Naming and Branding

An Entrepreneur by Any Other Name

Written by Jay Shapiro for Gaebler Ventures

David Bowie wasn't always David Bowie, but the name change certainly didn't do him any harm professionally. Do you need to take on a name that better suits your line of work?

You have your big idea, have drawn up a business plan and, so armed, rush on to secure your financial backing, before exploding onto the scene with what you have to offer to your ready and waiting customers! Well, that's the plan, but do you have all that you need to carry it through?

An Entrepreneur by Any Other Name

For the entrepreneur who is not going to be a 'company', but instead a person putting their name to a marketable idea, you may need to consider whether your name is up to the job. Reflect for a moment on the vast number of celebrities, including writers, musicians, actors who have changed their names in order to improve their chances in their chosen career.

Would Bono have had the same impact if he were still Paul Hewson? Bela Lugosi must have realised that he would not slip off the tongue so memorably if he remained Be'la Ferenc Dezso Blasko, so think about his method: shorter and easier to pronounce – is this something you'd need to consider if you were planning on your own name being your trademark?

Does it mean losing my identity?

Consider the difference between identity versus persona. We're not suggesting you should run out and officially change your birth-given name to match a business idea or career plan (er, think about Prince Rogers Nelson aka Prince aka The Artist Formerly Known As Prince aka [squiggle symbol], then back to Prince again) - it's just not feasible or practical in terms of business (imagine the cost of the constantly changing letter heads, for a start)! No, what you are looking at is developing a professional persona, with an appropriate name which acts as the trademark or 'brand name' for the business or service that you are offering, think Lee Cooper, Sara Lee, Tommy Hilfiger – we know instantly what is being marketed here just from the names.

Does my name suit me?

Think about this early: go back to your business plan and look at what you are aiming to develop and see how your current name 'works' in respect of your service. Clearly if your surname is Bodger and you want to set up as a plumber, your name is against you before you start! If your name doesn't fit, then consider an alter-ego which better supports your product or service, by which you can brand yourself. Just be careful to research the legal side to ensure that you can both use and register your new brand – you!

Obviously you may need to have secured your finances before you can fund registering your brand name, but acting on this concurrently, at the point of speaking to your investors, will help them to see that you are serious about both the project itself and what you bring to it, by showing that you have already thought through a basic potential flaw on the marketing side - that of an ineffective name.

Is it really so important?

"Investors invest in people, not business plans" – Don Dodge (Microsoft & Google) and what better reflects a person and their business than the name they are using, even if you are a sole trader? If you feel dynamic and motivated about your business and your product, try to incorporate this into your new name: think Caryn Elaine Johnson trying to break into comedy – becoming Whoopie Goldberg certainly set the right tone, so think about the tone you want to hit and go experiment till the name suits!

Jay Shapiro is a freelance writer based in the UK. Jay has a particular interest in the emotive aspects of the entrepreneur's character. "Alongside the nuts and bolts of business, the character of the person is often the ingredient responsible for success."

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