How to Name Your Business Right the First Time (and Other Hard Decisions)

Some bells are hard to unring.

If we could only go back in time...there are so many things we'd say to our younger entrepreneurial selves. Right?

Decisions you make today will have far-reaching consequences, most of which you just can't see right now. And decisions you made back then, when you started your business, are still affecting it now.

Let's quickly explore one of those consequences now.

Think very, very carefully about the name you choose for your business

Yours truly's biggest mistake, by far, was naming my first business after myself.

Even way back in 1999, I instinctively knew not to call my photography business "Geneve Hoffman Photography." I was 99% sure I wanted to call it Blue Door Photography because of all the blue doors I photographed obsessively in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Blue Door was totally "me," and it sounded cool. It was evocative--all my gut instincts were saying yes.

But I was a newbie, and I had to pull the trigger, and I got very generic (almost bad) advice from someone from whom I had no business seeking business advice (ahem, my hairdresser). I think this person even said, “Everyone calls their business by their first name in your field.” That alone should have been my cue to run the other way.

Why your business name should not be the name on your birth certificate

The problem with naming your business after yourself is that the business--its reputation, its successes, its failures, its personality--are forever tied to you, the founder.

Even if you want to back away or take a different role. Even if you decide you want to sell the business. Especially if you get hit by a bus.

15+ years after taking my hairdresser's advice, I now am in the unfortunate situation of having a business from which it will be very hard to remove myself--much less sell. Can't unring that bell.

I only see it now as a mistake with my 20/20 hindsight. How I wish I'd invested a decent sum on a branding and strategic firm back then.

No joke--I would have saved myself hundreds of thousands of dollars by now, because in 2016, I would be lightyears closer to the business of my dreams. Specifically, the dream of being able to step away from or even sell the business I worked so hard to build. 

What I wouldn't give to have that conversation with my younger entrepreneurial self. Lesson learned, though--and I am doing it right with 16 Hoops. I really don't do things small and unassuming. I do them big.

So by all means, take 10-15 years to figure it out on your own, or do what I wish I had done:

Invest in trustworthy branding advice as early as you can.

If you do it right, the payoff is HUGE, both short- and long-term.