How to Come Up with a Business Name

Choosing your business name feels like a monumental decision, and while you’re certainly not tied to it forever, it is what your early adopters are going to know you as. It’s going what people refer to you as, and it will set the tone for what it’s like to work with you.

Of course, all this pressure can lead to decision paralysis - leaving you stuck wondering if any of your ideas are good enough. Today, we’re going to help you generate some great business name ideas, guide you through the boxes your business name needs to tick, and how to cut down your shortlist to finally choose a name. 

Ready? Let’s get started. 

How to Generate Business Name Ideas

There are endless places to find inspiration for business names, so open a Google Doc and start typing down anything that comes to mind. Here are some prompts: 

  • Research industry keywords and note down any that may work for you (this is also a good way to start doing additional research if you have not yet) 
  • Look to your bookshelf (real or virtual) and note down any words that feel right 
  • Look at a list of power words 
  • Match two relevant words (such as Facebook or Netflix) 
  • Look to puns or play on words (such as Spoon Me for a frozen yogurt brand or Sensibill for receipt management software) 
  • Consider how you want customers to feel or describe working with you 
  • Think of words that describe what you do or what your customers do (such as DoorDash or Dunkin’ Donuts) 
  • Look to history and mythology for relevant nouns 
  • Consider using an acronym if it suits your industry (for example, BMW is Bavarian Motor Works, which isn’t exactly a name that conjures images of a powerful M3
  • Use a real name if it suits your industry (such as Price Waterhouse Cooper), a first name (Wendy’s, Trader Joe’s), or use your surname (Dyson, Lamborghini, Ferrari) 
  • Try making up a word (Haagen-Dazs, Skype, Kodak, Etsy) 
  • Playfully misspell words (Reddit, Lyft, Flikr) 
  • Try a Business Name Generator 

Play around with your generated ideas 

When you’ve got some ideas, see if there is a way to play around with the spelling without making it unsearchable. For example, if you’ve come up with the idea “Mindful Supplements” don’t shorten it to MndflSpps. It’s too much. Mindful Sups or Mndfl Supplements may work. 

Also, try mixing and matching ideas to see if you can come up with something unique. 

What Your Business Name Needs to Be and Do 

  1. Be Different 

Note we say be different and not necessarily be original. When you strive to be original, you’ll likely struggle to find anything that can meet the expectations of “Original”, since there are millions of businesses in the world and many business names are surprisingly simple when you get to the root of them. 

Take Nike for example - Nike is named after a Greek goddess that excelled in field sports. If you’re trying to come up with a name for a sports brand, it’s not a stretch to look to mythology for a name. Other businesses have followed the same thought process, such as Hermes (a British courier - recently rebranded to Evri to try and shake off their negative reputation), Zeus Captial, Poseidon diving systems, and Apollo investing

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you just need to be different from your competitors and businesses in similar niches, while still resonating with your audience. It’s still a big ask, but less likely to trip you up for weeks. 

  1. Avoid Product-Specific Names 

There are some exceptions to this rule, but in general, try to avoid picking names that describe something you offer and look for something a little more abstract. The problem with service or product-specific names is it boxes you into offering one thing, often in one way. 

For a simplistic example, if you’re starting a shoe brand and you’re thinking of calling it Heels, you may regret it if you later want to focus on sneakers or men’s shoes. 

  1. Make Sure (Relevant) People Get It 

If you’re creating a service or product that will serve a huge range of people, you need to make sure that most people you talk to “get” the name and find it easy to remember and spell. 

If you’re serving a niche, you can be more granular with your name. For example, if your business makes aquarium filters, you may call it Carbon or BioFilter, because people often use carbon in their aquarium filters and there’s always biological filtration in a filter. If you asked a handful of people by your local Target whether they got the name, they probably wouldn’t “get” it, but most aquarium owners would. 

  1. Make Sure Other Businesses Don’t Have It 

The best way to do this is to simply search for www.[yourpotentailbusinessname].com and see if your potential name is available. This will also help you see if it’s catchy or not. For example, www.doola.com is short, easy to spell, and quick to type. 

Once you’ve done that, search if the name is available legally, even if your business will be registered slightly differently. You only need to do this in the state you want to register in, but it’s worth searching in a few other densely populated states so you don’t run into any trouble. 

  1. Make Sure It’s Not Offensive 

Do you remember when email provider ConvertKit tried to change its name to Seva? The word “Seva” has its roots in ancient Sanskrit and India, and it means “selfless service”. Sounds like a good name, right? 

Well, only a few days after the announcement of its rebrand, customers started to share concerns about its connection to religions such as Buddhism, Sikhism, and Hinduism. While cursory research will reveal the overarching themes of this word, it fails to convey that to people of those cultures, it also means “serving without expectation of anything in return” in a way that’s intricately tied to spirituality. 

In short, ConvertKit had culturally appropriated a word, and people were upset. ConvertKit listened and reversed their rebrand. Lesson learned - and a lesson you can learn from, too. If you’re using a word that’s not in a language you speak, don’t use it. 

  1. Test it Visually 

Head over to Canva.com or another website that has logo templates and try your potential business names out in a few logo designs. You’re not actually making a logo at this stage, but this will give you a chance to see if it works as a short logo or how you can make it work. Zoom out (or move away from your computer if you’re not using 

  1. Make Sure You Like It 

Does it feel “right?” You don’t need to be bouncing-off-the-walls-in-love with it, but you should be excited to start using it and share it. Remember, you can rebrand later down the line, but it will come with a cost - both monetarily and in terms of things like SEO and brand reputation, so make sure you can see yourself using this name for the next 3-5 years, if not for good. 

How to Choose Your Business Name 

Hopefully by now many of you will have your name that ticks all the boxes and you’re ready to move on with your business - congrats! However, if you’ve narrowed it down to a handful, then go through and start eliminating them one by one until you reach the one you like best. 

Check: 

  • Can you get the “.com” address? If not, is it a parked domain or another business? The former can be solved but the latter cannot. 
  • Does it sound like anything undesirable? (This is a bit like being a parent and trying to pick a name kids at school won’t be able to turn into a mean nickname) 
  • Think about your brand values (or choose them if you haven’t yet) - which potential name best meets the expectations set by your brand values? For example, if you’re a business creating software for yoga instructors to take bookings and plan classes, calling it YogaExplosion or PowerBookr probably won’t speak to your ideal customer, while Zen Booking or FlowBookr will. 

Get Ideas Now 

Finding your business name is rarely easy, but don’t let it stall your progress. Dedicate a few hours over two days to brainstorm, let your ideas simmer, and then choose your name. If you still feel stuck, try the #1 business name generator recommended by doola here.

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