The Terrible Thing That Keeps Happening To Small Businesses

Something really bad is happening to small businesses, primarily children’s clothing brands that have gained popularity through Instagram.

As most of you know, for the last two years I have owned a small business called Root Avenue. Root Avenue’s main product is children’s graphic t-shirts. When I first opened shop I started off with 5 designs, that I created myself in photoshop. Root’s first big ‘hit’ was our Pretty Fly For A Small Fry raglan. Before I released this design I searched all over the internet to see if anyone else had an item with this phrase. I searched hashtags, Pinterest, Etsy, Google, etc,  and it was nowhere to be found. Within weeks of releasing this shirt I started to see copies being made. They started to pop up in the hashtag on Instagram, and in Etsy shops. I was furious that people were ripping me off, and I eventually had to invest in trademarking this phrase so that I had legal grounds for reporting knock-offs.
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As a small business every single sale is a huge deal for me and my income. Every time a copy is made, it takes away from my business. Yes, even if it’s made for personal use. Copying a small business is the exact opposite of  being supportive.
Taking the time to report every single replica became part of my daily schedule. It took away from time that I could have been doing productive things for myself and my company.
Then came the knock-offs from *China. (*I do not want to write the name of the website, so I will be referencing “China” instead. I do not want to help promote this wholesale website in any way.) The first time someone notified me that my design was being sold on this popular Chinese wholesale website, my heart dropped and it felt like someone punched me in the gut.

Reporting “copy cats” was one thing. China is a whole other level. Once an item has been copied by China, you not only have to worry about the Chinese wholesaler, but you have to worry about THEIR supplier, as well as boutiques that buy in bulk from them.
There are also “Buy-In” groups on Facebook, where women go in on buying in bulk from this website. I understand that some women don’t even know that they are buying knock-offs. HOWEVER, I believe that a majority  know exactly what they are buying. Some even have the nerve to go to these groups and post photos from small businesses pages and ask if it can be found on the Chinese wholesale website.

All of this is a HUGE problem. Copying is directly effecting small businesses, and it is stealing! Stealing from business owners who have worked their butt off creating, designing, promoting, and running their business. All to be ripped away from them because of GREED.

I have seen people say things such as, “Well, you should be flattered that they like your product enough to copy it!”
To me, this is the same thing as someone getting robbed, and then be told, “Well, you should be flattered that they liked your stuff enough to steal it!”
Because that is exactly what copying is. It’s STEALING.

Being copied is one of the most discouraging thing for business owners to deal with. Even with trademarks and copyrights, it is extremely difficult to track down and remove all of the replicas. Not to mention the amount of frustration it causes and time it consumes.

Wondering how to be able to tell the original from the replica?? Here are few helpful tips.

How to find out where the original came from:

HASHTAGS
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If the item is something that is easily searched, such as a phrase on t-shirt, I recommend browsing Instagram hashtags. This allows you to go back and see when it was used first and which company started it. There are some generic phrases that are hard to claim, but you can at least see if a design was replicated. (Font/placement/garment/etc.)

PHOTO
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The photos on the Chinese wholesale website all look very similar. Here’s some examples. Now, it can be very hard to tell sometimes. The Chinese wholesale website will often steal the small business’s photos. This screen shot is straight from the Chinese wholesale website. The three photos that have a picture of a child were all stolen from the original makers. So, just because you see a picture of a child wearing the item does not mean that is the actual item you are buying. Photos of my children are being used by the Chinese wholesale website, as well as by boutiques who have purchased from them.

PRICE
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If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Many “crafters” will charge very low prices just to make the sale, and because they will purchase a very cheap blank. A “custom” t-shirt, for example, might be sold for $10 because they purchased a blank shirt from somewhere like Walmart, & used their vinyl cutter to make the design. Ripping off designs means they don’t have to work hard on being creative or promoting a business, they can just copy someone else and make a quick buck.
Boutiques selling children’s sets (example: shirt, bloomers, bow ) for $13-$20 were most likely bought from China. Many sets on the Chinese wholesale website are being sold at prices as low as $4. (If that doesn’t scream sweatshop, I don’t know what does!) Now, figuring out if the item is a knock off is another thing, but a little research can usually help you determine it’s authenticity.
The photo above is a great example of what you get when you buy a knock-off from China. Check out the spelling errors on the shirt.
The originals can be found here:
Headband | Shirt | Leg Warmers | Adorable Baby Model

END THE DEMAND
Whether it be a friend making a copy, or contributing to a bulk buy-in, THIS is the type of thing that needs to STOP NOW. If we can work together to end the DEMAND, then we can hopefully eventually end the SUPPLY.

I know this might seem like a lot of information, and I understand that this might not resinate with a lot of people that it doesn’t directly effect. I just want to get this information out there, and if this stops even one person from buying or making a knock-off, then I would be happy.
When you buy from the original maker, you are helping support a family and a dream.
SUPPORT CREATIVITY AND THE ORIGNAL! 

#supportlocal #buyhandmade #shopsmall #makesmallbig

Side note, yes, I do buy things made in China. I have even purchased things (such as tape, and paper clips) from the Chinese wholesale website. I want to be clear that I am not saying that all things made in China are bad, I am simply stating that there is a huge problem with creators being ripped off by them. 

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