One of the most important things you can do for your small business is to give it ‘a name that sells’ After you have decided on the business to go into and where to locate it, it’s time to start off, right? Great. The next is to choose Name For Your Small Business and register it. Then let’s ride on.
If you landed here via search or other means, you may like to check out the previous topic in this series: Discover Product Market Fit (PMF)
First off, I detest husband/wife/children business names; you know those businesses where the household combine their initials or parts of their names to form a name for the business. Most of the names are unprofessional and sound lame. I see some private schools with such name and I wonder it’s the same lame reasoning that the proprietor will use in hiring unqualified teachers to teach unsuspecting kids? Not mine.
Moving on, as a small business, I strongly suggest self-explanatory names or names drawn from the industry. Such names are already advertising the business for you and sets you apart as an expert in the industry. Forget about your friends knowing the business is yours. Nobody cares. If you want to massage your ego, start a big corporation like Dangote, ok? When your small business is a success, people will know it’s yours. Trying to use the name combo to make your spouse feel happy? Save that excuse. Just give him/her a flight ticket to Dubai and see real happiness! Till date, people still call me names of my various previous successful businesses.
If your name must be seen, go the Igbo traders style, it works. See names like Okey Honda, Emeka Radiator, Chidi stockfish. But note that these names work better in a market setting, where there are many people selling different things in same industry. For instance Okey Honda in Ikoku or Ladipo Motor Spare parts market sets Mr Okey apart as an expert in Honda car parts while Chidi stockfish will set Mr Chidi apart in a food market as a seller of stockfish.
But if you are in a stand-alone business district, these names may be confusing. Seeing Okey Honda while driving past in GRA, you may begin to wonder, is he selling Honda cars, Honda parts or Honda generators or he may be a Honda mechanic. Maybe the house belongs to Mr Okey whose mother may be Igbo and his dad Mr Honda from Japan. It’s confusing. I strongly suggest you drop your name from your small business. Got my drift?
Self-explanatory names sell themselves, costing you less in branding and advertising (we will look into branding and advertisement as separate topics in subsequent lessons).
Let me give a good example here why self explanatory names and names drawn from the industry are much better for small businesses. (BTW, if your father left you huge money, you can name your business anything and burn the pile of money to brand and advertise it to the top like Coca Cola is doing).
About the time GSM came into Nigeria, I and my brother Gibson Ogoloformed and registered with CAC the name GSM Clinic Nigeria and worked our asses off to turn it into the best mobile phone repair shop in Nigeria in terms of know-how and probably in terms of number of phones repaired per day (sounding our trumpets, lol, but we can prove it).
Now, let’s say a competitors shop is named ChiLin Electronics & Phones (after Mr Chinedu and Linda, his wife) and another named GerVicDaSon Phone Repair Shop (after Mr Gerald, his wife Victoria and their son Daniel, my name sake, hahaha)
Out of the 3, where will you likely take your faulty mobile phones for repairs assuming you don’t know the technical capability of any of the 3 shops and all other things are equal? You see why I strongly suggest self-explanatory names for small businesses?
Again, to get phone unlocking jobs from outside Rivers state, I registered a website Phone-Unlock-Codes.com (sold it some years later) while Mr Wisdom, a competitor somewhere in Lagos was using wisdomunlock.com. That was at the height when Nigeria was seen as a 419 den abroad. But apart from cleaning up the Nigeria market, my website was getting an average of 7 phone unlocking orders per day from around the world, even from countries and territories I never knew existed on earth. On my wedding day I got 6 orders including 2 from Jamaica (of all places, lol). Mr Wisdom shut down soon after while I was earning US dollars. See the difference?
Lets continue. After you have come up with a reasonable name for your business, you proceed to CAC and register it and it becomes yours exclusively. CAC will not register same business name for any other person. Where you use someone’s name without his permission, the rightful owner can sue you and claim damages. Oh! Do you know that due to the popularity of GSM Clinic, there were about 30 different phone repair shops that adopted our name verbatim in Rivers state alone? And I saw a few in Lagos. You may ask, why we didn’t take them to court and claim damages as the rightful owners of the name with CAC. Well, that’s a discussion for another day.
If you so much like a certain business name but it’s been registered with the CAC by somebody or taken on the internet, you may alter the spelling and still register it.
An example. While marketing our Magazine (more about it below) to photo studios to partner with us, I meet Prince Chima Nnokam (now Chief) the proprietor of Redkarpet Photos. That was when they were around UST gate. Now they are at Woji Rd. in GRA snapping gorgeous photos. We got talking and he told me (I think) that the reason he used this spelling Red ‘Karpet’ (sic) was because a certain lady who is into events decor or something like that had already taken and registered the name Red ‘Carpet’ and he simply loved the name, hence he changed his own spelling.
Chief Nnokam is a smart businessman (and politician). His other small business venture is named TILAPIA AND THINGS. What do you think they are into? See another reason self-explanatory names are good for small businesses?
If you intend to expand later by taking the business online, don’t fail to keep an eye on the internet about the same name. It will be very expensive if by the time you take the business online you then find out that the name has been taken on the internet. You may be surprised that even when the name is available to register with CAC in Nigeria, it may have been taken on the internet. So think it over if it’s ideal to change or adjust the name by altering the spelling.
Consider registering the name on the internet same time you are registering with CAC in Nigeria and keep it for use later. There is a quick money making trend on the internet called Domain Parking. People just sit at home and register names on the internet that they are not using but know people will love. They resell such names at outrageous profits when those that will be desperate for it comes calling. I registered gsmclinic.com for less than $10 USD. I sold it for $300 USD when I didn’t need it again because I advertised it for sale. Domain Parkers would have waited and sold it for about $1000 or more because it’s a prime name.
WARNING: Globalization has come to stay and the internet has made it faster. Businesses that don’t go on the internet may likely close shop within the next decade due to various factors. Position yourself and your business on the internet now. Thank me later.
Continuing. Let me give my own experience why you need to check your business name on the internet before registering with CAC. I dabbled into magazine publication sometime (again with my brother Gibson) and was trying to give it traction with facebook. The magazine was initially named Red Carpet Magazine and I didn’t bother checking up the name online. Not upto 2 weeks I got an email from the lawyers of Red Carpet, a magazine in USA, asking me to shut down the Facebook Page as they own the website domain name. The next day Facebook sent me similar email (obviously, Red Carpet may have threatened Facebook who in turn reached out to me). Ha!. What did I do? I switched to Runway Magaizine (it’s obvious now the magazine was all about the fashion industry, right? You see how self-explanatory names sell themselves?).
Do you know we didnt also research this name? Again another Magazine from the west wrote us. Out of Frustration, we changed it to Runway Magazine Africa. Even this is wrong, but we hid behind “We dey our house, come and beat us” mentality. But we couldn’t get the real name we wanted
But the name switches came at a cost. All the designs we made based on the previous name, we had to redo them all. How costly would it have been if we had published our maiden edition and then had to change our name?
So go ahead and choose a name for your small business and register it at once with CAC (and possibly on the internet). If you are confused or need assistance, say so in the comments section and tell me your business and I can suggest names for you. If you want, I can even join your grand father’s name, hahahaha.
This has gotten much longer than I envisaged. But this is to tell you how important self explanatory names are for small businesses and why you need to research them properly then register with CAC.
Next time, we will look at the heart and soul of every business – MARKETING. Till then, I will be answering your questions in the comments. Though we ended up discussing Small Business Setup