Interview: The Impact of Counterfeiting on a Growing Etsy Business

2019-03-22 07:18:59

We often hear about e-commerce websites being targeted by counterfeiters. However, counterfeiters have been increasing their reach, including to Etsy. One business owner that can attest to this is Mindy McCarthy of the popular Etsy store, MinMac. She tells simplyBrand of her experiences dealing with relentless counterfeiters, and the impact this has had not only her business, but her personal life too.

Mindy McCarthy and her family. Photo credit: etsy.com

1. Hi Mindy, can you please introduce yourself to our readers?

I married my college sweetheart, and we have two sweet kids. I worked from home for the last six years running my Etsy shop while I raised our babies in their early years. I have recently gone back to school to study real estate, and I just started a part-time job as the marketing director for a chiropractor’s office.

2. You created your company MinMac in 2013. What was the motivation behind setting up your own online business?

Before the birth of my daughter in 2013, I was working 60 hours a week at a YMCA. While I loved it, I couldn’t possibly keep up the pace of my career and raising a family. My husband and I wanted me to stay home and raise our kids through their earliest years. My husband is a teacher though, and we couldn’t live off his salary alone. So I dove into the world of Etsy.

3. MinMac was successful from the get-go. How did you business grow in the first few years of establishing it?

Babies don’t sleep. That was the most bittersweet gift in the first year of my daughter’s life. I would be wide awake in the middle of the night trying to rock my daughter to sleep, so I used that time to research how to grow a shop on Etsy. I spent hundreds of hours, and I feel like I read every article ever written on increasing sales on Etsy.

It paid off! I made sure to focus on excellent customer service, and I relied on my positive reviews to speak for themselves when potential customers considered buying from me. I also chose to package every order like a gift with special encouragement cards and pretty wrapping. Customers loved feeling special!

4. After these initial years if success, in 2016 MinMac was targeted by counterfeiters from China. In what ways did they copy your brand and designs?

The counterfeit shops saved my product photos to their computers and went in to a program like Photoshop to shrink the designs of my necklaces to fit into their pendant blanks. It was an actual copy/paste job. They printed off my designs and put them under glass domes to imitate necklaces like mine.

Their designs were horribly blurry, but they charged only $3–5 (less than it cost me to make a necklace), and I couldn’t compete. People were buying them on Amazon, eBay, Wish.com, and a ton of other small sites. My designs, often the ones most special to me — like the ones I created with my kids’ names, the one with my Grandma’s full name I created after she passed to Heaven, and most painfully, they stole the design I created after we miscarried our baby — are often on Wish.com’s best selling page.

5. Can you share the measures you took to try to halt the counterfeiting? Did any work?

I applied as a company on Wish.com and tried everything possible to file infringement notices on the hundreds of listings stolen from my shop. Wish.com denied my attempts and eventually blocked my request to file any infringement claims. I reached out to their customer service team, but I never made any progress. Amazon was helpful with the first few copyright infringement notices I filed, but soon after, my claims were getting denied.

I was emailing the owners of the shops, asking them to remove my intellectual property, and they never took the time to respond. It’s like they knew Amazon wasn’t going to do anything to stop them. And they were right. At one point, I received a message from Amazon saying my notices were being denied because for all they knew, it was me copying these poor shops in China.

6. You had some difficulty providing to Amazon you were being targeted by counterfeiters. Can you share your experience dealing with Amazon?

Amazon suggested that they couldn’t prove it was my intellectual property being stolen. That said that for all they knew, it was my copying. In other words, I felt like they didn’t care. My small business infringement notice wasn’t worth their time. I tried to make my claim that my images were crisp while the copycat versions were blurry and centered wrong. They just quit responding after a while. It was my first time experiencing how little my creative material mattered in the eyes of a corporate giant like Amazon.

7. What adverse effects has counterfeiting had on your business and personal life?

I went from working full-time and continually growing each month in 2015 to making only ¼ of my “salary” in 2018. My sales last year were so small that we maxed out credit cards just to pay for groceries over the past three years. We were living the most simple life, never splurging or spending more money than we needed, but still we couldn’t keep our heads above water in terms of finances.

I tried working 50 hours a week on my shop, thinking of ways to counteract all of the damage done to my sales. Instead of paying off, I started getting panic attacks while my sales kept decreasing anyway. It was the summer of 2018 when my husband and I decided enough was enough. I went back to school to study real estate in an attempt to dig out of this financial hole these copycats had put us in.

My marriage has been strained because nothing is more stressful than money troubles. My kiddos have seen me cry at the sight of finding another copycat of my necklaces. I’ve had to explain to my five-year-old daughter why we can’t afford extra things like soccer leagues or nights out to restaurants. This whole experience has changed the entire course of my life.

8. Wish.com, Amazon, and eBay are places you are aware of that sell copycat products of MinMac. However, there could be many more that you have not come across yet. Our company, simplyBrand, scours the web to help businesses like yours to track down any counterfeits of their products. If it informed you of new instances of counterfeiting, do you think using such a service could help your company?

I wish I knew about simplyBrand sooner! I’ve since given up the battle with my Etsy shop, and I switched to a career as the marketing director for a chiropractor’s office until I finish real estate school. Had I known such a service existed years ago, I would’ve jumped at the opportunity to have your company be the watchful eye!

9. simplyBrand draws on advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain, as well as crowdsourcing, to both alert companies of counterfeit instances, and also disincentivize online counterfeiting in general. Given your trouble with trying to stop counterfeiting by traditional methods, could our modern method be the better solution to anti-counterfeiting? Absolutely!

10. Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Thanks for being a voice to this issue!

About simplyBrand

In order to address the growing problem of online counterfeiting, simplyBrand has developed an advanced ecosystem that draws on artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and crowdsourcing. simplyBrand is currently in pre-sale stage, meaning that you can get ready to access all of the benefits of our cutting-edge technology by purchasing our token, SBA. For more details, go to our website, or buy SBA now on COBINHOOD.

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