This ad will close in

Name Fame

How some entrepreneurs handle sharing their handles.

You're an unknown face in the crowd, a mild-mannered entrepreneur minding your own business--literally--when suddenly, somewhere else, someone who shares your name becomes famous. Is it good for your business? Bad? Or just surreal?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it's kind of good, but mostly surreal. For years, Stephen King, 32, has had a sense of what it's like to be Stephen King. King is the owner of an Interior Door Replacement Co. franchise in Huntington Beach, California, not that other Stephen King guy in Maine who writes books.

Before King was an entrepreneur, living in an esteemed author's shadow had its perks. King was in the army, and whenever he flew overseas, he was always mistaken for a "famous American." On one trip to Korea, King was moved up to first class on the plane, was treated like royalty and had people constantly asking him for his autograph. Since he started his business in 2006, everyone's had some fun joking about his identity. King's PR firm has written pitches about "door horrors" and has dramatized do-it-yourself door installations gone wrong, and customers seem to enjoy his name. "I hope you won't be lurking around these doors once they get installed," a customer once told him.

Marcia Clark, 49, owns Shameless Promotions LLC, a small PR company in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York. For much of her life, the most she got in response to her name was some Brady Bunch fans chanting, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia."

Then O.J. Simpson happened. Now, almost every day she's asked if she's the Marcia Clark of Simpson fame. She's almost the same age as the 53-year-old attorney-turned-Entertainment Tonight special correspondent, but other than that, there's not much similarity between them. Nevertheless, she was recently introduced to a prominent business-woman who clutched her shoulders and said, "You're the Marcia Clark?"

Laughing, Clark joked, "Yes, I've just put on high heels, had extensive plastic surgery and I'm wearing tinted contact lenses." The woman didn't get the joke and told Clark that she had so many questions for her. After Clark explained that she was kidding, it was an awkward moment. But overall, the name confusion hasn't been bad for business, and Clark says she's amused by it all.

Not that it's always a hoot. Michael Moore, 37, is the president of Los Angeles-based LTM Artists, specializing in the management of talent, including directors, designers and choreographers. Since he's in the same industry as film director and political activist Michael Moore, he has experienced quite a bit of confusion in the mail and with phone calls for his doppelgänger.

One Rhode Island entrepreneur who probably gets more jokes than any other doesn't share a famous name with anyone. But he almost does, with a fictitious character who isn't the star of a book, TV show or a movie--just a children's song that came out in 1953, when he was 5 years old. "I've used my name to my advantage. It's an easy name to remember, and in business, that's a good thing," acknowledges the owner of an MRI Sales Consultants franchise, which performs executive searches. "My name is Peter Cotton, but at least half a dozen times a day, a secretary or a company switchboard operator will ask, 'Has anyone ever called you Peter Cottontail?'"

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the June 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Name Fame.

Loading the player ...

The One Excuse You Should Never Give Your Employees

Ads by Google

0 Comments. Post Yours.