Giving your creative business a name is for some as hard as naming their children … Others know their business names years in advance before they start the hard work of running their own business!
For this guest post we asked 16 creative businesses to tell us their stories behind their business names. We asked each of the design or craft businesses to answer the following questions:
- What do you do and for whom?
- Who and or why did you choose this business name?
- Is the business name (still) working for you?
It is a very interesting game to see if you can guess from their business name and logo what they do and who their clients are.
So, here you go, enjoy the really personal (sometimes even emotional!) stories of some wonderful creative businesses – and you might get some inspiration too for naming your own business (or product range)!
Rosie Wolfenden & Harriet Vine – Tatty Devine
‘Tatty Devine is an independent British company designing and micro-manufacturing original jewellery in the UK. Our designs are all about expressing yourself in a fun and distinctive way.
We both studied painting at Chelsea School of Art and had every intention of becoming artists, but one day in 1999 we discovered some bags of leather sample books outside a furnishing store that we made into leather cuffs, sold on Portobello market and before we knew it we had set up Tatty Devine. We now have two London stores, a concession in Selfridges and over 300 stockists worldwide.
After selling leather cuffs on Portabello market for a month or so, people started enquiring about buying them for their shops (Urban outfitters were one of the first!) This made us realise that a name was needed.
We tried a few words but particularly liked ‘Devine’ as at Chelsea we all called Harriet “Miss DeVine” for fun. We also liked the word Tatty as we both had an obsession for buying old tatty things that looked like they had been well loved with lots of character.
When we first told someone we were called Tatty Devine they said “oh yes, I’ve heard of you” and it was from this moment we knew the name was right.
We often reflect on how right our name is and how happy we are that we came up with it. When people ask about running businesses we always remark how important the name is. It needs to be easily found on the internet, it needs to be memorable and it needs to reflect your brand and values. Tatty Devine has always and still does all of these things.’
Robin Farquhar and Hannah Dipper –
‘We set up People Will… in 2004 having each worked for a number of product design (HD) and events (RF) consultancies/agencies.
There are 2 main areas to our business:
The first, and perhaps best known, is our own-label design work creating architecturally inspired homewares. Over the past 10 years we’ve retailed direct to our customers through the website and selling shows, but also wholesaled product to mainly independent design shops across the UK and Europe. The bulk of our work in this style now focuses on commissioned wares for museums, galleries and charities.
The second area, which is rapidly growing, is our consultancy work for other brands. We offer a complete service from concept generation and design development to manufacturing, packaging and PoS.
“Pottery, very useful, Anthony, people will always need plates!” So said Beattie in the 1987 advert for British Telecom. One of Hannah’s friends quoted it to her after hearing that she’d been accepted onto the RCA Ceramics and Glass MA – when it came to coming up with a company name, what could be more appropriate?
It is quite long and this can lead to minor irritations when filling in forms that don’t allow enough space! It also produces a pretty ugly acronym, PWANP, which we’ve had to use for twitter accounts and the like, but otherwise, it is, yes – it’s distinctive, relatively easy to remember (more so if you remember the ad) and allows for a little flexibility in who we are as we grow, where, perhaps, our own names wouldn’t have. We have it registered as our limited company name.
As we continue to develop the consultancy side of our business it remains entirely relevant and reflective of our no-nonsense, straight-talking, ego-free approach to design.’
Natasha Zlobec – Phage www.phagedesign.co.uk
‘Phage is a London-based communication design studio specialising in design for creative-sector and design-conscious businesses. Our philosophy is simple: to deliver beautiful, intelligent design and branding solutions that address real commercial needs and that are workable and appropriate for our clients’ target audiences, histories, and budgets.
When we set up our practice in 2002 we wanted a name that reflected our approach.
As designers we help our clients to promote their brand messages in the most effective way possible and it was this which drew us to the field of communication theory and the observation that effective ideas spread like viruses, with individual messages competing for people’s attention and the most successful ones spreading. Where different ideas exist, the ones that communicate better are the ones that persist. You can see the parallels to business – when markets are competitive, a compelling message and good communication sets you apart.
Our name comes from the part of the ‘virus’ that contains the information, the bit responsible for passing the message on, in design terms, the bit between the client and their audiences.
It’s always been a talking point and it’s important to us to have a name that embodies what we do. People do seem to remember it (even though they can’t always pronounce it!) and it’s still relevant after 10 years.’
Kate Pickering – Vanilla Ink
‘Vanilla Ink was founded in 2009 by Dundee University graduate, Kate Pickering. The business has grown in 3 phases: The website was launched in July 2010, the online shop in February 2012 and the final stage has just been completed in July 2012 with a physical space in the heart of the industrial quarter of Dundee.
At Vanilla Ink we are ‘Making Jewellery Work’. We are Scotland’s first unique, collaborative jewellery studio. We specialise in promoting and supporting jewellers at the beginning of their career. The online shop sees an eclectic range of jewellery from a hand-picked selection of up-and-coming designers in the UK. We attract people who lovingly invest in hand-crafted unique jewellery.
The Vanilla Ink Studios inhabits 8 jewellery start-ups for one year. We offer a fully equipped workshop, tailored business advice from our network of professionals and one-to-one mentoring from an amazingly talented bunch of creatives/business people that are working with us.
The name Vanilla Ink derived from a brainstorming session with a good friend @redjotter I didn’t want something obvious but wanted something that would stick.
We knew that a colour and another word would work well together (Red-Jotter) so we thought about meaning. We were looking to help jewellery start-ups, they are new, fresh and ready for a challenge.
Vanilla – The word vanilla, derived from the diminutive of the Spanish word vaina (vaina itself meaning sheath or pod), simply translates as little pod. (wiki entry). Take the word little pod and take the jewellery start up, they are the little pod and once they have submersed themselves in Vanilla Ink they will no longer be a little pod. A vanilla pod is nothing until it is sliced open and infused.
Ink is representational of the founder and director, Kate. A jeweller herself, her work uses ink blown drawings that are etched into metal. She has even gone to the length of tattooing an ink blown drawing on her back, along with a few others.
Result = Vanilla Ink
We still love the name Vanilla Ink. We love that it is ambiguous and makes people wonder what it could be. You want to be memorable and we think Vanilla Ink ‘sticks.’ It’s always a good idea to google it when you are thinking of a business name. See if it’s been used and if it has how well?
People are always questioning where the name came from. The fact that they are questioning is exactly what we want. We wouldn’t change it for the world.’
Kate Brewer & Eden Asfaha – Look Like Love
‘Look Like Love specialise in supporting and promoting graduate/new designers, and offering an initial platform to showcase and sell their work. We set up in April 2011 with a blog, and after scouting the degree shows during the Summer, launched our on-line shop in October last year.
The name Look Like Love came from the steps a person goes through when they shop, and the emotional connection that can be made with purchasing something with meaning.
You look, you spot something you like, you love it enough to buy it.
There were several versions that we played with before settling on this, and we didn’t want to have something that meant we could only do one thing. We felt it was a brand that we could grow and expand in various ways over time, but would always have our core values attached to it.
Branding it simply was very important, and we sought advise from a graphic designer who deals with brands in particular who came up with the brand logo, so we hope it stand outs out in the market! We know that we’re not the only company that does what we do, which is why it was important to come up with something that was simple and strong.
Next for us is to re-design the website, and re-launch as a consolidated transactional site and blog in one place, with the look and feel remaining, as will the logo of course!’
Fearghal Corbett – The Good Folk
‘The Good Folk is an independent London-based design studio. We’ve been working across branding, print and web design since 2007 for a variety of green companies, charities and other non-evil organisations.
The name came from my desire to set up a company that would do good – for our clients, the environment and people that work with us; it’s a bit like the design equivalent of The Good Life.
My first idea was The Good People, but that company name was already taken, but I now much prefer Folk anyway. Lots of people comment that they like the name and it’s worked very well for us over the years. We also got lucky with the URL and Twitter names being available.’
Veronica Crespi – Rewardrobe
‘Rewardrobe is London’s first slow fashion & style consultancy, working with both private clients and brands. For slow fashion brands, I provide research and communication support. Trends, market, retail/stockists and events research to enlarge their network, provide exposure and connect with customers.
I also help with communication and social media strategies to communicate sustainability efficiently and enticingly. I work with private clients on developing their personal style and confidence, and also provide tips on responsible wardrobe management and shopping with independent boutiques and ethical brands.
Finding a name was hard. I was trying to marry style with sustainability, not easy. I didn’t want to sound too green (eco-warrior, and put off people), or too ‘fashionista’ (too shallow, and not hinting at my Slow approach). I went for Rewardrobe as it’s a mix of Reward and Wardrobe (while the obvious Re-Wardrobe has enough of an ‘eco’ sound to it).
Most style consultants push their personal shopping services, but I actually start with the clothes a client already has to understand her style and future needs. I want the client to enjoy a rewarding experience while improving on her wardrobe: hence the name.
I had it designed so it displays the intersection of the two words Reward[robe], and not just the immediate Re-wardrobe. So I get a bit annoyed if it is spelled ReWardrobe – it’s reductive.
The name has always worked great for me – seems like all the time I took to think about it paid off. Most people get both meanings. When I hand out my business card, I often get positive remarks on both the name and the look of the logo – good graphics are really important too. The feedback I get is that it’s original and it conveys the concept in one single, swift and easy to remember word. Web domain or twitter handle were not a problem.’
Kristina Glushkova, Kim Winter & Karen Martin – Makerhood CIC.
‘Makerhood is a social enterprise launched in July 2011 by a group of volunteers to support local making and skills in Brixton, Camberwell, Herne Hill, Stockwell and Clapham. We run online and physical world activities to promote local goods, help people acquire new skills, encourage greater links within the community, and support local makers in setting up and running their businesses.
We spent a long time working through different name ideas. It was a collective effort – with our group of volunteers getting together, writing down lots of names – whatever came to our heads – checking whether the domains were available, discussing the options and reducing the list through voting.
Makerhood won out in the end because it combines Making and Neighbourhood – the essence of what we are doing as an enterprise. It was entirely made up by one of our group – but the more times we said it, the more obvious it became it was right. It was unique – nothing else there called Makerhood (we did lots of googling to be sure) – and it really reflected what we wanted to do.
It is working well for us. Because it’s unusual, people remember it – and every time it’s spoken or written it reinforces our identity, which is lovely.
We haven’t registered a trademark – although we had considered it as we found that someone else set up a project called Makerhood in the US some months after we launched ours.
Eilidh Rhead – Rock The Custard
‘I had been working as a freelance graphic designer for a couple of years when I decided I needed another creative outlet that wouldn’t be restricted by client briefs! As I loved online marketplace Etsy.com, I decided I set up a little shop to start selling typography based art prints. I’ve always had a love of retro styles (particularly American) and I’m a sucker for anything that has a quirky quote on it, so I mashed the two together and my Etsy store was born!
Ten months on, I now run Rock The Custard full time – designing, printing, selling, marketing, tea making etc! I have always wanted to run a design based retail business and although it’s very hard work, I’m loving every minute!
Rock The Custard is a phrase a lovely (but slightly eccentric!) friend of mine used to use to describe something or someone that is amazing/awesome/fantastic. It stuck with me as soon as I heard him say it for the first time and when I was trying to think of a shop name years later, it came to mind and I knew it was the perfect name.
I think that business names should fall into two camps: either ‘does what it says on the tin’ or something a bit off the wall and therefore memorable.
The alter-ego name for my graphic design business is ‘Revolting Developments’ which is also a bit unusual and came from a favourite phrase of my Grandpa’s “Well that’s a bit revolting development”, which he used when something wasn’t quite going his way!
Rock The Custard provokes a reaction from every delivery driver, postman, supplier that sees it and I definitely think that’s a positive thing! They certainly won’t forget it in a hurry. When I’m at trade fairs, people have approached me just to say how good the name is.
Sometimes I’ll meet someone who’s heard of Rock The Custard, which still blows me away when I think that I’m running it from a spare room in my house! It’s still early days for Rock The Custard but hopefully the name will continue to be a good USP. I like the reaction it provokes and the sense of fun it brings, which is essentially what my products are all about!‘
Mel Risebrow & Harriet Posner – Brompton Finch
‘Brompton Finch creates beautiful interior furnishings for people who love flowers and gardens. Our clients are individuals and companies wanting bespoke designs for their interior furnishings. We started the company in April 2012.
We knew that we wanted to start a company together but realised that our own names were difficult for people to spell and remember. We wanted a name that was a reflection of the quality of our work but also had an element of our personalities in it.
We were sitting in a café on the Brompton Road when we were discussing this and immediately felt that Brompton was a solid, memorable, quality word. As we talked on we took a walk through Brompton Cemetry and encountered a tomb with the name Fitch on it. Being lovers of nature we switched this to Finch and that was it… Brompton Finch was born.
The feedback from customers has been very positive. People tell us that it sounds reliable, of high quality, is easy to spell and remember. Very importantly we love it and love using it. It is who we are and we would not change it for the world!’
Denise Rawls – Strange fruit
‘It took ages to come up with a name for my business. I knew I didn’t want a ‘do what it says on the tin’ name. I wanted something thoughtful and emotional. Calling my greeting card business Strange Fruit was my husband’s idea.
‘Strange Fruit’ is a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish teacher from the Bronx, NYC in 1936; it was his reaction to the horror of the lynching’s taking place in the Southern States of America. The poem was set to music and recorded by Abel’s wife and then by Billie Holiday in 1939. Calling my company Strange Fruit is my way of giving a nod of respect to the past and being enthused by the future.
The fact that my husband is from the Bronx, his family moved from Georgia in the 1950s for a better life, and that my Dad is Jewish and was an English teacher adds even more meaning to the already moving civil rights anthem. Without their sacrifices I would not be doing what I love today.
The name still gets a lot of attention. I have old ladies telling me about their experiences of mixed race relationships in the 50s and 60s, I hear stories love and triumph over tragedy and stories of despair. I love social history and use vintage photograph’s to create my cards so it is a real honour to have such personal stories shared with me.
Greeting cards is an emotional industry, you rarely send a card to someone you don’t like so it is great when I chat to someone and they tell me this will be the first time they have been able to send their aunt a card that is reflective of them. It can get quite teary in the Strange Fruit studio and my face-to-face customers are quite used to getting hugs, we know what it means to be visualised on a lovely greeting card.
Anna Kreeger – M.Hulot
‘I design bags and accessories for the customer that loves a pared-down and classic approach to design. The bags are made in England using Italian leathers, and Istanbul using soft Turkish skins. I am currently selling to YMC, youngbritishdesigners.com and KJ’s Laundry amongst others, and am very excited to be stocked at Darkroom for SS13.
Having launched an e-commerce site this September I am building links with direct customers, and aim to offer website exclusives and bespoke solutions. My first season was AW11, and the brand has grown steadily from there.
My brand is named after the fictional character, Monsieur Hulot, from the series of films by Jacques Tati. Made during the 1960s and 1970s, when the world is becoming gadget obsessed, Monsieur Hulot has an endearing and charming struggle with the changing world around him.
Although my designs have a contemporary edge, I think the name M.Hulot reflects their grounding in traditional craftsmanship and classic styling. I also like that the ‘M’ could be for ‘madame’ or ‘mrs’- the brand is Monsieur Hulot’s female counterpart!
People always ask about the name and even if they don’t know the films they are interested in the story. I like that it creates conversation and can lead to people searching out the films, or recommending others to me.
The twitter name M.Hulot was already taken, so I had to go for The Hulot. This may have prevented people from finding me, but it is on all my social media pages and website so it should all link up together!
I knew I didn’t want the label to be my own name – it is more about the nature of the product. I think there is scope for expansion and it would lend itself perfectly if I moved into men’s bags!
Kathleen Redmond – Slugs & Snails
‘I design and manufacture funky little tights for boys aged 0 – 4 years old. We launched officially in November 2011 but the idea was initiated in November 2008 when we had our son and discovered how cold babies can get!
Slugs & Snails was the first and only name we came up with for the company. We are earthy people and our brand is as eco-friendly as we can make it. We strive to keep our production ethical, and so Slugs & Snails reflects this, but also we are a ‘boys’ company (although we do have lots of little girl customers too) and what is more synonymous with boys than slugs and snails, and puppy dog tails?
The leaf logo was also our first logo idea and both the name and logo were thought of before any of our designs and were instantly perfect choices for our brand. The day after we registered our business name I was walking up our drive with my son and found a large snail fossil sitting buried in the stone on the drive – it was perfect and had such significance at that time that it has become our lucky charm!
We were really surprised when we searched for registered company names that Slugs & Snails was available to us. We get lots of people telling us they love our name and we do too. It’s fast becoming a brand people know and trust, and it is still very relevant to our company.
Although we are starting to see our products spreading into the girl’s market, we still hold firm that we set this company up for our boy and boys out there who wanted more comfy and colourful clothes.
Besides, there are many little girls who also love real slugs and snails and our leaf logo is gender neutral and loved by everyone’
Simon Day – Nocturne www.nocturneworkshop.com
‘My background is sculpture, I studied at Wimbledon School of Art. After working for many years in two workshops I left to start Nocturne in January 2011, manufacturing our range of hand-made lamps and collaborating with several London based interior designers offering them a bespoke design and making service.
I had been designing and making in the evenings after work for many years so I did become somewhat nocturnal and it seemed a natural business name for a lamp based workshop. I enjoyed the slightly underground nature of working out of normal hours and the romance of the maker hunched over a bench late at night. Working for yourself though, this romantic notion soon dissipates and is replaced with the cold reality of having to work many late nights!
The logo itself was a font I found, I can’t remember where. I liked its steady, elegant quality and it reminded me of makers-marks that I seen on some 50’s furniture. The original logo has been turned in to an ink stamp for labels that I attach to my lamps. I will use this version on the new website and for future branding, as the hand-made feel is closer to the ethos of my workshop than the computer generated one.
There are other lamps and lighting sites using the name ‘nocturne’, mostly attached to a product. This doesn’t really concern me too much as the products are very different from mine. Both Nocturne as a Twitter and website name have been taken, so I have adopted the name nocturneworkshop.com and @nocturnewrkshp for tweets.’
Kate Kelly – Kaper www.kaperonline.com
‘I make paper sculptures which I design, screen print and build by hand. I sell them in galleries and shops to customers (adults and children) who usually have a quirky sense of humour. I have been making work under this business name for just over a year.
I like the word “caper”- it is playful and jovial and I believe it suits my work. My initials are KK and they are made from paper – I merged the two!
I believe that the name works for me. Occasionally people pronounce it “kappa”, but it isn’t always obvious to everybody that my work is made from paper. I haven’t registered it.
Kaper appears to be a Dutch word meaning “pirate”. I rather like that!’
Louise Kingsbury – Tatie Lou
‘Tatie Lou started in October 2011. I create home and gift products that are hand screening or block printing using eco-friendly inks.
My partner is French, so when my first niece Sofia was born I decided to adopt the French name for Aunty Lou, so that is how Tatie Lou first came about. I like it so much I decided to call my label after it as well. I seem to get lots of compliments about it.
I think my name still stands out. When I attend shows or craft fairs, I often get people saying they have heard of me and that my name always sticks in their minds! So I think that is a good thing.
I am working on some baby and mother products at the moment, so there might even be a Bebe Lou and Mama Lou coming soon!
And why not add your own business name and story in the comments below? We would love to hear from you.