ASHLEY: Welcome to Outgrowth: A Slice of Pro Beauty with your hosts Ashley Gregory Hackett.
JAIME: And Jaime Schrabeck. In our first episode back from break, we’re ready to tackle the basics of business starting with your business name.
ASHLEY: What steps do you need to take before choosing a business name and how do you protect it from being used by someone else? Let’s grow together.
JAIME: Welcome back, Ashley. Are you well rested?
ASHLEY: As well rested as I think I’ll ever be. How about you?
JAIME: I’ve been really active during our break, but I’m ready to get back to Outgrowth.
ASHLEY: Me too. I think that it was nice to have a few weeks off of producing new content, but in those weeks, I learned that what we’re doing is very sorely needed and I think we both kind of came to the realization that what we focused on for the first year or so of Outgrowth has been maybe more advanced concepts in the beauty business. But as you and I have both joined Clubhouse individually, we’re finding that a lot of the questions are actually pretty basic.
JAIME: I could not have said that better, Ashley. And that just brings us to this topic today which is more basic than anything. What are you going to call yourself when you go into the beauty business?
ASHLEY: Exactly, and this is something that I think a lot of us have already finished and marked as done. But as we’ve seen throughout the past, I mean, just being in business, there are certain external forces that can act upon your business that will actually make you, or force you, to revisit your business name. And we’ll probably get into that a little bit later, but while it seems like something pretty innocuous, naming your business is likely the most important thing you’ll do.
JAIME: We’d want everyone to do this very wisely, because if you choose the wrong name and you move forward with reserving a website, and starting to market and brand yourself, and paying taxes with this name, it can be very expensive and inconvenient to change it later.
ASHLEY: Especially if you’ve taken the time and made the investment to do just the things you’ve named, whether it be reserving a domain, paying for web hosting, building an entire website, hiring a graphic designer, creating printed materials. There are just, the list is endless of the ways that you could have to potentially eat a lot of that investment if it turns out you do need to change your name later. So let’s talk about what considerations we all need to make before we name our beauty businesses.
JAIME: One of the most basic ways that individuals name their businesses is to include their own name in the business title. And there are some laws around that, whether or not you need to create a fictitious business name when you’re using your own name. But I think that we need to be more considerate of what we’re doing so that we make it easy for consumers to find us and to relate what we’re doing to the beauty business.
ASHLEY: Exactly that. It’s getting harder and harder to name a beauty business, just because, well, to name really any business, because there are certain limiting factors that are exercised over us, like the availability of a domain, the availability of a social media handle or account name, and whether or not someone else is already using that name. When we strive to be unique, unfortunately we can really be shooting ourselves in the foot by making it harder for clients to find us in the process.
JAIME: Before we started recording, I know that you and I had generated a list of things that we want to caution people against doing and one of the first things on my list is choosing words that are difficult to pronounce or spell.
ASHLEY: This is a trap I fell into in dreaming about a future business. This is even before I entered the beauty industry. I always knew I wanted to own my own business. And I was a French major in college. I love the French language. I wanted to open a boutique and I wanted to name it the French woman’s name Aurelie, A-U-R-E-L-I-E. Well, unfortunately, a boutique named “orally” probably wouldn’t survive or maybe even give the right impression.
JAIME: And that brings us to another one of our cautions, and that is using languages other than English, knowing that that’s the dominant language in this country. It’s not the only language, certainly, but for the bulk of your clients, as they’re trying to type your name into a search function on the internet, they’re likely going to be typing in English.
ASHLEY: Yes, unless it makes sense for your target clientele and the area you live. This is something that, just use the example I just stated as the example. It’s not something that somebody who isn’t familiar with that language would be able to phonetically guess if they were typing it into Google, or trying to find your website, or even trying to find you on Instagram. Why make it needlessly difficult for someone to find you?
JAIME: Speaking of difficult and strange, when businesses use unusual spellings for words or clever punctuation, that’s really hard to manage.
ASHLEY: Right and I think even by trying to be unique, like nails with the Z, we find that that’s been very overdone and it’s not something that will occur necessarily to a potential client when looking for you. It’s not something that’s search-engine optimized either. As a general rule of thumb, if you type it into your phone and it auto-corrects to something else, you might want to consider going in a different direction.
JAIME: And the cleverness does not stop there. What do you feel about attempts at being humorous or perhaps using a double entendres to communicate your brand name?
ASHLEY: There’s a hair salon on the north side of Chicago in my old neighborhood, which is Lakeview called Great Head. And it makes me laugh every time. But I don’t really know like what kinds of services are you offering there? Plus is it all hat, no cattle, as they say in Texas? Like are you highly skilled or do you need to get people in the door with a gimmick like that?
JAIME: Well, and that brings us to the topic of trendy words. Something like that might’ve been funny like thirty years ago, but it seems old now, outdated.
ASHLEY: Yeah, really. Or taking that a step further and making it something that’s like of the vernacular of the time. I think a lot of times we think about outdated words like beautician or beauty parlor, or something like that, or if that’s in your name, it maybe doesn’t stand the test of time and it would force you to rebrand anyway. But you have to think about if you’re using words like bae, or bestie, or some of those types of words, like the kids are saying on TikTok might not be something that will serve you well in five years, or even two years.
JAIME: Do we need to say much about not using curse words or other offensive words?
ASHLEY: I don’t think so. I mean, hopefully, that goes without saying, but then again, you and I both know that it’s not necessarily common sense. As we move further and further into influencer culture and online social media internet age pervading every part of our daily life, sometimes shock value is reinforced positively, but I don’t necessarily think that filing your taxes with an offensive name or a word that you couldn’t wear on a sweatshirt on an airplane would be a good idea either.
JAIME: It might be the time to check a racial slur database to make sure that the word that you think sounds clever and innocuous is truly so.
ASHLEY: Is that a thing, a racial slur database?
ASHLEY: I learn something new every day.
JAIME: I know. I might have to link that in the show notes. I just discovered it today because I was doing some research on the phrase chop shop.
ASHLEY: Oh, very good to know. I’m excited to have you link that in the show notes because I think that’s very helpful. I know that there’s a lot of pushback against woke culture, or cancel culture or whatever, but no matter your personal feelings, why limit your market by potentially naming your business something that would offend a potential client? It just doesn’t make good business sense, taking the rest of whatever political conversation there may be out of it. The other thing I was thinking about is what if you name your salon something that describes the services you do, and you expand your services later. It can be a bit limiting to name something like Sally’s Nail Barn, which is my favorite fake example to use. But what if you started, what if you brought in a lash technician, or started doing massage, or something along those lines where that’s not something someone would search for or think of when they wanted to book a different service other than nails?
JAIME: That takes me back to the first salon I booth rented in when I went to college and the salon’s name was Just Hair.
ASHLEY: Oh no.
JAIME: It was right next to campus. I mean, I was not at a disadvantage because I was able to promote my business, but it was Precision Nails at Just Hair.
ASHLEY: Was it just hair as in, don’t worry. It’s just hair or we just do hair cause we’re so good at it?
JAIME: It was just hair.
ASHLEY: Okay. Understood.
JAIME: But going along the lines of these names that could be limiting, another concern I have is that if you use a term that could mislead someone, like if you describe your salon as a spa and the type of atmosphere that you provide is nothing like a spa, then why would you name your business that? That would create some sense of expectation that you would fail miserably to meet.
ASHLEY: Agreed. And there’s even words that you wouldn’t be able to use by law, like if you were to call yourself hair incorporated and you weren’t a corporation, or I’m trying to think of another possible example, but I think that that illustrates the point very well.
JAIME: I think it does too, because there are some terms in the language that are not allowed to be used because they are reserved. They are protected from being used by entities that don’t have express permission to use them by being approved by a state agency.
ASHLEY: There was actually, I think when we spoke about this earlier, I mentioned this example, but there was a trendy, kind of up and coming hip bar in Chicago called The Pharmacy and they invested in expensive neon signs. They had all of their menus printed and the city said, oh no, you can’t name your bar the pharmacy. There’s just some naming conventions that you can’t overstep.
JAIME: Save it for your services.
ASHLEY: Exactly, beauty.
JAIME: And even then there may be some issues. Well, what about the basic beauty by insert your first name here.
ASHLEY: It sounds so unique because it incorporates your name, which, how could it be, I mean, less unique because it’s as a person and you are a special snowflake. You are one of a kind. Unfortunately, that is such a popular thing to name your beauty business is beauty by whatever. And let’s say I started Beauty by Ashley. First of all, there’s a trillion other Ashley’s in the world, but what if I brought in an employee or a booth renter and now they have to be Jaime at Beauty by Ashley. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is potentially limiting and it is a name that you’ll outgrow.
JAIME: I’m trying to think if there are any Fortune 500 companies that include the word by in them. Not thinking of any, nothing comes to mind.
ASHLEY: It reminds me of someone walking around in a swishy robe with marabou feathers on it, saying Fortunes by Ashley or Palm Readings by Sierra, like whatever it might be. It to me seems less like a legitimate business than something that is a standalone, its own entity, could operate with or without you if you decided to transition out of your business and take a back seat, or retire, or whatever that might be. You really have to think ahead. Will this serve my vision and like business goals in a year, five years, 10 years? And that also is something I like to talk about a lot in my classes when it comes to branding yourself in general. Is your logo going to stay the same? It’s just one of those things where you think about like in 20 years, do I really want to be Sally’s Nail Barn and continue to operate exactly as I do today? I think in 100% of cases you would say, no. That’s not something that, I’m not going to be operating exactly as I am today in 20 years, hopefully. Hopefully, I’ll have grown. I’ll have expanded. I know something you talk a lot about as well as naming your business based on where you’re located, like if you are Nails on Damon for Damon Avenue in Chicago. Well, what if you have to move? What if you open a second location? How do you extricate what’s the actual core business from the street it’s on?
JAIME: I’ve even seen that done with numbers, the number of the address.
ASHLEY: It seems cool. It seems trendy. It seems fun. It’s like, oh, I’m going to be at 3033 today for my service. But what if that building burns down? What if you get into some kind of situation with your landlord? What if, on the positive side, you have to expand and that physical space just won’t hold your beautiful business anymore? Now you have tied yourself to a building and made it very difficult because then what do you rebrand as the new number?
JAIME: I have two things to say about Sally’s Nail Barn. One is that you could make it an acronym SNB and there you have to be careful that your acronym for your name isn’t something that you should worry about. Or even Sally’s Beauty Supply is no longer Sally’s Beauty Supply, but Sally Beauty. And they went through and how many thousands of neon signs did they change from Sally’s Beauty Supply to say Sally Beauty across the country?
ASHLEY: Yeah. I mean even large brands like that go through growing pains. So you’re not going to be able to anticipate every single possibility as it comes up. But if you sort of take yourself through this checklist that we’ve discussed so far in this episode and just think about, okay. If I’ve already named my business and I’ve been doing business under this name for 10 years, is there an opportunity to rebrand? Is there an evolution that needs to happen? Do I need to update my logo? Do I need to update my website? In most cases, the answer is yes. But that may not be an expense anyone can take on right now, which is completely understandable. But before you make any moves, there’s a specific thing that you need to do to make sure that the name you’re using is a name that you can use.
JAIME: Research. I love research. So I think this could apply to anyone who’s trying to determine a brand name from the beginning for their business or, as you say, re-evaluating their business name to see if there isn’t something better they could do, more reflective of where they are in their career or where they want to be. And you could pay someone to do this for you. You could pay a lawyer. You could pay a branding expert, but so much of this work you can do for yourself. And I truly encourage that you do it for yourself because it will force you to look at what other people are doing already.
ASHLEY: Exactly that and what I don’t want for any of our listeners or really anyone in our industry is to spend a year, two years busting their butts, working over time to launch a new brand, create a new business, carve out a part of their niche, spend countless hours creating content just to receive a letter in the mail from an attorney saying you have to stop using this name. It’s trademarked by somebody else.
JAIME: And a lot of money gets wasted just having to file the paperwork, right? Money that’s required when you’re applying for your licensing and that sort of thing. But I would encourage anyone who’s listening not to waste your money on doing this preliminary research and to be very careful about sharing any of your plans with anybody, like I don’t think this is the sort of thing that you pitch to your clients and have them pick the best name, or post to Facebook or Instagram like we’ve seen individuals do, like, what name would you suggest, or which do you like better, and then they run some sort of survey. That’s no way to name your business.
ASHLEY: Well, right, because first of all, you’re not going to have those same clients forever. And secondly, you are the one who has to live with whatever the results are. I mean if anyone has ever seen an online poll of what to name something, and it always turns out to be Boaty McBoatface. I can’t imagine leaving such a huge decision for my business up to something crowdsourced, but we see this every single day with people making teaser announcements, or trying to get information, or posting on Facebook and asking, well, what do you think? What should I name my business? I understand it’s very difficult to be creative especially for ourselves when it comes to something as important, but this is not a decision that can be made in a day. It’s not a decision that really can even be made in a month. It’s something that you have to brainstorm, research, and it’s really hard not to get emotionally invested in the one that you think is going to be it, right? What do you think? Oh, this is it. It’s perfect. It describes what I do to a T. It has room to expand, and then you find that it’s not available, or that it is trademarked, or there’s another salon in another state that uses that name that could create confusion.
JAIME: It’s also hard not to overshare in all of your excitement for having picked a name, but big brands don’t do this. They line everything up and then announce.
JAIME: Everything’s in place, trademarks, patents if they’re patenting something, which we’re not even talking about patents here, but there’s so much that’s done behind the scenes. And this is where we want to encourage everyone to do their research. And I believe the first step is to search the trademark database at the federal level where you can find all those names that already exist that are similar to the one that you’re considering launching.
ASHLEY: Because that’s going to be your most effective tool of like, okay, can I continue down this road or not? You’ve thought of a potential brand name. You think this might really work. The domain is available. All signs point to yes. And then you get to USPTO and it says, nope, this is trademarked. It’s trademarked in your class or a class that’s similar to what you would be in. That stops you in your tracks right there, because the alternative is to knowingly infringe upon a trademark. And I see on social all the time, the terms, copyright and trademark being used interchangeably. That is not correct. Brand names, logo, marks, word marks, things like that are trademarked. And whether it’s a trademark application that’s been filed, is pending, is live or dead, or abandoned, or whatever, there’s so many different possibilities that exist, but this is the first place you should start when you consider creating a new business brand name.
JAIME: And the next step, I would say, would be to do a Google search of the name of you’re considering, because while it may not be trademarked, it may already be in use and by multiple people already, in which case you would not have a good claim when you’d go to trademark your own business name because you would be late to the table.
ASHLEY: Right. I mean, and, and you can also see things kind of shift as they go. Like, what if somebody is in their thirties, and their name is Ashley Madison, and then a brand comes along, and creates a completely different platform that has negative connotations to it. And I have a friend named Alexa who’s like, I hate it. I hate it now. I can’t do anything cause then people make a joke like, oh, Alexa, you know, do this. And she thinks it’s the worst, which I don’t blame her or someone named Karen. Like there are all these things that can happen that can make you reconsider, and so it always makes sense to get your ducks in a row, and make sure that what you are choosing, first of all, it doesn’t have an entry on urban dictionary as something gross and secondly is not in use by someone else. Because if you knowingly infringe upon a trademark, you are just numbering the days you can be in business legally. So the next steps would be kind of the big three, right? Making sure that it’s not in use in your state by someone else, the domain name is available, and then of course the ever important social media accounts.
JAIME: Yes. And those are hard to keep up with. So let’s tackle the state level registries first. Those state level registries aren’t doing research for you. They’re not obligated to check your name against what’s done at the federal level. So just because they allow you to register something at the state doesn’t mean that it’s a good name.
ASHLEY: Right. So even if you just register as a business in your state that doesn’t make up for potentially infringing upon someone else’s trademark.
JAIME: Exactly. And I see that repeatedly, or perhaps going through some sort of online legal service, like Legal Zoom, and just because they’re happy to take your money and have you fill out a form doesn’t it make it legitimate.
ASHLEY: Domain names are something that are very important as well to consider. Obviously a .com is most desirable, but just ensure when you are looking at naming your business, you don’t have a ton of different articles like thesalonbyashleyandjaime.com. The simpler, the better when it comes to your domain. Make it easy to spell, easy to type, and just ensure, especially, that you’re not infringing upon someone else’s trademark when you sign up for a domain name.
JAIME: What do you feel about alternate endings like .net or .org? They’re coming up with new ones every day it would seem.
ASHLEY: I don’t think that those are a problem. I think if you can get.com, absolutely do that first. And if you wanted to reserve like .salon, or .shop, or whatever it might be, feel free to use those as secondary domains or as a way to incorporate maybe an online store or something else to your site. I think that every day that passes, those who are more tech savvy will have no problem visiting that. But if you have a demographic that’s maybe over 40 and hasn’t run into those domain extensions before, it may not look legitimate, or they may not even recognize it as a URL to begin with.
JAIME: I could understand that happening. What about reserving your name on social media accounts because this gets complicated because it doesn’t take much to do that. And I don’t think people even give it a second thought that they may be infringing on someone’s registered name because many of these companies aren’t going to do anything about it if they receive a complaint.
ASHLEY: And it’s very difficult, especially on Instagram right now, to have a unique username that hasn’t already been taken. A lot of these social media platforms have been around for more than 10 years. And whether it be, I just ran into this myself. Your perfect name could already exist on an account that’s been abandoned since 2011. Unfortunately, you just have to figure it out and move on. The best case scenario would be that you could reserve the same handle or username on every single social media platform. That’s becoming more and more of a unicorn as the days tick by. But if you’ve got a great brand name, you’d know it’s not already trademarked. The domain is available. In general, that will lead you to the right path whether you have to add a dot in the name, or an underscore, or whatever. Don’t rely on that in between every single word because again it makes it difficult to find and type. Just prepare yourself to make some compromises when it comes to signing up for your social media usernames.
JAIME: It’s a wise thing to do, even if you don’t plan on using that particular social platform.
ASHLEY: Absolutely. Reserve it cause you may change your mind later. You may find that that platform no longer serves your needs and you can then just hop right on to the next place with your reserve username that you’ve been holding onto all these years.
JAIME: If you’re going to use a name other than your own name as your business, you have what’s called a fictitious business name and you would have to do some paperwork and pay a fee to operate a business with this name. And that’s either known as a fictitious business name or a DBA, doing business as.
ASHLEY: Yes, that’s something I’m, I think is more and more popular, especially if you have different types of businesses. You could create an LLC or some other type of business entity and then create sort of branches of that business. So a lot of times let’s say you know you buy something online and it comes up on your credit card statement as a totally different name. That’s because they’re doing business as something else. It’s a way to be able to stay a little bit agile when it comes to your businesses. And that way, if you find that maybe your brand name isn’t meeting your needs after 10 years, and you don’t want to go through the expense of completely changing it, you can look into, if allowed in your state, a fictitious business name or a DBA.
JAIME: You’ll definitely need one to secure a business banking account.
ASHLEY: Yeah, because a sole proprietorship is one thing and we have episodes with Amy from Legal In A Box talking all about those differences. We’ll link those in the show notes, but just know that there is a way to be a little bit flexible and have some wiggle room if it does turn out that you need to make a change, but you can’t afford necessarily to create a whole new business entity, I guess. A DBA is a great way to do that.
JAIME: If you’re really committed to your business name and you’ve gone through all of these steps, you’ve looked at the words individually. You’ve looked at them together. You’ve run them through our list, checking it on USPTO, on Google, checking the domain registry and social media, and you want to move forward, do you think it’s necessary to file for a trademark?
ASHLEY: I do only because I’ve been in a situation where thankfully I was trademarked and someone started using a business name that was incredibly similar in the same space and I had something actionable then. I had the necessary resources to say, no, here’s the paperwork. Here’s what the government says, and you have to course correct. and do something else because I’ve already planted my flag. This is a brand that is known as my brand and I’ve put in the work. I’ve put in the time. It’s really just a protection. It protects the investment that you’ve made in your business so far, whether it be the actual monetary investment, but just the time you’ve spent building it.
JAIME: If you’re not willing to make that investment, the name does not have that much value to you.
ASHLEY: Well, it’s not something that necessarily everybody can afford right away, which I totally understand. It’s a pretty intimidating process if you’re not sure exactly what you’re doing. Obviously, there are fantastic trademark attorneys out there that can do things for you for a flat rate. Jaime, you took care of our trademark for Outgrowth.
We are the proud owners of trademark for the word outgrowth and that way we can just ensure that there isn’t any confusion in the marketplace. And if another podcast sort of pop up in the beauty space or consulting space or whatever, named outgrowth, there wouldn’t be confusion of are we affiliated with it? Do we endorse it? Is it our material? Like, what’s the difference here? So this way, we’re just kind of protecting our lane so that we can continue.
JAIME: And because we are talking business basics, this is the first and major obstacle to really growing your business is what do you call yourself? I’m so glad we had this conversation today.
ASHLEY: Me too. It’s a tough thing to do. Naming yourself, naming your business, it is something that’s going to take a lot of thought, a lot of trial and error. So don’t rush it. Don’t give yourself two days to come up with something. It’s an exciting time in your business when you’re thinking of a new name and a brand and making your vision a reality, but this is something where we both really recommend, take your time.
JAIME: I couldn’t agree more and I think we have another couple of episodes in us, perhaps, about what do you do if you find that your brand name isn’t working, and you need to alert all your clients, and make that transition.
ASHLEY: Branding is one of my favorite things to talk about. I think we have several more episodes in us about this, but we both feel strongly about getting back to business basics. And there were a lot of Bs in that sentence. So we’re asking our listeners. If you find that you are in a conversation with another beauty professional about one of these topics, please share this episode with anybody who’s going through this struggle right now. We hope that it’s going to serve as a good resource in perpetuity that you can refer back to again and again.
JAIME: And we’ll be linking the different sites that we mentioned in our show notes so that you could find that information much more easily than having to Google search it yourself.
ASHLEY: Something my grandpa used to say all the time was, if you can’t find the time to do it right the first time, how will you ever find the time to do it right a second? And this is one of those instances where it’s really important to get it right the first time. So if you are enjoying Outgrowth, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts. And you can do that now with just one click. Visit bit.ly/outgrowthpodcast.
JAIME: As always you can follow us and comment on recent episodes on Instagram at @outgrowthpodcast.
ASHLEY: All right, well, I think we’ve thoroughly covered what’s in a name. Until next week, be smart.
JAIME: Be safe.