Naming Your Business, Part I

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

If I had to start my company all over again, I would choose a different name. Don't get me wrong - I love the name Blue Orchid Designs. It is unique and pretty and not a wedding cliche. When people first hear it though, they think I am a florist. While this isn't a huge issue, it does mean that I have to put the word planning or consultant or coordinator somewhere on my print collateral because adding "weddings and events" isn't enough to clear up any initial confusion. This limits what I can do with my print design, especially because I like to simplify things as much as possible. Now, the confusion has not been enough to hinder my company's growth, so I have no plans to change it at this point in time. I just wish I had thought through things a little differently at the beginning!

Here are some points to think through when naming (or re-naming) your business:

Naming Your Company After Yourself

Since wedding consulting is a service industry, this is an option that works well for many planners. It comes with its own list of pros and cons though and it is important to consider your long term goals before possibly limiting your company by literally putting your own name on it.

If you plan on selling your vision, your handiwork, your presence at each event, then by all means, name it after yourself. After all, you are specifically selling YOU. This can be a huge plus for your marketing, especially if you guarantee your presence at each event. An example of this type of name would be "Liene Stevens Weddings and Events".

But what if you don't guarantee your presence at each event? My business model falls under this category. While I do events, I also have associate consultants who can do events that are scheduled on the same day. If a client books me specifically, they know that I will be at their event. If they are working with an associate however, then they will not have me personally on the day of their event. My clients are okay with this because it has been communicated clearly (and because my real company name is not named after myself). One way to incorporate this business model and still name a company after yourself is to add a term that will help clarify any confusion. Examples of this would be "Liene Stevens Consultants" or "Liene Stevens and Co" or "Liene Stevens and Her Amazing Rockstar Planners" (just kidding on that last one!). These variations show that the company is larger than myself and most likely includes more than just office assistants.

This isn't to say that naming a company after yourself is bad or will limit you. After all, it has clearly done well for Colin Cowie and Preston Bailey. You can avoid the limitations though by clearly communicating to your clients and managing their expectations. If you are just starting in the industry though, then you can save yourself some extra time in the managing expectations department by managing them up front with your company name.

Some other things to think through when naming a company after yourself is whether or not your name can be spelled easily and whether or not your last name will be changing in the course of your career. My first name, Liene, is an unusual spelling and even my own grandmother, whom I am named after, spells it incorrectly. So trying to get strangers to put that into a Google search or type it as a web address would pretty much be a lost cause. I am also unmarried and plan on taking my future husband's name when I marry, and I knew that I wouldn't want to lock my company name into my maiden name.

The Cutesy Name

I generally recommend staying away from names that are cutesy or cliche. Disney movies are a staple of every little girl's film repertoire, but unless you are planning a wedding at Cinderella's castle, I'd skip any princess-inspired business names. Some fictitious examples of these would be "The Best Day of the Rest of Your Life" or "Butterflies and Kisses Weddings and Events". Rule of thumb: if you are considering a name and have a slight feeling it may be cheesy or unprofessional, then it is. Scrap it and move on. You are more creative than that.

If you're on the fence about a name, ask some friends who won't tell you that it is perfect if it is not. We all have friends who fall into one of these camps: the friend who will agree with everything you say and tell you what you want to hear and the friend who will tell you when you are being ridiculous and pushes you to do better. The first group is perfect for when you break up with a boyfriend, the second is perfect for when you are on the rebound and need someone to say as much. Grow some tough skin and call on your second group of friends (or non-BS friends as my friend Nicole and I call them) for their opinion on your business name ideas and actually listen to what they have to say. It may not be great for your ego, but it will be good for your business.

Coming up in future posts: The types of clients your name attracts, acronyms and abbreviations and why you should avoid them, and how your name relates to your brand.

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