Naming your Business: How to Get it Right Posted on 15 Jun 15:13

Are you thinking of starting your own business but aren't sure if you should name it after yourself or brainstorm a made-up name?

It can feel overwhelming, especially when you're busy doing the real work of launching your business or product.

The short answer is this: there is no right answer. That said, it's absolutely worth spending a little time thinking through your big picture business goals for yourself, your brand, and the business you are creating before you commit to a name. Sure, you can always change your business name if you need to, but you'll save yourself a lot of trouble and brand equity by sticking to and committing to a name from the very beginning.

 

When you should name your business after yourself

Take 10 minutes and scroll through your inbox. Look at the promotional emails that you subscribe to. Who are they from? Chances are, you'll see emails from people who are their brand. Think: fine artists, business or life coaches, or novelists who keep a blog that you subscribe to. You follow these people not only for the service, product or idea they sell but because you want to follow them. At a quick glance, I see Brené Brown, Seth Godin, and Lisa Congdon in my inbox. These people are their businesses. No one else can draw the painting that Lisa Congdon makes and if Seth Godin had an assistant writing his blog I likely wouldn't subscribe. So, take a good look at the business you're creating and ask yourself if you can relate to these examples. Are you your brand? If so, naming your business after yourself makes a lot of sense.

 

When you should name your business something else

If you (the person) are not your brand-—well, you've probably guessed it—you should consider an alternative business name to your given name.

A good rule of thumb for naming your business after something other than yourself is this: can you see yourself selling your business down the road? This isn't about whether you would take $1 billion for the next Facebook or not—this is about whether you can see your business getting an offer like this in the first place. You're not going to want to sell your own name, right?

I like to think of this type of business as the kind that provides a service or product that is not wrapped up in the identity of one person. For example, in my own business, Hudson + Daughter, I sell custom home decor to honor new babies and weddings. As an artisan and maker, I don't feel as though my designs are so precious as to warrant much of a presence from me, the designer (other than a short and sweet about page) as say, a fine artist would. In the case of a fine artist, people are buying the work because they are buying the artist as much as the art itself. For this reason, a graphic design company, a stationary business, a blog, or online magazine are all examples of companies that are less likely to use a person's given name.

 

When you should break the rules 

There is no one recipe for success and you will always find examples that are outside these guidelines. Rifle paper is one of my favorite companies that I follow for inspiration. It's a stationary company named after Anna Rifle Bond and employs a small army of people. Maybe her name works because it's also a beautiful sounding word; maybe rifle as a name is successful because the word itself has meaning. Maybe it works because it's not her full name. The point is this: only you know the uniqueness that is your business and brand and ultimately where you want to take it.

 

Your turn

Take a little time to think through these questions by jotting down a few phrases or bullet points that come to mind:

  • Where do you picture yourself in 5 years?
  • What are your plans for your business?
  • Do you design and then hand the baton over? (Or, one day can you see yourself delegating or outsourcing?)
  • Will you employ people down the road?
  • Is your company truly about you and your unique work? Or, is the essence of your company something apart from you?
  • What is your comfort level with your own name tied up in your business name? 

Is it suddenly clear now which side you and your business fall to? Do you have a gut feeling as to what kind of business name you should run with? If you'd like to share, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


Written by: Rebecca Pitts

Rebecca Pitts is a writer and children’s products designer. She is the founder and creative behind Hudson + Daughter. Each month, she sends an exclusive letter to friends who write, make things, or want to. Join her list here or visit her online home at rebeccaapitts.com.