'We will not tolerate these types of bullying': Plant business Kokeball speaks out against alleged copying of workshops

'We will not tolerate these types of bullying': Plant business Kokeball speaks out against alleged copying of workshops
PHOTO: Instagram/Kokeball

A centuries-old Japanese gardening art known as Kokedama — which grows out of a moss-covered ball of soil — has caused a modern-day buzz on social media.

Kokeball, which runs Kokedama workshops for plant enthusiasts, claims workshop space provider Space 4 Us has allegedly been conducting and undercutting similar workshops under a new name — after attending and learning from their classes.

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On Monday (March 1), Kokeball took to Instagram to announce terminating their informal partnership with Space 4 Us.

This post, which has since gone viral, highlighted their arrangement of conducting weekly workshops in exchange for a discount — Space 4 Us staff would sit in and learn Kokedama techniques when workshop slots could not be sold.

Speaking to AsiaOne, Kokeball's owner Natasha Tan said that they had agreed to work together to promote the newly created Space 4 Us, with the first workshop being held on Jan 12.

To boost awareness, they brought over some of their existing customers to attend these workshops, Tan added.   

Starting from Feb 20, Tan said the workshop space was full of Kokedamas —koke means moss and dama means ball in Japanese — that looked uncannily similar to theirs. 

The following week, according to Tan, her Kokeball team discovered Kokedama workshops at the space but not conducted by them. On the website, it is advertised under Kokedama Empire for $50 per session, while Kokeball's workshops were once listed at $95 per session.

Presently, there are no Kokeball workshops in the upcoming workshops webpage on the Space 4 Us website. 

In the Instagram post, when Kokeball approached Space 4 Us, the latter said they were not doing anything wrong and would continue — one of the reasons include how Kokedama and the technique are not propriety to Kokeball.  

AsiaOne reached out to Space 4 Us and they have denied these claims. "We are saddened that this situation has caused undue stress to all parties involved. As such, we will not be entertaining any questions based on this matter,” they replied.

Kokeball elaborated in their Instagram post that though Space 4 Us might have provided valid reasons, they had not been transparent about their plans, nor had they provided Kokeball any recognition for the techniques learnt during their workshops. 

"Though we are a small business, we still have a voice", Kokeball said, in the second-last picture of their post.

"We decided that we will not tolerate these types of bullying and are taking our own stand."

Netizens have also taken to the comments section to express their shock and disgust towards Space 4 Us as well as questioning their ethics and business practices.

Many have also praised Kokeball for speaking up about this situation. 

On Tuesday (March 2) evening, Kokeball also posted a series of Instagram stories to thank netizens for their overwhelming support.

They mentioned that the reason they decided to make the incident public despite it being "so close to their hearts and potentially controversial" was because they wanted to share what they have learnt and experienced as a small business.

melissateo@asiaone.com 

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