One of the first steps to starting a new business is finding a name that is right for you. There are a lot of things to keep in mind and it’s easy to lose track of something important while you’re busy brainstorming ideas. So to help keep you moving in the right direction, here are 4 questions to help you find the perfect business name.

Who’s going to see it?

Every business is different, and as such, every business will have slightly different needs when it comes to their name. If your company does not do business directly with customers, for example if it is a shell corporation, it is possible that you will not need a name at all. In this case, you may be best served by incorporating as a numbered company. This means that the government of whichever jurisdiction you incorporate under will select an identifying number for your corporation ie. 1234567 Canada Inc. Note that in certain instances numbered companies will still be required to register an operating name.

But if your corporation is interacting directly with customers, suppliers, or retailers, you will most likely want a name that you can market and advertise: a brand that you can cultivate and grow. Any business name should attempt to strike a balance between creativity and professionalism, but precisely where you fall on this spectrum will depend on the demographic you are marketing to primarily. For example, if you are selling products to retailers, they may be more inclined to buy from a business that sounds more legitimate, and as such you should prioritize professionalism. Conversely, if you are opening a coffee shop, you might persuade passersby to stop in by use of an interesting and quirky name. Both professionalism and creativity should be incorporated in your name choice, but consider your customer before leaning towards one over the other.

Is it Formatted Properly?

Your company name should contain both a distinctive term and a descriptive term. The distinctive term sets your brand apart from the competition, and the descriptive term lets your consumers know what product or service you are offering. Both are important for helping customers find your corporation. Take, for example, the brand name “Banana Computing.” If the company were merely called “Banana,” customers would be confused as to what you are offering; and if the company were called “Computing,” your brand would be lost amid the myriad of search results from others selling similar products.

However, not any combination of a distinctive and descriptive term is acceptable; your name must comply with certain legal requirements. Most of these requirements are pretty straight-forward and understandable. Your name cannot contain profanity, it cannot appear to impersonate a government department or a university/college, it cannot contain a word suggesting it offers professional services (ie. lawyers, accountants etc.) unless it registers as a professional corporation, it cannot contain a long string of numbers (you already had your chance to choose a numbered company!), and it cannot be unduly long.

After you’ve found your descriptive and distinctive term, you’ll need to add a legal ending. This is the “Ltd.” or “Incorporated” that goes at the end of the name. There is no legal distinction between an “Inc.,” a “Ltd.,” and a “Corp.,” so choose whichever one you like best.

Is it available?

You cannot select a business name that is already in use. Before attempting to incorporate under your chosen name, you should run a NUANS search to check whether this name is available. Better yet, you can use Founded's free business name search tool to check if someone has already registered your preferred name. Business registration is not like a username or email: getting it approved is not as simple as adding a few numbers to the end or changing the spelling. Each name must be significantly distinct from every other corporation. So when devising ideas, try to be as original as possible.

Founded's Free Business Name Search Tool 🔎
Founded's Free Business Name Search Tool 🔎

Do you like it?

The final question that you should ask yourself before committing to a business name is “Do I even like this name?” This name is going to appear on every document you ever file and every transaction you will ever make, so don’t torture yourself with a name you hate looking at day after day. But mistakes happen, preferences change, maybe a name that once sounded good has lost its lustre, don’t worry, you don’t have to be stuck with it forever. A corporation can file an amendment to their Articles of Incorporation and have their name changed. If you decide to do this, keep in mind that you may lose some of the progress you have made in establishing your brand unless you effectively communicate the name change to your customers.

What Next?

So you’ve got your name, you like it, it’s available, it’s appropriate for your line of business, what next? Founded lets you take your idea from a name to a fully incorporated business in just a few minutes. You can get started right here. We'll take care of all your government filings, including a full NUANS registration to keep your business name safely locked down, as well as your legally required Organization Documents.