In Good Company Blog
The Case of the Business Copycat
It’s been said that there is no such thing as a totally new idea. We agree.
We also believe in drawing inspiration from the marketplace, which we did this in the creation of In Good Company. We felt that women business owners needed a better alternative to working ad hoc at the local Starbucks, in various hotel lobbies, or between the shelves of the nearest Barnes & Noble. We were also inspired by some community-oriented businesses that we saw, such as Paragraph – a space for writers on 14th Street. During our planning phases we contacted the owners of Paragraph, told them of our idea, and enlisted their support. We remain close to them to this day. They were grateful for our courtesy and honesty and we were grateful for their feedback and generosity.
Since we opened more than 3 years ago, we have had several women across the globe inquire about our business model and share their intentions to build something similar. Some were gracious, others not so much. We have been surprised by the large number of demanding requests that we have received to send us our business plan and financial information. It is astounding that people actually expect a favorable response to such communication.
We have also had wonderful people reach out in the spirit of camaraderie and tell us of their plans. For example, Jennie Nevins, the owner of Green Spaces called the office to let us know that she wanted to start something similar for green businesses. We said great and good luck. We remain in touch and we genuinely wish them lots of success. We even interviewed Jennie for our book on women entrepreneurs.
Unfortunately, we have also had less savory instances where a member of our own community got herself hired to bring many identifiable elements of our business model and programming to another business. She never talked about her intentions or plans with us and we found out on the internet. We let her know how we felt and moved on.
My point is that there is a right way to do things and a wrong way.
I strongly believe that business should be fair and collaborative. I believe in common courtesy and I believe that it is important to maintain a certain standard of professionalism.
I usually assume that most people subscribe to the same kind of philosophy. And while I know that is not true, I’d like to think that this belief still says something good about me.
Needless to say I was shocked when one of our staff members sent me a Facebook page for another In Good Company…In Good Company Ireland. This page linked to a website, which is still under construction, touts not only our business name, but also our “Work. Meet. Learn.” tagline, and instead of our pink flower logo it displays a purple one.
Wanting to refrain from jumping to conclusions, I contemplated the various scenarios. Was it a joke? Could it be some sort of scam? When I discovered that the site owner follows me on Twitter my suspicion thickened and my attitude soured. This was for real.
(Now before I get tons of comments about intellectual property, I should point out that while we do have a trademark it is for the US and I don’t believe that it extends to Ireland. If any legal experts think otherwise, please let me know!)
I’ve thought a lot about whether I really wanted to put this out into the public sphere. Considering questions from “Am I being petty?” to “Won’t I just be drawing attention to this copycat?”. However given the extent of their likeness I was also disturbed by the thought that searches for our brand may turn up their venture. Also I want to make it clear to those who will easily be led to think otherwise that we have NO affiliation with this other company or its owner.
More than that though, I really wanted to engage our community in a conversation about business etiquette.
I suppose I’m also hoping that since things are still under construction there seems to be ample opportunity for a change in course.
Maybe making this issue public will help good common sense and professionalism to prevail. If you agree please let us know and help by sharing this with others!
More importantly, if this has happened to you please let us know how you handled it!
UPDATE 11/5: Thank you so much for all your support! It really meant so much to us to hear all your comments and stories.
As an update – it seems that the Facebook page was taken down and Twitter page was edited. Almost all the traces of this imposter business are gone so I guess the message got through. Hopefully it was a good lesson to learn.
More than anything I’m just astounded about how common this very blatant type of copying is. We will be doing more to discuss how to handle issues within the IGC community.