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What do you do when your business has "ISIS" in its name?

“I had the name first.”

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN the company you spent years planning and building suddenly has the same name as the world’s most despised organisation?

That was the dilemma faced by two Irish businesses this year, after the group calling itself the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) began to dominate global headlines.

A Rose by any other name

isisrosechange Source: Ciara Donlon

In July 2013, Ciara Donlon named her start-up company – which designs lingerie for women recovering from breast surgery – after two symbols of “female strength.”

“Isis Rose” came from Isis – the Egyptian goddess – and Rose, her beloved grandmother, who had survived a double mastectomy, she tells TheJournal.ie.

When ISIS began to hit the headlines for their war in Iraq and Syria, and a series of horrific beheadings, her reaction was:  ”This is incredibly bad luck.”

At first it was a point of principle for me – why should I change my name?
I enjoyed the irony of ISIS being associated with the kind of female strength that Isis Rose represents.

ciara Ciara Donlon, CEO of Theya Lingerie Source: Dee Organ Photography

Donlon, who worked in corporate sales and marketing for 15 years before starting her own business, had already set up a domain name, email signatures, and a logo for Isis Rose, in preparation for its launch.

I could have just gone ahead with it, and taken the risk there would be a negative reaction to the name, or I could take the hit now, and change all the branding.

In the end, Donlon decided to take the hit, especially after meetings with major prospective buyers, where the name was an issue.

She says the changeover cost her “a few thousand euros”, although the impact could have been much worse, if she had already started taking online orders under the Isis Rose brand.

rose Rose Donlon - the symbol of female strength who inspired the company name. Source: Ciara Donlon

And so, Theya Lingerie was born.

“I kept the goddess, and kept the rose in the logo,” she says.

On the company website, she explains the name of the company:

In Greek mythology, Theia, also called Euryphaessa, “wide-shining”, is a Titaness. The name Theia means simply “goddess” or “divine”.
Our graphic element of a stylised rose is a beautiful flower, and Rose was the name of Ciara’s paternal grandmother who survived a double mastectomy.
The brand has been named in honour of her strength.

Theya Lingerie will begin filling orders for post-surgery lingerie in December. Donlon is keeping her fingers crossed:

If a terrorist group somewhere starts calling itself “Theya”, it won’t even be funny.

‘I had the name first’

ISIS_logo_Final_CMYK Source: Damien Munroe

Three years ago, Damien Munroe called his industrial software company ISIS Automation “because it was catchy.”

It actually stands for “Industrial System Integration and Solutions for Automation.”

“We write programs for the manufacturing industry,” explains Munroe, who is the Director of the Roscrea company.

When the terrorist organisation – which is increasingly labelled “the Islamic State group” or IS – dominated the news agenda in recent months, Munroe was none too pleased.

When you run a business, there are so many different things to deal with, and your brand is just one of them.
But it’s something that you nurture and develop over years, and you don’t expect it to be misconstrued in this way, or for there to be any possibility of any association with that kind of activity.

20141018_121607 Damien Munroe, Director of ISIS Automation Source: Damien Munroe

Munroe confesses that since the group became so well-known, and so hated, he has insisted on using his company’s full name – adding the “Automation” after the “ISIS” in emails and in conversation.

The Tipperary company recently signed an exclusive European distribution agreement with the Connecticut-based Control Station, Inc.

The issue of the name did come up in negotiations, says Munroe, but ultimately – even with the particularly sensitive American public to consider – it didn’t prevent the awarding of the contract.

All in all, he says, the emergence of the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq hasn’t really done damage to Industrial System Integration and Solutions.

When people see us at trade shows, they might say “Oh, well that’s unfortunate.”
But it’s more jovial than anything else, and it can actually be a conversation starter.

And anyway, he adds – “I had the name first.”

Read: Irish startups can ride the wave of a ‘real tech boom’>

Explainer: What is happening with the Islamic State group?>

About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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