How to choose a Business Name for your Startup


So everything is ready.  You’ve planned out your business model, and you’re feeling pretty optimistic.  There’s just one thing:  what do you actually call this new enterprise?  

Choosing a name for your startup business can be just as important as drawing up a detailed business plan.  Your goal is to have a long-term, successful business, so you need a business name that will work for a long time.

But maybe you’re not that creative, or maybe you’re TOO creative!  While it might seem like a simple thing, choosing a business name for your startup might cause you some sleepless nights and long, vacant brainstorming sessions.

Here, we’ll look at a few pointers that will help you name your business in a way that will stick with your business forever, and in your customers’ minds for a very long time.

Easy Does It

Think about some of the most successful businesses and brands right now.  Apple.  Walmart.  Target.  Wendy’s.  What do all of these names have in common?  They are short, simple, and easy to spell.  

Remember that, as an online business, your audience will likely type your business name into a search bar.  They need to be able to remember the name and be able to spell it on the first try.

While you might be proud to offer “the best handmade wool socks in Ohio”, that phrase would be better suited to a long-tail keyword than to your actual business name.  And while “cre8iv3” spellings can be fun, it’s unrealistic to expect people to remember what number takes the place of which letter when they’re trying to find you on the web.

At the same time, you do want to be a bit creative and have a name that people will remember.  A little bit of originality will set you apart from the competitors, and give you a built-in marketing opportunity.

Think about the future

Remember, this name will be with you for a long time, so calling a business “Ohio Wool Socks” might be easy to remember and spell, but will no longer make sense when you start selling hats and jackets.  Additionally, it lacks that creative spark that lets people know that you are really passionate about your endeavor.

To combat any staleness at this stage, how about doing some free-association about your website.  When you’re thinking about your product or services, think of single words that describe what you offer.  Think about what you want the customer to experience from your product, practically and emotionally.

What kind of problems will your product or service solve?  Make a list of anything that comes to mind when you think of how your customers will interact with your goods.

Using the “wool socks made by hand in Ohio” example, you might think of words like “warm” or “fluffy” or “winter”.  (These words will likely echo some of the keywords you’ll use for your website, so don’t discard this list!)  Maybe the socks bring to mind playing in the snow as a child, and how being well-dressed for the snow made it easier to say out in the cold longer. 

By doing a little free association with terms related to snow and being well-dressed, you can come up with loads of terms. Spiffy Snowman.  Dashing Apparel.  The possibilities go on and on!

Www. already taken .com

Your free-association session will likely leave you with some possible business names, and you might get really excited about a few.  That’s the goal!  Now, you have to do the part that’s less creative, and more emotionally difficult:  see if that name is already in use.  

There are several places you’ll want to search.  First, check the Secretary of State records.  You’ll need to register your new business, and you’ll likely form an LLC or corporation for employment and revenue purposes.

In the United States, you’ll need to register your business with the state, and having a name that is exactly like or too close to another business might cause them to reject the request.

You’ll also want to make sure the name hasn’t been trademarked by another party, and possibly trademark it yourself.  Visit USPTO.gov to learn more about available trademark and service marks for business names.

Where to check for Domain Name

Lastly, you’ll need to check the domain name.  This is a place where many people run into trouble.  Check on sites like Namecheap, Siteground, or NetworkSolutions to determine if a domain name is available.

It may be taken, but you may also be able to purchase that domain name from the current owner.  Sites like NetworkSolutions allow users to buy and sell domain names, so this might not be the end of the road.



If the .com version of your business name has been taken, think long and hard before you choose an alternate extension, like .net or .org.  Will your customers think to type anything but “.com” after your business name?  It might be a better idea to go back to the drawing board and tweak some verbiage before settling for a web address your potential customers won’t remember.

You’ll also want to check social media to make sure your business name isn’t already associated with another business.

There are some ways to clarify this, such as adding words like “shop” or “official” to your social media handles, but it’s far easier for your customers to have a streamlined experience in which they only have to remember one name wherever they roam on the web.

Other elements to keep in mind

Deciding upon a business name for your startup is likely going to be a longer process than you initially anticipated.

You might need to engage a lawyer to check the state records and to make sure you trademark your name appropriately.  You might find out that you can’t have an ideal domain name. You will probably go back to the drawing board a few times.

As you think of options, be sure to run the name past a few other people, too.  Say it out loud.  Write it out.  Does the sound of the name seem right?  Does it look correct when written out?  Can you make a logo or an ad campaign around it?

Don’t be afraid of going overboard in the free association session- the more you generate in this step, the easier it will be to revisit options if you run into a wall down the line!


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