How to Create a Business Name

7 min read

Creating a List of Prospective Business Names

  1.  Brand yourself. Before you name your business, you should have a handle on your niche. Define your goals in your business plan and mission statement. A software company might want to emphasize the quality and simplicity of its products (hence, Apple) while an accounting firm might want to emphasize its accuracy.
  2. Address your customer base. You need an understanding of both what your prospective customers are like and what they're looking for when they come to you. If your target customers are wealthy, you might want to have a name that caters to their upscale tastes. If your target customers are working mothers who don't have time to clean house, you'll want to consider a name that either recognizes their busy schedules, their desire for cleanliness and order, or both.
  3. Make lists of words that represent the qualities you want to market. In one column, list the qualities you want to convey to your customers. What are you "about"? In another column, list things you think your customers are looking for. Use nouns, adjectives and verbs as possibilities.
    • Come up with a wide variety of words that are specific to your business. "Rover" might be good if you plan to open a dog-walking business while "persimmon" might be a great word for a Lebanese restaurant.
    • Consult a dictionary to look up definitions of the words you choose and a thesaurus to find synonymous words or phrases. You can also use a software application designed to help you brainstorm.
  4. Try a simple one-word name. Trendy upscale restaurants will often have short, punchy names that emphasize simplicity and quality, like "Fig" or "Feast." Likewise, "Timberland" shoe specializes in work boots and their simple, earthbound name reflects their product nicely, whereas "Tom's" emphasizes its personal human touch.
  5. Come up with some simple adjective-noun phrases. "Black Cyprus" or "North Face" are both evocative and versatile. One noun and one modifier allow for both simplicity and accuracy, as with the name "Urban Outfitters" or "American Apparel."
    • Try a gerund verb phrase. A gerund is simply an "-ing" word. This tends to make your business sound active and fun, a place with a welcoming atmosphere: "Laughing Planet" is an organic burrito chain, while "Turning Leaf" is a wine producer.
  6. \
    Use a proper name. Incorporating someone's real name into your business is a great way to lend a personal touch, even if it's not a real person. McDonald's was never owned by anyone named "McDonald," while Papa John's pizza chain is owned by someone named "John."
  7. Make a new word. A portmanteau is a word made up of two words, like "KitchenAid" "Microsoft" or "RedBox." This lends an experimental edge to your business and makes it sound fresh and contemporary. You're inventing a word, essentially, so it makes a lot of sense for entrepreneurial endeavors.
  8. Play with words. Some simple sonic literary devices can lend your business name a memorable quality:
    • Repeating the initial sounds of words, called alliteration, plays to both sight and sound, in business names such as "Papyrus Press," "K-Dee's Coffee" "Smith Sound." Similar to alliteration is assonance, which plays to the rhyming of vowel sounds. "Blue Moon Pools" is an example of assonance.
    • Rhyming, whether exact or inexact rhymes, can make a memorable business name. "The Reel Deal" might make sense as a dollar theatre or a fishing shop.
    • Playing off a colloquial saying is another way to come up with a memorable business name. A bar called "Liquid Courage" or a coffee shop called "Common Grounds" employ this. The risk of picking a corny or clichéd name is significant with this technique, but try it out to give your list as many names as possible to work with. You can always scratch it later.
    • Making a historical, literary or mythological reference can be successful. "Starbucks," after all, is named after a character in Moby-Dick.
 Part 2

Evaluating Names in the List

  1. Look for a short name that's easy to spell and pronounce. Shorter names are easier to remember than longer ones. The Texas Oil Company shortened its name to Texaco and it's hard to imagine "Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web" having been as successful if they hadn't decided on the shorter "Yahoo."[1]
    • Even if you're using words that are made-up or use creative spellings, make sure they make some level of sense for the product or service. "U-Haul" and "Flickr" work despite their text-speak because they are accurate names for the business, not because they are spelled strangely. Naming your salon "d' verse tease" is too clever for its own good.
  2. Go universal. It might seem like the best idea in the world to name your construction business "Daedalus Construction" because you've studied your Greek mythology, but alienating customers by risking going over their heads is a risk.
    • This is where knowing your audience comes in: a comics shop named "Jim Gordon's" might appeal to the Batman-obsessives while alienating the average reader though average readers tend not to shop in comics shops anyway. Think of it as a tradeoff. Upscale restaurants in expensive districts can get away with naming their restaurant something French, but it might be a bad idea in West Memphis, where your clientele might be made to feel excluded, or not "in the know."
  3. Avoid clichéd. Too often, an adjective becomes train-wrecked into a noun, and a terrible business name is born, like QualiTrade or AmeriBank. Names like this lack personality and your business won't stand out in a market saturated with similar-style names.
    • If your business name includes Ameri, Tech, Corp, or Tron as prefix or suffix, you might want to reconsider and come up with a name that's less saturated.
  4. Pick names that can work anywhere. Geographically-specific names will lock your business into a particular niche that will require changing the company name if it grows outside that niche. "Omaha Pipe and Drain" will work for a plumbing repair business in the metropolitan Omaha area, but it won't help a plumbing contractor land a pipefitting contract in Des Moines or Kansas City. "Kentucky Fried Chicken" officially changed its name to "KFC" recently for this very reason.
  5. Pick the most accurate name. Everyone called Bob Dylan's backup band "The Band." One day, it just stuck and they would be "The Band" forever. If everyone has taken to calling your copy shop "Main Street Copy," don't risk changing it to "The Awesome Copy Super Fantastic Fun Shop" because the given name isn't exciting enough. In the end, your product or service is the most important thing and the name is the package it comes in. If it's already got one that works, don't change it.
    • Alternatively, know when you've picked a name that doesn't work and take the risk of changing it. Even if you already ordered "TACSFFS Rules" magnets for all the workers at the Main St. Copy joint, take the hit and go with the name that works.

Part 3

Trademarking Your Name

  1. Make sure no one else in your line of business has trademarked the name you're considering. Once you have a list of favorites, you need to make sure no one else has trademarked any of them. There are several resources you can use to see if the name is already in use.
    • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office maintains a Public Search Facility at its office in Alexandria, Virginia as well as branch Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries. The most convenient way to search is through its free online Trademark Electronic Search System database. [2] You can then enter the registration or a serial number of any mark you find into the Trademark Applications and Retrieval Database to find out whether the trademark is currently registered or has lapsed.
    • Some states maintain their own trademark registries, usually through the secretary of state's office. Other states maintain databases of fictitious names and corporate names used by businesses, either at the state level or county by county. Consult with your county clerk's office to find out how your state maintains its databases.
    • The Thomas Register lists business names and registered trade and service marks, as well as unregistered marks. It's available online or you can consult a printed copy at your local library.[3]
  2. Prepare the necessary materials. It's more than just a name you'll be registering--it's your whole concept and model for your business. You'll need to provide a clear representation of what you want to register.[4] If you want to have a word, slogan, design, or combination of these things trademarked, you'll have to be able to provide a "basis" for filing, which is essentially an argument for why a trademark is necessary for your business.
    • A trademark and a servicemark are distinguished in terms of providing a product (trademark) or a service (servicemark).
  3. File a trademark for your business. Fill out the application on-line, pay the necessary fees, and keep track of your application.[5] You might consult with a trademark lawyer over the course of the process to make sure you're not missing anything.
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