Today’s essay is a rewrite of a column I originally wrote for the September 2004 issue of CraftsBusiness magazine. I’m writing an update for my column in The Crafts Report magazine next month, and wanted to provide the back story. Enjoy!
I can still remember the day I came up with my perfect business name. My tiny business was in its infancy, with great dreams of what was to come. A mail order business? Perhaps a small retail craft gallery?
I wanted a catchy little name that could encompass any possibility. We had a little family joke about any extra cash that came our way. Many people might blow it on an expensive dinner out or concert tickets, but I would joke that I put all my extra money into “durable goods”. So when the time came to register my business name with the State of New Hampshire, I was ready to go.
Our state is small enough to make the trip to the appropriate government offices in person. Determined to snag this name before anyone else thought of it, I waited hours in line to file, then waited for a decision.
I was turned down.
I waited more hours for the person who had made that decision to return from lunch, to find out why.
“It’s not very distinctive,” she declared. “‘Durable Goods’….It doesn’t say what you do. Don’t you think you should have something descriptive, like ‘Luann’s Art Studio’, or ‘Luann’s Craft Shop’? How can you be successful with a name that isn’t about what you DO??”
I thought for a moment, looked her straight in the eye and said, “The Gap?”
Needless to say, she reversed her decision. I was soon out the door with my brand new business name.
Time went on. As my work became more art-like, and I felt more like an artist, I wondered if my wonderful business name was still working for me as it should. I asked other artists, craftspeople and craft retailers for their opinion.
It looked like my attempt to look like a “real business” instead of a one person operation was actually working against me. Customers, even wholesale customers, found it hard to connect my business name with ME, Luann Udell. A “studio” name felt more like a big operation to retail customers, rather than a single artist at work.
It was time for a change.
Thinking of all the extra work involved to change my biz name convinced me I did not need to hurry, though. Until I got my wake-up call from the universe.
One morning I found a very odd message on my answering machine. A frantic woman had called, claiming I had run fraudulent charges through my business on her stolen credit card.
I felt my stomach sink to my feet. With shaky hands, I called the number she’d left. I tried to keep my voice steady and pleasant as I asked for her extension.
She took my call and told me her tale of woe.
Her credit card had been stolen, and thousands of dollars’ worth of charges made. She’d spent days with her credit card company trying to sort the mess out. Over and over, she repeated the name “Durable Goods” as the business these charges had been made to.
I was sympathetic but bewildered. It was a slow time of year for me and I hadn’t taken any credit card orders recently. Her name wasn’t on any of my customer lists. I checked and rechecked, assuring her I would do whatever it took to fix this for her. But I simply couldn’t find a single record of any purchase in her name.
I asked her how she knew I had accepted her credit card number. She said she’d talked extensively to her customer service rep, and he’d repeated the name “Durable Goods” several times. On her own, she’d Googled that, found my website, and contacted me.
A glimmer of understanding dawned. I asked her to repeat exactly what the credit card company rep had said to her. “He said, ‘A charge at Brown’s BackCountry Sports, sporting goods. Black’s Apparel, women’s clothing; and Audio Heaven, durable goods'”, she replied.
I explained to her that “sporting goods”, “women’s clothing” and “durable goods” were not the NAMES of the businesses, but the DESCRIPTIONS of the businesses. “Durable Goods” was simply the kind of store her card had been used at.
We called and confirmed it with her credit card company rep. She apologized profusely and hung up. I collapsed back into my chair, highly relieved to be cleared of credit card fraud.
But then I thought of the massive number of fraud and identity theft……
I thought of all the frantic and upset victims trying to sort out all the information passed on to them by their respective credit card companies….
I thought about the tens of thousands of stores selling HDTV’s, computers, stereo equipment, washing machines, computers, all excellent targets for hot cards.
I thought about all the stores with the business description “durable goods”….
Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead! Within two weeks I had renamed my business to…..Luann Udell.
A last incident made me realize I’d made a smart decision. That same day, I received a phone call on my business line. I chirped, “Durable Goods!”
“What?? Gerbil Goods??” a quavering elderly voice stammered.
I laughed and repeated my name. She’d misdialed, so I helped her sort out the right number and sent her on her way.
My father-in-law said I really should have taken that name. He claimed that Gerbil Goods in Keene, New Hampster was just too good to pass up.