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The Handmade Highway!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Personal Note From Kim

I feel like I need to write this morning to get some things off my chest as it's business related and all goes back to my baby, The Little Black Box.

My candle site, Whiff and Sniff Candles, has been in business since October 2005. It was my first love. I slaved away over that hot wax and yummy scent combos to make stuff for myself and all family at first. I learned a lot and remember even trying to sell my first batches - which totally sucked! Nearly 3 years later I don't have time for that business like I used to so this morning I decided to put the site for sale. The business has so much potential and I brought it so far and I know that someone could do wonders with it as it already has established traffic and customers...

Anyhow, 3 years ago when I was trying to figure out how to get it off the ground I found Amy Jagminas the old owner of The Little Black Box. She started TLBB also in October 2005 as sort of a spin off of her other website, Wickedly Chic. Wickedly Chic was like a online magazine that featured handmade stuff and readers started asking her for samples so that's when she started the site. I found out about her because I was a member of the bath and body board on Makeupalley and contacted her wanting to be in her boxes. Her business made my business grow and I was a regular in those boxes.

Come April of 2007 I get an email from Amy burnt out on the boxes wanting to sell it and I jumped at the task, purchasing the site. It was the best thing I ever did. Amy established the site following with her dream and then I took her dream and ran with it. Back in day there were only 3 sampler sites. Lemming Central, The Sampler, and The Little Black Box. These three businesses I full endorse and have even participated in with my candle site. The owners are witty, charming, and know fully well what they are doing. All three current owners are also new owners as the original owners sold the sites to us. We paid good money for the sites which were already established.

I can't tell you how many times a week I get emails from businesses I work with directing me to another fly by night sample business who has taken our business model and is now attempting to make it work for them. This week alone there's been two. They can't even be creative enough to find a different market to work in. Of course I'll even be directed to ones that take my entire html and change the colors or a few words here or there. It drives me insane! Considering that my box supports artists who value their work you'd think these businesses would get that and find a clue by not copying what others are doing. It's disgusting and unethical!! There's literally 15 other "sample" boxes on the net right now and each one has popped up after finding one of our sites and copied it almost word for word. We have red boxes, pink boxes, blue boxes, sample boxes, friendship boxes, fun boxes, box boxes, and cool boxes. Oh, and don't forget the cubes! At least the cubes thought of a word other then box - at least they were creative!!

What do YOU think about this? Am I off base? Do these businesses really know how much time and effort they need to put into a business in order to make it? I'm going on a year and a half as the new owner of the "original box" site and it's just now picking up steam because of the 12-14 hour work days I'm putting in on top of running a family. I literally laid in bed last night after sending a few choice words to another copy cat and wanted to scream because I work so hard to defend my business and come up with my own ideas and then I get directed to another copy cat.

Thankfully a few months ago I started the process to protect myself, my business and the income for my family. It's just frustrating that even when you send an email making the copy cat aware that you know they exist they send you an email back saying, tough. When does it end? When will people come up with their own ideas? Why would you want to start a business supporting artists who despise copy cats by copying someone else's business model. Thank goodness I'm not one for "outting" otherwise I'd be all over that. You guys know who I'm talking about. I urge you not to support businesses who can't think on their own. I urge you to not purchase from them. I urge you to not supply them with promo items. Show them that you won't tolerate it! I'd do it for you because I believe in you and what I do. SAY NO NOW!


/off soapbox


Rasberryswrlgirl said...

I have seen the websites of these boxes you are speaking of, and I am not impressed. None of them are original, and their offerings are unimpressive. I'm pretty sure their is a tube, but they offer cosmetics only, so they at least are trying to be somewhat different.

I order only from you and lemming central. I have been eyeing the Sampler for a while but haven't brought myself to ordering. I think that anyone that orders from you and then orders from one of these copycat sites will only due so once. Everyone I know who has ordered from them has been disappointed. There are some sites that claim to be sample boxes that are full of stuff from Mary K, Avon, Tupperware and big companies like that.

I understand the frusteration, but I wouldn't really worry about losing customers. Anyone that that even compares your site to theirs can see the difference in vendors and quality.

bowlergrl1 said...

I've never heard of the other companies and have only ordered TLBB a few times.

Unfortunately, imitation is the best form of flattery...or however that saying goes. I understand your frustration...but keep plugging away, you have a fantastic business!

Apple Blossom Designs said...

OMG! that's terrible. i think your wonderful and will be staying here at TLBB!

Mrs.Kwitty said...

It is really sad--but hold your chin up! People are smart--they can smell fakes and poor quality and you have a wonderful reputation behind you. How irritating and frustrating it must be for you though--you have my sympathy.

Smiles, Karen

Liz said...

I think many small business owners feel the same way that you do...I have the same issues with Wickedly Chic.

But...yes...imitation is one of the biggest forms of flattery. It's been that way since the dinosaurs. LOL

Keep your chin up...it will all work out in the end.

Friendship boxes? Interesting. :)

Ana said...

Hey, keep pluging along girl. Your doing great, but it's the nature of the beast.

KatieG said...

You are not off base at all!

The Little Black Box said...

Thanks for all the kind comments gals. It's nice to no I'm not alone and that we all support each other.

I SO appreciate all the kind words. It's been one heck of a day.

blueviolet said...

Even if people try the newbies, they'll come back to the tried and true quality sites like yours! Only the good quality businesses like yours will stand the test of time and grow.

The Crazy, Crafty Chick said...

Ever since I contributed to TLBB, I've received several e-mails from other sample box companies requesting that I contribute. I'm like WTF??? How would they know unless they have a rat whose buying boxes and soliciting? I agree with some of the other comments-those sites are just not credible or even professional looking.

The Little Black Box said...

They don't even need to buy a box in order to find out who's in the box. They simply go to the site and just email everyone who's participating. They know that the businesses in my boxes want to promote themselves and figure they'll jump on the bandwagon and do it too.

You know how I know this? Because I had to do that in order to get where I am today. I used to send out 200-300 emails a day and I'd only hear from 1 business in return. No one wanted to put out anything because they didn't trust what I did. They come to my site knowing that the businesses I work with are willing to give free samples to them so that they can make money.

I think what they do is sit at their computers trying to tally up what I make with their trusty calculators and then once they figure out that you have to work your butt off in order to have a successful business and then discover that you really only make a few hundred dollars a month it's not all that worth it for them.

I told this to someone via email this morning.. I do this because I LOVE it. I love buying! I love selling! I love meeting new people. If I was in it for the money I would have dropped out A LONG time ago. There's no money in sample boxes. I get gratitude. I like watching others succeed when I promote them. That's why I'm in it.

I care. That's why my boxes sell out within minutes and go out in the mail the same day you purchase. That's why I return emails within minutes. That's why I email you when your samples arrive gushing. There's so many reason why I do this and I'm so darn tired of people stealing the info on my website and attempting to make a profit for themselves.

Ok ok.. I'm off my soap box again. I just have so much to say and no one really understands when it comes to family and friends. My business is like my children. I'll claw your eyes out if you do something to hurt it's feelings! LOL!

Soylady said...

Well said Kim!

: )

Cheryl in NZ said...

Integrity wins out in the end Kim -you sound like you are in it for the long haul and the satisfaction alone will be worth it! Well done with sticking with what you believe in!

The Little Black Box said...

Thank you Cheryl and Soy - It's been a very very long emotional day. My supporters make it so worth while. I'm glad I have this blog to vent on once in awhile. Tomorrow we'll be back to the fun! Promise! Nothing a strong Pina Colada and a swim in the pool with family can't fix.

Thank goodness for goofy kids and wonderful husbands. I wouldn't do it without them!

Andie said...

I have ordered two of your boxes. I haven't seen the others and I must say if I had I wouldn't order from them simply because I like what I KNOW. Nuff said.

Ricki said...

I discovered The Sampler two years ago and then quickly found TLBB and LC. These are the only ones I order from because the quality is awesome (probably becuase they were the first). I have seen sites for some of the others, but have not been impressed enough to order. I order from these three becuase, even though they do basically the same thing, they do it differently. Plus the owners for all three are total sweethearts. I am partial to TLBB, though - especially with the new format! Love it!

lisajean2 said...

I usually order one each of yours and the LC Box. But last month I ordered 2 of yours instead and was thrilled. And I did buy from quite a few of the e-tailers in those boxes and I am very happy with the items I bought from their stores. I can't wait to get the August box!!

I also recently tried another "sample box" because they were having a "sale". I was very disappointed - I won't go into details- but I will never waste my money like that again. They should have paid me to take it off their hands.

Kim, don't worry about those other sites. You know your boxes rock because of the hard work you put into them. Not to mention your excellent customer service (that is what brought me back ). If you could have seen that "sale box" I got, you would have laughed your butt off. Seriously.

Take Care,

"The Sassy Divas" said...

I feel your pain, about a year ago I had someone copy one of my websites exactly, they even took my graphics. It was an exact clone. Needless to say after I contacted her and some of my business buddies contacted her she immediately shut her sight down. It pretty much ruined her reputation in our business niche. However I am all for free enterprise, and we all will have competition. As long as you keep up with your good work I wouldn't worry too much about it. A business takes a lot of time and work and most people won't have the stamina to keep going. So whoever is copying you, probably won't be around for long. keep up the good work.

ccdesign said...

Little Black Boxes has such a great friendly feel to it when you enter the site. Your hard work and commitment shows. I had never heard of any of the sampler boxes until yours. I'm so excited to be part of the August box and others to follow. I put trust in what you do by sending my samples. Hopefully my business will grow and as will yours grow more also. Good luck and keep smiling.

At Home Outlet said...

Let me just say I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND YOUR FRUSTRATION!! I am a business owner (and by the way just bought my very first box!) THanks CC Designs for the info! anyway~ I had a show open up one block away with almost the exact same name, same style inventory (home Decor) and nearly the same logo! It gets better!! The owners Husband and wife have the same first names as me and my husband! The address is almost the same as well one number off!! After confronting them and asking them nicely to change their name and logo they refused. The city hall wont do anything and unless its exactly the same you have no recourse. Unless your business model is patentedable but Im not sure.
We have changed our focus to primarly carry local artistan work!! YeA!! aND CCDesigns is one of our jewelry artists.
Cant wait to get my first box, we are always looking for hand crafted supplies for our shop!

Michelle said...

Kim, I completely understand your frustration however I'm not happy with being put in the category of "new sample boxes". The Out of the box sampler was originally the candle buzz which was created in July of 2006 by Sheila. It is one of the original sample boxes also. The name was changed in 2007 when a new owner purchased the site from Sheila. Now I have purchased the site just this month. The out of the box sampler has been in business before you even purchased the Little Black Box. I am paying a pretty penny for this site and I'm hoping that I can do it justice as well as the previous owners have done. There have been rave reviews with our boxes as well. If it wasn't a great sample box, it wouldn't still be in business! We all work very hard to make our businesses successful. I have participated by contributing samples to your box also because I have a candle business too. I am on both sides of the fence and I'm doing this because it's what I love also. It does take hard work. I appreciate how much work you have done on your site and would NEVER think to copy you. I do my own emailing of hundreds of business each day in the efforts of finding those awesome samples too and I have no intention of taking business from you. There are plenty of websites and businesses out there looking for a way to promote their sites. I just didn't appreciate being lumped in with "the new boxes" you stated, when we are an original too, even before your ownership started. Wishing you the greatest success in all you do!
Many blessings,

The Little Black Box said...

Hi Michelle,

I too can appreciate what you are saying and I commend you for replying to the blog entry. I bet it's very exciting for you to take over your new sample box business. I love The Ugly Duckling Designs and think you have a fabulous product so I have no doubt that you will do wonders with the site. I wasn't even aware that the site was sold again to new owners.

The problem I had with the old ownership is that I would get emails from businesses who were participating in sample boxes for the very 1st time with us sending us emails about your new site inviting them to join them too and wondering how they suddenly go on their mailing list. They got on their mailing list because people use my site as a stepping stone to send invites to others. I actually got a handful of invites from the old owners inviting my candle site to participate and each time kindly refused stating that I advertised through my own sample box.

It's not YOU I have an issue with. It's the fact that, like you, I purchased a business and worked my butt off on making it better and people use the info that I have on my site as a stepping stone. There's one site in particular that I found almost 6 months ago that took my site code and only changed the colors and a few pictures. It's still up! Same html! Same layout! Thankfully, I no longer have to spend hours inviting people to join us and instead spend hours creating press kits and spreading the word about my site as we are now established.

Because of all the problems I'm having I started the process to protect myself a few months ago and all of the businesses that I catch copying my business model will be sent cease and desist letters.

Again, I apologize that your new business was mentioned but The Little Black Box, Lemming Central, and The Sampler are all businesses created prior to 2006 and a majority (not all!) were created after seeing the success of these three sites. Whether I purchased the site in 2007 or not or.. I paid for an established site that was around much longer then a majority of all the new ones.

The Crafty Cubes™ Team said...

I thought long and hard before writing my response to this. First of all The Sampler and Lemming Central were around long before Amy started LBB. I was on the switchboard when Amy started Fresh Baked Samples which later was renamed Little Black Boxes. Before Brenda and I started Crafty Cubes we spoke with Amy. IF anyone should be upset about copying it should be The Sampler and Lemming Central. At the time we started Crafty Cubes May 2006, the status of LC was up in arms. We felt there might be a void. Shortly after it was sold and revamped. I personally contributed to LBB and LC even as co-owner of Crafty Cubes as I felt it was important to support other sample boxes.
At NO TIME did we steal your contributors. I spent hours searching via GOOGLE to come up with my contributors. There were many months I spent more time on Crafty Cubes than my own business. We do understand the time and commitment it takes to put these boxes together. It takes more hours than I care to count lining up contributors then scrambling to find new ones for those that for whatever reason had to back out. I commend you for your hard work and for your effort, however before you start pointing fingers at the rest of us you should look at yourself as YOU were not the first and I am sure you won't be the last sample box company. As with any business there are going to copycats. Unless you have a TRULY unique business that is trademarked you will run into this issue over and over again. I honestly believe there is enough demand for more than one sample box. I commend you for your hard work and great job at turning LBB around.