I had one of my little, but longtime, questions answered during the Q&A session during Eli Altman’s talk at the Nearly Impossible conference: is there a downside to using my own name as my business name? We are asked this a lot (particularly by jewelers!). When naming a business, Eli feels that using your own personal name is usually not the best idea, for these reasons:
1) It is hard to remember peoples’ names. Lightbulb! Yes, it is. Do you have any trouble keeping names and faces together, or remembering the names of people you were briefly introduced to? Well, so do your customers.
2) It’s not future-proof. What if you want to sell your company in the future? I don’t think most handcrafted, creative businesses go into it thinking this way, but a lot can change over years of running a business. Do you want the new owners out there using your name without your daily input?
3) It’s not evocative. He didn’t mention this at the time, but I got it from his book. When you hear a person’s name, it’s usually meaningless, unless they’re famous or their name is particularly unusual. Does “Alice Malone” or “Jennifer Pierce” make you feel any particular way? Will your name feel differently to strangers than it does to you?
Overall, while he said it could be a good choice for people who are established in their industry and whose name has value (like when someone famous launches a product line), for new businesses created by non-famous folks, you’re better off coming up with a memorable biz name.
Naming a business: Don’t Call it That
Eli Altman’s book, Don’t Call It That, is a quick read, with big type. I wish I’d timed myself as I read through it – I think it took me about eighteen minutes! The book itself is beautifully printed and designed and a pleasure to have in hand, but I can’t help but think it would make a better ebook or even a long website article.
I was hoping for more nitty gritty, but it’s pretty true to the title – it mostly focuses on what not to do, and I was hoping for more what to do. There is also a lot of time spent convincing you to be bold and adventurous, something I don’t need a lot of convincing of. The last few business books I read felt like common sense to me, so I think I just know too much for my own good nowadays. If you feel bewildered and confused by how to come up with a name for your business, this book can definitely stop you from heading down a boring or stupid path.
I appreciated that one of his bits of advice was, “Get lost in Wikipedia looking at extinct sea creatures,” as my business is named after a (thriving!) sea slug.
Want some one-on-one help with your business name?
If you would like help naming your business, please check in with us! Natalia, our copywriter, is astoundingly good at this. She will come up with a big list of names that you may like, based on the story of your business and your preferences, and they will all have an available domain name. Once you’ve decided on your new name, we can also help you trademark it.