Small Business Q & A: What's In A Name? When It Comes To Your Business, Plenty!

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Q: How important is the name of a business? Should the name of a business reflect what the business does or is it better to come up with something catchy and easy to remember? -- Randy P.

A: What's in a name? When it comes to your business, Randy, a lot more than you might think. In fact, deciding on a business name is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. The right business name can help you rise above the crowd while the wrong business name can leave you trampled in the rush.

With the economy in a slump and competition on the rise, now more than ever it is important that you put considerable thought into coming up with the perfect name for your business.

Unfortunately, this is a task that is easier said than done. It seems like all the good business names are either married or... no wait, that's a different subject, but the analogy holds true.

We live in an age when a business called "The Body Shop" might repair wrecked cars or sell skintight jeans to teenagers, so before you send your letterhead to the printer, consider the following points to help you select the business name that's right for you.

The first thing you should do is conduct a little research to determine if the name is already in use by someone else. You would be surprised at how many entrepreneurs forget to research this point and open a business with a name that is already in use. Check with the county clerk and the secretary of state to make sure the name isn't already licensed for use or incorporated with the state. Also check with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office to see if the name is already trademarked, i.e., owned, by someone else. Using another company's trademarked name exposes you to legal action by the trademark owner. Even if your name is just similar to the trademarked name, you may find yourself in court defending your right to use the name. And odds are it's a battle you will lose.

If the name you choose is not in use, you should immediately reserve the name with the secretary of state (if you plan on incorporating) and apply for a trademark to ensure your legal ownership. If you do not trademark the name someone can come along later and attempt to steal the name out from under you. Imagine spending years building up your business only to have some upstart trademark the name and engage you in a legal battle over rightful ownership. This is one fight you don't need, especially when the hassle could have been easily avoided with a few bucks and a few forms.

Another important thing to consider is the domain name for your business. The domain name is the website address a customer will use to find you on the Web. Is the domain name for your business name available? If not, is there a domain similar to the business name you're considering?

You will undoubtedly discover that securing a suitable domain name is actually harder than choosing a business name. Most logical domain names are already reserved, but you might get lucky. Keep in mind that domain names should be short and descriptive, and preferably have the .com or .net extension. You can use other extensions (I've even used the ".to" extension on occasion) if necessary, just keep in mind that you will need to put forth a little extra marketing effort to promote the website address as people typically assume a .com extension as the norm. Whatever you do, don't use a domain name that is a confusing amalgam of letters and numbers that is hard to remember and even harder for your customer to type in.

One good way to approach the task of naming a business is to do so from your customer's point of view. Your business name should clearly define your offering and communicate your message to customers. Put yourself in your customer's shoes for a moment. If you were looking for a business that provides your product or service, what would you expect that business to be called? If you were in the market for computer parts, for example, wouldn't you look for a business that has "computer parts" reflected in the business name? Jim's Computer Parts may not sound as snazzy as Jim's Electronics Emporium, but snazzy doesn't pay the bills. Happy customers who quickly identify you as the source of their purchase do.

The name of your business can also spark subconscious reactions in a customer that may drive them to you or drive them away. Words like quality, complete, executive, best, low-cost, and on time often spark positive reactions in the mind of the consumer. Words like cheap, discount, and used tend to create negative emotions. You'll notice that no one claims to sell used cars anymore, but the dealer lots are loaded with vehicles that are "previously owned."

Finally, let's talk about things to avoid. Experts agree that you should avoid using generic terms like enterprise, corporation, partners, and unlimited as part of your everyday business name. These terms are fine for the legal business entity name, but are often too unclear for everyday use. Can you tell me what any of these companies do: ABC Corporation, Big Dog Enterprises, M & B Partners, and Discounts Unlimited sell? I didn't think so.

Also avoid abstract names like Yahoo, Google, Monster and Flip Dog (I am not going to list the names of the numerous local high tech firms that have bucked this rule :o). Abstract names will require a subtitle to explain what the business does or an expensive marketing campaign that brands the name into the minds of consumers. Unless you have deep pockets, I suggest you go with a name that describes your business at first glance and leave abstraction to the likes of Cher.

Finally, you should avoid hokey names, unless of course, you are starting a hokey business. Crazy Dave's Stereo Shop is a great name if the business is really run by Crazy Dave and his personality is exploited in the marketing of the business.

However, if you want to be taken serious, then give your business a serious name.

Would you go to Crazy Dave's House of Dentistry?

Neither would I.

Here's to your success.

Tim Knox For information on starting your own online or eBay business, visit

About the Author

Tim Knox as the president and CEO of two successful technology companies: B2Secure Inc., a Web-based hiring management software company; and Digital Graphiti Inc., a software development company. Tim is also the founder of, an ebusiness dedicated to the success of online entrepreneurs.


CC 20.03.2011. 21:32

Where can I buy watch/clock gears and cogs? I've recently gotten into the Steampunk style, and decided to start making things Steampunk themed, to help expand on my Arts and Crafts business. If there are any shops I can buy them from, that would be a huge help. I live in Orange County in California.


Admin 20.03.2011. 21:32

Look for yard sale broken clocks that cost next to nothing. Thrift shops and second hand stores are a great source of cheap or broken and free alarm clocks and similar pieces. If it doesn't work and is free or cheap, you will feel fine tearing it apart for gears to make jewelry or buttons.

Another good place to look is to buy lots of small gears sold online on ebay or etsy. These are sometimes sold as watch gears to repair watches, but anymore are often sold for altered art supplies or specifically for steampunk fashion parts. If you search either etsy or ebay there are several thousand auctions and sales of steampunk items.

Honestly though there are lots of throwaway items containing cogs and gears and so on. Open up an old CD-ROM drive you are sure to find something in there. Floppy drives also have plenty of moving parts. Old tape decks and walkmen... Old VCR machines... These things I am sure you will come across if you keep your eyes open, and without needing to dive through mountains of steaming refuse (though I don't doubt its a great way to discover interesting things).

Lastly you could try buying broken watches, alarm clocks and clocks in bulk from a pawn shop or watch repairman as well as a few antique shops who will hold items for you. You can buy a box of broken clocks and watches very cheaply and they hold them for you or call you when they have some. You can always paint gears bronze or gold if you don't like their color.

Here are some links you can also try:,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=c0947ffa6dac6d3c,or.r_gc.r_pw.&ie=UTF-8&cid=18247533176973177527&sa=X&ei=9LaGTeKPC8600QHa_pi_CA&ved=0CH8Q8gIwAQ#

Good Luck, hope I helped!


Garrett J 15.10.2012. 23:33

Baby Name Section: What are your opinions on...? 1) ...slightly different spellings? Ex: Staci, Katharine, Aiden. (instead of Stacy, Katherine, and Aidan.)

2) ...totally weird spellings? Ex: Aeinjhiline, Jaqkyan, Elleigh. (3 people I really know: their real names should be Angeline, Jaquan, and Ellie, according to how they pronounce it, but who'd assume that on a first glance?)

3) ...traditionally male but now unisex names for girls? Ex: Joan, Carol, Dana, Kimberly, Haley, Lee.

4) ...masculine names for girls? Ex: Paxton, Cooper, Dylan, Ryan, Tyler.

5) ..."over-the-top" unusual names? Ex: Seraphina, Persephone, Bartholomew, Theophilius.

6) ...old-fashioned names? Ex: Emma, Charlotte, Gertrude, Gladys, Alexander, Levi, Herbert, Ernest.

7) ..."unisex" names on BOYS, where they belong? Ex: Riley, Avery, Quinn, Aubrey.

8) ...rhyming first and last names? Ex: Carina Medina or Jordan Gordon.

9) ...identical first and last names? Ex: John John or Thomas Thomas.

10) ...made up names? Ex: Jailyn, Brynleigh, Calton.

Thanks for answering. I'd like to hear your views and I would love to read all your answers! :)

Garrett J

Admin 15.10.2012. 23:33

Slightly Different Spellings and Totally Weird Spellings
? If they're legitimate alternative spellings, such as Elizabeth and Elisabeth for an example, then I don't really have too much of a problem with it. There may be a little confusion, but nothing too drastic. However if they're made up alternatives, like Alyzabeth (or something else along those lines) then I'm really not a fan. The made-up spellings are going to cause them plenty of difficulties later in life, way more than the small changes, and this is coming from someone with a name that is both incredibly weird *and* spelled incorrectly. Where I work, there is a little girl with a name that I presumed was spelled Ella-Josie, with the legitimate spellings. However it turned out that it's actually Elah-Jozeigh, and she got so incredibly cranky when I wrote down her name incorrectly. Parent's seem to think that they're making their child stand out and learn to be more of an individual, but really they're just setting them up for a lifetime of naming difficulties. The number of Christmas cards, birthday invitations, and class rolls that my name has been spelled incorrectly on is ridiculous. Someone even managed to squeeze both a G and a Q into my name at one point, which I thought was insane as it doesn't even have a sound that could make you think I have either of those letters in it (well there is a K, but still). Besides, at the end of the day, people don't call you out by your spelling, they call you by the pronunciation, so why go to the point of twisting it into something so ridiculous?

? Traditionally Male But Now Unisex Names for Girls
I asked a question about all this unisex business about a day or two ago. Most of the names that you have listed I do see as female, mostly because I have never, ever met a male with any of those names. Personally, I do prefer traditionally male names to stay on males, and for it to stay that way. However with society being the way it is, a lot of names, especially the ones that you have listed, are seen as completely female. Stupid society.

? Masculine Names for Girls
Here's a simple question for you: Would you ever name your son Isabella? What about Madeleine? Perhaps even Tallulah, Genevieve, Evangeline, or Lily? I very much doubt it. Each of those names are considered to be very feminine. Now here's another question: Would you name your daughter Cooper or Hunter or Riley or Avery or Jordan? It seems as though a lot of people in today's society would answer yes to this question. What I want to know is why it's so wrong for a little boy to have a dominantly feminine name but okay for a little girl to have a completely masculine one.

? "Over-The-Top" Unusual Names
I do like them, but I would probably never use them. I love the name Araminta, but I don't have the guts to use it. I do have Clementine, Valentine, Genevieve, and Evangeline in my top 10 names for girls, but I have them as middle names, and each of my girls name have to middle names, so they don't really stick out as much.

? Old-Fashioned Names
Some old fashioned names I like, and some I don't. I love Charlotte, Emma, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Cora, Tallulah, Sebastian and Alexander, but not so much names like Herbert and Gertrude and Beryl and Donald. I personally find names like those very rough and unappealing.

? "Unisex" Names on BOYS, Where They Belong?
I love unisex named on boys. I have several unisex names in my top 10 for boys, such as Harper and Aspen for first names and Schuyler and Mackenzie for middle names (even though I really don't like the name Mackenzie, I actually don't mind it in the combination I have it in). The amount of people who have told me I'm insane for using "female" names for boys is ridiculous.

? Rhyming First and Last Names?
I'm simply going to say that I think it is ridiculous and embarrassing for the child.

? Identical First and Last Names?
See above

? Made Up Names?
Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope. My siblings and I all have weird/made up names, and mine is probably the worst. I've seen first-hand how difficult they can be to deal with, and would never *ever* put that kind of thing on my own children.

This was actually really fun. A good way to procrastinate from University work :)


jhaltrman93 02.07.2011. 10:20

What is America's problem (Americans and foreigners alike may answer) in your opinion - lengthy, but worth it? An aside to the reader: This is my opinion. You do not have to agree with it as I may not agree with your own opinion. Take it with a grain of salt as you should. Hell, I'm probably not even the first person to view things from this perspective (actually I highly doubt it). In the end, though, I simply ask for respect. We may disagree with each other (agreeing to disagree), but respect and common courtesy are all I ever ask of people. Also, if I seem to have gotten anything wrong factually PLEASE correct me and notify me of such. I just recently turned 18 and thus have much less experience in "the real world" than do the majority of you. Thank you.

When I recently researched TARP, the multiple bailouts, and the financial crisis in general (much of which I still do not understand as I'm still young) I slowly came to the conclusion that sub-prime lending and under-regulated banks and businesses and overall self-interest are not what led to the "Credit Crunch" a few years ago. We could argue the real causes for months, but more to the point. I truly believe that America's problems are more of a sociological issue than anything else. I have thus postulated that the "American Dream" is killing us.

The American automotive industry was taking a steep nosedive before and during the financial meltdown because no one was buying their product. They would continue to pump out gas-guzzlers and Humvees in opposition to what the American people really needed: fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly automobiles. I personally believe that it was GM/Ford/Chrysler's hubris that caused them not to listen. Their thinking was that of "Why should we build smaller cars when we're America! We like big things and big trucks!" In doing so they let let the consumer slip through and start buying foreign cars (Hyundai, Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Subaru, etc) and that hurt the industry (and led to a $25 billion bailout plan).

Another part of the "American Dream" that is fundamentally destroying us is our materialistic ideals and our desire to rein in excess. Our standard of living is one thing: it's one of the highest in the world if not THE highest and what's not to love about that. The problem comes in when (to keep with the auto industry theme here) the average factory worker is getting paid roughly $50-60,000 a year making the industry, in turn, nigh uncompetitive because there are better and cheaper alternatives in cars (high salary payouts mixed with slow sales). It's no wonder we're shipping jobs overseas when a factory worker is being paid that much. Even if we lessened our needs I guarantee that jobs would still go overseas, but not as many as is the case today. We just wouldn't need our salaries to be that high if we just took a step back and realized how much we don't need. Bottom line: America = wants > needs.

The last, main aspect that is fueling our aforementioned issues is the media. By and large, it is the driving force behind our current mentality of "being superior" and is only serving as a catalyst to drive us into the ground even faster. We watch as our politicians bicker and bash their opponents rather than support their own ideologies and watch the next day as MSNBC and Fox News put their own spin on things. Hell, I've turned to BBC to escape the biases found in the American news networks. We also watch as commercials sell us anti-aging creams and "male enhancement" pills because Hollywood decides what is "cool" and "in" and who gets left behind and ridiculed. In short, the truth isn't getting out to the general public in the way that it should be. This causes us to to complain of apartheid and unsatisfactory conditions instead of banning together, as we should, and taking real action because we don't know what we want.

Some of you might call this "socialist" or that my view is one that "destroys what it is to be American." I just think that being American is a contradiction in some cases.

Thank you for your time (if you read this far) and all well-informed opinions and comments are welcome.
meg - I think that matter goes hand-in-hand with why we need to alter our international relations. We wouldn't be spending this much if it wasn't for every damn Muslim nation hating our guts because we can't keep our nose out of their business. As much as I'd like America to be a world police force it's just too impractical and we can't do it for every little thing.

Boober - I can never remember who created credit (for some reason I always say Henry Kissinger), but I understand where you're coming from.

blu - That is what we get for having a majoritarian ("winner-take-all") political system. I agree that compromise is out the window, though. It's disgusting.

Westbound - THAT is a good aspect of the media. They need to get behind the scenes of these greedy businessmen and enlighten the American people as to what is really happening to their money. Sadly, that is only a small fraction of the good that the American media actually does.

red top - I think this is where Boober's argument


Admin 02.07.2011. 10:20

I think you make some good observations for an 18 year old, or for someone much older.

The media: yes, the media certainly is constantly telling us of our superiority and our needs. You see this in news, advertisements, and entertainment. For example, as a child watching WWII movies, I thought we beat the Germans almost single handed. In tactical situations their soldiers were always better uniformed and were quite willing to pop up like carnival targets. After I started reading, I discovered 80% of their ground forces had to be used just to hold the Russians back. And their soldiers did not have any mass suicidal tendencies.

Autos and the american dream: yes this situation is pretty well documented. I dated a gal working in a Ford factory years ago. She had been laid off. She was making $30 per hour (this was circa 1990!). Meantime, I knew a guy who had bought a new GM and found an empty beer can in the door-inside the door, courtesy of some factory worker. And another guy I knew bought a new Chevy truck, and could not get the cab light to go out. I know he had more troubles, and shoddy service. Then the next thing I know he's driving a Toyota!

Yes I agree with the greed concept- I believe Westbound made a good point of that. It seems to be somewhat politically incorrect to mention greed. Yet this is certainly a factor in every strata of society. The rich reward themselves for sending jobs overseas, they hire illegal aliens (although small business must employ many also), build products designed to fail faster than before (my washing machine repair man said to hang on to my old Maytag, new models of all types are crappy). And the rich have worked hard to fight against taxes, naming the inheritance tax the "death tax" and recently having the triumph of getting Bush into office. The middle class wants bigger vehicles and bigger houses, bigger penises, etc. The average size of an american house doubled between 1950 and 1975, and doubled again by 1999. The big auto makers made big vehicles because that was what the market demanded. And their are plenty of people deliberately living off welfare (I worked in a welfare office). They live off their children, off taxes, and sometimes relatives and friends in addition, as occasion arises. (They sometimes receive large stipends from family without telling the welfare office, and without telling the family they are on welfare.)

So like you say the dream is actually now a big part of the problem.

However I believe our 2 party system is also a major problem. It presents basically 2 platforms, or 2 lists of ideas about subjects from abortion and gun control to taxation and foreign policy. How many people actually are in favor of every item on their parties platform? If GOP, you are supposed to love guns, hate taxes, love the market, hate abortion, on and on. This is illogical. One reason this system exists is so that parties can promote their own interests, while publicly they talk of the ideals on their platforms. George Washington in his farewell address warned that this would happen if parties came to dominate the political scene. The benefits of this system: we don't have to think so much about issues, and we can call each other names like "lib" or "con." You certainly see enough of this useless badgering, baiting, and bickering here on Yahoo!


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