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How to come up with a business name

starting a business Jan 13, 2018

Hello entrepreneur, are you trying to understand how to come up with a business name? Looking for unique business name ideas for your new business? I LOVE brainstorming business names, it is one of my favourite things to work on with clients! All your ideas, your vision, everything you represent as an entrepreneur, can come together if you come up with your perfect business name!

It can also be a stressful job figuring our how to come up with a business name and that is why this article will walk you through how to come up with a business name, how to generate a list of amazing business name ideas, and how to choose the right business name from your list of ideas, so your business name will be memorable, unique and catchy! 

In this post about how to come up with a business name, I will explain the names your business needs, naming concepts you can consider, and a step by step approach to come up with a unique business name idea that perfectly matches your company mission! To help you out, I've also created a FREE DOWNLOADABLE WORKBOOK to guide you through all the steps.


I will also cover the slightly boring, but highly important, legal stuff, so you will know exactly how to come up with a business name.


What makes a great business name?

Before we dive into how to come up with a business name, let's first dive into what the right business name looks like.

The perfect business name is:

  • Memorable. A memorable business name will help you get free Word of Mouth promotion. This also helps people remember your business after hearing about it on radio or tv.
  • Easy to spell. People can find you online through a search if your name is easy to spell. Voice assistants like Siri should be able to understand the name too, since voice search is taking over the way people search for businesses!
  • For your target audience. It doesn't matter if your friends hate the name, as long as your ideal customers LOVE it!
  • Future proofWhat is your vision for the future? What products or services do you see yourself offering in 5 year's time? Are your future plans covered by your business name?
  • Self explanatoryA great name provides at least an indication of what your company is about. Especially if you have a small budget to promote your business.


Which names does my business need?

When brainstorming company names, it is important to think about all the names you need:

  • First of all the registered legal company name, the official name for your business
  • Your company can have one or more additional trade names; names you can use for example to market to various audiences. My company has 3 trade names: Micantis, for my consulting business, Spark Academy for my online programs and Paulien Pierik for my coaching business & blog. When I send invoices for my online courses, I use the trade name, depending on what I am invoicing, to make sure it is not confusing for customers. You will often use "operating as" or "doing business as" when you use your trade name;
  • A domain name;
  • Social media channel names;
  • Trademarks (registered brand names). Trademarks are important if you plan to spend money on marketing your company name. If you will only use your company name/trading name for administrative purposes for example, then investing in a trademark might not be necessary. Protecting your trademark can be expensive, especially if you work internationally, so make sure to investigate options.


Unique Business Name Concepts

Wondering how to come up with a business name? These are the main naming concepts you can use, going from super descriptive to hyper creative and unique. Which concepts will work best for you depends on your industry, your customers and your personal preference.

Here is an overview naming concepts you can use for coming up with your perfect business name:

  • Descriptive. Super simple, like The name describes the business. These names are less original and harder to protect, but it's clear what the business does.
  • Local / geographic, like Champagne, the wine. This concept works well for local businesses or local products.
  • Family name, business partners' name, or simply your name. Very common for coaches, legal offices, doctor's offices etc.
  • Purpose or value driven, a name that describes why you are in business.
  • An association, a word or verb that you associate with your product or service, for example ping pong for a chat application.
  • Super creative, like an existing word in a totally different context (famous example: Apple). Or a made up word.

The more original and different the name, the bigger the chance that the domain name is still available and that the name can be protected. But also the less clear it is for a customer what the company does...


Creating unique business name idea: combining the main concepts 

As explained above, you can use different concepts for your business name. If you want your name to be truly unique, then you can get creative by combining the main concepts. Many company names are a combination of the main concepts or a variation on the main concepts. Here are the main variations / combinations you can use to come up with absolutely unique business name ideas:

  • Translate a name or word. Adyen (an innovative Dutch payment company) means "start all over again" in Surinam en represents their goal to transform the payment industry (a translation of a name that describes your purpose)
  • Hip spelling. NetFlix is a contraction of net (internet) and flicks (slang for movies). So they took a descriptive name and turned is into a funky spelled version. The disadvantage of hip spelling is that it will be hard for customers to remember the spelling and voice recognition systems (like Siri) will also have a hard time with them.
  • Abbrevations. BP (the petroleum company), GM (General Motors). Abbreviations are more common for large corporations than for startups
  • A name +ify. Shopify. Spotify.
  • Combination of a few concepts
    • A funky spelling of an association. Google comes from Googolplex (a 1 with 100 zeros), which represents the enormous amount of data Google wants to organize.
    • A local name that represents a purpose. Amazon, the biggest river in the world, represents Amazon's mission to be the biggest book store in the world


How to come up with a business name ideas list

Here is a step by step approach to find your list of unique business name ideas:

Step 1: Define your purpose and core values.
Your ideal business name should reflect your company purpose and core values. I recommend you work on those first, before picking a company name.

Step 2: Brainstorm
Get together with a small group (business partners, family, friends) and brainstorm, starting from your purpose and core values. Make up names in each of the categories that make sense for your industry.

Step 3: Combine and associate to create a unique business name ideas list
Make a shortlist of the 5 to 10 names you like best. Associate and brainstorm on those 10 names. Combine, translate, spell differently. Be creative, don't judge!

Step 4: Check availability
Now it's time to check the availability of the name (should be unique and not trademarked), the domain names and social channels. You can use to come up with alternative domain names if your ideal domain name should be taken.

Step 5: TEST
Test your names, preferably with potential clients. What do they think when they hear the name? How does it make them feel? Remember, it's not about what YOU think or what your friends think, it is about your customers.

Step 6: Choose
Compare your names based on the feedback from customers and the 6 criteria for a great business name, and pick your favorite! You can use the FREE DOWNLOADABLE WORKBOOK to evaluate each of your names. And.... go!



Unique Business Name Generator Tools

Need a creativity boost? Here are 6 tools to help you get creative:

  1. A business name tool to help you find alternative domain names:
    Panabee is a tool that will generates names and domain names based on a description of a few words. This tool is perfect when you experience the biggest MEH that every new business owner will experience: you've come up with the perfect business name, but the domain name is taken. AAAAAHHHH. This business name tool will help you find alternative domain names.  It also automatically checks which domains are still available! Very useful when you are looking for a domain name:

  2. A 234 languages in 1 translation tool. This tool is my favorite: this website with an impossible to pronounce name will translate 1 word into many languages at once! Just type your name idea (or part of it) into this business name tool and BAM it will spit out the translated version in many languages at once. I love this tool and I use it a lot. Sometimes the link does not work (for some mysterious reason), you can check back later and it will be back up.

  3. The BEST synonym generator in the world (I use it every day!): the power thesaurus! A thesaurus, or synonym generator, that will help you come up with huge lists of synonyms. I've tried many and the power thesaurus is my favorite. I also use it to come up with names for blog posts, Facebook Groups etc, when I want to find less common synonyms. Definitely a must-use business name tool!

  4. A mindmap tool to help you organize your ideas. Tired of working through your post-it note mess? I KNOW right! You can use a mindmap tool instead, like this one by Mindmeister to explore ideas. Here is an example of what a mindmap looks like:

  5. Learn from the best... Here is a list of 100 famous businesses, their names and their logos. Why not learn from those that have probably paid millions to business naming agencies to come up with name ideas :-). NEVER copy ideas though, as of course we want to be uniqueeee.

  6. Trigger your creativity with fake words. This fake word generator will help you brainstorm completely new words! This business name tool can help to come up with some new directions if you are feeling stuck.

  7. A business name generator! Here's a blog post with 10 business name generators. I do not recommend only using a generator though, but it can help in the creative process!


Download your Free Business Name Workbook


Perfect Business Name Checklist

Finally, keep this in the back of your mind when brainstorming your perfect business name:

  • Is your name available as a domain name? This can be super frustrating, it seems as if ALL domains names you can think of have baan sold already. So please please please do not spend a lot of time brainstorming without checking if the domain name is still available... You can use to check the avaibility.
  • Are the social media channels still available? As an online business, you need to claim the social media channels at the same time you claim your name. If the social media channel names are already taken, then a variation on the name is a good alternative.
  • Is your name unique and not trademarked? You cannot use the same business name as someone else in your niche in the same country (or state, if you live in the USA). Rules differ per country, so please make sure to check the laws before you pick your name). You can check trademarks here for the US, for Europe, for Canada and for Australia
  • Google the name and make sure nothing strange shows up!! You don't want your brand new company name resemble a business name that just went through a huge scandal...

That's it, your step by step guide to help you come up with a business name. Enjoy brainstorming your perfect business name! 

Here's what you can do next: 

  • You can find more posts related to growing your business here on the blog.
  • Check out Paulien's business coaching services if you need help launching your new business! 

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about how to come up with a business name! Want to refer back to it later? Save it using the pin below, or share it with your entrepreneur friends using the share buttons on this page!


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