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How to name a business

Naming a business

Remember, during the naming process, that every business is different and what works or doesn’t work for some may have the complete opposite effect on others. Picking a business name can be as tricky as picking a baby name – so don’t worry if you are having some trouble deciding. Take a look at our 3 basic tips and hints that all “momtrepreneurs” should take into consideration:

1. Communication

The more your business name communicates, the less confused your customers will be, and the less you'll have to explain what you do. Ideally your name should be unique and reinforce the key elements of your business.

  • What do you want to communicate with your name? Perhaps you’d like people to know what services you offer or maybe you’d like to focus on a certain quality of your business. For example, a discount shop called Go-Lo – there’s little chance of anyone being confused about the low price of their products.

  • Be careful not to go overboard on the communication front – it still has to be catchy. Imagine if Mercedes was called “High Quality Automobiles”. It just wouldn’t work.

  • Try to communicate using the least amount of words possible. Remember that people don’t want to type long company names into search engines.

2. Wording

The wording of your business name is crucial and must connect with your target market to ensure success in the industry.

  • Most business names use either real words or made up words (coined names). Keep in mind that successful companies with coined names such as Google or Kodak often have large marketing budgets to support them and inform customers about what they do. Real words are more ideal for small start-up businesses.

  • If you do decide to coin your own name, ensure that it has a meaning and still reflects your company values, e.g. Microsoft was coined by Bill Gates who specialised in microcomputer software.

  • Try to avoid puns and word plays. They might be funny and clever to you but can often be hard to connect with and misunderstood.

  • Unique spellings and unusual words can stand out but will not always work in your favour. If someone is searching online for your business and has no idea how to spell it you’ve just lost a sale.

  • Keep things snappy and don’t make your company name too long.

  • Avoid numbers, initials and acronyms as much as possible. Once again, it works for companies with huge marketing budgets, such as IBM and KFC, but for start-up companies it’s best to steer clear.

  • Keep in mind that both online and offline directories are usually listed alphabetically, so if you want to appear at the top you should take this into consideration when naming your business. Calling your business “AAAA products” may just be over the top though.

3. No Limits

Successful businesses need a name that will grow with them and stay relevant. Where you are today may be a completely different place to where you'll be in 10 years and your name has to continue to reflect the company.

  • Avoid geographical references in your company name. This is all good and well if you call your business “Paddington Plumbers” and you are in fact a plumbing business operating within the suburb of Paddington, however, keep in mind that you may grow and want to provide plumbing to the whole city (or country!) one day.

  • Using your personal name as a business name can be successful – just look at McDonalds. When you attach your own name to a company it can increase its perceived credibility and it’s also a good tactic to use if you’re an artist or designer. However, it can also be limiting in the future if you decide to sell your business, so keep this in mind before naming your business after yourself.

  • Don’t focus your business name on a product that may pigeonhole the company or be irrelevant in a few years. For example, if you only sell keyboards try not to put too much emphasis on this as the company may expand and you may end up selling computers or many other things in the future. 

Business name checklist

Right, you've narrowed it down and have some great ideas circulating. Here are the next steps in the business naming process:

  1. Always have a “shortlist” of names as opposed to pinning all your hopes on one name. It might not work out and it’s good to have backups ready.

  2. Ask friends and family for their honest opinions on the shortlist of names you’ve selected. It’s great to have some fresh thoughts and, if you get positive reactions about a particular name, you know you’re onto a good thing.

  3. Google the potential names to make sure that there is no one else with the same or similar name. It’s also a good check to see if your name brings up any strange results.

  4. Find out if the domain is available for your website. See

  5. Check the Trademarks database to ensure you won’t be infringing on someone else’s Trademark. See: ‘Trade Mark Search’ section on the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) website

  6. Check the company name and make sure there is not already a company registered with this name. If you decide not to register a company, at least reserve the company name.

Additional things to consider when choosing a name

  • A strong name is a simple name: choose a name that is easy to spell and to pronounce.

  • Use clever wordplay if you can: for example, caterers By Word of Mouth and Olive Twist have done this successfully. So think along those lines.

  • Don't try and be too cute avoid puns unless you find one that is really unique and witty. You don't want a name that's over-used or too cutesy. Don't be a copycat a distinctive name will enable you to avoid being seen as merely an imitator.

  • Think about colours when you're choosing a business name. They are an important component of your business logo, promotional materials and your website.

Now that you've got the information you need to name your business, you might want to look to further resources such as Setting up a Company and Registering a Business Name.