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Creating a List of Prospective Business Names

posted Jun 19, 2013, 10:30 AM by Allen C. Liu   [ updated Jun 19, 2013, 10:32 AM ]

Creating a List of Prospective Business Names

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    Determine what elements of your business the name should play upon. Before considering possible business names, first consider what your business is about. You should have a handle on your business niche and have defined your goals in your business plan and mission statement. A software company might want to emphasize the quality of its products and how easy they are to use, while an accounting firm might want to emphasize its accuracy.
    • You can also come up with words that suggest you're the biggest or best at what you do. You can use generic words such as "acme" or "apex," but you should also consider words specific to your business, such as "top dog" if you plan to open a dog-walking business.
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    Consider who you're marketing your business to. You need an understanding of both what your prospective customers are like and what they're looking for when they come to you. If your target customers are wealthy, you might want to have a name that caters to their upscale tastes. If your target customers are working mothers who don't have time to clean house, you'll want to consider a name that either recognizes their busy schedules, their desire for cleanliness and order, or both.
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    Make lists of words that represent the qualities you want to market. List both the qualities you want the name to want your business to convey to your customers and those qualities you perceive them as looking for. Ideally, the words you choose will fill both criteria; however, you should initially jot down words that fulfill only one criterion as well as words that fulfill both and then weed out the questionable words later.
    • You can help yourself come up with words by consulting a dictionary to look up definitions of the words you choose and a thesaurus to find synonymous words or phrases. You can also use a software application designed to help you brainstorm.

Evaluating Names in the List

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    Look for names that are meaningful without being limiting. Look for words that both you and your customers can relate to. You want to create a name that either describes what your business does in a few words or suggests what benefits customers can get from patronizing it.
    • A name that is too specific, however, locks the business into a particular niche that will require changing the company name if it grows outside that niche. "Omaha Pipe and Drain" will work for a plumbing repair business in the metropolitan Omaha area, but it won't help a plumbing contractor land a pipefitting contract in Des Moines or Kansas City.
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    Look for a short name that's easy to spell and pronounce. Shorter names are easier to remember than longer ones; that's why the Texas Oil Company shortened its name to Texaco. Having a name that's easy to spell and pronounce helps you bring in customers who may be new to the interest your business represents as well as your business itself. While hardcore comics fans know who Superman's foe Mr. Mxyzptlk is, naming your comics shop "Mxyzptlk's Comics" will confuse new comics readers who've never heard of the fifth-dimensional imp.
    • Looking for short, easy to spell and pronounce names leads a number of business owners to coin their own words for their business names. This works well when the made-up word sounds like a real word or is taken from real words. The name "U-Haul" sounds like "you haul," which reflects the reason why people rent their trailers and panel trucks.
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    Use various literary devices in the name, if possible. Some people remember best what they see, while others remember best what they hear. Using literary devices in your business name, if they fit, can help make your name memorable to your customers.
    • Alliteration, or the repeating of initial letters, plays to both sight and sound, in business names such as "Papyrus Press," "Sound Sensations Stereo Systems" or "Totally T-Shirts."
    • Rhyming business names, whether exact or inexact rhymes, play to the ear. "Chime Time" works as a name for a clock shop, as does "The Reel Deal" for a fishing-tackle store. Related to rhyming is assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds, as in a swimming pool business called "Blue Moon Pools."
    • Playing off a common saying, clich� or motto is another way to come up with a memorable business name. One tattoo parlor calls itself "Liquid Courage," playing off the reference to people taking a drink to steady their nerves as well as the nervousness many people feel when getting their first tattoo.
    • Making a historical, literary or mythological reference is another way to create a memorable business name. A locksmith shop might call itself "Sherlock's Locks" to play off the name of Sherlock Holmes, as well as to refer to the dependability of their locks and service. A construction company named "Daedalus Construction" pays homage to the mythical creator of the Labyrinth that housed the Minotaur.
    • Incorporating your own name into your business name, particularly in conjunction with any of the above devices, is a great way to identify you as the business' owner and show your investment in your business. Brothers Scott and Kevin Ruff named their aquarium business "Ruff Waters," while their cousin Rodney named his writing business "Ruff Writer."
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    Make sure no one else in your line of business has trademarked the name you're considering. Once you have several likely business name candidates, you need to make sure no one else has trademarked that name, as you won't be able to use a name someone else has registered as his trademark. There are several resources you can use to see if the name is already in use.
    • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office maintains a Public Search Facility at its office in Alexandria, Virginia as well as branch Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries. The most convenient way to search is through its free online Trademark Electronic Search System database at You can then enter the registration or serial number of any mark you find into the Trademark Applications and Retrieval Database to find out whether the trademark is currently registered or has lapsed. Additional third-party trademark lists are maintained at sites such as and
    • Some states maintain their own trademark registries, usually through the secretary of state's office. Other states maintain databases of fictitious names and corporate names used by businesses, either at the state level or county by county. Consult with your county clerk's office to find out how your state maintains its databases.
    • The Thomas Register lists business names and registered trade and service marks, as well as unregistered marks. It's available online at, or you can consult a printed copy at your local library.

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