Choosing a Business Name

Choosing a business name is one of the most important steps in starting a new business. The right name should help forward your brand identity and set your business apart from your competitors. The wrong name could inadvertently pigeonhole your business into the wrong niche market or make your business indistinguishable from the crowd.

Keep in mind that you may have two (or more) names to consider. First is the legal business name, which is your personal name in a sole proprietorship, or the legally registered name for other business types. Second is any assumed or "doing business as" name (see Using an Assumed Name). The legal business name is generally unchanging, but it is possible to change or add assumed name(s). The points below apply to selecting both your legal business name (for business types other than a sole proprietorship) and any assumed name(s) under which you want to operate.

Tips For Choosing the Right Business or Assumed Name:

Think about your brand

Think about your product(s) and product lines and how you will market them to the public. Your business name should be a strong part of your brand and is a big part of your overall message to your customers.

Make sure the name is available

Check to see if someone else is already using the name. While you might (in some cases) be able to legally use the same name as someone else, it's generally not a good idea to have the same name as some other similar business. There are several places you can check:

  • Do a Google search on the name, checking variations is spelling if appropriate.
  • Use the Trademark Electronic Search System to see if the name has already been trademarked by another company.
  • Check your state's list of registered assumed business names (also called trade names, dba's or ficticious names). These are usually on file with the Secretary of State, Division of Corporations or similar state agency. The Small Business Administration's search tool can direct you to the appropriate agency for your state.
  • Check the HSCG Online Listing by Company Name to see if there are any members who are using the same or a similar name.
  • Check to see if a related domain name is available (for your business website). While having a domain name that exactly matches your business name is not absolutely essential, if all the possible names are already taken and you'd have to use something more unusual, it might make it more difficult for your customers to find or remember your website.

Be creative

Be creative with the name to stand out from the crowd, just don’t be so creative that people cannot pronounce or spell it easily, you want to be remembered!

Keep it simple

Choose a name that is simple and easy to remember so your customers can easily commit it to memory, write it and type it.

Take your time

Do not rush your decision. Come up with a few possible names and keep them around for a few weeks. You will eventually settle on the one that is right for you and your new business.

Get Feedback

Get feedback from close friends, colleagues, family on the chosen name. Ask them what the name means to them, what do they think or feel when the name is said.

Other issues to consider:

NOTE: These suggestions were taken from a number of sources, and while they are all valid issues to consider sometimes it still works even if you go against accepted wisdom.

Mashing words or parts of words together

It is very tempting to mash together an adjective and a noun, a verb and a noun, or two nouns, to form a business name. Sometimes this works, but other times the name becomes twisted, hard-to pronounce mash-up that will be difficult to work with over time.

Making it too plain

It is true you do want to keep it simple, but simple does not mean overly plain. Make your business name stand out from the crowd! Putting simple words together will oftentimes make your business invisible in the sea of your competition and to your customers.

Asking input from too many

You probably should run your potential business name by a few close friends and relatives but do not make the mistake of asking too many people. Getting too many opinions will confuse the issue and make it almost impossible for you to make an informed decision.

Using the map

It can be very tempting to use your city, state or region to name your company. If you have plans to grow (or if there is any chance you might move), this might be a hindrance in the long run. Many companies that started with regional names have had to change or adapt to grow beyond their backyards. If your goal is expansion, stay away from naming your company after your area, unless your entire brand identity revolves around the geographic location.

Forced Misspellings

Avoid awkwardly constructed or purposefully misspelled names. The result is a name that is hard to pronounce, hard to remember and certainly hard to spell. Avoid substituting "Kw" for "Qu" or "Ph” in place of an "F" - not only is it confusing to the customer, it can make finding your company on the internet next to impossible.

Confusing your business name with the name(s) of your product line(s)

You might be starting out with a single type of product (i.e. soap), so "Suzie's Soaps" might make sense as a business name to begin with. However, this is more product line name than a business name. Your business name should be versitile enough to allow you to add other product lines without confusing your customers or compromising your overall brand identity.

Avoid punctuation in the name

Having a business name with an apostrophe, comma (other than at the end prior to "LLC"), or other punctuation can make working with your business name more difficult (for logo design, filling in forms, typesetting, domain names, etc), and should be avoided where possible.