Dealing with Copycats in Business


Posh Candle Co. will be celebrating our 5th anniversary this December and let's just say, it's been quite the journey. Since our first year in business, we've had to deal with a variety of situations pertaining to theft of website content and candle names. Sheesh. When we decided to launch a candle business, in no way did we expect to have to fight off other businesses. From the very first instance a supporter contacted us to inquire if we had a "sister occurrence happened within those 8 months.  We were being knocked off so much that we came to the conclusion that we would be dealing with this for the long haul. As we continued to grow, we came to embrace this is good sign and I will get to that later. Keep reading. 

I can’t begin to tell you how problematic this is while one business is building, they steal word from word. I purchase from a variety of candle makers and have never thought to myself to take from them. And I don’t think people like this know what it’s like to really build something from the ground up and stress over it. Not to mention, out of a million ways to design something, they choose to look exactly like another business in a effort to gain support. Does it bother me? Sometimes but it  depends on the type of day because if you press the right button and I have to drop what I'm doing to address you, I will make sure you feel it. For example, one copycat candle business forgot to remove our links from an entire page she copied. Instead of celebrating her launch, she had to lock her website down and start again. Others get lucky that I simply choose not the engage because their entire line of products are knockoffs from several businesses. 

What's exactly the issue with copycats? It's called Trade Dress Infringement and it's a form of intellectual property that falls under a subset of trademark infringement. It's when one company uses trade dress similar enough to another's to cause a likelihood of confusion. Trade dress refers to the overall appearance of a product; characteristics of the visual appearance which may include size, shape, color or color combinations, graphics, texture, and even sales techniques. Trade dress is protected even when products incorporate elements that are generic and descriptive. In layman's terms, you can get the fire smacked out of you with a lawsuit. Check out an example of trade dress infringement below. 


While some are bold enough to copy the exact look and feel, others think they go unnoticed by lurking around, fake supporting and taking bits and pieces of the branding. I see it but I did not get into business to start running folks down about candles and I come from a different world where I help people live fulfilling lives. I love to see people winning but not at my expense. I'm certainly not used to having to be tough and have a guard up when I've played a part in helping other black owned businesses including other candle makers with information to help them make winning moves. 

Behind the scenes, I'm wearing every single hat, for now, and I don't see imitation as flattery. I wasn't smiling or laughing in these situations. It's hurtful especially when its coming from other black women as if we don't have it hard enough already. These people don't see the part where you've spent countless early mornings and late nights building something you're not even sure people would like. They try to skip the phases of trial in error in hopes to get a good start and unfortunately for them, they meet a business owner like me that's not going for it. This is my baby. Not the baby that cries and you know exactly what cry that is to fix what's going on. This baby is silent at most; it takes time to put products together, gather feedback and analyze numbers along with giving it constant creative energy and business acumen to keep it alive. 

One thing that surprises me is how many people I hear from that say they've been in this situation before and have decided to stay quiet about it or they felt there was nothing that could be done and I simply can't do that. What I particularly love is when I decide to address copycats publicly, our supporters and customers come through! 

Here are a few tips to dealing with an imitator:

1. Protect Your Business

Aside from being cautious about working with people who have shoddy business practices, protect yourself by being a legitimate business. File the appropriate paperwork for your business entity. Secure your domains and social media handles. Check for trademarks and register. Get insured. Hire a competent attorney if you need to but do everything within your means to protect your business from liabilities including trademark infringement. 

2. Screen Shot Everything and Do Your Research

For obvious reasons you need proof and should research who you're dealing with if you find yourself in this situation. Images, dates, website links, social media handles and an accurate timeline on when the infringement occurs will help your legal team take action. Do this before reaching out to them. While this woman was putting her shoddy lawyer friend on the job for free and in a subject that was outside of her expertise, I was looking up everyone involved and rushing to take screen shots of everything before I was blocked. If you're on Shopify, send proof for a DCIM Takedown notice. 

3. Attempt to Talk 

Take some time to tame that inner rage and navigate the situation with a clear head. You can attempt to reach out to the copy cat and address the situation.  If anything, get your legal team on it and allow them to do the talking with a Cease and Desist. 

4. Encourage Imitators to Come Up With Their Own Look. 

I mean, you have to be pretty damn lazy to see someone's product and make calculated decisions to copy the candle jar, label, color and go out of your way to rush to have it made. *sigh* As best as you can, encourage them to create something that is unique to them. It's a shame you have to say that right?

5. Call Them Out

I'm not against calling anyone out on Social Media. I've done it and will continue to do this as I see fit. Just know, if you ignite this flame, I don't blow out easily ...bring all the smoke. 

6. Get Support

Tell people what's going on and cry it out with a biz bestie if you have to. You may be surprised from the amount of support you get from this situation. I've had several friends get involved including my die hard customers and other supporters.  

7. Create, Hustle, Repeat

No idea is unique and everyone is inspired by something but they don't have the secret sauce which is YOU. Take the bricks they throw and build something with them. Keep creating because they'll always be behind you waiting on your next move and eventually they fall behind until they become dust. 

8. Stop Oversharing

Within one week of me sharing the grey sweatpants candle, an imitator rushed the details to an unsuspecting candle maker to have it produced. Because of this, I'm no longer sharing behind the scenes of new creation names until they are live. Time and testing goes into developing scents so what you may see as new, I've been working on for weeks to months. 

9. Remember That It's Not About You

The imitator is not considering the fact that they're attempting to bring down a business and are only thinking of themselves. They don't care about the long nights you spent building your business from the ground up nor to they give a damn about how your business may be your main source of income. Recognize that fear and laziness will make people do some outrageous things and that has nothing to do with you. Fear led them to believe that they were incapable of creating something to call their own. Laziness led them to recreate your product and call it their own and that's quite sad. 

10. Stay the Course and Stay Lit

When you allow these things to mess with your peace, it blocks your creativity so put on your game face, keep building and pouring your all into your craft. Many of my successful business friends have already warned me that more of this is expected and as business grows. I'm learning to simply breathe. Just know, if you have anything that worth something, people are going to come along and try to take it from you. This is a sign that you're on the right path so you need to use that as motivation to push harder and develop thicker skin to deal with the downs of running a business. 

11. Get Verified on Social Media

If you're having a issue with imposters crafting variations of your business name that could be misleading to your potential customers, get your shiny blue checkmark so there is no confusion. We've been fortunate to receive a lot of notable features during our journey so our application went through smoothly. Some of the perks to being verified besides showing your brands exclusivity are increasing customer trust, increased brand awareness and more brands would want to work with you. 

 12. Ignore the Haters and Focus

There isn't a lot you can do about copycats but you can still do a lot. Double down on what's working for you and constantly improve in areas where it matters. While they're waiting on your next moves, you would have already implemented them. 



Well, I sure feel lighter. Did you enjoy this post? Did I miss anything? Feel free to share it and let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. 


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