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How to choose a great business name
Choosing a name for a new business is often a long-drawn-out process that requires a great deal of brainstorming and careful consideration. It is exciting, but it can also be excruciatingly frustrating. Much like naming a child, your chosen collection of letters will have a lasting impact on your business’ future, so you need to get it right. Big companies spend a huge amount of money researching business names, sometimes even employing the services of other companies to come up with names for them. For the small startup, however, this is not really an option.
By employing a few simple strategies and being fully aware of the rules and regulations in place, you should be able to come up with a great name that captures and expresses the nature of your brand, appeals your target market and stands the test of time.
The legal stuff
Whether you’re starting a business as a sole trader, partnership or limited company, you must adhere to certain rules and regulations, which are set out in full in The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015, and The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014:
On rare occasions, you may be able to choose a company name that is the same as, or very similar to, the name of a company that already exists, but only if your new business is going to be part of the same group. In such instances, you will have to provide Companies House with a written statement from the existing company to confirm this is true.
- Cannot use a name that is the same as, or very similar to, the name of an existing business on the companies register.
- Must not be the same as an existing trade mark.
- Cannot use any ‘sensitive’ words or expressions, unless you get permission from a relevant authority.
- The business name must not be offensive.
- There should be no suggestion of any connection with past or present governments or local authorities.
- Limited company names must end in ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ (exemption is granted to some limited by guarantee companies, charities and sports clubs).
- Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) names must end in ‘Limited Liability Partnership’ or ‘LLP’.
- Sole traders cannot use company or LLP suffixes in their name.
Choosing a name
Now that we’ve got the tedious legal stuff out of the way, we can move on to the creative bit where you get to think up the perfect name for your new business. Be warned: you might lose the will to live during this process, and I can almost guarantee that the name you are dead set on using at the beginning will not be the one you settle on.
Think about the values of your business and your target audience. You need a name that embodies the purpose and essence of your business, expresses its qualities and overall character, and appeals to the people you are trying to reach. Research your target market - the more you know about these people, the better chance you have of choosing a name that resonates with them.
Take a look at the businesses you’ll be competing against, or those in a similar market or geographical location. Perhaps there’s a brand you really like and respect, and you want to replicate the type of image they portray. This is a really good starting point for choosing a name that will work and suit the type of products or services you’re offering.
Don’t overcomplicate it - keep the name simple and memorable. If people are unable to read, pronounce or spell the name, it might not be the best choice. You should also avoid cliches and anything that relates to a passing trend. If you’re planning to sell abroad, make sure the name doesn’t mean anything ridiculous or offensive in a different language or in certain cultures.
Do you want to create a traditional brand image, or would you prefer to take the modern approach? This really depends on what you’re selling and who you are targeting. Do you want to incorporate your own name, or the name of the place where the business originated or will be based? Certain surnames and place names carry weight, but others just make for boring business names. Furthermore, using a place name (or product name) in your business name could make if difficult if you move or expand the business.
Name availability search
Before setting your heart on a name and ordering 10,000 business cards, use Companies House’ free WebCHeck service to find out if the name is available. You should then pop over to UK Intellectual Property Office website to make sure it’s not registered as a trade mark. If your chosen name is available to register and doesn’t infringe on copyright, you can go ahead and set up your new business and order custom stationery to your heart’s content.
Once final point - please check that the name is available as a domain because you will probably want to use it for your website and business email addresses.
About Rachel Craig
Rachel Craig is the senior content writer and editor for Quality Formations Limited, the UK’s #1 company formation agency. An expert in her field, Rachel provides in-depth guidance and advice on UK company registration, corporate compliance and starting a new business.
Prior to joining Quality Formations, Rachel worked in research and customer service after obtaining a BA Marketing and an MA History of Art from the University of Glasgow. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, painting and spending time with her partner and their two untrainable dogs.
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