By Any Other Name

Since launching All Places, a number of you have asked how we came up with our name. It’s hard for me to respond without my viscera taking me back to that gut-wrenching period. But having now gone through this process with our company and with many clients, here are a few things we have learned along the way.

ONE Vision: Perhaps the hardest thing about coming up with a name is realizing that you are not entirely clear on the vision for your business. You might have a general idea, but putting a name on it, when done well, requires an even greater degree of clarity. Because to decide what you want the name to say about your company, you first need to figure out what you want your company to be. It’s hard, but don’t skip this step. It’s critical to more than just the naming process.

TWO Brainstorm: There may be some companies out there where the name of the product just “came to” the founder, and if you are lucky enough to be one of those, amazing. For the rest of us, brainstorming is a necessary, if incredibly irritating process. I can’t tell you how many truly terrible names will likely come out of this process (that was certainly my experience). If you are looking for some structure, I found Alexandra Watkins’ Hello, My Name Is Awesome to be helpful. And if you subscribe to Daniel Pink’s When theories, your mind is going to be most open in the late afternoon and evening. Don’t rush it. I thought I would have this taken care of after one afternoon session of meditation and journaling. Two months later . . .

THREE Key Searches: At a certain point in the brainstorming stage you will come up with what marketing guru, Linda Honan of The Outset, calls the short listy. Out of the hundreds you consider, these are the ten or so that seem viable. Unfortunately, some of those great names may already be taken. Just about everyone knows about the importance of diligent trademark search (which can be trickier and take quite a bit more time than you think, as a heads up). But don't forget the other searches: Google (if there’s another similar company out there with your name, even if they haven’t registered their ™, you may still be infringing), and domain searches (you need a domain name that is going to work with your name and domain names are well-picked-over). While these are technical requirements the general idea here is singular: when people think of your name, you want them to think about you and not about any other company. Me me me! is the right approach here.

FOUR Choosing “The One”: There is no one right way to make the final decision. For some, this comes through a team approach, or you can hire a marketing firm that will at least help you narrow it down to two or three. For me, deciding felt impossible. So I took my three favorite names, sat down on my favorite bench along the East River, closed my eyes, and started talking it through with my dad (who had passed away the year before). Eventually it became entirely clear to me. This may work just as well with a live person.

FIVE Woman-y: One question I get from clients is whether it is important to have a “woman”-y name so it’s clear they are a woman-owned business. My answer is no. Take care of this with SEO, not with your name. Of course, if you are targeting women, or if the inspiration for your name happens to be something specifically feminine, go for it. But there is no need for your name, standing on its own, to broadcast gender ownership.

My final piece of advice here is to be kind to yourself. There is no one perfect name for your company. The company itself is what is amazing and unique and spectacular--you are just looking for a good name tag. Also, lots of your ideas will be awful, be kind to yourself on that one too. I still cringe thinking back to some of my early ideas. But here we are. As RBG noted, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,” and those seats should be filled by women who come from all places. It just seems so obvious now.

--Jessie Gabriel