By Haddon Libby

A business name is one of the first and most important decisions made by company founders.  A good name helps the company in marketing its goods and services.  Done correctly, the name can become part of the vernacular of society.  Some of the better names include Google, Twitter, Band-Aid and the Rolling Stones.

Some companies succeed despite their names.

Let’s be honest – Ralph’s is an awful name for a food business.  Why would a food business go by this name?  It all goes back to the company’s founding in 1873 in Los Angeles.  George and Walter Ralphs opened their first store that focused on produce.  The business was bought out by Federated Department Stores in 1968 that operated the stores until 1990 when they went bankrupt and were sold Ralph’s to Ron Burkle and the Yucaipa Companies.  Burkle then rebranded his food stores like Alpha Beta, Boys and ABC to the Ralph’s name.  Fred Meyer bought the company in 1997 and merged the company into Kroger one year later.  Kroger sales are more than $150 billion annually.


With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.  That is the slogan the company has used for decades in selling its jams and jellies.  Like Ralphs, J.M Smuckers Company was founded by its namesake, Jerome Monroe Smucker, in 1897 in Ohio. Originally selling apple butter from his farm, he expanded into cider before adding jams and jellies.   Those first products came from the seeds of trees planted by Johnny Appleseed.   It took until 1940 for the company to post its first year with sales of more than $1 million.  Today the company has annual sales of $8.5 billion and is run by Mark Smuckers.

Johnny Appleseed is an actual person who lived from 1774 to 1845 and was one of the first nurserymen in the United States.  His birth name is John Chapman.

Crabtree & Evelyn may not be a naming fail like the other two yet is is a unique name.  Who would think of putting a woman’s name and a fruit tree together?  This company began in 1955 in Cambridge, Massachusetts with the name The Soap Box.  The owner of Janus Films, Cyrus Harvey, met with British designer Peter Windett in 1971 and adopted the new name.  At this point, the company opened a stand at Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston.  The name was inspired by using the last name of 17th century land conservationist John Evelyn.  The crabtree part of the name was a reference to the British crabtree or ‘wild apple’ which is considered a beautiful tree with its fruit used in homeopathic medicines.  The founders sold out to a Kuala Lumpur-based group in 1996 only to be declared bankrupt 13 years later.   The company was then sold to a Hong Kong-based investment group who held the company until 2016 when it was sold Nan Hai Corporation of Hong Kong.  At that point, all US production was halted and moved to China.  Today the company earns $400 million in sales annually.

If you have travelled through the south, you have likely visited Kum n Go, a 400 strong chain of convenience stores in 13 states.  With a name that sounds like a urologic practice, the company got its start in 1959.  Founded by William Krause and Tony Gentle, owners of the Krause Group, family members still control and run the conglomerate.  The Kum n Go name was establish in 1975 as a unifying name for a number of convenience stores.  The name used the first initials of its founders when creating the wordplay on Come and Go.  Just last year, FJ Management, the owners of the Maverik chain of gas/convenient stores, bought the brand and stated that Kum n Go name would be fully retired by 2025.

Haddon Libby is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Winslow Drake Investment Management.  For more information on our services, please visit