a conference, but get a feel for some of the content and see the experience through attendee (and volunteer) eyes, with posts from the folks behind Tiki Bar Soap, Baby Duck Soap Company, Nature’s Garden (post 2), The Nova Studio, Avital’s Apiaries (post 2), Adventures in La-La Land (post 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), Burly Stone Soap Company, Horsing Around Soap, SoapArt (post 2), Stephenson, and Empire Rose Soap Company.

Status updates were numerous, and punny. Highlighted here are just a few of the social media postings that came pouring in before, during, and after the conference:

Our best post winner, Denisse Canez, chimed in with:

And best picture winner Kristen Prinzing of Lotion Lady had this to say:

Getting so many new ideas here at the The Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild conference! Can’t wait to get home and start working on new products. Bath Bombs, liquid soap, natural perfumes, on and on. #soapconf14

bestpost photo 2014 - lotion lady

In addition to the #soapconf14 hash tag, something new we added to the mix this year was a tagboard to track posts across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Peruse the tagboard here and keep clicking load more to live vicariously through attendees’ postings!

Pssst, if you’re planning on joining us for #soapconf15 in Indianapolis next April, the lowest registration rates expire at the end of the month (in, oh, say 5 days or so).

What was your favorite post? What did we miss and how do you plan to follow the action next year?


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Getting Busy…Certified

It’s true. Members were getting busy at this year’s annual conference in Tucson, Arizona….obtaining certifications, of course (what were you thinking, eh hem??). This year, 53 soapers achieved 58 soapmaking certifications ranging from Basic Melt & Pour to Advanced Cold Process/Hot Process.


Without further ado, our latest and greatest certified soapmakers are:

Basic Cold Process/Hot Process Soapmakers 
Alicia Villacorta Jessica Eveleigh
Amy Bryce Jodi Chen
April Cardona John S. Ykinionty
Audra Weisenberger Joyce Smith
Brenda Kasztelan Karen Harvey
Christina Wheeler Kiyoko Puyaoan
Cynthia Carrasco Kirsten Nagashima
Debbie Deupree Kristina Nanninga
Deborah Bruijn Leanne Laboy
Denise Jackson-Gunter Marilyn Plummer
Ester Bautro Omitade Adediran
Francis Cullen Patricia Monk
Gates Councilor Philip Olive
Heather Folks-Lambart Priscilla Dufilho
Heidi Warren Raymond Martin
Heidi Jaynes Regina Bauscher
Holly Mackley Sam Swerdlen
Jane Leebeck Sherry Matranga
Janet Tietz Sue Robertson
Janet Vallego Susanne Gamble
Jeanette Marquis Theresa Novoa
Jennifer Chaloux Vivian Salas
Jennifer Katehos Yvonne Bernard
Basic Melt & Pour Soapmakers  Advanced Cold Process/Hot Process Soapmakers
Maria Rios Heidi Jaynes
Holley Mackley Ester Bautro
Janet Vallego Karen Harvey
Heidi Warren Jennifer Hofmann
Starla Ledbetter
Tricia Samundsen
Deborah Bruijn
Reginia Bauscher

Of course, members aren’t restricted to taking certification exams at an annual conference (log in for information on proctored exams), but it’s a darn convenient place to take them, as long as you didn’t karaoke too much the night prior to the exam or overwhelm your brain from the first full day of conference activities (always a danger). The two testing slots offered this year kept our Certification Chair Barb De Los Santos and her judging committee busily grading exams and soaps.

Members, we’ll let you know once your certification information is available online. Also look forward to your pictures soon, for those of you who took them.

We will offer certification testing slots again next year in Indianapolis at the 2015 Annual Conference (pssst, don’t forget, you have until the end of the month – a scant 12 or so days – to score the lowest registration rates), so if you were pondering it at this past conference, sign up now!

Congratulations again to all of our newly certified soapmakers. You guys rock!

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Soapers’ Showcase Winners

Drumroll, please….it’s time to announce the 2014 Annual Conference Soapers’ Showcase Winners.

soaper showcase table

If you were with us in Tucson at this year’s conference, you had a chance to ogle all the entries in person, along with boxes and boxes of soaps and personal care products donated by many, many generous conference attendees for donation to local non-profit Sister Jose Women’s Shelter.

Categories for competition this year included Best Scent in both melt and pour and cold/hot process soaps, Best Appearance in both melt and pour and  cold/hot process soaps, Best Packaging, the always intriguing free-for-all category of “Something Different”, and Best In Show.


Beyond the usual fierce competition for each of the seven categories, soapers continue to defy categorization, creating their own transparent bases, mixing cold process with melt and pour, and mixing cold, hot and rebatch techniques to spectacular ends. Needless to say, our judges (aka attendees) had a tough job ahead of them.

The winners, as determined by attendee vote and announced at the 2014 Annual Awards Dinner were:

JoAnne Somers from Dirty Face Soap Company for Best Scent in Melt and Pour


Dawn Cabral-Quimby from Horsin’ Around Soap for Best Scent in Cold/Hot Process


Shonna Mangeris from The Soap Shop for Best Appearance in Melt and Pour


Emily Shieh from Shieh Design Studio for Best Appearance in Cold/Hot Process


Janey Davies from Scrubology Soap for Best Packaging


Chris Port from Lotion Bar Cafe for Something Different


Jennifer Chaloux from Three Crows Soap and Bodyworks for Best In Show


Congratulations to JoAnne, Dawn, Shonna, Emily, Janey, Chris, and Jennifer for sharing your spectacular winning specimens with us! Thank you to everybody who entered for making this, as usual, an impossible decision and thank you to entrants and attendees for donating loads and loads and loads of soap for Sr. Jose’s. We can’t wait to see what you cook up for #soapconf15 in Indianapolis!

Did you have a favorite soap this year? New categories you wish we’d create? Feel free to sound off here!


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