Choosing a name for your new business can be one of the most fun and most challenging steps in setting up your business. If you’re flush with cash, you can hire a naming company to help you. The more successful ones can charge five figures or more (much, much more) to help you come up with the perfect moniker. If like most new business owners, however, you’d rather spend your start up money in other ways, here are a few steps to help you choose the best name for your business.

Avoid Limiting Names

If you’re creating a business you eventually want to sell, don’t use your name. Besides making it harder to sell, it’s going to make it hard and weird for you to do business in the future when you can’t use your own name.

Avoid names that will limit your ability to grow and expand your future. For example, calling your photo studio Jenny’s Baby Portraits will pretty much guarantee people won’t be calling you for business head shots, senior portraits or weddings. Better to go with something like Jenny’s Photography and put your specialty into your tagline, which will be much easier to change when you decide to change your business focus.

Likewise, be careful about choosing a geographically limiting name. I.e., Parker Avenue Salon. What happens if you decide to open additional locations or need to move to another place? Having a name tied to a geographic location can end up being confusing for potential customers.

Your business name should evoke good feelings about your business. It should give your customers a sense of your purpose and offerings whether it’s to evoke trust, adventure, creativity, professionalism, etc. It should convey the value and uniqueness of the product or service you are offering.

Enlist help to choose the best name for your businessDo the Necessary Research

While there’s nothing wrong with making up a word for the name of your business (and there are many excellent examples of “made up” names, be careful in choosing. Do the necessary research to make sure you aren’t inadvertently choosing a word that has negative or offensive connotations in another language. I could tell you the old story about Chevy having poor sales when they named a car Nova, but that’s actually an urban legend and not at all true.

Don’t choose a name that’s difficult to spell or pronounce. If you’re buying a domain that matches your name (which you really want to do in the 21st century), creative or alternative spellings may land your customers on someone else’s website. Avoid funky, cutesy or clever names for the same reason. Check to see if the dot-com domain for your business name is available. While there are many suffixes available besides dot-com these days, it should still be your first choice. If someone already has it and you can’t purchase it, you face a lifetime of misdirected clients. For a few tips on getting that domain name right–because it’s definitely a consideration in today’s business world–check out these tips for choosing the right domain name.

Avoid using names that sound like or are similar to well-known business names or trademarked names.  Don’t use the word Inc., incorporated or corporation in your name unless you actually are. Both of these could lead to costly legal issues and having to rename your business after it’s established.

Check the business naming rules for your state. Most states will not allow you to incorporate with a business name that another entity is already using, and some will not allow you to use a name that is very similar to another business’ name.

Choosing a Name for Your Business is a startup milestone

Make Sure You and Your Customers Like the Name

Choose a name that not only appeals to you but will appeal to your target customers. Make sure it’s a name you like and can live with. Make sure the name sounds good when you say it out loud. Some names look great on paper but sound awful when spoken. Better to give it a test and find out before you start using it.

Finally, once you have settled on a name, test drive it with potential customers and business associates. Listen to their reactions and feedback before finalizing it as your company name.


If you need a little help getting your creative juices flowing, here are a few websites that focus on business name generation to get you going.

Visual Thesaurus— This site creates a visual map to meanings and related words to help you see possible connections.

Namelix Business Name Generator–This site will take a word of your choice and create possible names for you to consider.

Shopify Business Name Generator–Choose a word and it will give you name suggestions and also check for domain availability.

These are just a few of the many business naming tools out there. And additionally, if you’re really stuck, there are companies out there who specialize in creating names for new companies. Knowing how to choose the best name for your business can seem like a daunting task, but with a little time, creativity and the realization that there is no “perfect” name out there, you can come up with a name that will work for you.

Do you have a name for your business already? How did you come up with it? I’d love to hear the story.

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