Startup Steps

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The Essential Guide to Naming Your New Business

Names are decisive and defining, which means you have to be careful when picking one for your new business. You want a name that embodies the essence of your company while still being catchy and memorable. Further, it must tick all the legal boxes – you don’t want to tread on anyone’s toes. 

Here’s a short but complete guide on how to go about finding a suitable name for your venture.

Step 1: Pick a Branding Strategy 

Before you begin coming up with name ideas, we recommend picking an appropriate branding strategy. Essentially, would you like your legal name to double as your brand name? Or would you prefer a separate name for each? An example of a company with the same legal and brand name is Amazon – it goes by, Inc. legally and just Amazon in the market. Gap Inc. (legal name) operates under several brand names like Old Navy, Athleta, Banana Republic, and The Gap.  

As you consider a company name, think about how you’ll incorporate it into a logo to solidify your brand aesthetic. Create a logo that incorporates your company name, is unique to your brand, and is eye-catching to potential customers. 

Step 2: Brainstorm a Name 

Now that you have a tentative branding strategy, it’s time to brainstorm a name. Free up some time, sit in a quiet place, get a pen and paper, and jot some ideas down. Give it time – good names take a while to come up. Use a brainstorming technique to get the most out of your session. As the Harvard Business Review advises you, focus on questions, not answers. Below are some questions you could ask yourself:

  • Is the name easy?
  • Does it have an acronym?
  • Is it easy to spell?
  • Does it sound good?
  • Is it simple to recall? 
  • Does it sum up my business? 

Come up with a list of names and bounce them off your family and friends. Narrow down the list over time and pick an ultimate winner. 

Step 3: Acquaint Yourself with the Legal Requirements 

Once you have a handful of names, you should familiarize yourself with the legal requirements. Formal and informal business structures have different naming rules. The U.S. Small Business Administration lists a useful business structure guide you should consult. 

For Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)

LLCs are the most straightforward way to structure a business and are a favorite with small business owners. If the company is sued, the business owner’s personal assets remain protected. 

Before forming an LLC, you’ll have to name it. The exact naming rules for LLCs vary from state to state. Some states prohibit certain words, so make sure you’re acquainted with the local rules before you continue. In general, the following rules apply: 

  • Include LLC, L.L.C., or “limited liability company” in the name. 
  • File additional paperwork for restricted words (like University). 
  • Make sure you avoid prohibited words (like FBI). 

Step 4: Run a Uniqueness Search 

You’ll have to run several searches to determine if your chosen name is unique. First, consult your state’s business filing agency to see if the chosen name is taken. Most state websites have an entity name check tool. Second, check the DBA (fictitious trade names) registrations. Third, run a trademark business name check at the federal level. Lastly, run a Google check. If the name – or a very similar one – doesn’t appear, you’re free to use it.   

Step 5: Register the Name 

We’re almost at the finish line. You will need to register your chosen business name in your state. You could do this yourself or hire someone to do this for you. The process involves reserving a name, forming an LLC (or other structure), filing for a DBA, and/or submitting an amendment to the legal name. 

If you follow the steps mentioned in this guide, you will be able to come up with a marketable, unique name and have your legal bases covered. 

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