The power of naming may explain why many of you have experienced problems in your business relationships. It’s always the least obvious and could explain why suppliers may be less than responsive if they don’t know you.

Naming is Important
Naming seems low on the priority list in the scheme of things, but the power of naming is so fundamental that we rarely reflect upon its significance. Your name says a lot about your business and affects the quality of your professional relationships. Most important are name-knowing, misnaming, and name-granting.

Let’s assume you’ve become very sick and go to the doctor. You want a name for the sickness and you want a cure. The doctor will document your symptoms and then name the illness. Once the illness is ‘named’, the doctor can treat it. But what if your doctor cannot name the disease? Without the disease name, there is no cure.

People with unnamed diseases are forced to find expert diagnosticians; the Mayo clinic is a famous example. At the Mayo clinic, they will study your illness to discover the name of the disease. Once you have the name of the illness, you can be treated. This is the power of name-knowing.

This can be a minor annoyance or it can be deadly. Sometimes people use the wrong name thinking it’s not a big deal since it’s similar to what they meant to say. They’ll often say, “Oh you know what I mean” and imply that you’re being fussy.

For example, let us assume your doctor calls for your biopsy results and the technician says it’s a cyst. Then after you’re dead, the doctor calls again and this time the doctor discovers the biopsy revealed a tumor. The tech gets exasperated and says “Tumor, cyst, big deal, you know what I meant.” This is the power of misnaming. Fortunately, medical people need licensing so the worst of misnaming is avoided.

Having the power to name is the greatest power of all. When a parent names a child, they are acknowledging to all that this child belongs to them. This establishes inheritance. Coining a phrase is powerful; it establishes the pre-eminence of the person who names. Lastly, the one who names is powerful because they control what they’ve named.

As a serious professional, you may need some quiet time to sit down and reflect on what your goals really are. Using your old names may not be appropriate any longer. Whether you realize it or not, you can unintentionally limit your success by your naming practices. Many of you started your businesses when you had a lower-level hobbyist background, but your business goals have grown beyond the hobby level and it’s time to move on.

Reconsider using the term ‘Couture’ as part of your business name. Couture should only be used by other people to describe you. Couture speaks for itself.

You may want to reconsider your outlook on business names and terminology. I’d encourage you to adopt language usage common in the trade, since lack of trade terminology is a barrier to effective communication with others you need. Finally, reconsider your opinions if you think terminology is interchangeable, because it rarely is.

Using new terms is uncomfortable at first so it’s natural to resist change by minimizing the importance of it. Many DEs have told me “Oh it doesn’t matter, don’t be so picky. You know what I mean.” The fact is, I don’t know what you mean and neither do others. Industry people know almost nothing about hobby sewing.

Using hobby terminology can cost you a lot of money. For example, slopers cost significantly more than blocks because slopers are a special order. “Sloper” and “block” are not interchangeable; it’s like saying “cyst” instead of “tumor”.

Terms like “Sloper”, “Croqui”, “Atelier” and “Studio” are often used by sewing enthusiast magazines, custom clothiers and college professors, but these terms are considered pretentious in the business of serious industry and manufacturing (unless you live in a French speaking country). Suppliers, financiers, and peers will question your commitment to your business and think you’re more concerned about image than building a company.

By the way, it’s traditional to call your workspace a shop or office. The industry is deliberately self-deprecating. This is why styles are referred to as “rags.” This practice is analogous to the ‘break a leg’ sentiment among actors.

Ordering products can be very frustrating without a shared language. Using hobbyist terms for products can mean missing deadlines and going broke. Not knowing names of machine types can mean wasted down time you cannot afford. You don’t need to memorize terms, but don’t have the you-know-what-I-mean attitude. As a newcomer, you need to increase supplier confidence in your abilities. Your language practices need to reflect the standards of this industry; otherwise, you may well be left behind.

Business names
Likewise, without an established history, suppliers will judge you by the only means at their disposal, your business name. Business names can be problematic for growing businesses because they may have started under one pretext and then evolved. Many DEs started out as custom clothiers who fell into manufacturing, but have neglected to change their business names because it has become so comfortable.

Think of it as outgrowing a childhood nickname. I’d encourage you to change your name if you’ve outgrown it. Some examples of ‘childhood nicknames’ are Sew n’ Sew, Nancy’s Nimble Needle, Cathy’s Custom Clothing, Annie’s Alterations or anything with the word ‘sewing’.

Read the following for a better idea of what I mean: Chanel’s Custom Clothing, Miyake’s ArtWear, Vionnet’s Sewing and Alterations, Balenciaga’s Fine Sewing, Rhodes Sew Fine, and Calvin’s Couture.

By the way, reconsider using the term “couture”. Only small sewing start-ups in the United States use ‘couture’ to describe themselves. ‘Couture’ should only be used by other people to describe you. Couture speaks for itself.

DE company names
DEs have more flexibility in naming their companies. Their names should also be their labels until their identity is established. Names for labels that work are Ciara’s Forte® (owner is Ciara Forte), Chigger Hill™, Strong Impressions®, (owner is Malissa Strong), GardenKids®, ILikeKites™, and PawPrints®. By the way, these are actual company names and not examples for you to use.

Watch your logo artwork. You shouldn’t have sewing machines, needles, thread, bolts of fabric or dress forms for a logo unless you sell sewing supplies. This would be like Chevrolet or Harley Davidson using metal rods or welding icons as their logos. Just like any other manufacturer, DEs sell products, not process.

Suppliers and service providers should select names that describe their businesses because they don’t have name recognition. Good examples are Nancy’s Sample Service, Arizona Sewing Contractor, Ameyo Design and Pattern Service, and Dallas Sewing Supply. My favorite name is “Sewing Contractor” which you’ll also appreciate if you’re sorting through phone records to find a service provider in an area far away.

A questionably selected name for a start-up sewing contractor is Arrow Hawk Industries. A potential client has no idea what this business does. Don’t assume that computerized phone records sort business classifications correctly, because many phone services do not use comprehensive SIC codes to classify businesses. A poor name choice could unnecessarily limit the growth of a new company.

Don’t hedge your bets
A home sewing business ‘expert’ recently advised on the internet that a DBA (“doing business as”; a personal bank account) checking account is very professional. I strongly disagree. Suppliers will notice the DBA notice on your checks right away. They’ll assume you are not committed to your business if you haven’t legitimized it.

A supplier will think your financial situation is precarious because you are unwilling to spend $10 a month more, for a proper account. A supplier will worry about being paid if you’re pinching pennies this closely. Or a supplier may think you don’t have a separate business account because you are not serious and as such, not a good credit risk. They’ll wonder why you expect them to take a risk on your business when you will not.

So, open a separate business account under the name of your business. Legitimize the commitment to your business by going through the hoops of filing the appropriate incorporation and tax papers. Making your effort ‘legal’ demonstrates sincerity and commitment to your business. You’re on another level now.

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