Naming your company can make starting your own business feel official. This is the fun part, right? But the pressure to think of a word or phrase that conveys your brand message, translates, and is 100% original leads many founders to frustration and creative block—and turns a task that seems like it should be NBD into a BFD.
So we asked eight small business owners and entrepreneurs with cool company names how exactly they came up with their winning ideas. Check out their insights, tips, and takeaways for naming your business below.
1. Introverted Alpha
Introverted Alpha is a dating service for the man who “has a strong sense of himself and enjoys the world through his own quiet lens,” says founder Sarah Jones.
When Jones launched the company in 2014, it initially had another name – until a friend suggested a new idea:
“I was at a friend’s house while he was making dinner for us,” Jones says. “He was a dating coach as well. I told him that I had started a site that week called The Attractive Introvert. As I was telling him all about it – I never will forget it – he turned around, spoon in hand, and said, ‘Have you ever considered naming it, The Introverted Alpha? I think a lot of men would connect with that.’ I got so excited. It felt 100% right to me, and I bought the domain name immediately.”
The company name is so unique that it alone is a conversation starter.
“People are so intrigued by it,” Jones says. “If I’m at a party and someone asks me what I do, I know I’ll be talking about it for a while because they have so many questions. A common response is, ‘Isn’t that an oxymoron?’ Not at all! Some of the quietest men are the strongest leaders.”
The takeaway: Ask friends for their suggestions, especially if they’re in your target audience.
2. Squatty Potty
Squatty Potty is one of the most successful products to come out of the show, Shark Tank. And its name says it all: It’s a toilet stool that helps you squat for an easier bathroom experience.
But the name didn’t come right away.
At first, founder Bill Edwards and his family debated choosing a name that highlights the health benefits of the stool. Contenders included Health Step, Go Easy, and Smooth Move. They also considered taking a more humorous approach with names like Poop Stoop and Shit Shelf.
Then came the pivotal event.
“My mom was traveling in China when a tour guide says, ‘We have two types of toilets: the Western toilet that you are all used to, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can use the squatty potty,’ which was essentially a hole in the ground,” Edwards says. “Immediately the name struck her and she texted me with it. Squatty Potty!”
Edwards went to check if the trademark and URL were available, and the rest is history.
The takeaway: Consider certain phrases that are already in use – even in other parts of the world. They may resonate with your audience and be available for purchase.
KinkyCurlyYaki sells premium textured hair extensions for black women – and the name represents the textures they sell.
“It’s composed of two textures typically used to describe afro hair: kinky and curly,” says founder Vivian Kaye. “‘Yaki’ is a term used in the beauty supply industry to describe afro hair when straightened. Fun fact: Back in the day, they used to use yak hair to mimic afro hair straightened and that’s how it became known as yaki.”
For Kaye, the inspiration came right away.
“It was the first and only name I had in mind,” she says. “I wanted a name that said exactly what we were about and that our customers would recognize. In our niche, it’s synonymous with kinky textured hair as we were the first company to only sell kinky textures back in 2012.”
As a pioneer, KinkyCurlyYaki is recognized as the market leader in its niche. In fact, the name has been so successful that people use it as a noun and other companies have tried to copy it.
The takeaway: Don’t beat around the bush. If you’re offering products exclusively, put them in your name to tell customers exactly what you offer.
4. Spruce Springclean
“The name came from myself and my father-in-law,” says cofounder Steve Todd. “We both enjoy music and were thinking of names that would attract attention, be well remembered, and hopefully cause a certain amount of hilarity among people. We did stumble across a few possible business names associated with music and musicians, like Dusty Springclean, but we both laughed so much when we hit jointly on Spruce Springclean that we decided it had to be that.”
The name was an immediate hit with customers and non-customers alike.
“People were phoning up in fits of laughter stating that they love the name,” Steve says. “It brightens their day up, it’s easily remembered, and it fits the business perfectly. All in all, it’s proved to be a great business name.”
The takeaway: Have fun with it. A little pun never hurt anybody. Well, as long as The Boss is okay with it, of course.
5. Kirrin Finch
Laura and Kelly Moffat were on a mission to “make ready-to-wear clothing that embodied the tomboy spirit, inspired from menswear designs but crafted to fit the range of female bodies.”
They just needed a name to match that vision.
“It took over nine months,” says Laura. “We each brainstormed various names based on different themes, including things like our names, famous and fictional tomboys, clothing descriptors, and anything that had some relevance to what our company vision was and the genesis of the company.”
They narrowed it down to a list of five names: Undainty Society, Crisp & Dash, Kirrin Finch, Fine Fettle, and Hart & Sleeve. They then conducted a survey with potential customers to get their feedback about the names. Their questions included:
- What do you like or not like about the name?
- Which name best aligns with our mission?
- What associations do you have with each name and what emotions does each name evoke?
“Hart & Sleeve” was the winning name, but it was actually tough to get due to trademark issues. So they went with their audience’s second favorite: Kirrin Finch.
“It was inspired by iconic fictional tomboys: Georgina Kirrin from The Famous Five series and Scout Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird,” Moffat says. “Both of these characters embrace the tomboy spirit and are not constrained by society’s views of how a woman should behave and dress.”
The founders are happy with their ultimate choice and they get a lot of compliments on the name.
“People often think it is a person, which was actually our intention,” Moffat says. “We wanted it to feel like someone you would want to know – approachable but also classy and unique.”
The takeaway: Survey potential customers with your best ideas. After all, they’re the ones who will be aligning themselves with your brand and hopefully advocating for your products.
6. Coloured Raine
When brainstorming names for her cosmetics brand Coloured Raine, founder Loraine R. Dowdy relied on feedback from one, exclusive group: her family.
“They know me better than anyone,” she says. “I feel that getting too many people involved in such a big decision can make things more complicated. It’s good to keep your research group to a very controlled environment and make sure the ones in your environment understand the end goal that is best for you.”
She ultimately chose Coloured Raine because it best represents who she is and what she desires for her customers.
“I knew the mission of my company would be to bring color to everyone, from every walk of life, which led to my choice of ‘Coloured,'” she says. “I added ‘Raine’ to the end as it is part of my first name, what my close friends and family call me, and an extension of me opening up to my consumers.”
The takeaway: Get personal by adding your own name – or a derivation of it – to your company’s identity.
7. Tipsy Elves
What would happen if some elves had a little too much to drink and took over Santa’s factory? Well, they’d probably create a bunch of zany and unique products. That’s exactly what’s offered by Tipsy Elves, a retail company that started selling holiday apparel and expanded to “outfit you for life’s greatest moments,” as cofounder Evan Mendelsohn says.
“The name came from a 2011 conversation between me and our other cofounder, Nick Morton,” Mendelsohn adds. “We were brainstorming names over the phone and trying a few different iterations that involved Christmas (which was our first collection) and that would also capture the wild and crazy nature of our products.”
They quickly landed on “elves,” and then just had to find the right adjective to go with it. “Wild”? No. “Crazy”? No.
“Once we said ‘Tipsy Elves’ out loud, we immediately fell in love with the name and the way it sounded,” Mendelsohn says. “It stuck and we never turned back.”
The takeaway: Tell a story with your business name. Think about where your products come from, what your mission is, and how you want people to feel when they encounter your brand.
8. Geek Girl Strong
Geek Girl Strong founder Robyn Warren knew she wanted to build a health coaching service for “women, girls, and gender-nonconforming folks who have geeky interests – a group that has usually been neglected by the fitness and wellness world.”
It just took her some time to come up with the name. But inspiration struck in one fell swoop when she attended an event within her target community.
“One very big influence was attending Geek Girl Brunch meet-up events,” Warren says. “I took inspiration from a community that was already in existence, which I believed in.”
Now she needed to put her own spin on the “geek girl” brand. And she did it with one, powerful word.
“Rather than focusing on ‘fit,’ the term ‘strong’ felt a better description of what I aspire to,” Warren says. “It’s a holistic approach that considers and includes exercise, nutrition, and mental/emotional health.”
The takeaway: Immerse yourself in the community you’re trying to reach. Attend their events, draw inspiration from their creations, and find new ways to empower them.
Now it’s your turn: How did you come up with a name for your business? Let us know in the comments!