What's in a Great Business Name?

By Samantha Garner, GoForth Institute

Congratulations! You’ve decided that your small business idea will make a great small business. You’ve done some research and you’re ready to hang your shingle and become an entrepreneur. So – what will you call your business?

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Tips on Choosing a Business Name

Unless you’re operating a sole proprietorship under your own name, you’ll need to take some time and think about the best name for your business. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a name for your small business:

Keep your business name memorable

The name of your small business can have a great impact on the perception of your company. Make it memorable and not overly complicated. You might register your business name with “Inc.” or “Ltd.” at the end, but you don’t have to include that in the name you present to the public.

When it comes to memorable business names, shorter is usually better. Think of some popular businesses you know – most of them have names comprising just one or two words. Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Canadian Tire, to name a few. Don’t feel limited by your actual business offering in choosing a name – Tim Horton was a hockey player, after all!

Keep your business name creative

Keep your business’ name creative enough for people to remember. If you’re starting a plumbing business, you may think that “Joe’s Reliable Plumbing” might be a good name. However, consider Canadian plumbing franchise Mr. Rooter. This is a name that gets the point across just as well as “Joe’s Reliable Plumbing,” but in a more creative and catchy way.

Purposeful misspelling like “Kidz” or “E-Z” (think Kwik Kopy) is another way to keep your business name creative. Now, the jury’s out on this one – some hate this method, but some may decide it’s a fun way to keep their business name creative.

Write out your top three small business names and make sure to say them aloud and spell them out. The last thing you want is a business name that’s confusing, unintentionally funny or that you have to spell for people!

Keep your business name consistent with your brand

What’s your business’ target market? Who are your competitors? What is the image you are trying to portray? If you’re opening a bookkeeping firm targeted at oil and gas companies, you might not want to name it Krazy Klown Bookkeeping. You want people to see your business name and not only get a sense of what you do, but also of the kind of people they’re dealing with.

Don’t typecast your business

You may have come across a restaurant called something like Third Street Bagels – all the way on 50th Street. Or you may have wondered why your friends were taking you to a place called Mike’s Burgers to get a cappuccino. These are examples of business names that relied too heavily on a location or product/service offering. Third Street Bagels got a great deal on space in its town’s popular 50th Street. Mike decided to capture some of the crowd frequenting the café next door. However, if the owners of these businesses had opted for more general names to begin with (such as “Bagel Heaven” and “Bluebird Café”), their expansion wouldn’t have confused their customers.

Consider URL-friendly business names

It’s the 21st century, so it’s highly likely your business will have a website. Choose a small business name that will also work well as a website URL. Search to see if your business name is available as a .com, .ca or .net address. If not, are there reasonable alternative domain names available? Bluebird Café could consider registering thebluebird.ca or bluebirdmontreal.com. Write your name out as one continuous word and make sure no undesired words or connotations sneak in (Bluebird Café wouldn’t want to register bluebirdfood.com, for example, lest they get calls from confused pet stores).

Stay clear of copyrighted or restricted names

When choosing your small business name, there are some restrictions to what you can use. Names that suggest connections with the Royal Family or with the government will be rejected when you try to register. Names that are too similar to existing businesses (sorry, Tarbuck’s Coffee) or considered obscene or inappropriate aren’t allowed either. Consider taking a page from Google’s book and making up a name for your company that doesn’t already exist. As long as it keeps in mind all the considerations above, it could be very appropriate for your company.

Contact Samantha by email: samantha@goforthinstitute.com.

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