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On a quiet lake in Michigan, while we were on vacation a week ago, things suddenly got very, very noisy. Hundreds of people, and the number may now be counted in the thousands, had suddenly shown up, overnight, in our cabin.
You can imagine our shock. They all wanted to talk about something that happened while were sleeping. We had woken that day to find ourselves smack in the middle of a social media firestorm—a single negative post about one of our products had ignited it all. A few people were very upset with us, though the vast majority were friendly, encouraging and supportive. But all of them, at the touch of a button, had touched our lives—people we didn’t know, who didn’t know us, and would very likely never meet. At stake was maybe the survival of a little business we’d put our hearts and souls into, not to mention a lot of time and money.
For years, we held down full time jobs in New York, creating our business on the side, while raising two children. All the work was beginning to pay off— we’d just received great news. About 6 weeks before our vacation, the buyers at [STORY] by Macy’s told us they were interested in carrying two plates from our POURTIONS™ tabletop collection. Our plates, and glasses, have light-hearted quips on them meant to encourage portion awareness and control. We’d taken time from our kids, on weekends, traveling to conferences, setting up suppliers, learning by doing, investing our own money, to get our business off the ground.
But one post on Twitter led to others, and was now threatening to stop us in our tracks. We were accused, among other things, of mocking people with weight control issues. Our intention with POURTIONS had been to encourage people, starting with ourselves, to be more aware of portions and to live a healthier lifestyle, and to not take life too seriously. Then, to our astonishment, we found out from a reporter at Huffpost, that Macy’s had banned one of our plates—overnight, in a period of just 12 hours. We never heard one word from Macy’s about it, and we still have not. But social media exploded, and it kept blowing up.
HuffPost requested a response to the news that had completely blindsided us. Then, CNN, Washington Post, FOX, TMZ, even Gayle King on the CBS Morning Show, became interested. Most were sympathetic to us, including Ms. King. But even now, if you google POURTIONS the small minority of negative comments, including the original, single posting, tend to dominate.
It has been an emotional, overwhelming week for our small business. With no experience or roadmap to help us navigate, we’ve felt frankly a bit lost at times, and, honestly, hurt too.
Like many entrepreneurs, we developed our business slowly. The concept came to us after reading dozens of articles about the obesity problem in the country. The second inspiration was something we witnessed every day, that portion sizes were growing exponentially—Never-ending Pasta Bowls”; Big Gulps; Endless Shrimp.
Our goal has been to bring attention to portion awareness in a humorous and healthy way—and to perhaps even start a conversation around the dinner table. All our collections have a colorful, middle line—a visual “sweet spot” for the user. The graphics use wordplay and irreverent humor, which may not sit well with everyone. But many think our products are entertaining, practical, and useful.
In the wake of this experience, we hope to come out more resilient and focused on the future. We’ve gained much unwanted attention, but also thousands of fans who like the concept, the humor, and its execution. This quote captures the vast majority of what has been a lively online discussion the last week:
“I love these and the humor behind them. As someone who struggles with weight, I would like to have the plates because of the visual cues that would help me be mindful of how much I'm eating.”
That is why we created POURTIONS. We will continue to serve people who choose to purchase our products— and to believe the market should decide whether we succeed or fail.
—dan and mary
December 10, 2019
I am glad to be one of the people that has ordered your plates, and will be glad when I receive them,
The world needs to lighten up. This is a great way to watch portion control,
I love your sense of humor, we all need to enjoy life,
Thank for being just you
Without the controversy, I would have probably never found your brand. So, sometimes, things happen for a reason. :)
I love the concept, and I have to say, sometimes the truth just hurts. So what though, it is what it is. We have become a society that is so incredibly sensitive over every little thing now, it’s hurting us all and it’s really sad. You are right, we eat way too much. And, we are getting heavier because of it. I used to be 115 when I was 20, now at 50 I’m 160!! And I hate it. I feel sluggish, I’m sure my organs are feeling the strain, and I have lost a lot of my self confidence —NOT because of society telling me I need to lose weight, but because my own common sense tells me. People are so worried about toxins in everything these days, yet they choose to completely ignore that we are eating ourselves to death. But don’t dare point it out to them…. because that’s just mean. But is it? I say, it’s meaner if we don’t.
I bought some of your plates, I think they are great. And when more are in stock, I will buy more.
December 08, 2019
Dan and Mary – I continue to be so proud of how you have handled this overwhelming experience and do all I can to encourage others to support your business. Keep up the great work and good will continue to come your way! Kimberlie
December 06, 2019
I love your style and your good intentions. You have a supporter here!
I love your product! Please don’t stop what you’re doing. It’s genious! We all need to get our sense of humors back!
Food addictive person here! Love the humor! I like making fun of my predicaments.
Accolades are always welcome, but sometimes the negative ones bring the best benefits. Congrats! You’ll be making a lot of folks laugh and help us mind our choices. The others will be ever humbugs.
I love irreverent humor! Twitter, not so much. I hope this has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for you. I get so tired of people who do not have a sense of humor or have anger issues and take it out on others. I can hardly wait to peruse your site and you can be assured I will be ordering on Small Business Saturday. Thank you so much, Dan and Mary.
I think this is a wonderful story of true entrepreneurs! Hard work and perseverance at it’s best! I love these products. As a typical middle-aged woman, I know that my slow weight gain over years will affect my health. What a FUN and ENCOURAGING way to EAT LESS! I love the play on words (even the title of this post, PLATE GATE!) I can’t wait to order some products when the site is ready!
I think you are absolutely brilliant! I can’t wait to order my set of “pasta” and “basta” plates! We have family in Italy, and the last time we visited I thought they were trying to kill us by over feeding! My 11 year old son, who eats like a bird, had the hardest time finishing his food. The day I taught him to say “basta” when they insisted that he “mangia tutto” was a great day! Ciao- Reyna Corridori Freeman
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