Ubuntu Baba owner: Big corporates like Woolworths must help develop small businesses

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Shannon McLaughlin, the founder and designer of Ubuntu Baba baby carriers says that she will be in discussions with Woolworths on how it can help develop small to medium-sized businesses.

McLaughlin was thrust into the spotlight earlier this week when she blogged about how the retailer had copied the design of her signature baby carrier. 

Woolworths met with her on Wednesday.

Following the meeting, the retailer issued a statement to say there were "striking similarities" between the carriers that it had produced and those of Ubuntu Baba. Woolworths said it would withdraw its carriers from the shelves. It apologised to McLaughlin and said customers could return their product for a full refund.

"We remain deeply committed to the development of small businesses in South Africa," Woolworths said.

McLaughlin, in a new blog published late on Wednesday on her website, said a number of small business owners had reached out to her saying they had experienced "similar issues" with Woolworths.

"I am now sure that this issue is bigger than just Woolworths copying my Ubuntu Baba carriers, and it needs to be addressed.

"Big corporations, like Woolworths, should NOT be allowed to take advantage of local SME’s the way that they have clearly been doing. Instead, they should be looking into ways where they can support, rather than hinder small businesses in South Africa," she wrote.

McLaughlin said that she has an opportunity to hold big corporations accountable to help promote and empower small businesses.

"This is what I will be discussing with Woolworths over the upcoming days and I will keep you posted. Our discussions are still ongoing and Woolworths have asked that they remain confidential at this time," she said.


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