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.  


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.


The App That Helps Grow Your Instagram Following is Banned

There’s one thing you’ll learn when you’re looking for Instagram following secrets and blogger success stories and tips – and that is 1) they automate and 2) they delegate. One of the best secrets of the Instagram popularity world is Archie – until now.

In the world of influence, numbers matter. And bloggers and influencers and celebrities alike have been turning to a number of sources to inflate their numbers, their Istagram followers and likes. But, as I’ve built connections in the blogger community through groups like Chicagogrammers and through Chicago foodie brunches, I’ve noticed that they all seem to want to play fair.

So, on a platform where you have to get up early to scroll through and like and comment (the suggestion rate is 3 likes and 1 comment for someone to follow you, but to each their own), there was a better way – a more accepted in the Instagram community way – and that way was Archie.

Bloggers Share Why They Use Bots for Likes on Instagram:

Archie.co is a platform that helps grow your social media exposure. Essentially it likes photos for you on Instagram based on approved hashtags. It doesn’t comment.

According to Chicago Blogger, Erin’s Inside Job, she mentioned Archie as one of her secrets to maximizing her reach in a blog post:

“I have heard a number of social media presenters talk about growing their Instagram presence by spending hours of their time searching through hashtags and liking pictures. I’m sorry, but I really don’t have time to do that. I do spend time checking the site to make sure that the pictures I am liking align with my own brand and I will even head over to ones I especially like and leave a comment to start the interaction. For me, Archie simply helps cut down the time it takes for me to find like-minded people to start a conversation with!”

I liked her point of view, and I had seen a number of people use apps like Archie to like photos for them.

Another blogger, Maddy Osman from The BlogSmith wrote a detailed post outlining her hashtag strategy and how she uses Archie to maximize her social media presence. 

“Auto-liking, on the other hand, doesn’t come off any way but “interested.” A like is a show of support for a user’s content. People who are creating public content tend to appreciate a show of support. Archie once shared a statistic that claimed that for every 31 likes on average, you can expect a new follower. Oftentimes, a person who gets a like from someone they don’t know (especially if they don’t have a lot of followers) gets curious about the person who liked them. They might then investigate the account, enjoy the content, and follow for more.”

Are Using Bots Authentic?

In a community that is based on authenticity, is paying for a bot to like posts inauthentic?

Well, let me rephrase – how would you feel if you know someone liked your post themselves or if they liked it because you used a hashtag – not because they actually saw it? And that question begs – do you even care if someone actually liked it (because why are you using hashtags anyway?) or are you just thankful for the attention? I mean is using a bot more polite than using the hashtag #like4alike and other variations?

I always go back to that time I was dating someone and I noticed they texted me “Hey, how are you?” almost everyday. I was starting to think I was being autotexted. And that made the texts become meaningless to me. Let’s face it, if someone famous (with a verified account) likes something on social media or comments – you want it to come from the famous person, not the bot, right? But, then how do you get their attention – mining through hashtags all day is not the answer.

How Instagram works is confusing to a lot of people – most recently with the algorithm changes that are even banning people from using hashtags by not letting them show up in searches.

Instagram is Stopping Bots:

In a recent article, The New York Times reported that Instagram has been shutting down Archie and apps like it Instagress, PeerBoost, InstaPlus, Mass Planner and Fan Harvest – to name a few.

So, since Archie has been an integral way for bloggers and Instagrammers to grow their social media following – what’s next? How will this change your likes, follows, and comments moving forward?

Stay tuned for a follow-up article.


Chicago Instagrammers Who Rock as Brand Ambassadors and How To Become One

You know those people who promote Hello Fresh? Yeah, those (especially from The Bachelor franchise) are brand ambassadors.

You can read tips on how to create good content to be a brand ambassador from a Chicago Instagrammer, who just worked with Edelman and Kellogg’s here. 

Brand ambassadors provide positive feedback and promotional videos, photos, Instagram posts or blog posts about a certain brand to their audience. So, naturally to become brand ambassadors you need a) an audience. Just so you know, you don’t need 1 million followers to be an Instagram brand ambassador, you can have as little as 100.

And b) influence (preferably, measurable and identifiable) like 20-30 somethings who live in LA and go to a happy hour 2-3 times per week. That audience is marketable. And guess what? Some will measure your influence by assigning you an affiliate link code so they can see how many people you bring to their site.

Once you have an audience (see your page views and visits, your social media following), and you have influence (see your Instagram stories views, your comment section, your reposts on Twitter), you can start to find out who to partner with as a brand ambassador.

To become a brand ambassador, you first want to target certain brands that fit with your own brand and image. For instance, a vegan yogi wouldn’t partner with Keifer yogurt. However, that yogi might partner with Freshii, or a Chicago yogi would partner with The Hancock for the 360 Sky Series, which includes weekly Saturday – Thursday programming such as yoga, art in the sky, CAF tours, craft beer specials, a DJ as well as magicians and storytelling for the little ones.

Brand ambassadors can get paid per post, or they are compensated for travel or products. The goal, of course, is so that the brand can attract new clients. So, you don’t have to have the exact following as the brand that you’re endorsing, but something similar. For instance, Kylie Jenner is a brand ambassador for Puma. But, she doesn’t have the same audience as Puma.

You probably see people promoting things all the time – that doesn’t mean they are a brand ambassador. Some people may just like Mac lipstick – they weren’t paid by Mac, and they weren’t given any free products. You may notice an official brand partnership like Khloe Kardashian as the brand ambassador for Protein World, but you can also be a brand ambassador for one Instagram post or one blog post.

So, who in Chicago is doing this well? Let’s take a look.

Chicago Brand Ambassadors You Should Know:

There are so many brand ambassadors in Chicago. And, I kind of love them. Remember, not every post you see is a brand endorsement – and even though someone is recommending something to you on social media, doesn’t mean they were incentivized to do so. Also, just because someone is given free products, doesn’t mean they will promote them. They might not like them – I learned this from the Chicago food blogger from the Instagram account 312food, who is very authentic with the content she posts. But also remember, creating content takes a lot of time, and creating good content takes longer and more promotional skills. So, I invite you to learn from some of my favorite Chicago brand ambassadors.

Once Upon a Dollhouse: (@OnceUponaDollhouse)

Instagram Followers: 7,005

Have you ever not seen the dolls look fashionable from head to toe? The dolls are one of the premiere Chicago bloggers known for their work-ethic, their yogi zen, and their beauty tips. They are usually perfectly styled from a shop in Wicker Park called Fabrik, which really does have trendy and fresh looks.

They have had partnerships with multiple brands including this Thanksgiving dinner, and yoga apparel brands to most recently, wine trips in California.

Get to know the dollhouse – it’s a pretty place to be.

Adam Soko: (@adamsoko)

Instagram Followers: 34.7K

Adam Soko is the Chicago Food Dude. He has eaten his way into our Instagram pages and SnapChats. Whenever I went to a Chicago Food Blog event, someone would be looking at his SnapChat. I was lucky to meet him at a few Chicago blogger events, like this one at Violet Hour, but he always chooses his events wisely. Soko has traveled everywhere from Dubai to your Chicago neighborhood, and he always produces beautiful food photography with a little bit of humor (see below).

Windy City Cosmo: (@windycitycosmo)

Instagram Followers: 1.2K

Yes, I’m adding myself. Deal. Windy City Cosmo invites you to explore Chicago in a chic, business-savvy, and sometimes flirty way. I’ve been invited to the runways of Paris Fashion Week, to that charming authentic Italian restaurant in Lincoln Park and tried make-up from a celebrity fashion line (and you should, too).

Below, I took a photo of a torta at Big Star in Wicker Park. I wasn’t paid to eat there. I just was excited to check out this Chicago neighborhood taco restaurant.

Side Note: Sp

Before starting out as a brand ambassador, it’s important to read the FTC guide. The FTC wants to make sure that there is truth in advertising, so when someone is swayed to say something is great, is it really that great?

Think about when you view a celebrity endorsing a product. Do you think Jennifer Aniston likes Smart Water? Do you think that Kylie Jenner was given Khloe’s Good American jeans for free (well, we know that’s true because she showed that on her SnapChat)?

So, when you do get things for free, brand ambassadors usually put “#sp” on their posts. A lot of people don’t, and the FTC even says it’s “generally not” monitoring bloggers. But, if you’re making a business plan from affiliate links and brand endorsements, it’s important to understand the law.

It Should Feel Good Being a Brand Ambassador:

Power is influence and knowledge is power. If you’re going to spend so much time on social media, it doesn’t hurt to create content that will help brands and will help your audience at the same time. For instance, I know my readers are usually active on social media, and they like to go to events – mostly cultural, career-focused events where they can enjoy a good cocktail. So, of course, I would like to work with brands to help them and my audience. It should feel like a good thing to be a brand ambassador. You put a lot of time into your Instagram feed – why not get the most out of the experience?






How To Get Paid to Instagram: The Secrets Behind Brand Ambassadors 

In the Aon Tower in Chicago, a woman turns to me and says that Tony the Tiger is inside, don’t be scared.

I walk into a room full of energy, and it’s just five adults on a Friday afternoon. With a smile and a handshake to match the warmth of her yellow shirt, I meet the Instagrammer, Elise Swopes.

Swopes is glowing. She just reached 275,000 Instagram followers. Tony the Tiger kicked off his road trip in New York City and stopped in Chicago where he teamed up with photographer Swopes to snap photos in iconic locations around the city.

Kellogg’s put a lot of strategy into announcing it’s cinnamon flavor, with a year’s worth of research and over 100 different variations including vanilla and caramelized sugar.  To launch the product, they just needed the right way to introduce it, and they chose Tony the Tiger and the Chicago Instagrammer, Elise Swopes.

“I love Chicago because I live here,”  Swopes said, “Me and Tony had breakfast together. I took Tony around Chicago, and we had a videographer film us at the top of the Hancock Observatory. Tony did the Tilt yesterday.”

Her video has already received over 7k views on Instagram. 

Working with global brands like Kellogg’s isn’t new to the Adobe Influencer Certified artist and Instagrammer. Swopes uses her iPhone to take most of her photos, which she edits. She started on her own over four years ago and then used an agency called Mobile Media Lab. Today, she works with her own manager to garner new business opportunities.

I sat down with Swopes to talk about her strategy, her background as an artist, and the importance of being part of an Instagram community to grow a social media following.

Windy City Cosmo: Wait, you just use Instagram? Like, no Twitter or Snapchat? 

Swopes: Yes.

Windy City Cosmo: What do you do as a brand ambassador? 

Swopes: I shoot and edit with my iPhone. I sometimes shoot with a camera and then transfer it to my iPhone.

Windy City Cosmo: Where do you have your Instagram photo shoots in Chicago?

Swopes: If it’s a gloomy day you will catch me in the Willis Tower or The Hancock.

Side note: Check out the 15 best places to shoot as a Chicago blogger here.

Windy City Cosmo: How do you edit Instagram photos? 

Swopes: This is an app called Art Studio. I’ve been using that for five years. I’m an Adobe Influencer as well. I do live demonstrations.

Windy City Cosmo: Do you have any tips for taking good shots?

Swopes: No one use the Instagram filters (she laughs) – they’re horrible. I haven’t used an Instagram filter since 2012.

Windy City Cosmo: How do your fans react when you post sponsored content? 

Swopes: About four years ago,  I got push back. But now people look to me for advice.You see my work for free, and I’m inspiring people. I need money to keep me alive so you can keep my art alive.

I think they’re also excited for me because my fans see that I show myself and am real and vulnerable. You have to be friends with your fans.

Windy City Cosmo: What makes a brand ambassador partnership authentic to your brand?

Swopes: I’m a yes woman. I like to figure out how I can work with a brand. They know how my work looks. Last year I shot some stuff at the Chicago Auto Show. I never shoot cars. And it went really well.

Windy City Cosmo: How do you monitor your Instagram followers?

Swopes: By being involved in a community with Instagram. Instagram has little lines that you can connect with Facebook – and it’s called Instagram insights. See here (she points to her iPhone) that I have a top following in Bangkok and Chicago.

Windy City Cosmo: How do you grow your brand on Instagram? 

Swopes:  I have a hashtag strategy and a community strategy. I follow a lot of Instagram accounts that are featured accounts. I tagged a lot of featured accounts in photos to get discovered.

Also, I got a viral image over the past couple of days.

To keep up with my network, I also get notifications from people I follow.

Windy City Cosmo: How do you keep a similar feel throughout your Instagram page, yet sill work with so many brands? 

Swopes: For me, I like to switch it up a lot.  I keep it simple and clean. The first picture on my Instagram was in 2010. I was going to South by Southwest at the time. My first photo is a screen shot of my driving directions through Google Maps to Austin, Texas. It was a month or so later that I started creating art. I used Snapseed when it was independently owned.

Windy City Cosmo: How do you get followers? 

Swopes: I woke up one morning and got thousands of followers. I was on the suggested user list. I think I made 100,000 followers from that list. I made 175,000 from traveling.

You can follow Elise Swopes on Instagram (@swopes). You can also follow Windy City Cosmo on Instagram (@windycitycosmo) and use the hashtag #windycitycosmo.

Now that you know some tactics to develop quality Instagram posts and work with brands, learn what you need to become a brand ambassador and meet more Chicago Instagrammers here. 


Using Social Media to Build Your Brand and Gain Sales

There’s a lot of people addicted to social media or taking vacations from it. But, with any tool, it can be used to make a profit or be used to waste time or just not used at all.

Windy City Cosmo sat down with Nicole Smartt, author of “From Receptionist to Boss: Real-Life Advice for Getting Ahead At Work” (www.nicolesmartt.com). She is the  co-owner and vice president of Star Staffing in Petaluma, Calif. She also is co-founder of the Petaluma Young Professionals Network and was the youngest recipient of the “Forty Under 40” award given by the North Bay Business Journal.

We caught up about social media and how to power our personal branding to reach sales goals.

Windy City Cosmo: With social media it’s a lot more difficult to actually get likes than it is to simply use. For instance, a photo put on a wildly followed site will have more likes/comments than the same photo placed on another account. So, following is important. How do you build a following? 


Nicole Smartt: Building a following on social media is important. Start by engaging with your current followers. This can be done by daily interactions, a friendly hi, a shared article you think they may like, or commenting on their posts. It’s always about quality over quantity. Many social media pros have a huge following but when you look deeper into their account, you’ll notice they don’t have many comments, likes, or interactions. Be personable and engage with your audience. If on Twitter, join Twitter chats and dive in, not only commenting, but also providing answers. And interact with other chat members. On LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, comment on posts. This allows other users to see you and you’ll pick up more followers.


Windy City Cosmo: How do you maintain a following? Once you have 1k plus followers, like Windy City Cosmo, how do you keep your followers engaged. You can’t like 1k photos everyday. 


Nicole Smartt:  I post about 70% original content and 30% shared content to keep my followers engaged. I review my Twitter analytics to make sure I’m attracting the right audience so that I can keep them engaged. Understanding your audience is key to your online success. Schedule tweets throughout the day with valuable content and also take time to be on those platforms each day dedicating human interaction to the platform.


Windy City Cosmo: What is a brand and how do you start to build one? Are their certain components or platforms that you need to be on to create your brand?  


Nicole Smartt:  Your brand is what people think of when your name or product is mentioned. You want to be where your customers are. If they’re on social media, then you need to be on those platforms too. In a field like mine, staffing, a vast majority of my connections utilize LinkedIn regularly. If you’re in tech, Twitter or Google+ may be where your peers live. For wineries and product-based companies, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are solid platforms. Use analytics to see where your audience “lives” and make sure you have a strong presence in those places.


Windy City Cosmo: There are a lot of lifestyle brands out there that are all encompassing. How do you make sure there is enough of a focus even though you cover a lot of topics? 

 Nicole Smartt: I have many clients who come from a wide array of fields and industries. On a given day, I may share content about the wine industry in northern California, knowing my wine clients will enjoy it. On another day, I may share information about manufacturing trends in the United States for my industrial clients. Sometimes I share data about jobs for my candidates. But there’s something that ties it all together—my desire to help companies and individuals improve their business prospects. So my brand is very consistent, though topics vary.


Windy City Cosmo: Getting people to like your photos or tweets is one thing. How you transition to influence your followers to go to an event or subscribe to your newsletter is another. What are some steps people can take to facilitate sign-ups? 


Nicole Smartt:  You influence followers by being personable, trustworthy, and consistent in your content creation. Once your followers trust and believe in you, they are willing to subscribe, purchase, or attend an event.




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.