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The name game. January 14, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I hope I’m not boring everybody to death with all these crafts-business posts; I guess I’m a little obsessed. Coming from the publishing business, I’m super-aware of how important the right name can be. It needs to be memorable, catchy, and recognizable. It doesn’t necessarily need to be relevant (if you didn’t already know, could you guess what Etsy, Yahoo, Google, Target, Nike, Apple or Facebook were?).

You can’t own a book title, but if you’re starting a business, you need to own its name. And that means making sure nobody else already owns it. I’d already Googled the name of my potential crafts business (whew! not out there… yet), but realized when reading Kari Chapin’s Handmade Marketplace (Storey Publishing, 2010) this morning that I still had lots of work to do.  So I’ve been toiling away online this morning. Thank God, the news still looks good.

Hoping to start your own home-based business? Here are some of the places Kari suggested you look to see if your business’s name is taken, along with some I found along the way:

* Search engines. Google is always my starting point, but there are plenty of others.

* Shop collectives. Makes sense to search sites like Etsy and Bonanza to see if somebody’s got your shop name. Shopzilla is another resource, as are CafePress and info.com.

* Blogs. You’ll probably want to support your business with a blog, so it’s smart to check WordPress, Blogspot, Typepad, and etc. to make sure nobody’s already using your name on their blog.

* Social media. That holds true for Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and the like as well.

* Whois: This source registers and tracks domain names, whether your business is a .com, .biz, .us, .net or whatever. It will show you if any or all of them are still available, and will let you register any that are available for $9.98 a year.

* U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: I was able to search the overall site and the trademarks, but not the patents, on this government site. (Maybe the patents search site was down today.) I could see who held trademarks on related names (which helps if you’re planning to sell, say, neckties, and they’re selling exercise equipment) and if the trademarks had expired or were still valid.

This brings up an important point: It’s not enough to search for your own particular spelling, you need to look for every related spelling to see what’s actually out there.

Let’s take that season-extending gardening device, Wall O’ Water, as an example. (Bet you didn’t know that was how they spelled it!) They could have called it Wall of Water, WallofWater,  Wall O Water, WalloWater, Wall-o-Water (which is in fact their website name, www.wall-o-water.com). But once they’d come up with the basic name concept, they opted for Wall O’ Water (not, please note, Wall O’Water) for their water-filled plant protectors. No doubt after checking out every conceivable option, spelling, combination, etc., and registering them all just to be safe.

Mind you, the Wall O’ Water plant protection device is a unique invention, which few of us crafters can claim as a fact for our creations, even if as far as we know they’re unique to us. So not only is their name a registered trademark, they probably hold a patent on their device as well. Would that we could all be that lucky!

So okay, if you already have a name in mind, ask yourself: Is it memorable? Is it catchy? Does it stand out from the competition (in a good way)? Does it say anything about your product? And if not—say, you’re selling table runners, placemats and napkins with a chile-pepper theme, but have chosen to call your business Sofia—how do you plan to get potential customers to connect your name to your business? And last but by no means least, is the name already taken? If so, will you need to totally change the name, or just the spelling and punctuation (say, to Sophia)?

It’s easy to tell people not to get attached to a name until you’re sure it’s available, but it can be hard to put into practice, especially if the name and the idea for the business came into being together as a single unit. But don’t worry, all is not lost, even if your cherished name is taken. Let’s say I’d wanted to name a bracelet business Shiloh, after our beloved black German shepherd. But to my dismay, I found that the name Shiloh was already co-opted, sewn up, taken. Yikes. Must I give up the beloved name? No. It’s simply time to innovate: Shiloh’s Sparklers, Bracelets by Shiloh, Shiloh Stunners, Shiloh Select Stretch Bracelets, ARMour by Shiloh, [your favorite here]. If you can’t bear to part with the name, work it!

That’s what I’ve learned so far. If you have anything to add, based on your own experience, please, please, speak up!

             ‘Til next time,

                       Silence

Comments»

1. mr_subjunctive - January 14, 2012

if you didn’t already know, could you guess what Etsy, Yahoo, Google, Target, Nike, Apple or Facebook were?

Hell, I still don’t know what Facebook is.

Good point, Mr.S.! We suspect that Facebook began for the same reason blogging did: a way to instantly share photos and updates with family and friends. But then, like blogging, it evolved way beyond that, until it became… Facebook, the social-media monster. But since it’s a members-only site, we’ll never know for sure.


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