An Open Letter to the Imitator

Oh y'all! The last couple of weeks have been a journey! I have been extremely busy with the shop and preparing to speak at Stationery Academy (February 24-26!) and preparing to exhibit at the National Stationery Show! On top of the daily tasks of running my business, I've also had to deal with copy cats. It's been frustrating, to say the least but slowly I'm learning to work through it. I know its something that will continue to happen - it's just part of putting your work out into the world and dealing with mean people. Having my products stolen was hard enough but, then I had something even more precious than my Hey Y'all prints stolen from me. My branding. This was quite a slap in the face and below is my open letter to the imitator. 
Dear Imitator, 
While I know it is said, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" I assure you I am not flattered in the least. If I'm completely honest, I'm heartbroken and saddened and just downright angry. I guess I should start with how I know you were entirely too inspired by my branding and web design. Y'know, besides the fact it's just plain obvious. 
You were an Instagram follower of mine. Yes, as in past tense. I have now blocked you from my account because I no longer hope to inspire you. You would comment and like my images regularly and because I like to interact with my customers and followers, I followed you back. I didn't even know you or your business existed until then. I even went to your website when I saw you designed Wordpress themes because I thought that was cool. 
As you can imagine, I was pretty shocked when you recently posted a photo of your newly updated website. It looked very familiar in that little Instagram square and because I was on my computer I decided to get a better look. Tears pierced my eyes the second it all loaded. I felt sick as my eyes were directed to one detail after another that had me all over it. 
First, I noticed your new logo. I see you decided to go with the same calligrapher I did. That's great, she's fabulous and so easy to work with. It's awesome that you also went with a similar style as I did.  While I'm assuming you saw how beautiful my logo was and decided you wanted something equally as beautiful, there is something you don't know. There are reasons behind why I wanted a hand-lettered logo. This is something I had wanted since I started my business 5 years ago. I sell stationery. I am a cheerleader for the handwritten note. I incorporate many hand-lettered elements into my products. I didn't choose it because hand lettering is so in right now. In a year or two hand lettering won't be so "trendy" but guess what? I will still have a hand-lettered logo. Will you? 
Next, I see you love my color palette as much as I do. So much so, that you decided to use every single color. All 6 of them. What are the odds? Especially since many branding tips suggest you limit your color selections to 2 or 3. What I bet you didn't know is that I didn't just randomly pick those colors and put them together. I selected them from nature. I have a picture of a bouquet of flowers that I think is the most beautiful thing in the world. I love the way it makes me feel when I look at it and I wanted others to feel that great when they came across my shop and products. 
I wish it stopped there, but sadly it does not. Because I had checked your website out before, I know that the use of the butterfly is a new development. No, I'm not the first and I won't be the last to use a butterfly, but I didn't just use it because it's a cute icon. Did you know that my childhood bedroom was covered in hand painted (by my sweet mama) clouds and colorful butterflies? I've always had an attraction to them but now that I'm older, I love the symbolism they carry. I know I've been given this business to make a difference in the lives of others and I want it to be completely obvious why I do what I do. The butterfly helps me communicate that. What made you decide to add that element? 
Of course you didn't stop after copying my branding details. You carried it over into elements used in "your" web design. I'm not going to list them out one by one, because if you read this, you already know which one's I'm talking about. These details on their own probably wouldn't have sparked much of anything but together they make quite the case against you.  
It sucks to be copied in any way and I'm still learning how to deal with "designers" who have stolen my product designs to sell in their shops, but this instance cut me pretty deep. I can make new products but I can't re-brand myself every time someone decides to rip me off. When you stole my branding you stole part of who I am. You see, I didn't have the money to hire a big fancy team to develop my brand elements and website. It's been a long journey and each element has been built upon the last. I put my heart into each piece and nothing was selected by chance. It all has a purpose. I hate that you think it was OK to just use my ideas. Yes, I know my branding is fabulous. I love it more than anything. When I started on my DIY branding journey, I was bitter and jealous of everyone else who was able to hire someone to design their brand. Looking back now, I'm so happy I had to put on my big girl panties and figure it out for myself. 
At first I felt like because you have so easily incorporated my branding elements into your own, that it devalues what I have. But you know what? You will always be the imitator and for that, I am sad for you. I'm sure in a few months or maybe a year, you will change your identity again because this one isn't you. It's not based on anything other than the fact you loved what I have. You apparently don't know who you are or how you want your business to make others feel. 
This is the only form of contact I will try to make with you. You may see it and you may not, but if you do, I hope you see how wrong what you did truly is. I also hope that one day you will find your true style and identity because it really is a great feeling. 
Sincerely,
Stephanie Creekmur

3 comments:

  1. Wow. What a powerful email. So sorry that someone did this to you. If that letter doesn't make them
    Sick to their stomach for what they did- then they don't have a conscience ...
    Thank you for sharing this story. Lessons learned

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  2. That's my girl! You are so right when you say they will be the imitator and you will always be the original. And to know that every single element screams Stephanie Creekmur just makes my heart smile. I see it in everything you do and when I see others that are "inspired" by your design all it does is makes me think of you so they are the ones losing because nothing screams them!

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  3. Oh Stephanie, I'm so sorry you've had to deal with this. We had a similar experience a few years ago (not quite as direct as yours, but still, we felt sick to the stomach). Their business has now been & gone, because they were not original or authentic. You ARE.
    Can't wait to see you on Monday, to hug you, discuss our NSS plans and to get to know you better. Chin up love! Jx

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