Meet Our Team of Naming Experts

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 whether 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.

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 the President of the American Name Society and a Committee Chair of the Linguistic Society of America, and has served as an expert witness on naming and branding issues.

Erin Milnes

Erin Milnes

Project & 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 such well-known clients as Walgreens, HP, Michelin, BIC, and Home Depot.

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 — after all, a name is a very, very short poem that captures a brand’s eidos.) When not creating kickass names, she may be found kayaking with her son or making music with her husband.

Bruno Benedini

Bruno Benedini

Project Director & Senior Strategist

Bruno has spent two decades working in practically every facet of branding, creating and evolving some of the world’s best-known brands, including Royal Caribbean, MGM Resorts, Cardinal Health, Uber, Mitsubishi, and DuPont. He has managed over 600 projects—for clients seeking a new name, a refreshed visual identity or positioning, or a more organized portfolio of sub-brands.

Originally from Rio, Bruno holds dual US-Brazilian citizenship and traveled to over 50 countries before settling down in Denver with his wife and two dogs. He is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, and graduated with honors from Berklee College with a dual degree in Business and Acoustics. Bruno has also been a returning coach for Sam Adams’ Brewing The American Dream, which pairs entrepreneurs with branding professionals, and a guest speaker on brand naming and strategy at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business.

Mark Jackson-Weaver

Mark Jackson-Weaver

Designer

Mark is a designer and art director with over 15 years of experience in design, visual identities and packaging, having worked with countless international and independent design agencies.

Originally from New Mexico, Mark’s work spans all industries, and includes well-known brands such as Disney, Starbucks, Walmart, MillerCoors, Mondelez International, Hain Celestial, White Castle, Commvault, Vail Resorts and many others. Mark has also coached for Sam Adams’ Brewing the American Dream for the last several years was the co-founder of an awarded design studio in Denver, CO.

Katy Steinmetz

Katy Steinmetz

Project & Creative Director

Katy is an award-winning journalist who formerly served as the San Francisco bureau chief for TIME. In addition to writing cover stories and riding on Air Force One (nbd!), the pride of her career was penning a column about language for several years. Joining Catchword in 2020 allowed Katy to take her word-nerdery to the next level. So far, she’s contributed to creative efforts for TikTok, ThermoFisher, WellPet and Avery Dennison, among others.

Katy studied English literature at Columbia University and art history at the University of Edinburgh, which inevitably led to her making a casual joke about ennui the other day. She also earned a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri, where ennui did not come up as much.

Katy is also a children’s book author and adjunct professor at Northern Arizona University. When work is done, she loves to hike, take photos and go on overland adventures with her family in their kitted-out Ford Transit.

Payal Jambusaria

Payal Jambusaria

Project Coordinator & Screening Specialist

Payal fell in love with marketing while interning at a vocal studio in LA where she designed a new company logo and a playbill for an original play written by a former member of The Supremes. At Catchword, she helps manage the logistics of retainer relationships with clients such as Home Depot, assists with trademark and domain screening, and generally keeps the office humming.

She earned her BS in Business Management from CSUN in SoCal, where she was born and raised but did not want to spend the rest of her days (she’s a big Fresh Prince fan). In her free time, she can be found splatting inklings in Splatoon, immersing herself into dystopian novels, or testing out new chocolate chip cookie recipes.

Beth Gerber

Beth Gerber

Project & Creative Director

A naming and advertising veteran with over 25 years in the business, Beth has branded just about anything you can imagine—and some things you probably can’t. She has created names for Allstate, Corning, Wells Fargo, Belkin, and the San Francisco Planning Department, among myriad others, and thrives on finding just the right words to bring a product or company to life. Her advertising has won industry awards and her work has been featured in Adweek.

Beth graduated from Brown with a BA in both Creative Writing and Organizational Behavior, foreshadowing her lifelong fascination with the marriage of art and commerce. (She later trained in Gestalt psychology, and got a crash course in how language impacts beliefs and emotions). A native New Yorker who now calls the Bay Area home, Beth loves freestyle dancing and loves/hates to write fiction.

Drew Letendre

Drew Letendre

Project Director & Senior Strategist

Drew is a twenty-year veteran naming strategist and brand architect with considerable naming experience sprinkled in for good measure.

He has worked across numerous and varied industries, including financial services, publishing, legal services, high-tech, and manufacturing, with clients like Merrill Lynch, Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, Tech Data, and Saint-Gobain. He even helped NIKE create the brand name for its tour grade ‘RZN’ golf ball line, in virtue of his extensive experience as a caddy. When not naming, Drew enjoys reading and exploring the tide pools and mountain trails of Southern California, with his wife and three kids.

Drew double-majored in Psychology and Art History at Clark University, and has a Masters Degree in Philosophy.

Liam Foster

Liam Foster

Designer

Liam is a graphic designer with both freelance and agency experience. His work focuses on logo design and brand identity, approaching each project with the end-user in mind, and leans towards a clean, minimalistic style. He has worked with an array of clients across a range of industries including finance, hospitality, sports and fitness, medical and more.

Liam takes pride and care in his work and has extensive attention to detail, always aiming to produce results that go above and beyond expectations. Outside of design, he is a keen footballer (soccer!) and a fair-weather golfer.

Chuck Guest

Chuck Guest

Copy Boss

Just out of high school, Chuck placed his yellow ledger pad on John Steinbeck’s grave, hoping for a transference. It didn’t happen. But that didn’t stop Chuck from writing.

Chuck’s career began at Hal Riney & Partners in San Francisco. He started on the account side, if only to justify his marketing degree from Santa Clara University. Creative was a better fit, and he went on to develop award-winning advertising and branding at Chiat\Day and Young & Rubicam, among other agencies. He’s served at least a hundred well-known brands, including Intel, Clorox, Gallo, MGM Grand, and Pep Boys. He particularly enjoys working on brands that deserve to be well-known but aren’t yet.

Chuck is fluent in every form of copy from traditional advertising and taglines to branding manifestos, videos, packaging, and websites. He’s also won accolades in naming, which helps when walking the hallways of Catchword. One of his campaigns, the Chevron “Talking Cars,” was named “A Campaign of the Decade” by Adweek. A highlight: meeting Gromit while working with Aardman Animations in Bristol, England.

Alex Crawford

Alex Crawford

Senior Strategist & Project Director

Alex has spent the past 25 years working with businesses to establish or evolve their brand efforts as they grapple with changing business realities and market dynamics. He has guided well-known organizations—such as Cisco, Citrix, Oracle, Precor, and the Boys and Girls Club—on their brand and naming efforts. He is equally at home helping smaller companies, especially start-ups, with energizing their marketing.

One of Alex’s favorite things in life is an empty page. Figuring out what to put on to that wide-open white space, from names to stories, positioning to brand strategies, is what Alex likes to do best. When he is not taking pen to paper (yes, he still uses analog tools from time to time just to be cool), Alex likes to get out with his family into the great Northwest.

Michelle Selders

Michelle Selders

Brand Strategist & Project Director

Michelle has spent her entire career focused on developing winning brand strategies. Working on well-known national brands, as well as developing world-class private brands, she’s helped to optimize the portfolios of manufacturers and retailers alike. From strategy and architecture, to naming and messaging, she’s worked on brands such as Lowe’s Home Improvement, Klein Tools, Kobalt, Char-Broil, Domtar, Xerox, Blue Hawk, and Avery Dennison.

After pursuing both MBA and MFA degrees, she’s developed a special passion for bringing brands to life through verbal branding and storytelling. Using a combination of art and science she thrives on creating both the brand structure, and the carefully crafted messages, that build the vital emotional connection between a brand and its customers.

When she’s not working, it’s rumored that she writes children’s fiction and can often be found creating ridiculous rhymes that make kids both giggle and groan.

Bill Sweetman

Bill Sweetman

Domain Name Strategist

Bill is one of the world’s most respected and trusted domain name buyer brokers. He has over 25 years of experience in the domain name secondary (resale) market, and he has provided strategic domain name advice to hundreds of companies around the world.
 
Bill is the founder of Name Ninja, a boutique domain name acquisition firm that helps clients get their dream domain names for their next big thing. Prior to launching Name Ninja, Bill was Vice President, Domain Portfolio at Tucows, one of the domain industry’s largest domain name registrars.

Over the course of nearly three decades, Bill has overseen the purchase and sale of thousands of premium domain names worth tens of millions of dollars. A self-confessed domain name fanatic, Bill registered his very first domain in 1994 and has been perfecting his ‘Ninja’ moves ever since.

Over the past decade, Bill has assisted dozens of Catchword clients with domain inquiries, negotiations, and acquisitions.

Jaclyn Hesse

Jaclyn Hesse

Brand Strategist & Project Director

Drawing on over 10 years of international branding and marketing experience, Jaclyn works with clients to hone their strategy and positioning to enable brands to truly stand out. She has worked in house at FTI Consulting and Ankura and loves leading large B2B re-brands, brand architecture and brand identity projects, applying her client-side experience to deliver meaningful change.

Jaclyn earned her honors BA in Political Studies and International Political Economy from Trent University and is fluent in English and Spanish and proficient in French and Portuguese. Growing up in Costa Rica and living and working in various parts of Latin America, Jaclyn now resides in her home and native land of Canada. She enjoys cooking, adding to her expansive collection of Japanese chef’s knives and chasing after her young daughter with her husband. 

Stevie Belchak

Stevie Belchak

Senior Naming Manager

A namer and brand strategist for the last 10 years, Stevie has laid the steady foundation and necessary groundwork for companies large and small, working with the likes of Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, AT&T, and more. At Catchword–with feet in both the project management and creative development pools, Stevie bridges her passion for process and fostering ingenuity.

With a BA in English Literature from Dartmouth College and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts’ English MFA for Poets & Writers, Stevie is also no stranger to the power of words. When not unearthing unexpected names and taglines, she can be found stringing together (gasp!) full sentences whilst writing creatively (poetry being her genre of choice…), reading ample amounts of pop-sci bestsellers, and hiking and paddle-boarding her way across California.

Amy Wynne Joseph

Amy Wynne Joseph

Screening Specialist

Armed with a law degree from George Washington University and a B.A. in English Literature from Brandeis University, Amy is that rare naming professional with both legal and language expertise. While her responsibilities at Catchword center mostly on screening, her fascination with the field of brand naming spans decades, and she’s always happy to engage in a debate over the origin of the name Starbucks (yes, it’s a reference to the the first mate in Melville’s classic novel, but no, the character did not drink coffee throughout the story).

In her spare time, Amy enjoys keeping up with her two kids, fixing up her labor-of-love home, and baking what some have described as the most chocolaty of chocolate chip cookies. And, like other Catchwordians, she’s a music junkie, likes to tickle the ivories, and has the voice of an angel.

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.

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.