138 days. My first small business venture, which I have dreamed of for as long as I can remember, survived exactly 138 days.

The advice you’re going to get when you start a business ranges everywhere from “find a strong mentor in your field” to “make sure you remember to shower every morning like a real job.” We’re told to expect the unexpected and prepare for the unknown.

Well, thanks for the super frustrating advice…but we can’t! By definition it’s not what we expect, it’s not something known. Starting a business teaches you very quickly how much you don’t know. But it also makes you that much smarter the next time around.

My first tough lesson came over a misunderstanding trademark law. I learned the hard way that after investing a lot of time and effort into creating a brand around Agora Inbound that there was another company that had already claimed a similar trademark. I had gone through the whole process to secure the LLC in Virginia, buy the domain and claim the social media profiles. I opened the bank account, acquired my Employer ID number, and got a company credit card. I had designed a logo, established a brand story, and traveled to conferences. I had no idea there was a potential conflict until one day, almost as an afterthought, I checked the US Patent & Trademark Office website. Ruh roh…

agora trademark

Once I realized this name was potentially problematic I reached out to Erik Pelton, an experienced trademark attorney in Virginia, who was able to see that Agora Inbound, LLC, if I continued to operate under that name, would be at risk for trademark infringement. Things are off to a promising start for the rookie entrepreneur.

Obviously, I took down the site and removed the logo from any social profiles. Agora Inbound was done. I was pretty crushed but Anne was a saint through many nights of the ever popular one-man pity party. It was hard for me to see any other name meaning as much to me as Agora did, even when Anne was the first to suggest the new brand on a walk through Great Falls National Park.

So to any aspiring entrepreneurs out there, the unexpected and unknown advice I wish I had listened to is simple: good legal advice is worth the investment. The only reason I even knew to consult Erik was because Anne is a lawyer and thought to check the USPTO. Now I know it’s the very first thing you do before you invest any resources into developing the brand. It was a tough lesson but one that I’m confident has brought me to an even stronger position than before.

So goodbye Agora Inbound, we had a helluva run. In the spirit of evolving with the times, I’m proud to officially announce that I’ll be continuing to grow the business under our new name: Knucklepuck. The trademark application is in progress (takes about a year in total) but we’re confident this can be the brand we build on for years to come. Keep an eye out as we’ll be moving into an office space before the end of the year and our first employee will be starting in January.

Onward to bigger and better challenges!


2 Responses to RIP Agora Inbound (June ’14 – Oct ’14)

  1. Geeta says:

    Hi Brett,
    I’ve been following your blog for as long as I’ve been keen on digital communications. I recently started my own freelance firm in Europe (which is where I have been living for the past 5 years). Paperwork and patent is a completely different ball game, not to mention in 2 different languages.
    Looking forward to seeing Knucklepack media blossom and thanks for all the resources you have helped me with over the years.

    From a grey luxembourg,

  2. BrettASnyder says:

    Thanks for such kind words, Geeta! It’s wonderful to hear these resources have helped you over the years.

    I intend to use this blog even more moving forward to share my experiences launching and growing a digital marketing business, is there anything in particular you’d be interested in seeing me write about?

    Very best of luck with your firm as well!

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