6 Ways to Brainstorm a Business Name for Your Startup

There’s a lot of important decisions to make when starting a business. One important part is brainstorming a name for your startup.  

Choosing a great business name can be a lot of things – fun at first, but then quite strenuous, frustrating and time consuming.

CrowdSpring founder Ross Kimbarovsky, described his personally experience in an Entrepreneur article, “We spent over 50 hours in 2007 when we came up with ‘CrowdSpring.’ Some entrepreneurs can easily spend hundreds of hours – and thousands of dollars – searching for a perfect name, only to hit a creativity wall.”

Even though it is usually the quality of a company’s products and services that determine if it is good or bad, names do weigh into the decision. According to Time Magazine, 77% of consumers make purchases based on a brand name.

So if you’re looking to start a business and are in the process of brainstorming a name that exudes trust, credibility and excitement to your target audience, then let’s help you brainstorm a business name for your startup. 

Characteristics of a Good Business Name

I think things are easier when we give them limits. You know, to narrow down the thousands of options you have out there. 

  • Simple and easy to pronounce: a good brand name is one that is easy for your customers to pronounce and remember. It should have no more than three or two syllabus and be easy for reporters and journalists to prounce and talk about. Let’s not make it hard like graduation when the principal butcher’s everyone’s names. One of the best examples of this is in the movie, That Thing You Do, when the  band tries to come up with  a name. They like the “Wonders” but want to spell it the “Oneders.” It didn’t last when the announcer pronounced it the Oh-need-ers. 
  • (Legally) Available: There is no point is starting a business if you cannot acquire the full rights to its name. Be sure that you opt for a registration certificate that is issued by the USPTO (or another equivalent agency where you live in). While you’re at it, check the domain name and the social handles. You don’t want to make it hard to find you online or tag you in posts. 
  • Be unique: Your startup name needs to be unique in the sense that it does not a) sound weird or b) come off similar to your competitors. Think of Hiring.com, Careers.com and HotJobs.com – none of which stand out. But Monster.com does (even if it doesn’t describe its business).

Start Word Dumping

We’re going back to basics. The most basic of all brainstorming techniques is to get out a piece of white blank paper or the notes section of your smartphone and start jotting down your ideas. If sticky notes are more your style then by all means, go right ahead.

Try to dump in as many words as you can that relate to your business, even if some of them don’t make any sense or match with what you’re selling. The idea is that you drop as many names and words you can think of until one of them clicks.

If you want to streamline the results, go for these categories; words, verbs, feelings, aesthetic, people. You’re even free to use a dictionary, a thesaurus or even the internet all things considered.

Collaborate with the Right People (or Apps)

If you’re hitting a wall in coming up with a good business name, perhaps it’s time to ask for help (which I know we don’t like to do). It’s always a good idea your colleagues or close friends, family members help you.

You can also use apps like Name Mesh or Naminum to help you generate names.

Think of Names that Explain What You’re Selling

Before Google became the multi-billion-dollar corporation it is today, it was supposed to be named ‘googol’, which represents the number 1 followed by a hundred zeros. But the creators Larry Page and Sergey Brin, decided to go with the name for their search engine (which was going to be called BackRub).

Apparently, the name Google had more to its name than being short and easy to recall; but because the search engine generated large amounts of information, it matched the definition of the word googol. This created a compelling story that remained in the minds of the customers for years up till now.

If you’re into the flower-selling business, you could come up with names like Bouquet4U, Blooming Petals or Smiling Blossom, among others.

Alternative Spelling

Go through each of the names and phrases that you’ve come up with and highlight the ones that pique your interest. One simple trick you can try is altering the spelling of the words you’ve picked out. You can get simpler results just like Toggle, Tumblr, Flickr or Scribd.

Make a Mood Board

Give your brainstorming endeavor a visual appeal with a mood board. You can grab old magazines and newspapers, cut out some pictures, words or colors that identify with your business.

Better yet, you can digitize the process and create a Pinterest account. Start a new board and look for fun and relevant images and quotes that best describe your company. This is a relatively much quicker way than having to sort through dozens of magazines.  

Conclusion:

There’s a lot in a name – especially a startup name. Granted how much time I spend thinking about a blog post title, I feel you. You can read the full story on how Windy City Cosmo came up with their name here. 

 

Hamza Shahzad is a freelance writer and blogger. Currently, he’s working with Smile Tutor. He assists with business development and social media content planning.

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How a 100 Year Old Company Attracts Talent in The Age of Entrepreneurship

Sometimes it’s important to pause and think about why we do the things that we do. It’s true for 100-year-old companies who are attracting creative talent as well as ourselves.

In order for a company to keep doing what they’re doing, and inspire others to do what they do – people need a reason behind it. It’s one of the key things entrepreneurs need to identify before starting their business, as serial Chicago entrepreneur, Katy Lynch advised.

And it’s also true for Fortune 500 brands who have been around for more than 100 years like Hallmark.

In the age of freelancing and entrepreneurship, Windy City Cosmo sat down with the creative talent development team from Hallmark to learn about how they foster creative development to keep growing this 100 plus year business.

In this article we’re going to explore:

  • Hallmark’s brand
  • The talent they want on their team
  • How a diversified creative company grows creativity and their business in the age of freelancing and digital media
  • How Hallmark is working with other brands like Starbucks through a talent swap

Hallmark’s Why:

What is your why? Your why is your culture. It’s your values. It’s who you are and it’s a blueprint for how you operate as a company.

With a staff of 800 creatives, Hallmark is one of the largest creative companies.
Hallmark’s mission is about enriching lives. Hallmark’s creatives have many roles and relationships and the context and content from those helps translate into our products.

So what are some key ingredients to a creative community?

In 2015, a team of leaders from across Hallmark’s creative community came together to define their “sense of purpose.”

“Our sense of purpose is our why. We know what we do, and how we do it, but we really wanted to get at the heart of our WHY. It’s about why we do what we do. It’s our culture. It’s our values. The statements that came together as a result are meaningful,” Kristi Heeney-Janiak, Creative Resources and Talent Development Manager shared. “But it is the actions you put in place that get people to believe in it.”

One component of the creative sense of purpose is originality. The Hallmark creative community feels that in order for their teams to grow, they need time to step away from their trade and gain new skills or perspectives. Hallmark gives creative employees five days a year to do that through its #my5days program.

The first path is self-exploration. A Hallmark creative employee can choose a new skill they want to learn or expand their creativity by gaining difference perspectives.

The second path is workshops. A Hallmark team leads workshops such as embroidery or wood sculpting, wreath decorating and cake decorating is most popular one.

In just two years of launching this initiative, Hallmark has more than 2,500 examples of #my5days experiences on Instagram.

How Greetings are Still Relevant in the Digital Age:

Another component of a great company surviving disruptive technologies is looking at what they are good at. Then, looking further to compare their talents and strengths to how trends are changing and also how they are staying the same.

Hallmark, while it has many brands, at its heart is a global greeting card company.

In their interview, the creative talent development team shared that as other areas in business fluctuate, greeting card sales remain steady even among millennials in the social media age.

In terms of card spending, millennials are the fastest growing group because when they buy cards, they spend more money on them, according to Lindsey Roy, Hallmark’s chief marketing officer, in a recent CBS News interview.

“We’ve seen that millennials are really growing into that magic life stage for card sending,” Roy said. “Maybe you’re setting up households or having kids or doing the kinds of things that really just expand your relationships.”

Hallmark’s Creative Team:

How do you get involved in the creative process? Well, it actually sounds entrepreneurial.

At Hallmark, there’s a package that each employee brings to the table. Talent all come in knowing digital and design skills. Specifically, Hallmark looks for a portfolio that demonstrates a voice or problem-solving point of view.

“We might do more specific training in lettering and manipulating font,” shared Erin Roebuck, creative talent development specialist.

Beyond software skills, Hallmark employees also are expected to evolve. There are two aspects that Hallmark focuses on to grow skillset. The first is the “what” which is the creative skill set of design knowledge. The second is the “how” which is leadership and how they think through things.

Hallmark’s creative leaders have four main traits: they take initiative, pitch and come up with new ideas, solve problems, and are able to lead and inspire people.

Attracting and Keeping Creative Talent with an Entrepreneurial Workforce:

Hallmark attracts some of the best creative in the world and has a high tenure of about 16 years.

In the age of being your own boss, Hallmark pitches a steady paycheck but one of the most valuable aspects of working for a company like Hallmark is in the collaboration.

Talent Exchange: Hallmark Swaps Talent:

Hallmark is always working with their creatives to inspire them beyond their work and to introduce them to new ideas and thinking. One way they’ve been doing this is through an annual symposium, the Creative Leadership Symposium.

And they’ve taken it a step further this year by actually exchanging creative talent with other companies, such as Starbucks. Hallmark recently hosted three Starbucks creatives, and the following week, Hallmark sent three creatives to Starbucks for a designated time.

“The outcome of the talent exchange is to immerse high potential creative talent in best practices of creative studios and provide inspiration and creative connections. We gain new ideas and thinking by bringing together two creative communities that are at the heart of their respective organizations,” shared Heeney-Janiak.

How does someone develop creative talent?

In one word – mentorship. This is something that the Future of Work expert, Cheryl Cran mentioned in a Kansas City leadership conference. “One of the opportunities for millennials is that you can research the heck out of anything,” Cran shared, “If a millennial is looking for opportunities, and doesn’t want to intern, they need to find a mentor which goes beyond their research.”
“A creative talent may start to cultivate their skills in school, but it continues to evolve when they join Hallmark,” Roebuck shared. “We are a very open and sharing community. New hires get a chance to work alongside tenured and talented individuals who have become masters of their craft. After a couple of years, many creatives say that working at Hallmark feels like getting their MFA.”

One thing that Hallmark recognizes is that they need to learn from a millennial just as much we can share.

Hallmark has moved away from a structured mentorship to a collaborative environment where people can seek out help and mentorship rather than be assigned.

Research is important and so is innate talent, but both the Future of Work consultant and Hallmark agree that mentorship and collaboration are important to growing talent and developing skills.

How do you structure creative projects at Hallmark?

One of the cool aspects of Hallmark is that it is a company made up of creatives, but ones that are both creative and business focused. At Hallmark, one of the key traits is to constantly think and develop new ideas, but they also think about how this idea can be profitable and how they would pitch it.

While Hallmark’s business partners offer key initiatives that drive ideas, they are not independent of what creatives can bring to the table.

“We moved from being a service organization to a strategic enabler, ”Heeney-Janiak shared. “This means that we’re positioned differently in the business to lead new concepts and ideas that are directly aligned with business strategies.”

Conclusion: How to Stay Competitive

The workforce is changing and jobs are not about doing what you’re told but are more focused on bringing ideas to the table and taking the initiative to develop your own talents. Larger corporations like Hallmark are still attractive to millennials because they have a built-in network and mentorship opportunities that can help a creative grow their talent.

The competitive edge seems to be:

  • Finding a community that can help grow your talents. This could the people sitting next to you at work, a Facebook group or a professional group.
  • Finding a mentor, which is someone experienced in your field who can show you what research alone can’t.
  • Investing in your skill sets and keeping up to date with software in your industry.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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Why Leaders Should Live The Life They Imagined To Transform Their Teams

This story about living the life you imagined, professionally and personally, starts where most stories do — at a bar.

In this article I’m going to share with you:

  • The formula for living the life you imagined as told by Carla Moore, Vice President, Strategy and Education, HBO.
  • Why it’s important for leaders to live the life they imagine to transform their team.
  • The future of work and how companies like Hallmark are responding.
  • Action steps for personal and career success.

I met HBO executive and author, Carla Moore, at a hotel lobby in Kansas City, Missouri. She was speaking at a talent leadership summit hosted by TeamKC, an initiative of the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC), in partnership with 250 employers in the KC region.

The summit, also dubbed the first annual TeamKC Training Camp, brought together 350 of the region’s top human resource professionals to discuss the future of work and how companies can attract talent.

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Getting to Know a Leader on a Personal Level:

“Let’s grab a drink,” Moore said.

We had just come in from a tapas dinner, and I was ready to do some cardio before bed. But the night was still young in the middle of America.

I feel like so often we have business hours and short blurbs of time for people. I’ve found that letting a connection marinate and taking it to places that some would call your cut off — is actually where you connect.

It was during our second martini – which we took to go – that I began to know Moore on a personal level. We cut through the formalities and she was introducing me as an important blogger to people in the elevator.

We both have lived in Chicago (for me, currently and for her, formerly). Both are still single. And both have big dreams that we didn’t think we could achieve.

I was talking to her about “the life I imagine.”

When I met Moore, I didn’t realize that she had reached over 10,000 people through her public speaking and life coaching. And that more importantly, her mission is to inspire others to live the life they’ve imagined. She is doing that through her book, Crash! Leading Through the Wreckage, where she talks about using personal power to transform your leadership.

She was getting through to me – right there at a hotel bar and the next day, she was going to do the same thing to leaders and tech recruiters in Kansas City.

 

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 350 top recruiters and human resources professionals from companies including Hallmark, Garmin, Bank of America, Sprint, H&R Block, Dairy Farmers of America and Virgin Mobile USA learned about team leadership.

 
Moore’s passion is talking to people. Her purpose is helping people live the life they imagined. And, her power is in her speeches, her work, and this book. Let’s look at this a little bit closer.

The Life You Imagined vs. The Life You Have:

In front of more than 350 top recruiters and human resources professionals from companies including Hallmark, Garmin, Bank of America, Sprint, H&R Block, Dairy Farmers of America, Virgin Mobile USA, State Street, and Cerner Corporation on February 2, 2018, Moore gave a familiar empowering message — live the life you’ve imagined.

You can hear the same message thousands of times and still not listen to it. Often, we don’t believe the message. We think that’s a nice thought. We feel good after hearing it.

But we don’t know what to do with it.

We don’t know how to have our own personal transformations. We don’t know how to have our big breaks at the office. We keep waiting for big opportunities or to feel something — happy — I guess, about waking up in the morning and doing what we’re doing.

Moore had a run in with death – a convertible hitting a median at 55 mph. It’s not that she wasn’t living a great life or didn’t have great achievements before this near-fatal crash. I mean, Moore was everyone I wanted to be and more. She had a place in Chicago. She has an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management. She had a good job that she is accelerating in. But she wasn’t living the life she imagined until she had that car crash.

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Carla Moore from HBO spoke about living the life you imagined at the KC Leadership Summit.

The Formula to Live The Life You Imagined:

Fast forward 10 years, and Moore’s living the life she imagined. Authoring an amazing book, spearheading transformative initiatives for her company and living each moment like it could be her last.

So what’s the formula for this life we’ve imagined?

Passion + Purpose = Power.

Passion:

Experts advise going into a field that you’re passionate about — something you like doing. For many of us, we think that’s it’s impractical or not lucrative. And for others, we don’t even know what we like.

Moore shared that a person’s passion changes the game. If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, —start figuring it out by compiling a passion list. Write down everything you like. Take note of what you’re doing when time flies. It may take time for you to discover what you’re passionate about, but the reward is worth it.

Moore encouraged the audience to “Keep writing — there is some connective tissue.”

Purpose:

The next part of the formula is purpose.

Moore shares in her book that 70 percent of millennials want to own their own company but in the interim they are choosing to work for smaller businesses with a sense of purpose. Larger corporations are falling by the wayside with the millennial workforce.
The keynote speaker, Cheryl Cran, Future of Work expert, shared that by 2025, the workforce will be mostly contracted and entrepreneurial workers.

 

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Cheryl Cran, Future of Work Expert at the KC Leadership Summit February 2018.

 

Companies like Hallmark, one of the largest creative companies in the world, took notice a few years ago and rewrote their mission to begin developing a cultural committee and projects. One example is something called #my5days, where Hallmark employees have five days to step outside their normal work and exploring their craft or something entirely new.

 

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Amanda Elliott from Windy City Cosmo, Carla Moore from HBO, and Kristi Heeney-Janiak from Hallmark at the KC Leadership Dinner. 

 

“Passion is your compelling emotion. Purpose sustains passion. Passion can be wild and unbridled. Purpose is singular and focused,” Moore explains. “Purpose is how will you serve the world?”

So, if you’re great at writing and passionate – what is it that you do with it that serves others?

Ask yourself. Write it down.

What are you doing with your talents that is serving others? And if you aren’t doing anything with your talents, what could you do? What would it look like? How would it help others?

Moore made the point that we benefit when we use our talents and do work that we’re passionate about. In her book, she shares, “When you release the need to prove how good you are and instead help others see how good THEY are, it’s called enlightened leadership.”

How can leaders do this?

“It’s by being transformed themselves and then helping to transform others into enlightened leaders.”

Power:

The last part of Moore’s formula for leadership is power. We all want power. Money gives us power. Titles give us power. But what really gives us power is when we’re doing what we love to do with a clear purpose. And when we develop our passions into talent and use that to better the world, that is true power.

This made sense. This gave me a new drive and sense of belonging and mission. So often we look at the end goal — power and success — and we miss the ingredients that make those things meaningful and most of all – worth it.

First Think, Then Do:

I got on the plane after the KC Talent Leadership Summit and started writing my passion list — the things I like. I must have written down hundreds of items.

A few days later, I started reading You Are a Badass, by author Jen Sincero. In this book, she shares that it’s through doing, not thinking, that we discover what we like. You can’t be afraid to do things and be bad at them.

First, you have to develop your passion and then build the skills to sustain it. Create the purpose for your life, and then find the power that motivates others to do their best work and fulfill their dreams and goals.

 

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Recruiters and Fortune 500 companies gathered at the KC Leadership Summit. 

 

Leaders Need to Be Inspired and Inspire Others:

I took a moment to reflect. When I stated Windy City Cosmo — I didn’t know it would lead me to this hotel bar sipping martinis with a powerful woman — telling me to live the life I imagined.

Leaders need to be inspired. Leaders also need mentors and direction. And that’s what this community in Kansas City has — it has great resources for leaders and developing talent to think differently, work on their passion projects, and live the life they imagined. In turn, it helps others live their best life as well.

I felt power and leadership in the room that day — in the Kansas City community, a unique business community where companies work together to attract the top talent. Which is probably why, as Cran pointed out, that Kansas City is the third best city for jobs in America in 2017. (Chicago is number 23).

In the words of Carla Moore I leave you with, “Go be great and love the life you imagined.”

Leadership Action Plan:

1. Write a passion list. Keep writing until you see a trend. For example, working with your hands.
2. Think about how you can use your passion to help others.
3. Think about how you can use your power to inspire others and mentor them.

 

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Carla Moore with her sisters before the KC Leadership Summit, February 2, 2018.

 

Books to add to your reading this:

You Are A Badass By: Jen Sincero
Crash! Leading Through The Wreckage By: Carla Moore

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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Chicago Events Celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018

Ladies! This week is a good week to network and meet other amazing, entrepreneurial women in Chicago for International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 8, 2018. I went to a beauty event with the Tulle Project today and as we were introducing ourselves, one women shared the four, yes four jobs she has. Another woman, in awe, noted how ambitious Chicago women are. I wholeheartedly believe that. I encourage you to meet these Chicago girl bosses this week at one of the many Chicago events for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018. Look for events and opportunities to connect all month long for women’s history month.

Quick note: International Women’s Day theme is #PressForProgess.

Global Strategist Association Event:

The Global Strategists Association is hosting a luncheon in honor of International Women’s Day to discuss opportunities for women of color.

Details:

Time: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Location: The DuSable Museum of African American History

RSVP

1871 Event:

1871, a Chicago incubator for startups is hosting a day of workshops and speaking events for women. 1871 is such a great resource that female founded companies like this 3D printing jewelry company, this beauty services company that is now offering company perks to GrubHub, and this designer clothes and accessories startup all used to help grow their business.

This event series has several sessions that you can drop into throughout the day. I’m personally looking forward to the Building Your Company’s Brand Panel Discussion.

Details:

Time: 8 am – 9 pm

Location: 1871, Merchandise Mart

RSVP

SheSays Chicago Event:

SheSays Chicago, a Chicago chapter of a national organization of women in creative fields, is putting together an event with Leo Burnett on Thursday, March 8, 2018 right after work.

I’ve been attending SheSays Chicago events for years and even spoke at one of the panels about networking. You can read about some of my past coverage of their events like Turning Passion into Profit and Networking Advice from Edelman, PR Agency.

There will be a panel discussion.

MODERATOR:

Jessica Papilla, Data Analyst at Leo Burnett

PANEL:

Monika Black, PhD, CPC | Chief Strategy Officer at DyMynd

Kayte Malik, CEO and Co-founder of Dresscode

Beth Sehgal, Global Director of Diversity & Inclusion for A.T. Kearney

Priya Shah, Founder and Executive Director of The Simple Good

Details:

Time: 5:30 – 8:00 pm

Location: Leo Burnett Office

RSVP

Ladies Get Paid Event:

Ladies Get Paid, an organization that helps women achieve their professional goals and get equal pay, is hosting an International Women’s Day event at Ace Bounce. This looks like a causal event to get drinks and meet other professional women.

Details:

Time: 5:30-7:30 pm

Location: Ace Bounce

RSVP

WeWork Kenzie Event:

WeWork Kinzie is hosting an International Women’s Day workshop for freelancers and female entrepreneurs. Over 150 people have signed up for this event. In this workshop, speakers will present four topics: (a) finding the courage to lead, (b) the foundations of entrepreneurship, (c) a woman’s story of finding her purpose, and (d) establishing a position of influence in a competitive industry.

Details:

Time: 6:00-9:00 pm

Location: WeWork Kinzie

RSVP ($20)

She Means Business Event:

She Means Business will be presenting a panel discussion and gender equality and female leadership in the workplace.

The Panelists:

• Naima Prince, Expert Budget and Financial Analyst at GSA

• Lindsey Branding, Controller at Hireology

• Colleen Wilson, Founder & CEO of Collaborate Chicago

• Holly Glowaty, Co-Founder at K+H Connection and Founding Co-Producer at Flourish

• Katharine Hebenstreit, President & COO at Link Capital

Details:

Time: 5:30-8:00 pm

Location: Topstep Trader

RSVP

Edgewater Chamber of Commerce:

If drinks aren’t enough for you, the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce is hosting a dinner crawl. Get all the savory details below!

Time: 5 pm

Location: Edgewater, over 10 restaurants

RSVP

Conclusion:

I hope to see you at one of the Chicago events for International Women’s Day or you can join the conversation online using the hashtag: #PressForProgress.

How do you build a professional community in Chicago? Tag me on Twitter or Instagram @windycitycosmo.

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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I Rented an Hermès Birkin Bag From This New Chicago Start-Up

A Chanel bag. A Birkin bag. That sounds like a dream closet. Just like you can live in a dream house for a week with Airbnb, you can walk around with a thousand dollar bag – or like I did –  with a $19K Birkin Bag for two weeks with the new Chicago startup, DesignerShare.

“Women love to bond over this idea of sharing their clothes and accessories with one another,” Sarah Perkins, Co-Founder of DesignerShare, the first peer-to-peer marketplace for women to rent their designer clothing and accessories in Chicago.

We’ve all envied our friends closet at one point or another – or borrowed a friend’s shirt or a sister’s earrings. But, it becomes another level when that closet includes Chanel and Hermès.

Windy City Cosmo sat down the Co-Founder of DesignerShare to learn about how some of the most coveted items in fashion are now being shared with other women in Chicago. And then, I share my experience with the service and what it was like to rent a $19K Birkin bag for a two-week vacation.

I’m ready for the weekend! Who’s with me? 👋

A post shared by Allie Barke (@alliesfashionalley) on

 

The Story Behind The Chicago Start-Up:

DesignerShare started with a problem, as most startups begin. In college, Sarah Perkins had too many sorority formals to attend and not enough outfits. So, she borrowed from her friend’s wardrobes – something that resonates with a lot of women.

Rent the Runway was actually starting when Perkins was in college and she thought “I’ve done this. I just haven’t monetized it yet.”

There are other places you can rent handbags and shoes and clothes from – but all designer, and all from your peers? Nope.

Monetizing an Idea:

Having an idea is great, but finding an idea to fund it is another story. Windy City Cosmo has spoken with a bunch of female entrepreneurs. Some reach out to their network and alumni like this 3D printing jewelry start-up and some do a mix of e-mail outreach and venture capital funding, which is what DesignerShare did.

For pricing, they looked at their competitors and other sharing economy companies. They did a heavy pricing analyst.

Sarah shared the mentality, “We want everything and we want it now. We want it cheap. But people will pay for the convenience. We really focus on being fast and efficient and wanting to make sure the experience was everything she wanted.”

The start-up had an office in 1871 and used some of their resources to grow their business. They also did rounds of venture funding and used PR to gain exposure. So far, they have several articles on sites like The Chicago Tribue and DNAinfo.

They even held a  runway event at the rooftop at The Godfrey Hotel in October 2017 with other entrepreneurs like makeup and hair startup for employee perks, The Lisa App. 

Finding Balance as an Entrepreneur:

Business wise it’s always a journey. How do you grow your brand and also stay sane?

“I was raised to have a lot of balance,” Sarah Perkins shared, “I go to bed by 10 pm and I wake up at 6 am to work out. I am non-functional if I don’t get enough sleep. I take the longest naps on the weekend.”

“I haven’t gone on vacation in 8 months. I think January I’ll have a few days.”

GirlBoss Was Right: Customer Service is Important:

“We don’t want to be mean girls. We want to be the friendliest shopping,” Sarah Perkins shared.

“No one wants to leave home. I’ve delivered to a girl at happy hour,” Sarah Perkins shared. “I walk into Monks Pub in the loop. It’s a very old bar. It’s one of those places with peanuts in the bar. And I show up and say ‘here’s your clutch for her friends birthday party this weekend.’ The customer said, ‘look at this customer service, you’re delivering to me while I’m having beers!'”

And the craziest part of the story is that Sarah is allergic to peanuts. So, she literally had to find the client, deliver the designer item, and leave before having an allergic reaction.

The customer said look at this customer service, you’re delivering to me while I’m having beers!

It’s not always delivery that equates to great customer service. Sarah Perkins describes a situation where one client was unhappy with a bag and within 2-3 hours they got her a new one.

The Dream Closet:

DesignerShare has expanded to 800 users and 700 pieces. Some notable items include Dyanasua bag from Gucci and two Birkin Bags.

Women Using DesignerShare:

“We really want women to look and feel great on a regular basis. We focus on the problem of people feel scrutiny in how they look, ” Sarah Perkins shared.

Clients use DesignerShare for a number of reasons  – sometimes it’s a birthday party or a vacation where women want to rent a bag or a dress.

Today, with the need to constantly go out and do photo shoots for blogging and business, it can get overwhelming (and expensive) to constantly update your closet. Chicago fashion blogger, Caitlin Patton shared in a recent blog post, “Personally, I don’t have the time or money to be spending thousands of dollars on new clothes just to take pictures in…”

It goes beyond photo shoots – sometimes it’s having a nice bag for a corporate event or an interview that can help give women a confidence boost.

Sarah also eluded to other times you want to look your best for – “like when you see your ex for the first time, you’ve got to turn it up.”

My Experience Renting a $19K Birkin Bag:

I rented a Birkin Bag – something I learned about from Gilmore Girls about and was like – who can afford a $19K Birkin bag?

Well, for two weeks, I got to be that person. And I couldn’t believe it. It’s fun to play dress up when you’re a kid – I use to make clothes out of sheets and wear clip-on earrings. But to actually play dress up from a dream closet as an adult was surreal.

I got to take it with me to visit my family in Boca Raton, Florida and then on a mini vacation to Orlando Florida for Mickey Christmas. And then I went to the Bahamas and took it with me as I had a few drinks with friends at the Bah Mar Resort. It was really nice to dress up my casual sundress and beachy vibes with a designer purse. But it also felt weird. My entire life and business worth cost less than this bag – so I tried to only take it out to classy places.

Let’s be real, a Birkin bag costs anywhere from $12,000 – $223,000, according to Fortune. I am so not used to walking around with something so valuable – it was a gift as much as it was a curse. There’s something different about renting an item from a person rather than from a company. It’s like when you spill coffee on your sister’s shirt – you know she’s going to be mad because it’s her favorite shirt. Well, I felt that liability when I rented this handbag.

The best part of my experience was customer service. I was speaking at a conference in the morning. Sarah had texted me about renting a bag. I literally got off stage and she found me a Birkin bag. On top of that, I was only home for an hour to grab my luggage and get to the airport. DesignerShare was able to work out all the logistics and deliver the bag on time so I could catch my flight.

The service was so personal and fast-paced. DesignerShare acts as a middleman between the borrower and the lender. They coordinate drop-offs by hand – without a scheduling app. They partner with Lyft to drop off and pick-up the luxury item and then they partner with Tide Spin for dry cleaning to return the item in the best shape back to the lender.

DesignerShare Empowers Women to Be Entrepreneurs:

What’s great about DesignerShare is that the women lending their items are like entrepreneurs. DesignerShare can help women take photos and they offer a suggested pricing model, which is 10 percent of the original worth of the item. But ultimately, a lender can deny or accept a request and they price their goods.

Lenders enjoy putting their closet to good use and earning money when they’re not wearing the items. We all can’t wear all our clothes at the same time.

Learn More:

To learn more about DesignerShare, you can visit their website here. 

DesignerShare had an office at 1871, an incubator in Chicago. 1871 offers events regularly and spaces for start-ups, you can learn more about their weekly events here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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