How Urban Dictionary Helped Us Name Our Startup

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One of our “How to” PITCH finalists shares what’s it’s like behind-the-scenes at her growing startup Cheddar Up, a website that makes collecting money easy (and fun).

By Nichole Montoya (Co-founder & CEO, Cheddar Up)

What’s in a name?

A lot of 3 a.m. epiphanies and, in our case, the Urban Dictionary.

One of my favorite questions is “Why cheddar?” (The second one is, “So how do you make money?” But that’s for another post and investment round.)

Every time she hears me Iowa’splain that “cheddar” is slang for money, my co-founder Molly (who hails from Nebraska, mind you) can’t keep a straight face. There is just something about two moms, handing out cheese cubes and company flyers at a school carnival that doesn’t scream Jay-Z.

So why Cheddar Up? Because settleup.com was taken.

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Three months after sparking the idea for our company, we still had no name. Odd because like most moms I know, nothing is more addictive than ruminating on the perfect name. This site had become our baby and by God, it was going to get straight As and have a name that opened doors.

Our beloved whiteboard was covered with words associated with money – slang, song lyrics, movie titles, cartoons playing in the background when the kids were out of school….  Then came the list of random words that meant absolutely nothing, followed by my favorite, combining two words to form a nonsense word (hey, it worked for Pinterest). We saved some time by skipping the –ly and –ify suffixes, because we didn’t want to be forever branded as a startup. Any entrepreneurs can likely relate to this story.

Why was this such a painful exercise? Because it was a big deal – it was our NAME, the first step to building our brand. And, there were a lot of things to consider:

  1. Can we trademark it?
  2. Is the URL available?
  3. Is it memorable?
  4. Is it brandable?
  5. Are there any negative associations?
  6. Does it work with our target demographic?
  7. Is it boring?
  8. Does it feel right (gut check)?

Finding a name that qualifies on all of these fronts? That’s an almost impossible task that comically would resolve itself at 3 a.m. when lightning would strike only to sound ridiculous in the morning light (www.dinerowe.com anyone?).

In the end, we had several candidates. And we also received quotes to purchases URLs for upwards of $25,000. “Settle-Up” made the final cut, but the dash seemed desperate and we later learned that Wells Fargo had the trademark. I contacted their legal department to see if they’d be willing to relinquish it. No dice. (Shocker).

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$12.99

Chalk one up for the spouse. “Oh, I thought of a name for your company.” I asked what it was, my voice lacking any excitement and riddled with doubt (a “good luck – give it up, buddy,” hidden in there somewhere).

“Cheddar Up,” he declared proudly and confidently.

“What?” I said.

“Cheddar Up,” he repeated.

“I don’t get it,” I replied.

“Cheddar – it’s slang for money,” he said.

I told him he was crazy. He went on to try to convince me that it did in fact mean money. I stood my ground. So he put his phone on speaker and called our nephew – a 27-year-old hipster who lives in the city and works for the Colorado Rockies — someone who is way more plugged in than a couple of middle-aged parents.

The conversation went something like this:

Anthony: “Hey Rub, what does ‘cheddar’ mean?

Reuben:  “Money.”

No hesitation. No, “Do you mean the cheese or the money?”  The first word out of his mouth was money. Urbandictionary.com confirmed the findings. All I could think about the rest of the evening was that name. Was it just different enough? Just memorable enough? And, how funny is a flying cheese cube? The icing on the cake was the available URL – cost $12.99.

Done!

Go ahead. Use it as a verb the next time you’re on the soccer sidelines and somebody asks how they can pay you for the group coach gift. “No worries,” you’ll say. “We’ll just Cheddar Up”. ‘Cuz that’s how you roll.

This post originally appeared on the Cheddar Up blog.


About the guest blogger: Nichole Montoya is co-founder and CEO of Cheddar Up, a website that makes collecting money easy (and fun). She has 15 years of experience helping to grow and build businesses. Prior to founding Cheddar Up, Nichole served as a marketing strategist for the past eight years, helping firms grow their brands and reinvent themselves. Cheddar Up was a Women 2.0 PITCH finalist at How To San Francisco.