7 Valuable Tips to Perfectly Name Your New Startup

You just had the perfect business idea and now you’re scrambling around to put together a business plan that’s going to take it to fruition. You’ve pulled together the capital you need to kick-start it; assembled a really good team or you’ve opted to go the journey alone. You have a great location in mind, if a brick and mortar business is your thing or maybe you’ll be working from home. Fantastic! 

There’s just ONE tiny little detail that’s holding you back. You can’t quite come up with the perfect business name! Or maybe you have, but you’re not sure what to do next. And how well the new name will be received by your target market or audience?

Here are seven tips to help you name your new startup.

1. The name should be easily pronounced, especially if it’s a made-up word.
Brands like Häagen-Dazs come to mind. Naming your company is a lot like finding the perfect name for a baby. While it’s great that you want to be extremely creative and original, sometimes reining that enthusiasm in is not such a bad approach. Every day people mispronounce global brands like Nike, Volkswagen, Louis Vuitton, Hublot, and IKEA. Keep it simple and ensure the winning name is one everyone else (not just you) will be able to sound out properly. Be sure it can be pronounced properly in foreign countries (with foreign languages) as well.

The Swiss luxury watchmaker is pronounced “oo-blow”, not “hub-lot”

2. Don’t get a generic name that lacks meaning to your startup.
Try to focus on being authentic, original, and personalise your startup. Your goal should be to stand out from the crowd. If you’re thinking of starting a flower shop, the words “flower shop” don’t need to always be included. Examine your company’s products and services to draw some inspiration for good name options. The activewear brand, Under Armour makes for a good example in those instances. You can also stop and think about what is it you want your customers to do like action camera manufacturer GoPro (Go professional). Get it?

Read: Found a Great Business Name? Save Yourself Some Money and Make Sure It’s Available! ‏

3. Avoid using acronyms or shortened names.
While dropping vowels from words to create the perfect name for a tech startup seems to be all the rage these days, using acronyms or initials for your catering business might not work. You first priority will be to build your brand and identity. Trying to be “cool” or “trendy” is not where you need to be putting your efforts, especially as it relates to marketing (and advertising). Let your target market get used to hearing your company name in full (as is). A company like 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company) rebranded because its customers came up with the name. In those instances it works to go with a shortened version of your company name.

3M products.jpg
3M has evolved into a company best known for its Post-it products

4. Make sure it’s a name you can have trademarked.
Here’s one of the most common mistakes those new to entrepreneurship typically make. They create the perfect business, find the best location and space (if it’s a brick and mortar model), and the ideal name for their startup. Everything looks great on paper too. Do you only want to sell within your own country or do you eventually want to become an international merchant? Please ensure you declare your business ambitions. When they go in to register their business name and logo that’s when they find out the name or something like it already exists, whether locally or internationally. That takes me to my next tip.

5. Check your local registrar of companies and do your own search for the name availability.
Do your research from the very start. There’s nothing more disappointing than failing to look into name availability for a startup. In most countries, all it takes is phone call or an online search on your local registrar of companies’ website. In Ontario, Canada for example, you can contact Service Canada to search for, register and renew a business name online. It’s usually offered as a government service and search is usually free. Registration on the other hand is done at a nominal fee. If you haven’t decided on a name, bring your list with you and take the time to find out if any or all are already taken. Invest the time in research so you don’t wind up wasting a lot of that precious resource.

Service Canada
A Service Canada location | Source: The Canadian Press Images | Lars Hagberg

6. Google is also perfect to do business name search.
Most people might not be aware, but there’s no platform better for a name search than Google. It’s one of the easiest ways and points to start from. It’s also FREE! Simply type in the name (or names) you have in mind and see what the results return. For the record that was NOT a lesson on “How to Google For Dummies”. However, try to combine this with checking with your local registrar of companies. Some businesses may or may not have a digital or online footprint depending on where in the world they are.

7. Test it out on your family and friends to gain their feedback.
This one is perhaps one of the most important tips I can leave with you. Always, always, always test out your potential startup names on your family members and close friends. Their feedback will be invaluable. Before you try out your names on them, be sure to give them context about your business, services, products, target market, and ambitions. Sometimes what we think is a winner, is actually not. What sounds good to us might not sound good to the masses. So get out your list, put it on a wall for all to see, get a marker (Sharpie works fine), and start eliminating the names they dislike and checking the ones they do like.

Remember, your business name is the foundation on which your brand and identity will be built. Get it right.

17 Questions with Copywriter and Branding Expert Alison Hess

Alison Hess is a talented Copywriter who has spent her career crafting “matchless voices” for internationally-known brands. You’ve probably even seen her work online, on TV, flipping the pages of a magazine or while riding the subway (for NYers). I first met Alison in Jamaica, while she was covering the country’s 50th year of independence, as well as all the excitement surrounding the 2012 Olympics for PUMA. I recently interviewed Alison to learn more about how she got into copywriting, her first project, her latest projects, and how she finds inspiration.

A Snapshot Profile of Alison Hess

Alison Hess is an award-winning copywriter, brand planner and creative director in New York City (NYC) who’s worked on some of the biggest ad campaigns with global brands like Subway and Nike. After working with a string of stellar agencies (like Opperman Weiss and Sylvain Labs), she’s returned to her roots as a freelancer.

Education: Williams College, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Organisation(s) founded: Alison Hess, Inc.

Puma Basket
From the campaign for ‘PUMA Archive’ | Source: www.alisonhess.com

The Phresh Interview

Phil Rodriques (PR): What’s your favourite quote/mantra?
Alison Hess (AH): I just read the best book I’ve read in years, A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara, and I loved this line: “…things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.”

PR: Where did you study?
AH:  I studied at Williams College. It was pure liberal arts, which taught me to think. I majored in Religion and English, and had the luxury of spending four years reading. I did a poetry thesis. Nothing remotely practical!

Bacardi Brand-Cuba
From the Barcardi Brand Book | Source: www.alisonhess.com

PR: What sparked your interest in copywriting, brand planning, and creative direction?
AH: My mentor, Benjamin Bailey, hired me in NYC, three weeks out of college, and I’ve been working with him ever since. I knew nothing of what I do before meeting him; he taught me everything.

PR: Can you remember your first copywriting project?
AH: The job with Ben[jamin Bailey] was at an ecommerce/catalog retailer that sold handcrafted things from around the world. Product descriptions, headlines, etc. were the first thing I ever wrote for a commercial audience. I loved it.

PR: Can you please name some of the biggest brands you’ve done work for?
AH: Nike, American Express, Bacardi, Puma, Levis, Comcast, Godiva, Chobani, Martini…lots. Plus some great Jamaican brands like ICWI, Jake’s Hotel, Jamaica Tourist Board, Cable & Wireless…

Jakes' Hotel-room
From the newly designed Jake’s Hotel website | Source: www.alisonhess.com

PR: What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned in your 14 years as a copywriter?
AH: I’d say that every brand deserves a unique voice, and it’s worth it to take the time to explore and find it.

PR: What’s your favorite part about being a copywriter?
AH: It’s almost like being an actor with words.

PR: What drives your work ethic?
AH: I’m freelance, so the relationships I make feed more work.

PR: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in your industry?
AH: Building a brand is part science, part instinct.

A proud sponsor of New York’s Fashion Week | Source: www.alisonhess.com

PR: What have been some of your unexpected career hurdles to date?
AH: Sometimes it’s taking on too much work and not achieving any balance. Sometimes it’s chasing checks [cheques].

PR: What would you say have been some of your unexpected successes?
AH: I was in the right place at the right time working on Nike+ and unexpectedly won every award in the industry in 2007.

PR: What’s the best part about working as a freelancer?
AH: Choosing the projects I take on and the agencies I engage with. Essentially, I have agency.

PR: What aspects of a new project keep you up at night or make you the most paranoid?
AH: Just deadlines. And sometimes client presentations.

The award-winning campaign for Nike+ | Source: www.alisonhess.com

PR: Where do you find the inspiration for each project?
AH: I look around. New York City provides a lot to notice. I also read, because I tend to write in the style of whatever I’m devouring.

PR: What was your latest copywriting project?
AH: I’m working on Comcast and Chobani right now.

PR: What advice would you give to aspiring copywriters?
AH: Learn to be flexible with your voice. It’s not how you want it to sound…it’s how it needs to sound for the brand. The first thing you should ask is: “Who’s the audience?”

PR: Is there anything else you would like to add?
AH: Look for a mentor. It was one of the best things I ever did.