The inspiration behind five company names

Perhaps one of the hardest decisions for anyone starting a new business is what to call the flipping thing. It can have  a huge impact as, rightly or wrongly, customers infer so much from a name. They might assume it’s too small to meet their needs, too big so they’ll be expensive, or put off altogether because they don’t like it.

And even when you do settle on a name you like, then comes the ‘availability issue’. Does a similar name already exist in your market? Are there legal issues? Can you find a quality .com or domain, or will you have to settle for something far more obscure?

A lot to think about!

I have canvassed a number of friends, former colleagues and connections to hear the thinking behind their business names. You’ll read, in their own words, their reasons for choosing the name and what it means to them. animation

Hailing from Lithuania, husband and wife team Matas and Ugne set up Zazu immediately after graduating from the University of Derby. Between them they specilise in animation, motion design and infographics and have worked on projects for Formula 1, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and their own fantastic guide to their home county, ToLithuania.

I remember we were considering titles like ‘Focus Media’ or ‘Mosaic Creative’, but we agreed that they were both very cliché. Eventually, we were having coffee together and brainstorming the team’s name when we ended up picking Zazu. Basically, Za stands for Zaloga. The second z stands for another family member and the U for Ugne. It turned out we had a catchy, but short title that was easy to remember. After I did my research I also found out that Zazu is the name of the colourful bird from the The Lion King!
Matas Zaloga

Perhaps even more brilliant than the Rowan Atkinson-voiced bird from the film, Zazu also means ‘movement’ or ‘motion’ in Hebrew. An unexpected coincidence but a brilliant one when you consider Zazu’s specialisms.

Red Cloud

red cloud

With 15 years experience in IT and Cloud solutions, Tim Rookes saw October 2014 as the perfect time to launch his own business. Specialising in Microsoft Cloud services, Red Cloud does exactly what it says on the tin, something that appealed to Tim when considering the name:

I chose Red Cloud because I wanted a name that focused on what we do, but without pigeon holing us too much. Particularly in IT when the industry is always changing. I can take the name Red Cloud and use it for say a property company or something and it would still sound good. The red part because it just seemed to sound good and looks better than other colours. Plus it’s not a common colour in IT so it stands out more.
Tim Rookes

In just over a year of business, Red Cloud has secured a significant number of clients and I’m certain the simple, but memorable name has something to do with that.

Portixol Relocations

Portixol Relocations

Another husband and wife team, Carl and Lisa Bridge, who own a number of property-related businesses, including Birchover Residences and new estate agency Birchover Sales and Lettings, launched Portixol in 2014. A relocations firm with the motto, ‘we work hard, but cuddle harder’, the name Portixol arose after a family holiday in Spain:

We wanted a name that really means something, both to us and now our customers. And so Portixol was born; named after our favourite hotel in Palma, Mallorca.
Carl Bridge

Simple and effective. Sometimes your name doesn’t have to contain a complicated or convoluted message; it’s what it means that matters. So when it came to naming the consultancy business that oversees all of their brands, Carl and Lisa knew exactly where to look:

The consultancy business which over-arches all of their businesses is called Cirena and is named after the street on which the Portixol Hotel is situated – Calle Cirena.


Tank PR Nottingham

A Nottingham-based agency that focuses on PR and digital marketing, Tank was founded back in 2008, at the height of the worldwide recession. Not an ideal time, but that hasn’t stopped Trevor Palmer and his team from growing Tank into one of the industry’s best respected agencies.

Tank PR was a reaction to what I didn’t like about other PR companies. Those named after individuals smack of ‘one man band’, which is no bad thing, but I’ve never wanted to be one. I also didn’t want a wishy-washy noun with a nod to communication. There would be no megaphones.

Turned out that my old nickname lent itself nicely to my particular brand of PR, and it was one syllable, which often makes for good names that people can remember, whilst being on brand.
Trevor Palmer

This just shows how almost anything can be used to create a company name. In this case a nickname has evolved to become something far more meaningful, not to mention successful.

Silver Birch Creative

Silver Birch Creative Derby

I’ve left Silver Birch Creative until last for reasons I hope will become clear once you’ve read the quote. A creative agency based in Derby, Silver Birch was founded by designer Karl Shaw and his wife Emma:

We lost two babies at three and a half months, on two separate occasions, and Emma was placed into intensive care both times, requiring a full 13 pints of blood via transfusions.

She very nearly died, twice.

Together, we planted a silver birch tree in our garden in memory. This tree is a symbol of renewal, which we thought was great for new businesses starting out that we could brand. So when I started my business it just fell into place as a name. This also influences our strapline, ‘tree of new beginnings’. The Goldfinch birds have always been present in the tree and I see them as my little babies. Plus they are the most beautiful and detailed birds of the English gardens and as I’m inspired by nature, they too became part of my brand.
Karl Shaw

An emotional and inspiring story, I’m very grateful to Karl for sharing it.

Crucially, these businesses reveal that inspiration can come from anywhere. They were not afraid of tapping into emotions and past experiences to find that ideal name. Lots of startups forget this as they choose to settle on an average name before they’ve had chance to really brainstorm ideas; and I’m sure many examples spring to mind when you sit and think for a moment.

Now, a great name or backstory will only get you so far. Creativity, strategy and perseverance, especially in marketing, are all needed to ensure success.

The businesses above know this and have it in spades.

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Dad, digital marketeer at Tank PR, Derby County fan, film buff, book worm and husband. In that order, but don't tell the wife.

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