I know we’ve all said it but…August… WHAT? HOW?! …right? I don’t understand. (Not only that but *eh hum* If it’s August, where has the sun gone please?)
Back to Business…
Rainy days aside lets get onto the topic at hand for this weeks post. If you join me on Instagram you may have notice that i’ve taken to Instagram Stories – it’s so much fun having chats with you on there and I just love your replies (THANK YOU!) – I did a story 2 weeks ago that got a HUGE response so I really feel it deserves a little more limelight which brings me to today…
A warning in advance
Todays post is another ‘Woes of the Small Business’ post so if you’re here purely for chunky knit’s and not to hear my business waffle, I totally get that – there’s absolutely no hard feelings. I apologise for yet again going off topic but promise I’ll be back next week with something VERY exciting to get back on the chunky knit track (and maybe a reward for sticking around. Eeeep!)
What’s the (IG) Story Morning Glory?
The subject of the Story was another email I’d received (really, I’m not complaining – my inbox is blogging gold lately! 😉 ) The email came from a lady who wants to set up a business doing chunky knitting and so asked me:
“how to create the best product, and how to advertise and create a business from it? …Also, where do you get a sewing up needle big enough?”
Yet again, people of the internet leave me gobsmacked and baffled. It’s not the first time i’ve received an email like this and I know it won’t be the last. It’s also not uncommon, I heard from numerous small business owners saying they too receive emails like this on an upsettingly regular basis.
The more I thought about it the more it occurred to me that, if so many people are sending emails effectively saying “I want to copy your business, please tell me how so I can set up in competition” then there seems to be a link missing here (because to me, that clearly isn’t OK).
So here’s what I think…
I believe in people, I know that there are so many wonderful humans out there and although we’ve all come across some rude folk in our lives, I refuse to believe that this many people are this rude. So instead, I’m assuming – no, I’m declaring – that the people who send these emails are in fact (mainly) nice people, who – through no fault of their own – don’t fully understand the implications of what they’re doing. And that’s OK – we aren’t all experts at everything, we all have something to learn and maybe some people just don’t quite GET this. So today, my aim is to help enlighten on this topic.
As always, I’m not looking to single anyone out or to publicly shame some poor email-ee. I’m the first to admit my failings in many, many areas and would hate for one of my blunders to be smeared on someones blog, named and shamed. I just want to help explain why it’s rude …In my opinion.
Heart and soul
*Excuse me a moment while I climb up onto my Small Business Soapbox*
Your own business is your baby. Be it big or small, it’s your creation, your ideas, your blood, sweat and tears. No matter how much you try to take the ‘personal’ out of it for the professional, it’s your brain and hard work that created it and ultimately that makes it personal. You’ve put your heart and soul into it, how could it not be? It’s your baby and you want to nurture, sustain and protect it.
When you had the idea, you worked tirelessly to consider every detail, you found suppliers, you designed artwork, you came up with a marketing strategy, your created a website and you collated all of the information you’d learnt into one place and put it out there for the world to see, judge and hopefully enjoy!
Why I won’t help you to copy my business
The idea of then dishing this information out to a stranger so that they can replicate it – crucially, without doing any of the hard work – to me, seems laughable. I for one didn’t go through the agony of those learning curves to benefit someone else. I earned those through dedication, public embarrassment and humiliating muck up’s; they’re all mine.
AND…Even if we were the nicest people on earth and wanted to help as many folks as possible, most of us need to earn a living from our businesses, which makes it completely counter productive to share this information with someone who wants to compete. We’d practically be shooting ourselves in the foot by doing that. Giving them a leg up to take away from us.
The good kind of competition
I completely know that not all competition is bad, I think it can be a really powerful dynamic to have someone on the other side doing well, it can push you to be better and get better. To come up with original ideas that compete – sometime you’ll come out with a knock out and other times they will, but it’s all part of pushing you and having a benchmark (as long as you don’t take it too seriously – let’s remember that we only ever see a social media version, which is often a fraction and rose tinted version of reality.)
On the other side of that I must admit that I’m careful not to look at competition, I’m a firm believer in the importance of original and creative ideas and if you look at someone who’s work is similar to yours, you’re in danger of getting it stuck in your mind, which can really sniffle your own creativity.
Lauren’s Conclusion: Competition can be a good thing yes, but giving your competition a leg up is just silly.
“Take it as a compliment”
The one thing that always gets said in these situations (and there will be a booby prize for anyone who comments saying this!) is some form of “take it as a compliment” or “imitation is the best form of flattery”
Sorry. I’m just not into that one. It seems to be one of those old school saying like “the customer’s always right” that we now know isn’t always true, yet people often say it to fill a gap and assume it’ll shut you up… it’s basically a “calm down dear” and you can imagine how I feel about that one!
If I wear a top and someone ask’s where I bought it, I’ll happily share that information so that they can go to that shop, purchase it and hopefully enjoy wearing it. On those occasions I am honoured, I totally get (and love!) that compliment. But if someone said “Where did you get that top? I’d like to visit the shop, learn how they did it and make it myself to sell to people, I might target their customers while I’m at it”… That’s different.
If someone wants to forgo all the hard work that you put in just to replicate something you’ve worked tirelessly to build I don’t accept that that’s flattering. Thats stealing. It may not be obvious to everyone and I do understand that (hence the blog) but I can’t stress enough that it’s not a compliment. In this case, a complement is an admirer or a customer, not a copier.
Just to be clear
(A point I also made on my IG stories the other week when discussing this)
My biggest fear in this regard is to come across as unsupportive, so I really want to stress that my issue is specifically with people trying to imitate. If someone has an original and creative idea then that really is wonderful and when asked, I’m always happy to offer any advice I can that might be of use.
To really stress the point – I’m also friendly with other ‘Giant knitters’ who started at a similar time as me because there’s an understanding and respect that none of us copied the other, we just happened upon something at the same time and took it in our own directions, some of those happen to overlap yes but we understand that that’s just circumstance. However, I find it too hard to be friendly with people who’ve said to me “I enjoyed your knit kit so I’m going to use it to create my own business” or “I want to do what you do, tell me how” I just can’t get on board but I do hope I’ve made the distinction clear.
The problem with faux creativity
The problem with imitating a creative business is that the perpetrator, surely without realising it, is simply removing the essence of what makes it great in the first place…They’re taking all the creativity out of it. And without that, all they’ll have is a shell of an unoriginal business and a very upset creative who’s hard work has been carelessly reproduced. They’ll also be playing catch up for ever which is never a winning formula.
When they want a peice
I stand by what I wrote earlier – I don’t think people always realise what they’re doing. They’ve seen a good idea and they want a piece of it – that’s why I created Knit Kits, for personal use, so people can have a bash and knit a blanket for themselves or their mates and yes I make a small profit from that but that is also the cost of my time and expertise in coming up with these products… As a side, I didn’t create the Knit Kit’s so other people could learn it all and set up a competing business (despite lots of people sadly doing just that. There’s a boundary there that I struggle to protect but hope that anyone with morals will respect)
But back to my point, they want a piece – It’s just a shame that the ‘piece’ they want is Everything you’ve got (with a capital E), rather than just one of your products or to enjoy seeing you progress and following along with the goings on. They want to be immersed in it, which despite everything, I do kind of understand and somewhere in there, i’m sure, is a compliment however, acting on it in that way can be extremely hurtful to the ‘complimentee’.
What they’re actually doing, is taking something that is yours. It’s your intellectual property an it’s undoubtedly hard to protect because it isn’t necessarily tangible… but it is still theft.
If you like it;
Appreciate it, don’t copy it
To the people asking these questions;
My advice could only ever be to wait for your own spark of genius, go out and get inspired, when you create something wonderful that’s unique to you – whether it be a specific product or a signature style that’s all you – that’s when you’ve found it and that’s when you’ll have the ‘product’, the passion, the love and therefore the enthusiasm to make it work. Those things can only ever come from developing your own ‘business baby’ and not from taking someone else’s.
Please don’t put someone in the position where they’re expected to give away all of their business learnings and secrets. It’s not fair and it’s not creative and I know you’re better than that.
Final point for any copy cats:
And if you’re ignoring all of that, and still going to ask, please at least attempt to use full sentences and be polite. I can’t take another “Where do you buy your wool?” – a “Hello” would be nice.
That was a biggun! Well done if you hung in there, I applaud you!
I’ll leave you to enjoy your evening (if there’s any left)
Thank you SO MUCH for joining me again <3
Really interesting post by Pragya from Hedge and Hog Prints – “Why isn’t imitation a form of flattery?”
One of my earlier posts (from 2015)- “How not to copy someones work”