“Woah, Loz, you’re not going to believe this.”
“Well, you know how we just spent the last week redesigning our website and we launched it a few days ago…”
“Yeah...” she said hesitantly.
“That company that we thought was copying us? Um. Well. They’ve just redesigned their website, using the same theme. Their price points match ours too - and now they’re starting to use similar copy on their website as well. It was up just 4 days after we launched ours.”
“Um.. yeah..” I said.
“You’re right, that's too weird, I don’t believe you.”
Now, this isn’t the first time this has happened. I remember back in the days of starting One Girl (the charity I started before creating Be.), we had someone create a company and website so similar to ours, that we had to get our lawyers to write them a firm letter asking them to change their name and take it down.
The reality is that if you’re doing well in business, there are always going to be copy cats and imitators. And I’d know - because I used to be one of them.
In the early days of One Girl, I absolutely WORSHIPPED an organisation called Charity : Water. They were everything I wanted One Girl to be.
I’d look at their campaigns, their website, their brand and wish with my whole heart that one day we’d be just like them.
And so I imitated. I designed our website to look similar to theirs - I spent time researching and looking at what was working for them, and tried it on for us.
Most of the time, it failed miserably.
Why? Because I hadn’t quite found my own voice in our business yet. And it wasn’t until I actually started to identify our values and our uniqueness, that One Girl started to REALLY grow and succeed.
And so when I see what’s going on with this competitor of ours, although part of me gets pissed off and frustrated, the other part of me understands it. They’re still finding their feet, finding what makes them unique, and if they're imitating us so closely (and quickly), they must think we’re pretty fucking cool.
(Note : we’re not cool. I’m currently writing this blog at 1pm on a Monday, sitting in my pyjamas with dried smoothie from breakfast crusted around my mouth).
And so what should you do if you find yourself in a position where another business keeps copying you?
1. Know your rights.
Chat to a lawyer. Find out if there is anything you can do to protect your brand and your IP.
One of the first things we did when starting Be. was get our brand name trademarked. I’d heard too many horror stories of companies having to completely rebrand themselves after someone else trademarked their name, held their company hostage and then used the trademark to shut the original business down and make steal all the brand goodness they'd spent years building. Protect yourself!
2. Find out what sets you apart, and put your energy into that.
Before I started Be. in 2015, I ordered some ‘quote cuffs’ off a company called MantraBand, based out of the US.
They are cute little cuffs with sayings on them, and although I was excited to receive them, they just weren’t my style.
I got frustrated with the cuff edges getting caught on my clothes and not sitting on my wrist properly.
And because I have tiny wrists, it annoyed me that I had to bend it out of shape to make it fit properly. I'm also lazy, so taking them on and off was a pain.
The mantras were in black and it was SO OBVIOUS what I had written on my arm, that I felt a bit self conscious about wearing them.
So when I created Be., I wanted to ‘fix’ those elements I didn’t like. I wanted bangles that were comfy - something stylish and with subtle messaging - so I’d be able to wear them anywhere.
That’s how we can create bangles with the c-bomb on it and our customers can wear still wear them to work. (Retail workers I'm lookin' at you).
The people who wear MantraBands may not be the same people who wear Be. Bangles. And that’s cool, because there is space for both of us.
We’re not watching their every move and trying to be like them. We’ve got our own Cheeky AF brand, that is a true expression of us.
3. Keep innovating baby!
If you’re spending all your time wigging out about copy cat competitors, how are you going to keep making awesome shit? You’re not!
So just keep doing you. We’ve got some exciting things in the works for Be. in the coming months, and the more awesome shit we create, the more our community will love us and keep coming back.
Well... that’s the theory anyway... we hope you will. And if you don’t. Then fine. We’ll shut the company down, and go and live like trolls under a bridge in Collingwood, and spit our $5.60 soy chai lattes at morning commuters and throw our leftover bangle stock at people passing by.
See? Having a Plan B. can help too.
4. Have a talk with the business owner.
Now, we have tried this in our current situation. It didn’t work out so well as the owner kept denying that they were copying us - but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!
A fellow business owner recently posted about how they reached out to someone who had a designed a t-shirt very similar to the one they’d just launched.
They discovered they’d both been struck with the same design genius at the same time, and they ended up collaborating, cross promoting each other and it became a win-win for both companies.The outcome of this will depend on how gentle you are in your approach, and how peaceful the other owner wants to be. After years of being a bit of an aggressive bitch in business, I’m all for taking the peaceful path now.
So reach out, give them the benefit of the doubt and who knows what might happen.
5. Focus on your own business.
We’ve all got limited time and energy and where you put your energy is where you’re going to get results. Does that mean you don’t talk to lawyers? No - you should still know your rights and take appropriate action. But it doesn’t need to consume you.
Keep doing what you do best - there will always be imitators and copy cats and people who want a piece of you. Especially if it rock that shit like fucking Beyonce.
YOU DO YOU BABY!
PS. We've had some customers recently sending us screenshots of our competitors ads, amongst other things - we appreciate your loyalty and for looking out for us. AND at the same time, we'd ask to please keep all your comments etc. above board. Attacking other people in business is not what we want to be known for.
Be. is about empowering women - so let's do more of that.
PEACE OUT x
You girls are amazing! I have seen the copycat ads and my jaw dropped in disbelief but loyal BE. customers will keep coming back to you because your bangles are beautiful, ridiculously durable and fantastic quality :) thanks for making these gorgeous bangles, I love collecting mine and jingling everywhere I go!
Love this story/article /dare i say, blog……i’m not really savvy at this stuff. But empowering women – yes! I’m all over that shit! Someone once told me that what others think about you, is none of your business… in this sense, copying is a HUGE compliment (within limits) and encouraging others succeed is far more admirable, peaceful, inspirational than shouting them down. Well done you, guys. Awesome. Operating on those type of principles, Be. Bangles deserves success!! Remember the karma train! Peace out.