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Naming our baby: The story behind “Raised Eyebrow”

November 16th, 2009 by Lauren · 5 Comments

Nearly 10 years in, I still get asked all the time how we came up with the name Raised Eyebrow Web Studio. Maybe people are just being polite to me at networking-type events, but I always take it as a good sign that it’s an interesting enough name that they want to ask about it.

In our book, we wrote a little bit about how we came up with the name, but I thought I might elaborate on it a little bit here, in case the details of our naming process might be helpful to others.

When we started our business in early 2000, most of the web firms in town had names that evoked high tech in the sense of machinery: their brands conjured up cool steel, polished glass, hard edges, and sharp corners. We felt there was a gap in the marketplace that could be filled by a personable, approachable firm that married tech savvy with an inquiry-based, consultative approach that prioritized great communication and smart process over gadgets and hype. And we were creating a boutique firm led by two women — a novelty at the time (though that’s thankfully no longer the case). We wanted to embrace that gender difference, since we knew it would be one thing that set us apart from the competition.

So we set out to craft ourselves a name with a hint of femininity — just a hint, mind you, and nothing heavy-handed — and that carried with it a sense of fun, creativity, and smarts. We began brainstorming ideas that alluded to our gender without going so far as to have a reference to women or girls in the company name.

When we wrote down the qualities we wanted in our name, an image sprang to mind of the 1940s film noir “dame”, that quintessential smart, sophisticated, and witty woman whom nothing gets past. We free-associated words and phrases that described the dame, and it wasn’t long before the image of a lone raised eyebrow — at once inquisitive, amused, ironic, and elegant — came to us.

If I recall correctly, we both liked it immediately, but I’m pretty sure we kept going for a while longer, until we had a list of several candidates. (The runners-up are, I’m afraid, lost to history.) And at that point, we sat down in front of the computer and checked the availability for the various names in their dot-com incarnations. RaisedEyebrow.com was happily available, and that pretty much sealed the deal.

We knew we wanted to add a descriptive phrase to make sure people reading our name understood what it was we did, at least in a general sense. (We actually didn’t want to get too specific, since we knew that given we were working in the ever-shifting online landscape, our service offerings were likely to change over time.) So after evaluating many different options & combinations, we settled on “Web Studio”: “web” for obvious reasons, and “studio” to convey that we were an approachable, boutique firm with a focus on design.

If you look closely at our process, it covered many of the same steps every entrepreneur takes when defining other aspects of her business: Identifying core products & services (online communications & design), defining a target market (niche), and evaluating the competition and opportunities for differentiation (gender, approachability, small scale). It’s important to tackle each of these before choosing a name, since you’ll want to make sure your name neatly sums up all three, communicating what you do and how you do it to the people you’re selling to. Once you’ve got a firm grasp on those things, you can start brainstorming words and images that embody different aspects of your brand; I encourage you to drill down into the most promising ones, like we did (from fun, femininity, & intelligence, to film-noir dame, to her signature gesture, the raised eyebrow) — the results can be rewarding.

I’d love to hear some of your business naming stories. How’d you name your baby?

Tags: Business Advice · Entrepreneurial Inspiration · Our Story · Resources for Women in Business

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Brenda // Nov 17, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    My business is “Phydeaux Designs” (pronounced “fi-do”). Years and years ago, my dad and brother found an abandoned newborn kitten (maybe a week old) kitten at a truck stop on the way home from a trip to Montana (!). My brother kept that kitten alive under his jacket, dripping bits of cream into its mouth. I snatched that little baby up as soon as they arrived home and raised him, naming him “Phydeaux.” Phydeaux was a wonderful kitty and met a far too early demise on our street, but instead of this being a sad story, I’ve named every creative venture “Phydeaux” since. :) I love that I smile every time I see or hear the name, thinking about my grey and white kitty who was such a love!

    Even though “Phydeaux” doesn’t really related to hand knits and original knitting designs/patterns (my biz), it’s a great “sticky” name: it’s intriguing, keeps people’s interest, starts conversations when I tell them how it’s pronounced or spelled.

  • 2 Diane Helbig // Nov 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    4 years ago I decided to become a business coach. As a person of action, and wanting my clients to take action to help themselves succeed, I landed on Seize This Day Coaching. I feel it has more impact than Seize The Day. It is THIS day that should be seized, you know? There has always been a connection with carpe diem in my family and I guess I was subconsciously playing to that connection.

    When I was growing up my mother would say, “Just the sun rising in the morning is reason enough to be alive.” Imagine my surprise when I realized that I’d designed my logo as a sun. It’s all about connections – there are no coincidences.

  • 3 Seltzer // Dec 4, 2009 at 8:15 am

    First: I LOVE the business name Raised Eyebrows and how many people did just that when you told them because they didn’t get it?! A professional colleague and I am in the process of creating a business called Pink Seltzer, creative strategies for business growth. When I told my husband, he said: “Pink Seltzer. I don’t get it.” Well, big surprise :)

    As we realized we had complimentary talents and business experience that would make for a great partnership, we too brainstormed about what we really wanted out of business and what we bring to people. We realized that each client we had helped in the past thought we were a “blast” and we inspired them with our ideas, enthusiasm, business savvy and creativity. So when we thought about how our clients “feel” us and how we felt through our business epiphany, it was bubbly, fun and ready to pop — so there you have Pink Seltzer.

    Creative strategies for business growth comes from drilling down to the end result of our work — and it’s always about growth and being “creative” is the difference.

  • 4 Camille // Dec 6, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    I wanted something that incorporated my name somehow. My last name is Wright, which would have been a bit obvious. My first name is Camille, which my father took from the category 5 hurricane that hit the U.S. a few months before I was born. So, Category 5 Photography.

  • 5 Marlene MacIsaac // Feb 19, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Hi. My editing company targets authors and small business owners who write books, website content or other material related to spirituality and wellness. Therefore, I named my company Zen Editorial because I want my clients to feel relaxed when their work is in my hands. My job as an editor is to clarify and tidy up their message until their words are as uncluttered as a Zen garden. I have an affinity for all things Buddhist, and Zen is my favourite branch of Buddhism because it is simple, grassroots, cuts to the chase and eschews dogma. And, Zen reminds me, as the owner of a new business, to chill out when things get crazy!