Steph Coffield is a stay-at-home mom from Apple Valley who has three kids. But it's her business to name other people's children.
Coffield, 39, is a name consultant. For a fee, she'll provide you with a curated, customized list of names if you're having trouble naming your child, your dog, yourself, even your sourdough starter.
Her name lists can be personalized to reflect your hobbies, your aspirations, your favorite color or your particular desire for something unique or familiar, whimsical or classic, elegant or quirky.
On TikTok, where she's known as @nameswithsteph, she has more than 235,000 followers and a total of more than 11 million likes for her videos about favorite Dutch baby names (Amalia, Espen, Fenne), equestrian-inspired baby names (Colt, Morgan, Sorrel), boys' names connected to the color green (Vermont, Mantis, Fennel) and alternative names for grandfather and grandmother (papi, peepaw, opa, nonno, meemaw, oma, bubbe).
Coffield makes videos nerding out about everything name-related, like the top name regrets. (The Social Security Administration reported that "Issac" and "Chole," apparently misspelled versions of Isaac and Chloe, are commonly changed names.)
"Let this be a lesson to look up your child's name ahead of time," she advised.
She has a multi-part video discussing banned baby names. In Mexico, for example, you can't name your kid RoboCop, Rambo or Facebook, according to Coffield, while France forbids you to name your child Nutella, Mini Cooper or Prince William.
She will offer her opinion on Suede as a first name (it's French for Sweden or Swedish, Coffield said — "truly, I love it") and talks about whether it's disrespectful to change your name later in life (you should have a name that fits your identity).
She even fulfilled a request for suggestions for a Renaissance-inspired name for a sourdough starter. (She suggested Francesca, Machiavelli and Giorgio as proper names for a yeasty, fermented blob.)
When her TikTok account began in 2020, it was about babies, parenthood, self-advocacy and "birth empowerment." But her "baby name Friday" videos grew so popular that it turned into a forum for followers to ask her opinion about names. In 2021, that morphed into a business, on which she now spends up to 30 hours a week.
When she began offering consultations, she wondered: "Are people going to pay for this?" Now, she said, "it's become a job."
Coffield estimates that she's done about 500 paid name consultations. While it's mainly been for baby names, she also helps adults who want to change their first name or married couples who are trying to create a new last name for themselves.
"People ask me about dog names a lot," she said. "I've been asked about plants."
Name that child
According to her website, nameswithsteph.com, Coffield charges $60 for a curated list of 10 names based on your preferences. It includes a spreadsheet explaining the meaning and origins of each suggestion and nickname options. For $100, you can get a list of 10 first names and 10 middle names.
She can also present your personalized name list in a public TikTok video, because many people seem to like other TikTok followers weighing in. She also offers a $500 deluxe package of up to three video consultation calls and an unlimited number of name suggestions.
"It's a luxury service. It's not something you need to do," she said.
Parey Reed of northeast Texas recently hired Coffield to help name her fourth child.
"I didn't even tell my husband," said Reed, who explained that the pregnancy was a surprise and she and her husband were at a loss to come up with a first name and a middle name for the fourth time.
"That's eight names. You can only google baby names for so long before it gets ridiculous," said Reed. "Growing a baby is hard. You think they come with names — and they don't."
(In a questionnaire she sends to clients, Coffield asks them to rate their degree of name-research fatigue. Some, she discovered, have been poring over baby name books that list 50,000 or even 100,000 names. "They read like dictionaries," she said.
Coffield's name book, "Names Don't Have a Gender," has only about 1,200 suggestions.)
For the baby girl Reed is expecting, she asked Coffield for easy-to-spell names that aren't too "girly." Her other daughter is named Parker, so she wanted something similar, maybe also starting with the letter P.
For this "sib set" (what Coffield calls the name of a child that will fit in with the other children's names) Reed landed on Prestyn Charm Reed.
"She did a great job. It was worth it," Reed said. "Who would've thought you could get your name through a baby name consultant?"
Certainly not Mandy Ball, of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
"Before I met her, I probably would've laughed at the idea of a baby name consultant," Ball said.
But she followed Coffield's TikTok account, and when a friend of Ball and her husband were having trouble agreeing on a name, Ball gave them a TikTok video consultation with Coffield as a gift.
"I think Steph can help name anyone's child," Ball said.
A piece of identity
In fact, Coffield may also be helping name some fictional people.
Several authors have said they follow her videos to get ideas for character names. Couldn't you see Deryn, Wren, Corbett or Kestrel (from her video on bird-inspired names) as characters in a mystery novel?
Coffield estimates there are about 10 people in the country who do what she does, but said, "I think it's growing."
Sigmund Freud once said, "A human being's name is a principal component in his person, perhaps a piece of his soul."
Coffield agrees. She thinks a name can shape who you are. That's why parents want to get it right. (She also thinks Sigmund could be a "quirky and cool" first name.)
It's "one of the first pieces of identity that we get from our parents, and it's something special," Coffield said. "Everyone wants to love their baby's name. You want to smile when you say it."