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7 Steps for Choosing a Business Name

Choosing a business name is not something you want to rush into. The name of your business will become an important part of your brand and identity.

If it's too clever or unique, you run the risk of causing confusion with your target market. But you also don't want a name that is too generic, since it won't stand out enough for customers to remember. It can seem a little overwhelming at first, which is why it's important to take it one step at a time. The following list will help you get better organized as you search for the perfect name.

The step-by-step guide below is meant to help entrepreneurs/new business owners as they go through the steps of naming and incorporating a startup.

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A 7-Step Checklist for Choosing a Business Name

  1. Compile a list of names that you like and are relevant to your small business. Consider brainstorming with friends and colleagues, or using a business name generator to get started.
  2. Will your business name become an acronym, or might your name be shortened to an abbreviation? During the naming process, test both the full company name and any shortened version with your friends, family members, and others.
  3. Avoid names that:
    • Are hard to spell or require special know-how to understand
    • Don't sound good when spoken aloud
    • Are too similar to your competitors
    • Are too generic (i.e., "Best Chocolate Shop")
    • Are already taken (if a name is trademarked, you could be sued for using it)
  4. Consider your potential customers. They are your target audience for your brand name. Do research into what your customers expect, and consider what successful competitors are doing.
  5. Think about your brand image and choose a name that aligns with it. How will your name be supported by, or influence, any images and other branding material? How will your business name and brand appear on social media, LinkedIn, Amazon and search engines?
  6. Review domain names and see what's available in order to create a website or eventually an app. The best name available might not necessarily be a .com domain, so expand your market research as you check GoDaddy and other popular domain providers.
  7. Once you have a shortlist of name ideas, check to see whether your ideas are already on the list of fictitious or assumed business names on record with your county clerk or Secretary of State. It is vital to ensure your name is unique enough from other businesses in the area before you incorporate your business and print business cards.

Read more on our page about Business Names Do's and Don'ts and Choosing a Business Name FAQ.

Registering Your Business Name

Once you have the right name chosen for your business, it's time to register your business and make it formal.

  1. Determine whether your state requires state or local registration of assumed business names for unincorporated businesses. Follow the appropriate steps for either local or state registration.
  2. If you are starting a sole proprietorship and would prefer not to use your own name as the name of your business, you will want to register a DBA (doing business as). This is also called a fictitious business name or trade name. While your personal name will be your business's legal name, the DBA will be what the public sees.
  3. Evaluate whether you want to register for trademark protection on the state level — even if you do not incorporate your business. If you decide on trademark protection, a business lawyer can help you with this process.
  4. Decide whether to register your name on the federal level as well as the state level. If you opt for federal registration, you need to file an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ( to reserve your business name for federal registration.
  5. Register your Internet domain name and have all marketing collateral match so your clients/guests are not confused when you start marketing your business.

FindLaw's Choosing Your Business Name section contains additional resources to help you get started, including state-specific resources to help you refine your search and follow state registration procedures.

When You Are Ready To Start Your Business

This checklist is not exhaustive, and starting a business can include a number of additional steps to ensure you and your business structure are protected to the full extent. Be sure to check FindLaw's FAQ section on starting a business for more information.

While starting a business is a sign of independence and organization, you will likely need some support along the way. FindLaw offers an easy-to-use business formation service that can help you register a limited liability company or other type of business entity. If you have any legal questions about choosing a business name, need help getting it registered, or have additional questions or concerns, consider speaking with a business and commercial law attorney in your area.

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