I love to name things. Cars and computers that I’ve had over the years, houseplants from Ikea, the feral cats prowling outside. “Persimmon” is the wary, orange tabby with a squat head. “Bumpy” was the used Honda Civic I bought many years ago when I first moved to California. Previously owned by an Asian street racer, Bumpy had been lowered and nearly stripped of its suspension, resulting in a jarring, bumpy ride.
Names given with affection come easily. Naming our business was another story.
When we first started out, we named our company after ourselves: “Butch + Lin.” It’s not the most compelling name, but we operated under it for a few years, knowing that we’d rebrand at some point. It was sufficient for the time being because it had a mom-and-pop feel, which was the vibe we were going for back then.
Our moniker may have helped attract potential clients looking to enlist the services of friendly, down-home designers. But we realized that it may have been hurting our business when a client asked if we did web design “as a hobby.” I was mortified. Maybe it was our name, maybe it was the ridiculously low rates we were charging back then, but we came off as amateurs. Soon after, when we made the decision to go legit and form an LLC, we decided it was time to come up with a professional business name (as well as start charging a fair price for our services).
Finding our name was tough. We must have written hundreds of potential names on the oversized whiteboard in our studio. We pieced words together using stream of consciousness techniques. We got inspiration from our favorite song titles. We experimented with sounds and syllables. We stared at our scrawls and doodles on the whiteboard like they were Magic Eye posters, waiting for something magnificent to emerge. When the magic didn’t happen, we’d erase and start over.
To help visualize my ideal company name, I created a list of traits that were important to me. Our name needed to be somewhat abstract to allow our company to grow with the possibility of expanding into other areas. To create a rhythm, I wanted our name to be a combination of two words, and I wanted those two words to be unrelated and unexpected to add a sense of creativity and mystery. Could I have been more specific and vague at the same time?
After letting these hazy ideas brew for a bit, I dreamt one night that I was handed an official-looking form with two neatly typed words: September People. Pointing to the form, I proclaimed, “That’s the name of our company.”
It might seem odd that our company name came to me in a dream. But over the years, I’ve found that it’s common for inspiration to strike while doing mundane things like taking a shower.
I woke up the next morning giddy with excitement. “September People” met my naming requirements, and it sounded cool! With a real name, were finally ready to realize our business as well. It gave us the confidence to take the plunge and form our LLC, build our brand, and grow our company.
While I love our name, it does break some perceived rules. The services we offer are not readily apparent to those unfamiliar with our company. “September People” is long and requires a lot of typing to get to our website or to email us. But I do think it’s successful in other ways: it’s unique, memorable, and for me personally, it’s meaningful.
How did you go about naming your business? Please share in the comments below!