Should Catholic Makers Share Their Business Secrets?

You put hours of work and research into your crafts, and then someone emails you with, “Could you share how you make your product?” What is the Catholic answer to this situation? It might be a little different than your instinct.

Like most things in life, I don’t think there is a prescriptive “Catholic” answer to situations like this. Womp womp. So, I decided to ask my husband, and he came up with some bangers.

You put hours of work and research into your crafts, and then someone emails you with, “Could you share how you make your product?” What is the Catholic answer to this situation? It might be a little different than your instinct. | diy | diy crafts | life hacks | etsy tips

photo credit | dollar photo club | nikolaydonetsk

So, Mike’s company makes parts for planes that are often used in combat. It is a top secret 007 facility, so they don’t share industry secrets because it is a matter of national security (much fancy). The processes of his company also create jobs for thousands of people, so sharing those things would eliminate the livelihood of tons of people.

Those reasons seem pretty obvious. If it is a matter of security or livelihood for your family or business, then, no, it might actually be wrong to share your secrets.

What about something with lower stakes like personal recipes? If a friend asked you for your recipe at a potluck, 99% of time you would share it. But maybe you don’t want to share your secret sauce because it is special to you – it makes you stand out. And that’s ok to keep it to yourself.

Is what you’re doing something very special to you that makes you unique? In this case, you can choose whether or not to share, and either way is equally fine.

Sometimes the info that you’re being asked for can easily be looked up; it might be public knowledge. While it may be annoying to have to answer these questions for someone when you took the time to figure it all out yourself, the charitable thing may be to share the information or point the person in the right direction to finding it.

Then again, the time that you put into research and development is part of the product cost. If the hours that you put into trial and error and picking and choosing is integral to the quality of your product, sharing might jeopardize that.

Think about the goal of your business. Is it to help humanity in some way? The CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, put it this way: “If we’re all in a ship together, and the ship has some holes in it, and we’re sort of bailing water out of it, and we have a great design for a bucket, then even if we’re bailing out way better than everyone else, we should probably still share the bucket design.”

But maybe your goal is to make some extra money for your family. Is divulging information about your craft going to dilute the field and take away from your income? Or perhaps you just create for fun, and there is no consequence for giving up that knowledge.

In the end, whatever you decide, you do need to respond to inquiries in a Catholic way. It ends up being more about why you choose whether or not to share trade secrets and how you go about interacting with the person asking.

Has this ever happened to you? What was your response?

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  1. says

    I’ve shared tons and tons of recipes over the years. I spend a lot of time finding, testing and tweaking recipes until it suits my tastes, lifestyle needs, and works for the purposes I am using it for. I usually am happy to pass along recipes I’ve tried and likes or tweaked to better suit my particular tastes. There are some recipes though that I no longer share or pass along. I am working on starting a small business and the recipes I use to test my future product are no longer available to be shared. They are trade secrets, if you will. Even some other recipes that are family heirloom type recipes, I don’t pass on. Why not? Usually the person asking doesn’t really cook or bake anyhow and the likelihood of them actually using the recipe is nil, so I don’t feel the need to get out my recipe, type it up for them and send it along. My time is valuable and most of the time people are asking to be polite and make conversation, not to actually get the recipe. And so what if I like being known as the person at my dinky little parish who makes the delicious whatever-their-called? God gives us all talents and I while I do have an obligation to share my talents with others, how EXACTLY I do that is up to me. It isn’t necessarily pride to derive joy and a sense of identity from my hard work. If I am walking around thinking I am the best person ever because I can make a delicious cupcake and it makes me better than everyone else around me…yes, I agree, problem with pride. But working to create a delicious recipe and not sharing the recipe with others for free just because they asked and I’m Catholic, so I have to, ummmm, no, not pride. There are a million cupcake recipes online…find one you like and make it.

  2. says

    Am I a bad Catholic that it never even crossed my mind that not wanting to share my small shop secrets could have moral ramifications? I get asked how I make my bows and I am always very nice in declining, but never thought I was required to share. I really enjoyed your analysis and am thankful for the reminder to be mindful of this :)

  3. says

    Great topic! As a soapmaker I list my ingredients on the label but not the recipe. I think when you sell a craft it comes down to selling yourself, your label, your time and skill. Those things are hard to replicate. Perhaps if there were sufficient interest in learning a certain craft, selling the process in addition to the craft may be a good route?