Keys to naming your business

Your business is your baby so it deserves some time and energy when it comes to choosing a name. While it may seem easy at the onset there are a lot of important considerations when choosing a name for a business as it is the first line of communication on who your business is and what it does.  In my experience starting with a big list and winding it down is the best way to explore all possible name choices and set the pace for how you define your business.   Here are the steps I go through when naming a business:

1.Brainstorm with a list of who your business is. This is just words that you use to define your business. It could include things like your name but as you are just beginning so also include words that describe what you want to communicate about your business. If you are a plumber for instance you may have Johnson Plumbing in mind but should also write down words like experienced, professional, timely, or honest if that is important to your targeted client.  I find a great trick is to you the thesaurus to drum up other words that may be more unique or catch to add to your list.

2. Take a look at your competition. Chances are that whatever you want to do there is someone out there also doing it. Taking a look at your competition may give you some inspiration but it also gives you an idea of brands that are already out there as a way to make sure your brand is distinguished from the pack. It will also tell you if your idea is already taken.

3. Get input from those whose opinion you value. Finding a trusted business advisors is important to have a clean space to bounce ideas off of in a positive way. Try to find someone who you both trust and respect their business opinion. It can be a great way to find flaws in names you like that you did not previously consider and work through reworking names you previously discarded.

4. Take a pause and use your imagination. If it was easy everyone would do it. Your business is your baby so even if you start off with a name you want to consider and reconsider it to see if it will stand the test of time when it comes to operating your business.  This is one instance where rushing is a no-no in business as your marketing efforts will stem from your name so reselecting can hit you big in your pocket and your brand image.

5. Do your research. You have to put some energy into if your name is taken both on the World Wide Web and with the secretary of state when you file your name as an entity. The Secretary of State should allow you to search names to see if yours is taken for a minimum cost and even reserve the name if you want to hold it but are not ready to file for your entity. While you may have never heard of a company with the name you are interested in, it does not mean that it does not exist.  You can use any domain resource like GoDaddy to search domains for your name.  This quick search lets you know if the name you want is already taken and to see how much brand confusion would be caused if you used the same name.  Doing the work on the front end prevents you from falling in love with a name you cannot register or does not make sense from a branding perspective.

Preparing for opening your business banking account

Opening a bank account for your business entity is imperative to begin to establish a footprint and path to success for your business. While the state defines the birth of a legal entity with filing, you begin to give it life by acting in the name of the entity. So taking baby steps to define just who your business is often begins with establishing a bank account.  This is a great tool for you to begin to separate your personal finances from your business and to have an active record of the activities of your business.  This record can later be taken to banks and other businesses as proof of your profitability and cash flow.  It is a critical consideration when applying for loans, credit and even when bidding for projects that want to ensure the information you provide can be backed up by your numbers.  Financials will usually be square one in considering who your business is so getting in line with a great bank begins to lay a foundation for your business.  Here are the important things you want to gather up when preparing to go to a bank to start a business account.

Articles of Formation: This is essentially a receipt from the Secretary of State you filed with as to the formation of your entity, the start date, the important members and any other details provided when filing. Think of it as a birth certificate for your business and tells who the parents are and date of birth and who was in charge of what when initially formed.

Operating Agreement: The articles of formation do not have to provide detailed information on your business as the operating agreement gives more information on who is in charge of what. In this agreement you will provide who owns the business and in what percentage and who manages the business and in what capacity. This will be critical information for the bank as it also sets the guidelines on who can access the funds in the account and to what extent.

EIN: The Employer Identification Number is like the social security number for your business. It is filed with the IRS to give them an idea of who to expect a tax return from and provides basic information on the type of business and who will be in charge. If your business is an LLC it will also ask how you elect to file your taxes between the members.

Banking Resolution: For those who have opted for a Corporation a banking resolution will speak on behalf of the corporation to provide authority to a member of the board to start a bank account, for instance the President or Treasurer. As the owners of the corporation may or may not be involved in the day to day operations it works to provide definition to who should access what.

Gather all members. Frequently a bank signature card requires simultaneous signing so there is one easily accessible go to point to verify signatures at the bank. Even if you do not go to the same location it is possible you will have to coordinate a time to allow these wet signatures to happen all at the same time.

Don’t forget to shop around. Different banks offer different relationships. As access to capital will probably be a consideration at some point to allow your business to grow choosing a bank that prioritizes the type of business you have can give you an important leg up in accessing cash or credit. With fees, procedures and features being drastically different for each bank make sure you do some research to connect with the bank that will work best for your unique needs.

Girl Power: Super charging your business by teaming up

When you are an entrepreneur the thought of teaming up with someone else can seem pretty daunting. You have to open yourself and your business to criticism, change, new perspectives and new attitudes.  But in the ever changing world of business, and especially in our recent economy finding likeminded go getters to brainstorm ideas with and share some of the ways you have weathered the storm is one of the best ways to sharpen your business knife in preparation for the fights ahead.

So why are women not teaming up in drowns, trying to do the best to reinforce their business principals and ensure their business is on solid ground?

While some may say its pettiness, or competitiveness or part of a refusal to reach back I think the answer could be found in something as simple so people not knowing how. Where we first learn to work together begins in school but forced collaboration often ends in disappointment.  Especially for the type A personality you normally find in entrepreneurs.  While you press forward others lag behind forcing you to pull them in order to get the results you desire.  But in a grown up version, with likeminded peers the result can be much different.  You just have to be prepared to learn or relearn how successful collaboration works.

By no means is this easy. Whether this is someone in a similar business or someone where there is potential for business synergy you have to learn to put trust and active listening first.  This happens at its best when both parties realize there is a boundless field for potential and income when you are tuned into the needs of your audience and how you can best uniquely serve those needs.  Yes this simple fact means that for my business, although I am a business law attorney, I am not competing with another business law attorney I may choose to collaborate with.  While it seems like we are geared towards the same audience my true goal is to find clients that I can service best given my skills set.  So the old saying “you are your own competition” proves tried and true.  When both people accept this then the sharing can begin and that is where the power is.  Having someone similarly situated to bounce ideas, wins and losses off of can change the game for your business, assuring you that you are not alone in the fight for success and others are praying for and supporting your successes, not your downfalls.  It is a comforting breath of fresh air in the concrete jungle of entrepreneurialship.

Your operating agreement: Plotting out your business relationship

When it comes to starting a business entity there is a lot to decide and like any relationship the more people the more problems that come up in the birth of your business. Regardless of the type of entity you decide to form it is critical to start an open dialogue when it comes to deciding how the important business matters of your business will be handled.  Businesses ebb and flow so while every important matter may not be a priority for your operating agreement there are a couple that are key.

Money – Like it or not money will be a running theme in your business so deciding how it should be handled is crucial.  As you start off contributions take center stage.  While the state default is that your ownership rights are determined by your percentage of contribution you can decide to split it in different ways to reflect experience, sweat equity or other resources being donated by a partner.  It is also important to decide once money or losses begins to flow how it will be divided.  Again it can just be a reflection of initial contributions but it can also work to compensate members for management or even repay initial heavy contributions.


Management – Just because you start a business does not mean your main skill set will be to run the business.  In a partnership hopefully each partner will bring their own wining expertise to make your team as well rounded as possible.  So if one person is the money and one is the brains you want this discussed and to be reflected in your operating agreement. You can also decide that appointed managers will be responsible for managing the entity all together.  The decision you make early on can have important repercussions especially if changes is needed so discussing it early helps sort out problems before they start.


Changes down the road – If nothing else is guaranteed in business change definitely is.  How your business will roll with the punches called entrepreneurship is key to long term success.  Thinking about what happens if a partner gets sick, dies, or no longer wants to retain their shares in the business give everyone a leg up instead of having to fight in the case of disaster or discord.  Note that the default to some agreements is if that if one member rescinds the entity will cease to exist to read and proceed carefully when planning for the future.

Small Business Spotlight: Johnny Dang & Co.

With a healthy mix of income levels, demographics and tons and tons of space Houston is a prime breeding ground for small business success. Companies that can properly transverse through all these factors have the opportunity to move their small business dreams to entrepreneurial powerhouses.  One outstanding example of a Houston local business growth story is Johnny Dang & Co.  By branding himself as the grill king he has been able to take a leap in branding from a jeweler to make him a local powerhouse.

What I love most about success stories like these is all the hard work that goes in that most people are tune deaf too.  In these stories you can see the struggle, growth, ups and downs and failures of taking on your dream, being humble enough to start small and thinking big enough to seize opportunities.  For Johnny the passion began as a watch repair tech at a flea market.  Proof positive that the root is in the dream not how grand you start.  Once the seed was planted Johnny moved to a location in Sharpstown.  If you saw the store you both knew it and remembered it as the bling was definitely the theme.  In this his brand was born but it was his tenacity for building that brand that make his growth unstoppable.  By identifying a need in custom jewelry creation in Houston he was able to attract deep pockets and big names to his shop.

So with the King of Grillz on TV and at a store near you what pearls can we gather in our own businesses?

Where you start is no indication of where you will end up. Taking the leap from flea market to three stores is a huge leap but completely possible with a dream to big enough to lift your sites high and the hard work and perseverance to move your engine along.

When you have a relationship with the customer you are half way there. When he first opened in Sharpstown it would be hard to imagine the jeweler becoming a national go to for jewelry. Instead of just targeting a high end client Johnny took the population he worked in, got to know them and see what would interest them. By focusing on their response Johnny Dang was able to build a broad audience in a wide range of quality and prices.

Team work makes the dream work. Where I think Johnny Dang truly shines in his ability to collaborate. From watches to his powerhouse alliance with Paul Wall his associations have been not just strong but lasting and given him the momentum to make a name for himself not just in Houston but in the world of Hip Hop.

With Johnny Dang & Co. recently celebrating their one year anniversary at a flagship store that is over 14,000 the power of these lessons is self-evident!

The Texas Black Expo delivered on Texas size fun!

The Texas Black Expo is just what you may expect, but sooo much more.  The expo is a great opportunity not only to support black owned businesses, but also offers some great showcases and seminars from everything from entertainment, to health and wellness to real talk from successful professionals.  Last weekend I had the opportunity to not only check out some of the great vendors at the expo but also get a little insight in the age old question, what are the differences between men and women?  In the Diva Dialogues Entertainment Attorney Jalene Mack brought together a power packed panel to take on the challenge of “The Great Divide” and see just how different do many and women feel about things from business to love and relationships.

This Texas Black Expo seminar was a great look into the differences, sometimes subtle, sometime distinct, between how men and women see the world. This type of conversation can either be lots of fun or down right argumentative so it was an extra bonus that Jalene was not just an entertainment attorney but an actor as well, and able to keep everyone both on task and having fun.  With a feisty panel of professionals you who are enjoying themselves and openly sharing you almost cannot help yourself but get wrapped up in the fun.  The panelists ranging from philanthropist, to attorneys, to radio station owners, to successful entrepreneurs and even a special guest Golden Brooks, a successful actress and business owner most known for her role on Girlfriends.

So what is the take on the great divide? Actually in listening to the responses you begin to understand women and men are looking at the same side of the different coin.  Although initially it may seem like two completely different approaches, the more you communicate and open your mind the more clarity you see on the differences.  Whether big or small, however, the panel offered some great insight on how they take on the challenges of being a business owner.  Here are a couple of pearls that most of us know, but often forget to apply and use in the way to approach both business and life:

  • Jalene Mack – Entertainment Attorney and founder of MPAC: On networking Jalene recommends entering into it with purpose. When you are focused in on finding opportunities you make sure networking actually enhances your business.
  • Golden Brooks – Actress and Entrepreneur: When faced with the challenge of being an African American woman in business Golden found strength by walking in her own light. By knowing herself she is not diminished by others but can use it as a basis of celebration for the unique person she is and the distinctive gifts she brings to the table
  • CleRenda McGrady – Author and Philanthropist – in referencing her favorite movie scene in The Wizard of Oz CleRenda draws strength from the idea that the power is within you all along, you just have to believe it for yourself.
  • Velma Trayham – PR Expert recommends business owners really invest the time and energy to know their market. When you don’t waste time and money focusing on being everything to everyone you can focus on making real connections with your target audience
  • Keisha Nicole – DJ for 97.9 The Box: In speaking to purpose Keisha is inspired by knowing that if God gave her a purpose, he also blesses with the gifts and capacity to carry it out if you are willing to put in the work.
  • Al Rucker – owner of Midtown Bail Bonds – For those who do not network Al recommends using the energy to focus on building their brand. After time a strong enough brand gets people searching for them instead of the other way around.
  • Danny Norris – Attorney with Norris & Norris Attorneys Essential tips for starting a business are to work out a business plan, a mentor, and the capital needed to get the business off the ground
  • Marcus Bowers – Owner of She’s Happy Hair – In his journey to hair mogul Marcus made a commitment to himself to just try to be better every day than he was the day before
  • Oscar Hines – Owner of KYND Radio shared his favorite quote that captured his life philosophy – “It’s not the number of breaths you have in life, it is the number or moments that take your breath away”

All in all the Texas Black Expo is a great way to support your community with businesses you love and others you have yet to fall in love with. Most importantly it is a great opportunity to have more breath taking moments and learn something along the way.

Building your Personal Brand with the BE Summit

No matter what you do, there are usually other businesses or people who do the exact same thing, so how do you show your brand is different to the audience that matters to you? This is a question that entrepreneurs wrestle on a daily and at my final seminar at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit we received some great insight from a master in his field, Raymon Ray.  In the seminar “How to Build Your Personal Brand” Ramon Ray provided some simple but essential strategies for separating yourself from your competition to becoming the “go to” person in your area and for your target market.

This seminar created an unmatched energy as within the first minutes the audience was excited for what was to come. Raymon Ray delivered on all counts in this seminar.  As I walked in room everyone was connecting and volunteers were sharing their brand information.  This is the type of energy that gets you excited to not just listen but also participate and dare to push yourself further than you would normally go.  While quite out of the ordinary for a seminar, it paired perfectly with the enthusiasm and mastery displayed by Mr. Ray.  The very best thing is that Raymond Ray preaches what he teaches.  You can catch him in areas from AT&T to his own magazine Smart Hustle.  The four personal traits of personal branding to Be Happy, Be Excited, Be Patient, and Be Focused were displayed masterfully as he shared five gems in personal branding

1 – Be a Rock Star: People want to rock with rock stars so make sure your presentation isn’t a no frills water downed version of what makes you different. If you have attributes you think are special then share them and don’t skimp on the razzle dazzle

2 – Make a Personal Connection: Networking should be strategic so that you are also building relationships and connections with people. When done properly you can really cultivate a circle of personal influence that can carry your brand a lot further a lot faster than you can yoursel

3 – Get your personal branding toolbox in order. Things like a personal website, blog, and active social engagement are a requirement in this day and age so don’t slack on sharing the story of you and what makes you different,

4 – Just Do It: It is easy to get so busy working on small things you forget to add some big things into your larger vision. Whether it is an event or sizzle video there are some great ways to tout your talents and increase your audience.

5 – Maximize Media Exposure: Even small business in this day of connectivity can get some major media exposure if they work at it. Take some time to get to know journalist in your area so when a topic comes up that applies to you, they have you on special for an experts input. By working to not pitch yourself but educate on a topic you can easily build a reputation as an authority. Even something as simple as creating a regular show can help catapult your media exposure.

This was a great seminar that showed you how to immediately put some ideas into action while leaving attendees feeling both motivated and empowered. With just 5 easy steps to get you on your way to becoming local celebrity in your field what’s stopping you?!!

Resources that leverage your business at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit

On Day 2 of the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit I hesitantly walked into the seminar entitled “How to Use Technology to Protect and Grow Your Business“ and to my surprise I was quickly realized I was getting a lot more than I bargained for.

The panelist of Claire Sulmers with Fashion Bomb Daily, LaShonda Johnson with the Houston Housewives of Finance and Everette Taylor of Skurt were a fierce compilation of business savvy, opportunity spotting business superstars all ready and willing to share their experience and knowledge with the crowd.  Each in their own way were innovators, finding opportunity and pushing through to success when many others would have only seen despair.  Everett, for instance, when from being homeless, unable to get  a call back on job applications due to stereotyping, to starting, running, selling and restarting some powerhouse marketing and IT companies.  Other panelists, like LaShonda Johnson, left lucrative businesses to take a risk to uncharted territory in pursuit of their passion.  All, however, were able to share powerful messages in utilizing the things around you and inside you to leverage your mindset and your business.

While I came in the seminar expecting a full-fledged jump into the world of technology, the talk took on technology more as any knowledge you could apply for advancement. Yes, technology encompasses the gadgets and devices that have become a part of our lives, but the perspective that was really valuable is that these things are only beneficial if you use them to evolve in reaching your customer base.  A great example of this came from Claire with Fashion Bomb Daily.  While she is known for her phenomenal fashion blog, she noticed that readers to the blog were transitioning to Instagram.  As technology transitioned she also transitioned her delivery method to Instagram and now has more than 1 million followers along with the base she developed in readers to the actual blog.  She was able to harness the resource to make an impact and increase her audience.

The focus to again use resources to connect with your audience was applied to branding by the panel. Everette was able to provide some great way use technology as a connection to building authentic relationships.  Data today can be overwhelming and in and of itself mean little to nothing.  It becomes important when you can utilize data and talking to people to see where your audience is and how you can better serve them.  By focusing on his business before worrying about all the press and accolades Everette was able to build a model and later use his success to replicate market growth for other companies.  His keys to growth included:

Making a Product Market fit: Focusing in on creation of products that stick with the market

Determining Ideal Customer Profile

Establishing growth processes so there is structure as the idea and company grows.   Everett uses the ICE test (Impact, Confidence, and Ease) to determine if structure and projects are really a good fit looking for the ideal of High confidence and ease of implementation

Getting the right people: By surrounding himself with a team members who are resilient to failure and have strong mindsets he ensures what he envisions his team can then work to implement.

The seminar was a great reminder that technology is not just having the newest idea or process, but it the using these innovations to make more informed decisions and deeper relationships with your customers. The seminar was a gold mind of ideas that you can apply quickly to make big changes to your bottom-line.

Black Enterprise BE Summit Day 2 Delivers motivation and major connections

Day 2 of the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit was jammed pack with information and motivation that could really catapult your career and business to the next level. Before the conference I heard several entrepreneurs express all the reasons why doing a conference like this was a waste of their time.  Perhaps it was money or time or just the thought of what could they teach you.  The truth is we always can continue to learn and when you have an opportunity to learn from someone who has gained success you have a great opportunity to make real life applications to your own situation.

So what makes the potential of the conference life altering? Well for one there is access. The speakers gathered at event represented the gems in their field all with powerful information to share.  Take the “Why it Pays to Swim with the Sharks” seminar for instance.  On one stage you had Brandon Andrews, a producer for Shark Tank as well as Benjamin Young and Lydia Evans, founders of Sworkit and SW&G Essentials respectively, who have both had the experience of pitching for Shark Tank.  Now talk about a realistic push to move forward with your idea as their stories were not success fairy tales.  Quite the opposite the stories gave the full gambit of challenges faced by an entrepreneur, from starting, long nights and early mornings, the bitter defeats and the triumphs that define owning your own business. Through it all the conference offered a great reminder that even with failure there is no end of the road.  After the no there is still a fork in the road between quitting and continuing on that could determine success.

Access to really power players did not stop at the seminars. During the luncheon the discussion was joined by Charles Koch, Chairman  & CEO of Koch Industries.  Known not just for his million dollar businesses, but also as a prime political contribution the inclusion was initially surprising.  But as with many things in the conference some of the best benefits came from the most unexpected directions.  During this discussion we were reminded that making it for ourselves is not the only goal, but also in building a legacy for those who come behind us.  In the discussion surrounding building sustainable paths for our youth to follow it was a great reminder of where real change happens:  In your mind. By changing the mindset, understanding our innate abilities, and pairing rising above with giving back we can become a partner with the youth.

Between all the events and programs the other priceless part was the filling in between. Meeting those motivated, dedicated entrepreneurs in your city and from far and beyond is a great connector.  The foundation is already laid as attendance shows a commitment to their business and to get better.  Outside of the some of the great seminars I had the real opportunity to meet others on their own path but with a similar goal as mine.  From other attorneys, to college classmates, to inventors to CEOs I got a chance to connect on the start of the work to do better and get better which is reason enough to attend an event like the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit.

Professional development at its best at the BE Entrepreneur Summit

Many people ask why they should invest in professional development and at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit Wednesday’s opening festivities made a bold answer as to some of the fruitful reasons why.  Professional development is about more than sitting through conferences and hoarding business cards.  It’s about opening yourself up to the possibility to do better, work harder, make more money, and learning to enjoy yourself through the process.  The opening night was a wonderful emulsion of all these reasons with a great lesson in working hard and playing harder.

The first day of the conference showcased how to best take on professional development, from the inside out. A big part of really evolving professionally is evolving personally.  By making it a priority to master new techniques and challenge yourself to step out of y our comfort zone you also make strides in becoming the best you can be for your business.  The sessions for Wednesday started with a frequent nail bitter for many professionals, business presentations.  In the Mastering Business Presentations session you had the chance to hear from some great including Alfred Edmond, the Executive Editor at Large for Black Enterprise, on honing your skills to present in ways that moves and motivates your listeners.  With that session pushing you from within you quickly moved to how to take that motivation and make it work for your business.

With a conference focused on moving you from internal development to external development the session on business in Houston was a cornucopia of business ideas on how to expand to Houston. With key insights from none other than Houston mayor Sylvester Turner you got some invaluable insight on seizing on the wealth of opportunities found within the Houston market.  Now this is already what a good business conference is made of, a meeting of opportunity and growth and the networking potential that allows you to connect all of the dots.  To add some ice cream on the top of what is already shaping up to be an amazing treat in your personal development, Wednesdays kick off mixer was the perfect welcome present.  From delicious food including some Houston specialties to fun entertainment to a room full of eager entrepreneurs the summit was kicked off with a bang.  As I joined in on the fun in the lip syncing contest I was reminded of something that stayed with me the entire conference, in the world of business learning to enjoy yourself draws  others to you and in a game you have to play to win you need all the help you can rising to the top.

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