How to Create a Business Name

The Do's and Don'ts of Christening Your Company

Exterior view of diner
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Creating a business name may come easy for some, but most folks struggle with the task. It's a crucial aspect of starting your own company—indeed, the wrong business name can actually spell the end of a well-built business plan—but it's not something can just be numbers-crunched into existence. That's why a good first step is to use brainstorming to start the ideas flowing.

Brainstorming Business Names

Grab a tablet, a pencil and let's begin.

At the top of the page, write down the product or service you offer. Underline it. Now below that, write down as many keywords related to your retail business that you can think of. The more words, the better.

If I were starting a maternity store that sold mostly clothing, I would write down Maternity Clothing. My keywords might be maternity, baby, clothing, pregnancy, breastfeeding ... you get the picture.

Once your vocabulary runs dry, grab a thesaurus or use an online synonym finder to continue searching. The idea here is to find thematically related but different, interesting or unusual words that don't immediately come to mind. By adding to the list of phrases or words of similar (and even opposite) meanings, your word list will grow exponentially. So, going back to my maternity store …

Under the words maternity, pregnancy, baby, etc., I would add these words to my list: maternity wear, due dates, new arrivals, mother-to-be, reproduction, babe, precious, bambino, little darling.

Now, stop and think about your business for a moment. What do you want to accomplish or what is your mission? How would you like others to view your enterprise? What kind of testimonials would you like to receive from your clients or your customers? Now add some of those adverbs and adjectives to the list.

As a retailer of maternity wear, my mission would be to provide fashionable, trendy, tasteful maternity clothing and accessories for the expecting mom. I would want my buyers to think of my store and staff as knowledgeable, dependable, and trustworthy. My competitors should see me as professional, experienced, a leader in the industry. All of those bolded words and phrases get added to the list.

Your list should really be growing now and offering many options. Now add your own name to the list and your location, if it's relevant. If you think you may relocate your business one day or plan to sell, then don't use exact pinpoints.

I know that I would always live in the southeastern region of the United States but I can't guarantee I'll always live in the city or even the state I currently reside. So I'll add the words South, Southern, and Southeastern to my list.

Now that you have a long list of keywords, see if you can combine any words or if any suggest common sayings or catchphrases, or plays on clichés. Can you create any alliteration, which is a combination of words beginning with the same letter or sound? Also, if any words on your list have a homonym (other words that sound the same but spelled differently) then add it to your list. Try pairing keywords which rhyme or even contradict each other.

After playing around with my list, I find a few possibilities that I like. Magnolia Moms, Due South, Southern Expectations and Precious Trends all have potential.

Business Name Do's and Don'ts

These pointers include: Fun as this free-associating is, there are some rules to keep in mind while conceiving your new business name. Among them:

  • Do make the name easy to understand, spell and pronounce.
  • Don't use negative-sounding words.
  • Do consider where the name will fall in any alphabetical listings.
  • Don't limit your product line by choosing a name that won't represent all you do.
  • Do create a name you can stand behind.
  • Don't use a strictly generic term, such as 'discount office supply', which cannot be trademarked.
  • Don't be misleading or in any way imply something that the business is not.

Testing Your Business Name

Now look at your list of possibilities and ask the following questions of each name:

  • Is it pronounceable and easy to spell?
  • Is it distinctive and concise?
  • Does it clearly communicate your missive?
  • Does it have a positive sound?

If you think you've chosen a winner, don't commit to it just yet. Get feedback from friends and family. Say it repeatedly. If after a few days you feel confident and comfortable with the name, then it's a keeper. If you can't get used to, toss it out and go back to your list.

Taglines

If you have fallen in love with a name that doesn't precisely tell people what you do or what you sell, consider adding a tagline. A tagline is best described as a phrase or adage that defines your company's mission in the fewest words possible. Take another look at your list of keywords to see if any words can create a three-to-seven word statement about who you are or what you are selling.

From the moment of inception, your business name will be linked to your customers' perceptions. All advertising will center on your brand. By putting a lot of thought and effort into generating business name ideas now, you may avoid many marketing traps and legal pitfalls.