It’s another beautiful Monday, friends!
This week I am coming at you from my new desk in my new office in our new home in Poway, CA just northeast of San Diego. (Ahhh, so much NEW it’s crazy!)
It’s been quite the whirlwind the past few weeks with the move, the road trip, and now trying to slowly make this place into a home. But after just a few short days here I already feel such a sense of peace. The house sits on two acres of gorgeous, lush land and backs up to a natural creek, so the fact that I see green everywhere I look and can hear the sound of running water at all times makes it pretty impossible to be stressed (or so I say now… we’ll see if that theory holds true.)
This week I had planned to write about what it’s like switching up my entire work flow and routine (not to mention time zones!) and how to get back into the groove of creating, but something a bit more timely has come up and I want to share the story with you guys.
If you follow me over on Instagram, you may or may not have seen a post on Thursday detailing my discovery of a stranger who had stolen Made Vibrant’s branding to use as her own.
It was Thursday morning when I checked my Instagram account to see that the lovely Amanda (@paperandcrush) tagged me in a post from printing company, @sideshowpress, showing letterpress business cards that were almost exact replicas of the cards I had printed in February of last year.
Here’s a side by side so you can fully grasp just how shocking it was for me to see them:
The similarities are pretty undeniable, right?
Upon further investigation, I found that not only was my card design stolen, but my branding was used on her website and my exact About page copy from my first studio website was copied word for word. Not just my art, guys, MY WORDS.
I wish I could describe the feelings that ran through me when I saw the post. There was anger, disbelief, and, admittedly, some tears ... I went through the whole gamut.
When someone wounds you like that, I think as humans our natural instinct is to defend. To retaliate. To fight fire with fire.
And believe me, as I sat on our bed (er... our mattress sitting on the floor, we're working on the bed thing), hands shaking and heart racing, every scenario rushed through my head of how to handle the situation, most of which included me leading some sort of digital mob to uncover her as a fraud.
BUT, instead of acting on those impulses, I took a few minutes to calm down, peel back some of the emotions I was feeling and really try to see the situation for what it was. (As someone who's highly mood-driven and whose decision-making skills are inextricably linked to her emotions, I’ve learned the value of “taking five.”)
Was my business in danger of being hurt by this? No, probably not. Was I physically in danger? No, clearly not. So the greatest victim of this "crime" was my ego. The idea of someone coming across this false brand and not knowing that I created it was somehow a tragedy to me.
And that's when my thoughts shifted to this girl. This girl who didn't believe in herself or her design skills enough to come up with something truly original. SO much so, that she didn't even write her own bio, she used mine. It was clear to me that this is a girl who simply doesn't know who she is - as a person, or as a business owner.
I realized - this is the very person I've committed myself to helping.
Made Vibrant is about helping people become their brightest selves. It's about teaching people how to connect with their inner voice and get to know themselves. It's about helping people discover their authentic point of view. Not to mention, when I started Made Vibrant, I committed myself to bringing more positivity into the world, not more hurt. More light, not more darkness. More love, not more pain.
When I finally came to that realization, I no longer wanted to expose this girl or bring shame on her; I wanted to help her.
And so the way to handle the situation in a way that was aligned with who I am became clear to me.
When encountering conflict in your business, let your mission and your values act as your compass.
Still, let me be clear, I'm not a robot. It was important to me to share my hurt with this person and to make it clear to her that her behavior was unacceptable. But it was also important to me that she know I didn't wish her harm. That I wanted her to recognize her own power as an individual.
Here's what I posted in response:
"Wasn’t going to share this, but several of you have emailed and I decided that, in an effort to prevent this behavior from persisting on the web, it needs to be shared. As I write this, my hands are shaking. On the left of this photo, you have MY business cards with MY branding that I created in February of last year. In the cutout, you have the cards of a designer who has not only stolen my design, but my branding for their site + my About copy from my old studio site (with the exception of replacing my dog’s name with theirs.)
I’ve seen this kind of theft happen to others + not until now do I fully comprehend the feeling of heartache in seeing your work with someone else’s name on it. I drew that pattern in my sketchbook before it become the keystone of my brand, and it holds a dear place in my heart. Seeing it this way feels strange and violating.
However, after experiencing every emotion from anger to sadness to confusion to tears, I now feel in a better state to comprehend this. I believe in the work that I’ve created. I believe in the community I’ve built. I believe that my branding, my ART, speaks so authentically to who I am, that it’s incapable of being stolen. Because you can’t steal me. And the magic of my business is not in a hand-drawn pattern or a business card; it’s in the work I do day in and day out, the conversations I have, the things I make and the love I pour into every ounce of creating. And that can’t be replicated.
To @___________, I want you to know that I’m hurt by your actions and your disregard for my feelings, but I also want you to know that you don’t have to do this to be successful. Your talent lies in your UNIQUE voice. The one that no one else has. If you build your success on a mountain of inauthentic work, then I fear you’ll be left feeling surprisingly empty at the top of that mountain.
I’m asking everyone here to please not direct negativity toward this person. I don’t want my sharing this to breed any more hurt than I’ve already experienced this morning.
It’s all too tempting these days to take the ideas of others. But, in doing so, we rob ourselves of the joy of creating and rob the world of something new that we have the power to create. If you see someone else’s work being passed off disingenuously, please speak up as so many of you have done for me.
The moment I hit send, it was like my soul breathed a sigh of relief. Anger and hurt are such taxing emotions. When we release them in exchange for compassion, understanding and kindness, we relieve ourselves of a burden on our hearts.
To my surprise, shortly after I posted that message, I received an email from this young woman, asking if she could call me to apologize.
We spent about 20 minutes on the phone together, and it was clear to me that she was embarrassed, ashamed, and, most importantly, apologetic. Just as I had thought, she is young and just starting to figure out who she is. Her strong desire to be a designer and start a creative business led her to compromise her integrity, and we had a long conversation about the difference between drawing inspiration from fellow designers and straight up stealing their work. I give her credit for having the courage to make that phone call. And you better believe I'll be checking in with her as she works on re-doing her branding and her website.
Let me be clear, stealing the work of other people is completely wrong and I want it to be known that I would never want this to happen to another person. But, I don't have the time or the energy to carry hate in my heart. And so I choose compassion instead.
SO, to make a long story longer, here’s the #1 thing to remember when someone steals your work (or, hey, just in general):
YOU are more than what you create.
You (and I) are the glorious combination of an infinite number of experiences, traits, gifts, values, beliefs and moments in time. NOBODY can steal that. Keep creating from within, keep expressing yourself in the purest way you know how, and the imitators won't matter.
In that same vein, I also invite you to remember that the person who steals from you is more than that poor decision too.
This week, if you haven't done so yet, I challenge you to get clear on your mission and your brand values.
Who are you trying to help? Why does your business exist? What do you stand for?
Write these things down and I promise you if a conflict like this arises, you'll be happy you have something true and positive lighting your way.
Wishing you all a happy and productive week!