How do I name my business?

Starting your own business brings along many challenges and decisions – choosing the name of your business is one of the most important decisions you will make. Your business name can influence the success of your business. The right name for your business will help customers connect with your brand and convey meaning. The wrong name will lead to headaches, misunderstandings, and legal risks.

Here is a 4-step process for naming your business with a few helpful tips along the way:

#1 Reflect on Your Business

 Reflect on what you do, why you do it, and who you serve. Then brainstorm a list of possibilities. Your business name should convey meaningful information about your business. Keep it positive and avoid negative connotations.  

Try to choose a name that will connect with your brand and resonate with your customers. You can always search your ideas on Google and see what comes up. This will help you develop an understanding of other’s interpretation of your keywords. Alternatively, you can always ask friends, family, and colleagues for feedback. Also, make sure it is easy for employees and customers to say and spell.  

Choose a name that will fit your business today and 10 years from now. Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of choosing a name that is too limiting and narrows them to a specific product category or geographic region. You don’t need your location in the name to show up in the local search results online. If you plan on selling your business, make sure the name is appealing to others and don’t name the business after yourself!

 If the name lacks meaning, has negative connotations, does not resonate with your customers, is too difficult for others to say and spell, or restricts your business, cross it off your list!

#2 Check Availability

 With the possibilities in mind, it is now time to check the name availability. To avoid trademark infringement, check that the name is available. Search the federal database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (Trademark Electronic Search System).

 Then check your local state agency’s database and naming guidelines where you will be registering your business (Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Name Availability).

 Search Google and other search engines for your desired name to scope out the competitiveness. You don’t want to choose a name that will be lost in the noise. You want a name that will stand out and allow your branded keyword rise to the #1 search result on Google. Then, search the domain name to make sure it is available (GoDaddy Domain Search). If it’s taken, you can get creative with abbreviations, hyphens, or alternative endings. Just double check the meaning behind the ending before committing! A .com name is always preferred for business, while the .org name is appropriate for non-profits and non-commercial entities.

#3 Reflect and Request Feedback

Choosing your business name is huge decision, so don’t rush it! Take a step away or sleep on it to make sure you still like the name later. Also, ask others for feedback. You may be convinced that the name is just right, but a bilingual friend may be able to cue you into a negative connotation you would have never known of.

If it doesn’t seem right after reflection and feedback, go back and brainstorm more possibilities. It may take some time upfront, but it will save you time in the long run. If you end up changing your mind, you can always file a Doing Business As (DBA). A DBA is a business name that allows your company to operate and brand under another name other than their registered, legal name. A DBA will require paperwork and frequent explanations to customers/employees.

#4 Register Your Name

With your company type and business name in mind, it is time to register your business with your state. Limited Liability Companies (LLC) and corporations are usually registered at the state level, while a sole proprietorship or general partnership may require you to register on a county or city level.

After registering your business, you may also want to consider registering for a trademark through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  A trademark is a recognizable design, sign, or expression that identifies a business, product, or service from other.