How to Come Up with a Business Name
Don’t let the name game get you down. Learn how to create a business name in five easy steps with our helpful guide.
When you start your business, you’re probably consumed with the logistics. It’s easy to get bogged down day to day, but don’t forget that one of the most important steps in starting a company is solidifying your business name. You want something memorable, true to your brand, and positioned for growth – but how do you do it?
Creating a business name can be an easy (and shall we say a “fun”?) process if you just know how to do it.
We’ll discuss how to come up with a business name in five stages:
The first step in learning how to create a business name is, well, to create! Getting your creative juices flowing is the best way to start. You probably spent hours coming up with the perfect instant messenger handle back in junior high or the punniest name for your betta fish in college. While there’s no denying that a lot more weighs on creating a business name, the process is similar: you need to spend ample time in the creative zone to develop the most viable options for your company.
Use these tips to start coming up with ideas.
Think About the Business Itself
- Start by writing out what led you to start this company. Was it a customer need that had to be met? Was it a crazy idea you had that turned out to be not so crazy? Remind yourself of your professional journey.
- Similarly, think about your company’s mission and values. What does it prioritize and care about? What goals will the company accomplish in the next five or 10 years? (Haven’t quite done this step? No problem. Learn how to set up small business goals.)
- Finally, reference your customer persona. What do your potential customers care about? What are they motivated by?
For example, Best Buy changed its name (originally called Sound of Music) after a huge sale that promoted “best buys.” According to business-name lore, it made more money during that one sale than in a month. Now it knew what customers wanted and prioritized. As a result, part of its customer needs is now reflected in its name.
Get Inspired by Your Personal Story
Chances are that your personal and professional passions overlap in some way. Capitalize on that by thinking about what you love to do most. What do you care about, and how does that align with your business and its goals?
Now, think about the challenges you met along your personal and professional journey and the achievements you made along the way. What words or phrases stick out?
The Burt’s Bees business name illustrates the personal passion of one of its owners. Hearkening back to how you started or alluding to your personal story are great starting points for learning how to come up with a business name. It can also bolster the personal connection with future customers.
Choose a few words or themes related to your industry, a specific service you provide, and those that stood out in the previous steps. Write down whatever pops into your head under each category. If you get stuck, use an online thesaurus, like Power Thesaurus, to develop more ideas.
For example, “PayPal” combines two words that explain the company's service and are related to the industry. Straightforward yet effective.
Try a Business Name Generator
If your brainstorm still has you stuck on business name options, try using a free business name generator, like the ones offered by Shopify or namelix. Some options can be quite clunky or too obvious, but they can serve as points of inspiration and help you expand your word choices.
Now, put all of these ideas together. Make a list of the words and phrases you like most from each creative phase.
You can mash them together like this:
Or you can choose one unforgettable word, like this:
Alternatively, you can abbreviate several words, like this:
You can even make up new words inspired by real ones, like this:
Choose your favorite options and then move on to the next stage. Remember that you can (and will probably need to) continue to tweak and refine each option in the research and test phases.
Now, grab your best options and try them on for size. When you create a name for business, it can be easy to develop tunnel vision when you’re ideating and tweaking options, so expand your circle of input by asking for feedback from family and friends:
- Are the names easy to understand?
- Are they easy to spell and pronounce?
- Do they allow for future changes, such as an expansion of services?
- Are the names memorable?
Which ones pass the test?
Next, practice putting each name in logo form. It doesn’t matter if you’re not design-minded – you can use a logo generator, like the one from Wix, or just doodle it on your own. Can you picture the option in the future when you’re creating a marketing plan or presenting it to investors? If there are several good design options or routes you could take, that’s a good sign.
Now that you have a few top choices, you must ensure that no one else has them. It's time to check business name availability. This step will help you narrow down your list of potential names.
Check Google and Social Platforms
Do a Google search to see if your choices appear in the results. Additionally, research the names on social platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s not a deal breaker if they appear (you can easily add modifiers to social channel names), but you’ll need to log this as a potential issue.
Check the Domain Name
You could have the best business name in the world, but that isn’t helpful if customers can’t find you easily on the internet. When creating a business name, use domain name checkers, like GoDaddy, to see if the URL is free for the taking.
If it already exists, don’t rule out your choice just yet. You can try adding modifiers like “hello” or “get” to the beginning of your business’s domain name and even dashes between words. If the domains are still taken, adjusting the name or moving on to another top choice is probably a good idea.
Check State and Federal Business Listings
As an LLC or a type of corporation, your business name must differ enough from other business names registered in your state. That’s why checking with your Secretary of State’s business listings is an important step to ensure that your name will eventually be approved for registration.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to search the federal trademark database to ensure that your preferred business name isn’t already protected by a trademark. If it is, well, time to adjust your idea.
Did you find “the one”? Congrats! Now, don’t let anyone else take it. By that, we mean that you’ll need to register it.
Generally speaking, sole proprietorships don’t require a business name because they’re unincorporated business structures. If you’re structuring your business as an LLC or a corporation, you must register your business name with your state. (Not sure which one to choose? Take a look at our resources on how to start a business that discusses everything from business structures to marketing plans.) It’s worth noting that state business name availability is typically checked against business names of similar entities (LLC, partnership, and corporations). Ensure you did your homework in the research phase.
For even more business name protection on the federal level, you can register for a trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
You should now consider yourself well-prepared for creating a business name that is memorable, understandable, unique, and future-facing – and one that you’ll love for years to come.
Need more business tips? We’ve got those and much more to keep your audience engaged and coming back for more. Learn more about hiring financial planners for small business or getting a small business loan.