Hundreds of questions exist when you are first thinking of starting a business.  The first question is likely what my business is going to do in general.  The close second question is what I am going to call my business. Third, is it important what you name your business? Finally, how do you establish a business name?  Giving thought to a business name is important because you will take time and money to establish a brand and get recognition.  We are going to explore all aspects of naming your business in this post, including trademarking it.  This post is part of a larger series about starting your own business.  For more information, see our first post, “Step 1: Starting a Business,” or the complete series on 10 steps to start your short-term rental business.  

Do I need a business name?

Unfortunately, yes, you do need a business name.  To register a business, get business banking, and many other things, you will need to have a name for your business.  Depending on your business, you may hardly ever use your business name. In this case, it does not really matter what name you pick as long as it is not already registered in your state.  For example, Airbnb and VRBO do not ever show the name.  In this case, you really don’t need a fancy trademarked name.  On the other hand, if you are directly selling a product, you will absolutely need a good business name.   This name is going to be part of your brand marketing. 

How to pick a name for your business

Assuming you need a good business name, there are several steps to picking it; this is my preference in order.  First, you will want to do an internet search for the name to see if anyone has it.  You will also want to search for a domain name (Website address) for that.   For example, Relaxing Condos, LLC is our official business name, but our website is RelaxingCondos.com.   To do this, you need to do a DNS lookup.  There are many free tools on the internet to do this.   Once you find a suitable name, you will want to check your state’s small business site to ensure that name is not registered in your state.  At this point, you have a clean name to start your business with.  Before jumping in, get several friends’ opinions of the business name.  The original name for Relaxing Condos was Escape Condos.  In fact, I still have the domain name registered to me.  But upon asking around, I kept getting the response,” … Like the escape rooms?”  No, I was not building condos to be escape/break-out rooms.  So with this feedback, we changed the name to Relaxing Condos because we specialize in vacation rentals.  

How to register your business 

Businesses are registered with their state government.  Before registering your business name, you will need to decide what type of business you are starting.  For a detailed discussion on the various options, see our post on Types of Businesses. Next, you register your business on your state’s small business website.  Also, you will want to register your Domain Name.  I recommend Bluehost (paid) for simple website hosting, email address, and Domain name registration.  They are one of the cheapest web hosts, and their basic package is quite capable.   At this point, you have secured your business name with your state and on the internet.

Do I need to trademark it?

Whether to trademark or not is a difficult question.  When writing this, trademarking costs between $300-$500 and needs to be done every 5 years for a small business.  Trademarking is like copywriting but for business names or products.  Trademarking your business registers your business name, product name, logo, or other symbols with the Federal Government.  This protects your business name in the United States. In addition, you must register in each country of interest.  Many internet companies will help you trademark; I suggest shopping around.  Also not usually included in their price, the US trademark office charges between $250-$350 in addition.

Trademarking is important for a business that advertises and sells a product or service.   It prevents another company from swooping in and taking your name. However, once someone trademarks your business, they are also able to grab your domain name.   The “Good Pillow” controversy is an excellent example of this.  This article, no matter your political view, points out the issues with trademark fights.  If you spend hundreds of hours on branding and thousands of dollars on marketing, make sure you protect yourself with a purchased domain name and trademark.

 Summary

Choosing a name does not need to be difficult, but it is an important first step.  Your business name is going to be registered with the state.  The name will use it in a variety of legal documents and bank accounts.  Trademark your name if that is important.   

Remember, if this sounds overly complicated, Relaxing Condos offers business coaching to get you started with any of your vacation rental business needs.  If you found this useful, please share it on social media using the buttons below. Also, don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Newsletter, Special Hot Tips, and special free gift delivered to your inbox!

— Jake