About 18 months ago I launched a business. With a master’s degree in counseling and a background in non-profit, I had finally discovered a way to combine my passion for healthy living with a desire to help others, and I was crazy excited. I dove headfirst into this brand new world, and learned all that I could about every aspect of my new venture.
Shortly after the launch, my business took off, and I was thrilled. I worked tirelessly filling the website with helpful information, support, and resources for my audience. I felt driven and inspired.
A few months later, I learned that a competitor was stealing content from my site. My inspiration immediately turned to horror. I had invested so much of my time, energy and heart collecting information and creating the site, that this just didn’t seem fair. I tactfully and kindly emailed the CEO of the company, hoping that she would recognize and put a stop to this clearly unethical and illegal activity. I assumed that, as she and I were both women working in the health industry and aspiring to improve the lives of others, this would be fairly straightforward – right? WRONG. After repeated denial of any wrongdoing on the part of their company, I told her that I was simply a small business working hard to help my local community. I literally begged her to be ethical, honest, and human. But she resisted, and I was completely deflated. I had officially entered the world of big business, and no amount of research could have prepared me for such massive disappointment.
With principle in mind and proof in hand, I hired an intellectual property attorney. The competitor quickly agreed to remove my content from their site. Along the way, they made repeated attempts to attack and discredit my business, and every time they did, I winced at the reality that even those in the business of healthy living could be so callous and self-serving. And now they don’t like me. They don’t like me for having the courage to challenge them and for seeking legal counsel to protect what’s legitimately and legally mine. They’re irritated by what I do well and for offering a valuable resource to an ever-growing and information-hungry community. If they had it their way they’d shut me down so that their pocketbooks could be fuller. And that totally sucks. But they’re not the only meanies I’ve encountered in these short 18 months. I regularly interface with marketing professionals who view me only as a competitor, and go to great lengths to prevent me from working with their clients. They don’t like me either.
Now don’t get me wrong – I didn’t start out completely oblivious to the cut-throat nature of big business. It happens everywhere, but when it happens to you in a place where you truly feel like you can make a difference, it feels so much worse. When I think about these folks that hate me – at home, teaching their children to be productive citizens and contributors to society, I get confused. When I think about them working to instill humility and kindness in their kids, my brain totally shorts out.
I don’t dislike any of these people. I’m disappointed and a bit baffled by them, but I could never be unkind, as then I’d be just like them. Instead, I go about my way, helping as many people as possible, and working hard to make my business successful. I’m far from perfect, but I own my mistakes and miscalculations, and do my best to learn from each one. I always give folks the benefit of the doubt, and I continue to be kind, even when they’re not, because for each one of them, there are countless more who appreciate my hard work, dedication and determination. So if you ever find yourself in the company of “haters,” don’t let them get you down. Your small contribution to the world matters, and if we add everyone’s small contributions together, we may be able to create real change. So, in the words of Taylor Swift, “Shake it off” and forge ahead!
Abby Helman Kelly is a Simsbury mom of four, and the founder and owner of www.glutenfreeconnecticut.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.