Choose a Name For Your Start-up Business

Picking a suitable business name is the beginning of the branding rabbit hole.It’s one of the most important aspects of your business as it sets you apart from other competitors.

Get it right and you’ll be remembered and considered the go to guy for the products and services that you’re selling. Get it wrong, and you could potentially cause your business a whole host of issues!

“ I would say that this is one of the biggest decision you make when starting a business, and if you get it wrong, your kind of stuck with it, so give it time!” Vinyl Clocks

The psychology behind your name

Before we look at how to develop name ideas, lets identify the cognitive process.

Consider the three step process – is it : a) easily understood b) pronounceable c) memorable?

This 3 step process was tested out on a group of people who were given the names of amusement – park rides. They were given no information or pictures regarding the rides. However, the ones with the longer names that no one could pronounce or remember, were rated 44% more riskier and were likely to make them sick!

The same has been done with food. Groups rated ingredients with long names that were made of up incoherent letters and numbers, more likely to be unhealthy. Compared, to those that had short and catchy ingredients that were coherent.

The different types of names

Now I’ll explore the diverse ways in which you can develop your business name.


These types of names are often made up of words that use other words as starting points. Abstract names are:

  • Not common therefore finding a domain name is much easier.
  • Good for trademarking too because it’s unlikely anyone will have the same name.

The down sides are because they’re often unusual, it means they’re harder to remember and fewer associations are made

“When we started up our company, the tricky part was to come up with an unique name. We wanted it to be slightly usual. To have a meaning behind it (this would create a talking point with clients) and to have a link with the Middle East (where our main clients are based). So not too much to ask for! After which seemed like weeks of coming up with names, not one stood out. Then I had a lightbulb moment, putting together the first letter of my surname (S) and the first letter of my business partners surname (A), ‘S and A’ creates the word ‘sanda’, which also links in with the Middle East regarding ‘sand’.” Sanda Design


Informative names are those that don’t need any explaining as they do exactly what they say. The advantages to these are:

  • Attached with a lot of associated words
  • Easily searched online.
  • Easily remembered

The bad news is that someone else could have thought of it before you!

“The idea for my business came about after an unsuccessful interesting clock search, followed by a spark of inspiration helped by a pink copy of Squeeze “Cool For Cats”. The obvious first choice name was Vinyl Clocks – it’s a clock made from vinyl.”


Phrases are useful as names because they:

  • Sound and read natural as they follow regular language rules.
  • Are good for branding as they become slogans and are incorporated into everyday thinking.
  • Are memorable.

There is a risk of them sounding unnatural and awkward if phrased wrong.

Finding my business name was one of the first things I did! I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea and then the next day brainstormed like crazy to get a name and a tag line! Once I hit on ‘Tick It Off ‘ I felt it said it all and stuck with it! My tag line was just as important as the name – a mission statement for me and my future clients I live and breathe it!”

Misspelled words and unusual names

Google (googol) would be a prime example of words that are not in the standard dictionary but have been incorporated into everyday conversations. You may have heard of the phrase ” I’ll Google it” – meaning to search for something. Words that are spelt wrong are great as they’re attention grabbers and so will naturally stand out because of their distinctiveness. Also names that you wouldn’t normally hear tend to stick in your mind that little bit more.

“Falcieri is a family surname that dates back to Venice, Italy in the 19th century. It was the name of my g-g-g grandfather and as it’s a rare name I thought it would be perfect for a business. It’s easy to find on the internet and it sticks in your mind. Type it into Google and it’s always in the top few hits which has to be good for business. It also sounds quite classy and I didn’t want an obvious or predictable name.Falcieri Designs

Initial and Acronyms

These provide a quick way of summing up long descriptive phrases like (AOL.) Although if you don’t pick the right combination when saying them aloud, they can sound unnatural and become tongue twisters.

We were puzzled over the name for some time, one day we went into a bar in Manchester’s northern quarter, and there it was up on the wall, a t-shirt that simply read “Northern Comfort”, unfortunately there was already a graphic designer using that name, so we became “Northern Comfort Visual” after a short while we realised that this was a bit of a mouth full, so for the most part we refer to ourselves asNCVisual

The toolkit to help you pick your business name

Word play with the alphabet

Write down the 26 letters of the alphabet and then attach words to each letter that describes your product. Use adjectives, nouns, and verbs and try to think of as many alternatives as you can. It’s wise to combine this activity with using a thesaurus, dictionary and the following mind mapping step.

Mind mapping

  • Begin with a blank piece of paper and coloured pens.
  • Use pictures and diagrams as a central starting point.
  • Add as much colour as you can to the words and images.
  • Use branches to connect your idea and make them curved rather than straight.
  • Use keywords instead of sentence.

All of this allows your brain to get creative. Unlined paper, curved branches, colour and pictures allows the brain to really stretch the imagination. Google Tony Buzan to find out more about mind mapping.

Companies house and a domain name finder

This is where you’ll be able to see if there are any other companies with the same name as yours. If they’re registered and trademarked then you won’t be able to use the same name. It’s also wise to see if there are any similar named companies that have been shut down due to illegal activities. Perhaps if there are any negative associations with them you may want to have a rethink!

Test and don’t commit.

Get a group of individuals to give you their feedback on your chosen name. Try to not ask friends or family as they can be biased. Remember to not commit to it straight away! See what effect it has on people, before buying your domain and trademarking yourself as this costs money.

Choosing a name that represents who you are and sums up what you do is a challenge. There have been many companies who have got it wrong the first time but it’s all about learning from mistakes:

1. Google – Back Rub

2. Pepsi Cola – Brad’s drink

3. AOL – Quantum computer service

4. McAfee – Network association

5. Yahoo – Jerry’s guide to the world wide web an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”

Food for thought

If you’re doing everything right then your business will expand and perhaps you’ll progress into other markets. So how does your brand cater to this?

“One thing to be aware of when choosing a name is future-proofing. Calling your business ‘Terafab Tiling’ means that if your marvelous tiling business expands into plastering or other types of flooring in the future you will need to fully rebrand, including your business name. If you were to simply use the name ‘Terafab’ and include a tagline – which is easier to change without requiring a full rebrand – then you’ve got scope to change with time as your business requires. The reverse is also true, if you want to be specific about the industry or specialism in which you work, then use the words. Potential clients or customers will know immediately that you can provide them with precisely what they need without needing to read any small print or ask for clarification. “Branding By Gina

So, what’s the best start-up name you’ve come across recently? Please leave your comments below.