I felt like I was going to throw up.
My stomach churned and my heart raced as I stared at my computer in disbelief.
It had only been six months since I stayed at her apartment, attended a documentary screening together and went out for ice cream with her sister and husband.
I thought we were friends.
And now, as I stared at her newly-launched website, it hit me hard.
“Sustainable Fashion Business Incubator,” it said in big, bold typeface.
My friend — someone who I trusted and supported and grown close to — had launched a competing (almost identical) program to Factory45.
As I scrolled down her site, the similarities between the two programs were nauseating. There were even entire paragraphs taken from my website and plagiarized.
When I got on the phone to ask her why she would launch such a similar program — one that I had already been running for two years — she insisted her course was different.
Five minutes into the conversation, there wasn't anything left to say
There is nothing that can quite prepare you for discovering your first real competitor.
I’ve gotten more than one late-night email from Factory45 grads along the lines of:
“Shannon, do you know about this brand? It’s so similar to mine! What do I do?”
The first time it happens, you’re allowed to freak out.
It's normal to enter a state of panic.
As long as you don’t quit.
Because that’s likely going to be your first instinct.
“Well!” *throws hands up in the air* “If she’s doing it, then there’s no point in me doing it! Guess that dream is OVER.”
As soon as those words come into your mind, here’s what I want you to do:
But only for a day.
Go to yoga, play with your kids, have dinner with your partner, call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while.
The next day, come back.
Because you’re going to find that the initial disappointment of discovering a competitor will have diminished — at least slightly.
Gradually, you’re going to feel reinvigorated by your idea and your business and you’re going to be glad you didn’t give up on it. For all of these reasons.
And as your business progresses and your customer-base grows, the concern about competition is going to fade.
You’re going to become more certain about your place in the industry and more confident that you’re the person to pull it off.
You’re going to realize that there really is room for all of us.
Let me repeat that, there is room for all of us.
Having been through that experience with my friend and seeing even more competitors come into the space since then, I’ve been able to get a grip on how competition makes me feel.
While I’m aware of it, I generally don’t worry about it anymore. Not because I don’t still have fears, but because I know it doesn’t serve me in any positive way.
So, this is Secret #2: Successful businesses aren’t derailed by competition. They don’t slow down, they stay the course and they don’t get distracted.
Most of all, they keep showing up.
P.S. If you’re wondering what happened to my friend’s competing program, she went out of business after a year. While I did come to terms with there being enough room for both of us, I also saw firsthand how hard it is to stay in business if it’s a direct replicate of someone else’s idea. Needless to say, I learned a lot of lessons.