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The Small Business Naming Guide

The Small Business Naming Guide

By: VentureHow Staff Writer

Updated on: May 19, 2021

Small business naming guide

The VentureHow Small Business Naming Guide is a comprehensive resource for entrepreneurs on how to find a perfect name for their temporarily small but with big dreams new business.  Naming a small business an important decision as the entire identity of a company relies on the name. And building an identity for a small business is rather time-consuming and expensive proposition.  Of course, while finding the right name is important, it pales in light of the other weightier decisions a startup entrepreneur or a small business owner has in front of them.

The VentureHow small business naming guide has various sections, and you can feel free to jump to any of the sections directly.

Structure of the Small Business Naming Guide:

Why is finding the right name for a small business important?

What are some tips for finding the right name for a small business?

What are the attributes of a good small business name?

What are some best company names?

What help can I get in finding great names for my small business?

How to pick legally compliant Small business names?

What are some Do’s and Don’ts in picking naming a small business?

Why is finding the right name for a small business important?

Once upon a time, a business name was mostly the family name of the founder along with a suffix – Joe Blow’s small business name might have been “Blow and Brothers,” and Jane Doe’s small business name might have been “Doe and Co.” But we live in different time and age now and finding the right name to reflect the vision of the owner and incorporate the potential future direction is important.

A rose by any other name - small business naming guide

While William Shakespeare’s words in Romeo and Juliet,”A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” may be true for the flower, the names of company’s are another matter.

For example, “Doe’s Chiropractic” is good enough if the business is local and Jane Doe’s persona and personality are essential to the success of her main street business.  What if Jane Doe’s vision goes beyond making a living as a healthcare professional providing chiropractic services, and includes creating a franchise operation to take the concept nationally (or globally)? If so, a business name like Doe’s Chiropractic may be limited and instead of a more generic and scalable name like “Better Bones” may fit the bill.

In addition to the growth aspirations and future vision, in today’s online and mobile world, “findability” has become a difficult task and hence the right name helps in that regard as well.

And there is also a psyche and mindset related factor about the small business names. Some names evoke a feeling of positivity, growth, and at times a sense of success and invincibility that can portend well for the actual conduct of the business.

How should one name a small business? Here are a set of guidelines to consider when you are thinking about naming your startup. Sometimes, an entrepreneur goes against the grain and blazes a new trail. And same about the names. The ideas here are for the 99% of us and if you are the 1% none of these guidelines may apply to you.

Here are nine characteristics for your consideration as you consider finding that awesome business name for your entrepreneurial venture.

What are some tips for finding the right name for a small business?

Most entrepreneurs struggle with the challenge of naming a small business. You are not alone. It is tough naming a small business that is catchy, memorable, unique, and long-standing. The best practices and top tips will help set the right framework to think and pick a name for the small business.

Naming a Small Business – Ten Tips for a Catchy Name

  1. Don’t rush to pick a name. Even if a small business owner has to call the small business “Name not yet know” for a few days, they should take the time to think and act.
  2. An entrepreneur should come up with a list of at least a dozen names before naming a small business. A dozen is not a magic number, but somewhere in the low two digits gives the variety, but over 50 can make it too much to review objectively.
  3. The business owner should be dispassionate about what business name fits. Don’t be timid in envisioning a bright future and then imagine how the name picked today will reflect many years later.
  4. While the entrepreneur or the founding team may have more voice and a veto, taking input from close associates, employees, and family is a good idea. For example, Accenture’s name was a suggestion by Kim Petersen, a Danish employee from the company’s Oslo, Norway office.
  5. Set parameters of what name will resonate with stakeholders – not just the founders, but also employees, customers, suppliers, and others. Of course, the right name depends on the sector and the type of business. Some companies require a name that connotes gravitas, whereas some other firms may be better with a fun name, and that there are iconoclasts (Think Steve Jobs and Apple) that can turn things upside down and inside out.
  6. Naming a small business is not just about fun, catchy, memorable, distinctive, memorable, compelling, or any other adjective one likes, but it also about keeping the name compliant from social and regulatory perspectives
  7. The owners should use modern available sources for naming a small business. There are crowdsourcing sites, business name generators, branding agencies –  ranging from free to hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost.
  8. Cultural sensitive and geographical considerations are important depending on where you intend to do business. What works in one place doesn’t resonate in another. For example, “Wicked Good Nuts” may work in the New England area, but perhaps may sound strange in the deep south. Or a name that sounded good may mean something vulgar or derogatory in another language.
  9. Check trademarks and service marks to ensure the name you pick is protectable and defensible.
  10. Despite everything that is said here, the entrepreneurs should not get into paralysis by analysis mode. At the end of it all, entrepreneurial instinct and gutfeel matter.

What are some of the criteria for naming a small business or a startup?

  1. Your small business name must meet some basic criteria such as being concise, crisp, and coherent.
  2. The small business name must engender good feelings and emotionally make your spirits soar. (A small business owner who is proud of their company name will have a spring in their step and it will show outwardly in all facets of the firm.)  For example, a food delivery called “Good Eats” may motivate you to do more.
  3. Does your small business name pass the spelling test? Yes, as in can people need help in spelling your business name or is it rather fathomable. (Unless you are a law firm or an accounting firm, don’t name your company with half-a-dozen last names.)
  4. Does your name capture the core of what your business does – now and in the future? It is important not to box yourselves.  Also, while your business may be small, it may not be so forever. Hence, make sure your business name remains relevant as your business grows.  Think if Amazon would have been Amazon if it were to be called “Booksonline” or something.
  5. Does your small business name represent the spirit of your approach, philosophy, and culture? It is the difference between IBM and Apple.  Both are great companies, but just by its name, you can identify the spirit of each firm rather quickly.
  6. Does the name appropriate for the broad scope of what you do? So, there is nothing good or bad with the name itself, but the context makes a vital difference. For example, “Monkeys Island” may be a good name for a children’s playground, but “Sieve” may not be a good name for a cybersecurity firm.
  7. Is your business name protectable with a trademark or a service mark? Know the rules before you finalize a name.
  8. Make the business name acceptable and appropriate. Is your name offensive to any major group? If so, it is a no-no.  Of course, some companies may thrive on controversial names, but in general, it is a good idea to keep it clean.  But one can have fun with the names and need not stick with stodgy names.
  9. Is your name distinctive in the space you are operating?  There are dozens of internet domain registrars, but GoDaddy is unique and memorable. (Of course, we are not commenting on the taste of some of their commercials, though.) Similarly, JetBlue is descriptive, distinctive, and different than the pack.

What are some Memorable Company Names?

If you are starting a new business and thinking of naming your company brilliantly, it will behoove you well to look at some best company names in the history.  Your little dream may or may not make it, and even if it does, it may not make the Fortune 500. However, learning about the best company names may give you the right inspiration to look for the best possible name for your small business.

“When Ole Kirk Kristiansen established the company name LEGO in 1934, it was a fortunate play on words. The entrepreneur had been inspired by the Danish phrase “leg godt” – “play well.” He took the beginning of each respective word and made what he considered to be a pleasant-sounding, imaginary word out of them. The company owner was unaware that as the first person present singular of the verb legere, “lego” is also the Latin word for “I assemble” – and therefore completely appropriate for the modularity of the company’s later invention, the LEGO brick.”
― Christian Humberg

Mind you that the selection of the best company names is historical revisionism, done in retrospect. As they say, hindsight is 20:20 and winners create and rewrite the history. If any of these companies were relegated to the trash heap, then we may not be talking about how amazing the founders are to name their businesses so awesomely.

All said, here is our subjective opinion of the best company names in history.

Best Company Names:

  1. Apple: When Apple came to be, the computer industry was very corporate, stale, and gray. Steve Jobs, always an iconoclast, came up with the name Apple to make the personal computer (or Mac to be specific) an everyday appliance.  While other companies were distant, Apple was distinctive, friendly, and approachable.  In the famous Walter Isaacson biography, Steve Jobs reveals he was “on one of my fruitarian diets” and had just come back from an apple farm, and thought the Apple name sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.”
  2. Google: Google is another brilliant name, a derived name googol which is one followed by 100 zeros – a giant number, which is in line with the intent of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google.  A story from one of Stanford students about the origin of Google’s name goes this way.
  3. Nike: Nike immortalized the swoosh and the Jumpman, but the original name of the company was Blue Ribbon Sports.  However, as they were launching a new line, the executives came up with the name Nike, a winged Greek goddess which represented victory. In time, the company changed its name to Nike.
  4. Lego: Another great brand name that was a derivation of the Danish phrase “leg godt,” which meant play well.  It has transcended the brand name, and today people call any building blocks as Lego blocks.
  5. Accenture: Accenture is another of our best company names as it is descriptive, alliterative, and conveys gravitas.  It is the new name of Anderson Consulting; the company spun off from Arthur Anderson, one of the original big six firms. The name is a derivation of “Accent on the future,” a name suggested by an employee from Norway. Best Company Names - small business naming guide
  6. Ikea: Another global icon that stands the test of time regarding how its name works well in every society across the globe. Ikea is short, crisp, innovative, and easy on the ear. The name is supposed to be a combination of the initials of the founder’s name and the village where he grew up. Ingvar Kamprad is his name. The farm and the village where he grew up were Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd.
  7. JetBlue: In a world full of staid, stodgy, and solid names (think United, American, et al.) JetBlue was a refreshing new entrant. The name is distinctive, descriptive, magnetic, short, and spellable.
  8. Sony: Many Japanese companies retain their Japanese names and have been successful. But Sony, which had an original name of Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, was a new name that was supposed to have been based on “Sonus” and “Sonny” to make it easy to pronounce, spell, and remember.
  9. Hotmail: When Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith started Hotmail, the first web-based email, they wanted to have the word email in the name. Hotmail won as it had the word HTML in it. It is one of the first companies, a pioneer, to ride the viral wave of “Get your free email at Hotmail” tagline at the bottom of the emails.
  10. Paypal: Paypal is another great descriptive name that is short, easy to spell, and memorable. But the original name of Paypal was Confinity. It was a year later when the company started sending money using email; the company changed its service name and the company name to Paypal.

There are many other brands and firms which may belong in the best company names list.  But these are some of our favorites among the best company names.

What help can I get in finding great names for my small business?

Sourcing small business names from external parties comes in handy when you need help in finding unique and catchy small business names.  Sometimes one can think long and hard ask friends, family, and associates, but often without some help, it is hard to conceptualize the catchy business name we all want for our small business enterprises. So if you have concluded that thinking up a small business name is not easy and you need help, look no further.

It is easy to agree with the core tenets of what makes a good business name for a small business. A company name for small business has to be short, creative, memorable, unique, and preferably descriptive of the nature of the firm.

Options for Sourcing Small Business Names:

Sourcing Small Business Names from Readymade Business Name Lists: Many websites offer readymade small business names lists.  They are of varying levels of quality and price range. Sometimes, it may be prudent to thru a few of these to evaluate which ones resonate with your personal preferences and have relevance to your proposed business venture. Typically, many of these small business name sites offer some freebies and also list prices for most names.

An entrepreneur can search, browse, and filter names based on a variety of categories and options. For example, the number of letters in the name allows you to look for 4-letter or 5-letter or 6-letter names. Categories are often the types of business.

A company name for small business has to be short, creative, memorable, unique, and preferably descriptive of the nature of the firm.

Here is a very short list of providers who offer readymade business names (not in any order of priority). Please search for additional business name list providers.

Novanym – A U.K. based small business company name list provider.

Brandroot – A marketplace for small business names.

Brandlance – A readymade provider of small business names.

BrandBucket – Another readymade small business name list provider

Crowdsourcing Small Business Names:

If a pre-created or curated list of names is not your cup of tea for sourcing small business names, you can crowdsource the company name from a variety of sources.  The way these services work is you create an account, describe what you need (domain name, business name, brand name, or a combination thereof) and the freelance naming experts will go to work for you. Depending on the service, and the relative difficulty of your niche and expectations, there may a few dozen to a few hundred names in a matter of days or a week. The prices vary, and of course, the quality varies. But sometimes, what you pay versus what you get is not commensurate as you can find a fantastic name from all the clutter.

Here are a few small business name crowdsourcing sites:





Another creative avenue is for putting Amazons’ millions of minions to work for you to come up with a small business name is the Amazon Mechanical Turk.

A company name for a small business has to be short, creative, memorable, unique, and preferably descriptive of the nature of the firm.

Brand or Company Naming Services:

While these days everyone seems to be doing everything, here are a few firms that take a brief from you and then provide the company/brand name for your small business. Some of them could be expensive.







Automated Company Name Generators:

Another genre of providers for sourcing small business names is the automated company name generators.  Typically, you will be able to set up a keyword or keywords and then a character limit and be able to see thousands of combinations and derivations ranging from the inane to the inventive small business company names.  Here are a few automated small business name generators.






How to pick legally compliant Small business names?

Picking legally compliant small business names is not a choice, but a mandatory requirement unless a small business intends to run afoul of the law.  Each country, state, and a city will have their own rules and laws governing what norms govern the names.  For example, here is what California business name guidelines state.  Another example from British Columbia about how to title a business. And Hawaii. And there are trademarks and service marks that also constrain what small business name you pick.

So, as an entrepreneur with a gleaming idea and dreams of success, you will need to make sure you are compliant with applicable laws and rules that govern business names.  It may be better to consult your attorney or your accountant who may be more familiar with the rule book.

Here are a few things that you can do – all the better if you have an accountant or an attorney to assist you.

Selecting Legally Compliant Small Business Names:

Legally compliant names - small business naming guide

  • Check the City government business guidelines to check if you require a business license, which also memorializes the business name.  Some cities will ask you to pick your first and second preferences for names.
  • If you are going to register as an LLC (Limited Liability Company), S Corporation, or a C Corporation, there are state-level guidelines and rules to follow.
  • Search for trademarks and service marks and see if your preferred name has restrictions for use in certain industries, sectors, and countries.
  • Suppose you are not registering the business and your locale has no business license requirements. Even so, you must look at the guidelines as the company names will be subject laws that will prohibit certain names that cross the lines of common decency and rights of others.

Some firms had to change the name due to trademark trouble.

Mondo CEO and founder Tom Blomfield told Business Insider: “Fundamentally there’s a trademark challenge here and the solution to that is we’re going to have to change our name. We think we can keep most of the branding and the logo but the name will have to change.”

Whether or not your business immediately requires a website and an online presence, it may be a good idea to search whether or not the name you want is available. Obviously, given the millions of domains that are in use or are parked, you will know whether you can get a domain name that represents your business name. You may have to compromise as finding names is extremely difficult.

What are some Do’s and Don’ts in picking naming a small business?

In summary, we close the small business naming guide with a list of do’s and don’ts.


  1. Try to keep it short, but that is easier said than done, particularly if you need or want a web domain name the same as your trade name.
  2. The small business name must resonate – whether it is descriptive or abstract or derived, some names ring well.
  3. The small business name should be easy to spell. Complicated vowels and silent letters are not going to be a wise idea.
  4. Spelling and pronunciation go hand in hand. Make it sound good to the ear.
  5. Think long-term. Make the name extensible regarding geography, and products and services.


  1. Don’t settle for the first name. Sometimes thinking thru and creating a short list and then sleeping on is a better policy than tying the knot with the first name.
  2. Don’t restrict your future growth. If you call your company, “Little Town Aquarium Supply,” you may be limiting in what you can do. What if you go beyond Little Town? Alternatively, what if you diversify beyond aquarium supplies into say pool supplies?
  3. Don’t try hard to be the first in the alphabet like “ABC <Something>” so that they were the first name in the yellow pages. (Remember those Yellow Pages which were big, unwieldy, impossibly small font, and difficult to find categories?) In today’s mobile phone era, one can sort and filter in innumerable ways, and hence right name need not be the top of the alphabet heap.
  4. Stay away from Acronyms. Unless you are an IBM or ATT, abbreviations are difficult to fathom and don’t mean much to your customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
  5. Don’t run afoul of trademarks and service marks. Even if you think you are cute, it will rattle a big company’s frail ego. “Mickey Donald Burgers” or “StarBuX” are lovely, but we would not advise you do it. It will get you sued by the big behemoth of a corporation that has a ton of high-priced sharks…err….lawyers on their payroll and could send you to financial oblivion.


All the logos and names are trademarks and properties of respective companies included in this best company names list.

Please do your due diligence before picking any of the sites or services mentioned in the small business naming guide.

The information provided in the small business naming guide is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, tax, or financial planning advice.



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