Handling Copycats: Christina of Soap Seas Shares Her First Business Test

I think we all know that having work copied is an all-too common experience in the maker and greater creative community. It's never fun, but especially when you are JUST starting out it can be quite the trial by fire. Aside from navigating the legal, today's guest, #ahasmember and South Bay/Long Beach Subchapter Leader Christina Wennstrom, also notes what an immediate test of professionalism.  

Q: Tell us about your business!
A: I am Christina Wennstrom, Founder & Maker of "SOAP SEAS," a soap and bath product business based in Redondo Beach, California. I officially launched my small biz last year in 2015. After a few years of making soap for just myself and as a hobby, I decided to become serious about opening a business after I made my sister's wedding favor soaps. I received so much positive feedback and everyone was so receptive to the idea that my product was business worthy.

 Christina Wennstrom of Soap Seas

Christina Wennstrom of Soap Seas

Q: In your time as a business owner, what experience would you say has taught you the most?
A: I experienced a negative event in the very beginning stages of launching my biz and brand. A fellow soaper I met while doing a local Farmer's Market had taken my design from my biz card and used that to put her biz name and outright copied the look of my brand. She completely and without my consent copied my work. 

I was dealing with copyright infringement in the first few months as business owner. I could not believe I was dealing with this, and so soon too! My professionalism was definitely tested all while I was trying to enjoy becoming a new business owner. 

Q: How did this impact you and your business at first?
A: At first I was enraged and angry at how evil a person who befriended me at first could turn around and try to take what was mine. I could not think straight, I was consumed in finding out details, calling the director of the farmer’s market, trying to retrace steps. My followers and fans kept tagging me & showing all the ugly work that was being copied. At this point now, the other soap maker had not only copied the look of my brand, but started copying my style of my soap, the names of my products, using my lingo, and even using hashtags & posts that were almost identical to mine. It was insanity. She was trying to steal my persona. 

Q: What did you do next? How did you pull yourself out of the negativity this experience caused? 
A: After a couple months of anger, I knew I could not let this person try to take over what I worked so incredibly hard for. I have a supportive family, following, and community that helped lift me back up. I've always been a very social person and know the power of people coming together is huge.

I made sure I was involved in every group, network, meeting, mixer, event, show, and venue that took place in my community. I put myself out there, entirely and focused my energy on connecting with others in a positive way. This helped me shift my energy into building relationships, connecting with business opportunities, and diving into a stronger tribe based on being involved. 

Q: What did you learn from this experience? 
A: As much as this person wanted to be my business and have its look, appeal, and brand...she could not be me. My energy towards my business and brand illuminates my soul, and others feel that. I am constantly growing and thriving because I connect myself and create opportunities with others. I engage fully into developing relationships, in business and personal. You need to surround yourself with support. 

I am genuine in my work and learned that once you stay true to who you are, have pure intention, and have support in your life, others will gravitate towards that and immediately weed out the fake. You can not substitute originality. 

Q: How are you using what you learned? What is your approach and outlook towards your business now?
A: To this day I continue to grow and build my business within my community. My business community, my residential community, my maker community, and my family community. I don't look back, I'm not headed that way anyway! I look ahead and take what happened to me to fuel my entrepreneurial spirit and build more relationships. These people know my story. We help each other and back each other up. The bond is magical and flawless.

Q: After experiencing this firsthand, what advice would you give makers who are now going through the same thing?
A: Stay on course and keep moving forward. Don't let someone else distract your hustle! You worked too hard to let go of your integrity. Surround and connect with your supportive groups. Being involved saved my sanity and my spirit. 

Q: Where can people find you?
A: Located in sunny Southern California in Redondo Beach, reach out if you're in the area!