Just because a company's name implies that it's situated on the prairie is no reason to look for it there. Hardly immersed in amber waves of grain are Prairie City Bakery (#396) and PrairieComm (#25).
The bakery, which produces frozen, thaw-and-sell confections, is located in the Chicago suburb of Vernon Hills, although it may have been a tad closer to the sod when it was started, seven years ago, in nearby Libertyville. No matter the location, Prairie City CEO William Skeens says that the name captures the idea of "wheat and goodness," which, he says, is what the prairie and the company are all about.
And PrairieComm, a maker of cellular-telephone chips, owes its name not to its location, in Rolling Meadows, Ill., northwest of Chicago, but to founder John Diehl's fondness for Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie School of architecture.
Swords, lords, and magical spells are rarely the stuff of company names. That didn't deter Kenneth Wolf, who was resolved to find a name for his New York City- based software company that would distinguish it from the bland, business-descriptive monikers so many companies pick. "They all sound the same, and we didn't want to get lost in the shuffle," Wolf says. He and his cofounder, Dan Bernatchez, settled on Revelwood, which alludes to one of their favorite series of novels, the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson.
As Wolf describes it, the fictional Revelwood is a village in the trees where characters study the knowledge and lore of the land. Since Revelwood the company (#344) fosters "knowledge acquisition" -- its software helps companies gather business intelligence -- Wolf boasts that the name fits it perfectly. He's no less ebullient in describing the name's effect on his customers. "They found the concept and the story so neat that they went off and bought the book," he says.
Ye Olde Lore
Their business is ultramodern, but the names of Tara Software (#218) and Betah Associates (#256) hark back to ancient traditions. Tara refers to Ireland's Hill of Tara, the historical seat of Irish kings. As legend has it, the king's men would critique craftsmen who were on their way to Tara, allowing only the best of them to reach the top of the hill and display their wares. Roger Mills, Tara Software's CEO and an Irish citizen, says the name evokes the idealistic work environment that his company embodies. And in dubbing her communications-consulting company Betah Associates, Wilhelmina Bell-Taylor hoped to convey a feeling of trustworthiness to her customers. Betah, a Hebrew term derived from the Old Testament, means trust and confidence.
Dogged about Pups
No one would think for a moment that Don Mayer is indifferent toward his Pomeranians. Two of them, Imelda and Fan Tail Shrimp, frolic about the headquarters of his company, Small Dog Electronics (#217), in Waitsfield, Vt. Indeed, the very name of the online seller of discontinued, used, and refurbished Apple products is in honor of two other Pomeranians that Mayer used to own. The company's Web site, www.smalldog.com, is hooked up to video cameras so that Mayer can relay images of Imelda and Fan Tail Shrimp to his customers all day long.
Smalldog.com serves, moreover, as sort of a canine gallery for customers, who can have photos of their own prized pooches posted on the site. "Dog lovers tend to like other dog lovers," Mayer notes. His love extends to his employees' dogs, which he allows to loll about the office with Imelda and Fan Tail Shrimp.
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