Deciding to start a business is the first step – naming it is the second. This might seem like an easy task, but it often it keeps entrepreneurs struggling for hours, days or even months, trying to find the perfect nomenclature to describe and promote their business. Not only should the name be something that you like, but it should also be a word or phrase that will attract future customers.
1. Long vs. Short
Some businesses are one word (ex. Target), some incorporate the name(s) of the owner(s) (ex. Barnes & Noble), and still others are catchy phrases (ex. Linens -N- Things). Deciding what type of name that you want can be dependant upon numerous factors, including your logo, your signage and your personal preference.
People remember names that are short and simple, or that catch their attention. The danger with choosing one word for your business name lies in the fact that there might be other (possibly competitive) businesses with that name. When you obtain your business license, the clerk will run your name in their search engine to make sure that it is unique. It is best to think up two or three acceptable names so that you have options if your favorite is taken.
Your name should be something that can be translated into a logo. Logos can be initials, funky fonts, or graphics that people will begin to associate with your business. Sometimes, a logo can be just one letter in a specific font, which the company will then trademark (ex. the B for Berkely Books). Your name should be short enough or stylish enough that it can be formed into a logo, and you might want to keep that in mind when brainstorming.
3. Making Up Words
Since so many names have already been used, companies are now making up words to use as their business name. You can do this, but beware the following:
– Complicated words that are difficult to pronounce
– Words that are too much like a foreign language (to avoid confusion)
– Words whose roots have no bearing on your business industry
Making up words can be a great step for your business in terms of ingenuity and unique styles, but you have to be careful about the word that you choose.
4. Research, Research, Research
Before you even enter the DBA line, begin researching names that already exist within your industry. Even if a company exists in Japan with the same name that you choose, you could create confusion within the industry, and even instigate a lawsuit for the other company’s trademark. Make sure that there is nothing even similar to the name that you choose to avoid any legalities and to ensure the individuality of your business.
5. Informative vs. Catchy
Depending on the type of industry, you will have to choose between names that are informative and names that are catchy. Rarely will the two coincide. If you aren’t sure about the initial clientele, then you might want to create an informative name, meaning that the word or phrase describes what you sell to the public (ex. Jamie’s Photography Studio). If you were to use a catchy name (ex. Pictures Plus), does the customer know whether you perform photography services, sell prints, or offer framing services? No, so you might have customers who discover that you aren’t selling what they are looking for.
6. Naming Firms
There are actually companies that specialize in naming businesses. They charge quite a bit of cash for this service (in the thousands), but they do a great job in conforming to your wishes for your business name. This is like hiring a marketing consultant or an advertisement company; they do the job at which they are experts. If you have the cash, and if you are stumped about a name, this might be an avenue to consider.
6. Your Niche
Within one industry, there can be hundreds of niches. Let’s say that you want to begin a toy store specializing in antique toys for children. Later, you might consider expanding to new toys, but if your name advertises antique toys, you might be stuck. When you plan your business name, think about the future and the possibility of expansion. If your name inhibits the possibility of growth, then you will eventually have to change the name, thereby losing customers. Keep the name as broad as possible so that you are able to grow eventually.
The name that you choose should convey the atmosphere of your business. For example, if you are opening a toy store, you want the name to convey fun, livliness and excitement, which will draw children and parents. Choosing an inappropriate name for your environment will turn away future customers and hamper your business.
8. Family & Friends
If you are having trouble coming up with names, enlist the help of family and friends. Often, people who have less of an attachment to your idea can come up with creative, unique names that you would not have considered otherwise.
9. Doing Business As…
After you’ve chosen a name, you will need to file a DBA (“doing business as”). This allows you to legally do business under a fictitious name, in the case of a sole proprietorship (just yourself) or a general partnership (you and one or more partners). You will probably need the paperwork from your DBA in order to open a business account with your local bank, and it allows you to advertise your services under this name.