In 2018, my company became a victim of its own success.
We'd created top-selling private label products, which had gained thousands of five-star reviews. New counterfeiters appeared on Amazon daily, and the process of fixing the problem cost over $1 million in lost sales, lost opportunities, lost time, and legal fees.
It impacted brand reputation too. When people buy sub-par counterfeit goods, they blame the brand.
Working through this problem was not easy. But with the right mindset and approach, you can overcome anything -- and emerge the other side stronger.
Here's what I learned from the experience.
1. If it's happening to you, it's probably happening to others.
In 2017, counterfeit reports estimated that $1.2 trillion was lost in the U.S. due to counterfeit. As frustrating as it was to watch our sales take a hit, I knew I was not alone.
It's in hard times that communities are created. Companies joined forces to call out the Amazon giant for letting things get so loose. Big products like Birkenstock decided to leave Amazon all together because of counterfeit sales.
Due to this backlash, in February of this year, Amazon launched Project Zero, a program to help brands remove counterfeit sellers. The platform has three areas of focus, implementing automated protection, self-service counterfeit removal, and product serialization support. At the end of the day, regardless of what Amazon does, it's still our responsibility to protect the brand.
2. Protect your product by getting a patent.
Business is a self-development vehicle. As the challenges get harder, you get to discover more about who you really are.
The counterfeit experience taught me that learning how to not lose money is just as important as learning how to make money. When I took full responsibility for the situation and reviewed our systems, I spotted opportunities to implement tighter quality control processes and checks to better protect us from counterfeiters in the future.
This experience increased the urgency to patent our products. Our main product is currently pending a utility patent -- a step that will help deter counterfeit or knock offs in the future. A utility patent is more robust than a design patent, but it can take years to complete -- which is a problem I faced in fighting counterfeiters. In hindsight, a design patent would have been more helpful in protecting our assets on the platform sooner.
3. Try to remain grateful.
When counterfeit products are stealing your sales and damaging your brand, it's easy to lose yourself in a negative thought train. But anger and frustration don't solve problems; they just keep you trapped.
It's why I turned to my gratitude practice. It's my cheat code. You can't be grateful and angry at the same time. When you're grateful, you switch on appreciation and that allows you to see your situation through a more empowering lens.
Practicing gratitude made me realize I'd created a product worth counterfeiting -- it was confirmation I was doing something right! Gratitude also allowed me to acknowledge the opportunities to grow myself and my business from this experience.
No one wants to lose $1 million, but thanks to gratitude and the resilience I developed as a result of practicing it, I was able to cultivate the attitude that ensured I emerged from this experience 10 times stronger.