What’s in a name? Naming a startup business

Naming your business may well be the decision you agonise over the most. There is a lot of very valuable commentary on the web (eg startups.co.uk/naming-your-sole-trader-business/), and as a startup you certainly do need to do your research on how best to name your business. Then you will be restricted by existing business names and available domain names… But ultimately, I do believe there’s a bit of subjectivity to it too.

With regards to search engine optimisation (SEO), having a business name that “does what it says on the tin” and that appears in your URL can help improve your site ranking so I started by writing down every name variation I could come up with based on my local area and “writing service” and other search terms potential customers may use to find CV drafting or copywriting services. I whittled the list down to those with available domain names and those that weren’t already names of businesses, particularly a local or creative one.

There were several issues with this approach for me.

1. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is very complex and there are many things you can do other than using your business name to influence your website ranking. In fact, the domain name itself is of lower significance in site ranking than many of the other methods, so if a descriptive business name or domain name doesn’t feel right for you, don’t worry about it.

2. My results were disappointingly unimaginative. Descriptive names can work well for businesses with direct competition such as window cleaning. But sometimes you need to use your name to stand out from the competition. And let’s face it, if you’re not inspired by your own business name, how are you going to whip up any enthusiasm for your product or service amongst potential customers?

3. I presented my thoughts to a focus group (ie my social network contacts) and they felt the same. A writing service needed a creative business name.

4. I don’t always aim to be just a writing service – I would soon have skills and qualifications in web design and marketing, so I didn’t really want a name that limited me.

5. Branding, effective marketing and other means of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) are more important than your business name (as long as it’s not a really bad business name). There are loads of businesses whose name isn’t related to what they do, but you still know who they are and what they do.

But choosing a creative name for your business can be more challenging than a descriptive name.

Canterbury tails is the humorous business name for this fish and chip shop in Canterbury, punning on Chaucer's book of tales with a different spelling.
A humorous business name such as Cantebury Tails for a fish and chip shop in Canterbury is great

There are several online tools that offer to help you choose your business name. You may get inspiration for punning business names or other funny or unique names from the National Business Register. But for me, choosing a business name comes back to point 2 above; this is your business and so it’s about you.

Think about what inspires you, even if it’s not related to your business, and see if you can come up with the right business name for you from there. You will need to check that a suitable domain name is available for it.  .com is probably best but in the UK .co.uk is fine.  There is a plethora of domain names suffixes now (web address endings) but none of them are as authoritative, and therefore trust-inspiring amongst your customers, as the older familiar ones.  You may want to register the lesser alternative ones as well and set up redirects to your main site, to protect your name and image.  You may need to come up with variations of your company name for your URL, or a different URL to your business name altogether such as your tagline.

Don’t forget you may want to register your name with the National Names Business Register and/or Trademark it.  You may also want to register at Companies House.

Beer

The origin of my business name lies in a pub crawl or two.

I met a fellow playwright last summer on the Leeds to Lancashire Ale Trail. I’d never heard of this micro-industry in alcoholic tourism, but it sounded like a good opportunity to meet some people, ride a few trains, and drink a few beers. The playwright asked what my favourite word was. His was “participate” because it was so inclusive. I liked the meaning, but I didn’t like the sound – with all those hard Ps, Ts and snake-like Cs I found it a bit creepy.

But I couldn’t think what my word could be. I give a lot of thought to words, and there are so many lovely words in our language, but I’d never thought to have a favourite. Put on the spot I couldn’t even name one lovely word.

But in the quiet of the solitary train journey home to Ilkley, I remembered I’d recently discovered “pleonasm”, a Greek word meaning the use of more words than are necessary. I’d read a sentence at work in a Scottish legal source along the lines of “could possibly cause a detriment, perhaps”. Lawyers do not great writers make.

And at school, I loved “malapropism” because of the story behind it. Mrs Malaprop was a character in a 1777 play by Sheridan. She was always using the wrong word; very close to what she meant, but with a different and ludicrous meaning. And now any ‘wrong’ word like that is a malapropism, like saying something isn’t “anaesthetically pleasing” when you mean “aesthetically pleasing”.

A few weeks later the playwright and I met on another ‘must-do’ Yorkshire pub crawl – the Otley Run – and he played Favourite Word with the whole group. On the way to the pub we were in, I’d been telling a fellow crawler about my life events of the previous year and how, if you ever have to start over, right now is a serendipitous time for it with all the online social groups and activities available to newcomers, and maps on our phones to guide us to them. And I realised “serendipity” is my favourite word. It has part of the word “serene” in it, it’s assonant, a bit silly, and means a lot to me right now. Perfect.

Dipitus blog author Alison stood in front of a shop with the serendipitous business name “Serendipity”.
Me and a serendipitously named business.

“Serendipity” and “Dipity” were both taken as business names and authoritative domain names. I tried mixing it with another word I liked, given that I’d just had one relating to my career plan; epiphany. But there’s a gaping chasm between snazzy and convoluted or unpronounceable. The second half of “serendipitous” was available, and that felt like the right business name for me; and I’m all for listening to my ever-expanding gut.

So that just left the conundrum over how to spell the name for my new business: a phonetic spelling or the true abbreviation. My group wanted me to keep the ”-ous” but I could foresee less issues by dropping the ‘o’. Plus, with the ‘-us’ suffix many people thought it was a Latin word, and I liked that clever, if non-existent, lexical twist. I also checked ‘dipitus’ didn’t mean anything in any other language, like the unfortunate story of the Vauxhall Nova – the car that “does not go” in Spanish.

I intended to take the name and run it by some free business startup advisors eg yorkshireinbusiness.org.uk and do more research on it. But then I was invited to an event with networking opportunities, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and went straight onto designing a logo and creating my website and business cards to meet that deadline.

Come back and read my future blogs for the stories behind these, won’t you?

For now, let’s have a giveaway.

What is your favourite word?

Let me know and you will be entered into a draw to win a 5L keg of my namesake’s beer: Wainwright’s golden ale. 

To qualify, write your favourite word on this blog to be entered into a draw to win. The promotion is also being run across Facebook and Twitter (@dipitus2).

Rules: You must be over 18 and resident in the UK to win the prize draw.  The closing date is 2200 on Friday 27 July 2018. No offensive language.

I look forward to receiving all these lovely (clean!) words. Happy posting!

Please share this post if you found it useful:

3 thoughts on “What’s in a name? Naming a startup business”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *