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5 Tips and 2 Warnings for Choosing Your Small Business Name

By: Susan Solovic


Shakespeare said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. However, some business names can be real stinkers. Therefore, if I may invoke a line from another famous production—Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade—choose wisely!

Let’s start with two very important warnings:
  • Don’t select a name that has already been trademarked.
  • Don’t select a name already registered as a corporation, if you plan to incorporate.
You don’t want to spend a lot of time developing a name and perhaps the artwork for your logo if there are already claims on it. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a database you can search to see if the name you are considering has been trademarked.
You need to check with the office in your state that handles incorporations to see if someone already has your proposed name. However, if you’re in a different location and/or provide a different product or service, you might still be able to use the name. Consult a lawyer.
Try these ideas
With those admonitions out of the way, let’s try to get our creative juices flowing by discussing some strategies to inspire the ideal business name.
  • Keep it simple. Simple is always good. Simple lends itself to being memorable. Try to catch the essence of what you do. An example I like to use is GoToMyPC. In this case, it also makes a great domain name, which is something many businesses need to consider. However, probably every combination of six letters or less is already taken as a domain name; you’ll have to go longer than that.
  • Consider wordplay. Wordplay can be good, but there’s one huge caveat: It can’t be confusing! Don’t do a play on words that would cause spelling errors; you won’t get easily found on the web. Also, make sure the name truly relates to what you do. I’ve heard about a yarn store called “With Ewe In Mind.” The ovine spelling confuses and it’s not obviously a yarn shop.
  • Be inventive. Head over to Google translate and set it up to translate from English to Latin. Enter some English words that relate to your business and find their Latin equivalents. See if you can use the Latin to craft a name that is memorable, simple and illuminates some qualities of your business. Approaches like this have been used to create names like Acura.
  • Consider keywords. One or two keywords in your name can be very good. They help directly communicate what is important to your business and give you a potential boost in web searches.
  • Hire someone. What’s your budget? Do you want to pay $5 for some business name ideas or $50,000? At the bottom end, you can go to Fiverr and several freelancers will suggest five names for five bucks. If you have a healthy budget you can go to NameLab, which came up with Acura, Olive Garden, COMPUSA and many more.
One last word of advice: When you start to zero in on names, try them out on your friends and family. That should help you find the real winner.
This article was originally published by Susan Solovic
Published: April 18, 2014

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Susan Solovic

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Amazon.com and USA Today bestselling author, and attorney. She was the CEO and co-founder of SBTV.com—small business television—a company she grew from its infancy to a million dollar plus entity. She appears regularly as a featured expert on Fox Business, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC and can be seen currently as a small business expert on the AT&T Networking Exchange website. Susan is a member of the Board of Trustees of Columbia College and the Advisory Boards for the John Cook School of Entrepreneurship at Saint Louis University as well as the Fishman School of Entrepreneurship at Columbia College. 

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