Your name should not be your Company’s name

Years ago I gave a speech when opening the Women’s Entrepreneur Festival and I said that women should build more Tumblrs and Twitters, not Oprah’s and Martha’s.  I did not mean that literally in terms of what each company represents but Tumblr was not called David Karp and Twitter was not called a combo of Jack, Ev, Biz, and Noah.

It isn’t easy to sell a company when your name is on the door because the perception is that the company can’t exist without you.  Oprah’s magazine has a photo of her every month.  How do you sell that?  The fashion industry has done a great job of keeping names on the door for decades and having a new designer head up the brand that is consistent with the original look and design that was put forth.  Most of them are owned by large companies so there is a financial reason to keep that working.

Kathleen King, who recently sold Tate’s cookies for hundreds of millions of dollars told me many years ago that her first business (a different cookie business) had her name on the door and her connection and responsibility to it was very different than when she started the cookie company again with the name Tate on the door.  It gave her a totally different head building her business without her name on the door.

I started thinking about this again after Kate Spade took her life.  Her brand changed from the time she started it but from everything I have read, it still was part of who people perceived her to be regardless of selling it years ago.  Her public brand is one thing, her private persona is another.  How do you separate the two particularly when a brand becomes that big?  For some people, it is not a big deal but for others, it might be extremely stressful.

Today everyone has their own personal brand but what the public sees is not always who that person is behind closed doors.  I am about to invest in a company where the person’s name is on the door, and I made it very clear that the name had to change because the business is separate from her.  Lines must be drawn.  It is healthy for the business and it is healthy for her.


Comments (Archived):

  1. LE

    I am about to invest in a company where the person’s name is on the door, and I made it very clear that the name had to change because the business is separate from her. I agree and this is exactly the type thing that I would worry about as well if I was investing. I don’t invest but have definitely thought about the issue for many years and I think it’s even more valid in the age of social media. (And look what happened to Weinstein Companies where the value totally evaporated because of the behavior of the two principals.)I think the exceptions might be in the obvious cases where the person is so well known and/or has some connection to some kind of ‘celebrity royalty’ that the pros outweigh the cons and the downside.So if you are ‘Stella Mcartney’ then if would be foolish not to trade on that celebrity connection. Or Paul Newman trying to get shelf space for salad dressing. I don’t buy women’s clothes but the McCartney brand got my immediate attention when I saw a store with that name. You can’t buy that recognition with advertising alone. Or Madonna. But let’s face it most people starting out are going to be unknown and there is little advantage to keeping your name in the company title. (There is though a PR advantage to doing so for sure it’s just a question of whether it outweighs the risk that you have mentioned).

  2. Julie Lerner

    I interviewed Jennifer Leuzzi, a Communications Consultant and Host of Tech Bites on Heritage Radio Network for The Failure Report. She discussed a similar case to Kate’s/Tate’s: https://www.thefailurerepor….

    1. Gotham Gal

      All good advice!