Business,  Woolworths

Update on Ubuntu Baba / Woolworths situation

I had no idea that my previous blog post would explode on social media the way it did. I knew we were in for some attention, but the support from our customers and the public has been unbelievable and I’m just blown away by how huge this became overnight.

So first and foremost, a heartfelt thank you to everyone for the support, the phone calls, the emails, it’s all very overwhelming.

I met with Woolworths today and our conversations centered around the Woolworths baby carriers in relation to my Ubuntu Baba baby carriers.

In light of all the social media attention and media coverage, a number of small business owners and entrepreneurs had contacted me to say that they are going through similar issues (or have previously gone through similar issues) with Woolworths. I am now sure that this issue is bigger than just Woolworths copying my Ubuntu Baba carriers, and it needs to be addressed.

Big corporations, like Woolworths, should NOT be allowed to take advantage of local SME’s the way that they have clearly been doing. Instead, they should be looking into ways where they can support, rather than hinder small businesses in South Africa.

At the end of this really long and challenging day, I’ve come to realize that I have an opportunity to help make sure that big corporations, like Woolworths, make an honest commitment and ACTIVELY take steps to promote and empower SME’s in South Africa and to keep their promises, do what they say they will do, and be true to themselves, local SME’s and their customers.

This is what I will be discussing with Woolworths over the upcoming days and I will keep you posted. Our discussions are still ongoing and Woolworths have asked that they remain confidential at this time.

As per their social media updates, Woolworths have withdrawn the product from their shelves and online shop, and have personally apologized to me for the time it took for them to address my initial complaint, as well as the striking similarities of the products in question.

42 Comments

  • Ryan Roberts

    Hi Shannyn, glad to hear. FYI, in case they are throwing you a line, Be warned, DO NOT go into business with a corporate, ever! Their retail environment will eat your business alive!

    • Megan

      No necessarily. She can use it as a positive opportunity to make more money actually. Keep her 2k baby carrier for the 10%of SA that can actually afford it and team up with ww and create a cheaper version of her brand for the rest of South Africa and make more money. This whole situation is so stupid and petty. If you can’t parent your brand, EXPECT to be copied!

      • Dani

        I think you mean Patent Megan.

        Regardless, I completely disagree with you.
        We should hold these corporates up to a higher ethical standard. One does not need a piece of paper to “EXPECT to get copied”.

        What you’ve said is not only unethical, but unnecessary. Support local businesses.

      • Paul.C

        All the best Shannon!! Support from us for sure !! To Megan whom was a bit negative.. I suggest rather share some positive insight than state the obvious of which has no place here after the fact! Some people know it all and some don’t , It’s life… through risks and mistakes it’s the only way one can learn and grow. Yes you are correct regarding more mass sales teaming up with WW however they will probably bargain you down and in the end they often take over eventually, completely as they can afford all the legal costs and know all too well all the loop holes, etc. It could still work out doing a deal with WW but as usual there are risks like any other business deals, It is a tough decision and best for Shannon to hook up with other people whom are currently tied into a deal with WW and hear their thoughts. I assume Shannon probably won’t want anything to do with them after this whole be-lava anyways.. not sure I have not met/know her personally tbh. Hey so it goes in this mad world.. you’ve got this.

  • Nicci

    Dear Shannon

    Are you aware of the fact that Woolworths is still vehemently denying that their sourcing / development department ordered your carrier? They are now saying it was a employee in their pet food department?

    Well done for standing up for SME’s in SA!!

    Nicci

  • Nicole John

    We are behind you, Shannon. Proud of you for standing not only for your business, but for all South African SME’s! Take heart, a deep breath and one step at a time 🙂 xx

  • Stephanie Venter

    Please encourage Woolworths to donate the unused / returned baby carriers, and not just dispose of them to a landfill. It would be a complete waste and I am sure there are many, many mothers in need who would appreciate them.

    • Herman

      Good idea Stephanie, but I will suggest that these be donated after it was re-branded as Ubuntu Baba carriers, in order to give UB the benefit of this kind act.

    • That wouldn't be wise

      As much as I would have supported this suggestion I don’t think that this would be wise due to the fact that WW removed a safety feature that stopped infants from slipping out the carrier and that the safety information isn’t detailing the correct use of the product which could cause infant suffocation and death!

      They need to be destroyed as even one death is one tragedy too many.

  • Amina

    Well done Sharron!! Do not allow them to get away with this!! It is so so very wrong on all fronts. We support you all the way!

  • Barney Beukes

    Glad to hear the discussions are open! If they have a rethink of product and are sooo sorry – why are they withdrawing product from shelves and sales ? It doesn’t make sense – if the intent is to fix and help – sales efforts should increase and they would rather want to build than withdraw? I see a fox in sheep skin here !!!

    • Eve

      Withdrawing is the right thing because they have stolen a design and are selling it as their own. Absolutely no reasoning in promoting sales to increase on their part

  • Helen Wertheim Aymes

    We’re behind you! Let’s make this big! You have all of us UB Mama’s behind you. And you of all people will know the strength of just 1 pee’d off mama, never mind thousands!

  • Tony McKeever

    Shannon:

    This is a scurrilous filthy heinous act of ambush retailing by the CEO Ian Moir and his Woolworths team.

    As you have taken ownership of championing your UBUNTU BABA brand – so Ian Moir and his entire Woolworths management team and instore personnel have tainted themselves with this sordid act of corporate plagiarism.

    It is a despicable act of corporate IP theft by Woolworths and your stance and integrity to maintain your composure for and on behalf of UBUNTU BABA and your faithful customers is nothing short of inspirational – it is a case study to be trumpeted in Business Schools around the world .

    You go girl!

    Tony M

  • Lauren Kotzé

    Awesome! We support you and all SME’s in SA 100%. Good luck for what I’m sure will be a challenging next few days.

    And if you need us to take this back to social media to cause another stir, just shout 🙂

  • Andrew

    Dear WOOLWORTHS.

    I REALLY REALLY want to hear from your CEO, Ian Moir. I want him to convince me, and your many thousands of other loyal customers, that the Ubuntu Baba saga was a terrible and regrettable mistake. That it will NEVER EVER happen again. That he intends to make good by the mistakes that have taken place under his watch. I want to know that he has personally reached out to Shannon McLaughlin – rather than sending in his lackeys to sort the mess out. I want him to demonstrate proper leadership. But I don’t see him…..

    We all remember Frankies. There have been others too – the hummingbird cushion cover designs and, hey, you even ripped off one of my original garment designs years ago, when it was simply the ‘done thing’. But social media has changed things now. You can’t plunder with impunity and expect to get away with it. The power has shifted and small people now have big voices. I hear the voices growing and the chorus is getting louder. This mess is all over social and mainstream media and its not looking good.

    Why is it taking you so loooong to respond? Where is your crisis management team when you need them – still on the beach at Plett? It’s no longer acceptable to duck behind the parapets at head office and hope this thing will blow over. What is required now is LEADERSHIP. And it’s nowhere to be seen.

    Ian Moir – If we don’t hear your voice coming through loud and clear, then your board has got a problem – because it means you can’t step up in a crisis to be accountable. Thousands of us little people pay your substantial salary. So show us that you deserve it.

  • Sue Kingma

    You have all my support ! I am also a small business owner, just like you. Stay balanced, stay true, keep in there for for the long haul for all of the SMEs out there. Copying is plagiarism – it is illegal and immoral and bad business. It is yet another form of CORRUPTION and FRAUD. Woolworths should be growing small business in South Africa, sourcing from South Africa, not importing food from world over unsustainably – importing is killing the planet! Woolworths is not looking after our grandchildren and their children’s children…Woolworths is not educating their consumers and growing the future for Africa! Go Girl! Go! Be strong and true and even and balanced…

  • Chris

    Hi Shannon,

    Demand to decide who, how and where to donate the copied carriers from Woollies too. Keep your foot on their throat and don’t let them swear you to secrecy about their sorryness. It is because of social media attention that they are reacting. Sorry to be caught and not sorry about their business model. SIES.

  • Surita

    Well done! People are fed up with this charade of theirs. If they can steal products the way they have been doing, how can we trust that their organic produce is really organic, or that the free range is really free range? In fact I heard a story told by a friend who has connections on a regular tomato farm, hydroponic I think, who often pack their produce as organic for Woolworths when their organic farms are unable to make their quota… Where there is smoke, there is fire.

    This whole thing has completely shattered what little trust I had left in them. I will definitely be closing my account and spending my money elsewhere.

    Good luck. Join forces with the other people who have contacted you and take this as far as it needs to. It will be a service to all of South Africa.

    S

  • Andre Snyman

    Well done for taking on the big guys. We at eblockwatch will assist any of our members who are bullied regardless of who are bullying them. Be it at schools, the internet at work or at home, we .. over 100000 South Africans standing together make big bad bullies small

  • Olivia Van Stavel

    Good on you Shannon for recognizing an opportunity to stand up for other SME’s.
    It makes feel even prouder to be an Ubuntu Baba mama!

  • Andrea

    Well done for standing your ground Shannon! We (Parents to 8 month old Isabella) just ADORE your product!Have been using our carrier from day 1 and can’t image raising Isabella without it. It has also become my “go to” recommendation for all new mamas & babyshower gifts.Supporting local all the way!

  • Mel

    I would say that the Woolworths design is more similar to the ergobaby original carrier than the Ubuntu Baba carrier to be honest. Since the Ergobaby was around before both the Ubuntu Baba and Woolworths carriers, it seems that you both copied them.

    I think you would be lying to yourself if you said that you did not take into account designs of other baby carriers when designing your own.

  • Vincent Gogle

    Hi Shannon

    It is encouraging that Woolworths are engaging with you, but!! They are only interested in profit! They have shown this time and again and will try to get you into a conciliatory mode. Honestly this campaign on social media needs to be made even bigger , as what happened with momentum life! This corporate arrogance needs to be stopped and now you have created a vehicle that will help all of us. Keep your guard up and give them hell. They deserve it, the greedy sods.

  • John Smith

    Shannon – a sad but true tale indeed – you have certainly exposed the underbelly of the beast that is corporate retail in South Africa. Whilst you are engaging with the powers that be I would urge you to press them on their procurement process and the due process they follow in terms of allowing SMEs a chance to participate in their business.

    I have it on good knowledge that they have a flawed procurement process in that unlike the other major retail chains who will often ask a field of manufacturers / suppliers to tender for a business contract – WW are a closed shop and only give the business to their select few bosom buddies some of whom employ former WW staff which raises a massive conflict of interest.

    I urge you to use this spotlight to shine a light on these unfair practices which have “rigged the game” against SMEs and only allow for the corporates to enrich themselves without even giving the SME a chance

  • NAH

    Did you know that the Woolies pastries that are purported to be baked by them are actually imported from France!! Is there no baker in SA who can supply these??? Shocking behavior by Woolies.

  • Peter Waldburger

    Do not be complacent. This the Woolworth modus operandi. There are others like you and Frankie’s. Me Moir is part of the problem. His radio interview on 702 regarding the Frankie issue was arrogant in the extreme and showed utter disdain for his customers. These issues should be handled by the Competition Commission with fines relating to total turnover.

  • Liezl

    Hi Shannon,

    I just wanted to say good for you! And I trust that everything will work out in your best interest.

    There are so many other brands out there, more expensive than Ubuntu and much cheaper as well.

    I personally tried and tested so many carriers cheap and expensive before I settled on the Ubuntu.

    The Ubuntu was the only one that made me feel safe, secure and comfortable in carrying my baby for hours at end and it was the only carrier that she was happy being in. She is now two and she still loves it.

    I was personally wondering if there is going to be a stage 3 for even bigger heavier babies than 20kg?
    I just don’t want to give up carrying her or dancing her to sleep so close to me.

    Sending girly power your way.

    xxx

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