S’pore Influencer, Denise Soong, Responds After Being Accused of Copying Another Influencer’s Business Idea


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Did Singapore’s cattle import just increase?

Because the beef has reached Tiktok

On 8 November, a Tiktok account by the handle @elliebabana posted an exposé video calling out influencer-turned-tutor Denise Soong Ee Lyn for allegedly copying another influencer-turned-tutor Brooke Lim’s business model. 

Denise Soong’s Duplicating Drama

The three points of contention that the original exposé video brought forth are: the same cinema treat, the similarities in logo design, as well as the common website materials.  

@elliebabana #tiktoksg #trending #expose ♬ Vigilante Shit – Taylor Swift

Firstly, the cinema treat. 

Image: TikTok (elliebabana)

Denise had treated her students to a Black Adam screening as a post-exam celebration and posted the experience on Tiktok. Coincidentally, Brooke had also done the same thing for her own students with the Thor: Love and Thunder movie before their examinations. Denise was hence accused of stealing Brooke’s celebration idea.

Secondly, the logo designs. 

Image: TikTok (elliebabana)

Denise and Brooke own tutor companies Puzzles and Co and Classicle Club respectively. The video revealed the similarities in their logo designs.

Some similarities include: their similar tagline in a similar arched format, their same background colour, their use of the word “estd” along with the respective years, and their inclusion of the word “club” in their logos.

Finally, the website.


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Both their websites contain similarities in terms like “absorbing GST, nett price, early bird entitlement, registration fee in the tele bio” and the reference to a club. 

Also, there was an allegation about Denise copying the idea of an online learning platform with free resources for students. 

Image: TikTok (elliebabana)

Perhaps the most mysterious one is that on Classicle Club’s website, there is a testimony of someone who attended their classes for five months and has since excelled. Uncannily, the same idea of a student doing poorly before attending classes then improving in the same five months was found on Puzzles and Co’s website as well.

The catch? The one on Brooke’s website has been up longer. 

Denise has been accused by the video of copying someone who is “half her age”. Denise is almost 30 years old while Brooke is 18. Adding on to the harsh video was the sharp title: denise rly said “forget about my uni degree and work experience, i’m gonna copy everything this teenager does” 

Demise of Denise?

Denise Soong’s Realisation 

On 8 November at around 7pm, her intern approached her “looking scared and nervous”. The intern then spent the next 30-40 minutes explaining how everything unfolded. It was only at this time did Denise realise the mistake. 

Trying to keep her cool, she chose not to respond publicly but to try to arrange a private conversation between her and Brooke. 

In that time, she has reviewed all of the intern’s work and amended them as much as possible. 

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Denise Soong’s Response

After nearly a week, on Monday (14 November), Denise provided an explanation on  TikTok. She responded to the points in the same chronological order.


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@denisesoongeelynMy response♬ original sound – Denise Soong Ee Lyn

Refuting the first point, she argued that the movie concept was done by many tutors and it was not exclusive to her and Brooke only. She said that given the number of people and the nature of the occasion, a movie was the most logical option. 

“If you think about the number of things you can do in Singapore within this safe and controlled environment, and especially for a very large group of people, there are just really not that many and a movie is one of the most logical options out there,” said Denise.

For the next point, she said that both designs were made on the online designing app, Canva, and thus bore similarities. They both utilised the provided template on Canva and tweaked it, but did not change it completely.

She requested for viewers to take a look at the designs on Canva, for through it they would “realise that many of the logos also have the same look and feel”.

For the last point, she had admitted that there were similarities between the texts and she provided an explanation as to how the event transpired. 


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Because she wanted to spend more time “designing class plans and class materials”, she  outsourced the work of managing communication channels to an intern. 

This was her undoing, because the intern had produced work heavily inspired by Classicle Club. Since Denise had no idea of it, she signed off a lot of the work. 

“I didn’t know it then but this is really not an excuse,” Denise said. 

For the first allegation on similar business concepts, she said that the “wording was certainly copied but the business concepts are not.” As for the reference to a club, she said that they have been “testing a gym club type of billing model” and hence the name.

The next allegation on the online learning platform was slammed by Denise as she insisted that the service has always been there. To credit this, she brought up the fact that the version histories of their materials could be dated back to 2021, before Brooke implemented her system. 


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As for the common testimonies, she provided no explanation on that. 

Course of Action

She reached out to Brooke and her team after the video was released and received a reply almost two days later, on Wednesday 11:58pm, saying that they were agreeable to a call to discuss the issue on Sunday (13 November).

She asked if they could do the call at an earlier date but they did not respond. 

While this was happening, the original video got more and more views.

Hindsight

In her explanation video, Denise repeatedly mentioned that she was regretful that this incident happened. She has also mentioned that the success of Puzzles was not to be credited to another person’s work, emphasising on originality and her dedication in work. 

“Puzzles didn’t get here by trying to be a carbon copy of someone else,” the influencer said. 

Denise reported that corrective action has been taken and she would move forward with her team to improve. 

The video ended with her thanking her supporters and those who took the time to hear her part.


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Netizen’s Response

In @elliebabana’s video, many criticised Denise for copying a teenager, while some defended that she only wanted the best for her students.

In Denise’s video, many showed her support, saying that her transparency on the issue is a “class act”.

Plot twist alert.

Some suspect that @elliebabana’s true identity is Brooke, because the entire situation was dealt with underhandedly and not handled like adults. Also, “nobody else cares about the situation”, which makes Brooke the most likely accuser of Denise.  

A redditor has remarked that whoever was @elliebabana was fake and sneaky, and her explanation pointed the identity to Brooke. 

Yikes.

Transcript of Denise Soong’s TikTok Video

Below is the transcript of Denise’s 6+ minute video:

Hi guys, this is my response to the two anonymous TikTok videos which have been going around. Now I have received your dms sharing your opinions on the matter. Let me now share my side of this and I am going to use my main account, no shadow accounts here.

All I ask is that you do watch this video all of the way through. It is going to be important because the video is gonna contain all of the facts, all of the information and all of the receipts. And this will also probably be the first and last time I will be addressing this issue. 

I will be breaking my response into three parts dealing with this in chronological order beginning with what was said in the very first video and that is allegations about copying of a movie night. 

I organised the movie night after the end-of-year examinations as a reward and as a treat for my students. And, if you think about the number of things you can do in Singapore within this safe and controlled environment, and especially for a very large group of people, there are just really not that many and a movie is one of the most logical options out there.

So this was why I organised it. And this is really why many tuition centres do it as well. So, if the sentiment here is that this is a copy of some sorts, I do have to come out and say “No it really isn’t”.

Moving onto to point 2 which are the allegations about copying of the logo and also the movie posters. Now both were designed on Canva using pre-set templates. This is the exact mock-up that we used and as you can see what we did was to change the text, change the font and we also changed the icon.

Elements such as the “ESTD”, the curves, the arches- these were all pre-existing design elements already in place in the mock-up. And if you go to Canva to take a look, you will realise that many of the logos also have the same look and feel. On the movie posters what we did was to take design text templates and overlay this on top of photos. But do not take my word for it. Please do go onto to Canva and have a look at all of the logo designs and also the text design. 

Before I go onto point three, I would just like to say that I know that there were those of you who pointed out what I mentioned in the comments section of the Tiktok video as well.

And to that, I would just like to say thank you. I know that the comments that were speaking out in support of me were slowly being taken down and actively being removed. But I did manage to read some of them and I truly am grateful. 

Now moving onto point three and that is dealing with the allegations of all of the copied text that you have seen. I want to acknowledge that I do see the similarities as well. So, I do wanna take the time to express my sincerest apologies to Brooke and also her team. Let me give you some context of how this whole thing transpired in the first place. 

I had outsourced the work of managing the communication channels and that include social, tele, website, registration flow to an intern to manage and I really gave her free reign to run this however she liked.

And the reason why I did was because I wanted to spend my own time designing class plans and class materials instead. That to me was more important. 

And of course, any work that the intern did had to be signed off by me and in hindsight I had approved lot of heavily influenced work from Classicle. I didn’t know it then but this is really not an excuse. It was a lapse in due diligence on my end.

All of these came to light to me on Tuesday, it was 8th of November around 7pm when my intern came up to me. She was looking scared and nervous and she said that she had something to tell me.

And over the next 30-40 minutes, i found out that many pieces of the work she had sent me and which I had approved were actually heavily inspired from Classicle. Then I did ask her how did she get her hands on some pieces of info because at least to me these details were not publicly known.

And that was when she told me that she had signed up for classes at Classicle using the company phone i had loaned her to reply to customer enquiries and used the information she gained from them as a reference.

So this is why we see a lot of similarities in the word choice when it came to mentions of ‘absorbing GST’ , ‘nett price’, ‘early bird entitlement’, ‘registration fee in the tele bio’, ‘reference to a club’. And there might be more, I cannot really rule out that fact.

The phrasings and words were certainly copied but the business concepts are not. These are practices that we have always had in place. Our invoices have always reflected ‘0 GST’. They are essentially nett. And we do also run group discounts, early bird discounts and also referral fees for sign up.

On the concept of a club, we have been testing a gym club type of billing model since early 2022 but the students pay a fixed price for 12 weeks of class and then come for as many classes as they want during that time frame. 

On the allegations of copying an online learning platform with free resources for students, this really isn’t true. We have always had this service. And in fact, opening one of the documents here and going back into the version history shows that this was started way back in 2021.

Now I am openly sharing these business details here because this is really not something that is unique to me. It is pretty much a standard within the industry. Once i had caught up to speed on the situation, i took the phone away from the intern and I immediately reached out to Classicle.

It was important to me that I personally explain to them what I now knew and also let them know that I will be personally reviewing every piece of writing that the intern had ever done for me. I wanted a call, they suggested having a zoom meeting and then I counter-proposed and said a phone is just so much more convenient.

After which I didn’t hear from them for the next 28 hours and during that period of time the two TikTok videos were published in succession. I felt a lot of heat and alot of pressure then, but I made the choice not to hound them, to not respond publicly and to just wait until we could have a private conversation.

In that time, I reviewed every piece of writing the intern had ever done and amended them as much as possible. Now today, as exasperated as I feel at her, I cannot find the need to be angry with her any longer. Proactive action has been taken. But I did feel that this was my place and not hers to come out and take accountability for this. 

28 hours later on Wednesday at 11:58pm, only after the videos were gone out and gained quite a bit of traction, I got a response from the team. They are agreeable to the call, but the call will only be happening on Sunday. And in my response to them, I said, ‘Sunday is a number of days away, would they be comfortable with having it any earlier.’

At the time of filming, this Saturday at 5am and I have not heard back from them yet. It is still my intention to personally explain this to them but I am also filming this video as I feel this has dragged on for quite a while

For me to act like nothing has happened on here, I feel does the situation no good at all. I am regretful that this has happened. I am regretful that this has happened.

I created puzzles in 2020, literally teaching in my bedroom during the circuit breaker. And today I have my own store. Now puzzles didn’t get here by trying to be a carbon copy of someone else. And the vision to me has always been very clear. I have always wanted to make math fun. As fun as trying to solve a puzzle.

With that said, a wrong has been done. Corrective action has been taken and I am looking to move forward from here with my team to see how we can become better. 

Lastly, some of you have sent me images alluding to the identity of the person behind the TikTok account. And today, thank you for sending that my way, thank you for having my back. Frankly, I truly do not care for it. I think it is pretty obvious to me what is going on. But at the same time my intention here has never changed. And that is, I just wanted to come on here and say my piece.

So I am not going to be revealing those receipts. And if you have watched up till here, I just want to give you one last thank you for sitting down and hearing me out. 

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Featured Image: TikTok (elliebabana & denisesoongeelyn)