Entrepreneur Kristen Carbone shares one of the lessons she learned the hard way when starting her own business.
“This is easy,” said no one ever when starting a business. I learned this lesson the hard way last year when I decided to take action on a new business idea. What comes to mind immediately as I reflect on the many challenges I’ve encountered along the way? Naming it.
There I was, treading water after my swan dive into entrepreneurship. I remember reading an email from my attorney informing me that I could not use the logo I’d painstakingly selected. I had two thoughts. The first was, NO! The second was a rapid calculation of how much money I’d already wasted on a name I can’t use.
How I picked the name I couldn’t use
Originally, we incorporated using a name that was always intended to be the invisible parent company for the TBD brand name. After six months of product development, considering our vision and mission, and four NameStorm (as I like to call them) brainstorming sessions we finally landed on a name that everyone was excited about.
After some light Google searching, which revealed the dot com version of our name was taken but many other extensions were available—a clear win, I thought—I activated my team.
We bought all the available and relevant domain name extensions (.co, .health, .community, .info, .solutions, .life, etc.) for around $245 total. We reached out to GoDaddy to negotiate for the dot com domain name on our behalf; another $70. Then we secure all the relevant, available social media handles, which is free except for time; about $200. I edited our brand brief to include language around the seemingly perfect metaphorical connection between our vision and our name—another $1,200 in my time.
How I wasted nearly $3,000
Just as I was about to begin writing an email to my mailing list about The-Perfect-Company-Name, I thought about trademarking.
During a weekly call with another female founder, I learned that she filed for her own trademark and immediately envisioned the dollars I’d save if I, too, DIY’d my filing. I talked to two attorneys about my plan. They both advised that filing my own trademark was ok, as long as I was certain that no one else was using it. Not totally confident, I did a more comprehensive search that revealed other uses of the same name. I decide to abandon my plan and consult with my firm’s attorney.
After an initial meeting, I filled out the questionnaire from the lawyer and did another search on any potential obstacles for using the name—another $200 in time. And a few days later I got the aforementioned email letting me know the attorney’s search revealed too many potentially problematic conflicts. The search, which included the lawyer’s time, was $550. And then when I called to go over her results, I got charged another half hour of her time—$200.
Let’s calculate! The total dollars, plus the cost of my time, was $2,395. Wasted. Dear reader, this is almost two months of my Providence, RI rent or the cost of my next round of prototypes. At this moment of my entrepreneurial journey, that amount breaks my heart.
What I’ll do differently the next time
After wasting that money, I learned that there are some simple, order-of-operations steps that I should have used to protect my hard-earned dough!
The most important thing to know is that having the domain name does not protect your brand name! There are clever ways of working around domain names. For example the brand THINX can be found at shethinx.com. But there is not a way around an already existing trademark in the category you need.
The second most important thing to know is that lawyers are expensive. Each lawyer or firm will have their own pricing, and some are more friendly for start-ups than others. The firm I’m using, from soup to nuts (soup being the preliminary screening search, and nuts being filing the allegation of use/statement of use), has a total minimum fee of $6,575. If I’d been more savvy when I started, I would have spent more time finding a firm to partner and scale with me. If you’re starting a business, I suggest interviewing multiple legal teams before you get going.
And, as a closing tip, I’ll leave you with this link that will save you countless dollars in your time if you’re trying to name your business, product, or brand. Jake Knapp, Design Partner at GV and author of Sprint designed this extremely helpful presentation on how to name your company in eight hours. I stumbled onto this about 100 hours into brainstorming and it was still a big help.
Best of luck to you. Happy naming and happy bootstrapping!
Kristen Carbone and her two delightful children currently live, eat, garden, dance, and generally thrive in the midst of an endless construction project in the suburbs of Rhode Island. Kristen is working to change the way women think about their physical and emotional needs. Website: www.brilliantly.co.
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