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
  • Mark Skoultchi
    Mark Skoultchi
    Principal & Project Lead
  • Kristen Pembroke
    Kristen Pembroke
    Client Services Director
  • Erin Milnes
    Erin Milnes
    Creative Director
  • Laurel Sutton
    Laurel Sutton
    Senior Strategist & Linguist
  • Leena Mehta
    Leena Mehta
    Project Director
  • Doogie
    Doogie
    Stress Reduction Specialist
Maria Cypher
Principal & Creative Lead

Hometown:  Washington, D.C.
Favorite Catchword names:  Javiva, Asana, Shomi
Favorite band names:  Roxy Music, Thompson Twins, Highway 13
Word I overuse:  Wow
I wish I’d named:  Tesla, Google
Creative inspirations:  Reading a little about a lot, singing
Perfect happiness is:  Family time on Kaanapali Beach
Personal motto:  Do what you love and give it your all

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, Wells Fargo, Gap, Fitbit, Microsoft, 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
Principal & Project Lead

Hometown:  Larchmont, NY
Favorite Catchword names:  Dash, Vudu, Mochidoki
Favorite band names:  AC/DC, Brand New Heavies, Trigger Hippy
Word I overuse: Indubitably (actually, it’s Actually)
I wish I’d named:  Starbucks, Twitter, Oreo
Creative inspirations:  Music and the natural world
Perfect happiness is: Operational landing gear
Personal motto:  We’re all in this together

Mark is a veteran naming professional with 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, ETS, Marsh Clearsight, and Raritan. 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
Client Services Director

Hometown:  Oakland, CA
Favorite Catchword names:  Javiva, Vudu, Dash
Favorite band names:  Blackalicious, Portishead, L7
Word I overuse:  Hecka
I wish I’d named:  Beats by Dre, Pixar
Creative inspirations:  Music and color
Perfect happiness is:  Runner’s high
Personal motto: Always planning, planning all ways

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 Peet’s, Intel, AMC Networks, 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
Creative Director

Hometown:  New Chiciscoakland
Favorite Catchword names:  Dreamery, Race to Nowhere, Promptu
Favorite band names:  X, Devo, Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem
Word I overuse:  #*&@%!
I wish I’d named:  Nest, Zippo, Walkman, Southern Comfort
Creative inspirations:  Ocean, forest, sky, the genius of others
Perfect happiness is:  Recognizing a kindred spirit
Personal motto:  The readiness is all

Erin has worked in media and communications for more than 20 years, but she’s relished words since she learned to speak. After stints in various writerly positions—managing editor of Loyola University Press, freelance copywriter, tech reporter—she discovered the Word Wonderland that is naming. She’s had the distinct pleasure of indulging her language geekery to help clients like Chevron, Intel, Corning, and NSF International successfully express their brand through kickass names.

Erin’s love affair with language has included French, Spanish, German, Ancient Greek, and Farsi. She earned a BA from St. John’s College (the “Great Books School”) and studied voice at New England Conservatory with the vague idea of becoming a linguist-philosopher-poet-musician. (Hmm … is there a name for that?)

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.

Hometown:  Flavortown
Favorite Catchword name:  Asana
Favorite band name:  Spial Tap
Word I overuse:  FYI
I wish I’d named:  Twitter
Creative inspiration:  William Shatner
Idea of perfect happiness:  Sunshine & cuba libres (Diet Coke)
Personal motto:  Excelsior!

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.

Hometown:  Northridge, CA
Favorite Catchword names:  Crazy 8, Asana
Favorite band names:  Wham!, 10,000 Maniacs, De La Soul
Word I overuse:  Lunatic
I wish I’d named:  Cuties, Anew
Creative inspirations:  Throwing pottery on the wheel
Perfect happiness is: Chaotic fun with my Big Fat Indian Family
Personal motto:  Trust, but verify

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.

Hometown:  Bakersfield, CA
Favorite Catchword names:  Race to Nowhere, Sunbird
Favorite band names:  Pussy Cat Dolls, Snoop Doggy Dog
Word I overuse:  Woof
I wish I’d named:  Pup-peroni, Taste of the Wild
Creative inspirations:  Long walks at the lake, chasing squirrels
Perfect happiness is:  A long, indulgent neck rub
Personal motto:  Sleeping is not time wasting

  • Maria Cypher
    Maria Cypher
    Principal & Creative Lead
  • Mark Skoultchi
    Mark Skoultchi
    Principal & Project Lead
  • Kristen Pembroke
    Kristen Pembroke
    Client Services Director
  • Erin Milnes
    Erin Milnes
    Creative Director
  • Laurel Sutton
    Laurel Sutton
    Senior Strategist & Linguist
  • Leena Mehta
    Leena Mehta
    Project Director
  • Doogie
    Doogie
    Stress Reduction Specialist
Maria Cypher
Principal & Creative Lead

Hometown:  Washington, D.C.
Favorite Catchword names:  Javiva, Asana, Shomi
Favorite band names:  Roxy Music, Thompson Twins, Highway 13
Word I overuse:  Wow
I wish I’d named:  Tesla, Google
Creative inspirations:  Reading a little about a lot, singing
Perfect happiness is:  Family time on Kaanapali Beach
Personal motto:  Do what you love and give it your all

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, Wells Fargo, Gap, Fitbit, Microsoft, 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
Principal & Project Lead

Hometown:  Larchmont, NY
Favorite Catchword names:  Dash, Vudu, Mochidoki
Favorite band names:  AC/DC, Brand New Heavies, Trigger Hippy
Word I overuse: Indubitably (actually, it’s Actually)
I wish I’d named:  Starbucks, Twitter, Oreo
Creative inspirations:  Music and the natural world
Perfect happiness is: Operational landing gear
Personal motto:  We’re all in this together

Mark is a veteran naming professional with 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, ETS, Marsh Clearsight, and Raritan. 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
Client Services Director

Hometown:  Oakland, CA
Favorite Catchword names:  Javiva, Vudu, Dash
Favorite band names:  Blackalicious, Portishead, L7
Word I overuse:  Hecka
I wish I’d named:  Beats by Dre, Pixar
Creative inspirations:  Music and color
Perfect happiness is:  Runner’s high
Personal motto: Always planning, planning all ways

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 Peet’s, Intel, AMC Networks, 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
Creative Director

Hometown:  New Chiciscoakland
Favorite Catchword names:  Dreamery, Race to Nowhere, Promptu
Favorite band names:  X, Devo, Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem
Word I overuse:  #*&@%!
I wish I’d named:  Nest, Zippo, Walkman, Southern Comfort
Creative inspirations:  Ocean, forest, sky, the genius of others
Perfect happiness is:  Recognizing a kindred spirit
Personal motto:  The readiness is all

Erin has worked in media and communications for more than 20 years, but she’s relished words since she learned to speak. After stints in various writerly positions—managing editor of Loyola University Press, freelance copywriter, tech reporter—she discovered the Word Wonderland that is naming. She’s had the distinct pleasure of indulging her language geekery to help clients like Chevron, Intel, Corning, and NSF International successfully express their brand through kickass names.

Erin’s love affair with language has included French, Spanish, German, Ancient Greek, and Farsi. She earned a BA from St. John’s College (the “Great Books School”) and studied voice at New England Conservatory with the vague idea of becoming a linguist-philosopher-poet-musician. (Hmm … is there a name for that?)

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.

Hometown:  Flavortown
Favorite Catchword name:  Asana
Favorite band name:  Spial Tap
Word I overuse:  FYI
I wish I’d named:  Twitter
Creative inspiration:  William Shatner
Idea of perfect happiness:  Sunshine & cuba libres (Diet Coke)
Personal motto:  Excelsior!

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.

Hometown:  Northridge, CA
Favorite Catchword names:  Crazy 8, Asana
Favorite band names:  Wham!, 10,000 Maniacs, De La Soul
Word I overuse:  Lunatic
I wish I’d named:  Cuties, Anew
Creative inspirations:  Throwing pottery on the wheel
Perfect happiness is: Chaotic fun with my Big Fat Indian Family
Personal motto:  Trust, but verify

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.

Hometown:  Bakersfield, CA
Favorite Catchword names:  Race to Nowhere, Sunbird
Favorite band names:  Pussy Cat Dolls, Snoop Doggy Dog
Word I overuse:  Woof
I wish I’d named:  Pup-peroni, Taste of the Wild
Creative inspirations:  Long walks at the lake, chasing squirrels
Perfect happiness is:  A long, indulgent neck rub
Personal motto:  Sleeping is not time wasting