You Name It

Naming Resources

One helpful Web source is The Namestormers, which offers an excellent online primer for the naming neophyte. It instructs you on how to think logically about the name you want, lay the groundwork, select the type of name right for you (such as a coined term, an acronym, a personalized name or even a place name), find helpful resources for "trigger words" that spark your imagination, and even assemble word parts like the naming pros.

For the new retailer, especially one starting off with a small marketing budget, there's an advantage to naming your business in such a way that it communicates where you're located. After all, potential customers often impulsively pick a merchant based on the street it's on, how close it is to them and how intuitively they know how to get there. So, for example, if you were opening a Laundromat near a university, you might want to call it College Avenue Wash 'N' Wait. A new health-food store? 74th Street Healthy-catessen. A bookstore? Titles on Tilden. Thus, with your name alone, you've immediately identified how convenient you are.

What about "out-of-the-box" names-does their catchiness aid success? Fuddruckers, a restaurant chain, would say yes. So would Banana Republic. A Hundred Monkeys, another naming firm and an obvious proponent of this approach, brazenly puts its moniker where its mouth is-and, indeed, among the dotcoms left standing are those with names such as Amazon.com, eBay, Monster.com and Yahoo!. Proponents insist that if you don't want to be just another tree in the forest, you've got to go for it. Those against the tactic wonder: Isn't it better to have a name that immediately implies what you do vs. one that requires frequent explanations?

Many of the best names adorning corporate letterheads are hatched in advertising agencies. There, copywriters favor puns and other wordplay when concocting memorable monikers with a marketing bent. But theirs are hardly the only fertile minds that can have a lightbulb moment. If your own conference room or kitchen table brainstorming sessions yield a name that plays on a familiar expression and-as a bonus-addresses a specific product benefit, well, you get lots of brownie points for that. In fact, many of the company names that gave the "Name to Fame" winner some extremely close competition were from this category.

For example, we also loved the entry Work Behind Bars, submitted by Brad Lau, founder of a bartending training and placement service in New York City. And then there was the durability that bespoke Nine Lives Upholstery, from owner Sheri Buckley of Reynoldsville, Ohio. Scott Conary got our attention with his Open-Eye Cafe, a coffeehouse he operates in Carrboro, North Carolina. And with D'Bug Lady, Carol Kauscher of Cincinnati proved to us that you can get attention for your pest control company without a huge tarantula on your truck.

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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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