How to find the right name for your small business

From my own experience and also from working with other people, finding the right name for a small business can go two directions. Either you have known the right name for a long time and there is no doubt about it OR you can’t decide on a name and think about it for a long time, you read about it, get feedback and find it a super hard task which might even delay you in starting your small business. 

Finding the right name is very important! No pressure ;-) The name of your small business will go with you a long way, it sets the tone and direction for your brand. It gives a first impression to customers and your customers will see, type and click on it all the time.

And don’t forget you will need to say it over and over again and often it’s the first thing you say to a customer! Plus the name also differentiates you from your competitors. 
And although I would not say you should get too hung up on finding the right name, it is one of the first very important steps you have to take when starting a business. 

Therefore I have written down a checklist of how to find the right name for your small business.

How to find the right name for your small business | MNFL Design

4 Types of names

There are four types of names:

1. Abstract (eg. Coca Cola, Apple, Wallmart, Carrefour)

2. Informative (eg. Emilia Computing, Emilia Photography, Babyshop, Fitness First)

3. Invented (Etsy, Dawanda)

4. Your own name

Step 1: Preparation

1.Think about you and your business

What do you want to stand for? 
What is your mission and vision?
Why are you and your company unique? 
Will you be location specific or country specific or worldwide? (ie. can you include your locations in the name or not?)
What are your long-term goals in terms of growth?

2.Think about who your customer is going to be

Be as specific as possible and think about age, gender, marital status, location, likes, desires, feelings, goals, problems.

Read more about how and why to define your ideal customer here.

Step 2: Brainstorm

1. Make a list of keywords for your industry

What are words that your industry is associated with. For example if you are opening a flower shop, these would be words like flower, garden, plants, rose, bloom, summer and may be also words like celebrations, wedding, birthday, gifts. For a coffee shop these words would be coffee, cafe, bystro, neighbourhood, breakfast, morning, smell, milk. 

2. Make a list of adjectives you want your business to be associated with

Now write down some adjectives you want your business to be associated with. So for example for the flower shop you would use something like pretty, fresh, blossoming, luxurious, colourful. And for the coffee shop these might be something like tasty, cosy, small, friendly. 

3. Make a list of all the names that come into your mind

Now make a list of all the names that come into your mind. You can combine some of the words you have brainstormed above. 
So for my examples this could be something like:
The bloom flower shop
Blossom Flowers
Bloom Flowers
Cosy coffee corner
The neighbourhood cafe

Of course you can also think about other names like for example your own name or many people use a combination of the owners names or initials. You can then also combine these names with either the keywords or adjectives you have brainstormed.

For example I started a business once with a partner and her name started with a D. So we simply named out business D&E Shoes (we sold Portuguese children’s shoes).

Here are some interesting stories of how big company names came about, it might give you some food for thought!

Step 3: Shortlist the names

From all the names you have written down choose may be 4-5 names that you really like. And answer the questions/facts below:

1.    Can this name grow with you?
2.    Does it sound right?
3.    Is it easy to say and spell?
4.    Will you be able to employ people or even sell the business? This is important to consider when you are using your own name as a business name. 
5.    Is the name already taken? You can google the name and see what comes up.
6.    Is the domain name still available? If not, what alternative may be available?
       On a side note, if your name is taken and you settle for an alternative                   because you think you will be able to buy the “right” name later down the           road, don’t forget this might be more difficult than you think and something         that takes time and effort and might cost a lot of money as well. 
7.     Is there another meaning of the name that you haven’t thought of and that         might give the wrong impression?
       You can find out about this for example on                                                 
8.    Is it right for the city or country I live in?
       I am adding this specific question because I have lived abroad for a long             time and I have also spoken to many business owners who are originally not         English and want to incorporate a word from their mother toungue into               theirbusiness name. However remember your target customers, will they be         able to say the word? Remember it? Write it? Understand the meaning?

And now answer some more questions that are not facts but more general questions about the feeling of a brand:

1.     Which name fits best to your mission and vision?
2.    Will the name tell your company’s story?
3.    Does the image associated with the name translate right? Or could it be misunderstood?
4.    Will it attract my ideal customer?

Step 4 - Test your names

By now you will have an even shorter list of names and you might also have some new ideas that would fit even better. So now it’s time to test your name. 

Most people go off and talk to friends and family about the name and get general opinions. However you should really talk to your target customers or clients about the name! What do they associate the name with? What do they think of the name? What feeling does it create for them? Can they spell, say and pronounce the name?
Collect as much feedback as possible from the right people!

Naming Checklist:

•    Keep it simple and short
•    Make it descriptive of what you do
•    Can it be pronounced, spelled and understood correctly
•    Check the domain name availability
•    Stay away from trends
•    Stay open and don’t limit yourself to one name just because you like it so            much
•    Is there another meaning to the name that you haven’t thought of?
•    Avoid unusual spellings
•    Think about your target customer!

Some thoughts about: Choosing your own name

I have this debate with my clients and just general business owners a lot: should you choose your own name or not?

And to make it short, there is no right or wrong answer. If you want to use your own name, go for it. If it doesn't feel right, then don't.

For some businesses it makes total sense and for some it doesn't. And you always need to determine how much the business will be about you! If you are a coach of any kind (health, fitness, business etc) for example it often makes a lot of sense as your clients are booking you and your personal service. You are the product, the business, the brand. And it makes total sense to use your name. 

On the other hand if you want to grow and add other business to it, may be you don't want to use your own name for that.

If you own an online shop, a restaurant, a shop and so on with products that are not related to you and your life in any way and you and your personal story have nothing to do with the brand (other that you founded and run the company), then using your own name would not make so much sense. 

There are a few pros and cons for choosing your own name as your brand name which depend on each individual business. So I have listed some points to consider below:

  • It makes it easy. Easy to remember, easy to find.

  • It is very personal - how personal do you want to be?

  • Your brand is automatically about you. People buy from YOU, they book YOUR service or experience. How much do you want your brand to be about you?

  • It automatically gives the brand a personality, a story, a heart.

  • It leaves it open where you can go with your business. As you don't specify anything (like me with the word Design), your possibilities are endless.

  • Do you intend to grow the business to have many employees? Would it still make sense to have your name then?

  • Do you want to sell the company at some point?

If you have chosen a name and are ready to move forward to design your brand my branding checklist might help you do exactly that! You can download it for FREE here:

Get your FREE Branding Checklist!

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The story behind the name MNFL Design

How to find the right name for your small business | MNFL Design

MNFL Design actually started off as being MNF Design which was probably the better name as it was easier to remember and easier to pronounce :-)) However the name has a meaning to me as the four letters stand for the initials of my four children.
I started this business when I had three kids and when my fourth one was born everyone told me it was unfair and her name should also be included in the name :-) So eventually that’s what I did!
By using Design I left it open to include any design work to the business and could potentially also grow into other fields of design. 
You could say that I did not follow the checklist (especially when you think of pronunciation and remembering) but when you think about it, the name does cross off most of the points on my list. Plus people ask me a lot about the meaning of this name, so it always gives something to talk about :-)

I believe it will go a long way with me. 

Have a great week and let me know if you have any questions!


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