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Five tips on naming your start-up for impact

By David Cheboryot | April 14th 2015

NAIROBI: Your start-up needs a name, and it may be the most important decision you make. The name of your business has a tremendous impact on how customers and investors view you, and in today’s small world, it’s a decision that extends beyond national borders.

Naming a business is not as simple as you might think. In our work with start-ups at Tangaza, we have had the opportunity to explore this. Business names in Kenya are often created by combining the names of the investors or partners, or using the ‘Mama so-and-so’ model. There are also many other entrepreneurs like the man who named his shop ‘Bump Shop’ because it is located next to a bump.

Many of these enterprises do not inspire the thought, “Oh, what a creative company.” In reality, anyone with even a simple grasp of business will think, “Gosh, another trivial start-up that lacks creativity and imagination.”

Conversely, a great name conveys the opposite of these smug feelings.

Simply put, you want a name that elicits an, “Oh, interesting, tell me more!” when you share it with others. Remember, the name is the first thing that comes out of your mouth each time you pitch your business. It needs to stand out.

Before you name your start-up, ask yourself the following three questions:

• What feeling do you want to evoke in your audience when they hear your name?

• What one objective do you want the name to communicate?

• What idea are you selling?

To help you in the naming process, consider the following five tips.

First, take your time and test out ideas. Just as your start-up idea has likely gone through different iterations, expect the same for your name during the early development phase.

Second, listen to feedback. Start-up founders are frequently encouraged to share their ideas and get feedback. It will produce a better product or service in the end. Follow that same advice for names. If a name is not connecting for several different people, try something new.

Third, research and register domain names. Domain names that directly correlate with the company name or product are becoming hard to find, yet brand experts agree that getting a .com or .co.ke domain name that connects with your brand name should be your first choice.

Fourth, take the naming of your start-up seriously. Logos can change, visuals can change, marketing tactics will change, but the name of your company or product probably won’t.

Fifth, do your due diligence on researching the trade name. Start with a basic Internet search to see if there are trademark issues or if your business will be confused for something else. After that, you may want to hire a lawyer to do a more comprehensive search and then work to protect your name.

— By David Cheboryot, MBA manager, Tangaza University College. To learn more, email [email protected]

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