The owner of a small South African business is standing up to a retail giant after finding out that the ‘exact pattern’ of her original design had been copied and resold under the same name.
And South Africa is standing with her!
Shannon McLaughlin – the owner of Ubuntu Baba baby carrier – has written a heartbreaking and scathing blog after finding out that local retail giant Woolworths “blatantly copied” her product.
The small business owner has openly discussed how she doesn’t really have the means of taking on the massive retailer… but has decided that she will do so anyway, to stop this from ever happening to anyone else again.
“I’ve just found out that Woolworths has shamelessly copied the complete design and concept of the baby carrier that I have put my heart and soul into for the last 4 years of my life.”
At first glance, it looked like they had just used her product name ‘Stage 1’ and ‘Stage 2’ baby carrier but on closer inspection, the designer realised that the retail giant was using the exact same colours, and very similar design.
“I can’t sleep, the anxiety of this situation is killing me. What do I do? I’m all for Woolworths selling affordable, ergonomic baby carriers, and I’m glad my little business has ‘inspired’ them, but there is a big difference in taking inspiration and blatantly expropriating another’s product – the way they have gone about this is nothing less than wrong.”
After searching their online orders, McLaughlin found out that two Woolworths staff members had purchased her product in June 2017, both who worked in the “sourcing” department of the retail giant.
“Woolworths can surely not contend that they did not blatantly copy the design and concept of my carriers when the Ubuntu Baba Stage 2 carrier they purchased was delivered directly to the Woolworths Sourcing Administrator herself (thanks for the info, LinkedIn) at the Woolworths Financial Services Building in Observatory.
Surely there is nothing suspicious in someone from Woolworths Head Office purchasing one of my carriers? Alas, this is not the case. In September 2017, the Woolworths Product Developer purchased our Stage 1 carrier, which subsequently was delivered to Woolworths Head Office in Longmarket street.”
But this is not the first time the retail Giant has been accused of similar claims.
“By this point, friends and business acquaintances had told me about the hummingbird story and the Frankie’s case (which Frankie’s won), and that apparently Woolworths’ ‘do this all the time’. Really? And they get away with it? Yes, apparently they do. Because it’s not often, in the real world, that young entrepreneurs are ready to take on a retail giant like Woolworths.
Of course, I have no evidence pointing to the fact that they ‘do this all the time’ as others have told me, but after all the effort gone to here, it’s honestly not too hard to believe.”
McLaughlin’s blog has been inundated with views which has caused her servers to crash but you can click here to read the full piece.
“My heart literally breaks every time another Mom posts a photograph in the babywearing groups, telling other Moms how comfortable the new Woolies Stage 2 carrier is and how well impressed she is with their design.
The only reason it’s comfy, is because you blatantly copied my pattern. I have reached out to you via email, on 3 different email addresses I could find, but all I got back was a lousy response saying that you have forwarded my email on for further investigation and you gave me a reference number. I’ve phoned your customer service department and followed up with my reference number and apparently my complaint is now sitting with your technologist who will be investigating the query.”
Since posting her blog, the story has started trending online with hundreds and thousand of South Africans supporting McLaughlin and even offering the Ubuntu Baba business support!
Morning Shannon. We understand how hard it is to build a SME in SA & such action is soul destroying. We’d like to offer you our support through free SME services to the value of R60k & will ask our https://t.co/5ECpv0cRUV community to rally behind your cause. Pls make contact.
— Marnus Broodryk (@marnusbroodryk) January 8, 2019
Such an outpouring of love and support from all over SA (and beyond) for our favourite carrier! We’ve got your back, just like you’ve had ours xx
— Gaelyn Cokayne (@gaecokayne) January 8, 2019
When the power of social media reaches the real world… spotted at my local Woolies.
The message is loud and clear: Hey @WOOLWORTHS_SA, RESPECT South Africans, HELP entrepreneurs & STOP killing Small and Medium-sized Enterprises!!!#BeBetter #UbuntuBabaWoolies pic.twitter.com/BGzoDoHPgd
— Brent Lindeque (@BrentLindeque) January 8, 2019
Woolworths have not released a statement on the matter yet but did reply to a radio 702 interview stating that they could not say anything until an internal investigation had been completed.
And as of 2pm on the 8 January 2019 – just 20 hours after McLaughlin launched her blog – the retail giant removed the product from their online store.