What's in a Name?
When I began my career as a motivational speaker in my twenties, I wanted something cool and fun. I tried many things. First, it was just my name, Michelle Neujahr. Then it became Awesomely Speaking, which totally fell flat. And then I spent a while as the Neujahr Development Company, but people thought I was in land development. As my business transitioned from primarily speaking to mostly consulting, I changed the name again to The Business Renovation Company. I chose this name because my husband and I owned a construction company specializing in renovations and I love what the word renovation means—to refresh, reinvigorate and make new. But people just didn’t get it. They thought I was a construction company. And no matter what name I chose for my business, clients still just knew me by my actual name: Michelle Neujahr. Unfortunately, it’s also a name no one can easily pronounce or spell.
Last January I hired The Brand Collective to re-brand my business. I knew I needed a new look—something that spoke to who I am and the work I do for my clients—but I was afraid.
Afraid I wouldn’t like the brand, that they wouldn’t be able to capture the work I do, or afraid that I would land on something I’d just have to change again in five years.
I moved forward despite the fear, and I’m so glad I did. The work I’ve done with The Brand Collective this past year has forced me to grow, clarify what I do, and embrace one of the things I love most about being me—my last name!
When I married the love of my life almost 28 years ago, I got a new name. I became Michelle Neujahr. Neujahr means “New Year” in German. I LOVE the name mostly because I’m wildly in love with my husband, but also because his family takes great pride in their last name. It means something special to be a Neujahr.
As our family grew, we passed on what it means to be a Neujahr to our kids. From the time they were little we “owned” New Year’s Eve as our holiday. We made a big deal about it and celebrated in style with fancy fondue and an annual family “goal board.” We hung the board proudly in our entryway for the entire year. Although our children are now grown and have traditions of their own, the goals we achieved and the boards we created are proudly documented in a family scrapbook.
Another thing we did when our kids were little was to create a list of absolutes. These were our values—the things we stood for. Some of the things that made the Neujahr Family Absolute List were: your siblings are your best friends, lying is not an option, and be respectful. This list hung in our entryway as well, defining what it meant to be a Neujahr. When the kids were teenagers and they would leave the house, we would yell out, “Remember…” And they would answer, “I know, I’m a Neujahr.”
However, the problem with having Neujahr for a last name is that no one can spell it or pronounce it. Over the years it’s been mangled many different ways. I would tell people it’s “N U – Y A R.” If I spelled it that way, they could pronounce it.
Being a business owner with a challenging last name, but being primarily been branded by it, made contacting me or discovering me very difficult for current and potential clients. People couldn’t Google me, always pronounced my name wrong (even after having worked with me for years), and seemed to misspell it constantly.
When The Brand Collective first came to me with the business name “nu•yar” and the tagline “The Act of Business Growth” I was a bit taken aback. I loved the look immediately. The tagline was perfect. The idea of people being able to pronounce my last name was awesome. I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of naming my business after the phonetic spelling of my last name, as now people would never spell it right. I was also afraid my family might not like it and that other people might not get it.
Yet, I agreed to take the time to sit with it. As I was sitting with it, I had four or five longtime clients ask me how to pronounce my last name. I was introduced incorrectly at an event, and I even had one client tell me she just mumbled whenever she said my last name because she couldn’t even remember how to pronounce it. This all confirmed to me that I was moving in the right direction with the new name. I began to really like it and the phonetic spelling. It grew on me and I realized—they were right about the new name. Nu•yar is how you pronounce my last name, and nu•yar is a verb—it’s about action and new beginnings.
Hence, late last year, “nu•yar: The Act of Business Growth” was born. Since then we have worked hard to get ready for the big launch.
After more than a year of hard work, I’m incredibly excited to announce my new company name: nu•yar!
I am so very proud of my new brand and all it stands for. Both the pride of my family and our past, as well as what the future holds for us. Most importantly, I’m more committed than ever to helping my clients take action toward the growth and clarity of their own businesses.