What’s Your Name?

How to Choose the Right Name…..the first time

Naming your company and products is often the most creative and enjoyable phase of a new venture.  Over the years, we have recognized the following pitfalls in the naming process:

(1)  Choosing a descriptive or generic name.  Often clients tell us, “I want my company name to tell the public something about what I do.”  Therefore, they choose a name like “Chemical Free Dry Cleaning” for a – um – chemical free dry cleaning company.  They urgently want to file a trademark application to make sure that no one else can adopt this name.  The hard fact:  descriptive and generic names are not protectable.  If you choose a descriptive or generic name, you will find it very difficult to distinguish your company in the market place.

(2)  Choosing someone else’s name.  Even more often, we run into companies adopting mere variations of company or product names adopted previously by others.  Sometimes, without actually knowing they have tread on protected land until it is too late . . . . and they have received a nasty cease and desist letter from the original owner.  A prudent entrepreneur will search the proposed product and company names on both the internet and the Trademark data base.  If the name is in use on any product or service closely related to your products or services, you should stay away.  If you feel like you are in a gray zone and are not sure, you should seek the opinion of a trademark attorney. Your business attorney, divorce attorney, or friend in law school is often not the best person to ask.

(3)  Failing to protect the mark with a Trademark registration.  If your company is seeking funding, announcing its name to the public, and investing thousands to millions of dollars in advertising and branding, you should pursue Trademark protection.  Often, clients wait until they have funding or until after they have started business before they file trademark applications.  Often, they find someone else has already applied to register the same mark.  This leads to either costly rebranding or costly trademark battles to reclaim the name.  Entrepreneurs should know of the existence of the “Intent to Use” trademark application which will allow them to protect the name while they are taking care of the preliminary details of launching the business.  The Intent to Use application allows the business to reserve the name for at least one to two years (if procedures are followed) while they prepare to launch.

(4)  Even if your business is small scale – such as a craft shop on Etsy or Ebay, you must be careful not to adopt the marks of others.  It doesn’t matter how small you are.  Take your branding seriously.  The only way your clients will find you is to adopt distinct product and company names.

Heather N. Schafer 

Don’t lose your head …

I have worked with entrepreneurs.  I am an entrepreneur.  And what I can tell you is that it can make you feel like you are going crazy.  Taking the leap and starting your own venture lands you in a nice prickly seat on an emotional roller coaster.  One moment elated, the next moment terrified.

There is no doubt that moments of fear are going to fall upon you.  It is well documented – at some point you will look down and realize that there is no net.  At that point, your heart will beat, your mind will scream and flash images of certain destruction, your palms will sweat and you will feel so claustrophobic that you will want nothing more than to escape out of every pore of your skin.

Here are five things that might help when Terror strikes:

1.  Don’t become a hater.  No one has a net.

Remember that, given the current economy, there isn’t necessarily a “net” under any of your salaried and employed friends.  The net is an illusion.  At the top of every organization is someone like you – an individual or group of individuals (e.g., the “Wizard”) – taking a huge risk and staking everything on a dream.  The choice you have made is to strike out and depend on yourself instead of relying on the Wizard behind the organizational curtain.  This is a conclusion that is not new to you.  Make a list of the reasons you decided not to depend on the Wizard and reflect back upon your list when Terror strikes.

2.  What you are experiencing is not unique.

The Terror is what ties you to all innovators, creators, and individualists everywhere.  You are in a mental space – the sight, sounds, smells, taste, and sensation of which every great innovator has experienced.  From Shakespeare and Amelia Earhart to Steve Jobs and Lady Gaga.  Striking out brings individuals to the raw edges of life – how you negotiate that edge that will determine your experience of life.

3.  The writing is on the wall.   Take in the wisdom of others.

Connect with the wisdom of those who have gone before you.  The purpose of the “Don’t Lose Your Head” category of Best Foot Forward is to provide you with inspiration and perspective from innovators who – just like you – had a great idea and courageously forged forward to make it happen.

4.  You are not alone.  Find people like you – they are out there.

Connect with fellow innovators and creators on the path.  Starting your own venture is something that you ultimately do alone.  The process of translating your idea into the marketplace can be isolating.  Isolation happens pretty fast.  Your mind turns to self-employment tax, self-insurance, whether to patent or not patent, and what corporate entity is right for you.  You become very boring at parties, and you are frequently on the receiving-end of looks of confusion.  Being financially unstable, unsure about your future, and constantly questioning your sanity may also make you prefer to isolate.  Resist the urge to melt into oblivion!  There are people like you – you must find them.  The “Don’t Lose Your Head” category of Best Foot Forward also aims to give you ideas of how to get out (hopefully for free) and meet people who are on your wavelength.  Meeting with other innovators on the path is a good reality check.  It can give you ideas of how to improve and grow, show you where you are lagging, show you where you are rocking, and allow you to share your wisdom with those who need it.

5.  Just Keep Going. 

When terror strikes, truly analyze where you are and where you want to go.  Ask yourself if you have other options.  List those options and visualize yourself there.  If you’ve reached a wall or a dead-end in your strategy, seek help, talk to your friends and colleagues (only innovators, government employees and comfort seekers are not likely to be a good source of advice on how to make your independent venture take off).

At the end of the day, you must recognize the Terror as just a normal phase in the innovative process – a phase that will come and go and never leave you alone.  Don’t feed it; learn how to just watch it like an outside observer.  In time, it will distract you less.  When the fever breaks, and it will, you will feel fresh and clear and ready to go again.  Each terror just forces us to surrender over and over to the realities of the innovative life.  The Terror wakes us from the dreamy vision of what self-employment means.  Removal of that veil is a scary process, but it is not necessarily a bad thing.  From the increasingly grounded state we reformulate our priorities, test our values, and create a stronger base on which to form manifest our dream venture.