Choosing a name for your business can be stressful. How do you find a name that will symbolize all that your brand stands for, is easy to say, easy to spell and can grow with you as your business develops over time? We talk to several craft entrepreneurs to understand how to select the right business name.
Start by brainstorming
Begin by listing every idea that comes to mind. Work in several sessions, focusing on a different idea each time. For example, the first session could be any word or idea that relates to your type of business, such as craft, sewing, or knitting. Other session topics could include tools used for making like needles, fabric, or paint. Adopt names that are personal to you, kids, pets, parents, siblings, or your own name. Try your business location. The street you live on now or previously, your house number, your city or state, even city, and state nicknames. If you’re really stumped, pull out a dictionary and thesaurus and look up words that convey the feeling you are trying to achieve. . (You can even try out Shopify’s business name generator to get some ideas flowing.)
Once you’ve completed the brainstorming sessions if a name doesn’t immediately jump out at you, play around with the words. Combine two existing words into one name, like Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Use parts of two words, such as pin and interest for Pinterest or velvet and crochet for Velcro.
Try an alliteration, a device that uses the same letter or sound in a word series. Alliterations are easy to remember and convey the feeling of fun. This was exactly what Christy Nelson of Makit Takit, a brick and mortar craft studio in Lincoln Nebraska, was looking for. Her original name, Lincoln Craft Studio, didn’t fit the vibe of her lively and inviting craft space. When a marketing company she was working with asked her, ‘Have you ever thought about changing your business name?’ She gave it some thought and decided to change to something that fit better. She says “Once I heard Makit Takit, I was like, okay, we’re going with this.”
Try creating a pun from a well-known phrase or cliché. Quilt pattern maker, Laura Piland used to be a math teacher. When she started a family blog eight years ago, she decided to play on both her last name and her math background. She used the phrase, a Slice of Pie, and changed the word Pie to Pi to reflect her name and the mathematical number. When it was time to name her quilt business she said, “We were trying to come up with how we were going to name our quilt pattern business, it seemed natural to just call it Slice of Pi Quilts.”
Get feedback on your name from your customers and listen closely to their responses. Do they instantly love it or are they confused? Is it hard to say, hard to remember? Does it evoke the feeling you want your business to convey? Do you have to spend a lot of time explaining it?
Think carefully before using your own name
Many artists, designers, and consultants use their own names to run their business, and sometimes those names turn into a well-known brand like Martha Stewart or Ralph Lauren. However, using your own name can have several pitfalls. As the company grows and you hire employees, customers may expect you to always be involved in every aspect of the business. If your company has problems or closes, it is harder to divest yourself from the past when it’s your personal name. Selling your business is also more difficult because a new owner may not want to continue under someone else’s name. (Read artist Emily McDowell’s exploration of the pros and cons of naming your business after yourself.)
Choose a name that can grow with you
Richard Kennair of Global Artisans discovered several years into running his business years into running his businesses that the name they’d originally chosen was no longer working. For Kennair, the name change was crucial when he pivoted the direction of his business from working in Uganda to working instead with artisans around the globe. His former business name “Akonye Kena was a Ugandan phrase that meant, “I will help myself.”
He said if he had to do it over again he would have gone straight to Global Artisans. “On my website, I spent so much time, before explaining what the company was about. That’s sales time that’s lost. It is time in a booth that’s lost. It’s people not clicking until they know what the company is about.” The new name, Global Artisans is so self-explanatory that the customers jump right to asking questions about the products helping him to make faster sales.
It’s important to be flexible when choosing your business name because research may reveal problems. Deborah Fisher is a mixed media maker who didn’t want to use any words that would, “Stick me in with something I couldn’t move beyond” she says. She chose an open-ended name for her business; Fish Museum, a name that combined part of her last name and the feeling of fine art. However, when she tried to buy the domain name, it was very expensive, so she added the word circus to the name and was able to register a domain at an affordable price. Her business is Fish Museum and Circus.
Years later, though when Fisher decided to register her business as an LLC, she found out that in the state of New York, “museum” cannot be used as a business name without special approval from a Board of Regents. She couldn’t get permission, and she didn’t want to change the name since she’d already built an online presence so she kept it as a DBA and registered the LLC as a similar name, that doesn’t use the word museum.
Google your business name ideas to see if the domain name is available. Also, check Facebook Instagram, and Pinterest for account availability. If the domain is taken, that may not be a deal-breaker. Kennair couldn’t get the .com for Global Artisans, but he felt the name reflected the business so perfectly he was willing to use .shop instead. Nelson originally wanted Makeit Takeit, but when she couldn’t get the domain, she dropped the “e” from make and take.
If you are in the US you’ll need to look into name registration. Most states have a business entity database that allows you to check for an already registered business with the same or similar name. Put in both the whole name and part of the name, because you might find variations on your name. Check this resource from the Small Business Administration for more information about registering your name. You can also do a trademark search on USPTO.gov to ensure that you can file for a trademark when you’re ready.
With brainstorming, research, and testing, you can choose a name for your business that’s clear, memorable, distinctive, and available on all platforms.
Sydney Hardiman has over 20 years of experience in small business and the sewing and design industry. A native of Pittsburgh, PA, she is the author of over 50 articles about interior design. She currently works as the Sewing Program Manager for SewForward, a non-profit cut and sew studio and workforce development program of the East End Cooperative Ministry When not working and writing she can be found in her home sewing studio.