Frankly Speaking: It’s all in the name (or how to name a small business)

Frankly Speaking name commercial lease hospitality

Source: Private Media

I’ve always had a real thing about names. I’ve named everything from new products and campaigns to friends’ pets. As a teenager, I used to read baby name books for fun, write down names I liked in a little notebook and to this day am forever looking up the etymology behind new names I discover.

There’s a real instinct to crafting a good name — vowel placement, rhythm, melody — all have to be carefully balanced to result in a name that just feels right. It’s got to feel like a little song every time you say it.

To me, an idea is never fully formed until it has a name. 

And so it was that here we were, chasing down an empty butcher shop for an idea we’d had forever, and yet we didn’t know what to call it.

But drawing on my professional experience, I knew there were three key areas from where we could draw some inspiration for the new name.

1. Linguistics

Language-inspired names can inspire layers of meaning and help build a backstory.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Are there any key words connected to your industry or profession?
  • Are there words from your cultural background that reflect what your business does or how you want it to feel?
  • Is there any specialised vocabulary that you use day-to-day?

2. Geography

Geographically inspired names help tie you to a place or community.

Themes to consider:

  • The street or suburb location (e.g. Parkville Store, Gill Street Cafe);
  • The area or region (e.g. Westside, Northern);
  • The surroundings (e.g. Market Lane Coffee, Off The Pier Fish & Chips); and
  • Geographical features (e.g. Parkside, Riverview, Hilltop).

3. History

Historically inspired names help honour the past and keep it alive.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What’s the history of the region or area you’re in?
  • Who used to live or work in the building?
  • What are significant historical moments in your industry?
  • Can you draw on old history or mythology for inspiration?

Of the three, opting for a name that draws on history is by far the most powerful. Why? To run a successful brand, I truly believe that it comes down to effectively connecting with your customers. 

No matter your niche, you are in the people business, not the product business, and one of the best ways to connect with your future customers is through effective storytelling. By choosing a name that draws on history, you have a narrative already built in. 

Hello, Two Franks

So, how did we land on our own new business name?

When our family first arrived to Reynard Street in Coburg, the butcher across the road was named Frank.

Sixteen years ago, he finished up and handed the keys over to another butcher, who coincidentally, was also named Frank.

So, while our family has been in the neighbourhood, there’s not just been one Frank across the road, but two Franks.

We really wanted to honour the shop’s long history and the people who had endeared themselves to the community for so many years. With that, our new little name was born.

So you’ve chosen your business name, now what?

The reality is, you can land on the perfect name, the one that sounds melodic, that feels good, that says everything you want it to say about your brand, and still run into hurdles.

Namely (pun unintended), is it already taken? In the booming world of side hustles, you might find that your dream moniker has already been nabbed by someone else. 

Before you emotionally commit to your new brand name, here’s a few steps to take first:

Give it a Google

What appears when you Google your potential new business name? Does it have any negative connotations or search results? Are there established brands out there already that you would be competing with?

Consider how broad your business will be

If there’s a small business with the same name as yours on the other side of the world, but you’re both intent on being hyperlocal, it’s likely not going to be an issue sharing a similar name.

If however, you have aspirations of shipping or trading internationally, it may be worth putting in the time to come up with a name that’s truly unique. 

Bonus points if you’re going to be targeting an international market that you try to find out whether your brand name will translate into something unsavoury in another language. 

Check social media 

To ensure you own your name in as many online spaces as possible, have a quick look on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok and see who and what might be using your intended brand name (or similar). 

It’s likely that the name you’ve chosen is already taken on at least one of these platforms. In that case, you may need to add an additional word or two — for us @twofranks was already taken, so we went with @twofrankscoburg to more firmly tie us to our neighbourhood. 

The nitty gritty

Once you’ve found a name that ticks all the above boxes, you need to register it. There are two parts to this — an Australian Business Number (ABN) and a Business Name (or “Trading As” name). Your ABN is like a parent and can be used across various ventures, while your business name is for one specific venture. You can’t share an ABN name or business name with any other company in Australia.

While it can be a challenge to find something unique, sometimes, that presents an opportunity to fall into an even better name. For us, we had originally started at simply calling the business “Frank” or “Franks”, but with those taken we opted for Two Franks, which we’ve really come to love. 

Naming your business is an exciting step in any new venture. It’s the first move from idea to reality and can help you bolster your confidence and visualise your brand. If you’re thinking of starting your own new business, start taking note of the brands around you, which names you like and which you don’t and ask yourself “why?”.

From there, a picture starts to form and you’ll have your new name before you know it. 

Chryssie Swarbrick is a writer, small-business-juggler and mum of two. She is currently documenting her adventures in opening a cafe, Two Franks, opposite her childhood home.

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