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The Foundation of Your Business Image

By: Nola Cooper at Classic Creations Design

Submitted on Thu, Aug 3rd, 2006 12:00 am

Choosing Your Business Name
You've taken a very important first step…'ve decided to become a small business owner and start your very own business. The very first thing on your "to do" list is to name your new business. By taking your time in this step, you will increase your chances of having a successful business.

Choosing a name for your business is a very big deal. It takes some thought, and a bit of creativity. When selecting your name, here are some guidelines to set the process in motion (make sure you have some time on your hands, this step-as it is an important one-is time consuming):

On a separate piece of paper, make a list of any words that describe or pertain to your new business, keep the list to the left of the page.

One of the greatest tools a writer can own is a Thesaurus. In it, you can look up almost any word and find MORE words that have the same meaning! If you have a Thesaurus, then you can use it, if not you can very easily use the online version:

Next, type in (or look up) each word on the list that you made. As you read through the words in the Thesaurus, that have the same meaning, if any of them are appealing to you, write them down next to your original word on the right of the page.

Once you have finished, read through the words on the page. Circle each word that really stands out and seems "inviting". Move these words to a new piece of paper.

For this exercise, it's important to think like your potential customer…..pretending not to know exactly what your new business provides. Using these words, create combinations that describe your business. If new words come to mind, use them, too. Sometimes, it takes a process such as this to really get your creative juices flowing!

Will you be doing most of your business locally? Online?

Sometimes it's not a bad idea to use your "location" in your business name. For instance, if you start an errand service in the town of Task, NY – calling your business "Task Force" would probably be appealing to the people of your town. (Keep in mind that if you ever move, you will have to either rename your business, or sell it.) If you're starting an online resume service "Online Career Services" would be appealing.

Unless you are absolutely certain that the only product you'll ever offer at your company is a "Slippery Widget", you shouldn't limit yourself with a business name like "Johnson's Slippery Widgets". Something along the line of "Johnson's Gadgets" would be more appropriate, and would allow for future expansion. It's okay to use a product in your name, as long as you aren't limiting yourself. Such as: "Lisa's Candle Shop" vs. "Lisa's Vanilla Candles".

You think you've finally got it…now it's time to check for trade marks and copyrights. You don't want to tread on some big international conglomerate, and possibly cause yourself headaches down the road. A great place to start is the US Trademark and Patent office, which has a wonderful online guide:

Once you've checked for trademarks on your new name, the next step should be checking to see if there's a domain name available for that business name. Start with the exact name, and if the ".com" version is not available, start branching out with different extensions. Some extensions and their meanings are:

.com-Unrestricted (but intended for commercial registrants)
.net-Unrestricted (but intended for network providers, etc.)
.org-Unrestricted (but intended for organizations that do not fit elsewhere)
.info-Unrestricted (intended for informational sites)
.pro-Accountants, lawyers, physicians, and other professionals

If you exhaust all extensions (all are taken), then you might consider adding a word to your URL. Some Domain Name registries will help you with this by offering suggestions online. Some words to consider adding are: online, direct, store, or shop.

Testing your New Business Name
A great way to "see if the name sticks" is to contact close friends, family members, and other trusted business owners in your "circle" and see what they think. Make up a test sheet with your business name and some general questions:

(Business Name)
What does this business sell/offer/provide? Would you buy from/deal with this business, based on the name?

And lastly...
Once your business name is finalized, don't forget to register your business with any local municipalities, and register for any taxes that you may have to collect or pay. Contact your local Secretary of State to find out what forms and licenses are necessary for your particular area.

About the Author

Nola Cooper
Classic Creations Design
After 7 years of offline business, Nola Cooper took her custom stationery shop online in 2002. She began an online newsletter relating to gifts and decorating in 2003, and by 2004 had moved it to its own domain and grown it into an online family magazine. In 2004, after urging from colleagues and clients, Nola separated her Graphic Design business to its own domain, and now specializes in helping business owners achieve a consistent and attractive overall image including the design of a logo, a web site, products, and print materials.

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