I got a message today from someone who wanted me to make them a custom beaded teething ring. I don't make them and have no plans to and without full safety testing I'm legally not allowed to. So I turned the sale down. But rather than just refuse the sale, I directed the customer to one of my competitors who does make them. I know this company is responsible and trust that they would have taken all the right steps to ensure they have a legal and safe product.
My attitude is that there is enough space in the baby market for lots of similar companies. But I remember in the early days of the shop seeing a teething necklace that was identical to one that I sold. And what's more I recognised the name of the person selling it. Sure enough, she had ordered that exact necklace from me and copied it to sell. I felt furious! She hadn't even tried to change one element!
But now what I know is this - people who don't have their own original ideas will not be in a creative business for long, and I can only control my business and how I conduct myself. There are thousands of teething companies out there and only so many colour combinations and bead layouts. It is my job to differentiate my brand so that people know, recognise and trust it. I have a lot of loyal and repeat customers, which fills me with so much joy, as it's a genuine compliment when people return.
So the upshot is this - let's support each other. Competitors or not.