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Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Business

Updated on February 25, 2017

The name of your business is important and business owners often make the mistake of trying to be too cute in an effort to be catchy and memorable. Or, they choose a name that has a special meaning to them, but leaves their potential clients confused. When clients are confused or turned off by cutsie names, they take their business elsewhere.

Been There ...

This was a hard-won lesson for me, as I made the mistake of being clever with businesses names more than once. My first business was a co-ownership and we picked a name that had a special meaning to us. We knew it was related to the business, but unfortunately, no one else did. Plus, it was a ridiculously long name that usually didn't fit on forms or even letterhead!

Even the logo was confusing because it didn't give any indication of what the business was about. Although the name wasn't what ultimately shut the business down, it certainly didn't help when it came to cultivating clients.

Would you guess from the name this was a publishing company?
Would you guess from the name this was a publishing company? | Source


My second business suffered the same misjudgement in naming and this time, I only had myself to blame. While I did include the word "Press" in the name to let clients know it was a publishing company, I had once again selected a name that had very special meaning to me. I thought it was catchy and would stick in people's heads. No such luck. Not only couldn't my clients pronounce the name, they couldn't remember the spelling and search engines would bring them to other websites. Ouch!

After a bit of feedback from people, I realized that only those versed in Norse mythology had any idea what the business name referred to and even those clients were confused. Did it mean that I only published history, mythology or fantasy?

After a few months of explaining the significance of the company's name, I finally realized the truth:

If I had to spend the first 10 minutes of a conversation explaining the name, I'd obviously gone in the wrong direction with it.

Done That?

Have you had a business suffer because it was poorly named?

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What's in a Name?

You also want to avoid using cutsie nicknames or made up identities, such as Stinky John's Cleaning Services. An associate of mine was looking to use her nickname, "Aunt Saucey" in connection with her home-based sewing business (ie. Saucey's Speciality Sew).

I advised against it for two reasons:

  1. "Saucey" is confusing. Potential clients will wonder if it's a cooking business or sewing and they won't take the time to investigate.
  2. People don't trust people who don't use their real names. Customers want to know who you are.

If you're going to use a name, use your own. Sure Aunt Polly was the best cake-maker you ever met, but if you name your bakery after her, clients are going to want to meet the woman who's name adorns the front of the building and goodie bags they take home. You may be surprised at how many clients feel cheated and let down when they find out that Aunt Polly's Baked Goods doesn't have Aunt Polly in the kitchen. People buy from people.

My associate is now considering naming her sewing business something simple like, Julie's Sewing Services. Straight to the point and her clients will immediately know who they are dealing with.

A Shop That Told Us to "Eat Me"

Names that are vague can seriously damage your business and reputation in the community. For example, a short-lived business called, Eat Me Alive opened in the town I lived in. No one knew what kind of business it was, but most guessed by the name that it was a restaurant of some sort (sushi, perhaps?) A few were concerned that it might be an adult shop right downtown!

Turns out that it was run by a young woman who handmade natural beauty products. Everything she made was non-toxic and so environmentally-friendly that clients could literally eat the products without harm.

In the few months that her shop was open, I only ever saw 2 other people in there besides myself. Even after the shop shut down, no one knew what the business had been about and people made all sorts of jokes about what they thought might have gone on in a place so oddly named.

What to Avoid

You want to avoid using names that:

  • Have meaning only to you, such as special sayings (eg. Giver 'Er Heck!);
  • Are too long (eg. Neutral Destiny Entertainment Inc.);
  • Don't tell the clients what kind of business it is (eg. The Spot);
  • Use nicknames or invented people (eg. Uncle Squiffy's Precision Care);
  • Use obscure words (eg. Snickersnee Emporium);
  • Are acronyms (eg. C.A.T.S. Eye);
  • Use your initials (these mean nothing to clients);
  • Use chatspeak shortcuts (eg. Biz 4 U);
  • Are mis-leading;
  • Cater to a fad (eg. Belle's Bottoms); and
  • Are too similar to popular companies.

Have you ever been turned off by a business named after someone who didn't own the business?

See results

What to Do?

Now that you know what to avoid when naming your business, you may be interested in these helpful Tips for Naming Your Business.

Good Luck!

© 2015 Rosa Marchisella


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    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 3 years ago from Canada

      Glad to hear it, Heidi!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Yep, lots of interpretations! The "division of" strategy is working pretty well so far and saving some dollars by not having to set up separate companies for each effort. In my next life, I'll do it right. :)

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 3 years ago from Canada

      Good point, Kathleen!! What's up with all the initials? I don't know how many times I've tried to communicate the name of a business to my husband and ended up blurting out all the wrong letters!

      Thanks for sharing, Heidi! I see what you mean about your company name. Thorne Communications LLC could be anything from news media to internet provision! lol How is the "division of" strategy working for you?

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Totally agree! I've had somewhat of the same problem. I wanted to keep it vague enough to cover multiple markets, but the name can mean so many things to so many people. With all that I've invested in the name and such over the years, I'm not going to change it now. So I use brand names with a "division of..." tagline after it. Good insight into a big problem for small business. Voted up and sharing!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      In my community too many businesses want to name themselves by their own initials. BTS Plumbing, MKS Construction, WAL Engineering. There is absolutely no reason to remember those letters, as they mean nothing to anyone other than the owner. West Cherokee Plumbing (gives me some idea of where you are located), New Home Construction (tells me what you do) and Bryant Civil Engineers (tells me what kind of engineer you are). Seems to me if you are not bright enough to make you name part of your business model/marketing plan, you are not someone I want to do business with. This hub is full of good idea.