“What’s in a name?” asked Juliet in a familiar Shakespeare play. The answer is “a lot,” especially when it comes to business. Your company’s name can attract customers and influence the way they feel about your products. A poor name choice can lead to confusion and lack of interest in your services. Following a few guidelines can help you find a suitable name for your sole proprietorship.
Look for a name that explains what your business sells or does. For example, if you sell handcrafted jewelry, a name like “Jenny’s Jewelry Creations” offers more insight into your company than “Jenny’s Boutique.” Avoid vague names like “Sunset Shades,” which could refer to a sunglasses outlet or a company that sells window coverings.
Select a name that is easy to spell. This is especially important when you buy a domain name to match your business name. A landscaper with the last name of Yahnke may want to avoid including his name in the business title, since “Yahnke” sounds like “Yankee.” Instead, he could choose a name like “Lush Landscaping.” Avoid offbeat spellings, such as substituting “creationz” for “creations” or “kustom” for “custom.”
Keep it light. When appropriate, think of names that are fun or creative, such as “Curl Up & Dye” for a hair salon or “In Stitches” for a shop that sells sewing supplies. Make sure you don’t use puns that only you or people with inside knowledge of your industry understand. If you are in a more serious line of business, such as funeral services, choose a name with a formal tone.
Strike offensive titles. Don’t risk alienating potential customers with names that can be misinterpreted or are in conflict with a person’s values or beliefs. Names like “Plastered Professionals” for a drywall company may offend recovering alcoholics or those concerned about alcohol abuse.
Skip names that sound like an existing business. Visit the website for your state’s Secretary of State’s office or another agency that regulates companies in your state. Search the registered business names to avoid creating a name that already exists or sounds similar to a name that’s already taken. Check the listings of local government agencies as well. Don’t name your business “Tommy’s Taxidermy” if there’s already a “Thomas Taxidermy.”
Avoid infringement. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs recommends you conduct a diligent search to avoid infringing on registered marks or trademarked names. “The search may include state registered marks, federally registered marks, domain names, names of sole proprietorships and partnerships, and names of corporations, limited partnerships and limited liability companies,” advises the agency. While you can conduct these searches yourself, you can also hire an attorney or professional firm to do this for you. Infringing on another company’s name may lead to that firm taking legal action against you.
Check government requirements. The Small Business Administration notes that some states and local governments require a sole proprietor to use his own name as his business name, unless he files paperwork to register a trade or fictitious name.