Don’t worry if you seem to be stuck when it comes to choosing a business name. It’s not unusual to have a hard time deciding how to name a business. After all, that name is going to be identified with you and on all of your marketing materials. The right business name can make or break whether people remember you. There’s really no pressure, right?

How do you get started?

The best place to start is knowing what you want that name to say. If you are a sole proprietor, you might want people to remember you personally, so your own name might be involved.

You might want to name your business something else, though, if your exit strategy will be to sell the business eventually. You might want people to remember what this business represents. What do you want people to think about when they hear the name of your business?

What’s the right approach?

Most entrepreneurs agree that they want a business name which is memorable and that reminds their customers of their value proposition. Legally, it should also be somewhat unique.

You can find a name with specific meaning, or you can choose a more nonspecific name and build an image around it. You can go with a straightforward approach, giving your business a practical name reflecting your business purpose, or you can craft words that describe something special about your business.

How do you find business name ideas?

Write down different words that match your goals for the perfect business name and describe what you want people to remember about it. Then, get out the thesaurus and write down synonyms, homonyms, and alternate meanings.

Play around with different combinations of phrasing, rhyming, variations, the meaning of a word in a different language – whatever comes to mind. Write anything down at this point. You’re building a working list of choices.

How do I narrow down my list?

Take a good look at your list, perhaps setting it down for a while and coming back to it later. First, eliminate anything that sounds inappropriate or doesn’t communicate your message.

Next, show the list to your friends or your management team (or both) and get their input. This might result in a longer list at first, but that can be a good thing. Two heads are definitely better than one when you are deciding what to name your business. Some new start up businesses build their lists by hiring professional at business naming creators or putting together a focus group for consumer research.

Finally, put the list of winners in some kind of priority. Which words or combinations work best in your mind? Remember that names for business must communicate what your value proposition is and do it in a memorable way.

How can I tell if my business name works?

You should always test your ideas in some way. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you pronounce it easily?
  • Are people likely to remember it?
  • Does it evoke anything embarrassing if you translate it into another language?
  • Does it effectively communicate your message?
  • Will you be able to live up to it?
  • Does the name fit where it will be most visible?

That last question could involve a retail tag, a cardboard box, a business card, or the side of a delivery van. Imagine your name printed on your marketing materials, and imagine people talking about your new business. If you answer ‘no’ to any of those questions, cross that business name off your list.

What is the best choice?

Your list should be a lot shorter by now, and the name at the top of that list could be the right name for your business. Set the final list aside and see if your choices still look good. Ask yourself the key questions again while taking that second look. Get your people back together, if you need to. Your final choice is right there in front of you.

Do I need to file a DBA or do a trademark or name search?

There are many restrictions on business name availability. Names must be unique. You cannot use a business name that is the same or deceptively similar to another. At a bare minimum you should search the state records for your particular state to see if the name is used.

Nonetheless, this is one decision you shouldn’t make based on something you read on the internet. Contact a professional for specific advice on names for business. Checking business name availability and trademark or copyright issues can save you a lot of legal trouble down the road. If you take the time to make the right decision, you will have a great business name!


by Steven Schlagel