Choose a Business Name


Choose a Business Name

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Choose your business name

Choosing a name for your business is both important and not important at the same time. Let’s consider the trillion dollar business, Apple, whose products we use in our everyday life and business. When they first started, nobody knew who they were or what they really stood for. Throughout the years, they have grown their brand into a household name that will likely be around for many years to come.

The reason why it isn’t necessarily a death sentence if you choose a name that doesn’t seem “right” or “descriptive enough” is because over time your brand will grow and your name will become more recognizable. Remember, Facebook was once just a funny word, now 50% of the world’s population has an account on their website. When naming your business, you should choose something that represents what your business stands for, is memorable, and doesn’t limit yourself. Let’s explore this more:

State naming guidelines

Every state is a little different when it comes to naming businesses. In Iowa, you have two different places where you can register your business (submitting a business name), and they both have different forms, fees, and tax implications behind them. In Iowa, if you want to register your business as an LLC (Limited Liability Company), you must include LLC at the end of the name. If you aren’t sure if your business name is already taken, you can search for incorporated businesses who may have similar names to yours. 

If you for some reason won’t be filing to register your business fairly soon, you have the option of reserving your business name with the Secretary of State. Though this isn’t always advised by IASourceLink or our partners, however, if your team feels this is a necessary step to getting the business name you desire, you can submit the application to the Fast Track Filing System. Check out the Iowa Secretary of State’s Understanding Name Availability in Iowa article for more information on what names are okay and which ones aren’t.

If you are wanting to register as something like a Sole Proprietorship, using something like a trade name, you would do so with your county recorder’s office. A trade name is a name under which any person or partnership engages in business activity using other than their true name(s). You may have heard this called a DBA, or Doing Business As. Essentially, the trade name informs the public “who” they are doing business with but doesn’t reserve any rights to the name itself. LLCs and other corporations in the state do not file for a trade name.

Avoid similarities to competitors

When naming your business, it is important to research what your potential competitors are named. You really don’t want to name your business something that is too similar to theirs so as to cause confusion between you two. If there is another business with the same name as yours, even if it’s in the same city, technically, you can still have the same name IF you aren’t in the same industry or provide similar products and services. If you register your business with the Secretary of State you may be notified if your business name is too similar to another in their system.

Easily pronounced and spelled

How many businesses have you come across and haven’t been able to pronounce their name “correctly” right away? This type of confusion may not bode well for your business branding, especially when customers try to spell out the name for friends or family members. Sometimes we can’t help it – especially when we use something like a last name for the business name. Whatever you decide for your business name, make sure you consider these factors.

Web friendly

In a modern economy, we must have an online presence. This can include things such as social channels, a website or two, advertising on search engines, and so much more. If your business name is too long or doesn’t stand out on a screen, you may find difficulty finding traction online. Something else to keep in mind, is that it isn’t a requirement that you purchase a domain name that is the same as your business name. 


Your business name is John Doe’s Awesome Greenhouses, LLC.


The domain name, is available, however, it’s 29 characters long. Although the domain name is an accurate representation of your business, having that many characters to type in increases the chances that a customer will mess up and become frustrated. This type of frustration could lead to less visits to your website and/or customers believing you may be inactive or out of business. In this instance, it may be appropriate to shorten your domain name to something like

Memorable but not too unique

We are introduced to thousands of headlines, emails, videos, and advertisements everyday in both our professional and personal lives. Sometimes it can almost feel overwhelming seeing and learning about new and interesting things. This is why it is very important that we choose a business name that is unique enough that they will remember it, but not too unique that they will easily forget it. 

Consistent with your brand

Branding is a huge deal in business. How your customers view you, your products, your services, your employees, and your willingness to go the extra mile – all matters. In the beginning, your brand is virtually nonexistent. As you grow, your name will become more ingrained with the image people associate with your brand. It is ok to name your business after something that you do, but if you name your home renovation business, “Rustic Remodels”, and you make a transition to making office spaces more “modern”, your name may not match up with what you are known for anymore.

Not limiting

Using the example from before, John Doe’s Awesome Greenhouses, LLC, your business name is very specific to what you produce: greenhouses. But what happens when you venture out and begin selling seeds or planters to your customers to use in the greenhouses you build? What if you begin tilling gardens for people? The name you originally chose signifies you only build greenhouses, but now, you do so much more. If you had named your business something like John Doe’s Greenworks, it gives off the idea that you provide a variety of green/outdoor related services. This same idea can be applied to using your city’s name, such as Des Moines TV Club. What happens if you decide to offer your services in Ames? Would you change your name in that city to Ames TV Club? You could, but the branding that you built up in Des Moines would be essentially watered down. Consider naming your business Iowa TV Club or maybe even Midwest TV Club in case you leave the state.


Iowa Small Business Development Centers LogoSBDC Quick Tip:  Don’t be paralyzed trying to pick the perfect name.  Do your homework, but don’t let picking a name be an obstacle you cannot overcome.  Many businesses evolve over time and need to rebrand – changing everything from their logo to messaging to business name.  


Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have questions about conducting market research? You should consider checking out our Resource Navigator. It houses the contact information of 400 of our most helpful partners from across the state, like the Small Business Development Centers, who provide no-cost confidential assistance to Iowa entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Ideally, it is best if your domain name matches your business name. This can help with branding and make it easier for customers to find your website online. However, there is no requirement that your domain name and business name match. Having a logical connection between your business name and domain name will ensure customers can find you online.

Things to generally avoid would be unconventional spellings, locations and specialty.

Including search keywords in your business name can be helpful for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, but it is not a requirement. In fact, using search keywords in your business name can make it sound forced or awkward, which could actually hurt your brand.

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