By Mary Jurek & Piera Klein
They say a picture tells a thousand stories, but a name can do the same. As many entrepreneurs can attest, deciding on a name for a business is no easy undertaking. One with pizzazz can make a new company immediately grab attention; one that misses the mark can make a burgeoning start-up roll over and fizzle. The problem is that there is no magic bullet to picking the best name. Business monikers run the gamut, from straightforward clear-cut names that summarize the company’s offerings to so-called “empty-vessel” names that have no apparent association to the product or service. In the latter, the name creates its own meaning over time, and with luck, it hits the right note and becomes inextricably carved into your memory. Finding the right name is a process that requires many long hours of brainstorming.
In my experience, the most sure-fire method is to rely on associative thinking. By jotting down a list of names, loosely related terms, historical or ancient references, this exercise is a process that seems to navigate the path best for me. The list falls into patterns and eventually a term or phrase conjures up a good concept. In the end, the most successful names are the ones that are easy to say and spell and effortlessly summon up an image or meaning that can last as the business grows.
Folktales always tell a great story and play a vivid role in liberating the imagination. They teach lessons between right and wrong, how to share and why trust is important. These tales lead us toward a belief in something that, if it were not also veiled in a mystery, common sense alone would affirm: if there is a story there must surely also be a story-teller. All in all, they offer guideposts for life. So why not use these tales to tell the story of your business?
In this photo: The Fisherman’s Wife, Wilmington NC
We know of a store that did just that. Owner, Estelle Baker, plucked a name from Grimm’s folklore and hung the shingle above her door. This beachside establishment had a purpose when it was founded and its moniker tells a tale of a woman’s unfilled longings. Musing on the wisdom and ethics of the fairy tale, The Fisherman’s Wife, Wilmington, NC established itself as a purveyor of fine tabletop wares, gifts and artwork. The title stirs one’s curiosity and we are anxious to know more details.
Piera Klein: Tell us about how you started your business and how the early years’ strategies established your foundation for long-term success.
Estelle Baker: Perhaps preparing to hit the half century mark in my life was the catalyst or at least part of it. Perhaps the offer of a retail space by my husband was, or even perhaps the “thrill” of a new adventure – all of these are reasons which led to my jumping into retail.
Honestly, I don’t think I really had any early years’ strategies! Hard work and a hard head define me and owning a gift shop sounded quite exciting to me. Over the years I have been so blessed – my staff is incredible, opportunities seem to be everywhere and I do have a gift of seeing the positive in most situations. It probably helps that I am a little bit “off the page” too – often laughing at myself and not taking everything so seriously.
Piera Klein: Folklore tales are great symbolic stories in everyone’s life and carry along a great deal of romanticism. How did you come to select the name The Fisherman’s Wife and how does that story resonate with you?
Estelle Baker: The truth is that while I love the fairy tale about “The Fisherman” and “his Wife” it really did not enter my mind when I was casting about for a name for my shop! It occurred to me that the shop needed an interesting name and one which in some way might give a prospective customer an idea of what we sold. I remember sitting down at my desk and going through a very short process which led to “The Fisherman’s Wife” becoming our name. My husband whom I have known for over 50 years has a real passion for fishing. He has fished for and caught almost every fish he has ever dreamed of catching – with one exception which is a black marlin. If we could, we would fly to Australia to pursue that elusive giant! The irony is that I am not a fisherman – I have an amazing propensity to become sea sick. Offshore fishing is not an option for me. My thought was that even the wife of a fisherman can “catch” something without going to sea, so I have my very own “cache” of treasures. I truly feel blessed to discover an avocation which I love!
Piera Klein: So you selected a strong name with a story, one that is unforgettable. But a business cannot rely solely on its moniker. The continuous business challenge is to deliver a shopping experience that is also unforgettable and stands out from the crowd. What is your blueprint in providing that to your customers?
Estelle Baker: Fortunately I have had incredible and talented people which I’ve encountered over this exciting journey. Many of my ideas and inspirations are not solely mine. Vendors who have become trusted friends, artists who are generous in sharing exciting creations, local business folks who have become successful and of course my wonderful cohorts at work and my supportive family all have had a hand (or two!) in guiding me.
In this photo: The Fisherman’s Wife staff
Years ago I decided to buy only what I love. My reasoning was that if it didn’t sell I could take it home! (And I have taken a few things home!) I have learned to really listen to the loyal customers who continue to shop with me – they always tell me what they want – I only have to listen and follow through! Going to market, meeting with a rep or listening to a friend who all share what they’ve heard about, seen or purchased is a huge incentive for me to find the product, showcase it in an appealing manner and share the great news with our friends! It is all about the challenge and the thrill of the hunt! A successful shopping experience is a very exciting event which I can share with our staff and customers!
Piera Klein: Wilmington NC is a scenic and wonderful summer vacation destination that boasts an abundance of natural beauty and seaside attractions. You have seasonal shoppers as well as a strong local customer base. How do you navigate the trends, stay tuned into the economy, and offer exciting products while remaining on even course with your core business plan?
Estelle Baker: My “core business plan” is probably not a sound business practice but it is what works for me. I always listen to my customer, my staff and my vendors – they are priceless to me and I do count on them. Bottom line is that I really love what I do, am excited about changes and completely trust my “Fishy Friends”!
Piera Klein: Being a member of your seaside community with seasonal customers as well as local shoppers poses different kinds of marketing efforts. What is your best and most efficient way to stay in touch with consumers? Is technology a growing part of that effort?
Estelle Baker: People really aren’t so different – whether they come to our area once a year, part of the year or live here they really are not that different. Our customers expect and receive fun, exciting and functional products, which are creatively displayed, beautifully wrapped and reasonably priced. We provide all of that and more with a sincere smile and a genuine thank you.
Behind the scenes technology is extremely vital. Whether we are contacting a vendor to access availability, responding to an email inquiry, posting a new product’s arrival on Facebook or researching an idea online, technology is a real asset for us in making a more efficient connection with our friends.
Piera Klein: After many great years of creating a successful retail business that offers consumers extraordinary and unique products, what wisdom can you offer to a young entrepreneur who would like to open a retail store?
Estelle Baker: I would say follow your heart, use every opportunity, never forget that your customer is “top dog”, always say “Thank you”, smile and never forget where you came from. Retail is an incredible way to make a living and your customer really is the “star of the show.” You may not make piles of money but make sure that you always do the right thing – even if costs you – you won’t regret that decision! And last but not least – enjoy every minute – you are one blessed person!!
Following her heart, showcasing her impeccable sense of style, and truly caring for her customers has The Fisherman’s Wife owner, Estelle Baker, sailing the high seas. Her shop stands out heads above the rest, and is a must-see for treasure hunters when visiting Wilmington, North Caronlina.
For more information on this lovely shop, please visit: www.thefishermanswife.com
The Fisherman’s Wife
1425 Historic Airlie Road
Wilmington, NC 28403
Tel: (910) 256-5505
Estelle Baker, Owner
Photo: Piera Klein, editor Design-Connect
Mary Jurek Design