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Naming Your Business

Deciding on a name for your business is as an important step in the start-up process. How can you choose a good business name? What message does the name convey and is it appropriate for the types of products/services the business will provide? Are there any other businesses with similar names? Are these names protected? These are just a few questions that you will need to consider when deciding on a business name. Here are some tips to help you decide on a name for your business:

1.  Your business name as an advertising tool
Choose a business name that fits the image that you are trying to project. Choose a name that appeals to you and your customers. You also want to make sure that your business is easy to find for potential customers. If you select an abstract name or a name that cannot easily be associated with your type business it will require additional marketing and advertising effort in order to associate the name with your products/services. However, an abstract name can also be memorable. Pick a name that others will be able remember and then make sure you have an appropriate marketing strategy in place to support the name and convey your message to your customers.

2.  Can the name grow as your business grows?
Think about tomorrow when naming your business today. Will you be adding products or services? Will you be expanding into other regions or countries? You want to make sure that the name can grow as your business grows and will not pigeon-hole your operations or restrict your growth. This also applies to descriptive terms added to your business name – make sure the term will not be out-of-date or inaccurate as your business evolves.

3.  Conduct a name search – make sure your name is distinctive
Your business name should be unique and easily distinguished from other businesses that carry on similar activities. Prior to deciding on a name you should conduct multiple different types of name searches to determine if another business is operating with the same or similar name. This is particularly important if the name is protected through a trademark.

a) Business Name Search through Service Ontario (www.serviceontario.ca): The cost for the Service Ontario name search is between $8 and $26 to search business names, depending on type of report. The search is conducted on non-incorporated businesses only. These names are not protected by law.

b) Trademark name search using Canadian Trade-marks Database : This is a free search for all registered trademarks in Canada. When searching the database, try different spacing and word combinations to find all possible matches.

c) Search for Incorporated businesses: You can conduct a NUANS search for incorporated businesses in your province or across Canada. This step is a requirement if you are considering incorporating your company. NUANS compares your proposed corporate name or trade-mark with those that already exist. It is used when granting new corporate names, with the intent of avoiding confusion in the Canadian marketplace. You can order a NUANS report yourself for a cost of $20.00 +HST or engage the assistance of a NUANs Member. For a free pre-screen name search before you go to NUANS, try www.arvic.com.

d) Internet search:  In addition to the searches above, you should also conduct an internet search using Google or other search tool to determine if there are any businesses, clubs, groups or other operating with the same or similar name to the one you are considering. This will ensure that you avoid any potential conflict as well as any unwanted associations with that particular company or group.

4.  Register your domain name
Once you have decided on a name for your business, you should also confirm that the domain name is available for purchase. This is an important step even if you do not plan on developing a website the in the short term. Domain names are inexpensive to purchase and you need to renew the registration on an annual basis. This protects the name and prevents anyone else from using that specific website address. You can search for and purchase a domain name at a number of different websites such as www.godaddy.com, www.1and1.ca and www.Netfirms.com .

5.  Start creating your “brand”
A business name has a strong marketing component and will be critical in helping you build your brand. Your name is this first step in creating your company identity. You may want to consult with a marketing or graphic design company to create a logo that supports your name and company image. Whatever you decide, start building enthusiasm and recognition for your name as soon as (or even before) you launch your business.

6.  Operating a business under your own personal name
Many sole proprietors choose to operate their business under their own personal name. This is a popular choice among professionals in the healthcare field such as Massage Therapists, Naturopaths, etc. as well as other professionals such as consultants, lawyers and accountants. If you choose to operate your business under your personal name (with no additions), then you do not need to register the business name. If you call it anything else, however, your business name must be registered with Service Ontario.

Visit our Business Registration page for more information on registering your business.