As a future-but-not-yet hugely successful startup, you want a business name that grabs the attention of all who hear it and holds on with a tight grip. But choosing a company name is a common obstacle for new entrepreneurs.
In this article, we’ll show you how to come up with the perfect catchy name for your new venture by brainstorming and making sure your name is:
- Available (in some form)
Ready? Let’s delve into these qualities and look at tips to get you through the business name creation process.
(You can also check out our quick video below!)
1. Make it original
Being original can be scary (and hard) to do, but it’s essential when naming your business — don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd!
A gazillion apps have names like Tinder, Grindr, Flickr, and Tumblr, so accept that your Stark-family-themed Game of Thrones app called Wintr will only get lost in the shuffle.
As a new startup, your name needs to compel people to sit up and take notice rather than look up, look down, and forget you ever existed.
To generate a boatload of options to work with, don’t edit yourself during the brainstorming process — it’s all about a free flow of ideas and imagination.
- Explore keywords. Twinword has an awesome free keyword tool that can help you find inspiration for your name. If you type a keyword related to your business into its search field, it’ll give you a graph of all of the other words related to it. Fire away!
- Consult books. Use a hard copy of a dictionary for inspiration, or even one of your favourite novels. Flip through the pages and write down words that resonate with you, even if they’re not directly related to your business.
- Play it up. Another way to achieve originality is with some deliciously fun wordplay. Have a look at these examples of companies with clever titles and think about what you could come up with for your brand identity. It’s a good idea starter! Examples: Melon Cauli (fruit and vegetable store), Sole Man (shoe repairs), Spoon Me (frozen yogurt brand), and Sensibill (receipt management software).
2. Make it future-proof
One thing you don’t want to do is create a name that sabotages your future expansion plans or limits your reach.
Let’s say, for instance, that your company makes women’s shoes, but you think you’ll eventually try to crack the male market. Having a name like Goddess Heels by Fiona wouldn’t be helpful.
One way to future-proof your name — and get out of the singular “this is the product we make or thing we offer” headspace — is to think about your company’s story, values, and key differentiators as you brainstorm.
- Get reflective. How would you describe your company to others? What are you trying to accomplish? What feelings do you want to evoke in your customers? Do certain adjectives come to mind when you think about your business? What do you do differently? Grab a piece of paper and a pen and start writing it all down.
- Consider your offering. If you’re a service-based business, having your service offering in the name can be helpful as a suffix (e.g. Scaling Upward Design).
- Keep it simple. A business name shouldn’t be a mashup of words trying to accomplish too many things — it needs to feel good and evoke positive emotions and associations in you and your future customers.
- Aim for easy spelling. Simple brand names are easier to spell—a huge plus when relying on online customers to remember your business and look you up or refer you!
3. Make it user-friendly
You have the first-round list of original name ideas — now what? It’s important to choose a name that’s easy to say, spell, and type into Google — even if it’s a made-up word.
Many people aren’t great spellers, and as of the time of writing this post, there’s no “Did you mean to write this?” system in place for mistyped URLs in browser windows.
Choosing a name that helps people find you quickly can put you ahead of the game. And remember: if customers can’t find you, they’ll end up finding someone else!
- Impose creative constraints. As you get deeper into brainstorming, limit yourself to coming up with names with only one word or two syllables — it’ll help you focus on coming up with punchier name ideas. Other constraints to try? Coming up with only alliterative names (hello, Squarespace and PayPal), or only ones that begin with verbs (e.g. Dropbox, Shopify).
- Test in different mediums. To see how your name ideas look and sound, put them into a logo design, say them out loud in a conversation (or to yourself in the mirror), and draft them in an email signature. Making your ideas feel real will help you determine if they connect!
- Get feedback. Ask a few trusted friends or family members to weigh in on your name ideas. If you say a name and they immediately look confused or barrage you with questions, you may want to rethink its user-friendliness.
- Check for language translation. The last thing you want is to name your business something that translates poorly in another language. Do a quick Google search to make sure you aren’t naming your brand after a body part or something crude.
Try out a business name in a logo design for free!
4. Make sure it’s available (in some form)
Once you have a business name idea (or a few) that you’re happy with, it’s time to do some digging. For SEO and legitimacy purposes, you want the name in your website URL, so check if it’s available in .com form.
If not, you can choose from about a hundred options from .net to .co.uk to .tv — but again, a .com URL can give your business an air of legitimacy and bring in more traffic.
The good news? Being creative will pay dividends because the more original your name, the more likely it is to be available as a web address.
- Check it. GoDaddy is a go-to tool for checking domain availability and letting you see your .com alternatives. Type your ideas in, hold your breath, and see if the names are taken (we hope not!). If they are, see what businesses or pages are at those addresses and take note. You can also do a trademark search — here are the resources for the U.S., Canada, and the U.K
- Don’t give up. If the domain is unavailable, you still have options. You can add a word at the start or end of your name — popular ones include “app,” “get,” and “hello.” If you’re a service-based industry, you can try adding your offering in the name.
- Look at social handles. After checking the domain name, take a look at Namechk to see if the name you want is taken in social handles, particularly on the channels you plan to use to build your business.
If the exact handle name is unavailable (a likely scenario), there are some easy fixes to try like adding a word or underscore. Again, check the content of handles that come up in your searches to see who else is using the name.
5. Make sure you LOVE it
It goes without saying that you have to love your new business name and feel confident about putting it out into the world. That’s why we recommend brainstorming plenty of ideas and taking the time to mull them over before settling on a winner — don’t expect overnight success!
The last thing to remember: Companies rebrand all the time, but doing so costs time and money. Try your best to get the name right on the first attempt to ensure your business is off to a great start.
What makes a good business name?
There are a few key elements to a really catchy business name.
- Evokes a feeling: Pottery Barn conveys its rustic curation of furniture through its name alone. Try to create a feeling through the use of imaginative and highly visual words.
- Sounds good: A good business name has a ring to it. Some names mix constants and vowels like Aritzia while others use rhythm to create a sense of flow like Flora and Fauna. Before finalizing your brand name, say it out loud and use it in conversation and listen to how it rolls off the tongue. Aim for under 5 syllables if you can!
- Speaks to your audience: A strong company name will resonate with its market. If you own a tech company, you might want to play off of words in your industry. BitBucket, 1Password, and CodeCov are all great examples of this.
- Memorable: In the world of infinite scrolling, you can have a memorable product or flashy ad, but it won’t help your customer if they can’t remember your brand name when they try to look you up later. What makes a business name memorable? It has rhythm or repetition, it’s a little abstract or quirky, it’s not too long, and of course— it looks good in a logo
5 Types of business names to choose from
Somewhere in your brainstorming and researching, you’ll need to choose the type of business name you’re after. Selecting one of these top five is a great place to start.
1. Acronyms & abbreviations
A popular choice for brands that want a short, crisp business name. Fun fact! IKEA is actually an acronym that combines the initials of the founder, Ingvar Kamprad, with the letters of the farm and village he grew up in, Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd.
In 1963, CVS was founded as “Consumer Value Store” and was later abbreviated. When brainstorming, look for some obvious names and words either about you or your product/service and see if they form any interesting acronyms.
2. Real names
What better way to honor the person doing all the work behind the scenes than naming your company after yourself! Using your name or a family name as your business name is a classic choice and certainly has longstanding power. Think of McDonald’s or renowned design company Herman Miller.
Using your name as a business name is a great option for consultants and contractors. But it has its cons as well. Doing this insists that you are the face of your brand at least for the first few years while getting started. It might also limit how you expand your business down the road.
3. Matter of fact
A company name that goes the obvious route of addressing the business’ purpose creates immediate clarity. With a name like Village Juicery, Whole Foods, Pizza Hut, or Car2Go, it’s hard to miss what these companies offer to their consumers.
This is a great option for entrepreneurs who aim for simplicity when naming their business. And while they’re not exactly the most exciting or eye-catching, their staying power is undeniable.
Create your own compound word by merging two words you love together! The company name Panera is actually a compound of the words “pan” (meaning bread) and “era” (meaning age or time). Put them together and you’ve got “age of bread”.
5. Made up word
Making up words is for big imaginations, but some of the biggest businesses out there are completely made-up words. Think Haagen-Dazs means something in Dutch? Think again. The American founders wanted to convey a worldly, artisanal feeling with their product.
Making up a word provides you the opportunity to create a fun and out of the box business name that is both memorable and unique. Consider your audience when making up a word as your business name. You want it to sound like something they’d be intrigued by and opt to learn more about.
p.s. Want to know more about building a brand? Check out our brand identity guide!