Got a great concept for an artisanal waffle cart, but don’t know what to call it? Increase your chances of feeding the masses and kick your venture off on the right foot by following these simple tips to choose a great name for your business.
Creating a List of Prospective Business Names
1. Brand yourself. Before you name your business, you should have a handle on your niche. Define your goals in your business plan and mission statement. A software company might want to emphasize the quality and simplicity of its products (hence, Apple) while an accounting firm might want to emphasize its accuracy.
2. Address your customer base. You need an understanding of both what your prospective customers are like and what they’re looking for when they come to you. If your target customers are wealthy, you might want to have a name that caters to their upscale tastes. If your target customers are working mothers who don’t have time to clean house, you’ll want to consider a name that either recognizes their busy schedules, their desire for cleanliness and order, or both.
3. Make lists of words that represent the qualities you want to market. In one column, list the qualities you want to convey to your customers. What are you “about”? In another column, list things you think your customers are looking for. Use nouns, adjectives and verbs as possibilities.
Come up with a wide variety of words that are specific to your business. “Rover” might be good if you plan to open a dog-walking business while “persimmon” might be a great word for a Lebanese restaurant.
Consult a dictionary to look up definitions of the words you choose and a thesaurus to find synonymous words or phrases. You can also use a software application designed to help you brainstorm.
4. Try a simple one-word name. Trendy upscale restaurants will often have short, punchy names that emphasize simplicity and quality, like “Fig” or “Feast.” Likewise, “Timberland” shoe specializes in work boots and their simple, earthbound name reflects their product nicely, whereas “Tom’s” emphasizes its personal human touch.
5. Come up with some simple adjective-noun phrases. “Black Cyprus” or “North Face” are both evocative and versatile. One noun and one modifier allow for both simplicity and accuracy, as with the name “Urban Outfitters” or “American Apparel.”
Try a gerund verb phrase. A gerund is simply an “-ing” word. This tends to make your business sound active and fun, a place with a welcoming atmosphere: “Laughing Planet” is an organic burrito chain, while “Turning Leaf” is a wine producer.
6. Use a proper name. Incorporating someone’s real name into your business is a great way to lend a personal touch, even if it’s not a real person. McDonald’s was never owned by anyone named “McDonald,” while Papa John’s pizza chain is owned by someone named “John.”
7. Make a new word. A portmanteau is a word made up of two words, like “KitchenAid” “Microsoft” or “RedBox.” This lends an experimental edge to your business and makes it sound fresh and contemporary. You’re inventing a word, essentially, so it makes a lot of sense for entrepreneurial endeavors.
8. Play with words. Some simple sonic literary devices can lend your business name a memorable quality:
Repeating the initial sounds of words, called alliteration, plays to both sight and sound, in business names such as “Papyrus Press,” “K-Dee’s Coffee” “Smith Sound.” Similar to alliteration is assonance, which plays to the rhyming of vowel sounds. “Blue Moon Pools” is an example of assonance.
Rhyming, whether exact or inexact rhymes, can make a memorable business name. “The Reel Deal” might make sense as a dollar theatre or a fishing shop.
Playing off a colloquial saying is another way to come up with a memorable business name. A bar called “Liquid Courage” or a coffee shop called “Common Grounds” employ this. The risk of picking a corny or clichéd name is significant with this technique, but try it out to give your list as many names as possible to work with. You can always scratch it later.
Making a historical, literary or mythological reference can be successful. “Starbucks,” after all, is named after a character in Moby-Dick.