You Name It

"Sorry, what did you say your name was again?" That's the one question you don't want people asking about your business.

Who's got the sweetest business name in America? We at Entrepreneur believe it's Lisa Rothstein, founder and president of Brownie Points Inc., a fast-rising business in Columbus, Ohio, that sells fresh-baked gourmet brownies as corporate gifts. Rothstein is the winner of the "Name to Fame" contest, co-sponsored by Entrepreneur magazine and Jane Applegate, president of Small Business Television Network Corp. (SBTV). Rothstein's entry beat out hundreds of other name-dropping entrepreneurs to win the top prize-a complimentary consultation with marketing expert and Entrepreneur contributing writer Kim T. Gordon as well as a library of business books and a free subscription to Entrepreneur.

Contest Winner - Brownie Points Inc., a Columbus, Ohio, gourmet brownie company that focuses on corporate clients

Brownie Points has been in the news before, with appearances on CNN's Business Unusual and NBC's The Today Show. "[That exposure] opened doors like you can't imagine," Rothstein says. "We had to get 10 new phone lines." She hopes winning this contest will garner media attention yet again and help to further sweeten sales-which she estimates will exceed $1 million.

What's in a Name?
Whether it wins a contest or not, a winning company name is one that hits home with your prime prospects and launches you toward profitability. That's why developing a great company name is arguably the most important marketing decision you'll ever make.

There isn't really a tried-and-true formula for naming your business. Some might hit the exercise bike and pedal into a deep state of naming nirvana. Others brainstorm with friends or family. (Rothstein's award-winning name was divined with help from a college roommate in the mid-1980s. The name works well because giving decadent brownies as gifts truly can earn brownie points for the giver.) Other entrepreneurs choose to spend big bucks hiring a name consulting firm to juggle linguistic units such as morphemes and plosives and assemble a unique, coined name.

In truth, stirring a little bit of naming science in with some creative brainstorming can combine to give you the best chance, say many experts. Morphemes, as explained by Ira Bachrach, one of the deans of the naming business and founder of NameLab in San Francisco, "are word parts that, when put together, form a name that offers the identity you want for your company." For example: "Acu," as in "Acura"-a NameLab original-means "precisely or with care." The suffix, "ra," transforms an abstraction into a physical thing. Bachrach, whose company also gave the world such names as Compaq, CompUSA, The Olive Garden and WebVan, says cobbling such word pieces together gives the name a meaningful distinction and, equally important, makes it more likely to sail through a lawsuit-averting trademark search for similar names.

Those willing to spend somewhere in the high five figures for that level of linguistic parsing just might end up with a unique and successful name. But what if you, like many entrepreneurs, don't have the budget? Luckily, there are some guerrilla forms of company naming available for all the do-it-yourselfers. We sought out a range of professional nameologists for a few answers as well as some caveats.

Other Names of Note

  • Work Behind Bars, a bartending training and placement service in New York City
  • Nine Lives Upholstery in Reynoldsville, Ohio
  • Open-Eye Cafe, a coffeehouse in Carrboro, North Carolina
  • D'Bug Lady, an exterminating service in Cincinnati
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This article was originally published in the December 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: You Name It.

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