Top things to consider when choosing a business name

Are you starting a new business or thinking of becoming an entrepreneur ? Are you asking yourself questions when it comes to your business name? As an entrepreneur working with other entrepreneurs, I know that having an operating name is one of the first elements that needs to be decided before you can move on to other (more fun) things such as branding and a website. To some it may come easily whilst for others, it might mean lots of headache and a few nights of tossing and turning. I mean, when you don’t have divine inspiration, where do you even start? And how do you know if it’s right? 


My journey to a new business name 

I have recently been through this roller-coaster ride myself. You see, the business name I had been operating with for 8 years wasn’t a problem, until it was! Once I realized that, it took me down an interesting introspective path and taught me a few things about naming a business. In this post, I’m going to share my recent journey to changing my business name and helpful ressources that helped me in my reflection. 

Starting out in 2010

In 2010 when I set out as a freelance graphic designer, after very little brainstorming with my husband, I decided my business should be called Atelier Céline. Céline is my first name, so that part is easy. Now “atelier” is French for workshop. At the time I was living in London, England and “atelier” was meant as a wink to my French roots, a way of setting myself apart from the competition. My French flair is an essential part of my design aesthetics so it made sense to market that. So that was that. The decision was made quickly and without too much afterthought and served me well for a good few years. 

Discovering my business name is not working anymore 

Now fast forward to 2018, when I am now living in Montreal, Canada. Even though I am living in the French speaking province of Canada, “attelier isn’t so cute anymore. I work mainly with English speakers and I always feel a bit shy/ awkward/ unsure when saying my business name. I feel I have to explain what it means every time and find myself being a bit apologetic when doing so. I also start receiving emails from people who address me “Dear Atelier” and clearly think that’s my first name. Oh no! That’s when it hit me that I had to change my name. But to what? 

✨A bright shiny new name for 2 short weeks 

Now you might be surprised to hear how difficult a road it was to choosing a new name - especially considering the outcome ! Given that I had already been operating with a name that wasn’t my own personal name, I felt like I couldn’t possibly go back to my name. I wanted to come up with a new business name, one that would be marking a new beginning for my business and stating my vision clearly. So after much brainstorming and deliberating, I came up with the name  “Bigger Fish”. I was excited about it and had a great catch phrase about how I will take care of your design needs so you can fry your bigger fish. It was all very clever and witty and bright and colourful! So I bought the domain, registered a website, started designing it and was about to launch it when I realized, it’s just not really me. I mean, it was a pretty good concept, one that people would remember but it didn’t say much about me. It’s only then that I came to the realization that as a one person business, the main element that helps me stand out from the competition is …. well, me!



To being honest with myself

That’s when it hit me, I just need to change my business name to my name! Writing this out now, I am thinking “duh! 🙄 I can’t believe it’s much of a revelation”. But when I got that, it was huge ! I meet people everyday - and my husband and I meet lots of new people - and introduce myself as Celine Singh. To then have to add an extra barrier such as a business name, would be nonsense. I get to market myself as Céline Singh many times a day, so why not use that. Wow! Such a little revelation that has been so powerful and freeing. 

I have now been operating as Céline Singh for a little over a month now and it’s been great. It feels light and airy to be able to introduce myself and my business at the same time. It is helping me reassess who I am and what my business is all about and making sure all these things are in line. I am more than ever conscious that the things that make me a good wife/ mother/ friend are also traits that make me good at my job and I can put my whole heart in my work with my clients. 

Online resources

Whilst mulling all these things over, I of course turned to the web to see what ressources I could find out there when it comes to choosing a business name. I’m going to share with you 2 ressources that explore quite different point of views and that have both been very helpful.

"Choose a Name" by Marie Forleo

Marie Forleo is an online business coach and incredibly powerful speaker. I have actually been following her B-School program which is a hugely dense and complete business course. However it’s a piece of free online material that I would like to share with you here. In this video Marie explores whether or not operating your business with your name is right for you. 

Alexandra Watkins on The Agents of Change podcast by Rich Brooks

Another ressource that I found hugely helpful, is a podcast episode called The Agents of Change in which Rich Brooks interviews Alexandra Watkins, the author of a bestselling book about naming your business called Hello my Name is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names that Stick

In this podcast (and in her book), Alexandra talks about the Smile & Scratch Test which can help you determine whether a business name is right. 

Smile & Scratch Test

Here is what you should be asking yourself when choosing a business name: 

If it’s a good name, it should make you SMILE , which stands for:

Simple – easy to spell, say, and understand

Meaningful – your customers instantly “get it”

Imagery – visually evocative – creates a picture in your mind

Legs – carries brand, rich wordplay, brand-extensions

Emotional – empowers, entertains, engages, enlightens

SCRATCH the name if if it contains any of these deal breakers: 

Spelling-challenged – it’s not spelled the way it sounds

Copycat – similar to competitor’s names

Random – disconnected from the brand

Annoying – hidden meaning, forced

Tame – flat, uninspired, non-emotional, boring

Curse of Knowledge – only insiders get it

Hard-to-pronounce – not obvious, relies on punctuation

Although these online ressources can be hugely helpful, they will not however come up with a name for you - wouldn’t that be handy? The lesson I have learnt from all this, is that even if a name might be right on paper for a number of reasons, it still might not be right for you. It’s quite an introspective process to search within your business goals and be honest with yourself about whether a name represents what you are really about and how you want others to perceive you. 

Have you had to name a business recently? If so how did you go about it? What tips do you have to share with others when it comes to naming your business? Are you in the process of choosing a name right now? Do you have any questions or need any help with your business name? Please comment here below and let us know about your clever business names or your top tips. I'd love to hear from you.