Choosing a business name can be a daunting task. First of all, it seems like new businesses are popping up all the time so standing out among the crowd, yet still remaining true to yourself, is no easy feat. Plus what do you do if you’ve settled on a name, you’ve bought the domain, you’ve done all the setup, you’ve made it all legal, you’ve hired a designer to establish a brand, and then suddenly you don’t identify with that business name anymore. That’s a horror story if I’ve ever heard one. But it actually happens more often than you would think, sometimes years down the line, sometimes much earlier.
Picking a business name that you love and that you actually feel a connection with for years to come is not necessarily easy but the good news is that it’s also not impossible. When finding your business identity there are several things to think about, as well as a few to avoid, to make sure you still love your name weeks, months, and years down the line. Because the honest truth is that once you’ve established yourself under a certain name and people start to know you by that name it’s really hard to backtrack or change it even if you don’t identify with it anymore.
Let’s take a look as some common business naming practices and dig into what’ll be a good fit for you.
What’s in a name
A super common method for entrepreneurs when it comes to choosing a business name is to simply use their own name. Take for instance one of my favorite girl bosses Jenna Kutcher! She’s built a massive company and following all while being the name and face of everything she produces. Using your name can be a great way to make sure that you stand out in your field and that people easily recognize you on all platforms. There’s never any doubt about who the person is behind the business or who clients are hiring or communicating with when they work with you. This also certainly helps you add more personality to your overall brand and avoid any stuffy, corporate feeling in your messaging.
The only downsides to this, and usually the only two cases that I would discourage using your own name, is if you are currently unmarried and think there is a chance that you may take your future spouse’s last name or if you have a common name that you happen to share with an already established person or brand. You want people to be able to do a simple google search and easily find you! That’s awesome that your name is Beyoncé and all, but let’s be real, there isn’t any way your business is going to pop up when people Google Beyoncé. Just something to keep in mind. If you aren’t married, or don’t plan on getting married, and really want to use your name then by all means do your thing. Just remember that if you DO end up getting married and taking your spouse’s last name, the general public will still be calling you whatever name is on your business.
When it comes to branding, if you choose to name your business after yourself I still encourage you to dive a little deeper into your brand messaging and design a look for your business that extends past your own personal likes and dislikes. Branding yourself can be really hard because you’re creating a brand around a person instead of a traditional business entity, but If you can manage to capture your own personal style while still creating a professional front for your business, you’ll have a brand that readers identify with and truly care about possibly more than you would under a different name!
Connection over catchy
You all know that I’m a big fan of alliteration, simply because it always makes naming things a bit more fun and definitely more pleasant to say. However, when choosing a business name you need something a little more substantial than JUST a cute little rhyme or alliterative phrase. Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using alliteration or rhyme because that can actually help readers remember you and your business, but your company name should still mean something to you in the end and not just rely on being catchy.
If you have a true connection with the name that you’re choosing for your business that’s what will end up mattering way more in the long run. I’m going to give you an example really quick. Don’t laugh, but one of my earlier blogs was actually titled Louder Life. Now I had some reasoning behind this, in that I was trying to live my life “louder”, or in my mind bolder and more daring. But to be honest a big draw to this name for me was the alliteration. It was catchy and I felt like I could imagine people saying “hey did you read that new blog post on Louder Life”.
But the fact of the matter is, I didn’t truly identify with that statement, nor was there much in the way of a statement being made in the first place. Like what does it even mean to live a louder life? I’d say that’s very much up to interpretation. And truthfully I’m not one of those people that likes being loud. Heck I don’t even like being the center of attention. On the Myers-Briggs scale I’m almost directly in the middle of being an introvert or extrovert but I’m still slightly an introvert. I suppose at that point in my life, when Louder Life was in the works, I was still in college and I did see myself as somewhat bold and daring, but in reality those are not two adjectives that I would use to describe myself, then or now. At least not in the ways I was hoping for. Needless to say, that blog name didn’t last long. While it was a catchy title, I’m certainly glad that I left it behind and didn’t end up using it as my business name. In the end I needed something that represented me to the fullest, not just something that was catchy.
Trends come and go
In the same realm of using something that’s catchy or that rhymes, I usually encourage my branding clients that are still in the process of picking a name to steer clear of any names that are “trendy”. It can be super easy to look at brands that are all over our Instagram feeds and start to see trends that emerge. Things like using a French saying just for the heck of it, using slang terms that not everyone knows, or again using alliteration or rhymes that may not even make sense as a business name. Again the goal here is to find something that you truly identify with and that’s going to represent you for years. Something that sounds trendy and cute right now may sound super dated even a year or two down the line.
I’ll give you another example. A dear friend of mine and I talked in great length once upon a time about starting a business. For some reason we just couldn’t settle on a name and it’s something we debated for months. The only names that seem to stand out to us in hindsight were very trendy. I remember one of the options we came up with, which also fell under the alliteration category, was Wove and Wash, simply because those two things are related to watercolor and calligraphy and that’s what we both were bringing to the table. A third friend called us out on it and encouraged us to find something that would suit us in the long run instead of something that sounded like an Anthropologie email tagline. However, we could never manage to settle on a name, and our business never fully turned into anything.
If you choose something that has any sort of slang or joke in it, the trendiness is much higher. Not only will it exclude anyone that doesn’t understand the slang or joke but it’s longevity will fade as quickly as any fad does. There’s a reason we call them trends and not permanent staples. Again it all comes back to finding connection. Trends come and go, as with anything, and this includes names and phrases. Ask yourself, what would this name sound like in 5 years, in 10 years, heck even 50 years? Wouldn’t that be awesome to create that kind of legacy? So don’t let a trendy name keep you from that.
In the end, it’s all about consistency
As with anything in the blogging and business world, a lot of it comes down to consistency. Once you’ve picked a name the best thing you can do is build a recognizable brand around your business and then stick with that name! If you change your name every few years or every few months literally no one is ever going to be able to keep up. Imagine in Target changed their name every year. You would never know what to search to shop online, and even worse from a business standpoint, you would never know what to expect from their products each time they rebranded. Would the product lines be the same? Would they have the same cute style? Would the quality be the same? WHO KNOWS! That’s exactly how people would feel about your company if you kept switching things up.
Now, it is totally possible to change your business name if you really need a change down the line. If you are switching up what you offer in your services or if you really just need a fresh start in your business, it IS totally doable. Though, keep in mind, it may not be super easy. Full rebrands are usually in order after changing your business name and you may even want to consult a business coach before making such a big change. The earlier you can settle in to a name and brand within your business career, the easier it will be on you in the long run.
The Sweet Horizon story
Some of you know the reason behind the Sweet Horizon name but for those of you that don’t I’m just gonna give you a little background into why I chose this name, first to represent my blog. and second to represent my graphic design business.
During the time that I started Sweet Horizon, I have been out of college for almost a year and had worked a couple of jobs that I enjoyed well enough but I kept feeling like my heart was tugging me in a different direction. I had been blogging off and on for about six years at that point, throughout the time I was in college, pretty much every year changing my name to something different (I don’t know how the heck I thought people were going to keep finding me, but I was definitely still figuring things out), and ultimately I was just struggling with finding an identity both online and as an adult. I knew that I like to blog, I loved the community that I was building, but I really didn’t have a clear direction.
Looking back I was naively optimistic, but the only thing that I kept thinking is that things were somehow going to work out. No matter what path I took or where blogging would ultimately lead me, I had complete faith in the process and what was ahead of me didn’t scare me but rather filled me with hope. I knew that I wasn’t fully happy in what I was currently working on so I was doing some major soul-searching and trying to figure out my true calling. This is completely within my true nature, since I realize that I tend to be over optimistic about life in general. Whatever is meant to be will be, you know? So I was kind of going with the flow and hoping for the best in whatever was ahead of me.
For some reason the word “sweet” kept sticking in my mind and that’s part of the story I can’t really explain. I don’t know why I kept coming back to that word but it always just kind of lingered in the back of my mind. I kept trying to find a word pairing that made sense with the word sweet but all of them sounded a little hokey or reminded me of something else (a.k.a. “the sweet life”, ring a bell for anyone?). I wanted it to represent where I was in life, kind of this limbo of early adulthood where I didn’t know my path yet, but I also wanted it to be optimistic and an encouraging place for people to visit on the internet.
Then it happened. During my countless nights scrolling through Pinterest I came across a quote that said the words, “something sweet is on the horizon”. It was like an aha moment. There it was, this encouraging phrase about looking to the future and being excited for the possibilities that lay ahead. Plus it included that word that had been in the back of my mind. The moment I spoke Sweet Horizon out loud it just felt right.
My next plan of action was to immediately Google it and see if anyone else was using this name for their business. Aside from a seasonal beer, sweet horizon was in the clear. I immediately registered the domain and thus the Sweet Horizon blog was born.
Fast forward almost a year later and I was beginning to hone in on where I wanted my life to head. With a degree in design, I have always loved layouts and web development and I knew that I wanted to start offering my services to fellow bloggers. Again thinking through word pairings like sweet horizon creative, Sweet horizon Design, Sweet Horizon Inc., you name it, none of them had the ring to it like Sweet Horizon Studio. And of course it had my little friend alliteration that makes my heart happy.
Now some of you may be asking yourselves, so what’s up with the mountains in your logo? You guys don’t live in the mountains?
And you’re so right. We currently don’t live in the mountains. We actually live in the piedmont of North Carolina, Raleigh to be exact, but there are several reasons why we chose to use the mountains in our brand and our logo.
The first reason being that I actually grew up right on the Tennessee border of North Carolina, where the Blue Ridge Parkway goes right through my hometown. When I was thinking through a literal sweet horizon and what that meant to me, it was kind of like asking myself where is your happy place. Even though I’ve lived in Raleigh for 10 years now and I adore it here, the rest of my family is still back in the mountains so when I head west towards mountains it is literally like coming home for me. It’s a hard thing to explain but those of you that feel attached to the landscape the surrounds your childhood home will totally get where I’m coming from. My literal sweet horizon was without a doubt the mountain ranges from my hometown.
The second reason I chose mountains kind of branches off the first reason. The Blue Ridge Mountains are one of nature’s true wonders. If you’ve never had a chance to drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway I highly recommend you plan a road trip ASAP. It’s no wonder these mountains have served as inspiration for many artists across all mediums. At the time that I started my business I was really into printmaking and was doing a lot of nature and mountain inspired artwork. The watercolor mountain range in my logo served as a perfect example not I only of my work at that time but also as a representation of the huge inspiration I continually draw from nature.
Things like the mountain range addition to the Sweet Horizon name really come from fleshing out the brand behind the name. Though my style of design and my service offerings have evolved since the creation of Sweet Horizon Studio, there are brand elements that have remained constant. I love bringing a handmade, crafted feeling to all of my graphic design work. Watercolor additions, calligraphy, paper textures, you name it, literally all make my heart sing. I also love incorporating nature or rustic, outdoorsy themes in all of my creations. To me, the watercolor mountains still fully embody that for me.
I’m also forever the optimist and the thought of something sweet always being on the horizon or just ahead of me is still something that resonates with me on a daily basis. No matter what is happening in my personal life or business life I want to always looking ahead with total faith in the process and true excitement for what is ahead of me.
For me, the true take away from all of this is to find a name that isn’t overly trending, that represents everything you want to convey to the world, and that it’s something you believe will embody your business for many years to come. It’s not always an easy thing to do, but once you find that name, I swear the rest just seems to fall into place. Giving your business a name makes it REAL in the best way possible and gives your business an identity that people will start to recognize and love.
If you want a little bit more help and direction when it comes to picking out a name we have a free download as part of our resource library that is a fun name planning tool. It’ll get you thinking about the areas of your business and brand that you want to highlight and will help you start thinking up creative names in no time. If you end up using this or any of our free downloads from our library please tag us on social media so we can see all the fantastic things you guys are creating and we can cheer you on with your new found business identity!
I’d love to know how you picked your current business name or what sort of things you’ve thought about while deciding on a business name! Have you used multiple names during your time in business or have you had the same name since day one? Leave a comment and let us know your experience! We’d love to hear your story.