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How to Choose a Business Name for Your Startup

2nd May 2019

One of the most exciting parts of establishing a new business venture is giving it a name. It is almost as exciting as naming your first child. In many respects, for many entrepreneurs, their new venture is their baby. So, to start, we recommend that you name your “child” something appropriate and fitting.

So, now you have an amazing business idea in the bag, you might already have investors it’s time to name your venture. However, besides selecting the name, you will have to make sure that you have followed the correct rules, (as per HMRC and Company’s House). These rules apply regardless if you are a sole trader or a limited company. If you’re now thinking, what rules? Don’t worry, we’ll explain the different procedures in this guide.

As exhilarating as it is to name your business venture, it actually isn’t a very straightforward process. Not only that, naming your business is something that you have to get the right first time around, for two key reasons; legal and giving your customers the right impression.

Moreover, the last thing that you want to be doing is having to change your name, because it just didn’t match your product or service. Not only that, it can leave your clients feeling confused, they may think that the service has been taken over by the new company. Hopefully, we will be able to explain how you can get it right (first time), along with five steps to help you name your startup.

Five Steps to Finding the Perfect Company Name

Getting the basics right

1. Getting the basics right

The lyrics from the Sound of Music comes to mind, “Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start…” However, for some naming their new startup isn’t as easy as “Doe, Re, Mi.” Regardless of what stage you are at with your new business, we are sure that you are already aware that there are many things you need to consider.

Alternatively, you may only be at the “great idea” stage, where your head is buzzing and so many ideas floating around. When your mind is this active, it can be difficult to focus your thoughts on one task at a time. That’s why we recommend that you go back to basics. What we mean is, revisit the reason why you wanted to establish your new startup. So firstly, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my mission statement?
  • What does my new startup value?
  • What did I put in my first business plan (even if it was only a note in your phone, revisit it)
  • What makes you unique, and differentiates you from your competition?
  • Who are you targeting?

The final question is the most important. Your target customers are the ones that will be choosing to purchase your service or product. Thus, you don’t want to fall at the first hurdle, because your company name is off-putting.

Once you have given yourself a refresher course of your initial motivations for starting your new business, it’s time to make another list (sorry for those who hate lists). However, if making lists don’t really work for you, use whatever method that fits your learning style. The main point, we are trying to make here, is that these guidelines can be used a reference throughout the naming process.

Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself to start the guideline process:

1. Do you want your company name to convey a message?

2. What are your main priorities with your name? For instance, do you want it to be a play on words, unique, directly related to your products, and so on?

3. How do you want your customers to view your company name? 

4. Would an abbreviation of your product/service work better?

5. Is the length of the name important to you?

Obviously, you can add as many or as few questions to create your naming guideline. However, one crucial point that you should check at this stage is your competition. We couldn’t think of anything worse, than falling in love with your “perfect” company name, only to find out another company is already using it – we’ll be discussing how you can search names later on this guide.

2. Brainstorming

Brainstorming

At this point, you should have your guidelines firmly in-hand, so here comes the fun part. Similar to making lists, brainstorming isn’t for everyone. However, it is a helpful and creative way to be a little more free thinking. Brainstorming can help you to generate ideas, not just for your business name but for your marketing, advertising and business plan.

A great tip, if you are not that creative, is to do this with your friends, family or business partner. Since you will increase the input and generate far more ideas. If you chose to brainstorm, then it is important that you remember your guidelines. But, don’t restrict your creative flow, as you can revisit them after the session. There are many ways that you can have a brainstorming session, some of the most used by new startups are:

  • Mind maps
  • Brain Dumping
  • List Making
  • Drawing/Doodles (you might even make a start on your logo)!
  • Word association

Like all things in life, we have our own unique learning and thinking style. So, the best way to let your creativity lose is by using a technique that suits you.

3. Take some breathing time

As tempting as it may be to log straight on to Company’s House and register your favourite name, we recommend taking some breathing time first. After your brainstorming session, or perhaps sessions you should hopefully have a hefty list of potential names. We recommend leaving it a day or two, sleep on it and then revisit your list.

At this point, your mind should (hopefully) feel less “boggled.” Now, you need to go through your list of contending names and begin to shortlist. We recommend marking the ones that resonate with you and align with your businesses’ ethos, values and possibly the product. It’s not essential for your business name to have a direct link to the product or service. Actually, you can utilise your name to tell your story and values to your potential customers. Final

During this step, you can identify any names that may have negative connotations or ones that seem too similar to your competition. When you feel happy with your short list, we recommend that you give it some more time and see if your decision changing after sleeping on it. As mentioned, your business name is something that you don’t really want to be changing later down the line, even if you were to rebrand eventually.

Now, after some more breathing space, you may know instantly what your perfect business name is, or you may feel like none of them fit. If it’s the latter, don’t worry, you can go back to the drawing board and have another brainstorming session. A great tip that we found when researching this guide is from a study that was conducted in France and the USA. They identified that debating your brainstorm ideas with a friend, family member or colleague, and accepting criticism actually improves the chances of generating better and more suitable ideas.

generating better and more suitable ideas

4. Check if it’s available

Since there’s a little bit involved in this section, we are going to split into segments:

1. How to check if it’s available

2. Sole traders

3. Limited Companies

4. Checking Trademarks.

Depending on how you’re following this guide, whether you’re reading it in one sitting or following it step by step, you should have a few decent ideas. Regardless, the first step we are going to discuss, is one that you really shouldn’t skip, because it will put all of your hard work in the previous sections to waste.

1. How to check if it’s available?

Now, you may or may not be familiar with Companies House. So, we will just give you a brief overview, just to familiarise yourself. The official description for the purpose of Companies House is:

“Companies House is the United Kingdom’s registrar of companies and is an executive agency and trading fund of Her Majesty’s Government. It falls under the remit of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and is also a member of the Public Data Group.”

As overly worded as the description above may seem, it has many helpful functions. The sites itself is also really easy to navigate. Next, you need to find out if a company has already beaten you and has ‘claimed’ your perfect name. You can use the Companies House Web Checker or the updated version ‘Get Information about a Company.”

Once you have conducted a thorough search, you can now register your company name. However, if you want to ensure that you do this step correctly, many new startups seek the help of an accountant,[1] to deal with the formalities of setting up and registering a business. If you prefer the D-I-Y route, then you will need to go to step two or three, depending on if you’re a sole trader or a limited company[2].

Handy tip #1: If you are going to have a website, we recommend finding a domain name that has “.co.uk” or “.com” – doing this not only helps your rankings on search engines like Google, but people are more inclined to select a site with either option.

Handy tip #2: When it comes to registering your domain, we advise that you use a reputable source. The last thing you want is to find that you have been mis-sold an invalid domain. 123Reg.co.uk is a great option to use.

2. Sole Traders

Now, the rules when it comes to legally name and registering your business is slightly different if you’re a sole trader. The primary difference is that you can legally use your own name, as well as what anything that you prefer. Although, we’d like to list a few legal requirements that you need to keep in mind.

  • It cannot be offensive.’
  • It cannot include relating terms that insinuate it’s a public liability company (PLC), limited (LTD), LLP, or the Welsh equivalent; ***
  • It must not include any sensitive expressions or terms, as there are certain terms that you cannot use unless granted official permission. For instance, “British” or “Authority.”

Depending on if you’re certain that your potential business name isn’t already being used, and doesn’t include any of the above points, you’re good to go. Now, you can move on to step four.

3. Limited Company

If you have decided that you would prefer to have a limited company, then legally you have to register your name, the companies name and any relevant information to Companies House. Similar to being a sole trader, there are certain legal requirements regarding your company’s name, which you must adhere to. Moreover, the same rule applies in terms of sensitive terminology and phrasing, unless you have been granted permission beforehand. The following rules regarding your name are mandatory:

  • The company name has to end with LTD or ‘Limited’;
  • It is not offensive;
  • It is not already used by anyone else registered in the Company House Index (which you can check in step one)

If you’re confident that your perfect name meets all of the requirements, then you can register your name with Companies House. 

***If you’re unsure about any of these abbreviations, our dedicated new startup’s team will be happy to explain these requirements in more detail.

4. Checking Trademarks

This step is one that many people often miss or forget. Sometimes, even if a name isn’t registered in the Companies House Index, certain phrases or abbreviations may already be trademarks. Thus, if your name is similar to your competitors, or any existing company, we recommend checking that you can legally use certain terms/abbreviation first. You can check this on the Gov.uk website.

We hope that you now feel confident that your name is legal and appropriate to use, so it’s time to move on to the final step.

5. Registering your company name

Once again, the excitement begins to kick in as you are nearly at the final hurdle. It’s time to register your company name. We have mentioned this requirement a few times in this guide. This step is one that cannot be skipped. Many entrepreneurs who feel unsure about this process, often seek the help of their accountant to ensure that it is registered and logged correctly. Here at Pearl accountants, we have a dedicated new startups team, who can provide you with advice and assist you throughout the entire process.

Final Thoughts

As you may have probably guessed, when it comes to selecting the perfect name for your startup, it is a lengthy process. Sadly, it is not as straightforward as it seems, but we hope that this guide has provided you with a little more clarity. However, before we end this article, we would like to end with two more tips before you start taking your industry by storm!

Tip One: Make the Right Impression

Final Thoughts

Your company name is one of the first things that your customers encounter. As the saying goes “first impressions mean everything.” So, when you are working through the above steps to select your ideal company name, you want to be certain that it conveys the right message.

Moreover, your company name is essentially your silent brand ambassador. So, you can still have a witty, creative and unique company name, while conveying your brand’s voice. Depending on your business type, or industry, you will need to make sure it aligns and matches in terms of professionalism. For instance, you don’t want a name that seems too formal if you’re providing a creative service.

Finally, it is essential that your company name is transferrable. What we mean is that it will work and match up with your marketing campaigns, your website and any signage (e.g., business cards, storefront, etc.).

Tip Two: Spelling and Pronunciation

Regardless of how you conduct business, you will have to give the details of your company over the phone. Now, let’s imagine you’re pitching your business, you don’t want to have a name that’s difficult to pronounce. So, try to keep in mind, the spelling (how easy it is) and is it easy to pronounce and write?

The Bottom Line

The best possible advice we can give you, besides the above steps and tips, is that you should always go with your gut instinct. Generally, your company name comes naturally, and we’re sure after a brainstorming session or two you will find a name that is perfectly suited to you and your company.

If you would like some professional advice and guidance when it comes to registering and setting up your new startup, our dedicated team at Pearl Accountant are on hand to help you throughout this process.

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