Small Business – What’s in a (brand) name?

25th May 2010 by Simon G

Continuing our week of blog posts in honor of ‘Small Business Week’ in the US, we’ll be blogging about small businesses and the things they wish they’d known, ways to promote yourself, and ways to get – and stay – motivated.

We’re also asking you to share your own experiences in the comments for some useful prizes, and to help out others in the same situation. We know you’re busy people, so we’ll be announcing the winners next Monday, to give everyone a chance to respond.


What’s in a name?

In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare’s famous heroine Juliet passionately asks:


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the name you give your business or brand. Your business name is how you will come to be known in the industry, how your clients will see you, and it’ll be the name you put on your Business Cards. It matters what you call your company – and for some, it’s a big motivational step to getting started.

Names for businesses can come from a variety of places. We’ve taken a quick look at a few different options for finding the right name to suit your business.


So, what’s the best way to come up with a company name?

Many small businesses begin with one employee – you. As a result, they begin with their owner’s name in their company name – Chanel, Jack Daniels, Ford, JP Morgan, Marks & Spencer, JC Penny for example (there’s a long list on Wikipedia). For companies taking their owner’s name, it can be hard for clients and customers to tell the difference between brand and owner – something to remember if you’re active in social media. Where do your personal tweets stop, and your company’s start?

Other companies have a name that seemingly means nothing at all. For example, what does Google actually mean? There are lots of rumors behind the name, but where did the name Coca-Cola really come from? On delving a little deeper we learn that both of these names tell a story, and relate in some way to the history or nature of the business.


Sometimes the business name is more closely related to the products and services they provide. Whilst not always explicitly using your industry in your brand name (e.g. Modern Photography Inc.), some names can be a little more cryptic and still related to the industry. We asked our friends at Blurb“What does Blurb mean”? Watch Founder and CEO Eileen Gittins tell her brand naming story.


If you find yourself struggling to name your new business as Eileen once did, why not search for inspiration somewhere different! We’ve created a set of MOO Text-o-matic MiniCards each with a different word printed on the cards. We threw the them in a bowl and pulled cards at random to inspire some new name ideas. Introducing some new businesses coming to the world in 2010…




If you don’t fancy making a set of MiniCards, you could always take a quick peek at Name My Design Company Machine. If you find a name you like, you’ll need to define what exactly your business does. For this, there is no better tool (honest, we checked) than the Great Ideas Generator – just keep hitting refresh for more and more ideas…

BrandBucket have come up with ten points that they feel make up a good name, and they’re all worth considering with any of the methods we’ve mentioned above: Length, Real Word/Expression, Alphabet, Pronunciation, Spelling, Conflicts, Industry Match, Longevity, Uniqueness, and General Retention… and not to forget possibilities for domain names for taking your brand online!

How did you come up with your business name? What advice would you give to someone choosing a name for their new small business?

Comments (85)

  1. Danna Seuntjens:

    I called my one woman photography business look@me photography, and that is of course because I always want my clients to ‘look@me’ when i’m shooting and everyone who gets there picture taken want to say to other people ‘look@me’ i’m gorgious in this picture!

    I get a lot of nice reactions on that name..and my pictures ;)

  2. Shalon:

    Our name may not be the “best” when it comes to textbook definitions to get the most impact for your market…etc But we think it sends the right message. Easy to remember. Not completely identifiable for the product upon initially hearing it. However once people know what we sell and make that connection to the name…they always SMILE!

    We didn’t start doing what we do intending it to be a business. But once started, we just knew it was something that had to be done.

    And so one day while camping in Hope Valley with my husband and our pup, FEEL GOOD GOWNS was born!

    It was a wonderful day, the sun was shining and we were enjoying a peaceful day in a green meadow surrounded by mother nature and enjoying the beauty of the Sierra Nevada’s. THIS is where a person wants to be, not in a cold and sterile white hospital room. And while I knew I couldn’t transport people to this magical spot, I did know that custom hospital attire with wonderful fabrics and patters could make them FEEL like they were somewhere else. It could help them to FEEL GOOD on a day that is otherwise scary, cold, and dreaded. It could do GOOD.

    And Feel Good Gowns is ALL about love, happiness, sunshine and the spirit of “doing good.” So we like our name and we are gonna keep it no matter what the books say!

  3. Lesley:

    I knew I wanted the name to be something to do with my family. And as I started thinking about who influenced me in my baking & crocheting the most…it was my grandmother. Before I came up with the name I read some where that said to use use your grandmothers’ first names. I thought that was a very cute idea.
    But, I am very happy with the name and it’s fun the share it with people that knew her and loved her!!!
    Sweet Willo May’s gluten-free Bakery

  4. Rebecca:

    My business name is Blinking Flights, which does have meaning for me, although it is a little obscure to others. It means always moving and changing, and ties in with ‘flights of fancy’. I make dolls, and the name has worked beautifully for me in terms of its availability online, the fact that it does not get confused with other names or brands, and when I was starting out at markets stalls, I used to see people mouth it to themselves and smile, which led to me naming my most popular doll a ‘blinky’.
    I think it is really important to go for something different, something that means something to you, but nothing to finite or prescriptive. And once you’ve thought up that name and are happy with it, just go for it and don’t look back. Make it work! Be a little bit brazen!

  5. Emma:

    My business name “benconservato” (meaning “well preserved in Italian) comes from an previous incarnation as a jam and conserve maker. Considering I love the name, it just stuck (like jam) to me in general. I now create art and illustration under that name, and even get called “Ben” sometimes.

  6. Valeen:

    We just named my daughter’s company based partly on name, but also on how easy it is to remember! I think that’s the most important thing. Weird names and spellings are easily forgotten. Funny or romantic names stick with you. :)

  7. Daniel:

    My business name is RTGfxs. RTG are the consonants of my last name and if you put the G and fxs together, you get graphics.So when you add it all together its RTGfxs which basically means Graphic By Daniel Arteaga

  8. Megan Rieff:

    I started out having my photography business named, “Photography by Megan Rieff”, however, it seems that most photographers are doing this now days. I think it is important to set yourself apart, so I decided this was a bad idea. If a potential client meets 2 photographers in one day who’s name is he/she going to remember? There is no telling. Also, who’s to say that the potential client will hear your name correctly or be able to spell it to google you.
    That’s why I changed the name to a dot in time photography. As a little extra thought, I think it is really helpful to physically take a piece of paper and a writing utensil and then draw and sketch, write words that you think are important to yourself and your business and go from there.

    Hope this helps someone out there, thinking of a name can be both tough and stressful, but worth the effort. :D

  9. Cathy Sizer:

    My freetime passion is making jewelry – me and a million others, right? I first learned to make wire-wrapped rings – sterling silver, copper (gold too expensive!) and was hooked. These I could create easily and quickly all the while staying in the same room as my husband which he likes! Anyway, before I knew it I had over 100 and all different. What to do with them? Of course, sell, sell, sell. Not as easy as it sounds. So I created Rings of Desire – rings is obvious and desire represented my desire to make them and the customers perceived desire to own them. Made sense AND there is a hint of sexy with this name. I branched out to beaded necklaces and bracelets and earrings and even then the name seems to fit. Necklaces and bracelets are rings around necks and wrists. Earrings have the name ring in them. There you have it…fits the product and is a little sexy and feminine for a product that is mainly a girly, girl thing. Enjoy! Love Moo!!!

  10. Rosa Phoenix:

    The name of my business is Rosa Phoenix Art & Design. Rosa Phoenix is a pseudonym that I use to sign my art. I started to create art after I became very ill. Art helped me to recover from illness and grief after my dad and grandfather died. Phoenix has a double meaning for me. Phoenix, Arizona is my hometown and Phoenix is the mythical bird who is reborn from its own ashes to live a new life. There are many design firms with the name “Phoenix” but there is only one Rosa Phoenix as far as I know, that’s me. Also, the rose is my favorite flower, a symbol of love and passion. So love, passion, rebirth are what drive me to be creative. Rosa Phoenix is a name that tells my story.

  11. JP:

    Choose a name that evokes a strong image. That will kickoff your branding in a powerful way.

    As a digital marketing firm, we offer creative services from iPhone app development to website design to video production. So, we *build* products. Our products are bold and beautiful, like the color *red*. And we have a *group* of dynamic professionals ready to get the job done. Hence:

    The Red Building Group

    I also developed the business idea while inside a red building.

    Love the Moo!

  12. Gela:

    Currently trying to name my business so finding these comments really helpful – had a great brainstorming session last night and will get some more friends and family to join in over the next couple of days. Apart from being fun to do, trying to come up with the trading name is making me really focus on where I plan to start and how much flexibility I need to leave myself to adapt in future. If I find a name before this blog closes, I’ll come back and let you know!

  13. Annette:

    My surname is Yoosefi-nejad; it hardly trips off the tongue on a website, so initially I cut it in half – Not too long, easy enough….but not instantly memorable or easy to spell – yousefi, yoseffi, even guisepi. Change it. I couldn’t add what I did in the title – jewellery – partly because I sell to both the UK and the US – and they spell the word differently. And the word is too clunky. I came up with Wild Scarlet. It has worked well but I have since found out you can spell it with 2 ts, and, as a friend pointed out later, it is the perfect name for a “red hot and dutch” site. ARG! I bought the version too so that my customers would not stumble across an altogether wilder site and never return. I was searching for the London Marathon – the running version; there are two sites for London and one of them has nothing to do with running, an altogether different kind of marathon. So for anyone setting up a new name, I suggest you look at sites that have names close to your planned name.

  14. Markelle Harden:

    My company name originated from my desire to convey the ‘magic’ of our services. My advice to others in naming their business is to utilize something that is already familiar to the consumer. For example, everyone knows that a Genie grants wishes; it’s understood no matter what business background a client has. Your business name should not be difficult to remember or recall.

  15. Becca Hall:

    My advice would be to choose something with history to you. Ask yourself, “does this name reflect who I am?” Your business name doesnt need to make sense right away to others…but after you explain the HISTORY behind it, It should be unforgetable!

    My photography business is called Love Bites by Becca! Well, What’s a Love bite?
    Growing up, my mom would pack our lunch for school. When we would open up our lunch pail, our friends would notice our sandwich usually had a little bite missing out of the bottom corner!!! They always asked us why… and we would answer: “Its a LOVE BITE.” It was my moms way of telling us she loved us… & Its a tradition that stuck. Love bites, are the little pieces you “steal” too let someone else know you were thinking about them! They are a little reminder that you are loved. I want to capture that tiny second through my lens. I want to take a snapshot of that little memory …so one day, others can look back on that photograph of life and see Just a little LOVE BITE by: Becca!

    Im sure next time you hear LOVE BITE… you will remember me! And, thats what your company name should do!!

  16. The Chown jewels:

    I wanted to start selling my handmade jewellery on sites like Etsy and Coriandr, so I needed to think of a name for my shop.

    My surname is Chown and I wanted to something that suggested the type of product I would be selling. I thought of ‘The Chown Jewels’ almost immediately and straight away I knew it was perfect!

    It is a play on ‘The Crown Jewels’ and, as I am British, this adds another, geographical, relevance to the name.

    Finally and most importantly, now you know the background, hopefully it will also make you smile…

  17. Mike Richardson:

    It was a long and arduous journey to our business name; well not too ardous, but it took a lot of though and a fair while to settle on. The process involved many brainstorming sessions in local pubs with Sarah, my partner in photography, life and other assorted crimes.

    So why “First Sight Images”? There are quite a few reasons;

    When we met we fell in love with each other “at first sight” (no, really!). So it means somethign to us on a personal level.
    “First” is best. Our aim is to be seen as no.1.
    “Sight” is intimately linked with the photographic experience, both in terms of creation and final product.
    “Images” are more than mere snapshots. (and as we have branched out into custom mounting and framing we got a bit lucky there!)
    The domain name was available
    We can use the tagline “love@firstsight” and email address “” for wedding / engagement promotions.

    What do you think? Did we do good??

  18. Becky Bryant:

    I spent aaaaaaages writing out words that came to mind in my moleskine. (I’m still in the process of setting myself up really)

    I’d start off with how I’d want to be perceived, the way I design and write down anything that came to mind. Then I wrote down really random things such as ‘dancing squid’, ‘purple pineapple’, ‘printedpixels’ and so on.

    I found just letting the words flow, as it were, really useful… rather than getting stuck on a dominant idea (originally colourific).

    I also found asking my other half what he thought. He’s completely design illiterate, he’s really useful as a member of ‘Joe Public’ to test things on.

    Don’t be afraid to ask people what they think!

    I eventually ended up with ‘Print & Pixels’ as that’s what I work with. and was able to brainstorm logos and ideas from there.

  19. Ingrid Murray:

    I came up with the name WeBuyNearby for my new online farmers market in South East England, after searching for a word which would bring together food producers, food shoppers and my business which links the two. It creates a feeling that we are all working towards the same cause – buying local food. So my tip others would be to LOOK FOR A SINGLE WORD or SHORT PHRASE that CAPTURES THE EMOTION & PURPOSE BEHIND YOUR BUSINESS IDEA.
    Ingrid Murray, Founder

  20. Chris Bartow:

    The way I came up to test a name is by imagining a scenario where you had one chance to plug your business, could you clearly say it and people be able to remember it?

    What’s really tough n ow is finding something that has a domain available that matches.

  21. Petrina Reyes:

    I combined everything I wanted my company to do. Marketing, Art, Design, Entertainment. When I arranged the letters, it spelled M.A.D.E. M.A.D.E. Coincidentally, everything in my company is artistic based and will be originally created or MADE. “Images” completes the artistic theme.

    My advice for entreprenuers trying to figure out a name for their company is to make up a word. If I had a chance to rename my company, I’d like to come up with a catchy set of letters that would spell a unique word. That way, my company has the ability to create its own entity – to stand out – instead of being compared to other company names.

    M.A.D.E. Images

  22. Jolene & Nate:

    We know our job may stink – we pick up dog doo – but we always want others to laugh with us and to be sure the work we do does good. That’s why we named our business DooGooders™ and give 7% of our sales back to local charities. We believe a great name should not be crappy, but meaningful, easy to understand and when appropriate, bring some smiles. BTW, we’re very fond of the Moo Crew because we call our team the DooCrew (but we’re sure the Moo Crew smells a lot better!).

  23. Scepter Marketing:

    Another cool site for figuring out the name of your company is I think I found out about it from Inc Magazine several months ago. It’s a good place to if you’re really struggling to find a name and want to just throw money at it. But anyway, I choose the name “Scepter” because of what it represents to me – authority and dominion. There are “different strokes for different folks” to some degree though. Some of the names on your mini-cards aren’t half bad!

  24. Innes:

    My wife chose my business name, which was great because it was one less decision to make :-)

  25. Leslie Edmonds(secretstojewelrymaking):

    I think any name can be effective if it’s backed by the appropriate marketing strategy. It should convey the expertise, value and uniqueness of the product or service you provide.

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    Exceptional material paid by articles could make upward for leading e-book

  27. Jennifer:

    Nice blog. Having an effective business name is one of the secrets of achieving success in the business. Hence, you must be well-aware of the techniques on garnering different ideas for business name. A beautiful business names can help a business to grow because it reflects your business and the services you offering.

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