In today's episode, we explore the critical issue of intellectual property (IP) protection and the alarming trend of larger companies threatening the survival of smaller startups. Our guest, Celebrity Yoga Instructor and Founder of Chi Universe, Bobbi Hamilton, opens up about her battles to safeguard her creations and shares invaluable advice for entrepreneurs on how to guard their brands and products early on. Today, her company, Chi Universe, is a promising startup with an expanding customer base and several well-loved products.
While she may not be an attorney, Bobbi's experience with IP attacks in a cut-throat industry will teach all you should know before going to market - knowledge you can only get from walking in the moccasins of an entrepreneur. This interview highlights her mission to enhance physical and mental health in kids and families and her passion for empowering clients to train their bodies and minds. Our episode will leave you inspired by Bobbi's dedication and armed with the know-how to protect your startup from IP theft and unfair competition.
We enjoyed every minute of this episode; Bobbi is a fun guest whose generosity with her knowledge quickly turns this episode into a fine masterclass. We believe you will enjoy it too. Join us now.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
Easing your transition to entrepreneurship in an industry where you have professional expertise.
Why IP protection is crucial for new startups and innovations.
Why you should constantly monitor the market for counterfeits or competitors' products that infringe on your IP.
Best steps to take when your idea has been stolen.
Common traps that make it hard to enforce IP rights immediately and to benefit from current sale opportunities.
And so much more!
You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.
Or, click to watch the full video interview here!
Need to enhance your physical and mental well-being in a fun way? Then visit www.chiuniverse.com to learn more about their energizing Chi Yoga Mat and how it can help you align your body while enjoying the fun of Yoga!
To be a guest on our next Harvest Growth Podcast, contact us today!
Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Set up a free consultation with us today!
Prefer reading instead of listening? Read the full transcript here!
Jon LaClare [00:00:00]: Intellectual property, or IP, is crucial to protect any new business, whether it's a copyright, a trademark, or a patent. Today's guest is not an IP attorney, but rather a business owner that has directly faced multiple attempts to steal her IP. And she shares actionable strategies that will help you prevent your IP from being stolen or recovering if it ever does happen to you. Announcer [00:00:24]: Are you looking for new ways to make your sales grow? You've tried other podcasts, but they don't seem to know harvest the growth potential of your product or service as we share stories and strategies that'll make your competitors nervous. Now, here's the host of the Harvest Growth podcast, Jon LaClare. Jon LaClare [00:00:44]: Welcome back to the show. Today, I'm really excited to have on with us Bobby Hamilton. Now, she's a celebrity and certified yoga teacher, but also the creator, female founder, and the CEO of Chi Universe. Now, they have a line of yoga products she's going to dive into and explain much better than I can. But it's really cool what she's come up with if you have any interest in this space or curiosity. Even in the yoga space, she has solved a problem of how do you help people, especially younger people, to get into a yoga and to understand it visually, et cetera. So, again, she'll do a much better job explaining than I can, for sure. But, Bobby, I want to welcome to the show. Bobbi Hamilton [00:01:24]: Hey, John, thanks so much for having me. I've been really getting into your podcast as a startup entrepreneur myself. Thanks for the platform. I've been a longtime yoga teacher and believe wholly in the wellness effects, physically and mentally, of yoga therapy. And, yes, I've created and innovated a play product for kids and families, kids and moms, kids and parents, dads, teachers to play a yoga game together. And I sort of accidentally innovated it one day while I was teaching. And I was in the Venice Public Library, and I was trying to teach children how to do yoga poses. And there was a little girl who couldn't follow me visually or auditorially. Bobbi Hamilton [00:02:17]: And so I ran over to the mat. She was on one of my mats, and I began drawing on it to put her body in perfect position, and it worked perfectly. And so I created this yoga mat for kids based on anatomical averages and bone and spine lengths and the principles of alignment. And then soon Moms began asking me for a mat in their size because they didn't feel confident in their body alignment. And so it's not only for safety, but it's actual proper alignment. So when you align your body and you create a strong physical container, then you can hold more Chi or Life Force Energy, which is our brand. And from there, when I realized how engaging the product was with the symbol system and the design of the symbol system on the mat, I began working on the game aspect of it which has turned into its own thing. And we have a card game deck. Bobbi Hamilton [00:03:24]: So you follow the symbols from the card game and you match it on the mat and you can connect the poses and you start sequencing movements. And there's also a how to poster that comes with it that has like 200 poses and the symbol combinations. And there's also a free game app. So there's all these tools and ways to learn off screen and online. And so we've just been learning that the virtual playdate works so well and the card game deck and the mat are so engaging and so are the poster. It feels like a complete package. And as a yoga and wellness teacher, I'm so grateful for you to have me on at this point because we're really trying to address the physical and mental health issues within kids and families. And I wanted to speak to the properties that the positive wellness effects that we gain from taking a few deep breaths, counting our breaths together, slowing down the breath, taking control of the breath. Bobbi Hamilton [00:04:40]: One of the things that we do in the game is called Freeze for Threes. So we have kids and parents hold their yoga poses for three breaths and it's so cute and they count their breaths, but just by slowing down and tuning into the breath, you start to get into the nervous system. And when I was play testing this product and driving all over La. Visiting celebrities and their kids, or private households, or teaching in the library or different studios, or after school programs in schools, the thing that I started to realize was that it really helped kids transition into the next thing, into homework or a lot of parents brought me in when they were going through divorce. So we were working on mood disorders and being able to shift children into a greater feeling, a feel good feeling. And also once parents were doing the yoga with the kids and playing the game with them, it completely changed the dynamic of communication. And it was interesting because for me, I would watch them slowly begin to communicate on another level and to share in a deeper way and to create trust. And it's like this really sweet playtime bonding. Bobbi Hamilton [00:06:16]: It just creates this feel good energy, this feel good vibe, this tapping into the life force and increasing the energy at the same time calming the nervous system and using the focus breath. You really get right into the brain. You wake up the brain, you wake up the body. And I could talk for days about the wellness effects of yoga play therapy and if you have any questions about that, I'd love to answer it. But just to tap on a few more you really can correct bone alignment, you can properly align the bones in the body for growing bodies. You can restructure the body, you can work through back pain, work through a lot of physical pain in the body, and oftentimes it's counterintuitive where we hold our bodies tight when we feel like maybe we're in pain. So once you start breathing and moving the body, you begin to work through trauma, you begin to work through emotional stuckness. You begin to work through the physical pain. Bobbi Hamilton [00:07:30]: You unlock the spine. You get the life force flowing through the body, blood flowing through the body, and it just increases your life force energy and helps to unlock the spine and the joints and eases the flexibility of the muscles and the blood flow into the muscles. So I just fully believe so deeply in the wellness effects, and especially at this time when we need to ground into our mental health and anchor ourselves and to find ways to feel better in the moment when we're spinning out of control. And one of the ways to do that is just to focus on one breath at a time or three breaths at a time, and then start to utilize that with movement. Movement and breath to move through difficult emotions. Works like a charm. Jon LaClare [00:08:29]: I love it. So clearly you know what you're talking about, and that comes through. You're a true expert in this field, and that's not always the case, right? And it doesn't have to be for our listeners. If you can invent a product or develop a product that might be out of your field of expertise, I've interviewed a few people that have been very successful, let's say in electronics, but they're not engineers themselves. They've had to get some help in development. And that's all okay too. But specifically for you. I think your expertise is really intertwined, as far as I can tell, in your product and the product development and how you've built this business going back to the days when you were a college level athlete and from there, a cancer researcher and also a teacher, as you mentioned, to executives and celebrities of yoga. Jon LaClare [00:09:15]: So you've been teaching this for a long time. How do you think being such an expert, particularly or specifically, has helped you to be successful in this business? Bobbi Hamilton [00:09:27]: Well, thanks for that. Yes, it's been a lifetime of physical and mental training. I've had the good fortune of working with Olympic coaches and training at the Division One UC Berkeley level, and that definitely has played a role into building the company. But in terms of becoming a good teacher and coach, I feel like a lot of it is really listening and watching and being able to evaluate the level that somebody is at and being able to speak to them directly and having a lot of compassion for people as well. That's something you develop as a yoga teacher, as a fitness trainer, or going through a lot of physical pain yourself. I've had to overcome a lot of back pain myself. So getting up and getting down and getting through back pain. It makes you really sympathetic to the people that you're working with. Bobbi Hamilton [00:10:29]: And it also helps you be able to instruct people properly so that they can avoid additional pain or work through the pain and develop a level of trust with you. So I've been teaching fitness since I was 16, but I think through the process of working in cancer research and training at the level that I was at and working with these high level executives and celebrities, these people are under a lot of pressure and a lot of stress, and they really want somebody to understand where they're at physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I think when you can speak to that and help guide them properly, then they really trust you. And so I've had the great fortune of being able to work with all sorts of different personalities and backgrounds and income levels. And I hope that I have been able to create something that engages people and helps them to learn. So the simple system really simplifies getting into the proper position and also connecting one pose to the next. And so it's basically just a design, a functional design that I've created for yoga that fits kids and adults. And it really helps engage the mind. Bobbi Hamilton [00:12:01]: It's a concrete image. It's even helped kids with autism. It helps the beginner, it even helps the advanced person. I've really studied body mechanics. I was a ten meter platform diver. So much of the mechanics of the dive was in the beginning of the dive, right? And so much of the yoga position is getting into the proper position and then breathing and then moving into the next pose and flowing. So, yeah, the product definitely came from my expertise, but I also followed my interests and I felt like it was much to my detriment. I couldn't quite figure out what I wanted to do right, so I was following my interest, thinking maybe I was going to become a doctor and then going into research and trying to get that into my resume. Bobbi Hamilton [00:12:57]: But wow, learning so much along the way and then realizing, wow, I could help the masses. How do I help the masses? And so this play product is something that's easily integrated into home or into live classes or virtually, definitely. I've drawn from so many areas of my life, not just my athleticism and my own training, but from my multimedia interests and creating great assets for people to learn with and being able to work with artists and developers. Basically, I've been able in the end to weave together all of these things. But it always has rested on my expertise in movement and movement therapy, and yoga therapy, and breath work, and guided meditation and being able to work with people on a physical and mental level that's in the end my strength. And even along the way as a startup entrepreneur, people would say to me, you got to quit doing that. And you got to focus on building the company and that's it. But that actually wasn't the best advice. Bobbi Hamilton [00:14:20]: So much of my fundraising came from working with people who are in business or celebrities. People gave me a lot of great business advice. I was even able to raise some money from clients who believed in me, who sometimes even handed me a check that I didn't ask for. And that was another piece too, like, how do you raise capital and how do you learn how to sell equity? But in the end, like you were saying, it really did come down to my expertise in people trusting me as a yoga and wellness trainer. Jon LaClare [00:15:04]: And along the way, you've had a lot of great success. And unfortunately, what often comes with success are IP issues. Right? People trying to steal our IP, and you've gone through some issues with that and overcome them. Can you talk a little bit about your story and issues you've run into in the IP world? Bobbi Hamilton [00:15:21]: Yes. Great. I would love to because I wish I had had more help. I would love to help startup entrepreneurs in this way. I've had a lot of guidance. I've taken my research skills and actually worked for attorneys in the past. I lost a property at one point when I was very young. I created something called Animal Yoga for kids. Bobbi Hamilton [00:15:42]: And it was so ahead of its time, and it was live action animation, and it was on PBS Kids as yoga breaks for years, getting kids off the you know, this is kind of an extension of my work, but I wasn't experienced enough, and I wasn't as protected as I needed to be. And I was young and I learned some hard lessons. And so when I came up with this great idea, I got to work filing IP, and so I took down some notes that I wanted to share with you. So I'm going to drop some knowledge. I'm not an IP attorney, but I've learned some things along the way, and I will share my knowledge as best as I can. And I've written down some points. Okay, great. Here's the reality. Bobbi Hamilton [00:16:40]: If you don't file IP, you will not be able to get a good attorney if your products, brand or concept gets stolen. So it's absolutely imperative for you to file IP. And I've been in a startup accelerator, or I've heard people say, oh, don't worry about investing in IP. And I'm here to say, do not listen to those people and maybe even put them on your Do Not Trust list and go and file the IP right away. Do the best you can. Filing across all avenues. Copyrights, trademarks for your brand. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents, if applicable. Bobbi Hamilton [00:17:30]: This can be an expensive process and a really difficult process, but invest in yourself. And embarrassingly enough, there were times when I had to rent my apartment and sleep on my friend's floors and make payments. And I'm so glad that I did, because when I finally was breaking through, I was getting writers were writing about me, and we were on the Today Show, and we were in a lot of gift guides and Goop and Harper's Bazaar and Reader's Digest and the you. This was a terrible thing that MBAs would say to me and almost would make me cry, but there's some reality to it. It's like when they wait for you to invest and build and prove the product, and then right then, when you start emerging and coming out of the market, that's when they usually steal it from you. And then they leave you holding the bag of the investment debt. Okay? So this is a very sad reality that small businesses have to deal with. And one of the reasons that we have to deal with this issue is because it actually pays for them to steal from you at this point, because they didn't have to do the investment debt. Bobbi Hamilton [00:19:01]: Oftentimes startup entrepreneurs like myself are underfunded, especially if you're female or minority. Women only receive like, 1.9% of VC financing last year, so you're kind of automatically a target, right? And so we're often underfunded in marketing. We can't compete. And what ended up happening to me, and I had to become savvy to this, was that and I didn't even realize this. I was starting to try and figure out, maybe I can start putting money into digital ads, right? So I go to Google Ads, google Ads, using my assets, my image, my brand, selling as if it's me redirecting my brand traffic to Walmart underselling me globally. So basically what they were doing without my knowledge was they were stealing my online brand traffic at the time when I was really starting to get a lot of press. And then what was happening for me was that writing and paying for cease and desist letters, writing IP claims, it doesn't necessarily stop them from selling your product. It's a fight. Bobbi Hamilton [00:20:29]: And the reason it's a fight is because it is so hard to sue these huge companies. People don't talk about this. It is expensive. It's hard to get a good attorney. You will not get a good attorney unless you have really strong IP. You might not even be believed. I want to tell all of the listeners, once you start seeing anybody stealing from you, you take screenshots immediately. You screenshot everything. Bobbi Hamilton [00:20:58]: You build a timeline and you start summarizing it in order to get a good attorney. So you have to start building your case, and you have to screenshot everything. And going back to why it's so difficult, it's an expensive process. They blow you off, blow you off, blow you off, continue to sell. So while they're selling your product and stealing your sales, it makes it even harder, because they want to basically pay you out on sales. So you have to focus on damages and you want to avoid a lawsuit because nobody wants to invest or become your distribution partner if you're in a lawsuit. So you want to do your best to avoid one, but if they are not going to stop selling your product, you may be forced into it. Right? Part of the reason you may be forced into it is because there's something called efficient capitalism and it should be called efficient theft. Bobbi Hamilton [00:22:05]: But if you look it up, basically it pays for these large companies to steal from small business because they can basically bankrupt you by stealing your sales and your brand traffic. And it's really difficult to get somebody to work for you without paying attorneys. And it's a real process to get attorneys on board with you. Even then it can be difficult for attorneys. Like if a big retailer knows that your attorneys don't have maybe they're a boutique firm, they'll steamroll attorneys, they'll ignore attorneys. It's a long, expensive process and in the end, they may only pay you out less than what they've made on the product. So we have to really pay attention to this and really fight for our IP right now and really make a point in order to prevent our system from becoming more authoritarian as this becomes more difficult, we really need to protect startup entrepreneurs and small businesses. It is fundamental for our economy and for the backbone of our economy and for our innovators. Bobbi Hamilton [00:23:35]: Innovators are a national treasure. It should be easier for us to be funded and to be protected from our own major big tech retailers. Jon LaClare [00:23:53]: Phenomenal advice. Sorry, you're going to say something else? Bobbi Hamilton [00:23:56]: Thank you. Let's see how am I doing on time because I'd love to share a few more things if you're interested. Okay, so one of the other things that I really wanted to warn innovators and startup entrepreneurs about. So for me, I've had a lot of success selling my product online, but I've had to learn through this process some hard mistakes. And third party contracts or third party sellers sort of create safe havens for these large big tech retailers. And I want to warn anybody about these third party contracts. They can be canceled and handed off. Third parties are basically may or may not take the responsibility of taking down your assets. Bobbi Hamilton [00:25:07]: There's all sorts of little clauses that these retailers will try and hide under. This is definitely a place that IP law needs to solve because this third party seller safe haven is such a nuisance to innovators and startup retailers who may not have the money to pay for the insurance, raise the money, raise the money, pay for the insurance. Because third party sellers, they don't market for you anyway. So avoid third party seller contracts. They'll hustle you. Watch out for startup accelerators. Within startup accelerators, you might get hustled for your IP right in a startup accelerator. And the other thing that I want to say and I appreciate startup accelerators and companies who try to help startups and innovators raise money, but they can also put you at risk. Bobbi Hamilton [00:26:15]: And the way that they might put you at risk is by putting you in front of a global audience, really without your understanding or knowledge of it, right? So if they're putting you in front of a global audience and you're pitching, you're putting your IP at risk, it makes it much more difficult to file IP claims internationally. So if these startup accelerators or these programs or these tech finance fundraising companies want you to go on Zoom and pitch to a global audience, or they want to record your pitch at an investor festival, you might want to consider not participating. Because they're literally trying to support their own brand by looking like they're a global startup accelerator, when really they're utilizing their companies and their innovators in a way that may be putting you at risk. So I have always found that raising capital really for me came from talking to people one on one, asking for help, reaching into my community, from my expertise with yoga clients. I think that that's really your best bet in raising capital. I would stay off of these platforms that are going to potentially put you at risk because the reality is that we are in an IP war and we've heard that these outside countries don't respect American IP and consider it fair game. And I would say to innovators as you launch websites before you even launch, get website blockers for these countries and start here and then grow, or just make sure that you're protecting your IP as much as possible. The reality is know, the Chinese are playing a much smarter espionage game than we are. Bobbi Hamilton [00:28:33]: They're fully embedded in our startup communities. My colleagues and I have been approached by them in La and New York, and I know that it also exists in Silicon Valley. And the reason being is that they're trying to catch up. They've got manufacturing and also they can cut the American innovator out of the deal with big retailers, with our American retailers, which they're doing. And our American big tech retailers cut out small business to do direct business with the Chinese, for example, because they can lower the price point and we have to play a much smarter game. Some of the things to look for with phony investors I'll finish with this. Things to watch for regarding phony investors, they will come in hot and they'll want to give you the full amount, maybe even more. And they come in so hot that you think that this is on. Bobbi Hamilton [00:29:46]: They may even schedule a date that they are going to close the deal on. Then they're going to ask you for a data room. And then one of the main things to watch for is they're going to try and ask for your technology, technology you've already built. Don't give them your technology. Don't give them insight into your back end technology, then if you don't give them your technology, they will try to position themselves to get the future technology. So that's another red flag. In addition to that, they may invite you to meetings and kind of insist you drink with them, ask you a lot of questions in detail. They may ask you to attend private meetings or meetings by yourself. Bobbi Hamilton [00:30:33]: They'll ask you for future products that you want to bring to market. So they're trying to gain trust with you. And then they want to know what are your future products and all of your insight into your products and your marketing and your launch into market. And then they may go and reach into their own markets and pretend like, oh, we're just asking our friends in these countries if they think that this is a viable product for our country. I'm sorry to say I don't like to create distrust, but the reality is that there's so much espionage and our innovation in the US is top because democracy offers people a way to be free thinkers. And within free thinking is innovation and creativity. And our country is built on that and we deserve to guard our own IP. And I just want to say one more time, visionaries and innovators are a special kind of mind and you are a national treasure and you should be protected and fostered. Jon LaClare [00:32:03]: Absolutely. Could not agree more. Well, that was really a trove of amazing insights and advice that I really think if our audience is listening while you drive, you may want to rewind and listen to that a lot. Again, so many nuggets of information to help protect our businesses, to protect our innovation. So it's not stolen, right? And I think one nugget I want to pull out from that there's so much that you shared, but one I really want to make sure that our audience hears and recognizes is the idea to look early, right? So I think that comes in two ways at least. One is making sure you're protected at the very early stages. As you said, if you go too far down the road and you get an idea stolen, it's hard to find attorneys to help you out. So start early with the IP protection process. Jon LaClare [00:32:47]: But I love how you also suggested of looking early for copycats, right? So look for your attorney is not going to find it, right? You're not going to randomly come across it, typically speaking. So research and pay attention to your market and watch for signs that somebody has stolen your IP or is in process of doing that because the earlier you can get on top of that. So if you're selling on Amazon or Walmart and you catch it early stage, it's so much easier to stop it than if they're making revenue from it, right, because they're benefiting a third party retailer, for example, or it just gets so mired up in details. The other piece too is starting early. We've had clients that have fought against IP being stolen and some of them early and late in the process. So late in the process, it's very expensive and they've won verdicts. They've gotten some revenue back. But man, is it painful and expensive. Jon LaClare [00:33:37]: Those that have done it, it can be, yeah. And those that have done it early in the process have been able to sometimes use a cease and desist letter. And if a company gets caught red handed, they're early in the process, it's not worth it. These guys caught me, I'll stop. Right. If they're making money, it's much harder to get them to stop. Bobbi Hamilton [00:33:54]: Exactly. And going back to your point on filing early, don't even pitch ideas or brands. They'll literally file IP behind a computer while you're talking. I mean, it is so cutthroat. You have to be so intelligent about making sure that you're covered before sharing brands and concepts. I shared my brand Chimat and somebody stole it in a meeting. They literally filed it, but they made the mistake of not following through and I got it in the back. Well, they missed a filing date with the trademark office. Bobbi Hamilton [00:34:46]: I got my own IP. So it's a matter of staying on top of filing, staying on top of your maintenance fees and yeah, exactly what you are saying later down the road, once they're making money, they're going to compete with you. They're now going to compete with you for your own products, your own brands, counterfeits of your products. So definitely always be searching Google and Google Shopping. That was something I wasn't even aware of. Look around for your products everywhere on every platform and definitely play a much smarter game in that way. Jon LaClare [00:35:33]: Absolutely. Well, we've taken enough of your really this has been extremely valuable. I'm sure our audience is going to listen to this multiple times to really gain a lot of nuggets and learnings from do. Before we close, I want to encourage our audience to check out Bobby's website. Sheuniverse.com where you can see the great products that she has developed. And you mentioned Bobby as we were talking before this interview. Ho. It's often given as a gift, right? So it's a great as holidays approach. Jon LaClare [00:35:59]: This is a great gift to think about for families, for friends of yours that have kids, et cetera. What are great uses that you've seen this. I'm sure you've had many of your customers use it as gifts. Any good or interesting ideas that they've used your products for in gifting? Bobbi Hamilton [00:36:15]: Thank you so much for bringing this up because it is holiday and gifting season and we have really seen our product do so well during the holiday season, people feel great about giving a fun play product that promotes physical and mental wellness. One of the things that's a great gift that I like to promote is a. Child mat and an adult mat and the card game deck. It's our first holiday on Saks Fifth Avenue with our family gift bundles and they're on our website. They're on Saks. They're on Masonnet. High end retailers are really promoting our gift bundles, so is uncommon goods. So I would just say schedule your wellness gift, give your favorite kids and family a holiday gift bundle or matching mats, because they can utilize the how to poster inside of the mat and the free game app if they get the card deck. Bobbi Hamilton [00:37:22]: It's just an added bonus. But it's such a feel good gift for the holidays and traditionally we've done so well at the holidays and as we are in post lawsuit comeback, thanks so much for plugging us and introducing us to your audience means so much. So thank you for that. And yeah, fourth quarter holiday gift idea for your favorite kids and family. Chi Universe. Jon LaClare [00:37:54]: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Bobby, for your time. This has been a great interview. Bobbi Hamilton [00:37:58]: Thank you so much. You are a great interviewer and what a treat to be on for the listeners. Jon LaClare [00:38:03]: Go to chiuniverse that's chiuniverse.com to learn more. And be sure to check out Harvestgrowth.com to see other episodes recorded. And if you'd like to take a shortcut and learn the process that we've used to profitably, launch and grow hundreds of products since 2007, download our secret sauce, our product marketing campaign, Cheat Sheet@harvestgrowthsecretsauce.com. Or you can go right to Harvestgrowth.com and set up an appointment right from our website to speak directly with a member of the Harvest Growth team in a free one on one strategy consultation.