Businesses are forming at a record clip, and they want their names heard. That is, after they decide on the right moniker. Naming a business is one of the most important steps a nascent company can take. The same goes for existing businesses that want to better display their brand. But naming a small business often isn’t easy. Titles are already taken, domains have been snatched up, and owners have their own, ahem, interesting ideas.
“Naming a business is not just a box that you check off,” said Lorrie Thomas Ross, head of Web Marketing Therapy, an Atlanta-based advisor to small businesses. “It’s a decision that will impact the life and future of your business.”
A rush of budding enterprises has emerged from the long, national hibernation period of the Covid-19 pandemic. The federal government and states began pouring more than $5 trillion into the economy in 2020 — at a time when the nature of work itself was being redefined. One outcome of these extraordinary circumstances was a burst of entrepreneurship.
In the first 10 months of 2022, budding enterprises inundated the Internal Revenue Services with 4.3 million applications to register as bona fide businesses, government figures show. With that pace, requests are on track to be near 2021’s record clip of 5.4 million for the full year. The figure compares with 2019’s comparable lull when the IRS received 2 million fewer applications than in 2021.
The onslaught “suggests that the pandemic delivered a meaningfully positive shock to American entrepreneurship,” the Economic Innovation Group reported. “There is little evidence that the pace of new business filings will fall back toward pre-pandemic levels any time soon.” the think tank based in Washington, D.C. added.
It’s All in the Name
For nascent businesses, coming up with a moniker is often challenging or, occasionally, serendipitous.
Consider Rocket Chemical Company, a fledgling enterprise that, in 1953, was trying to come up with a lubricant using a water displacement formula. Try after try, the efforts didn’t work, until the 40th attempt. That was when Rocket Chemical caught lightning in a bottle and changed its name to the WD-40 Company, standing for water displacement, the 40th formula.
For your own inspiration, here are approaches experts recommend:
- Make the name memorable. Think of food delivery service GrubHub and shoe repairer Sole Man.
- Try unique. Insurance provider The Zebra and cyber security firm Arctic Wolf Networks.
- Go with snappy. Web host GoDaddy and funding platform Kickstarter.
- Think scalable. Something akin to U.S. Bancorp if thinking very big.
- Tie it directly to the business. Burger King and Jiffy Lube.
- Be relevant. Green Toys, whose products are made from recycled materials.
- Or, do a 180° turn. Don’t talk about what your product is made of. Pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies do this all the time to avoid naming their products after their nearly impossible-to-pronounce formulations. Consider Dimethicone, Cetyl Alcohol, and Hydrogenated Polyisobutene by L’Oreal Paris for its anti-aging products. Or, the product’s chosen name, RevitaLift by L’Oreal Paris.
- Be off-center. Restaurant Sam and Ella’s and, on a related note, Amigone Funeral Home and Crematorium.
Sometimes You Need to Say, “Ugh”
Lorelei Harloe started her company in 1998 with the tongue-twisting name LHPRMC, LLC, which stood for Lorelei Harloe Public Relations Marketing Communications, LLC.
Harloe soon found the designation “didn’t resonate easily.”
She transitioned to Ascend Communication, which tied into her tagline, “Ideas with Reach.”
But this one, too, was doomed. “I started seeing Ascend everywhere as a business name,” Harloe said, “and I went, ugh. It was time to head back to the drawing board.”
Harloe then pivoted to LKH Communication. And she says this name is permanent. “Absolutely. This is back to my identity and easy to understand.”
Hitting on the Right Stuff
“I thought through different approaches,” said Alexis Taub, founder of Alexis Jae Jewelry, in Briarcliff, N.Y. “Heritage, hobbies, morals, and more.”
She ended up taking a family legacy approach, using a combination of her first name and her brother’s initials, J.A.E.
Taub’s business incorporates other values, including working with jewelry stones that “are ethically sourced,” meaning they come from mines with safe working conditions and none of their sales are being used to fund violence. Taub also gives 25 percent of Alexis Jae’s profits to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation through her community’s cancer coalition, A Cure in Our Lifetime.
Her emphasis on integrity is spot on, according to The Harvard Business Review. Two-thirds of consumers cited “admiration and shared values” as their primary reasons for buying from a business, the publication said in a recent study.
Go Tough or Go Home
Arthur Suszko calls his startup Collect9, for the original nine Beanie Babies that hordes of collectors, including himself, clamored for in the 1990s.
His game plan is to create NFTs (non-fungible tokens) to represent investor ownership of the bean-filled toys.
The thing is, NFTs are bought mainly with cryptocurrencies, whose values began plunging last spring with the coup de grace, so far, being last month’s collapse of FTX, one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world.
Suszko said he began developing Collect9 before the crash and is forging ahead. He is betting a rise in interest in Beanie Babies will lift Collect9 NFTs, spurring investing by traders who know the name’s meaning.
He also says: “Someone who knows NFTs may say, ‘I’m getting this for grandmother,’” who presumably was a Beanie Babies collector during the toys’ boom — and subsequent bust.