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Business Startup

How to come up with a business name

Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation


Picking out a business name is one of the most exciting steps in starting a small business. A business name introduces and identifies a startup to the world. It allows consumers to learn about what the business does and its offerings and services.

Naming a small business can often be harder than it looks! Here’s what to keep in mind as you begin brainstorming business names.

Tips for Naming a Small Business

A business name differentiates a small business from its competitors. Business names are unique, original, and reflect the business brand.

Easy to Spell and Pronounce

A small business name is visible everywhere, from storefront signage to social media handles. Therefore, it’s important that your target audience can spell and pronounce your business name.

A good rule of thumb for naming a small business is to use between five to 10 letters and at least one consonant. Try to avoid hyphens, numbers, or any other special symbol. This draws out the name, making it more difficult to spell and pronounce, and may confuse your customer base.

Not sure how the business name sounds? Say it out loud or ask for feedback through a family member or friend. Make sure that you, and those you consult, can understand what the business does or offers by hearing its business name.

Use Relevant Keywords

Some small businesses may seek out relevant keywords when naming their business. Using relevant keywords isn’t a requirement for naming a business. However, this is a helpful strategy for SEO purposes.

For example, let’s say you own a bicycle-based business in Portland, Oregon. If you use keywords like “bike” or “Portland” in your business name, potential customers may be better able to find your business when typing these keywords into Google search. Relevant keywords help better detail your offerings, in naming your business and picking a domain name. Moreover, using relevant keywords may help increase business site traffic and its search engine rank.

Does the Business Name Reflect the Brand?

Naming a small business means considering the brand’s offerings and message. Consider using words or concepts that reflect your value proposition. This name should be succinct and specific and sound meaningful to your audience.

Naming a Business | Next Steps

You have a few options in mind for a business name. Now, it’s time to move on to trademark registration.

Conduct a Name Search (Federal Level)

Conducting a name search is the first step in registering a small business trademark. (Your business name is considered a trademark because it distinguishes a business and its visibility to the world.)

Conduct a name search through a trademark database. Search through the UPSTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) or work with a third-party incorporation filing service to conduct a trademark search.

A name search shows that the name of your business is unique. You may see if the business name is not already trademarked or pending registration elsewhere. Without conducting a name search, you may accidentally infringe on an existing trademark and may not even realize it! If there are no pending trademarks for your business name, then the name is available to claim and trademark.

Conduct a Name Search (State Level)

As you check business name availability on the federal level, remember to check on the state level too.

Check in with the Secretary of State in the state where you conduct business. Make sure that the business name is available and that your business is following the state’s rules for naming a small business. For example, let’s say you have a California LLC. Your business may be required to use “LLC” or “Limited Liability Company” to identify itself.

File for Trademark Registration

Is your business name available? If you said yes, it’s time to file a trademark application.

A trademark protects your unique business identity. Trademark registration provides the owner with exclusive rights to the mark. This means nobody else may infringe upon the trademark or plagiarize it as their own.

Registering a business name at the federal level may be done directly with the appropriate Secretary of State’s office. You may also work with a third-party filing service to file your trademark. Here’s what to expect on a standard trademark application.

  • Business owners will share information about who they are, what their business does, and the mark they plan to register.
  • A written description of the trademark.
  • Brief description of goods and services used in connection with the mark.
  • How the mark is used in connection with these goods and services.
  • The number and class of goods and services connected with the mark.
  • Dates for which the mark has been used in business by its applicant and in its state of formation.

Trademark applications, along with a filing fee must be signed and submitted to the appropriate Secretary of State location.

Monitor a Trademark

As you wait for the business name to become a federally registered trademark, consider a trademark monitoring service.

This service is provided by third-party incorporation filing organizations. It helps monitor and protect your trademark application. This ensures nobody else may use your unique business name while it is pending registration. Should an outside source attempt to do so, the third-party incorporation service will quickly reach out to you about next steps. Staying informed about these registrations allows business owners to quickly react and respond, protecting their trademark from infringement.

A monitoring service also shares detailed reports with business owners. These reports recognize potentially conflicting marks going through the registration process. This allows business owners to enforce their trademark rights and force the denial of these applications.

Choose and Register a Domain Name

What about a business domain name? As you apply to trademark your business name, it’s important to pick a domain name, conduct a name search, and pay to register the name if it’s available.

Choosing a Domain Name

Choosing a domain name shares similarities with naming a business. Business names reflect what the business does and its offerings. Domain names consider your business model.

Ideally, the name of the business should be an exact match to its domain name. Generally, customers default the business name to its URL. Having an exact domain name match means customers will be able to quickly find and go directly to your business.

Other aspects to consider when choosing a domain name include making sure the name is easy to pronounce and spell, uses relevant keywords, and is memorable and short. (Not unlike the tips for naming a small business, right?)

Conduct a Name Search and Obtain a Domain Name Extension

Once you have a domain name, conduct a name search prior to registration. Conducting a domain name search ensures that the domain name is available to use. We recommend using the free domain name search tool available from FreeLogoServices. This tool allows you to search for your domain name and see if it is available within minutes.

Remember to consider the domain name extension too. Here are some extension options for small businesses.

  • Dot-com (.com)
  • Dot-org (.org)
  • Dot-edu (.edu)
  • Dot-us (.us)
  • Dot-co (.co)

The extension a small business picks will depend on its industry. A nonprofit, for example, will likely choose a dot-org extension fitting its organization and mission.

When in doubt, go the dot-com route. It is recommended that businesses choose dot-com as their default domain extension. Dot-com extensions are among the most popular top-level domains (TLDs). This extension is ideal for backlinks and may lead to better SEO search rankings.

Register a Domain Name

Once you pick out a domain name, conduct a name search, and obtain a domain name extension, it’s time to register and purchase your domain name. Do this as soon as possible.

Search for matching social media handles, too. Secure handles for platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Changing an Existing Business Name

Can you change your business name after incorporating or forming an LLC for your small business? Yes. The process is shares similarities with picking an initial business name or even a domain name.

Here’s a quick checklist to guide business owners changing an existing business name.

  • Be certain about changing the business name. For example, you may be rebranding the business and need a new name that better reflects your offerings and services.
  • Brainstorm a few new business name options.
  • Conduct a name search on the federal and state level. Similarly, search to make sure the domain name is available.
  • Obtain approval. This approval comes from members (LLC) or shareholders (corporation) before moving forward in the name change process.
  • Notify the Secretary of State. This means preparing and filing articles of amendment for a business name change.
  • Contact the IRS. The IRS must be notified about the business name change for federal tax purposes.
  • Do you need a new EIN? The IRS will be able to assist you in answering this question.
  • Update business licenses. Local city or county offices will assist in determining if you need to apply for new business licenses under the new business name.
  • Meet with a legal professional. Do you still have questions about changing an existing business name? Meet with an attorney or another legal professional. They can help answer questions and guide business owners through any last-minute changes, like amending an LLC operating agreement or corporate bylaws with the new name, necessary before announcing the new business name.

Why File for a Trademark?

It is possible to run a business without registering its trademark. However, a business name is valuable intellectual property. Protecting it ensures nobody else infringes upon the mark or tries to pass it off as their own.

Avoid this risk by filing a trademark application to register the trademark at the federal level and receive exclusive rights to the mark.

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