You’ve come up with an idea for a business that you think will work and you are passionate about. So the next step is to start creating your business. One of the first things you’ll need to think about is a business name.
A business name can make or break your business and is something that needs to be researched and thought about. Ideally, a name needs to communicate what you do and be unique but easy to remember.
Sounds simple, right? Maybe in theory, but when it comes to sitting down and coming up with a name, it can be quite daunting. In this article we’ll look at a few things to think about when deciding on a business name (and also a few tools to help).
Coming up with a business name
A business name is the first step in building your brand. This brand will be the foundation of your business and stay with you along your business journey. Changing your brand and name down the track can be an expensive and time consumer task, so take the time when you start to choose a name you are happy with.
Here are some things to think about when choosing a business name:
Work out your brand identity
Think about the business brand you want to create. Do you want it to be fun? Quirky? Serious? Professional? Friendly?
You don’t want a fun and silly brand if you are targeting serious professional business customers. On the other hand, if you’re all about irreverence and craziness in your brand a boring name just wont do. Try to align your business name with the type of brand feel you are trying to build.
Be descriptive – but the right amount
Your name should ideally have some bearing to what you actually do. Names like Vistaprint, Boost Juice or Baby Bunting give an impression of what you will find before you visit.
Something random and obscure can tend to be confusing, and people will actually get turned off if they come to your business expecting to find one thing and find something else entirely. If you go to a business called ‘House of Mugs’ and then find nothing but t-shirts you’re going to be confused and less likely to buy.
Hard to spell words don’t get remembered – or found
Have you ever looked at a business name and thought ‘what?’ Or heard a business name and you’d like to check it out but couldn’t find it again? Or couldn’t find it in a search because you didn’t know how to spell it?
Names that are hard to spell or pronounce tend to not get looked up online, mostly because the person looking can’t find you, not because they don’t want to.
Don’t copy competitors
Seriously, just don’t.
Unless you have a completely unique business idea you are going to already have people in your space. You might be tempted to piggy back on someone else’s idea but having a similar name is a bad idea. It confuses people and can appear unoriginal. You could also be stepping on a legal minefield if your name is too similar.
Don’t use your own name.
There is a current trend for entrepreneurs to use their own name for their business. Unless your business revolves around you completely (eg your whole business is you public speaking etc) then it’s generally not a great idea.
One good reason for this is that it is much harder to scale or sell a business that has your name. A perfect example of this is Samantha Wills, who in 2018 shut down her successful jewellery business instead of selling it due to the fact that it bared her name and there wasn’t an easy way to extract herself out of the business.
Don’t choose a name that’s too niche.
Think about the future. Do you one day plan to expand and change? Bookporium might be a great name for a bookstore now, but what happens down the track when you want to sell something other than books?
If you’re planning of expanding and scaling the business, don’t pick a name that is too specific.
Make sure the name sounds good when spoken.
Sometimes a name may look good on paper and a pretty logo on a computer, but what happens when people say it out loud? Is it easy to pronounce? Does it sound good? Is it too long winded? Make sure the name doesn’t sound awful when spoken.
Use a name generator
Are you really stuck coming up with an idea? There are tools available that can help you brainstorm a name and give you a few ideas. Here are a few:
- Shopify’s business name generator. You can put in a word and it will give you some ideas.
- Virtual Thesaurus if you are looking for similar words to something to create a name.
- Bustaname is a domain name ideas generator
Come up with more than one name.
When going through the process of finding a name, you might find more than one you like. If that’s the case, write down all the ones you’ve come up with. In the next step you’ll narrow it down further and eventually you’ll have ‘the one’.
Make sure you love the name
Some people get bogged down with finding the perfect name and they end up choosing one they don’t even like because it seems to tick the boxes. At the end of the day, your business name is going to be with you for a long time (hopefully) so you want to love it. Your business and your brand needs to feel like ‘you’ so make sure the name reflects that. It’s hard to get enthusiastic about your business if you don’t even like the name.
I have a great name! Now what?
So you’ve come up with something fantastic that you think will work. Great! Now you need to see if it is available. Here are the things you need to check:
Has someone already trademarked the name? You can check this in Australia by going to IP Australia and doing a search. Remember if you plan to go global that trademarking is done on a county by country basis so just because your name isn’t trademarked in Australia doesn’t mean it’s not trademarked somewhere else. If there’s a particular market you want to target (such as the USA) then it will pay to check that your name is not trademarked in that country.
Is your name available to register as a business name in Australia? You must register a business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). The only exception is if you are a sole trader and trading under your own name. You can check this via their website.
If you’re planning on a website then you’ll need a domain name and it is generally the best idea to get your business name as the domain. Even if you aren’t planning on creating a website just yet, you should still secure your domain names to stop anyone else from using them. Ideally you would want to purchase the .com, .com.au and the new .au.
You can easily check if a domain name is available by going to a site like Ventra IP or Crazy Domains and doing a search. They will let you know if it is available. Remember that it is generally better to get regular domains such as .com or .com.au rather than the obscure endings.
If the domain name is not available but there is no website created on it, you can also use Who.is to check and see who owns a domain name. You may be able to contact them to purchase it, however this can be a hassle and has no guarantee of success (or could be expensive).
If the domain name is not available, you may want to reconsider your business name.
The last thing you will want to check is your social media stuff. Even if you don’t plan on doing anything with it yet, check if it is available and then sign it up so you can get the handle or name. A great tool to check if your business name is available on all the different platforms is Namecheckr. Pop in your potential name and it will tell you if the .com domain name and various socials are free to use.
Go through all these steps with your potential names. If you run into problems with them for any of these reasons, then you might need to rethink the name.
If your business is successful, then your business name is going to be with you for a long time. Once your brand identity gets known to people, its kind of a pain in the butt to change so its important to take a bit of time to ensure you have a business name that fits.
If you want more help with starting your business, our How to Start a Work From Home Business Course takes you through how to find an idea, create a business model and get your business started.