So you want to start a business. Most likely one of the first steps in doing so will be choosing a name. When it comes to small business, a name can make or break your business! In an ideal world, you’d like the name you chose to be a valid representation of your industry know-how, value and individuality.
There are as many schools of thought regarding business names as there are names. Some like abstract words or phrases, some prefer informative names that automatically signal the nature of the business or product, some think that made up word without meaning are more memorable and resonate more with the public. Use wordplay, be simple, use puns, avoid puns, use your name, and avoid your name…. the debates continue and each stand is arguable. For every argument there is a counter argument.
The few things that everyone will agree on is that you avoid misspellings, abbreviations, profanities, offensive undertones, negative double meanings, geographic limitations (in case you want to expand to other states / countries) and copycatting. The more your name communicates to consumers about your business, the less work you’ll have to put in by explaining what it is you do or sell.
When it comes to your business and its identity there are a few questions you must ask and answer:
- Do you want to fit in or stand out?
- What will the logo look like?
- How will the name you chose look on business cards, advertisements, on your website?
- Does it distinguish you from your competitors?
- What will your domain name be? Will it be available?
- Is your name searchable?
- Is your name too limiting and are you thinking of the future? (i.e. don’t limit yourself to a name that only speaks of one product as you may want to expand your range later)
- Is the name relatable, understandable and pronounceable?
- Does the name appeal to not only you, but also to your potential customers?
Types of names*:
Brand names typically fall into several different categories:
Acronyms and Initials
Names created from the initials of longer names: IBM, M&M (for Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie).
Names created by taking parts of words and putting them together: Nabisco (National Biscuit Company).
Alliteration and Rhyme
Fun to say, and particularly memorable: Nutter Butter, YouTube, Piggly Wiggly.
Use the idea for one thing and apply it to another: Caterpillar, Reebok.
Descriptive names ascribe to the product a characteristic: Toys R Us, General Motors.
Invoke a vivid image that alludes to a brand benefit: London Fog, Amazon.
A completely new made-up word: Kodak, Verizon.
Use a foreign word or phrase as a brand name: Volvo for “I roll”.
Use the name of a founder of founder family member: Hewlett-Packard, Wendy’s.
Use a founder’s nickname: Adidas aka Adolf Dassler, Kinkos.
Base the name on ingredients: Clorox for chlorine plus sodium hydroxide, Pepsi for the digestive enzyme pepsin.
Chose a name associated with company/product location: eBay for East Bay, Fuji for the tallest mountain in Japan.
For a name with personality: Yahoo!, Cracker Jack.
When two companies merge into one, sometimes both names are kept: ExxonMobil, Rolls Royce.
Use alternative spellings for common sounds: 2(x)ist, Krispy Kreme.
Create a character or adopt an existing personage: Green Giant, Midas Mufflers.
Use a sound associated with a product function or other brand idea: Twitter, Meow Mix.
Names don’t have to be just a word or two: Seven for All Mankind, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.
*source – Wikipedia
- One of the longest, and strangest, company names in Australia is the letter A repeated 91 times, followed by a space, then B Pty Ltd
- Some of the shortest business names in Australia include 9 Pty Ltd and V Pty Ltd
- The first company to be registered in Australia was the Grand United Friendly Society Limited registered in 1848
- A company name cannot be longer than 200 characters
Now down to business!
Once you chose the right name for your business you must do a business name search and check the business name availability.
You can do so quickly and easily by simply entering the name in the search field here http://www.shelcom.com.au/businessnames. Within seconds you will see if the business name is available for use.
Certain words and phrases cannot be used in company names without the approval of a specified Minister or government agency. Words that cannot be used include:
‘chamber of commerce’, and
You also cannot use words suggesting a misleading connection with government, the Royal Family or an ex-servicemen’s organisation. These restrictions make sure that a company’s name does not mislead people about its activities.
ASIC may also refuse to register certain names if they are considered offensive or suggest illegal activity.
Using an ACN (Australian Company Number) as a business name:
It is not necessary to give your company a name. The name of your company on registration can be its ACN, the unique number given by ASIC once a company registers.
You can select to use the ACN as your company name when you complete the ACN application and you won’t have to nominate a name.
Reserving a name
Shelcom provides this service and makes this process easy.
If you want to make sure that your intended name cannot be taken by another person before you are ready to register it as a company, you can reserve the name. If the name is approved it can be reserved it for two months.
You may apply to extend the two month period by lodging a second application with the fee. This second application must be lodged before the first two-month reservation period has passed. ASIC will not indefinitely reserve a name if it prevents other people from legitimately using the name.
Some additional business name FAQ’s
Can I register a business name in every state and territory of Australia?
Provided the name you wish to register is available in each jurisdiction, you will be able to register the same name is each state.
Will a business name provide me with limited liability?
As a registered business name is not a legal entity, there is no personal protection for the owners should the business be unable to pay it’s debts or if the business is sued.
Are there ongoing fees associated with registering a business name?
For each state and territory in Australia there is a requirement to pay a once off registration fee which is for a defined period of time (1, 3 or 5 years depending on the jurisdiction). Once this period has ceased, you need to pay an additional fee to continue with the use of the name.
How long does it take to register a business name?
A business name can be registered over the counter at local consumer affairs offices around Australia on the same day. If you send your application by post or through an agent, it may take up to a week to be processed and approved.
Can a company be the owner of a business name?
Yes, a company, individual or both may be the proprietors of a business name.
If I own a business name, can I register a company with the same name?
Yes. Only the owner of the business name is allowed to register a company with the same name.