Jenn Denouden is the entrepreneur CEO of Avana
Inside The Tampon Book. Photograph: Cedric Soltani/Studio Dropped
How I Dealt with an Aggressive Attempt to Steal My Business

Imagine being an entrepreneur like Richard Branson or Mark Cuban and having someone try to steal your business ideas – and in an incredibly sketchy way. It’s hard to imagine a person having the balls to think that they’re entitled to dig up Cuban’s personal tax returns or ask them for their proprietary business plans.

So, why did it happen to me?

I’m going to tell you what happened when a local entrepreneur tried to invasively and aggressively steal my business so that you can learn what you can do when you encounter unsavoury characters on your entrepreneurial path. It is not ok that this happened to me, and I think you’ll agree that it’s a massive violation of privacy that no respectable entrepreneur would do to another.

Who Would Try Steal a Business?

I had heard about a particular real estate investor in my city – let’s call him Brett because that’s his name. On social media, Brett portrays himself as very successful, so I have no qualms about exposing his underhanded agenda to steal my business. When you brag about being a real estate investor, you better have the goods to back it up. Otherwise, it’s a social media smoke and mirrors game, and you’re just asking for a slice of humble pie.

How Did Brett Try and Steal My Business?

Picture this. One day, I’m going about my day, a cup of black coffee in hand, when I receive a letter from the Government of Canada. I open the hefty envelope and find a letter notifying me that someone has requested documents about my business from the Privacy Commissioner’s office.

What?

Holding this letter in my hands, I felt goosebumps creep up my neck.

Where is this coming from? Who is requesting this? And why?

I had never heard of someone doing this to another business or entrepreneur, so I was taken aback. I wondered if the person who had filed this request knew that I would – rightfully – receive a notification to approve providing my records. It turns out he just didn’t give a shit and had no shame.

I spoke to my team at Avana and soon pieced together who must be behind this bold request. It turns out that Brett had been asking detailed, invasive questions about Avana through our social media DMs. You’d have to be delusional to think a social media manager would divulge privileged information about a business model through an Instagram DM.

When he didn’t get the answers he wanted through social media, Brett went on to pull title on our properties and tried to find out as much as he could about me, my husband, and my business so he could request our files from the Government of Canada.

How Did I Deal with Brett?

If you know me personally, you know that I’m direct in confronting issues head-on. When I realized that the intrusive Instagram DM’er must have been the same person who filed a request with the government, I decided to give Brett a call myself.

Speaking on the phone with him, I quickly realized that this wasn’t just an innocent curiosity about my business and my success – he had an envy-fuelled agenda. He actually said that he wanted to replicate what I have for himself.

Brett had the audacity to tell me all the steps he had taken to try and reverse-engineer my “secret sauce” and how relentless he was in digging for information.

It was astonishing to realize that he wanted to steal my business plans and strategies rather than putting in any hard work. The nuances of having a purpose-led business like mine were totally lost on him. Spoiler alert: This is part of why we are successful because we are fully committed to our purpose over profit. All he saw were dollar signs.

The problem here is that Brett thinks he is entitled to have the same type of success as me – without doing any of the work. It was clear to me that he had zero comprehension of the hard work it takes to build a successful business like Avana. It’s like DM’ing James Dyson asking for his vacuum blueprints or asking Coca-Cola for its recipe.

Closing

Why is it that Brett thought it was ok to try violating my privacy? I find it hard to believe that he would have pulled the same moves on a male entrepreneur. Is it because he thinks a young, female entrepreneur couldn’t possibly be so successful – and that he should be entitled to get a piece of the pie?

After speaking with him on the phone, I felt compelled to put these words of caution out to other entrepreneurs – especially women – who may one day face something similar. Don’t hesitate to defend your business and your boundaries. Just because someone feels entitled doesn’t make it ok. I think that no male entrepreneur would ever tolerate this unthinkable attempt at corporate espionage.

I encourage you to have the confidence and conviction to say to the Bretts in your life: You don’t need my tax returns – put in the work yourself.

Further Reading…

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