It took roughly a year for Kotezi to find its name. Though I've built and launched brands before and knew the difficulty in naming a brand, this time was so much tougher than all the others.
Shortly after moving back to St. Louis, I launched a perfume called Fleurish 1876. It only took me a few days to name this perfume. Since it was inspired by St. Louis - the name needed to be remniscient of St. Louis, but I didn't want it to scream St. Louis. It wasn't long before I landed on the city's French heritage and our symbol the Fleur de Lis. I liked how Fleur worked so well for a perfume that incorporated wild flowers native to Forest Park in the city of St. Louis. Fleurish the perfume was already taken by some other perfume just as unknown as mine, but still - I couldn't leave it as Fleurish, so I added 1876 - the year that Forest Park opened to the public. It was the easiest I have ever named something. And still today, I wouldn't change a thing about it.
Kotezi is a different story entirely. It had at least 2 other names for long periods of time. Kotezi was born as "Leave Your Mark". Since the original idea for the brand was to have shoes that would...leave a mark, it was fitting. It worked for me in so many ways, but ultimately didn't feel right for a brand name. To me, and some others I connected with, it felt like more of a tag line, so I continued searching.
Months of searching only turned up brand names already used by other brands. I tried every version of optimism and positivity and uplifting etc. Nothing, they were all taken. Finally I landed on Brio. But to change it a bit, I called it Breio. Using the thesaurus one day - going down my optimism and positivity route, I found brio, and though I had never heard of it (save for a local restaurant chain) I liked the way it sounded. Not too feminie or masculine - just neutral and it means livliness, vivacity and energy - close enough for me! Close enough, that is, until I pitched Breio to one of the many and they quickly found another footwear brand called Brio. Whoops. Back to the drawing board.
Several more months of brainstorming. I liked nothing. I was seriously considering giving up and just cancelling the whole thing, or naming it after myself which just isn't my style. That's when it hit me - what I needed was an entirely made up word. Till now, I had tried putting other words together, but apparently other people had thought of this idea too. So, a made up word. How do you create a word? There are so many possibilities? And so many words that already exist! I thought this was going to be as difficult as the naming process had been to date, but it was actually so easy. I could have done it in the beginning and saved myself so much time and frustration. If I'm being honest, however, I think it was the journey that helped me really understand what I was looking for in a name, and led to much greater satisfaction at the end.
Now, how do I create a word? To narrow myself down, I started with letters that I wanted the brand to have:
T - My initials are TT, so there's the T.
K - I listened to the "How I Built this" episode featuring Sarah Blakely of Spanx many years ago, and one of the things that stuck with me how she talked about the "K effect" and so, my brand must have a K sound in it.
Z - About 10 years into my career, I read, "Delivering Happiness" by Tony Hsieh. It changed how I thought about consumer products and retail and companies where I worked. I identified with it so much and it sticks with me every day. Though I never had the opportunity to meet Tony, I think he would be honored to have helped inspire the brand Kotezi. Plus, I did get to work with Zappos for 4 years, and have only the BEST memories.
These 3 letters came together to form Kotezi - pronounced COAT-zee. I thought about spelling it in a way that made it easier for people to pronounce. But.... I like it this way, and I guess I kind of like that "iykyk" aspect to how to properly pronounce the name. I may later come to regret that decision (afterall, I can't get my son to stop pronouncing it "co-TEZ-i").
So, now we have a name! But what does it mean? Check the next blog post for perhaps the best side effect of creating your own word...defining it too!