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Just as naming your pet or baby can fill you with both excitement and angst, naming your business "baby" can do the same. There's so much riding on the name as the chosen name can have a substantial impact on your brand's overall success.
So, before you jump into thinking about your brand logo, pricing or promotions, you should iron out the right name.
Below, we break down all the info you need to know as you go about finding the ideal name for your business — how to brainstorm for names, understand naming rules and we even discuss scenarios where you may require multiple business names.
How to Name Your Business
Naming a business might seem like a straightforward process, but there's more to it than just selecting a name you like. If you aren't the most creatively inclined, here are a few tips to get you going.
- Think about your brand and what message you want to convey.
- Brainstorm creative business name ideas using a mood board, thesaurus or rhymes.
- Speak to other business owners and understand how they landed on their name.
- Consider using a Business Name Generator.
If you are forming an LLC or any other legal structure for your startup, then there are certain state-level naming rules and regulations you should familiarize yourself with.
We look into these LLC-specific naming rules in detail next.
General Naming Rules for Your LLC
LLCs need to ensure their legal business name follows their state’s naming mandates. If the name doesn't meet these rules, your business formation paperwork can get rejected, causing extra work and frustration.
Here are the naming rules that typically apply to all LLCs across the U.S.
- Name must not reference or falsely suggest association to a federal or state government body/entity such as FBI, FDA, Treasurer, Police and Department of Revenue.
- Name cannot imply a government unit (such as a village, city or borough).
- No misuse of identifiers like “LLC” or “Incorporated” or “Corporate” when it is not one.
- No use of professional licensing such as Engineer, CPA or Doctor without appropriate licensing.
- Cannot use the word "Olympic" or any other trademark of the International Olympics Committee (IOC).
- Business name should not imply illegal activity.
- Language cannot be discriminatory, obscene or promote abuse.
- The name can't be deceptively similar to that of another registered business or infringe on any trademark.
The "Golden Rules" of Naming a Business
There are many do’s and don'ts when it comes to thinking of a name, and we’ve compiled some of the most important to get you started. Below are our eight "golden rules" to abide by when it comes to naming your business.
- Make it easy to pronounce and remember
- Avoid unusual spellings
- Make it unforgettable and unique
- Keep it simple
- Don't make it too descriptive
- Avoid trends
- Avoid abbreviations
State-By-State LLC Business Naming Guidelines
Our 50-state naming guide includes all the information you need for naming your business. These rules are state-specific. We have covered states naming must-haves, prohibited words, name reservation costs and reservation period timeline. Select your state from the drop-down menu:
Can You Have Multiple Names for a Business?
Got the name and formally registered your business but now find it a difficult name to market? Or have you already decided to add on services to your business and your original name doesn't convey these additions?
Don't worry, here's what you can do. You can file for a fictitious business name, commonly known as a DBA “doing business as” certificate and market or rebrand the business. For example, the business name "Jon Ramm Auto Detailing" might work better as “JR Auto Works” for the DBA.
Let’s go a step further and look at another possible scenario. Suppose that your website domain name doesn’t match the DBA. The only available domain name is www.JonAutoService.com over your preference of www.JRAutoDetail.com. If you are marketing all services as Jon Ramm Auto Detailing, meaning this is the name that is consistent in all social media, customer interactions and marketing channels, then you don’t need another DBA.
However, if you start using Jon Auto Service in email campaigns, newsletters, social media interactions and marketing brochures, then you would have to file for another DBA.
Can You Have Multiple DBAs Under One LLC?
The answer is yes — you can have multiple DBA under one LLC. Let’s assume you have a real estate business under “Robin’s Real Estate LLC” but want to start offering moving services, too. You can file for another DBA name to run “Robin Movers” under the umbrella LLC.
Filing for a DBA is a quick and affordable way to get into another line of business while keeping it under one entity. It also allows you to use a more marketable name for your business and keeps your taxes streamlined under one LLC.
Before you get into publicizing and operating Robing Movers, you’ll need to make sure the name is available and register the DBA separately with the state.
But don’t forget, a DBA doesn’t offer any legal protection. If someone sues your real estate business, the assets of the moving business will be at stake, too.
Tips on How to Not Break LLC Naming Rules
Here’s what you can do to ensure the business name you selected via that business name generator or endless brainstorming is available, legal and easily distinguishable.
1. Research Secretary of State Pages
This should be the starting point of your name search. Go on your Secretary of State's website (or refer to our downloadable guide) and understand the naming rules. Conduct a"name check" search to see if your chosen name is available.
2. Do a Trademark Search at USPTO
Just because a legal name is available at the state level doesn’t mean no one else in the U.S. has rights to it. The state name filing offices don’t check name databases at the federal level or cover trademark records.
Cover all your basis by running a search on United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website.
3. Work with a Lawyer or Startup Business Expert
State naming laws and guidelines can change without any prior notice. Sometimes, it’s easier and simpler to work with a lawyer or startup business expert that can guide you accurately.
The Power of a Good Business Name
A strong, memorable business name speaks volumes about a business — it can make you stand out in the crowd and also play into a customer's decision to interact with you or not.
To find the right name that is an accurate representation of your brand and also meets all the statutory requirements, you need to follow the naming process correctly and give it the time it truly deserves.
If the name game has you stumped, Bizee can help. Our Business Name Search Tool can quickly tell you if your desired business name is available. We can even reserve a name if you aren't quite ready to file your formation paperwork but have a proposed name in mind.
Swara Ahluwalia is a freelance content writer with experience in the technical, B2B and SaaS domain. She also has curated content for various lifestyle brands. In her downtime, you will most likely find Swara training for her next marathon or spending time with her two daughters.
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