By Cassie Johnston
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If you would have asked me last week if I’d ever change the name of my beloved little corner of the internet, I would have probably laughed at you and said, “only if there were lawyers involved!” Well, baby, those lawyers got involved. And they’re the reason for the teardrops on my keyboard (well not my lawyer, she’s awesome and has never made me cry).
I’ll get into the what-happeneds and oh-my-goshes in a few minutes, but I don’t want to bury the lead, so here it is. Back to Her Roots is now Wholefully. And my annoyingly verbose writing about food now lives at wholefully.com.
For at least the time being (and hopefully indefinitely) all the hundreds of thousands of links out there will automagically redirect to wholefully.com. It is not guaranteed that this will stay this way long-term, so pretty please, update any links or bookmarks (do people still use bookmarks?) you have to wholefully.com. You’re swell.
And, now onto the full scoop: I’m not looking to name names or play the blame game here, because, honestly, it’s all been a bit traumatic, and I’m trying to move on, but I do think I owe you lovely, wonderful people an explanation of why this change is happening so abruptly.
Early this year, I started working to get my blog name trademarked. It was something I should have done ages ago, but never felt “big” enough to warrant that kind of legal protection. But at the urging of some of my blogger friends, I went ahead and started the process. Both my attorney and I felt like the trademark was in the bag based on what was already out there.
And then, in late August, we got word that my trademark application had been refused because of likely confusion with an already registered trademark in the health website space (don’t try to figure it out—you probably won’t). Both my attorney and I disagreed with the ruling, and we immediately went to trying to figure out next steps (you have six months to decide if you want to appeal). I personally don’t feel like it was a conflict—and not a single person I’ve talked to felt like it was either—but, alas, no one’s opinion matters in this except for the examining attorney at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The beautiful and crazy thing about the federal government is that pretty much every thing that happens is public record. And when my trademark application was denied, it became public record. Basically, a big ole notice to anyone looking saying, “Hey, the government thinks this random food blogger is infringing on someone’s trademark! Go get her!” And, unfortunately, someone was looking.
We didn’t even get a chance to decide on the appeal or not, because within a few weeks, my Facebook page (with 30,000 of you amazing people) was shut down for trademark infringement, and there were lawyers on the phone threatening legal action if I didn’t immediately cease using my blog name.
I can’t blame the other company. It’s their right to protect their trademark (even though I still don’t agree that I’m infringing—we have since appealed the original decision), but the truth is, I’m just one girl trying to feed her family, and so it’s hard to not feel personally attacked (hence all the tears) when my livelihood is up on the chopping block. But it’s business, and I’m trying to keep that in mind. I wish only the best for the company that is on the other side of this battle. They’re trying to feed their families, too.
We had a whole bunch of options for where to go from there. But only one was realistic. I don’t have a whole legal team. I don’t have thousands of dollars to throw at this. I’m not in the financial situation to just go dark for a few months while I fight this. This is how I pay my mortgage, and I have to try to protect it, and sometimes, the best way to protect something is to walk away from it. Within a few hours, I had decided to walk away from the name Back to Her Roots.
After breaking down to my husband (so many tears), he suggested we clear off a wall and start brainstorming new names. A few hundred sticky notes later, it started to feel like more of an opportunity than a mandate. I loved the old name, but I was given (well, given in the loosest sense of the word) the opportunity to create a name that I felt like fully encompassed what my mission had become.
I started this blog six years ago when I was living in an apartment in the city with my husband. I was training for half marathons and wasn’t sure I’d ever have kids. I was posting about what I ate for breakfast and sharing how much weight I lost over the week. Back then, this website was about me. Hence the “her” part of the name (which, ironically, is the word that is most contested in this whole battle).
As I have grown up (and has my website), it has felt increasingly less about me, and more about you guys. How I can help you. What goodness I can put out into the world for you to use. What questions of yours I can answer. And the more my husband and I brainstormed, the more it became clear that this was a chance to reflect that in a new brand.
I wish I could say that there was some stroke of genius or in-depth strategy behind the name Wholefully, but I can’t give you much more than just to say, it feels right. Like your favorite pair of jeans kind of right. Like the way I feel when I take my first sip of coffee in the morning. Or how the first warm day feels after a cold winter. It feels like home. And when you’re leaving behind a brand you’ve babied for over six years, finding a new home is really, incredibly important.
Within a few hours, I had registered the domain. I snagged the social media usernames. I designed a new logo. And I started the process to make the switch on the backend. And now, here we are. It’s both exciting and terrifying to be here.
I’m gonna go ahead and apologize for the bumpy road we’re on right now (or as my kid says, “rumble bumps”). In an ideal world, I would have had weeks (or even months) to orchestrate a change this massive, but in reality, it had to happen in just a few days. There will be broken links—but hopefully not too many. References to the old name will be slow to fade. You’ll probably be confused for at least the next month when “wholefullyblog” shows up on your Instagram feed, and we’re still having issues with the Facebook page. Bear with me.
The helpers who have come out in support of me during this ordeal have just warmed my heart. Friends, strangers, colleagues, and my family have been bending over backwards to help me through this, and I just can’t even tell you how wonderful it has been to be uplifted and supported. My phone has been lighting up constantly with sweet, kind, and supportive Snapchats (even though I’ve been incredibly cryptic). Seriously, you guys are the best.
I’m not naive. I know there are much worse things in the world than having to change the name of some food blog, but, in my world, this is enormous, and having a support system has been key to getting through it. Thank you to each and every one of you guys. I literally have my dream job, and it’s entirely because of you. Entirely. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars that you all read, comment, and share my content. I owe everything to you. And I’m really excited to go into this next chapter together. Big, tear-filled group hug. Onward and upward!
One last time before I go: update all of your links to wholefully.com. If you already follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, you’ll be automagically following my new accounts. Snapchat does not allow you to change usernames, so you can find me at wholefully. If you weren’t following me already, you can find me on Instagram at wholefullyblog, on Pinterest as wholefully, on Snapchat as wholefully, and on Facebook as Wholefully.
Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.
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Congratulations on your new name! I feel like it totally encompasses what your blog is all about. Sorry about all the rumble bumps you’ve been through these last weeks, but hey – fresh start, new beginnings, reinvigorated work, yes? Huzzah!
Thank you! Yes, I am really excited to move forward now—it’s not what I would have chosen, but a fresh, new start feels really nice!
I just saw the new name on FB. I’m so sorry about the road that led to this, but I do love the new name. Sending positive energy to you and your family!
Thank you so much, friend! :)
I love the new name! I’m sorry about the circumstances that came around forcing you to initiate the change, but it still feels wonderfully YOU, which is the most important thing. :)
Thank you, friend. :) It feels so right!
Upward and onward, as they say. You obviously (despite the tears) put on your big girl panties and dealt with this as you have everything else… with grace and tenacity. I am not a blog follower, so I don’t know what else is out there or how a lot of this stuff works…. I only follow yours.
I fell in love with Back to Her Roots three years ago when I moved to the Midwest and tried to grapple with the culture here. You were literally my first Midwestern friend, because, as I’m sure many of your readers do, I feel like you write just to me. I can’t wait to see where these changes lead my friend and her business, and I am so happy to see you feeling okay with it. Lots of love to you, Cassie, and to the Wholefully blog! :)
P.S. I really like the name, because it rhymes with Hopefully… and that’s how you are, or at least how you seem about this… Hopeful. <3
Thank you, I’ve been trying to grasp what word it reminded me of and you are spot on: hopefully!! :-)
I love that it sounds like “hopefully”, too! Thank you so much for reading for so long and being so supporitve!
Great new name! :)
Your roots will never change. They will always be who you are. But I love the new name too. Hang in there!
Thank you! :)
I love the new name and loved the old name, too–but that doesn’t matter as much as what your blog is all about–all excellent stuff and helping people be healthy & happy and sharing your experiences!!! If you call the blog “Bubba-loo-Schmooey” I’d still read it faithfully!
HAHAHA! Thank you for making me literally laugh out loud. I totally should have named it that—I doubt anyone would ever fight me for the trademark on that one. :)
LOL Somebody should trademark that name, it is awesome!
While I’m sorry this happened, I also deeply admire how you’ve taken something negative and turned it into something wonderful and exciting. Cheers to you for being bold enough to embrace change!
Thank you so much, Zoe. Sometimes, you just gotta suck it up and move forward!
wow Cassie even though we are miles and miles away I see a friend in you and I’m so sorry for what you have being true because of this process! You inspire me. I have created a food blog here in my country and I took photography classes to get a little closer to your talent because I appreciate your hard work here and that’s my reference of what I want to become as a blogger. Unfortunately I’m a good writer but I know nothing about graphic design or web development but I’m giving my best! Lol The name wont change the fact you are the most important part of this ‘business’. And I wish you a lot of success in your new beginning! Xoxo
You are just the sweetest! I’d love to check out your blog!
Friend, I am so proud of how you weathered this storm. So proud. ❤️
<3 <3 <3
Wow what a crazy journey. Best of luck on the new blog name ??
Crazy indeed! Thank you. :)
Cassie, you are so amazing for tackling this whole thing and moving forward! I am in love with your new blog name and looking forward to continue to following along!
Thank you, Meg! I’m a big fan of your blog, so that means a lot to me. :)
I’m so sorry for all that you’ve gone through. I do like the new name!
I’m so sorry this happened to you, Cassie! But the new name ROCKS. Sending lots of love and support from Germany!
So sorry you had to go through this Cassie. Thank you for your tips and warning every other blogger not to neglect the trademark issue, seeing the ramifications it has.
I really love the new name (and logo!), it’s easy, short, unique and catchy! And also love what it incorporates: wholesome, wholeness and hopefulness.
So proud of you Cassie and chin up!!
Yes, protect yourself! I hope lots of bloggers use me as a cautionary tale.
So happy for you that are settled in with a brand new name. I love it and also the wonderful picture of your mason jar salad. You always make healthful food look so appealing. Thanks for your hard work.
Thank you so much, Chris! The veggies do all of the hard work, I just take the pictures of them. :)
You go, Girl!!! Don’t let the big guys get you down. I love your website and I’m an old grandmother who feels much younger when I read your blog and try your recipes. Keep it going. Best wishes to you and your family!
As a small business owner, this makes my stomach churn. I’m so sorry you had to experience this. Of any of the blogs I follow – your voice and “brand” is so unique and refreshing. While you do blog about healthy eating, etc… your blog is so much more.To me it’s more about living authentically. It’s you and it’s heartfelt and it’s inspiring. I honestly think about things you’ve mentioned YEARS later. I can’t say that about many bloggers. My point being that for YOUR blog to be called out for potential infringement is particularly surprising since it’s so different in a sea of conformity. Anyway, love the new name – good luck!!
It’s scary what can happen when you’re just trying to do the right thing to feed your family, isn’t it?
Thank you for your kind, kind words. <3
I love the new name! You are wholefully and wonderfully made!! Hate to hear about all of the trouble that you went through but you came out on top as far as I am concerned. Looking forward to finding you on Facebook!
Thank you so much, Paula!
I too am sorry about the circumstances that led to this. I am glad you took the high road and didn’t name the other company because my first instinct was “boycott!”. But you are right; we are all just trying to feed our families at the end of the day. You saw the window that was opening up to you and you jumped into a brand new reality. Thanks for being, once again, a positive example!
That was my first instinct, too, but in most cases, it’s more healing to be gracious than to be vengeful. Thank you for your kind words!
I like the new name. Big hug back to you. The tough part is over. you continue to be a great inspiration and motivation to follow my dreams.
Thank you! I’m excited to move forward. :)
I like the new name! I think it’s fitting and I’m glad that things are starting to settle down finally.
No matter what the name is, you’re still writing an amazing blog that’s inspirational and informative and all around wonderful. If things ever get rough, just keep reminding yourself of that!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I like the new name better! So maybe it was a blessing in disguise! As long as you keep being you, who cares what it is called, right? I mean, you obviously care, so that was probably not a smart thing to say, but you know what I mean. :)
I’m to the point of liking it more now, too! Silver linings, and all that. :)
That is a really rough experience, but I agree with many others – I love the new name! I wish you the best!
Cassie you are THE BEST and I’m so sorry but just know that your awesome work and kindness and class through all of this doesn’t go unnoticed. I’m so proud of you. Chin up–your success will not stop. :)
Thank you so much, Rachel! You are such a sweet friend. :)
im so sorry all this happened..but seems like – you’ve got this girl. i will be sure to stalk you on snapchat.sending you all the positive vibes. lots of love.
Thank you, Dixya! :)
Grrrrr. I think all this ‘trademark’ business is bologna. They are just words – words that anyone should be able to string together at any point because they fit what you are trying to say. Like the words I am typing here – they are just words to express my opinion. I don’t own them any more than you do. They’re just words. ‘Back to Her Roots’ were words that expressed what your blog was about – we all know you weren’t taking someone’s content or ideas. Trademarks and copyrights should exists to protect peoples’ content and ideas, not for simple words people use to describe something. You were just using words that existed in the English language that fit your idea of your blog. Just because someone else asked ‘permission’ before you did doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to use them. Makes my head spin… Grrrr. And now off my soapbox…
I’m sorry you had to go through this mess, but am glad that you are taking the steps now to protect yourself. Like so many readers, I would continue to follow you regardless of the name, as your content and ideas are truly unique and inspiring. The old name was just words – the soul you bring to your blog is where things really matter.
Thank you for being you, and for being strong and for continuing this blog despite the difficulties. You are a gift to the interwebs. :)
I honestly just started following you about a month ago, so I have no long history with you, but with that said, I love your blog and don’t miss any of the info and sharing your recipes with Pintrest.
I know how attached you can get to a name when it is your “baby” I have been crafting for many years and when my Mom passed and I had to come up with a new name it was hard. You feel like you are leaving part of your home behind when you have to change the original place you started so to speak.
Change always brings good things, even though in some circumstances we can’t see them right of way, you have to just trust and believe that the universe is on your side.
So good job on being able to move on with grace and I know we will all be following you regardless of what you call yourself :)
Have a great day!
Hi there Cassie!
Just letting you know that Feedly is also re-directing you correctly.
And I’m sending you big hugs all the way from Tel Aviv, Israel.
You’re an amazing, authentic, funny, touching blogger, and I’m sure your many many readers will continue to enjoy your writing under the new name.
Wishing you the best,
That sucks, like really sucks, but I think you made the right decision. I love the new name, I love your honesty and I think you will go far with this name. It works.
I share many of the same sentiments that have been shared above. I just wanted to let you know that I’m with you, girl, wherever you go. You have a unique presence and a wonderful blog packed full of creative and useful ideas. Keep up the good work.
Quick question… do I need to go back and find all my pins from BTHR and change them? Pinterest doesn’t make it easy to search for them!
All those pins should be working just fine! They still “point” to the old URLs, but redirect to my new one. We’re working on a more permanent solution with Pinterest, so you shouldn’t need to anything. :)
So I got your snap about changing the url to “wholefully” on Pinterest and I did do that but I also changed on my Plan to Eat site as well for ALL of your recipes that I moved there.
All I can say is “mean people suck” so just keep keeping on :)
THANK YOU! Seriously, this means so much to me. <3
This is my first visit to your site, I found you via pinterest. I love the new name! Hugs to you, hope everything goes up from here!
Whoa, crazy! Way to seize this as an opportunity though and run with it! We’re with you!
Wholefully is GREAT!!! Continue your success young lady!
Life is filled with challenges. The key is in what we can learn and use to build our character and inner strength. You know the phrase “When life gives you lemons….”. Well I know that you are going to take those ‘lemons’ and create a new recipe that we can all make. This will be a great way for you to pass on your challenge to us and we can be encouraged by how you dealt with it. I enjoy your blog very much. You have inspired me with your food prep tips. Thanks!
I’ve just come across your blog. So haven’t really had much chance to explore yet. But from what I’ve seen it looks ‘ just my kind of thing ‘. The world is constantly changing all the time and I can understand your upset at having to change the name of your ‘ 6 year old baby ‘. But like you said, at the beginning it was just about you. and now that you are a mother the new name describes everybody in your family! Embrace change and look to a bright and sunny future with your ‘ little ones ‘ ! Very much looking forward to all your future posts.
Oh gosh…I know how you feel. More than you will ever know. I publicly say all that i want to stay, but let me just say that I have a parallel issue and it’s been so painfully sad and scary. Mine happened in November and I had a few hours to decide best course of action. And, I’m pretty much having to start all over in my career/business.
My attorney was also great, but man oh man on that stress. It takes a toll on you.
It was the worst holiday season ever. Now, I’m getting back on track. I know things will be much better in 6 months. Even now they are better than they were a month ago. And, Thanksgiving will be my 1 year anniversary and I want to make it a super special one and be in great shape by then.
I commend you on how you’ve handled this. Way to go and smart move. Your new name is great and I know has many many benefits, including being consistent with your brand equity (and will help w/ SEO) and is shorter – all good things.
Everyone keeps telling me that one day I will look back at this and smile as it was probably the best thing that ever happened because now I can move on to the next chapter in my life and do it sooner. I think they are right, and I know ultimately I will be successful. I keep saying that I wish I had a fast forward button and could skip ahead 6 months. But, I guess not. I’m now starting to see many benefits, but it’s ultra challenging and challenging to keep up the good spirits.
Maybe one day we will meet (even on the phone) and be able to look at all the good and benefits.
In the meantime, it’s onward and upward and I can’t look back.
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