How to Name Your Business (My No-Fail 3-Step Formula)

Written by Christine Kane

How to Name Your BusinessThis time you’re determined, dammit.

You grab your coffee. You sit down.  And you think the same thought that’s been plaguing you for weeks now…

“Okay, time to name my business. Let’s do this.”

And then?

Then, all the RULES rush through your head…

You know the ones…

Your business name has to be unique. Totally different.

Your business name must be clever. But not TOO clever that no one understands it.

And holy hell, it can’t be boring either.

Plus, your exact business name has to be readily available as a domain name. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Barely a minute has passed, and you’re already losing steam.

Enter your fairy business coach. [Insert tinkly theme music and muted glowy light.]

Okay, so we have a problem here. (Besides the tinkly theme music.)

That problem is this:

You’re all up in your head!   And you haven’t even begun the process!

See, some things in your business are rote and mental.  Like, entering numbers into a spreadsheet, profit and loss, mapping out your call-back schedule.

So, it’s tempting to think that EVERYTHING in your business should follow suit.

But naming your business?

Naming your business is a creative process.

(And by the way, so is naming anything, writing anything, and getting any ideas.)

And as with any creative process, you can’t slap down a set of rules and force it out of your brain. You just can’t.

You have to ALLOW it. Ideas arise. They don’t “get thought.”

In fact, in spite of the title of this article, there IS no three-step tried-and-true formula for coming up with the perfect business name that will always be the right business name.

But since everyone wants steps, here are three. These work every time. But not always in a linear way…

1  -  Give yourself PERMISSION

Permission to not have a clue what your business should be called right now.

Permission to do this badly.

Permission to continue living with the lame name you came up with a few years ago when you were on the treadmill.

Permission to let this evolve.

So, maybe you already have a name, but no one pronounces it right. Or maybe your name turned out to be the name of another business in your industry.  Okay, fine. We all have things in our businesses that need changing. Why rush now?

The problem with rushing is that you will end up with a name you hate because you forced something to happen that wasn’t yet ready to arrive.

2  -  Get your business PHILOSOPHY

Here’s an assignment.

Take your whole reason for having a business, for doing what you do and how you do it – and break it down into five core business philosophies.  Basically the WHY of what you do.  These don’t have to be perfect. Don’t go for poetry. And don’t try to make a sign that you will someday post in the bathroom stalls at your corporate headquarters.

Write as if you were just talking. Or just speak into iTalk on your phone.

Pretend I sat down in front of you and said, “Okay, tell me five things you believe that made you create the business you have. Just talk to me.”

This doesn’t have to get completed in one session. Spend some time with this.

3  -  Go on and PLAY with your business name

I know. I know. This is business. I’m supposed to be all “Argh! Be serious!”

But no. I want you to play.

Read through your five business philosophies. See what words keep repeating.

Go through your days, lightly holding on to the ideas you’ve come up with so far.

Ask your friends their opinions.

Keep a running list. And make sure you include the “bad” ideas on there.  Often, our bad ideas lead us to the best ideas.  Just play with business names.

You don’t have to be in a rush. If it takes a few weeks longer than you thought, big deal. Stop overthinking all of that mental BS and start playing with this.  You’ll be surprised at the ideas that arise when you’re making dinner, or walking your dog, or driving to meet your sister for breakfast.

And yes, if you want to satisfy your inner lover of spreadsheets, there are then ways of testing your name to see if it’s clickable and track how people respond using heat maps and SEO know-how.

But consider this:

Apple didn’t do this. Neither did Virgin. Neither did The Gap.  Neither did Tiffany, Nike or McDonalds.

And they all seem to be pretty okay about that.

We’re not looking for: “What will make them line up in droves?”  We’re looking for what clicks inside of you. Something that feels “right.”  That’s the first sign it’s a good name.

No matter what name you choose, there’s no guarantee it’ll be a name that will make your business soar.

That part is up to how you RUN and make your business scalable.

CONFESSION: This article was written in response to an actual question I received from one of my Uplevel Your Business students.  I’d LOVE for you to help him, too!  In the comments, share with us your business name – and whether or not it “clicks” for you – and if so, how you came up with it!

If you've ever believed it was impossible to be totally authentic AND make lots of money in your business - then you're not alone. Purposeful entrepreneurs want it REAL - and I promise to deliver! Get my FREE VIDEO, and I will walk you step-by-step through my own Uplevel Fast Track Formula for making money... on your own terms and in your own way. Enter your email and let's get started!

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Markus April 23, 2014 at 8:52 am

Hello,

Great article. I was looking for a name and playing with many things. Then one day I realized how many of my subjects ask me to “Please Hypnotize Me!”. They do it when they want it, they do it when they see me hypnotize others and they do it when it’s over, as in “Please Hypnotize Me Again”.

Then it just totally made sense. Now I won’t hypnotize anyone unless they ask, using those words!

I just got the domain and only have a placeholder up for now, but am working hard at getting my products completed, etc…

This is the first public place I have put the name.

All the best.

Markus

[Reply]

Christine Kane Reply:

Well thanks for trusting this tribe of Uplevelers with your first “reveal,” Markus! Awesome!

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Rachel Claret April 23, 2014 at 9:12 am

I came up with the word ORGANIZEN almost two years before I finally decided to use it. (dismissed it the first time around).

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Christine Kane Reply:

Great Rachel! Are you using it now? URL and all?

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Alle L'Eveille Reply:

Cool name, Rachel! I love it! Naming is part of my business services. I love to see someone come up with a great name like that!

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Julie Ray April 23, 2014 at 9:13 am

As usual, your articles are so timely … it’s like you’re inside my head :)

I have been struggling with finding a name for my website for weeks, and today when I opened your email and saw “How To Name Your Business” I had to laugh out loud. Thank you for the guidance and suggestions, I will give myself permission to continue playing with names … and I’ll work on my five core philosophies. An added note: until today, I have been reading your articles and blogs and getting a huge amount of inspiration from them, despite the fact that I kept thinking “but I don’t have a business.” I’ve always considered myself deficient in business, not cut out to be a business woman, so therefore my dream of a website for women couldn’t be considered a “business.” Today is the first day I’ve identified with that term and realized I need to embrace it. Thank you Christine for empowering me today!

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Christine Kane Reply:

Go Julie!

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Wendy Pitts Reeves Reply:

DiTTO – go JULIE! :))

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Krista April 23, 2014 at 9:27 am

Timing is everything! Did you watch “Silicon Valley” on HBO last week? It was all about the founder fervently defending the name of his business “Pied Piper” because it’s a Fairey tale and everyone else telling him very rudely it’s a horrible name. There’s even a VisionQuest involved to find the perfect business name!

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Christine Kane Reply:

Didn’t see it Krista – but it sounds pretty funny. :)

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Deborah Bollman April 23, 2014 at 9:38 am

Super post! I actually changed my studio/business name this year. I’m so drawn to light. I paint it and it is a spiritual concept to me. I, also, have a thing for all things italian. I originally was going to call my studio Bella Vita Studio which means “A Beautiful Life” in Italian and Vita is my mother’s name. I ultimately went with La Bella Luce Studio which means Beautiful Light.

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Martha Reply:

I love that name.. beautiful.

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Christa Hein April 23, 2014 at 9:44 am

My business name is Bring the Farm to You – and I LOVE IT! It came out of an email I sent to a stranger in another state who did something similar to what I wanted to do. I asked her how she got started and remarkably she wrote back. In our conversation she clarified what she was hearing from me and said it sounded like I wanted to bring the farm to people, so how about Bring the Farm to You. Genius! It took an outsider to see what I couldn’t because I was too close. The name is simple – says exactly what I do – and I love that it has a call to action right in the name! It turned into a beautiful logo of a traveling barn that now adorns my trailer. And I love that I can also metaphorically Bring the Farm to You through my eZine or other value I put online. It’s inspired me so much (and my business has grown so well) that I’m now working on a name for the module-type program I’m creating to teach others how to build their own outreach education business! So this article came at a great time! Thanks for the continued inspiration Christine!

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Christine Kane Reply:

Perfect Christa! Often the best ideas come because we are LISTENING to ourselves work and communicate!

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Desiree April 23, 2014 at 9:44 am

I am struggling with this too, trying to come up with a new name for a different aspect of my business. It’s hard enough coming up with a name that represents and isn’t cheesy but then when you think you have it, the domain isn’t available! This article helped me rethink some possibilities. Back to the drawing board

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Kajal Dhabalia April 23, 2014 at 10:25 am

I went through many months of playing with my business name….making lists of how I would describe my biz, what one word could bring together yoga, food and art…and one day I came up with Wholesome Soul—yoga inspired food and art. Just last week I was thinking of changing the tag line…so now sitting with that…

It is definitely an evolving process!

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Cora Rennie April 23, 2014 at 11:30 am

Thank you for this Christine! I’m wondering what your thoughts are on using your personal name for your business? That’s what I ended up doing back in 2008 when I started up my practice. I “defaulted” to my own name when all the other “good” names I could think of were taken. It turned out to be a very good choice for me, because as we all know, being in business (just like being a parent) is a way to super-charge your own healing journey. So much has happened for me internally that my whole idea of entrepreneurship, and myself as a healer/practitioner has changed very drastically, yet through all of those evolutions, there was no need for me to continue changing my business name/domain name to keep up.

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Wendy Wolfe Reply:

I would also like to know your take on this Christine. I’ve used my name (and the url) for 12 years. What do you think?

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Christine Kane Reply:

Cora – (And Wendy) I think it’s fine to do this. My experience of having been a performer and songwriter is that I couldn’t let go of my own name and just one day STOP being me – as all of my work/blog/list had been grown on my name. So, when Uplevel YOU was created, I’ve just been slowly moving toward that being more and more the focus. Still, I’m not in a rush. I think it’s fine to use your name. But I do think it could cause some unique challenges if you ever want to scale your business in any meaningful way. Does that help?

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Evie Burke April 23, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I wanted to start a blog – something to help others gain insights to themselves by sharing some of my insights.

I played around with a lot of words – just sat and wrote down all the words I could think of that described what I wanted to do or just felt right. After about a week or so I had about three good contenders (I don’t remember the others), but One Insight Closer was what really stuck out.

About 6 months later I was creating a business and the name just fit perfectly. Even with a change in my business focus later – the name still fits.

One Insight Closer just fits me and my business as things evolve.

[Reply]

Christine Kane Reply:

I love it, Evie! It evokes so much.

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Phillis Benson April 23, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Love the article – and I did almost the same thing….

I can up with Virtual Partner for my business as I am YOUR partner with your online business … a blend of Techie and People … perfect fit for my clients and my life! I was able to combine my technology skills with my life coaching … so now my clients get much much more ….

Virtual Partner … Co-creating Your Business Dreams
Creative :: Purposeful :: Innovative

[Reply]

Christine Kane Reply:

Love this Phillis!

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Lisa April 23, 2014 at 1:49 pm

I have been trying for months now to come up with a name for my women’s t-shirt line. I have names in my head that I like but because they sound cute and/or catchy but I get stuck on choosing anything when I hear people say that your business name should say what you DO. Argh!!

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Randi Reply:

Lisa,

Did you ever come up with a name? If not, I’d love to find out more about your business concept, so I may offer some suggestions.

Best wishes-Randi

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Kari April 23, 2014 at 1:55 pm

This is just what I needed, Christine! Thanks! I’m in the process of revamping my business focus, web site, packages, etc., and I keep getting stuck on the name. What I have “sorta worked” for what I was doing, but I picked it in a rush. I’ll slow down this time and play with it a bit more. THANKS!

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Frauke Moebius April 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm

I went the lame way and chose my name. My German business name is “EFT Praxis Frauke Möbius”, but I came up with a cute url for that – http://www.klopfen-in-kiel.de which is a nice alliteration for the German word for tapping, plus the town where I live. I constantly come up in second or third place on google when people look for EFT and Kiel. First place is a plumbing company that is called EFT for some reason. ( I could call trademark on them, because I know the holder of the EFT trademark for Germany, but I don’t really want to.)

Since I am not allowed to do therapy long distance, I called my English site simply Moebius Coaching. (I do have a great Moebius Loop banner on that website.) Then my focus changed to combine my two huge passions in life, and I created Writers’ Dream Coach, which is also the name of the website. I’ll see where that takes me.

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Wendy Pitts Reeves Reply:

A perfect example of the evolution of a business – and an entrepreneur! :)

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Karen Lynn April 23, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Very timely for me, too! This is what the question I emailed you for last week’s question was about… and what I’m waiting in queue on today’s phone call for!

People already find me through my name for my artwork (or if they like my artwork, and want to take classes for me), and they find me through http://www.NapaValleyArtWorkshops.com for my art workshops – and that reaches people who are coming to the area and want to make art. For my online art teaching, I’m debating about LineColorPaintJoy – it was the title of a blog I kept for several years, and I have the domain name. And I love it – it encapsulates what I do.

But am I nuts for having three separate domains and websites? It seems to me that it is the best way to go – though it may be a bit to manage…. I hope to talk to you on the phone today, Christine!

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Christine Kane Reply:

Glad we got to chat about this on the Q&A call today Karen!

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Greta Hillin April 23, 2014 at 2:26 pm

I played around with lots of names before settling on The Knitting Diva. Most of the others fell into that “too clever” category and I was afraid no one would get it. Not everyone was on-board with the name but it has turned out to be a good choice. It resonates with how I want my customers to feel when they are in the shop; like they are someone special and they are all my divas! I was bummed that theknittingdiva.com was taken, but it’s not a long stretch to divasknitting.com. Now I’m on the search again for a business name for coffee shop I want to open because we really need one in the community where the shop is located! I’m open to hearing any suggestions!

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Karen Lynn April 23, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Thank you so much for you advice on the phone call, Christine!

(By the way, my Chow/Australian Cattledog cross is a Zoe, too – Zoe the Adorable. Your Zoe looks pretty adorable, too.)

Appreciatively,
Karen Lynn

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Christine Kane Reply:

That’s great Karen! My Zoe is “Zoe-Louise.” And she’s a hoot. :)

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Reshleman April 23, 2014 at 3:35 pm

My company is all about female empowerment and women-lead adventures, and it’s called B.A.B.S Base Camp, with a subsidiary called B.A.B.S Firearms Training “For Women, By Women”. Here was my process:
1. I hate to say this, but I had to do a “porn check” to make sure the name I wanted to use (mostly the “BABS” part) did not bring up undesirable content during an internet search. I would recommend this to anyone, as names that seem totally innocuous can actually end up being surprisingly problematic in this regard.

2. I know that some experts advise against any acronym in a business name, but the “B.A.B.S” part has actually been a great way to attract interest and a sense of inclusion for our clients. People ask all the time what B.A.B.S stands for, and we always say with a smile that they have to go on an adventure with us to find out. People actually respond very well to that, and we ask clients at the beginning of their session with us what they think B.A.B.S stands for, and it ends up being a funny, perfect ice breaker for our group classes. Then, once they know what it stands for, they have a sense of being “in the posse” or the “tribe”etc, you get the idea…

3. I chose “Base Camp” because my business is in the Pacific NorthWest, and it fits perfectly with the local culture and lifestyle of my ideal client: active, fit, outdoorsy, adventurous women. Base Camp also implies a starting point for a diverse variety of adventures (can you say multi-adventure training packages?) and allowed for expansion into “B.A.B.S Base Camp – Women’s Adventure Center”. The Base Camp name also allows me to provide multiple diverse services under the same name and marketing concept, as I have done with B.A.B.S Firearms Training.

4. I felt that B.A.B.S Base Camp would lend itself well to marketing images, logos and visuals using popular local areas (like our B.A.B.S badass woman standing atop Oregon’s famous icon Mount Hood) and that colloquial terminology popular with my ideal client base could easily be incorporated into the narrative voice of all written marketing media.

5. I did a “friend check” and asked trusted friends their opinion by revealing the company name and logo on a pice of paper and watching their genuine immediate reaction – you can tell if someone truly likes the idea instantly, or if they are scrambling to figure out a way to let you down easy when they don’t like it.

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Wendy Pitts Reeves Reply:

I love all of this – being in a similar business myself – but I love the Friend-Check via paper especially. Smart – and accurate!

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Cindy Henexson April 23, 2014 at 3:37 pm

The name of my business is WayMaker Virtual Assistant and I really dig it right now. I *love* supporting women business owners by making a way for them to have more time to do what they love! I enjoy taking care of those things like blogs, scheduling, emails, and other administrative tasks which liberate my clients in the process so “WayMaker” just fits!

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Valri April 23, 2014 at 3:59 pm

This is so timely – and you must be feeling my gut wrenching as I sit down ONE MORE TIME to decide on a biz name. How to decide whether to use my own name or create a nice biz name with a ring to it. Or both? Or is it your products and services that have the nice-name-with-a-ring-to-it? I had a business name that I loved and my husband hates it. I picked a name that he liked and I hated it. Same is true of running the names past friends. What resonates with one doesn’t seem to excite the other. I have been told to use what-you-do in your business name, mostly for SEO purposes, but Apple, Nike, The Gap, et al doesn’t say a blasted thing about what they do. Granted they have multi-million dollar ad budgets and time under their belt. So I ask myself, what do I look for in a name of a business like mine? A bad name is a turn-off for sure (as a coach and healer, all the suggestions I get from friends and family sound like retirement home names to me), but if attached to a great web site and fab services – I’m all for exploring that business and services. A great name makes me say to myself “wish I’d thought of THAT one” and I’m sticking around to explore; an interesting name that has GOT to have a story behind it makes me explore the site to see what the story is; a business using that person’s name helps me remember THAT person and yes, explore the site for more info. And yet I’m still stuck on PICKING something that is JUST RIGHT. Aaaarrrggh. I give myself to the end of the week and just pick one, damn it!

[Reply]

Christine Kane Reply:

Valri – It seems that you are WAY up in your head. The problem as i see it is that you are comparing, asking opinions, looking outward… and you need to get quiet enough inside to be able to trust your creative mojo as the owner of your business. Take a deep breath and give yourself space to do this. :)

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Marcy Heim April 23, 2014 at 4:35 pm

It IS a process. I went from Marcy Heim Consulting – now THAT’S inspiring….
to The Artful Asker – and now I am considering the slightest of changes to Artful Asking. Christine – I would give anything to be with you in June – still speaking like crazy – just what I want! Thank you!

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Christine Kane Reply:

Awww Marcy – i’ll miss our once a year hang out!

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Shannon Smith April 23, 2014 at 5:54 pm

I decided to make my business name, domain and web site all the same: HSEResource.com. I already bought the domain and built a simple web site (don’t judge- it’s going to be completely revamped after I finish my modules :) The only problem was the period in the name would not be accepted by some tax registration web sites. I just left the period out and it has not caused any tax or filing problems.
I have since come up with a better name that is more specific to what I do- but I don’t have to change the business name- just file with the tax office as a “doing business as” my new name- HSEMaritime.com. The HSE stands for Health, Safety and Environmental. To those in my field, this is simple and easy to remember.

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Jeanne Berry April 23, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Back when I did freelance graphic design, I played off of my last name: “Berry Good Design”. I used a big blueberry for the icon. It’s not all that original, in hindsight.

Though I have been on hiatus from yarn dyeing for a bit, I still have my Etsy shop with plans to restock over the summer. I kept referring to my artistic fibery efforts as my “yarn endeavors”, so when it came time to name the yarn line and/or business, I merged the two words and came up with:

Yarndeavors

Yep, domain name and everything.

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Jeanne Berry April 23, 2014 at 6:01 pm

One last thing. I’ve also heard what I considered to be the worst business name, especially when the client wanted to secure the domain name exactly as written. It no longer exists, so it’s safe to post here. It was:

“It’s Your Home-Based Business” (itsyourhomebasedbusiness.com)

Awful, right? No matter how hard I tried, I could not convince the client to shorten or change it.

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Maureen Carlomagno April 23, 2014 at 9:06 pm

I love this article as well! I found it helpful to journal about what I wanted to offer and what kind of feel I wanted to give to my (future) clients. It was a great way to sort through words and phrases that I matched what was going on in my head. In the end I came up with “Your Wellness Coach” for my health coaching services and have had a lot of great feedback from people. www-your-wellness-coach.com.

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Jane April 23, 2014 at 9:25 pm

A couple of week’s ago, I had the same issue about naming my business (home care for older people). Wow, every name that I thought was brilliant, someone already had! For SEO purposes I needed “home care” in the title. It was my daughter (and future business partner) who came up with the name. It represents everything about who I am and what I stand for. I was so inspired by the new name of my business, I started a blog about setting up the business! http://everycloudhasasilverliningblog.com/

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Kate Ostrem April 24, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I am starting an Enneagram coaching business (loved hearing about how you and Jennifer Lee are both 4s, Christine, at last week’s Right Brainers’ Video Summit!) and had been so preoccupied with having a name. I sat down for focused brainstorm sessions, made notes all the time, paid attention to words, etc. When I finally came up with something I liked, there weren’t any domain name options available. Then my mom’s best friend shared her idea: Nine Open Doors. It hit me right in the heart as absolutely perfect! I hardly had to think about it. It just felt right – and was much better than what I had originally come up with. And the domain name was available (website in the works!). Now that I have the name, I’m amazed at how it’s inspired me to take additional steps to creating my business.

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Carolyn Witt April 26, 2014 at 8:16 pm

I love my business name and it fits me perfectly! I love being the person in the shadows helping you organize the chaos so you can focus on growing your business. Kinda a behind the scenes “secret weapon.” I truly think I watched too many secret agent movies as a child! :) Carolyn @UrSecretWeapon

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