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 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.

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. 

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 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.

Payal Jambusaria

Payal Jambusaria

Project Coordinator

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.

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.

Alex Kelley

Alex Kelley

Creative Associate

Alex has created names for Catchword since 2013, working with clients from Canon to Corning, Peet’s to Plantronics. However, if you count naming pets, Alex has been a namer since the age of 5, when he named his gerbils after Santa’s reindeer. Though Prancer and Vixen (and their many, many offspring) have long since passed, Alex’s penchant for coming up with alluring and memorable names has not, though these days he does much more work in food & bev and technology than rodents.

Currently living in Vermont, Alex works on naming projects and writes naming reviews and blogs as needed between hiking, playing in jam bands, and making maple syrup. He holds a BA in English from Wesleyan University.

Charlie Cypher

Charlie Cypher

Trademark Attorney

Charlie is Managing Attorney for the Law Offices of James R. Cypher, where for over two decades, he has managed domestic and international trademark clearance, registrations, and enforcement for Jelly Belly Candy Company and many other clients. He is also the primary patent attorney for Simpson Strong-Tie. Charlie received his BA from Stanford University, and his JD from UC Hastings. He is a competitive triathlete, the bass player in a local cover band, and the lone male in a household of three daughters.

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.