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Archive for July, 2008

If you read yesterday’s post and thought “that won’t ever happen to me,” think again. In July, Disney sued a small, family-owned company, Kool Klown Party People, for advertising and using what they perceived to be Tigger and Eeyore costumes the company purchased on eBay to use at children’s parties.

Granted, Disney gave them several warnings and requested the couple turn the costumes over so they could be destroyed before starting a lawsuit. While the couple said they followed all of Disney’s other requests, they returned the costumes to the company where they purchased them. Now Disney is suing for $1,000,000. Talk about learning the hard way.

From Distant Creations blog,

“Disney is suing a couple for two costumes the couple bought for their party clown business. Experts think Disney is sending a message to possible trademark violators.
Marisol and David Chaveco, owners of Kool Klown Party People, purchased costumes of a tiger and a donkey not knowing it would give Disney a reason to come after them.”

http://www.distantcreations.com/blog/2008/07/11/disney-sues-couple-over-trademark-infringement/

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I was browsing the Etsy forums recently when I found myself in a thread that turned quite ugly. That was sad.

The thread focused, however, on copyright and trademark infringement by using images owned by companies like Disney and Sanrio (the Hello Kitty people). I think that anything someone does creatively is a great thing, and I don’t personally object to people creating jewelry, cards, scrapbooking stuff, etc., with well-known images and kid-friendly icons. They can be hot sellers. However, I’m not one of the big companies whose images are being used. It is cause for concern if these sellers don’t know that they can be in quite a bit of trouble if they are using these images without permission (which was the case in the forums), or if they don’t care.

On eBay, there is a VeRO program, and if a large company complains that someone is using its images illegally, those items come down and sellers are warned. I know. I’ve been a victim of VeRO for unknowingly using the term Shabby Chic to describe a fabric that was not actually owned by the Rachel Ashwell company. The term is a registered trademark of Rachel Ashwell. I didn’t know. I thought it was a decor style and I was selling fabric that fit that style. My listing was taken down–no refunded listing fees. Fortunately, it was only a warning, and I got the message. And I sent an apology to the Rachel Ashwell company for unknowingly infringing on her trademark.

Using Disney images or other copyrighted, trademarked and patented designs without permission can land you in hot water. On Etsy, we are for the most part little guys, but Etsy is growing, and eventually Disney or Sanrio could take notice. You don’t want to be the one they notice. Even certain Disney fabrics are no-no’s for creating anything for resale. Says so right on the selvage of most Winnie-the-Pooh fabrics – for home use only. Etsy is not in violation but you will be. And Etsy won’t be able to protect you.

I did a search on Etsy before I started this post for Disney Princess. 27 pages. A lot of those items may be supplies, but some are not. For Hello Kitty? 62 pages.

My suggestions?

1. Do your homework and make sure your products are not inadvertently in violation of any copyright, trademark or patent holders. And if they are, start brainstorming products that might sell just as well without putting your entire business in jeopardy.

2. Don’t refer to your product by the company name or trademarked product in the title of your listings. If you’ve made it, even if you’ve used images from Disney or Hello Kitty, it is not a Disney or Sanrio product. It is yours. However, the images are still theirs.

3. If you are selling something similar, say a costume, but it’s not the same and not infringing, don’t refer to it as [company name] such as Disney or Hello Kitty. In your description instead, if you want to get the keywords in, say something like “Feel just like Cinderella in this beautiful princess dress.” Don’t say its a Disney Cinderella Dress, even if you used a Disney pattern. It’s not. That’s like saying a pocketbook you made is a Coach bag.

4. Find out how to get the rights to use those images if they are your bread and butter. Just be prepared. It may cost you an arm and a leg.

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There are a couple of Internet marketing guys I follow because I like to learn new things and reinforce what I already know. I like Joe Vitale, Craig Perrine and Pat O’Bryan a lot.

This weekend I was hoping to be at Unseminar5, where they are all speaking, in addition to Eric Farewell and Ben Mack and others you may follow.

Much to my surprise today, thanks to Ben Mack, I found out that they are live streaming and I got to catch Joe Vitale — yay!

Later today (2 CST), they will have the final speakers: Craig Perrine included. You can watch too at portableempire.tv

It’s not quite like being there, but hey this is free! I’m sure there will be a tape of it. I plan to find that so I can see the whole weekend’s speakers eventually. I’ll pass it along when I find out

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I’m not very organized. I’ll admit that right up front. Honestly, I don’t know many creative people who are. I don’t like to plan and I’m easily distracted. Like, for example, right now, I should be completing the orders that I promised myself I would get done today (I so need deadlines to get anything accomplished), and instead inspiration struck me to write about planning instead. Talk about procrastination.

But this is important too, and maybe as I write it, I’ll even get the message.

Anyway, I recently started Weight Watchers again after several vain attempts to lose a few pounds on my own, obviously unsuccessfully.

Everybody thinks success from Weight Watchers comes from being held accountable at weigh-ins and inspiration from the meetings. And while that works for some, if you’ve ever attended a weight watchers meeting, you know that many people gain each week as well. That’s because the true key to being a successful weight watcher is planning. The people who lose 100 pounds plan their food every day within their points and they write it down. The key phrase here is “write it down.” On my last dieting attempt three months ago, I did plan what I ate, but I didn’t write it down, and ate more than I’d planned on most days. I lost a couple of pounds, but after a month, I got frustrated and went back to my old ways. This time, with Weight Watchers, in the very first week, I planned my meals, wrote down everything I ate, and I lost more weight in a week than I lost in an entire month. Hmmmmm….

Ok, so think about your business. Are you planning your days? Do you have set goals? Are you plotting out how you will reach those goals? I haven’t been, and I’ve not gotten where I’d like my business to be. But I’m going to change that this week. I’m not just going to plan what I’ll get done that day (because it never gets done); I’m going to plan for my business’s future too, and I’m going to write it down.

I know the saying “The best laid plans of mice and men…” I get that all plans don’t work exactly the way you’d hoped, but that’s why you can adjust them as needed.

There are a couple of great resources to get you writing down what you want and how to get there.

First, a great book that everyone should read:

Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Ann Klauser

If you click on it, it will take you to the Amazon page for the book.

And on ladieswholaunch.com, a social network and in-person program for women entrepreneurs, there are business plan guides for startup businesses and established businesses looking to get to the next level. You can find them under business templates and docs, along with a host of other business templates and documents. Check it out at Ladies Who Launch.

There is also a great business plan guide from an episode of Donny Deutsch’s Big Idea. The episode was Risking to Win and you can find the ten-question planning tool here.

Ok, I have some planning to do.

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I read lots of blogs when I have the time. I wish you could get paid to read blogs. It’s so much fun and there’s so much to learn.

But sometimes, when there’s just not enough time, you have to be a little choosy. There is one blog though that I read religiously, no matter how little time I have, and that’s Seth Godin’s. He’s a marketing guru who has written a bunch of amazing books and created squidoo.com. I was fortunate enough last year to hear him speak at eBay Live and I even met him. I was star struck!

But I digress. If you have an Internet business or are planning on starting one– in any industry– you should check out Seth Godin’s blog every day. He’s brilliant. And you’ll learn stuff. Promise.

Go there now.

sethgodin.typepad.com

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I’m so angry at my son right now. He took my car last night to go to work (his is not running) on the terms that he’d be home by 7:00 am, so I can get my daughter to work and myself to work on time. It’s 8:05 and he won’t be home for at least another half hour, making us both very late. 😦

I’m not angry with him for being late. I get that stuff happens and we can’t always keep our promises. But he could have called. I had to call him 5 times before he picked up his phone….probably because he knew there would be yelling on the other end. But he could have avoided that by calling me first.

When you are in a family and something you are doing will affect another family member, the right thing to do is communicate. We all know this. By not communicating, it causes all kinds of friction. You’re all shaking your heads in agreement, I can feel it.

Well, it’s the same with your customers. If someone buys something from you, they expect at least to know what they need to do to complete the sale and when their package will arrive. And in this day and age, it’s really easy to get in touch, via email, phone, text message or even twitter! (Sidebar: What’s a twitter you ask? A really fun way to stay in touch! More about that in a future post.)

So guide your customers along the way. Talk to them. Email them when you receive payment, when you expect the product to ship, and when it has shipped so they know to watch for it. If you have a problem or are waiting on a back order of beads, email your customer and explain the hold up. Most people are very understanding, if you just give them the opportunity to be. If you don’t communicate though, and a package takes longer than expected to arrive or the product is not exactly what was pictured (and with handmade that is often the case), you might find you have an unhappy customer at the other end. And we all know we don’t want that.

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About a month ago, I sent out an order to a repeat customer (my favorite kind!) While she loved the album as always, this one was a rush order for her, and I made the mistake of throwing the album into a plain plastic bag and just sending it. She was very disappointed that it wasn’t wrapped the way I always send my albums…in tissue, a clear plastic bag with a bow and a thank you note. I apologized profusely, and I’ve been very careful not to send an order out that way again. Customers buy an experience and if they take your item out of the box and get excited even before opening the package, you could have a customer for life!

Your packaging should reflect the same care and creativity that goes into your products. It makes for a special experience for your customer and it also helps them to remember you and your name. I add a thank you note that I created in Microsoft Word, put my logo and a picture on there, so it helps customers remember my brand. Right now, I’m also enclosing a 20% off coupon for each customer’s next order. The holidays are closer than you think.

Treat your packages that are going to customers the way you would expect to receive something or would like a gift sent to a loved one.

Recently, I purchased some fabric on eBay. The fabric was gorgeous, arrived very quickly, but the seller only enclosed a receipt. There was nothing to remind me of her name. I might not buy from her again, because who knows if I’ll remember who she is? And that’s a shame because I buy A LOT of fabric, and I could be a great repeat customer.

Put something in each package that brands you and helps your customers remember who you are. Package your products with care so your customer knows that whenever they receive a package from you, it will be special. It doesn’t have to cost a lot! When those customers come back again and again, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

I buy tissue and bags at Nashville Wraps. They are inexpensive, I can buy in bulk and it’s easy. I’m off to get some gift boxes!!

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