It’s well known that starting a business is hard work, but before you begin it’s difficult to know which elements will be toughest. For me, choosing a business name was one of the most agonising.
One immediate challenge is that you don’t know how important picking the right company name is and how much time to invest in the naming process. We all know the story of Carphone Warehouse – it turns out they sell more than just car phones. However, not everyone has heard the story of how the Twitter founders named their business. They wanted a business name that is reminiscent of when you receive a SMS and your phone “twitches”. “Twitch” didn’t really inspire the right imagery, so they searched through a dictionary starting with “Tw-” and found “Twitter”, which is defined as “a series of short, high-pitched calls or sounds”. Much better.
When we started Housekeep, we knew we needed a business name that resonated with home cleaning and with home services, but that also evoked the right feeling. We went through a rigorous process, spending a couple of weeks start-to-finish and getting expert input where we could; with a dictionary and thesaurus always close to hand.
Here are my tips on how to choose the best name for your business:
1. What’s your business vision?
Company names represent your brand personality and your vision for growth, so think about where you see your company in 5-10 years. Do you want a business name that is descriptive (“The Quality Home Cleaner Company”), suggestive (“Housekeep”) or abstract (“Lemon”). We created A4 sheets for each category and added sticky notes for each name in that category during our initial brainstorming session. Give yourself a bit of time to reflect – it’s better to spend an hour each day thinking about possible names, rather than six hours consecutively.
2. Check legal availability
The next step is to check if you can legally choose this name for your business. There are many rules regarding “similar” trademark names, so this is a crucial element of the naming process. After brainstorming initial ideas for business names, you can quickly check them here >> https://www.gov.uk/search-for-trademark. It’s also important to check whether the company name is available at Companies House, which is also easy to do here: http://wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk//wcframe?name=accessCompanyInfo. With regard to the latter, you can always register your company name as something else and trade as Housekeep, but bear in mind you’ll have to display the name in certain places (e.g. on invoices) so “Evil Empire Limited” may not be the best choice!
3. Check domain availability
Next, check you are able to purchase a domain name that includes your chosen business name. Achieving an attractive and easy to remember URL can assist in marketing and branding activities, as well as increasing the chance of brand recognition. “.com” is best, simply for the fact it is easily recalled, but if you’re unable to secure “.com”, make sure the domain is familiar in your home territory, such as “.co.uk” in the UK.
4. Check Google
When brainstorming your ideas, consider what comes up when you search for the word or phrase in Google. Choosing a popular song name or well known phrase means that potential customers searching for company may be overwhelmed with competing content and unrelated advertising. You need your customers to be able to locate your website quickly and easily if you want to make the best first impression. Choosing a company name that others advertise on will also increase your Google Adwords cost.
Why did we choose Housekeep?
Our vision is to become the leading provider of services to your home – that meant we needed a name that went beyond home cleaning. We also liked the soft resonance of Housekeep, towards that part-time housekeeper you always wanted but couldn’t afford and towards the idea of being kept, or looked after.
One of the most surprising learnings was to find that this is an area where surveys aren’t particularly helpful. By nature, I like structure, data and clear answers, so I initially tried to seek a winner through surveys. However, reading the explanation, it became clear that respondents weren’t able to fully appreciate the vision for the company or what we wanted to ultimately build. In the end, it was a very personal decision – the name you choose for your start up should fit with your vision as an entrepreneur and you need to be able to own it.
So, how important is a name?
I still don’t know whether the company name you choose matters in itself, but I do know that the approach you take is important and I’m glad we invested the time in finding “Housekeep”. When on the investor side of the table, it’s now one of the first areas I question entrepreneurs about. I’m not looking for the perfect company name, but I do want to get the sense that the founders have thought about their company name carefully, logically and with some vision about what they want to build.