I used to hate my name. My mother named me Donna because she liked the Donna Reed Show. Great. I'm named after the perfect television stay-at-home wife and mother. Oh well. At least people can pronounce my name. My late father was not so lucky.
His name was Acrafare James Coles, but since no one could pronounce or spell Acrafare, he started using James. Other than his birth certificate and the gas tank (pictured) on my brother's newly built motorcycle (more on that below), nothing I know of identifies our father as Acrafare.
If you don't like your name, there are things you can do to change it and no one will really care. If you are naming an Indie Business, however, the rules are far different and the stakes much higher. If you are not careful, instead of your business name being in lights, it will be in fights — trademark fights.
So What's An Indie To Do?
Verizon. Intel. Altria. Novartis. Afflac. What do these company names have in common? They have no meaning apart from the meaning given to them by the companies themsleves. You won't find them in the dictionary and before they were used by their owners, they were available as dot coms.
So why am I telling you this? Because you need to be smart about choosing your business name. Using a name that's already out there in the marketplace is tantamount to aiming a gun at the future of your business and pulling the trigger. There's a whole chapter on this in my Lifestyle CEO book, but for now, here are a few tips to help out. (These are tips. Not legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult an attorney.)
1. Don't Use A Name If It Shows Up Anywhere Online.
If the name you want to use for your business shows up on Google or any other search engine or anywhere else online, it means someone else is probably already using it. Pick another name.
2. Use A Name With The Corresponding Dot Com.
If the name you want to use is not available as a dot com, it means someone else is probably already using it, has thought about using it, or is offering it for sale at a price you probably can't afford or don't want to pay. Pick another name.
3. Check The Trademark Office For Name Availability
If the name you want to use is listed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office as the subject of a trademark appliction or registration, it means that someone else is claiming legal rights to the name. Pick another name.
Oh, About The Motorcycle
My brother, Jeff, built it by hand from scratch from the ground up. It took him two years. Other than my father's birth certificate, it is the only tangible thing that bears our dad's legal name.
Jeff owns One Shot Racing (a name that's been in lights, not in fights) in Bowie, Maryland, one of the only African American racing teams in the country. He is also an accomplished real estate broker and investor whose current projects include developing an entire block around Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He teaches sports entrepreneurship at American University in our hometown of Washington, DC. And if that was not enough, he's a great dad and all around cool guy who serves on the borad of directors for my company, Indie Business Media, LLC. (Yes, ladies, he's also single. But that's another blog.)
If you are looking for someone to airbrush your bike or just about anything else, contact Alan Pastrana, who painted Jeff's bike.
Here is a full shot of the work of art, made even more fabulous by my son (who if I have anything much to say about it will never ever ride a motorcycle.)