Team

There is virtually no turnover at Catchword. Our team is a tightknit group of creative namers, wordsmiths, linguists and strategists that has worked together for years. Our principals and founders each have over two decades of naming experience and are considered thought leaders in the industry, having published articles and been quoted in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Forbes, Crains, Wired, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Fast Company.

Maria Cypher

Maria Cypher

Principal & Creative Lead

In the heady Bay Area of the mid-90s, as many of her Stanford MBA cohort were launching the first wave of Internet startups, Maria was creating names for them—and she’s never looked back. As Catchword’s co-founder and creative lead, she oversees creative strategy and a crack team of namers. Two decades in, she still thinks naming is the most fun anyone could have at work.

Maria has created names for Starbucks, Fitbit, Wells Fargo, Unilever, Intel, and hundreds of others, causing her to wonder if the Guinness Book has a “most prolific namer” category. Her creative juices are also fired up as lead singer of a local cover band, Highway 13. Maria spent much of her youth in Asia as a foreign-service brat and speaks fluent (er, conversational) Mandarin.

Mark Skoultchi

Mark Skoultchi

Principal & Project Lead

Mark is a veteran naming professional with over 20 years’ experience counseling clients in every aspect of product and company name development. When he’s not steering a client toward a new naming strategy or a final name selection, he enjoys strumming guitars, building websites for friends, and spending quality time with his wife and two kids.

As head of Catchword’s East Coast operations, he’s typically the project lead on all right coast accounts, and recently managed projects for Volkswagen, McDonald’s, Kellogg, and First Alert. He graduated from Brandeis University with a BA in History, and earned his JD from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Go Bills! Actually, he’s not much of a sports fan.

Kristen Pembroke

Kristen Pembroke

Client Services Director

With a career steeped in agency-side branding, Kristen has led successful client engagements in every aspect of brand development. From technology to consumer packaged goods, at previous agencies she has worked on large-scale accounts such as PeopleSoft and Kashi. As client services director at Catchword, Kristen ushers her clients to naming nirvana. Lately, she’s been guiding Target, Roku, Nestle Waters, and Hitachi to that happy place.

In between conference calls, proposals, and creative briefs, Kristen enjoys getting outside in the Oakland sunshine. Kristen received her BA in Journalism with an emphasis in Advertising from the University of Oregon. And yes, thank you, she’s damn proud to walk and talk like a duck.

Erin Milnes

Erin Milnes

Creative Director

Erin has worked in media and communications for more than 20 years but has relished words since she learned to speak (a love affair that’s included French, Spanish, German, Farsi, Latin, and Ancient Greek). After several stints in writerly positions—managing editor of Loyola University Press, freelance copywriter, tech reporter—she discovered the Word Wonderland that is brand naming. Erin has led projects for well-known clients such as Walgreens, HP, Michelin, BIC, and Ørsted (formerly DONG Energy).

Erin earned a BA from St. John’s College in Annapolis and studied voice at New England Conservatory with the vague idea of becoming a linguist-philosopher-poet-musician. Namer is pretty close, since names are in essence very, very short poems. When not creating kickass names, she may be found kayaking with her son or making music with her husband.

Leena Mehta

Leena Mehta

Project Director

Leena spent seven years in brand management at Estée Lauder and Bare Escentuals, so she understands the needs of brand managers firsthand. Whether it is naming initiatives or strategy and architecture projects, she brings her CPG marketing experience to clients like Corning, Healthline, Johnson & Johnson, and Chobani.

She prides herself on her ability to “move things along,” like getting Catchword’s Stress Reduction Specialist to get out of his chair and take a walk (did we mention he’s a dog?). Leena’s a true Bruin—sticking with UCLA
for both her BA in econometrics and her MBA. She is also Catchword’s resident domain-name expert.

Laurel Sutton

Laurel Sutton

Senior Strategist & Linguist

Laurel is a linguist, strategist, and co-founder of Catchword. Her love of language began with a BA in Linguistics at Rutgers University and continued in graduate school at UC Berkeley, where she specialized in both sociolinguistics and phonetics. She enjoys the challenge of working out strategy and architecture issues with repeat clients like Cisco, Plantronics, Corning, and Keysight.

Despite being born and raised in New Jersey, Laurel speaks excellent English, and has studied French, German, Japanese, and ASL. She is an active member of the American Name Society and the Linguistic Society of America, and has served as an expert witness on naming and branding issues.

Doogie

Doogie

Stress Reduction Specialist

A sought-after authority in the Shih-Tzu marketing community, Doogie’s responsibilities include bringing joy to Catchword California, protecting the office from the UPS delivery staff, and testing out furniture and laps for maximum napping comfort.

Although Doogie has no formal education, he brings five years of intense (well, relaxed) on-the-job training to Catchword. His best friend is Romeo, a long-haired Chihuahua who lives in a Chanel bag.

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