So you’ve carefully chosen your name, taking into account your core business, the image you want to project, and, possibly, making it something personal to you. So… now what?
Before you start broadcasting to the world that you are XYZ company, you have some more work to do. You need to be unique. You need to make things legal with various levels of government. You need to secure a web presence – even if you’re not ready for a site yet.
all alone out there…
You’ve found the name you love but before you get too emotionally attached to it, make sure you have some backup names because you may not be the only person to come up with your brilliant moniker.
I suggest you start with Google. Google your chosen name and see what comes up (crossing your fingers will not work here… I’ve tried it). If somebody else is using the same name, you’re going to want to go to your second choice. While it may be possible to use the same name if you are operating in a different country or province, it’s not something I would recommend. What if you want to expand or trademark your name? Not to mention the confusion it may cause down the line. You want to be unique. And chances are good, you will not find an available web domain name if somebody else is using the name you have in mind.
you’re not in the clear yet
If Google did not return any results, you are not in the clear yet. The next thing I suggest you do, is check with an on-line domain registry like godaddy.com or domain.ca (if you want to register a .ca domain – something I recommend if you are operating in Canada) to see if your name is already in use. You can find more information and tips on securing a Domain Name on our Choosing a Domain Name page. If your name is available, I strongly suggest you register it immediately. If you have more questions about registering a domain name, please feel free to contact us directly.
informing the authorities
This varies from province to province here in Canada. My frame of reference if BC but I will include links for other provinces at the end of this post. In BC, if you are operating as a sole proprietor (another thing you will need to determine), you are not required to register your business if you are using your own name (for instance, if you are just operating as freelancer Jane Smith) but you are required to register for taxes (GST and PST) and for a municipal business license. If you want to operate under a different name, then you need to have your name approved and registered with the province. They will determine if your name is unique and descriptive enough. Once it’s approved, you will have a specified time period to actually register it. Hopefully at that point, your approved and registered name and the domain names you reserved earlier match!
All of this might sound intimidating but once you are actually going through the process, you will find it’s much easier than you thought. Small Business BC is a MUST visit website if you are starting a business in BC – they will help guide you through the process of naming your business and they provide links to all the resources you will need, including the One Stop Business Registry where you can register your name, register for GST and PST, apply for your municipal business license and for Work Safe – all on-line. It’s a relatively painless process and when I registerd Fine Lime, I did it all on a Saturday afternoon.
Here are some resources to get you started if you are in Canada. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it should be a good starting point. If you are in the US, check with your state goverment’s website for small business registration and licensing. If anybody has more provincial links to add, please feel free to share in the comments!