When Imitation Isn’t Flattering {part 1}

Heidi and I debated whether to write about this or not. We sat with this experience for many months, only ever talking about it with a handful of people, not knowing entirely how to move forward. Rather than going public with it immediately, we carefully considered all of our choices ~ weighing each one, wanting to err on the side of compassion and forgiveness and the desire to simply “let it go”. However, because of the magnitude of the experience, we wanted to work through it in a way that brings closure and above all, a valuable learning opportunity.

We’ve never been so analytical while considering a response to something someone did to us. We didn’t choose the experience ~ someone made a decision, acted on it, and in turn, forced us to respond. Over many months, the issue has taken up much of our precious time. Of course, our response has evolved over these months. And for the most part, our response has been in a vacuum, amongst ourselves, brought up in conversations over dinner for two … We’ve been sitting with this experience for awhile. It’s only now that I {Tara} can actually write about it.

In the Spring of 2012, we discovered that a Sonoma photographer had stolen the written content of our web site, used it on her own web site, and called it hers. Word for word.  

I’ll do my best to explain what I mean by “written content” to help you understand the impact of their actions. If only it were simply a collection of words … 

I had the idea for this business nearly 8 years ago. It took Heidi and I meeting, me leaving a very lucrative career in sales management, Heidi leaving a career in hospitality management, us sacrificing days off, time together, financial security, a social life, the health of our relationship, vacations, time to ourselves, not prioritizing our own individual health … Essentially, giving all we have to this business so that it might succeed.

We took risks that required us to access fearlessness that we didn’t know we had.

It took us many years, while we each worked full time, to build In Her Image Photography. Months were spent coming up with our menu, pricing structure, package choices, policies, procedures, frequently asked questions …

We took a look at what the industry was doing and we asked ourselves, is that client-friendly? If we could build our business from the ground up, forgetting all the industry standards and blueprints, how would we do it? We wanted to be proud of what we offered, and be able to happily justify all our decisions. Every word on our web site was from the heart, chosen carefully by us, and made up the foundation and structure of In Her Image.

When I think of all that we sacrificed and all of the time we spent building IHI, I cannot for the life of me quantify its worth. But here’s what I can say for sure:

If someone had stolen all of our physical belongings from our house, it would have hurt less than stealing what we had spent so much time and intention on.

Betrayed. Deeply wounded. Furious. Shocked. We felt all these things and more. When Heidi discovered the theft, she shook and could barely speak. I had to remain grounded when I felt like what I was standing on had been yanked out from underneath me. I needed to take action. I needed to stop her, this woman who stole the thing in our lives we are most proud of …

I immediately wrote a cease and desist email, while simultaneously getting screen shots of her web site, gathering proof of copyright infringement. I didn’t want her lying and claiming what was ours was hers for a second longer.  

{she had posted on her Facebook page that her web site was complete with FAQs (ours), pricing (ours), package descriptions (ours), etc. and how completing it was a labor of love … }

I will share her response to my cease and desist letter in Part II, as well as delve deeper into how this experience unfolded for us both personally and professionally. With great reward comes obstacles and we’re hoping that other women entrepreneurs can learn from some of our experiences. 

With Gratitude,

Tara & Heidi 

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*If you are wondering which wedding photographers we would recommend in the Sonoma area, send us an email and we will give you a list. With this post, we don’t want to implicate any of the seasoned, incredibly talented, ethical, professional women in Sonoma ~ some of whom are friends and even clients of ours.