Episode 68: Does It Matter What You Name Your Business?

Episode 68: “Does It Matter What You Name Your Business?”


Introduction:

When Dana White chose a name for her business, she decided she wanted a name that had meaning—both for her and for the women she hoped to reach. When Laura Zander picked a name for her business, she thought she was going to be selling coffee. And when Jay Goltz chose a name for his business, he very strategically chose the perfect name to rank well in—wait for it—the Yellow Pages. This week, Dana, Laura, and Jay talk about what they consider the most important decisions they made in building their businesses—including why Dana closed her most profitable location, why it took Laura 15 years to find an operations person, and what Jay figured out about employees who struggle to grow with the business.

— Loren Feldman

Guests:

Dana White is founder and CEO of Paralee Boyd hair salons.

Laura Zander is co-founder and CEO of Jimmy Beans Wool.

Jay Goltz is founder and CEO of Artists Frame Service and Jayson Home.

Producer:

Jess Thoubboron is founder of Blank Word Productions.

Full Episode Transcript:

Loren Feldman:
Welcome Jay, Dana, and Laura. Great to have you here. In last week’s conversation with Karen, Paul, and William, I did something a little different. I asked them to take a step back and talk about how they got their businesses off the ground, and specifically what they think were the three most important decisions they made in building their businesses. I thought it turned into a really good conversation that took us through some surprising and interesting experiences. And well, I guess, I kind of thought, if they can do it, I think you guys can probably do it, too. So Dana, why don’t we start with you? Are there three decisions you’ve made that you think helped you get to this point?

Dana White:
Yes. First decision was an early decision I made before I even opened, and that was to be open seven days a week. That’s a huge contributing factor to me being where I am.

Loren Feldman:
Why was it so important?

Dana White:
It was courageous because nobody else was doing it. Most hair salons operated Wednesday through Saturday. So to say, “No, we’re open Sunday and Monday and Tuesday, as well,” kind of already made us different in the marketplace. I felt like I set myself up stronger, because Sunday and Monday wound up being our busiest days—two of our busiest days. And so that really let me see what this business could do.

I think the second thing I did was close my Southfield location, which I did during COVID. That was huge, and I’m glad I did it. It allowed me to reset, which put me on the path toward franchising. It changed my view from local to national to international, even though that was always the vision. That might be the pie in the sky, but your head might be down on the ground working. It forced me to look up and look out and see what’s going on.

Loren Feldman:
That’s kind of counterintuitive, Dana, in the sense that you’re saying having been forced by COVID to close a location and cut back, it opened your eyes to going national and thinking bigger.

Dana White:
It wasn’t the best cohesive relationship with the landlord. The location no longer fit the brand. And I just didn’t love it. I dreaded going there, and I was getting caught up in the local of that salon, and what was happening in that space. I didn’t have the confidence—nor did it help give me the confidence—to grow, because there were so many issues in that space. When you remove that, a huge weight came off my shoulders, and I could look at the newer space that I had, even though that wasn’t the most popular space. The most popular space was the Southfield location.

So it was a big decision to let it go, but it allowed me to stop getting so caught up in the day-to-day of that location and focus on one location, and then look at the vision. Be more committed to the vision because I’m not caught up in the day-to-day of this very overbearing one location. Even though it was making the most money, it was still like, “Gee whiz, more problems.” It was just a lot of stuff that I just got tired of dealing with. You have to take a step back so you can launch forward.

Laura Zander:
You said it was it made the most money, but was it the most profitable or it was just the most top line?

Dana White:
Mm mm, it was the most profitable.

Laura Zander:
It was the most profitable on the books, but maybe not in terms of time, it sounds like?

Dana White:
It wasn’t the most profitable as far as mental health. When I tell you it was draining, because you didn’t know what somebody was going to come in the door and do… I’ve had people who say they represent the landlord literally coming in the middle of the day and saying, “You need to move because my cousin wants to open a salon here. And the owner knows my cousin, and they’re not going to let you stay here.” Just little stuff like that, that you keep dealing with, that over time.

I had customers who would come to my salon in Southfield at five o’clock in the afternoon after they got off of work, and they’re parking at the door, saying, “I’ve got a guy telling me I’ve got to pay him 20 bucks to park in this spot.” And then I have to go out there and say, “Why are you charging people?” “Well, your people shouldn’t be parking here.” “Well, it’s a strip mall, right? The club’s not open yet. You can’t cone these spaces off. You’ve got to let her park here.” So it was these little things, and we tried to bring it to the landlord, who is very hands-off, didn’t want to be bothered.

When we tried to bring it to the manager, he was very bent on reminding me that I was a woman and there was only so much he was going to do. And there were just certain things I had to accept. I’m a woman. He kept saying that over and over and over. “You’re getting ahead of yourself, little lady.” And it was like, “Okay, enough.” Then, structurally, the building wasn’t sound.

Loren Feldman:
Again, it sounds counterintuitive to close your most profitable location, but I think you’ve got us convinced that you probably had good reason to get out of there.

Dana White:
I had good reasons. And what wasn’t counterintuitive to me, Loren, is I know several people who have taken a step to the side or taken one step back, five steps forward. So that’s how I looked at it. I said, “You know what, am I going to lose the Southfield, the busiest location? Sure. But I just feel like it would just be extra weight.” And I really felt that it was taking away from me focusing and working toward the vision.

Jay Goltz:
She keeps saying that it didn’t fit her vision. I think it was more of a business model. I think you figured out that your business model was a certain amount of things and that location no longer fit the ideal business model. You just said it very well: one step backwards, five steps ahead. I had a store I opened early on that was in the wrong location, and it took me many years to figure out no matter what I did, you can’t make up for the wrong location.

Dana White:
The third thing is hiring my operations manager. It literally is my Staples button. It’s handled. And that has helped give me the confidence to make decisions as a business owner and reminded me that I’m actually a good one—despite what some people may think: “Oh, you should do more for this or do less for this.” I think nobody knows my business like me. And I spent a lot of time asking: “What do you think I should do? Well, let me get your opinion,” and weighing all of these options. But none of those options were in my business. It was just what people think who had no experience, and no time in or anything.

So working with someone who makes swift but intelligent decisions, who stays clear on my vision and what I want to do, has instilled a level of confidence in me that says, “You know what? You can do this.” You just need that… not that partner, but that somebody who is practiced in doing this. She’s also been really great at managing my expectations for the industry. I’m not from this industry. I am not a hairstylist, so having somebody who works with me, who’s been in this industry for years, who can say, “Yep, this is this, Dana, but this.” She’s one of the main reasons I chose to franchise. Of course, there’s been several, but having that really honest and open conversation with somebody who is working with me, who has years of experience, who is straight, no chaser. She doesn’t tell me things because it will make me feel good.

That would be the third thing. My business changed dramatically. And even the fourth thing, raising my prices—thank you, Jay Goltz—raising my prices, bringing on that operations manager… I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not done number three and number four.

Laura Zander:
Can I just throw out there, Loren, did you notice that numbers two, three, and four all happened as a result of this podcast?

Loren Feldman:
Thank you, Laura.

Dana White:
Thank you for that observation, Laura, because that is so true. Because of this podcast, again, that confidence that says, “Hey, talk about it, do it.” And then unfortunately, the guests don’t get to hear what we talk about with each other outside of the podcast, which is also huge, you know? Jay is my mentor.

Loren Feldman:
Wait a second, I made a rule a long time ago that you guys aren’t allowed to talk to each other except on the podcast. Don’t tell me you’re breaking that rule.

Dana White:
Broken! Nobody puts foot to ass like Jay. It is the best thing ever! It is like, you need it. When I had that episode where I had the FUD, Jay got me. Jay was like, “Oh, you’re not ready.” If you’re dealing with this with one location, if this is how you respond to one, you’re not gonna be able to handle 50.” But like, he went in. And I got off that phone call, like, “You know what? ‘S’ on my chest, cape on, go handle your business.”

Jay Goltz:
That’s what we’re talking about. That’s what we’re talking about. There’s no whining in entrepreneurship.

Dana White:
No whining! There’s no crying in entrepreneurship.

Laura Zander:
Oh, bullshit. I cry and whine all the time.

Loren Feldman:
All right, let’s go to Laura, how about you? What were your three key decisions?

Laura Zander:
Well, my first key decision—and you’re gonna groan—but was marrying Doug.

Jay Goltz:
[Groans]

Laura Zander:
I told you.

Loren Feldman:
Wait, he’s your co-founder. I’m not groaning.

Jay Goltz:
And he’s not even listening to this. What are you getting out of kissing up to him? Really?

Laura Zander:
Maybe his parents are listening… You know, from a business standpoint, it so happens that, yes, he’s my co-founder, and he has done all the technical side. But I think the replicable action is picking a partner in business, if you need a partner. Having a partner that you work really well with. He and I met at work. We’ve always worked together. We would not be where we are without, I guess, either one of us. I always think I’m replaceable but he’s not.

Loren Feldman:
That’s an interesting point, Laura. I tend to think of it as kind of putting all your eggs in one basket. Not only are you putting your marriage at risk, you’re putting your business at risk when you bring all this together. But I didn’t realize you guys had worked together previously and had that experience. I knew you were both developers, but I didn’t know you did it together.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, we met at work. And then once we ended up having jobs at different companies, we actually started doing some contracts on the side at night together. I mean, we’ve just always worked [together]. Usually what happens is I’ll do 95 percent, maybe 90 percent of the development and stuff, and then he has to clean it all up and finish it. So I have always been really good at selling projects and telling people, “Hey, we could do this for you.” And then he has to actually do all the work. It’s just worked out really, really well. And it gives us something to talk about. I mean, Jay, what do you and your wife talk about at night?

Jay Goltz:
You.

Laura Zander:
[Laughter] No, you already told me that’s not true.

Jay Goltz:
We talk about the children. We don’t talk about the business side. I think you bring up a very valid point, but I’m gonna give the opposite thing I’ve just learned, that whatever I say can and will be used against me. There’s no point in talking about the business. “Oh, I hired a new manager. It’s gonna get easier.” And then a month later, “I thought you hired a new manager and it was gonna get easier!” I’ve just learned it’s worked out extremely well this way for the last 30 years. She does her thing, and I do my thing. I don’t talk about business to her. There’s really no upside to it. And I’m not saying that’s right for everybody. It works extremely well for me.

Laura Zander:
So that’s number one. And then you’re going to groan again, but number two—and just hear me out—was going to a big conference—it was the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum—and deciding to put myself out there, and walking up to Loren Feldman and meeting him.

Loren Feldman:
Groan…

Jay Goltz:
I’m not groaning. That’s a legitimate thing.

Dana White:
That’s on my list, too.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, walking up to him and completely showering him with or scaring or intimidating or—

Jay Goltz:
Ambush, ambush!

Laura Zander:
—ambushing him with details of every blog that had been written under his tenure in the “You’re the Boss” New York Times blog, and then forcing him to go have a drink with me later and pitching him the idea that maybe I could be a blogger, and then continually emailing him and continually trying to develop this friendship. What was that eight years ago… no, ten years ago. It was 2011.

Jay Goltz:
Wait, is that before or after he had the restraining order on you?

Laura Zander:
Exactly. But that led to meeting Jay, having Jay as a mentor, meeting all these different people, being a blogger—

Dana White:
Meeting Dana…

Laura Zander:
—just all of the different people I’ve met, all of the deals that I’ve put together. We’ve acquired three companies in the last few years, and none of those things would have happened. So that was number two. And again, the replicable action there is putting myself out there. People talk about networking, and I hate the whole networking thing, but actually going and connecting and meeting people who you genuinely, authentically appreciate and can learn something from… Out of the thousands of people who go to these conferences, there are only one or two people that I still talk to, but it takes some work to find those one or two people.

Loren Feldman:
I remember that conference well. I had a great time there. I met you and a bunch of other great people. And I kept going back, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you there again. Why didn’t you go back?

Laura Zander:
Because I found you. I don’t need to go back. No, you know what, I went a couple of times. And I actually didn’t go back, because it kind of blew my mind a little too much. It was like going to a buffet, and you meet all of these amazing people, and you hear all of these amazing ideas. It was more than I could execute, and it was more than I could implement. And then I would go, and I’m looking at all of these amazing women who have built these incredible companies that are infinitely more successful, and it really kind of destroyed my confidence. And I just started to compare myself to other people too much, so I just took a break.

Loren Feldman:
I thought that was a thing men did.

Laura Zander:
Oh, really?

Dana White:
No, no, women do it too. Big time.

Laura Zander:
Oh, I didn’t know that men did that.

Loren Feldman:
Jay?

Jay Goltz:
Well, here’s where the age difference comes in. When I was in my 40’s, that’s what I did. I kept thinking, “Oh my god, you thought you were such hot stuff. Look at you, you’re nothing.” I read Forbes. There’s a guy your age that’s worth $300 million or $5 billion. And then I hit 50, and I figured it out. And what I figured out is, yeah, there’s always going to be someone who does better. You’re one out of 10,000. Do you really need to be one out of a million? I don’t think so. And besides which, at the end of the day, do you not have everything you want? I’m all chilled out now. I’m totally done with that stuff.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, yeah. I was in my late 30’s at the time as well, so it was exacerbated even more. But okay, so that was number two. And then number three is—I’m going to kind of piggyback off of Dana—it was finding my number two, finding that operations [person], that general manager. So for those of you guys who haven’t read the book Traction or any of the EOS stuff, there are a couple of really good books. I think Rocket Fuel is another one that really describes this kind of dynamic between the quote-unquote visionary and the number two—the person who gets things done, can manage the people, and understands the way that you discuss things, understands what you’re thinking, and can translate that to the rest of the organization. So everything really changed once I found that person.

Dana White:
When did you find that person?

Laura Zander:
Almost five years ago.

Dana White:
And how many years were you into your business at that point?

Laura Zander:
Fifteen.

Dana White:
I picked mine up year seven or year eight.

Laura Zander:
Okay. I didn’t know I was looking—that’s not true. I had two other people who I had had as the general manager, and it wasn’t working, but I assumed it was my fault. I kept thinking it was my fault. I kept thinking it was my fault. I’m not communicating well. I went through all of these things to try to fix myself. And then, after they finally didn’t work out and I found the person who does work, I’m like, “Oh…” I mean, I’m sure there were things that I could have done better. I know there are things that could have done better.

Jay Goltz:
Well, the irony here is it was your fault, in that you probably hired the wrong people—as I did 10 times. I mean, literally. I literally went through 10 people over a three-year period, because I didn’t understand how to hire a production manager. I was younger than all of them, and I assumed, “Oh, this person’s in their 50’s. They certainly know how to run a factory.” And then I sent them off there, and I realized I was hiring the wrong people. Then I hired the right person, and it’s 24 years later, and he’s still with me. So, in my world, it comes down to hiring, hiring, and hiring.

Loren Feldman:
So what are your three key decisions, Jay?

Jay Goltz:
Well, mine are categories, which I’ve repeated several times. The first one was—no pun intended to Laura—the phrase “stick to the knitting.” I didn’t. I thought I could expand and I took framing, and I thought, “Well, it’s home furnishings. I think I could sell some furniture or some accessories here.” I went ahead and I expanded into other related businesses. I didn’t just stick to picture framing. So I did it with home furnishings—

Loren Feldman:
Did you feel like you were taking a big risk doing that?

Jay Goltz:
That’s my gift and my curse: I never think I’m taking a risk. I think I can do anything. And then I find out, “Yikes, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Loren Feldman:
Did you know what you’re doing when you went into home furnishings?

Jay Goltz:
Absolutely not. I opened up a home and garden store. I opened up a whole garden store. I don’t know anything about it. And when I say I don’t know anything about it, I really mean I don’t know anything about it. But what I’ve also learned about myself is, I figure stuff out. And if nothing else, I find the right people to run it, and that’s what I’ve done. So it’s worked. I’m not recommending this for everybody. But it worked. I jump into stuff I don’t know anything about, and I did figure it out. It certainly was not efficient, and I’m not saying that’s great for everybody, but it did work.

So that was the first thing. I did expand from the narrow vertical I was in of just custom picture framing. The second thing was—and I didn’t do this until I was 43—I bought a building, and then I bought three more over the next 20 years. It is absolutely proven to be a key element to my business that I don’t have to worry about—as you just heard Dana talking about her landlord—I don’t have to deal with my landlord. Buying buildings has worked out extremely well for me, and I think there are many, many entrepreneurs who don’t think about it [where] it would be a good idea to buy the building there. That was huge. Maybe you could even call that the linchpin of all the businesses, that I own the properties now.

Lastly, this one is a little tricky, but I believe this is a common thing. You have to remember, I started out of the trunk of my car, and I’ve got 130 employees. That was not a smooth, straight line. And what I figured out is, I have had three “key realignments,” I’ll call it. If you don’t know what that means, I fired my quote-unquote “right-hand guy.” And Laura, when you say you hired your right-hand person, or number two, I would caution you. I don’t know that I would call that a number two. I would call that a key employee. Because what I’ve experienced is, I’ve got five key employees. I don’t have a number two. I think having a number two, or a right-hand person, is a bad trap for a growing business. Because when I hired that person when I hit 10 employees, and they were the one that was there early and there late and smarter than everyone else and responsible, and I made the mistake of making them vice president, I had no idea what I was doing with that.

And then five years later, when you grow some more, that person’s way over their head and can’t handle the job. It’s a romantic story to talk about, “Oh, I’ve got the same people who I started with.” I do have some of them. I absolutely have some people with me for 40 years. But that same person you hire when you’ve got 15 people, who turns into the key person—the key, the one person—when you’ve got 50 people, it frequently doesn’t work, and it’s ugly. I’ve been through it three times, and every time I went through this, the company soared as soon as that person left. And the first time, it was quite upsetting to the whole system and to me personally. But after that, I kind of understand it now. There are times where you have to make the tough decision that what might have worked earlier doesn’t work anymore. Or maybe it never worked great, and you didn’t get it.

Loren Feldman:
In those three situations, how long did you live with it, knowing that you probably should do something, but couldn’t quite get yourself to do it?

Jay Goltz:
In hindsight, that’s easy to say. At the time, did I let it go on too long? Absolutely. I’ve been in lots of business groups over the years. I don’t think I’ve ever met an entrepreneur who didn’t tell me that he or she didn’t wait too long to fire someone who wasn’t working, who wasn’t the right fit. These aren’t necessarily bad people. They just can’t do the job properly. And you’ve tried and you’ve coached them, but they’re the wrong person for the job. Maybe it’s because the job has changed, but in every one of these cases, it went on too long. And in every one of these cases, especially one in particular, you find out things about an hour after they left that you think, “Oh my god. I had no idea this was going on.” And when you get bigger, it gets way easier for that to happen. I got rid of someone, and someone finally revealed to me what was going on. And it was really bad.

Loren Feldman:
What kind of stuff?

Jay Goltz:
“Come to my house and help.” Getting employees to do personal stuff for her. Well, here’s what happened. This will pay it off. I had an employee come back who had been gone for a couple years, and she goes, “Oh, I heard so and so was gone.” I go, “Yeah.” I said, “I’m really sorry about what was going on.” She was, “Oh, yeah. You know what that person used to do to me?” And she would tell me these stories, which I had no idea was going on. And I said, “You know what? I’m really sorry that happened. I just didn’t know what was going on. I wish somebody would have said something.” She walks out. It was on the second floor. She goes downstairs, she walks back up the stairs two minutes later, and she looks me in the eye and she goes, “Jay, I’m really sorry I didn’t say something.” And I said, “You know what? Thank you.” I’m not putting it on her to tell me, but I appreciated the fact she thought about it.

And maybe I’m just not a great manager. You know what? I’ll take full responsibility for this. Again, should have never put this person in that position, was way over their head. And I would say, in all three of these people, they were way over their head. I should have never put them in that position. But I didn’t know what I was doing. I am the first to admit. I’d never worked at another company. I’ve never had any management training. I’ve never been trained by anybody. I’ve never been coached by anybody. I’ve never been mentored. I found people who were really good at something, were loyal, were working hard. And I thought, “Oh, gee, I should put them in charge.” That doesn’t mean that they’ve got the skill set to be in charge.

Jay Goltz:
And just to be clear, the last one of these was 25 years ago. It took me 20 years to figure this out, but I haven’t had one of these in over 20 years, because I finally figured out what being the manager is, which is, I’m really careful before I promote someone into a position. I make sure that they really know what they’re doing.

Loren Feldman:
So I want to ask all three of you about something. It’s a decision that a lot of people obsess over, that I thought one of you might mention, and none of you did. That’s the decision of what to call your business. Dana, let me ask you: You obviously picked the name of your company for a very personal reason, but do you think you made the right call?

Dana White:
I think so, but I have second-guessed it a couple of times.

Loren Feldman:
Tell us where the name comes from.

Dana White:
It’s my grandmother’s name. It’s actually my grandmother’s maiden name. People know her as Paralee Warren, but before she was Paralee Warren, she was Paralee Boyd. I chose that name because I wanted to pay homage to who she was and her entrepreneurial drive before she became a wife and mother. And then I also wanted to include the culture which she had in her home when I knew her as—in the 80’s—as Grandma. One, I chose it because I knew it spoke to the African American market. Paralee is not a name that people go, “What’s that?” It’s an old Southern black name.

But I thought I wanted something simpler. I was going to name it just simply Wash Wrap and Go. But I wanted the name of this business to mean something. And even if it doesn’t mean something to somebody who hears it initially, I want it to mean something. And then also, very personally, when my grandmother died, I was 12 years old, a year after my father died. She was only 54 years old. And I remember thinking, you know, at 12, “54 is old,” but I knew she wasn’t old, old. I knew she wasn’t 80. I just remember feeling that there was so much life of hers not yet lived, and there were so many things that she didn’t do. I wanted not so much for her to live on, but she deserves this platform, because she was wonderful, and she was mine.

So I’m very driven when I hear women on their phone, walking into the salon getting ready to get their hair done saying, “Yeah, I’m walking into Paralee’s.” Or, “Hey, I’m at Paralee Boyd. Let me call you back.” Or, “Where did you get your hair done?” I’ve asked a woman that because I loved her hair. She goes, “Oh, it’s this place in Midtown, Paralee Boyd.” That warms me. The love of a granddaughter to a grandmother, to love her so much to build a national brand in honor of her and what she embodied. But have I had second thoughts? Sure. But no, it’s very personal to me.

Jay Goltz:
You know, you said two things that were very important. One is that you said, “I think so.” Who knows? None of us know for sure what would have happened if we would have named it something else. I mean, you’re guessing. So that’s a smart answer. And two, this gives you so much joy. It’s your business, you can do what you want—even if you would have made some more money. I’m just getting goosebumps hearing how much joy you get.

Dana White:
She and I were very, very close. They called me her fourth daughter. She had just gotten a job right before she died. She never worked before. She worked for the city of Highland Park. She’d just started driving herself. She’d just got her license, and then about a year later, she got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died shortly thereafter. So there was all this life not lived, and you just always wonder… She loved to write, so what would she have done? We’ll never know. But I’ll tell you what, her name will be everywhere.

Loren Feldman:
I love that. Well, let me ask you about that, Dana. You say that you have had second thoughts at times. I’m curious, you kind of had a second chance when you decided to franchise. Did this conversation come up at all with the franchise people? Did they ask about it?

Dana White:
Not at all. Nope. They are so solid. I thought, “I’m gonna have to change my marketing to be more inclusive. I’m going to have to change the name to be less of a tongue-twister for some people.” Not at all. They were very clear from day one when I worked with a strategic implementation person: “One, this is an African American salon for African American women. It’s named Paralee Boyd. You learned Starbucks, you can learn Paralee Boyd.”

Loren Feldman:
All right, Laura. Jimmy Beans Wool.

Laura Zander:
Yeah. Well, now my story is not going to be nearly as good as Dana’s…

Loren Feldman:
We’re not comparing. It’s not a competition.

Laura Zander:
Everything’s a competition. [Laughter] Didn’t we just have this whole conversation?

Loren Feldman:
We did, didn’t we?

Jay Goltz:
And I think we concluded you haven’t come to terms with that yet. We’re still working on that.

Laura Zander:
So when we decided to open this yarn shop 20 years ago…

Loren Feldman:
A brick-and-mortar, neighborhood yarn shop.

Laura Zander:
A brick-and-mortar, neighborhood yarn shop. I had a mentor at the time who had run a yarn shop. She didn’t own it, but she ran a yarn corner in a shop. And this woman was in her 50’s. So I’m in my 20’s at the time, and I really respected [her]. She was no nonsense, no fluff. I just respected everything about her. And so I’m floating names by her, and I’m like—we were on the Truckee River—”Do we call it Truckee River Knits? Do we call it Truckee Yarn Shop? Do we call it Tahoe Knitting? Blah, blah, blah. Or do we call it Jimmy Beans Wool?” And she’s like, “Oooh.”

Loren Feldman:
Wait, you’re gonna have to explain, why did that come up?

Laura Zander:
Yeah. Well, my husband Doug has always called me Jimmy, or pretty much since we met. We were listening to an album one time when we were out climbing by this guy named Todd Snyder. And you know, I grew up in the South, and I’ve had a couple of trailer houses. I bought one in college, and then I lived in one when I was a kid. And so in this song by Todd Snyder—it was called “Doublewide Blues”—the coolest guy in the trailer park is named Jimmy because he has a pool. He has a blue plastic pool on his back deck. In the song, Todd Snyder’s like, “Yeah, he’s cool like Jimmy.” This guy, he wears a white t-shirt with a mustard stain, and I’m always kind of a mess. So Doug started saying that I was cool like Jimmy. And so all of his friends started calling me Jimmy, and blah, blah, blah. So that was my nickname.

And then, at the time, we had also built a website for an espresso cart manufacturer. We decided we were opening a yarn shop-slash-coffee shop. And we actually thought the coffee shop is what was going to work. We didn’t think that yarn was going to work. So the beans was a play to the coffee shop part. And then the wool, obviously, because we had yarn. So when I presented the idea, I’ll never forget standing next to the building that we had chosen. I’m standing right next to the dumpsters with Diane, and I’m like, “Okay, what do you think? Truckee River Knits? Tahoe Knits? Jimmy Beans Wool?” And she’s like, “Ooh, I like that.” And I’m like, “Really?” Because I didn’t expect her to like that at all. I thought she was gonna just think that was ridiculous. So she’s like, “I like it.” And I’m like, “All right, done.” And we just went with it. We ran with it.

Dana White:
That’s a great story.

Laura Zander:
And it has ended up differentiating us from everybody else. Because the other 2,000 yarn shops in the country all have yarn, knitting, a city name.

Jay Goltz:
Or how many stores in the United States are called The Yarn Shop?

Laura Zander:
The Yarn Shop, or Knit and Pearl and blah, blah, blah, which are all great names. eKnitting was our big competitor at the time. It was an ecommerce knitting site. And then yarn.com was our competitor. Another one, I don’t even remember the name. They’re out of business now. But anyway, it ended up really differentiating us. This was right at the beginning of Google Search and YouTube and all this kind of stuff.

It helped us, because we’re not competing with anybody else, and it’s given us a way to build our brand in a way that other shops have not been able to build their brand. So for us, it was huge. And to Dana’s point as well, in terms of going national or going global, we don’t have that kind of localized element. So it’s not Detroit Hair, right? And it’s not Tahoe City blah, blah, blah. And you end up with a shop in North Carolina and people are like, “What is this whole Tahoe thing?” And then you’ve got the storytelling side of it. So if you have nothing else to talk about, at least you can talk about the genesis of your name.

Loren Feldman:
So, Jay, you went a more functional route.

Jay Goltz:
Well, you talked about Google. Loren’s old enough to remember this. There was a pre-Google. It was called Yellow Pages, and the key was to have an “A” name. So Artists Frame Service is an “A” name. I was selling to artists. That’s what I did originally. In college, I started going to all the art fairs, literally with samples in my trunk, showing artists the frames. And then when I graduated, and I decided to actually do—it was called Artists Metal Frame Factory. We were selling metal frames. They were a new invention at the time, the screw-together metal frame. And then when I went into regular framing, my wife suggested, “Call it a service.” So we called it Artists Frame Service. Regularly we get checks written out to Artists Frame Shop, Artists Frame Up, Artists Frame Whatever. Again, I don’t know that that was the smartest name, but it’s worked. Should I have called it Goltz Framing? Maybe, I don’t know. Who knows? But the “A” thing no longer has any relevance because Google doesn’t list things by alphabetical order.

Loren Feldman:
Do you remember considering other names at the time.

Jay Goltz:
The only other name I thought about—I actually remember being in my college dorm room, brainstorming—I thought, “Oh, maybe I’ll call it The Frame Station.” And I was at a trade show, and this guy comes up, and on his badge, the name of his store is The Frame Station. So I said, “You know, I was thinking of calling my store that.” He goes, “Be glad you didn’t.” And he said, “On a weekly basis, I’ll call the customer and say, ‘Hi, it’s Bob from The Frame Station.’” He goes, “‘You’re calling from the train station?’” He goes, “It’s an ongoing problem.” And I’m glad I didn’t.

Laura Zander:
Yeah, well, okay, but I get the Jimmy Dean, like, “Oh, so you sell sausages?”

Jay Goltz:
Oh, Jimmy Dean, yeah. Got it.

Laura Zander:
And then Jim Beam.

Jay Goltz:
You should really sue Jimmy Dean for confusion in the market. See if you can get a cease and desist order.

Loren Feldman:
Or you should sell sausage, have you ever thought about that?

Laura Zander:
Exactly. We could sell bourbon-laced sausage for Jim Beam and Jimmy Dean. Yeah, and I’ll get people—and Dana, I don’t know if you’ve had this experience—but people will call in and they’re like, “Hello, is James there? May I speak with James?”

Dana White:
Oh my god. If one more person calls me and says, “Hi, can I speak with Paralee?” I say, “I’m sorry, she’s deceased.” Oh, it’s hilarious. We’ve had customers come in, “Um, Paralee told me I could pay with a check.” [Laughter]

Jay Goltz:
I get that. I get people going into Jayson Home, and they’ll say, “Oh, I’m friends with Jayson.” And my name is not Jayson, so the second they do that, they’ve been revealed.

Dana White:
It gets even better. I go right along with it. I said, “She did?” “Yes, she is on the usher board with me right there at Second Ebenezer, and I saw her on Sunday. And she told me I could come in here.”

Laura Zander:
You are kidding me!

Dana White:
Oh, they keep going: “My blow and go [said] that I could pay with a check.” I said, “Well, when are you going to see her again?” Oh, “I’ll see her at Wednesday service.” And I said, “Could you do me a favor?” And she said, “Anything.” And I said, “Could you let her know that her granddaughter and her three daughters would love to talk to her, since she’s been dead since 1989?”

Loren Feldman:
Wait, you’re talking to a customer. Do they stay or do they leave after you say that?

Dana White:
The look on their faces. Well, one lady said, “Are you sure?” I said, “Ma’am? I’m positive.” We’ve had Paralee sightings buying carrots in Meijer, which is a grocery store here in Michigan. We’ve had Paralee going to three churches. She said, “Oh, Paralee was there. She’s so proud of you.” I said, “I hope so.”

Jay Goltz:
Oh, man.

Loren Feldman:
We are out of time. My thanks to Jay Goltz, Dana White, and Laura Zander. As always, thanks for sharing, guys.

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