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ByteStart’s Start-Up Guide – Part 4 – Choosing a name for your small business

October 11, 2011

Whatever business you want to set up, the name you choose to represent your enterprise will be the first thing potential customers will notice about you. Therefore, your name should be memorable from the outset.

When choosing a name for your business, you need to do some forward thinking. Although you may be clear about the services you plan to offer from the outset, you may well expand your operation, so your choice of name should be ‘future proofed’ to take this into account.

Check to see whether you can use your business name

You will also need to know that there are certain rules and restrictions on the names you can use. These restrictions apply to sole traders as well as limited companies. Naturally, you must not use trademarks in your business name either.

For limited companies, all records are held centrally with Companies House. When you set up a company, you will be able to see if your name is available, and guidance is provided to ensure you do not include ‘disallowed’ expressions in your chosen name. Your name must not be too similar to another one already in use.

You can always ask a company formations agent to do this on your behalf, or try ByteStart’s partner Duport.

For sole trader business names, there is no central register, however you should use the internet to check if there are other businesses already operating under similar names to the name you have in mind. If there is, think again.

Protecting your business name

To safeguard the future, it may be beneficial to register your business name as a trademark.

Researching trademarks will also ensure you don’t use any that are already in use. For example, calling your business “Microsoft Web Design UK” may not be the most intelligent name to choose!

Also, if you’re going to do any business overseas, make sure you translate any names on your list into foreign languages, to minimise the chances of insulting potential customers!

Business names and the web

These days, most small businesses will benefit from creating a web presence. Even if you do not plan on selling online, you should create a simple web presence so that customers can contact you and find out more about what you offer.

For this reason, we recommend you search for possible web addresses at the same time you choose your business name. In an ideal world, they will match.

You can do this by logging on to any domain selling website and entering your preferred business name. You’ll know soon enough if your name is available – we recommend you purchase both the .co.uk and .com variants of your domain name if possible.

You may have heard that it is worth trying to insert the main words from your business name into your domain name, e.g. london-wembley-roofers.co.uk, but at ByteStart, we’re not so sure.

In days gone by, search engines may have directed more visitors to websites with such names, but it is certainly a less significant factor these days. You are better of ensuring that your business name is memorable and appropriate to your business needs.

On to ByteStart’s Start-Up Guide – Part 5 – Why you need a business plan
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