Woman thinking of a business name
Starting a business

How to come up with a business name: 19 tips for small businesses

Most small business owners will tell you that coming up with a business name is like naming your first child—you want the name to feel right and show off your business’s identity, while making it one that people will remember. 

There can be a lot of pressure and hand-wringing when it comes to landing on the perfect name for your business, but take some comfort in the fact that you have a little bit of flexibility. You can always change your business name later, or file for a trade name (often called a “doing business as” or “DBA”) if you need to.

However, finding the right fit from the start is rewarding, and it can save you a lot of administrative headaches down the line. Consider this your complete guide on how to come up with a business name that will leave a lasting impression on your future customers.

1. Do a brain dump 

Figuring out how to come up with a small business name can seem intimidating at first. How do you choose which direction to take? An initial brainstorming session could be helpful to do a brain dump of all of your ideas and get the creativity flowing.  

Tip: List things like your passions, nicknames, core business values, things that inspire you, attributes that are important to you, and words that describe your business to uncover some potential words and phrases you could use in your small business name. 

2. Base it on your story 

If you’re feeling particularly in tune with the story behind your business, choose a name that reflects this. Not only can this demonstrate your personal achievements, but it also can help relate your business back to your customer experience. Many customers do business with companies they can relate to, making this an optimal route to take. 

Tip: Write out your business’ story and history—like why you started your business and where you see your business in the future. This can help spark creative thinking and inspiration that can lead you to that perfect business name. 

3. Represent your brand 

Your brand identity carries a lot of weight when naming your business, so make sure you think about what sort of image you want your name to portray. For example, an upscale business name should imply that your business is more high-quality, while a rustic name should imply that your business is more homey. 

Tip: Make a list of brand attributes that resonate with your business and your target market to see if any words stand out to help you get the creative juices flowing. 

4. Make it memorable 

You want your business name to resonate with your target audience. One way to do this is to look at the competition within your industry and see what makes them memorable (or not). Use this information to consider how your brand can stand out above the rest to stay memorable for your potential customers. 

Tip: Make a list of businesses you admire in your industry and study their brand names to determine what factors make them stand out from the rest. 

5. Keep it easy to pronounce 

You don’t want your customers to struggle trying to figure out how to talk about your business to other people. While you do have room to be creative and unique, consider the customer and any word-of-mouth advertising they might do. If they cannot pronounce your business name, you might be inadvertently turning away potential customers. 

You’ll also want to make sure your business name is one that customers can pronounce correctly. Oftentimes, names with unique spelling can be tricky to pronounce. For example, Teva can be pronounced tee-vah or teh-va. 

Tip: Practice saying your potential business name aloud to make sure it rolls off the tongue, and get feedback from family and friends to make sure they don’t have trouble with pronunciation. 

6. Be unique 

Generic small business names can be appealing because they often check the “memorable” and “easy to pronounce” boxes. But ultimately, a good business name should be as unique as the business itself. Dedicate considerable time and effort when choosing a unique business name to make sure it fits the bill. 

Tip: Avoid generic words and words that don’t align with your brand’s identity. 

List of things that make a good business name with an illustration of a store front

7. Use your own name

When thinking about being unique and true to your brand, what better way to do so than with your own name? By using your name as your business name, you are tying yourself to your company’s core competencies, therefore instilling confidence in your customers. 

However, keep in mind that using your name as a business name implies that you are the face of your business, at least for a while, and you may eventually grow large enough to have an instantly recognizable name, such as McDonald’s. 

Tip: If you decide to use your own name, make sure it’s easy to spell and pronounce— or try using a nickname if you have one. This will make it easier for future customers to look up your business later down the line. 

8. Make use of acronyms and abbreviations

If you’re looking for an easy-to-remember and easy-to-pronounce name, an acronym or abbreviation might be best. This could be based on something meaningful like your initials, or even the city where you started your business. Or it could be based on what your business stands for. For example, the abbreviation for the makeup company MAC stands for “Makeup Art Cosmetics.” 

Tip: Look at obvious words that describe your business and use that as an abbreviation, but make sure it’s one that’s catchy and not just a few jumbled letters put together.

9. Choose a compound name 

If an abbreviation doesn’t make sense as a viable option, think about a compound name. These can either be words that you feel describe your business or have another meaning to you. Many businesses go this route when there is more than one co-owner or co-founder. Snapchat, PayPal, and DoorDash are all great examples of compound business names that demonstrate what the business is all about. 

Tip: Make a list of words that describe your business, then try matching different pairs of words together to see if anything rolls off the tongue. 

10. Consider a symbol 

While considering small business names, it might be beneficial to draw inspiration from a symbol. Just like Apple has a very recognizable symbol attached to its name, you want your small business name to stand out beyond just the name itself. 

Tip: Draft up a business logo to get a feel for how it would look on your website, business cards, storefront signage, and products. This will help you determine whether it would be something that catches a potential customer's eye and is recognizable.  

11. Get creative with spelling 

As an entrepreneur, you don't need to invent a whole new word to name your business—you can just change the spelling of an existing word. For instance, you can change the traditional spelling of a word, replace a letter with a number, or add or remove letters. Tweaking this just enough will catch a potential customer's attention. 

Tip: Consider getting feedback from a few friends and family to ensure the tweaks in spelling are still easy to pronounce correctly. 

12. Consider using foreign words

If nothing in the English language is feeling like a good fit for your brand name, consider using foreign words, but be sure to remain sensitive when choosing words outside of the English language. This can provide a catchy business name that remains memorable, plus it can make you stand out against your competitors. Just make sure that the name you choose makes sense for your type of business and the market you’re targeting, especially if you’re planning on growing your business. 

Tip: No matter the language, your business name should still evoke some meaning, so make sure you’re choosing a word (or words) that align with your business values. 

13. Look at other business names in your industry 

Drawing inspiration from other businesses in your industry can help you land on a name of your own. Not only does it help you find what names to avoid, but it also helps you uncover creative industry trends and themes that you can incorporate into your name. 

Tip: Try inputting “INDUSTRY business names” in Google, or utilize Google maps and other directories to find businesses to pull inspiration from. 

14. Keep it simple 

Sometimes, the best choice for a new business name is the most simplistic. This eliminates any confusion for your potential customers and makes your business clear to new customers. Even if you are explaining your offerings, remember to make it unforgettable so customers will ask for your business by name. 

Tip: At the end of the day, a good business name is one that’s easy to find and remember, so keep searchability in mind when thinking of a creative name for your small business. 

15. Use a business name generator 

If all else fails and you’re feeling stuck, you can turn to an online business name generator to help you come up with some catchy business names. A few popular ones include:

Not only can tools like this spark some creative business name ideas, but they can also help eliminate some stress in the process.

Tip: Utilize these tools as a starting point to find a direction for your creative business name, then build off of the ideas to hone in on the perfect fit.  

16. Watch it grow with you 

Common types of words to avoid in a business name including words that are location specific, words that include a specific product offering, and words that target a specific demographic.

While you might just be starting out in your new business, you want to ensure that it grows with you as you expand. With that in mind, ensure that the business name you choose is also capable of growth. 

If you’re offering one product now, don’t forget that you might want to expand into a larger market in the future, and choosing limiting name options won’t allow you to do so. Keep in mind that while you’re trying to stand out from the competition, you don’t want to limit yourself.

Tip: Avoid using location-specific names if you plan to expand to other cities or states, names that target a specific demographic if you plan to broaden your customer base, and names that are product-specific if you plan to extend your offerings. 

17. Test it out 

You can spend hours brainstorming and coming up with what you think is the perfect name for your business, but the final test is seeing how others respond to it. Getting feedback on the name from family, friends, and your potential target audience can help you nail down the perfect business name.

Tip: Run a poll or survey with a small pool of your ideal customer base, and include a couple of your top business name ideas to see which one yields the most amount of votes.

18. Make sure the name isn’t taken

Places to check for business name availability including secretary of state, trademark database, DBA registrations, domain names, social media, and Google search

You’ve spent the time brainstorming and you’ve come up with one—or maybe even a few—potential names for your new business. So, what’s next? To ensure your business name ideas are the right fit, you’ll need to do a bit more legwork to make sure the name is free and clear for you to use without any extra headaches or hassles.

How to check a business name  

Here are a few places you should visit to check the availability of your desired business name:

  • Secretary of state: Most secretary of state offices have a business search function online, where you can type in a business name and see if a business structure with that name is already registered in your state. Using a duplicate name might not only violate trademarks, but also potentially cause confusion for customers.
  • Trademark database: Business names can be trademarked, and if you violate that, you could face a lawsuit. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office maintains a database where you can search trademarks and see if your desired business name comes up.
  • Doing business as (DBA) name registrations: Some businesses operate under a name different name than their formal business name. These fictitious names are referred to as doing business as, or DBA names. It’s important to check these names as well to ensure your potential business name isn’t already someone's DBA name.

  • Domain names: There’s nothing worse than landing on the perfect business name, only to discover that there aren’t any relevant and available domain names. Start by typing the URL you’d use for your business name into the search bar of your browser. If nothing comes up, this could mean there is domain availability, but you should still visit a domain name registrar (like Google Domains or GoDaddy) to search for your domain name. Make sure it’s actually available and isn’t a completely unreasonable price.
  • Social media: Turn to social media to make sure the handles you’d want to use for your business are available. This might sound like a trivial step, but you want your social media handles to be close to your business name so people can easily find you, tag you, and shop on your page.
  • Google search: Finally, it’s worth doing a straightforward name search for your business name to see what comes up. You’d hate for the name you choose to be affiliated with something inappropriate.

19. Register your business name  

If you’ve followed the tips above and have decided on a name for your small business, registering your business name is the next step to protect it and ensure other businesses don’t use it. 

The four different ways to register and protect your business name are:

  • Entity name: This protects your business name at a state level.
  • Trademark: This protects your business name at a national level.
  • DBA: This doesn’t provide legal protection alone, but you may be required to use a DBA depending on your state and business structure.
  • Domain name: This secures a domain name for your business website so no one else can own it.

Tip: Make sure to check your state’s guidelines to see which ways of registering your business are legally required for your type of business structure. 

Your future business (name) awaits 

When starting a business, creating a business name is a big decision. It’s always smart to do a gut check to help you narrow down your choices and confirm that the name you landed on is the right fit for you. 

Lean on friends, family, industry peers, or other trusted confidants for their opinions on the business name or names you’ve come up with to help reveal a clear winner among your final choices.

Ultimately, coming up with a business name for your startup is up to you—it’s your business. By looking at the different options of potential business names available, you’re sure to choose a name that both reflects your brand identity and will be memorable for years to come.

Knowing how to come up with a business name is just the first step in the startup process. When you’re ready, accounting software like QuickBooks Online can help you with those bigger steps, such as tracking income and expenses and preparing your business for taxes, so you’re ready for what lies ahead. 

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