How to choose a business name

Choosing a business name is a vital first step in bringing your business to life. Here’s how to choose one that brings success and growth.

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Just like the cover of a book, a business name is critical so customers can get the gist of what your business, its products or services are all about.

But just like how readers might choose to pick up a flashy-covered book over a stale-looking one, customers may choose to give their money to a business that sounds memorable or witty. Conversely, they may not trust their money with a business whose name sounds silly, unfocused, or irrelevant. That’s why choosing the right business name is critical.

If you’re feeling like your well of inspiration is dry and you’re unsure of where to start, in this guide we’ll give you the rope you need to pull out the creativity bucket. We’ll walk you through the technicalities of registering a business name, do’s and don’ts, and everything else you need to know to ensure your business name is timeless.

Your name is your first chance to introduce your business to new customers. It’s the first thing a customer sees, and therefore, the first piece of information they process to decide whether they want to buy your products.

A good business name that resonates with what the customer is looking for will therefore go a long way that will lead straight to your checkout counter. It typically takes five to seven brand interactions before a consumer remembers a brand. Therefore, a memorable business name will help you stay within that range of interactions that will help convert customers into loyal followers.

When choosing a name, you will need to avoid stepping on bureaucratic eggshells that could get you into trouble. You should be doing your research to avoid infringing on any existing trademarks, and to ensure your business cannot be easily confused with an existing one.

Picking the right business name – essential best practices

A strong business name will be unique, relevant, and memorable.

Besides sounding pleasant to the ear, your business name should also be designed to be SEO friendly. This will make it easy for customers to find your company through an organic search in Google, and will help them to recognise your brand.

Alongside a name, you should also ensure you design a slogan, logo, and tagline. All of these things will outline what your business is all about.

Business name do’s and don’ts


  • Bring a bit of local flavour: A safe and trustworthy method is to link your business’ name to the area in which you operate – customers associate such firms with strong local roots and a friendly approach to the public. Therefore, the Acton Sandwich Shop or Govan Records would be perceived to be a well-established, reputable business.
  • Inject a bit of humour: Humour or a nice play on words is an effective way to stand out from the crowd. While a fish and chip shop called Your Plaice or Mine or a hairdresser named Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow would elicit predictable groans from passers-by, puns can be used for good effect and can even help land sales. Just try to ensure they are not overly cheesy or digress from the image you are trying to convey for your firm.
  • Keep it snappy: Ideally, names should be snappy, original and instantly informative as to what your business does. Customers should be drawn to a name that stands out from the crowd, but also find it trustworthy and professional.


  • Misuse the personal touch: It’s tempting to incorporate your own name into your business’ moniker. However, Dave’s Cabs or Smith’s Landscape Gardening hardly screams originality. As a result, try to avoid personalising your business as it’s unlikely that the name will sway any customers without an established brand attached to it. If you’re hoping to grow your brand, it may even be important for your business to stand on its own feet independent of your own name.
  • Make it complicated to spell: If even your marketing team is struggling to write your business name, it’s very likely your customers will have an even harder time. The trick of the trade is to keep it to five to 10 letters. There’s been a recent trend for removing certain vowels (brilliantly called “disemvowelling”) when it comes to naming a startup. Tread carefully, here, or you’ll give your customers a hard time spelling your brand name or finding your business online.

Important considerations for choosing a sole trader business name

Once you have determined that your name is available to use, and complies with all the rules, the next step is to register as a sole trader (unless you’re seeking to set up a limited company).

If you choose the sole trader route, you do not need to register your business with Companies House. Instead, you simply need to register as self-employed with HMRC.

However, you may also choose to register your company with the National Business Register (NBR). This affords you more protection against any legal challenges to your name, as the NBR will perform all necessary checks on your behalf and will inform you if there are any issues with your proposed title.

According to the NBR, registration also prevents others from copying your name in the future and protects your business against “passing off” – that is, others using your name to piggyback on your success, potentially taking customers away from you in your market or trading area. Full business name searches, protection and registration for one year costs around £100.

Local businesses: consider incorporating the area into your business name

Did you know that 70% of Google searches have ‘local’ intent? That means that most people are looking at ‘pizza near me’ or ‘taxi near me’ type searches.

With this stat in mind, it might be worth considering putting the town your business is located in into your sole trader business name. This is so that when prospective customers search for a product or service that you offer, they’ll know that you’re a stone’s throw away – encouraging them to pay you a visit.

For example, if you’re a pizza shop in the town of Stourbirdge, ‘Stour-Dough Pizza’ might be a fun name to use – incorporating both a pun and related to the where the business operates.

Queens Park Garden Services or South Coast Bikes are other less ‘fun’ examples But something along this line can work to your advantage – especially when potential customers are seeking your offering within your locality.

What do the experts have to say about naming your business?

Company branding specialist Jim Fowle of Red Mullet Design, says:

“When starting a company, your brand is of vital importance. Branding is not just a memorable logo but also an effective, memorable name that can really help people remember you.

“This can be portrayed strongly visually as well. In the initial stages, we find it’s good to envisage your name and branding, making sure it’s recognisable, simple and reflects your business.”

Easier said than done. After all, you want to stand out from your competition, but you also need to be taken seriously.

When you’re choosing a business name it’s essential that you:

  • Like saying it – remember that this is a name that you will have to say dozens of times each day and it is something you will be known by. So you need to enjoy saying it – if it’s overly complex to say, this may be a problem.
  • Like hearing it – make sure that you like how it sounds and the way people say it. If it’s difficult to pronounce you might get people saying it wrong, which can be difficult to hear and also detracts from your overall brand recognition.
  • Like looking at it – the way it’s written in text, how the logo reads and every other visual representation of your name needs consideration. Make sure you like how it looks before committing.

“Initially, in the early stages the best option is to be experimental” suggests Fowle.

He goes on to say that: “Sometimes it’s easy to get too clever and to lose sight of what you are trying to achieve. It is about getting the balance of a good name and having good branding at the same time. This encapsulates the perfect package”. So be bold, but try to keep it simple.

Checking the availability of your business name

Before you start branding, getting merch, or building your website, you must check that your chosen name is not already being used by someone else, and does not infringe any registered trademarks.

UK Trademark Database

Doing a UK trademark search will give you the certainty that your brand name has not been already taken by someone else using the same mark in the UK. You can make a search on the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) website, but it can be time-consuming and tedious.

That’s why it’s recommended you work with an experienced attorney to make sure you’ve covered all the bases and are not conflicting with any existing marks.

You can start your checks by looking at the IPO database. You can look by keyword, phrase, or image to see if there’s similar matches you could be conflicting with. To make sure you conduct a comprehensive search, look through the IPO database and other legal databases, like the UK IPO online trade marks journal.

To do this bit correctly, these are the steps to follow:

  1. Decide on the goods and services that will be covered by the mark
  2. Search through relevant databases, like the IPO, for any similar marks
  3. Check whether there are other trade names or registered trademarks that could be confused with your own
  4. Examine other legal factors that could affect your registration, such as using images without someone’s permission
  5. Bring in a legal consultant or a trademark attorney to discuss the results of your search and make sure you have the greenlight to register your trademark

Companies House website

The Companies House site is used to set up limited companies – it’s not used by sole traders. Doing this will automatically register you for Corporation Tax and at the end, you’ll get a certificate of incorporation. Besides using this site to legally register your company, it will also help you check whether a limited company already exists with your chosen name.

All you have to do is go to the ‘Company name availability checker’ and check if there’s a company that already exists. Make sure to try out slight variations or alternatives to ensure there aren’t close matches that could represent a legal complication.

Business name restrictions

Words or expressions deemed to be offensive are not allowed by Companies House. You will have to exercise your own judgement as to what they are, but if they include swearing or phrases generally considered insulting then the chances are they are not permissible.

There are also phrases that are deemed to be ‘sensitive’ and you will have to gain permission to use them before you do.

There are five main groups of sensitive words; these are words that:

  • Suggest your business is of national importance, such as an official British entity
  • Depict a special status or authority such as association, Chamber of Commerce or Council
  • Describe a particular function like a charity or trust
  • Refer to a specialised activity such as surveyor or chemist
  • Give the impression that your business is connected to the government or the royal family

A full list of sensitive words, and the organisations you must seek permission from, is available on the Companies House website.

Registering your business name

If you’re a sole trader, registering a business name isn’t actually compulsory. But, if you’re launching a private limited company then you are legally required to register a business name. All of this happens on the Companies House website, where you can create an account.

We have a full guide to registering a company name., but for a short version, these are the main steps to take:

  1. Check the company name isn’t already taken
  2. Decide on an official company address
  3. Choose a standard industrial classification of economic activities code (SIC)
  4. Appoint a company director or directors
  5. Outline your proposed company share structure
  6. Choose your company shareholders or Persons of Significant Control
  7. Sign a statement of compliance
  8. Pay a company formation fee (£12)


Choosing the right business name is an important step for any new venture. With careful thought and consideration, you can pick a name that’s memorable and unique, helping to create an image for your brand. By following the steps outlined in this article, choosing a business name that stands the test of time can be made much easier.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do I check if my chosen business name is available?
    You can check by using the ‘Company name availability checker’ in the Companies House site to check if there are any limited companies that would conflict with your chosen business name. You should also check on the UK Trademark Database to ensure your mark isn’t conflicting with others.
  • Do I need to register my business name?
    There are eight steps to take, which you can read all about in our how to register a business name guide. In a nutshell, you need to set up an account on the Companies House site, choose your SIC code, appoint your director(s), outline your share structure, choose your company shareholders, sign a statement of compliance, and pay a company formation fee.
  • Is choosing a domain name important?
    It absolutely is. For SEO purposes, a good domain name will ensure that customers can more easily find your company when they try to find it on Google. It will also ensure your company site shows up on the search results when someone looks for a product or service associated with your brand.
Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).
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