Naming Your Business

By Luke Ferden
Vice President, Business Banking

So, you’ve decided to start a business. Congratulations!

Once you’ve decided on your business structure, it’s time to choose your business name.

While you may be tempted to go with the first catchy name that pops into your head, don’t! Instead, follow a thoughtful process. Having helped dozens of new businesses go from idea to reality, here’s the three-step process I’ve seen most effective in finding a name that helps drive the bottom line:

Step 1: Brainstorm. Write down whatever comes to mind, without censoring your ideas. Strive for quantity, not quality, and be willing to get a little crazy. Asking yourself these questions can help:

  1. What business am I in?
  2. Who are my target customers?
  3. What do they want and need?
  4. What adjectives (e.g., wise, fun, easy, etc.) describe my company?
  5. What symbols or objects come to mind when thinking of my business?

Step 2: Generate names. Using all the ideas you brainstormed in Step 1, generate several dozen actual business names. Then create a short list of five to 10 names. For each name, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it easy to say and spell? Names are spoken more than they are read, so be sure to choose a name that’s easy for people to pronounce. Your customers will also need to type your name in order to visit your website or find you via Google, so be sure your name is easy to spell as well.
  2. Does it say what you do, and will it appeal to customers? Words carry both a literal meaning and an emotional one. So, you’ll ideally want a name that both describes what you do and conveys a benefit or positive emotion.

Also keep in mind that names typically fall into three main categories:

  1. Descriptive names say what your business does. Examples include D&B Plating and Personal Care Dentistry.
  2. Evocative names suggest the emotional or imaginative positioning of a company (e.g., Paws Unleashed) rather than their function (e.g., Doggy Day Care).
  3. Invented names are made-up words (e.g., Kodak) or combinations of words (e.g., Snapple) that have no real meaning, which means they can take on whatever meaning you assign to them.

Step 3: Solicit feedback. Choose your top three names from your short list and ask a wide range of potential customers to share their thoughts. Then, once you’ve settled on the right name for your business, make sure it’s available by checking with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the State of Minnesota Business Name Database. Also use a domain name generator such as namemesh.com to make sure a logical domain name is available.

Once you have your business name finalized and have purchased your domain name, it’s time to register your business with the Minnesota Secretary of State and the Minnesota Department of Revenue, and, if necessary, apply for a Federal Tax Identification Number. Use these links to get started:

Register your business with the State of Minnesota
Register with the Minnesota Department of Revenue
Apply for a Federal Tax ID Number

Luke Ferden, vice president of business banking, has been a business banker with North American Banking Company since 2010. A graduate of Iowa State University, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two boys, coaching youth sports, boating, and golfing.