How to come up with a business name - ideas from the podcast Dreamers & Doers

Dreamers & Doers ep 5: How to choose a business name

Have you ever wondered how or where people came up with the name for their business? Are you stuck for ideas on what to call your own business? Here I talk to several different business owners and entrepreneurs who explain how they came up with a business name, the meaning behind their business name and what they considered when thinking about their brand. There are some great business inspiration and tips to help you come up with your own business name.

As well as hearing about the meaning behind my PR agency's name Unhooked Communications, you'll also hear from:

Listen to this episode of Dreamers & Doers here...

How to choose a name for your business?

Before you launch your business, there’s a lot to think about – including what you’re going to call it. 

Now, if you’re anything like me the challenge of naming your business will start off really fun and exciting, but you’ll soon find that it’s actually more difficult than you thought it would be.

There is a lot to think about. What does the business name mean? Is it easy to pronounce and spell? Can you get the relevant domain names for your website and social media handles? Is the name already taken?

I’ve got two children, and I’ll be honest – it was easier naming them than it was my business.

When you decide what to call your baby, you simply pick a name you like the sound of. You’ll look at the meaning behind the name to make sure it doesn’t symbolise anything terrible. And, of course, you’ll compare notes with your partner that neither of you went to school with a bully, worked with an annoying colleague, or, worse, had a romantic fling with someone who shares the name.

And as long as you’ve got all those things covered, you’re sorted.

But I think what I really struggled with at first when it came to naming my PR agency was that a lot of the names I kept thinking of were already taken.

I tried all kinds of exercises to try and come up with something unique that also represented my business in the right kind of way.

How I chose my business name

One of my main motivators when it comes to working in the communications industry is creativity and ideas. 

And the subject of creativity is an area I find fascinating. What makes a good idea? Can you teach yourself how to be more creative? 

There’s a book by James Webb Young called in A Technique for Producing Ideas, and in it he explains how the more you know, the more it can help power creativity. If you have an inquisitive mind, enjoy researching different topics and learn from your experiences and people around you, you start to collate your very own library of facts, concepts and memories which can all work together to form new connections and ideas. 

But as well as spending time researching and learning as much as you can, you also need to take a step back and distance yourself from whatever it is you’re working on. How many times have you heard someone say they get their best ideas when they’re in the shower or walking the dog? Inspiration hits when you’re least expecting it and often when you’re not directly thinking of the problem.

And while I was exploring these ideas and concepts of creative thinking, I came across a quote from the Father of Advertising David Ogilvy.

“Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret. Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you.”

I love this quote. And there’s one word in particular which stands out to me. Yes, you’ve guessed it – unhook. And there you have it, the inspiration for Unhooked Communications.

How to come up with a business name - ideas from the podcast Dreamers & Doers

How entrepreneurs chose the name of their businesses (transcript)

Gareth Mitchell, Tree2mydoor:
My name's Gareth, I'm the Founder and Director of Tree2mydoor. Tree2mydoor is a tree gifts company, so we're sort of like the 'Interflora with roots'. I suppose, what was the inspiration? It was just, I just thought right, well, what can I call it? If only I could get a tree to my door, I actually thought when I wanted to buy my parents some fruit trees as gifts. I just thought, "Tree to my door, yeah." It was just literally that, there wasn't a lot of thought that's went into it, but I do have the trademark for Tree2 as well, which is a bit more left field I suppose, so potentially we  may look at rebranding going forward to any stuff that isn't e-commerce to Tree2. It's such a long time ago now that I can't really exactly remember, but I think it was probably just like, "Tree To My Door, yeah, I'll just run with that", and it stuck. I think loads of people just think it's quite amusing, and they love it. Other people think that it's too literal and they don't like it because it is too literal, but really it is what it is, and I've created it as something now rather than just a crazy idea, it is a crazy business.

Gemma Rolstone, Delphinium:
My name is Gemma Rolstone, I'm the Managing Director of Delphinium. We are a training and coaching organisation with a key focus in leadership development. Mine actually came to me in the hairdressers, which people find quite funny. I was looking for a name for the business that wasn't just Gemma Rolstone Training, Gemma Rolstone Coaching, that kind of thing, and I didn't know what I wanted it to be. I thought I was looking everywhere for inspiration, so Googling all different types of things, and it actually turns out that I'm sat in the hairdressers, reading a magazine, something like Woman's Own or something that, something I wouldn't normally buy, and there's an article about flowers and their spiritual meaning. I thought I'll have a look at tulip, because that's my favourite flower, and see what it means. I read it, and I thought, "Well, that's a bit rubbish. I'm going to have a look at the other ones and see what the other ones say," and I came across delphinium.

It said the spiritual meaning for delphinium is believing in infinite possibilities and striving for your goals, one baby-step at a time, which is obviously a key thing particularly around coaching for the whole development area really, and that's when I knew that had to be the name for my business. Some people don't know that it's a flower, don't know what it is and they'll ask me and I'll tell the story, or they'll think it's my favourite flower and I explain that it isn't, and again I tell the story, and everybody loves the story behind the business name.

Yeah, I'll probably stick with my business name because I love the reasoning and the story behind it. Giving advice, I actually do this quite a bit with clients, start-ups, when they don't know what to call the business, and it's just literally don't try too hard, do some creative thinking techniques, but just look for inspiration everywhere and just kind of trust that it will come to you. It can be in the shower, in the hairdressers, when you're walking the dog. Don't panic about it, and just let it come to you. Look for inspiration everywhere.

How to name your business? Ideas and inspiration for business owners and entrepreneurs.

Hassan Mushaid, The Creative Composite
My name is Hassan Mushaid, I am the owner of The Creative Composite, which is digital marketing agency that works with dental practice owners. The Creative Composite, now to the untrained ear it would come across as just a generic kind of name, but if you're involved within the dental business, white fillings, the white filling material that dentists use is actually called composite. Now, it's used in various treatments, like with just white fillings, you use it for composite veneers, composite bonding, you can do a lot of stuff with this material, it's pretty useful, and it's quite profitable for dentists as well, because it's cheap to obtain, but it's more based on the skillset of the dentists. It's a lovely material,  because they actually get to use the  artistic skills that they have. It also means composition, composite, a group of people. So, The Creative Composite, it also kind of means filling material or also a group of people, so The Creative Composite.

We came up with various numerous cheesy ones, Dental Marketing Expert, but somebody owned the domain so we couldn't go for that one. We tried to come up with some dental themed ones, it's a little bit cliché and cheesy, but we wanted to resonate with the audience so they knew exactly what we do, but at the same time we don't want to be too cliché, so we tried and tested so many cheesy ones and we even thought of using my own name as a brand, that was an option, because of networking and socializing within the industry circles. It has a positive impact as well, because people are aware of the person behind the business, so the name can become a brand, so that was an option as well.

As all businesses, we all have our own five-year plans or big vision and goals for your business really. Now, the personal branding and the personal touch with your own name, our goal isn't to be that personal. It wasn't just to be dependent on me really, it was to grow, have team members. These are personal goals that I'm sharing with you, but to operate in different countries, have a strong brand within the dental industry, and if it was all based on just my name and the individual, myself, it would be too much stress and responsibility for me to be involved with a lot of the client conversations. Now, it works well for somebody like Gary Vaynerchuk. He's got Vayner Media, and he is the face of it. His strategy is working for him, because he does get the clients in through his own branding, his own content, and then he probably delegates all that stuff to his team at Vayner Media. I didn't want to have that responsibility and stress of producing that amount of content just to attract customers. I think it's just too much stress for myself, that's my thinking really, and we deviated from that.

Feedback has been almost zero. I don't think the clients even care, I don't think they even found innovative at all. I think it's just personally me thinking it's pretty creative. We actually changed the logo, we had a logo designed to match with this, we had a light bulb with a tie on, which had no resemblance to the dental industry. I have a bald head, maybe if I wear a tie I look like that. So, we're changing that. Clients have never mentioned that it's pretty creative or clever, I  have to explain to them sometimes this is what it means, did you know it's the material that you use? Maybe it hasn't had an impact at all. It's also quite long to spell, this is something that, daily problems that we're having when telling somebody our email address, it's info@thecreativecomposite, and you've to spell the word composite, it's annoying. When you're telling somebody your website, go to The Creative Composite, it's a mouthful of words really. Somebody's already taken Creative Composite, so we couldn't have that, we unfortunately 'The' in there. Yeah, we should've just had two syllables or something, and made something simple like Google or something. We weren't that creative!

Jessica Blackler, Jecca Blac (NB - the business has rebranded to Jecca Blac since the recording of this interview)
My name is Jessica Blackler, and I am the Founder of Jecca Makeup. Jecca Makeup is a gender free and vegan makeup brand that supports the LGBT community. I started Jecca Makeup by offering makeup lessons to transgender women, and my name is Jessica, so everyone since I was young has called me Jecca, and because I was the one that ran the business and operated it, it was suitable to have my business called after me and just me. I was inspired by clients and the LGBT community to create Jecca Makeup into a brand, so I kept the name. Yeah, people like it, because it's snappy and it's something that you would remember.

Steve Sweeney, SJS Constructing Training
I'm Steve Sweeney, Director of SJS Construction Training Limited. We deliver NVQs in construction, mainly aimed at trade and site supervisors, and it's all geared towards up-skilling the workforce. It's essentially leading to better pay and better prospects for those who complete qualifications with us. Originally we were SJS NVQ Services Limited, but the name, we quickly outgrew our name because it  became unclear and the name didn't say what we did. It was misleading almost, and it limited us to what we could do. People fed back to us that the name was also difficult because there was so many acronyms in the name SJS NVQ Services Limited, it was too much, so we switched to SJS Construction Training Limited, and it's clearer in what we do. It says exactly what it does on the tin, and it's more recognizable and more easily brand-able, really.

As soon as we say who we are, people already have an idea of what you do. It's much easier to lead from there really, rather than starting with a blank canvas and introducing yourself and people having no idea what you do. It's just an  easier really. My initials came about just because I'd seen other companies go out, and it's basically their name is the company. I quite liked that. It makes you accountable if your name is branded on something, if you're going to deliver something it's got to be such a high standard if you're going to put your name to it. I wanted that, but I kind of  also saw a level of arrogance in that which I didn't like, so I thought by toning it down and it just being my initials, yes, I can take pride in the product I deliver and put my name to it, but it's not arrogant that I'm just putting myself out there.

Originally, with the first name we were very quick just to get a name out there, so that's where SJS NVQ Services came from. We didn't put any thought into it, it was just quick, get a name out there. Second time around, we learnt from our mistakes, we considered different names that we could use, and we didn't want to limit ourselves in terms of market, closing our market down. Some people said we should remove 'Construction' because that means we can only ever deliver construction, but actually that's kind of a good thing because that's what we want to focus on. That's the bulk of our business, and if ever we do grow to such an extent we look at other areas, it would become SJS Group, perhaps.

Noha Philobbos, Aten Advisory
My name is Noha Philobbos, I'm a chartered accountant and I am the Director and Founder of Aten Advisory Limited. I wanted something that would be relevant to my culture so I went for Aten, which is one of the Egyptian gods, and many people don't realize I'm Egyptian because Philobbos sounds Greek, but I just thought that I wanted to be true to my Egyptian heritage. His symbol is the sun, and kind of like the sun rays, they are depicted by hands, and because I'm a Jack of all trades in terms of accounting, then I chose to use that because then people can see that I can turn my hand to many different aspects of accounting.

I talked to lots of different friends. Sadly, in this world nowadays, many things with Arabic connotations, people look on quite badly. I wanted something that was still Egyptian, and randomly one of my friends said to me, "Oh, why don't you use one of the Pharaoh's names?" Which at first I thought was a ridiculous idea, and then because I knew had Tutankhamun, I just thought that’s not going to be a good name for an Accounting-style company. So, then I actually just sat and researched the Egyptian Gods and asked my Mum for a bit of help as well and then when I saw his symbol I just thought it couldn’t be more perfect if I tried. So that’s why I went for that.

People are always intrigued by the story and that’s personal when I say to them that its one of the Egyptian Gods because I’m Egyptian. And then the first thing is, oh, you’re Egyptian, and then people start talking about pyramids and all the rest of it but I think the fact that when I say about the hands depicting the different aspects of accounting, I then think people really like it as a business name because it does correlate. It's not just, oh I named it after one of the Pharaohs.

Ideas and exercises to help you come up with a name for your business.

Sam Owens, Barrels of London
My name is Sam Owens, Founder and Director of Barrels of London. Barrels of London creates luxury carry goods that combine function with style, all made in Britain. The inspiration for the name, I was really playing on the word barrel as in barrel bag, they were my favourite kind of holdall and bag, and thought that it was something that was very under-used in the market, and to be honest, I saw a huge opportunity to rank on Google for the term barrel bag. As I say, it's under-used and it's something I wanted to rekindle and be synonymous for making the best barrel bags, hence Barrels of London. It was founded in London, and so it just made perfect sense to call it Barrels of London. Sounds very classy as well, which is always helpful as well for a luxury product.

My first idea was to call it just Barrels, which was very difficult from a trademark and protection standpoint, to add the 'of London' made it a lot more feasible because you're not infringing on anyone else who's got the name Barrels something, or even just an outright Barrels. There were so many companies that used that name or have trademarked it in some way, shape, or form. Yeah, I wanted to add the 'of London', as I say, I think it adds to the brand, I think it gives it an extra dimension, but it was easier to protect as well. I was wanting to put some kind of play on the term barrels, I just didn't know exactly what that looked like until I found Barrels of London. But yeah, ideal scenario, it would have been just Barrels and I'd have trademarked that, but I think someone else has beaten me to that unfortunately.

It's been great. A lot of people get it straight away. Some people I have to explain it to, but then they're like, "Oh, no I completely get it now, because we're buying a barrel bag from you. Makes complete sense." The feedback in Manchester particularly when I say I'm Barrels of London, everyone seems to think it's a really fancy name, it sounds like a very premium brand, which is obviously the feedback that I like to hear.

Richard Tate, Y?Not
I am Richard Tate, I am the Co-Director of Y?Not, which is a new social connectivity platform for bringing people together for short face to face conversations and meetings. Gosh, that [naming the business] was a very long process. It took an awful lot of philosophising, so we took about a year and a half of trying to figure out the name. We started out with things like Reconnect, and Like-Minds, and all sorts, until one day we were actually doing a test with a user, or a potential user, and we asked him the question, "So, you're quite happy to just press a button and randomly meet a complete stranger for 20 minutes that you've never met in a public location?" And he just looked at us and went, "Yes. Why not?" And we thought, there it is. That's the name.

Everybody likes the name. It's a natural colloquialism (is that the right word?). Everyone uses that term anyway, almost without thinking about it, so in a way it's almost free marketing every time somebody uses it, so yeah, it's been positive. It's the letter Y and the word N-O-T. We are still playing with graphic design on how we're going to display that, but yes, ultimately it'll be the letter and N-O-T.

Alish Lucas, The Glow Getter
I am Alish, and I run a multi-award winning natural and organic beauty blog called The Glow Getter. I initially wanted to talk about beauty and business, because they're two very large passions of mine, and I thought glow represented beauty quite well, and getter, it's kind of like go-getter, but The Glow Getter. That's where the inspiration came from. Now it's purely a natural and organic beauty blog, because I feel like that's where my true passion lies, so yeah, the inspiration, I guess just playing around with words and just seeing what resonated with me the most and what I felt proud to be able to say my name was. Because you don't want to talk about something that's a little bit weird, and then feel a bit embarrassed introducing yourself and introducing your business in that way, so that's where The Glow Getter came from.

Everybody loves it. I've never heard anybody say, "That's a little bit weird," but I don't know whether they would anyway, because everybody is so lovely. But everybody really likes it and completely gets where I'm coming from with it, because everything is all about get the glow, and especially in beauty now, everybody has something or a product or a brand name that says The Glow Getter on it. It's definitely, it aligns, and it correlates with the beauty industry. Yeah, it's only really positive. I think it's a little bit common now, though, so I'm waiting for it to go out of fashion so I can sound a little bit more unique again. 

Business name ideas and inspiration from the Dreamers & Doers podcast for business owners and entrepreneurs

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