“Act now. Act with Speed.”
-John Doerr, Venture Capitalist
Figuring out a name for your business might seem like a really big deal. It might, but it is far from the biggest decision you will have to make.
At this point you are picking out a name primarily for legal and functional purposes. You are going to use your name to register with the state, complete corporate documents, get a checking account and do other mundane tasks.
Your business name is not your brand. Branding yourself can come later.
For now, you want to pick a name that is clear, easy to say and hear and that is easy to spell. In this new internet age there are a lot of plays on words and letter substitution going on. For example, “z” is being substituted for “s” in a lot of places. This type of word play is going to make life difficult in the long run.
For now your business name has to be functional. It doesn’t have to talk about your brand at this stage. You need just to be comfortable saying your companies name and being able to say, “I work for ___________”.
Come up with a list of ideas. Grind out at least 5. Then answer these key questions:
How does the name look?
How does it come off your tongue?
What emotion or image does it invoke?
Is it Unique
If it passes these tests,
Find out if anyone else is using it.
Google it –
Start off with Google. Do a Google search on both the company name that you want to use as well as on the name as a domain name. That is to say, search on both XYZ Corp and on XYZCorp.com. Also search for names that are similar to yours and for companies similar to you, doing what you are doing and having a name that is close to yours.
This type of search may not yield company name information, but it might provide strategic information that will be useful later on.
If you find the name being used online or not, the next step is a trademark search. If the name isn’t trademarked, you may still be able to use it. I’ve actually called another business that was operating under a name that I was set on. There was no trademark. The business owner was receptive to my call and since he was operating in a different field, out of state, there was no conflict of interest. He was fine with me using the name he had been using for 8+ years.
You need to be sure your chosen name is not close to some other business name, particularly if that other company has registered trademarks and/or is large. Large companies and those with registered trademarks tend to defend their names vigorously. You don’t want to have to abandon a successful brand because of a conflict with another company.
To search exiting trademarks, use the Trademark Search Tool from the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Use MyCorporation for:
- A comprehensive Trademark Search
- Trademark your business name
- File a copyright
And as always, if you have legal questions, you can affordably connect with lawyers on Rocketlawyer.
Next go to the yellow pages. This is kind of old school, but there is a point. You can go through the Yellow Pages and scan other people’s business name while looking to see if anyone else has used yours. You might even get some new ideas on what to call your business.
Finally, check corporate registrations at your Secretary of State’s Office. Many businesses are not in the public eye. They function privately and are not seen. Your state’s offices will have records to check to see if someone is using your name.
Check for a domain with your business name on sites like Godaddy. If you find the domain available, you should purchase it right away. If your business name is not available, that’s not a big deal right now. It’s often the case where companies use different domains than their business name, especially with internet marketing where one company will operate multiple websites. Shoot for .com, .net or .org domains.
Doing Business As, or DBA, is a name under which a business operates and is presented to the general public. So, your official legal entity or business can have one name, like “Web Incorporated”. And your does business as can operate under a different name such as “$99 Websites”
Use a DBA in the following cases:
- Sole Proprietors or Partnerships – If you wish to start a business under any name other than your real one, you’ll need to register a DBA name so you can do business under the DBA name.
- Existing Corporations or LLCs – If your business is already incorporated and you want to do business under a different name, you will need to register a DBA.
Get help forming a DBA at MyCorporation
If this sounds daunting, or you want to get your name right, Namella offers a professional naming service, where you can get a catchy and memorable business name designed for optimum branding.