A small business lesson.
A stylist had borrowed my jewelry for multiple magazine photo shoots. Despite telling him how to attribute my pieces for the credits, a strange thing would happen. In lesser-known publications, he was fine with accurately tagging my company as I had instructed from the start, and telling the magazines and photographers how to attribute the jewelry in the captions.
But every time a more well-known publication would have an editorial featuring my items styled by him, they were either credited as only “vintage” or to the designer itself. For example, "Vintage Earrings" instead of "Earrings from Vanessa's Vintage" or "Dior" instead of "C. Dior from Vanessa’s Vintage". I corrected him multiple times and told him how to accurately use my name in publications.
Then two lovely January 2020 editorials come out in two well-known printed international publications. Featuring my uncredited jewelry. He didn’t tell me they were out and didn't tag me in the posts on social media. And this time it got worse.
He attributed 1950s Weiss rhinestone earrings to Chopard. And unsigned 1930s Art Deco rhinestone earrings to Bulgari. He called the 1990s vintage Christian Dior earrings just Dior. And used other pieces of mine without crediting me.
I asked him about it and gave him many opportunities to come clean. Instead, he attacked me and said ridiculous excuses for what he had done, while refusing to take ownership that he was responsible for telling the magazines how to credit my business properly.
There is a lesson to everything in life and some are more painful than others. This one hurt, because I trusted him and I loved his creative talent. I thought he was my friend and had given him several chances to make things right. I had also provided him with multiple opportunities to freely borrow from my collection, network and make money.
But the lesson I learned was a big one: In business, emails don’t enforce anything. Legal contracts do. So this has motivated me to get a proper PR representative and a barracuda of a lawyer to draw up some really solid contracts. And to enforce those contracts if they’re broken.
Because there will be people who will mistake my kindness for weakness, or my generosity with naïveté. Those who don’t understand that because I may not say much, it doesn’t mean I don’t clearly see everything that’s going on. And as a small business owner with an incredibly busy schedule, I have no time for BS.
We all make mistakes in judgement. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” So shame on me. But that’s okay. Because I’ve learned a lot.
Letting him go means I will have more opportunities to work with people who conduct business like I do – transparently and professionally. It may be a smaller pool, but I know they exist. With a passion for good art, design and teamwork, and a huge love for vintage. And I look forward to working with them and meeting them.
I choose to see the glass as half full with possibilities. Because when I learn from my mistakes, my life and business expand. And my PR person will book other editorials for me with other stylists. And my lawyer will have my back.
Because the sooner I learn my lessons, the faster I can move on to bigger and better things.