The Trials and Tribulations of Naming a Company
Jun 20, 2018
We didn’t start out as NakedPoppy.
The company incorporated as Sheen, which we celebrated for being short, easy to spell, and at the intersection of health and beauty.
Never mind that someone else owned the www.sheen.com web page (read: we’d have to pay through the nose to acquire it someday). Or that people with oily skin don’t usually have shiny or “sheen” as their beauty objective. Or that when you Google “Sheen” you get many pages of unflattering stories about Charlie Sheen. We’d manage through all that.
What we could not manage through was the “we have bad news” call from our lawyers.
They gently explained that “Ultra Sheen” shampoo is owned by Johnson & Johnson. While hair care products might seem different from makeup to us, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office lumps them together. Yikes.
Three weeks into being a funded company, our name was no good.
It was time to call on copywriter extraordinaire, Riley Rant.
A week later Riley delivered a list of possible names. They were breathtaking! So much so that we got over Sheen pretty quickly.
But the pesky lawyers continued to have... bad news. Everything we liked, they ran through trademark search. And somebody, somewhere, with some retired lipstick from the 90’s, had a claim.
No wonder there are so many awkward names on the Internet, many of them misspelled or lacking in vowels.
We started to get desperate.
One day, Kimberly and I were in my living room eating dark chocolate when I had an inspiration.
“Kimberly, I think we should call our company Purple Chocolate!”
“Great idea!” cried my desperate co-founder.
“Terrible idea!” said my usually supportive husband from the other room.
We were dead in the water.
We were two women + two laptops + an idea + a bank account MINUS a name.
That evening, Kimberly sent me a Slack message. “I’ve thought of the perfect name! It is Turvei. It’s beautiful and it rolls off the tongue.”
She wasn’t joking. I didn’t know what to say. I just couldn’t see this turnip-like name in our future.
Yet she had been so supportive of “Purple Chocolate,” at least for a second.
I decided to not say anything. Sleep on it, as my mother would have counseled.
Luckily, she kept going. A few days later another Slack message came in “We had Naked Goat cheese last night and it was fabulous! How about NakedOwl?”
There was something about these naked animals that captivated me. Clean beauty is all about minimal, pure ingredients.
We then remembered our favorite name from Riley’s first list. It was “Poppy.” Our lawyers had shot it down instantly.
But, now, what about NakedPoppy?
It was a heart-pounding moment when the lawyerly email reply came in. They expected it would pass the Patent and Trademark Office’s scrutiny.
These lawyers had given us so many “no’s” that their “yes” really seemed like a “yes.”
We scrambled onto the Internet and, magically, nakedpoppy.com was available, so we scooped it up. It set us back $8. It was even on sale!
We’re candidly not sure why we ever liked the name Sheen because NakedPoppy is so very deep in our hearts now.
Naked refers to our commitment to clean and pure, while Poppy evokes joy, color, and energy.
If you ever see a poppy with clothes on, please remember that it is wearing too much.