Thursday, November 1, 2007

How to: Naming a business

I've been meaning to share all of my opening a shop research and links but I just haven't gotten around to it. It will be a slow process but one day I hope to transform all one billion bookmarks into useful posts! After all, this can't be my blog if it only talks about one thing!

I can't even begin to tell you how long my list is for potential store names AND I'm still adding to it every now and then. How do you decide on a name? I guess it's like naming a baby (just like how deciding to go into business is like deciding you want to have kids). Why is it such a hard task? I guess it's because the name you choose is the ultimate first impression. It really is the foundation of your brand identity. Does it sound exotic, fresh, young, or frou-frou? The name of your business is probably the first thing that a consumer will interact with, even before they step foot into your store or log onto your website - hearing the name already conjures up images and ideas. Being a consumer yourself, you know how quickly you form opinions based on a smell, a look, a color and yes... a name. Jane v. Cassandra - what images popped into your head?

I found a very useful article Naming your company Be smart and creative: Pick the right name and trademark it by Alex Frankel about naming your business and some key how-to points. Go check it out when you have some time.

I'm in no means an expert on this stuff, but here are a few tips and links that I've encountered - I hope you'll find it useful. If you have any corrections, suggestions or tips of your own - feel free to leave a comment. As I said, I'm definitely not a guru so I will certainly not be offended if my facts stand to be corrected!

1. Create a list. List out your company's core values and differentiating factors. Refer to this list as often as possible. Know exactly what you want the name to say to your consumers. This will help narrow down the possibilities even more. For instance, if you're specifically targeting males in their 30s, a gift shop named LAVENDAR & SAGE would probably not be a good idea. This seems quite obvious but my point is to keep the core objectives in mind, sometimes you fall in love with the way something sounds but it doesn't really serve your original purpose!

2. Keep a running list. I keep a soft notebook in my bag at all times, where the last couple of pages are reserved for potential names. I also created a Google Doc so I could access my list from any computer. It's better than having a word or excel doc stuck on your computer and forgetting to add something you jotted down on a post it note while you were having coffee at the café, that's now shredded into bits because you left it in your jeans pocket and your super nice boyfriend decided to surprise you by doing the laundry!

3. Unfortunately, we now also have to worry about URLs. Forget about scoring an exact match of the name that took you 6 months to come up with - every single possible word or phrase seems to be taken. So save yourself from a huge disappointment and make sure you take this into account early on in the process. or WHOIS Search (Network Solutions) are both good sources.

4. New York State Corporation and Business Identity database includes business and not for profit corporations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies and limited liability partnerships, as well as other miscellaneous businesses. All other entities such as general partnerships, sole proprietorships and limited liability partnerships file an assumed name certificate directly with the county clerk in each county in which the entity conducts or transacts business.

Check the DBA (doing business as) or FBN (fictitious business name) list in your local county to see whether or not someone else is using the name. I'm not 100% sure but I'm pretty sure all banks require you to file a DBA before you can open a separate account. Unfortunately I don't think there's an online DBA database available. You can file a DBA at your local county clerk (NYS County Clerks), where they will also check to see if the name is already taken. See how to register your business in New York City for details.

Other useful links:
What's in a name?
State government websites
NYC license & permits
New York Loves Small Biz - I found this useful because it included origin information
Online Permit Assistance


Jee said...

This is great info! I had a running list of about 30 different names for my company and finally went back to the very first one I came up with. The second runner up was my favorite baby name.


I'm glad you found it useful! I know it gets crazy right? I also find that it helps to not look at the list for a while, a fresh perspective is always helpful when narrowing down a LONG list. I find it a lot easier to cross off lots of names when I've had time to "disconnect".