The process of naming my business began over 10 years ago and all I can say is that it's been one big struggle.
Let's start with my maiden name Butts. It's definitely memorable but I worried I'd constantly be dealing with porn spam. So I created sb ink. design. Thinking "ink" was clever because I was doing print design (insert dork emoji).
Then I got married.
I wasn't sure I'd ever change my name being the independent feminist that I am but after much thought I decided to change it. Then it got complicated because hyphenating Butts Zangeneh Azam didn't roll off the tongue nor did Zangeneh Azam Butts.
So I dropped Butts and became a full fledged Z and thought my business naming issues were over. But as time rolled on I learned that my new name came with it's own set of complications because it was hard to pronounce, remember, and spell.
So to simplify matters I created Mrs. Z Design. Cute, yes, serious business name, no. I also learned a big lesson after buying a url and email with dashes (mrs-z-design.com) which is dashes are a pain in the ass.
So I decided to ditch the dashes and simplify to SZA and my url was sza.me. Now, this one was great because it was short and easy enough to remember. But it wasn't a brand it was a portfolio site and I wanted to start my own studio. I needed a name with chops.
This was during a big life transition. I had just quit the job that had been slowly sucking the life out of me. I was healing from that and trying to find my voice again.
I brainstormed for months thinking up every name I could think of but nothing felt right. I had even invested in a few online branding courses but still, no name.
Then I started digging deeper into what it was I wanted moving forward; color, vibrancy, rule-breaking, adventure, dirt on my boots, freedom. I wanted to create something that mattered to me.
I took a trip to New Mexico and that's when it happened. On top of Chimney Rock I let it all go and opened up to the wild inside and there Wild Woman was born.
I wholeheartedly loved my brand because it was 100% me. It represented all the things I had been yearning; color, vibrancy, rule-breaking, adventure, dirt on my boots, freedom.
It helped me get back in touch with the creative me. It was everything I had been missing during my time in the corporate world: earthy, raw, and organic. It was the me I had forgotten - the country girl who built forts out of manzanita branches.
It wasn't until I was knee deep in craft fairs selling my Wild Beauties (cruelty free natural feather earrings) and organic lotions, wood coasters, and buttons when I realized I wasn't making any money.
I was so wrapped up in my passion projects that I lost sight of the bigger picture.
Potential clients didn't understood what "Wild Woman" was offering or what the business was about and neither did I.
I knew in my gut I needed to change gears and get serious about starting a design + photography studio because I needed to make money.
GRAIN + GRID
Grain + Grid was strong and bold with lots of white space. Which was the exact opposite of Wild Woman: earthy, raw, and organic.
The design was refreshing and made me feel more professional but I still didn't know "why" or who my dream clients were or what exactly I wanted to do.
So I ended up showing the best of everything I'd done. Travel photos, magazine spreads, invitations, greeting cards, brochures, flyers, websites ...
It was more curated than anything I'd done before but it still felt disjointed and unfocused. I took any work that came my way to make ends meet but most of it wasn't work that I loved.
Then a good friend asked me to brand her business as well as take the photos.
It was after that project I realized I had something to offer that was unique; I could design and do the photography.
So I decided to combine my design + photography services into a package which lead me to the path I'm on now.
STEPH ZANGENEH STUDIO
Now things were starting to make sense and I was getting clear on my purpose: design + photography for women entrepreneurs. I didn’t think about finding a niche or filling a gap. I just wanted to work with women who struggled with the same business issues I had.
I faced the fear of cutting out potential clients by only showing the work I wanted to do instead of everything I'd ever done and it WORKED. I was finally booking dream clients and projects I loved.
At this time women were really starting to shine and grow their online businesses. It was #bosswoman this and #girlboss that. I related to the message and jumped on the bandwagon. My tagline became: branding, website design, and photography for boss women.
I didn't make any announcements or talk much about the rebrand from Grain + Grid to Steph Zangeneh Studio but it's when things really started to shift in my business.
It wasn't until I narrowed my focus on dream clients that they started hiring me more and more.
- Start with your name. But if people can't pronounce, remember or spell it then it's probably not a good name for your business.
- Use word association games. Write down all words that have to do with your business (use a thesaurus) and get creative. Then take your favorite words and write them on post it notes and cover a wall. Move them around until something starts feeling like YOU.
- Make sure it's simple and easy to remember. The shorter the better in my opinion.
- Avoid kitschy and using dashes! You want your name to stand the test of time and you want people to take your business seriously.
- MAKE SURE the url and social handles are available. I just can't stress this enough.
- Most importantly make sure it's YOU. Does it make you feel all warm and fuzzy and you can't stop looking at it? Then it's a good fit.
Read part II of my brand journey here.
What are your thoughts on naming a business? Have you had a tough time?