Choosing a name for your new business is an important and often challenging part of the startup process. Some founders arrive at a name in the early stages, while others wait until their business plan has solidified. This blog post will outline some of the key considerations for deciding on a name, as well as how to protect the name you choose.
The best place to start when choosing a business name is with your mission statement, business plan, and unique value proposition. What is the essence of your business? What did you learn about your target audience in your market research and potential customer interviews? As you brainstorm, a keyword discovery tool like Twinword may help inspire ideas.
While it may be tempting to choose a name that includes or refers to your primary product or service, don’t limit yourself; your business’ name should still fit if you diversify your product mix or expand your focus to include additional target customer groups.
Once you’ve come up with a few contenders, review and analyze your options. Some things to consider include the following:
- Does the name convey what your business does?
- Is the name easy to remember?
- Is the name easy to pronounce? This is especially important with the increasing popularity of voice assistants like Siri and Alexa.
- Is the name easy to spell? Will potential customers be able to find you online or refer you to others?
- Is the name consistent with your business tone and branding?
- How will the name look in a variety of common mediums, such as a logo and email signature?
Before you settle on a name, make sure that it’s available. If it’s already in use or trademarked, it’s probably not a viable option. Check for trademarks via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS); states such as Illinois also have a searchable trademark database. It’s also important to check the name’s availability as a domain and a social media handle in order to avoid confusion for potential customers; sites like GoDaddy and Namechk can help you find available options.
Once you’ve found the perfect name for your business, it’s important to protect it. There are several different ways to register your business name, some of which may be legally required depending on your business structure and location.
- Entity name. In Illinois, corporations and LLCs are required to be registered with the Secretary of State and/or licensed by the Illinois Department of Revenue.
- Trademark. Trademarks prevent others in the same (or similar) industry in the U.S. from using your trademarked names. Register your federal trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Doing Business As (DBA) name. In Illinois, when the operating business name is different from the owner’s or partners’ full legal name(s), the Illinois Assumed Name Act requires sole proprietorships and general partnerships to register the business name with the county clerk's office of the county where they reside.
- Domain name. If you want your business to have an online presence, you’ll need to register a domain name (also known as a URL or website address) with a domain name registrar (such as GoDaddy). This protects your brand presence online. Your domain name does not have to be the same as your legal business name.
For more information about bookkeeping and accounting, as well as other aspects of business operations for new startups, visit our BizVids Tutorials or register for a NaperLaunch Academy workshop. NaperLaunch coaches and SCORE mentors are also available to provide one-on-one virtual assistance.