2017 UPDATE! I have since decided to change my company name to my actual name, Alana Ruoso. Oh, the irony! But read on to see how I worked through this process. And check out this blog post here where I announced the name change officially.
When it comes to choosing a name for your business, here are the two obstacles I see most often:
1. The client can’t come up with a name they love.
2. The client feels stuck with an existing company name that they detest.
Here in PART 1, I’m going to tackle the first obstacle. PART 2 - posted next Wednesday! - will look at the second obstacle.
Anyone who is brave enough to jump into entrepreneurship knows first hand that naming your business can be a daunting task. On rare occasions the stars align and a perfect name just pops into your head - a moniker unicorn! And other times, well… it can be a long, frustrating process that leaves your brain feeling like a fish market and a tornado collided. Not fun.
I should know. It took me over two months to come up with a name for my brand building business, Markabee, and it was not a joyous time. There was a lot of sighing (husband can attest to that one), caffeine binges, ugly tears, and so many hours on thesaurus.com I felt like I was back in college. More on that story later in the post…
Some people will argue your business name is ‘just a name’, not to overthink it and just pick something and get down to business. While I agree you don’t want to get so stuck on picking a name that you become paralyzed, you can be in an almost worst position if you settle on a name that sucks. Because if you don’t have confidence in your name, you will shrink. You won’t light up when you talk about your business. You will fall into the dark abyss of ‘branding shame’.
You can’t afford to go down this path. Every part of your business should have the intention of elevating your brand, your spirit, and your bottom line. You will be selling your business day in and day out, so let’s get you started with a name you love, shall we?
Start with some brainstorming exercises:
Create a mood board. You might not know your company name, but you should know how it will ‘look’, and how it will ‘feel’. Make a collage of different pictures, words, colors and even fabrics that trigger the feel of your brand. Once you go through this process it will suddenly be very obvious how you want your brand to look, and what you want it to say.
Write a list of every word that could possibly be used to describe your business (as mentioned, thesaurus.com is my bff). Include literal, obvious words, and then stretch to find peripheral nouns, adjectives, verbs and even syllables. Do this exercise until your brain hurts, because that is when you might stumble upon a golden nugget.
Make another list of words that conjure up the emotion you want your clients to feel when they discover your business. For example: empowered, delighted or inspired. Then make another list of people, places and/or things that represent these same emotions. A new name can be hiding there.
As an extension of the above exercise, brainstorm on analogies. Write a list of activities or experiences that reflect the desired feeling of your brand. Maybe it is a honeymoon in Paris, winning the lottery, or your first clean run snowboarding in Whistler. This can lead to discovering an experiential name for your business that expresses the essence of your business, without being obvious and boring.
Have a get together with friends - and maybe some wine - and host an anything goes, free-flowing, throw-everything-out-there brainstorming session. Dumb ideas can often lead to brilliant ones, so be sure to write everything down and be open to the process. Include friends from all different backgrounds and professions. This will guarantee more zany ideas - and more laughter.
Go for a long walk and name out loud (or in your head, if you wanna be all low-key) everything you see. Say everything from ‘chihuahua’ to ‘highway’ to ‘lily of the valley’. It will force you to see things you have never seen before, think of a totally new words, and suddenly you may have inspiration for your business name.
When working through the naming process, avoid these pitfalls:
Pick a name that is generic and obvious. You will be tempted to choose a safe bet, but entrepreneurial dreams are rarely built on anything ‘safe’.
Create a made-up, cumbersome, complicated name with weird spelling. Made up names can be great (think Spanx) but keep it simple and easy for both an 5 year old and a 80 year old to read. Otherwise, only you will get it. And that is so not cool.
Choose a name that is so personal it only means something to you and leaves others scratching their heads.
And last but not least, remember to:
Choose a name that has the url available (ideally the .com - it will always have the most value no matter what the domain companies say)
Google the heck of your desired name to make sure it isn’t already out there in some form.
Do the due - the due diligence. Check in with a lawyer (a must!) and get your paperwork done properly.
And yes, for the record, it is perfectly acceptable - and even a smart idea - to use your name as your business name. If you are positioning yourself as an expert in your field, this is often the best choice to develop your brand. If your name is extremely complicated and hard to spell, however, then this might not be the best option. In that case you may want to consider making your url a shortened version of your name.
I went through all of the above exercises - many times over! - while trying to develop my business name, ‘Markabee’. I knew I was getting closer to my final name when I stumbled upon the word ‘marca’, which means ‘brand’ in Italian (I’m half Italian so it felt aligned with who I am). I started adding prefixes and suffixes to it, thinking at one point it would be ‘Marca B’, but that sounded like a clothing line to me, and just too abstract. Fast forward some sleepless nights, and hundreds of names later, and I found myself unconsciously typing ‘Markabee’ randomly on the side of a page. It made me think of the phrase ‘make your mark’, and the concept of ‘being seen’ – both of which align with my brand promise. Suddenly that felt like the name I was meant to use. Rejoice!
Once I had a name I loved, I was able to move forward. And this is what entrepreneurs need to constantly be doing - moving forward. It can be one tiny step at a time, but you have keep committing to decisions so you can build your empire. Naming your business is just one of the first steps, and it is a big one. Be sure to take it seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously during the process. Creativity likes levity! You need to make space for the creative juices to flow so, mon amie, I am giving you full permission to book that pedicure.
Now, what happens if you said ‘I do’ to a name and you have fallen out of love? In PART 2 of ‘Choose a Business Name You Love’, I will tackle this obstacle.