Women In The Industry
Connect At “The Mingle”


Have you ever attended an event and thought it was so good it was something you’d like to replicate and expand upon?

That’s how Shelley Hill, co-owner of The Complete Combatant, created “The Mingle.” Over the past eight years, she has turned it into a bigger, better event than the original.

What Is “The Mingle?”

The Mingle is a two-day, invite-only event for women in the firearms industry to build relationships in support of businesses, network and collaborate to expand connections and explore personal growth in business, self-defense, 2A activism and more. Throughout the event, there are guest speakers and instructors, live-fire and presentation training blocks, door prizes and, of course, mingling.

The Mingle’s full name is The Mingle: Openness to Experience. 

This concept is explained in The Mingle’s mission statement: “The personality trait that best reflects the lay concept of open-mindedness is called ‘openness to experience,’ or simply ‘openness.’ Open people tend to be intellectually curious, creative and imaginative. Being open-minded is generally considered a positive quality. It’s a necessary ability in order to think critically and rationally. If you are not open to other ideas and perspectives, it is difficult to see all of the factors that contribute to problems or come up with effective solutions. The Mingle dedicates every event to all the ladies that come with an openness to experience.”

The concept for The Mingle was born at SHOT Show 2017, when Hill and her husband, Brian, were invited by Cheryl Todd (prominent 2A advocate and owner of AZFirearms in Avondale, Ariz.) to attend an all-ladies meetup, the Women’s Meet & Mingle.

“I thought at the time it was an awesome idea; we have nothing like that where I’m from in Georgia. On the plane after SHOT Show 2017, I told Brian about it and I said we need to have something like that in Georgia. So by the time we landed I had already put things in motion in my brain and in May of that same year we were doing it,” she recalled.

The first Mingle event was four hours long with 40 people and a guest speaker. The next year it was eight hours long with more people; then the next year she extended the event to two days so they could host more people and include shooting.

This May will be the eighth year of the event. It’s capped at 80 shooters and Hill says that’s as large as she wants it to be.

“I will not go any higher than that. We want it to be a small VIP event where we know everybody’s name, we know their background, we know their goals and we are happy to network with them,” she shared.

Hill is enthusiastic about her ability to provide quality offerings.

“The feedback on the instructors is phenomenal. I only bring in good people who have the personality I want for this event. Instructors and speakers have included Brian Hill who is, of course, my husband. We’ve had Lee Weems, Claude Warner and Sarah Hauptman. In 2024 we’ll have Aqil Qadir, and Sarah Joy Albrecht, founder of Hold My Guns, will be discussing suicide awareness and providing Gatekeeper Certification — a very important topic for professional firearms instructors to understand.”

In addition to speakers, Howie Marbury and Shannon Pable will run the HK range that allows attendees to try out different HK models.

Who Attends The Mingle?

Attendance is not open to the public; it’s restricted to women in the firearms industry and is by invitation only. Attendees can be someone such as a club president, professional shooter, Second Amendment advocate, firearms instructor or other self-defense instructor.

“We prefer anybody who knows non-lethal, lethal and less-than-lethal self-defense as long as they’re certified and in the industry. We know not everybody is super proficient with their firearm, but this is what we focus on so it helps them in their journey,” Hill explained. 

She continued, “So, you have to be safe and you have to have experience drawing from the holster, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a firearms instructor.”

What Does Hill Enjoy About The Event?

Hill’s favorite part is the hugs. 

“I just feel like people don’t hug each other enough. Even people who aren’t huggers will come up and hug me and say, ‘I wait for my once-a-year hug.’” 

In addition, she shared, “During the event it’s just watching people and hearing them talk about something new they learned that they can’t wait to implement.”

After the event, she loves to see the networking.

“During the event they’re busy and they may bond and they may like each other, but they’re working. Then on Sunday afternoon, you see things blossoming and then you get to watch it throughout the year in the various groups they are in. It’s amazing to see the relationships being built because I decided to do something for two days, and watching these people that are now lifetime friends, it’s amazing. I love that.”

What Do Instructors & Attendees Think?

Sarah Hauptman, co-owner of PHLster Holsters, was one of the instructors at the 2023 event. Her main goal was to help people at every skill level and to leave the community better than she found it. She was pleasantly surprised with the skills of the attendees. 

“I wasn’t sure what the skill level would be, but I was really pleased to see it was much higher than I was expecting. Usually, when we go to conventions there are a lot of people who are struggling with the very basic steps of concealment and they’re kind of just starting on their journey, but this was really unique because it was a lot of women who were already carrying successfully. This also made it a good opportunity to kind of get into some of the more advanced topics we don’t always get to. It was really satisfying to teach that skill level of participant.”

Hauptman’s favorite part of the event?

“The food,” she laughed. But then continued, “It was really neat to see the spontaneous support from all of Shelley’s friends. They put so much into making the event run smoothly and it was cool to see this outpouring of community because usually I see Shelley at other events and she’s the one doing all the support work. So it was really cool to see all of her friends stepping up to support her.”

Kandy Harrell, NRA instructor and owner of Gray Lady Self Defense in Summerville, S.D, has been attending The Mingle for the past three years. Her main goals are continuing education for herself as well as taking information back to share with her students. 

“It’s a great experience so I returned for three years in a row and will be attending again in 2024,” she said.

Harrell has enjoyed watching the growth of the event and learning from the phenomenal instructors. 

“They have a really good cadre of people to reach out to who are willing to come and provide training. It’s been a great experience learning from so many different instructors I otherwise may not have been able to just due to their distance and where they hold classes,” she noted.

When asked her favorite part, Harrell replied, “I think just the networking part; meeting all these ladies from across the country that come to this event and creating those new friendships. It’s great to be able to have one-on-one time with all these awesome ladies and the instructors and getting to know them a little bit better on a personal level. I don’t think anybody ever walks away and doesn’t say what a great training it was. I highly recommend it and I would suggest any woman in the industry should ask for an invite and go. It’s well worth their time.”

What Should Someone Do If They Want To Attend The Mingle?

Hill explains the steps, “Go to our website, click on The Mingle and scroll down. They’ll see an ‘Add me to your invite list.’ They will then be asked how they are involved in the industry. Once I receive that email, I will determine if they would be a good fit and if so, I will put them on my official invite list. Once they’re on that list they will be invited every year after that and grandfathered in.”  

On January 1 every year, everyone on the invite list from the past years as well as the new people will get an e-mail that tells them about the upcoming year. It’s first-come, first-serve, so with hundreds of invitations going out it fills up fast — but there’s always next year!

The 2024 Mingle will be held May 18–19 in Dahlonega, Ga. 

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