Naming Your Store

The number one dileminia every ice cream retailer has when conceiving the business is: What should we call our concept? It can get really tough deciding, causing arguments, jealousy among partners, and simply, indecision. But eventually a name will emerge from the very mundane to the outrageous. And in most cases, it’s usually a reflection of the owner’s personality.

Question: What are the advantages and disadvantages of using your own name for the name of your company, like Christie’s Cookies, Charles Schwab, Williams-Sonoma, Ralph Lauren! In my case, 25 years ago, when I first started out, I called my ice cream- Malcolm’s Homemade. At the time it was a reflection of expanding from my restaurant to the ice cream business. And I remember the first time we were sampling our ice cream pints in a gourmet shop, someone tasted our product and said: “Who is Malcolm?” And since I was standing right there, I said: “I’m Malcolm.” Trust me, at that moment I felt very proud.

Answer: Basically, you’re asking, what’s in a name? And the answer is, plenty. Choosing an appropriate name is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your ice cream store-the name you give your business can convey important messages about it. That said, one advantage of an entrepreneur using his name for his business is that it helps give the company a personality. Names like Ralph Lauren. Or consider Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. “To customers and other constituencies, it suggests that the founder is actively involved,” says James Bell of Lippincott Mercer, brand strategy consultants. Bell says founders often decide to use their names for their companies if they are involved in consumer-oriented businesses, including restaurants, bakeries, bars, or retail ice cream shops. That way, customers feel that a real person, and not a faceless corporation, is behind the operation. Even though Mrs. Fields doesn’t make the cookie dough, consumers tend to think that her baking skills have something to do with the quality of the company’s cookies. Consumers tend to trust that the company’s products will live up to her standards.

Again, think of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Stewart built her media empire partly on the strength of her reputation for being an exacting homemaker. But lately, her company’s business has been suffering in large part because Stewart’s image is tainted, and it has now gotten worse since she has been convicted of federal charges.

To figure out whether a personal name will work for your ice cream store, you should go through “a regimented process” to answer some questions about your business. First, decide if the name should reflect your personality, or if it should be more descriptive of your product or concept.

Whatever route you decide on, remember to take the time to choose a name that will fit your company’s persona. “An organization has to think through the process and not make a willy-nilly decision,” Bell says. And remember that whether you’re looking to be the next Dell (named for founder and CEO Michael Dell) or the next Nike (named after the goddess of victory), you’ll still have to work hard to make sure your company’s good name stays in good standing with customers.

This article was written by Louise Witt and adapted by us as it refers to ice cream retailing: She is a senior editor at American Demographics and she has written extensively on small business and entrepreneurship.