Ubuntu Baba owner: ‘I’m not happy with Woolworths apology’
Shannon McLaughlin, owner of Ubuntu Baba. (Supplied)
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Staff of Ubuntu Baba were in tears and worried they would lose their jobs when they learnt about the debacle with Woolworths through the media, owner Shannon Mclaughlin said.
Speaking to Fin24 by phone on Friday, McLaughlin shared how she had learnt from a staff member that there were similar baby carriers to the ones her business manufactures being stocked and sold for a third of the price at Woolworths.
“We were being made to look like the baddies in a situation, when it wasn’t the case,” she said, in reference to the higher cost of her product versus that of the retailer.
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Earlier this week, she blogged about how the big corporate had seemingly copied her product idea. Woolworths met with McLaughlin on Wednesday and following an investigation, said in a public statement that they would withdraw the product from stores given “striking similarities” with the Ubuntu Baba product.
The retailer said it had also apologised to McLaughlin.
When asked if she was happy with Woolworths’s apology, McLaughlin said,” No, I wasn’t.”
“I asked for [Woolworths CEO] Ian Moir to call me,” she said, as this was what members of the public were calling for too – [for] the leaders at Woolworths to speak up.
“They sent me a letter. I felt very unhappy about it and I wanted to know where these people [leaders at Woolworths] are as well,” she said.
READ: Ubuntu Baba owner: Big corporates like Woolworths must help develop small businesses
Since Wednesday, McLaughlin said that she has been in discussions with Woolworths and had spoken to SA CEO Zyda Rylands – the subject of these discussions are confidential, but McLaughlin said she is feeling positive about it.
McLaughlin said she has made requests of Woolworths, but she will only know the outcome of these next week, and then it will be made public.
“I set down what I would like out of the situation, what I want as an outcome for how Woolworths will do things differently and how to move forward in this situation,” she said.
“Hopefully it will not only be positive for Ubuntu Baba, but for Woolworths as well – to show the public they are serious and willing to make some changes.”
When asked if she was aware about how many baby carriers were sold by Woolworths – McLaughlin said she could not share this information as it is confidential.
When asked what she thinks about the public calling for Woolworths to pay her back, she said that money is secondary.
“I am not out to win the lottery. I am out to run an ethical business and live in a country where that is respected.”
READ: #Woolworths: Worried a big corporate will steal your idea? Here’s how to protect what’s yours
She intends to write another blog post of the lessons she has learnt from this situation.
McLaughlin said her conversation with Ryland showed her how she had “messed up” too.
“The reason this is happening is that we are not aware of how we can be taken advantage of. There isn’t a school for that – it all comes with experience and you have to be taken for a ride, before you learn it.”
Her first priority is to run a productive factory and provide jobs. It was an emotional few weeks for her team, she said. “We got calls from them (staff) in tears about what is going on – is the factory closing down?”
She assured them they would not lose their jobs. Instead, she told them this could have been the best thing that could have happened for the business.
“Obviously it’s given me PR I could never have paid for – I could never be sad about that.”