What’s in a name? Well anyone in the start-up world can tell you - quite a lot. When we decided to develop a women’s health platform, coming up with the name was one of the first things we did. After going through a number of different options, we landed on Sophia Health. It was named after Sophia Jex Blake, an amazingly inspirational pioneer in the right for women to study medicine. We thought we’d nailed it. Perfect backstory, the URL sophiahealth.co.uk was available, no obvious UK competition for the name and we liked how it sounded. We bought the URL, registered the company and we were off.
Search Results and Trademark Issues
A few months went by before the issues with the name started to come up. We started to get feedback that people were confused by us and a few websites in the US, Sofia Health and Sophia Health Institute. While they were offering something very different, they were in the health space and came up when people googled us. While this was annoying, we thought it was something we could overcome in time. However, both sites made strong design improvements and we started to realise we’d underestimated their threat to our brand recognition.
Then, after some advice from our new legal team, we did a trademark search. We discovered that Sophia Health was in the process of being trademarked by a Swedish organisation. To move forward with a company called Sophia Health would then be risky and might put off potential investors. The two blows were too much and we started to realise that while we loved the story behind Sophia Health, it might not be the best name for our business.
This was a pretty hard blow for me, as the “business expert” on the team. I had come up with the name Sophia Health and pushed to quickly register the business, set up the website, and even start going on social media. I felt I should have known better and I still can’t believe I’d underestimated the branding and marketing impact of so many other businesses with the same name. I felt like I’d let the business down before we even started.
But then I realised this is what having a lean-agile start-up is all about. Making decisive decisions, pushing forward with small initial stages, learning from mistakes, and pivoting quickly. And now was the time to let go of something when it was still early enough to not do much damage. As far as mistakes go, this one was something we could live with.
It helped that I had a supportive co-founder who didn’t get frustrated or upset, but rather accepted the situation and encouraged us to move forward with positive energy and enthusiasm. While the name Sophia Health didn't work out, it was a great first test for our co-founder relationship and one I’m happy we passed with flying colours. It's also been an important lesson for me to learn personally. I've always struggled with the idea that "failing" is OK when you are trying to push boundaries. This small early setback has reminded me, not everything will go to plan and as a founder, I need to be ready to change and adjust to make the business work.
Enter Kensa Health
So we went back to name research and obsessive WhatsApp messages at 11:30 at night. Company names were once again haunting my dreams. We played with evolutions of Sophia Health like She (Sophia Health Empowerment) Sheia (Sophia health education, information and advice) but those didn’t really work. It also felt like we were holding on a bit too tight to a name to the detriment of the business. We explored other inspirational women’s names like Cassie for Rose’s great aunt who worked in healthcare and a few Greek Goddesses and women from history. But none gave us the much-needed brand connection and uniqueness we needed.
Then, as a lot of Cornish companies do, we looked to the Cornish language for inspiration. This is where we discovered Kensa, which means first in Cornish. Immediately we thought of the tagline “putting women’s health first” and it felt like we had a winner. While we are not building something just for Cornish women, we are very proud to be based in Cornwall and are happy to celebrate the company’s heritage. Kensa Health was also trademark and URL clean. So here we go again.
I am sure, like many other startups, we will take more wrong turns and make more mistakes. But we now know that we can work together as a team to learn, piviot, and move forward to better things.