John Lott | Crain's Phoenix

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

John Lott

Background:  

Scottsdale-based SpearmintLOVE is an online retailer founded by popular mommy blogger Shari Lott out of her home in 2013. The company offers unique, "must have" baby and children’s clothing and accessories. SpearmintLOVE began when Lott couldn’t find a blanket for her baby’s room, so she made one herself. The company is one of only 11 small businesses in the U.S. to be named to Facebook’s 2017 U.S. Small Business Council.

The Mistake:

The mistake we made early on was thinking that we wanted to be a brand, as opposed to a platform.

Our business started with two proprietary blankets. What we realized from going through that process is how difficult manufacturing is and how much you have to work on the complexities of protecting intellectual property.

We designed a blanket that became one of our best sellers and it still sells well today. But literally within a week of our blanket being designed, it had been knocked off and was available for sale on Alibaba. You can imagine the process that goes into coming up with a new design, the amount of effort in creating your initial purchase order and putting all the product together. That became a real big challenge.

The [social-media] community will spot and call out the knockoffs.

The Lesson:

We’ve realized that we want to build a platform where we don’t ever do that anymore. We work with moms all over the world, and other entrepreneurs, who are building those products. We are super-vigilant that we represent them and give them a platform to bring their products directly to the market. 

We’ve built a community, and this is one of the things that Facebook and Instagram are really good at. The community itself will actually spot and call out the knockoffs. T-shirt designs are good examples. Someone will come up with one that has a specific saying on it and very quickly others will start to knock off those T-shirts or designs. The community is really good at catching these. 

That’s exactly what we want to see. We want to help these small brands get their products sold and allow them to benefit from their own creativity, versus allowing others to take that creativity and benefit from it by stealing their design.

Follow SpearmintLOVE on Twitter at @spearmintblogs.

Photo courtesy of John Lott

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