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I received a cease and desist letter and Kate Spade saved my business.

When I started my brand strategy studio in 2009 it had a different name. Six months into my newly launched brand studio I received a cease and desist letter from a company with a similar name in L.A. that was working with the likes of Martha Stewart and Herman Miller.

I was mortified, embarrassed beyond belief and totally questioning my ability to be an entrepreneur and run my own business. How could this happen to me?! How could I have been so stupid?

I thought our names were different “enough”, but legally the other design studio owned the word “Hello” in the graphic design industry. And me, thinking, “I don’t need a lawyer to help me with this, the URL is available, I should be finnnnnneeee” got me in big trouble.

Mostly it was my ego that was hurt because after sending an apologetic letter to the L.A. studio, and explaining I was an entrepreneurial newbie and I would find a new name in 3 months, they said it was a-okay.

I took a step back and started to use my own tricks of the trade in branding to reinvent my business to reflect how I wanted to show up in the branding industry and truly be myself as a businesswoman.

I took a deep look at what brought me the most joy in my work and who I was as the founder of my business. And it was Kate Spade. Her bright quirkiness, pops of color and eccentric lifestyle brand was my heart. My Forth Chicago co-founder, Julie Schumacher, referred to Kate Spade as my spirit animal in this article from American Inno.

“Her spirit animal is Kate Spade,” Schumacher said of [Lisa]—during our interview, she quite literally lit up the room, aptly donning a sunflower-yellow peacoat inside a minimalist café.

And this week we lost Kate Spade. And I am at a loss because she was my business and branding muse. 

Lifestyle branding wasn’t a thing until Kate Spade created it.

Affordable luxury wasn’t a category until Kate Spade created it.

Being a quirky fully expressed colorful bright bold businesswoman wasn’t a thing until Kate Spade created it.

New Year’s Eve 2010 I received an email from Kate Spade that said,

“Let’s step brightly into the new year.”

And I thought that’s it! And then I did the real work to trademark my business name: research, and trademarking to truly make this a brand and business of my own.

To me, Kate Spade was the businesswoman that represented the idea of taking an inkling of an idea on a napkin sketch and launching her business to the world with such life, zest, bright boldness and accessibility that mothers and daughters fell in love her immediately. I own somewhere around 2 dozen Kate Spade bags. I am heartbroken that she left this world so young and left behind a daughter.

The loss of Kate Spade shines a bright light on being in communication with those you love. It truly takes a village to create a world that is full of all the bright vigor that Kate Spade brought into my life and into the lives of so many others.

One of the reasons I started Be Bright Lisa Coaching was because behind every business, every brand, is a human being that is simply a human with a wealth of feelings that create the world around them.

The lifestyle brand that Kate Spade created for me was bright, quirky and ridiculously fun. I thought of her as a carefree woman with an agenda full of engaging reading, music, and witty banter.

She, as a woman, mother, wife and most importantly for herself, needed the support and love of a team of professionals. And I want to let you know, that asking for help and support is a must in business, a must in life.

If you need any support or direction, by all means, please reach out to me, or any of the resources listed below.

Kate, thank you for always stepping brightly into the future and carving out a space in history for business women who want to be fully expressed in their life, brand business.

To wrap up my trademarking debacle as a word of warning for new business owners, here are my top 4 ideas to take to heart.

–Research your business name before launching it out into the world

–Make sure you love it with all of your heart

–Make sure that it is truly available per the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

–I’m by no means an expert, obviously! But I know someone who is, Patrice Perkins of Creative Genius Law. Here’s an article about why and when you should hire a lawyer.

And finally, find a muse and love them hard, you don’t know when they will leave this world.

If you know someone who is suffering in any way with mental illness, overwhelm or anxiety here are a few resources to share.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255

Special Section: Mental Health at Work on Thrive Global

Here are some of my favorite Kate Spade bags that I always brought to my photoshoots.

Photos by Jamie Davis Photography and Alisha Sommer Photography.

Want to build momentum in your business in less than an hour? Want the quick and dirty version of how to build focus and impact? Sure you do, join my Brand Impact Mini-Course and learn how in less than an hour.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about Bright Now on Fridays! Ping me on Instagram, or follow me on Facebook where you can watch all of my videos about branding and leadership. See you soon!

Be bright, Lisa


Hi there, I’m Lisa Guillot.

I’m a brand strategist, and professionally trained life, brand + business coach. I help ambitious heart-centered people create a life by design with intention, experience, and insight. I coach executives and entrepreneurs one-on-one, teach online courses and speak about creative leadership and branding. Interested in seeing what’s possible for you? Drop me an email and we’ll connect.

My life purpose is to be fully-expressed in everything I do. I share insights, ideas and behind the scenes of my life and business on InstagramPinterest and LinkedIn.