Choosing a Name…

Business Identity

You’d think that the hardest thing about choosing a business name would be the creativity you need to muster up to get just the right name. But it isn’t that easy. For one thing, the decision may not be totally in your hands. If you decide to incorporate, you have to make sure your name is acceptable to the secretary of state’s office. For another, even if you don’t incorporate and decide to act as a sole proprietor, most states will require you to file a fictitious business name statement unless you’re using your own name as your business name.

Choosing A Name

You should try to pick a name that suits your business and your goals in business. Rather than choose some clever nondescriptive name that you simply have your heart set on, you might want to reconsider. Unless your business name at least in part tells prospective customers what you do, it loses its potential effectiveness as a marketing tool, especially when you’re just starting up.

That said, you might also want to have your name be partly idiosyncratic in addition to descriptive. If your name basically just describes the goods and services you sell, it will be hard to protect it as a unique trademark should you expand and find that someone else is using the same name.

Once you decide on a name, you can contact the secretary of state’s office in your state and ask if that name is already being used by another business in the state. You can also check obvious sources like the business yellow pages for various regions in your state. Searching these sources should tell you whether or not you’ve chosen a unique name for your business. You could, of course, hire a lawyer to do this search for you.

If you believe your business will grow beyond your state boundaries, then you’ll need to do a national name search through one of the online databases that have been set up for just such purposes, or by contacting one of the services that collects exhaustive information on business names and trademarks.

If you’re planning to use a logo with your business, you should use the same care in selecting it as you did in selecting your business name. You should make sure it reflects an image that you want your business to portray and you should make sure it is not easily confused with another company’s logo. If you’re not a designer, you might consider hiring the services of a design firm to create a logo unique to your business. But there has been a lot of creative software developed that has made it relatively easy for even the most neophyte designer to come up with a design for a simple logo that looks professional.