Thursday, 3 June 2010

by Silumesii Maboshe

How did you choose the name of your business?

I was going to call this business “Sweet Potato” because it sounds (and they are) delicious. To my chagrin, close friends talked me out of the nutritious name. To back them up, the domain name was taken (wretched domain squatters, to this day, really!).

In Zambia, when I say the name “Pencil Case Studios”, I smile inside because people look back at me with an expression of, “That sounds rather impressive”. It isn’t really but I’m glad you think so. It’s a shame that foreign names sound more impressive, exotic or nutritious. This is generally true wherever you go. I know this from a life of experience living as “Silumesii”.

I chose the name because it reminds me of school and learning. Passing, failing, log books, physical education, cross country running, group assignments, friendships made and broken, experimentation, working things out and figuring out how things work. It is overall about being open and willing to challenge yourself and grow (sometimes, even when you don’t feel like it). The pencil case is like an icon for this sentiment. A reminder that I’ll always be a student.

Perhaps I should have picked something local or local sounding like “Inzy”, “Kalulu” or “Ubuntu. Alternatively, I could have used my surname, taking a leaf from the Japanese who have given us “Toyota”, “Mitsubishi” and “Sony”. Maybe something whimsically vernacular like, I don’t know, “Katwishi”, anyone?

A name may be a first impression but this particular first impression is overrated. Something simple, familiar and rememberable should be enough to get by with. And, in true Web 2.0 fashion, if you want to pick a business name there’s an app for that! Although, I would not recommend going this route.

At the end of the day, however, I think the reputation means more than anything. For example, I can’t say “Internet Explorer” any more without feeling an acute sense of pain in my left ventricle. “Would you like an apple?”. Of course! An Apple what? iPhone, MacBook Pro … what? you meant fruit!? What kind of nutritious torture is this …

See what I mean?

So, it may start with a name, but you will be providing some kind of product or service that will leave a mark in the mind and maybe even the heart of the person who chooses to interact with it. Make it a happy mark!

This article was an exercise to see how many times I could use the word “nutritious” and make it sound natural. Now, I feel hungry …