Over the last week, I’ve spoken to no less than a dozen soapmakers who were held up in the process of starting their soap business because they couldn’t choose a business name! Many of these soapmakers already had ideas for branding aesthetics and product line themes. Some of these soapmakers even knew exactly who their target market was and how they could reach them! Since all of them were stuck in the same old place of picking out a name for their soap companies, they couldn’t move forward with the bigger and better parts of starting a soap business. Uh-oh!
It’s no secret that I’ve owned two separate soap companies, and had a hand in naming a slew of other projects, events, and products. My first company, Amathia Soapworks, was inspired by Greek mythology and named for a nereid who was mentioned in Homer’s Iliad. Amathia carried thematic elements of mythology and the sea, down to product names, copywriting, and brand aesthetics. Towards the end of Amathia’s business existence, I often dropped the “soapworks” part of the name and kept it simple. (I closed Amathia Soapworks in 2013 to focus on Modern Soapmaking, by the way!)
My second soap company, Gratitude Soapery, was named for it’s purpose in feeling, sharing, and giving gratitude through the craft of soapmaking. Gratitude Soapery’s main goal was to positively impact the local community through soapmaking. For every bar of soap purchased, a dollar was placed in a separate fund to create donation soaps. Over the year I operated Gratitude, I donated thousands of bars of soap to local shelters and organizations. Every quarter, I taught soapmaking to domestic violence survivors, single mothers recovering from drug addiction, and so many other fabulous and strong women who could benefit from the craft of soapmaking. (Gratitude Soapery still exists to this day, however, it’s in the loving hands of two fabulous fellas from California.)
It may seem like naming my two soap companies was an easy and quick task, but I assure you, I agonized over them, too! In the end, I loved the business names I chose (and still do!). My goal is to help you tackle this beast, too.
How to Choose a Soap Business Name
In order to help you narrow down a stellar business name for your soap company, I figured it would be helpful to talk about the process I went through for naming both of my soap businesses as well as a slew of other things! Ready? Let’s go!
Step 1: Brainstorm Ideas
When you choose your business name, you should have a good idea of what your brand will encompass, including:
- What products you will be making
- Who you will be selling those products to
- Why they will buy what you are selling
- How you will be selling your products
These crucial considerations will help guide you in choosing a soap business name, and skipping over them can cause brand confusion and disconnection in your brand messaging later. For instance, if you decide to niche down to making skincare products with coffee or bath and body products with a literary theme, it wouldn’t make sense to name your company “Bluebonnet Soap & Sundries”, now would it?
Start off by answering those key questions, and diving into the specifics of branding before nailing down a name. If you need help understanding your brand, I’ve created a free branding challenge that can help you get a little closer.
Once you’ve figured out the basic skeleton of who you want your brand to be, make a list of ideas that you have, including any themes, inspiration, or desires for the brand aesthetic or messaging. Think about your soap company’s target market, what will make your company or your products unique, and what your value proposition is. Brainstorm any keywords, phrases, or ideas that come to mind.
Step 2: Expand Your List
Once you’ve rocked out a list of keywords and phrases that speak to your brand’s core values, positioning, and messaging, you’ll want to shoot for the moon and expand that list. Use a thesaurus, like Thesaurus.com to find synonyms and broaden your options.
Another amazing tool to put to work in choosing your business name is Bust a Name. You can add all of your current keywords and phrases to the tool, and see suggestions for more keywords or phrases.
Then, Bust a Name will show you the available domain names for your keyword list, which kills two birds with one stone by combining various words and checking the domain availability.
You can also use Lean Domain Search to get more ideas based on your keywords and what’s available for domains out there! Another tool that can be helpful is Wordoid, which will create fictitious words from a list of keywords or phrases.
From your list of keywords and phrases, start working your magic in combining them into possible business names and brainstorming other ideas. When you are done, you should have at least 100 different combinations and ideas!
Step 3: Narrow it Down
Once you’ve created your Giant List of Business Name Possibilities, it’s time to narrow it down. Don’t worry, the hardest part is over! While narrowing down your list into a single choice for your new soap company’s name is a chore, it’s not as hard as getting started. (Go ahead, let out that big sigh of relief!)
For each business name possibility on your list, ask these questions:
- Is this name short and memorable? Super long names or ones that are hard to remember are going to be difficult for your customers to recall, which means you will become harder to find.
- Is this name difficult to spell or pronounce? Just like names being short and memorable, you want to make sure they can spell them from sound. If they try to Google your soap business from a recommendation or introduction to your company, will they find you? Consider the traditional spelling systems of the native language of your brand (in the USA, that would be English) and the sound symbolism of that language. Don’t toss an extra letter into a spelling just to be unique!
- How does the name sound? A good business name will roll off your tongue, which is why alliteration and other literary devices are commonly used.
- How does this name look in print or online? If it’s a multi-word name, are there any hidden surprises when you smash the words together? (Consider Who Represents versus whorepresents.com, which is one of many unfortunate real world examples.)
- What imagery and emotions does this name evoke? When you think about the name, does the image and emotions it conveys match up with your branding work? You don’t want a stuffy corporate sounding name if your business isn’t a stuffy corporation!
- Does this name represent my philosophy, values, and brand messaging? If the tone of your brand is fun and quirky, the name should reflect that. On the other hand, if your brand is soft and feminine, you don’t want a hard or masculine sounding name.
Once you run through these questions, you’ll find yourself narrowing down your list quite a bit! When it comes to picking a business name for your soap company, you may also want to give some thought to a few other factors.
Many bath and body business owners decide to affix a reference to what they do in their business name, such as adding soapworks, soap company, soapery, or whatnot. If you decide to do this, be sure that you are okay with pigeonholing yourself into that niche! I’ve seen many soapy biz owners who have named their company in such a way, and later finding themselves known for a non-soap product or wanting to axe their soap products due to low profit margins or low sales. Typically, this results in re-branding and dropping the reference, so why use it in the first place?
If you do want to make a reference to the products you make, consider using more generic terminology such as skin care, apothecary, sundries, etc. (And yes, this means you don’t have to reference what you make in your business name!)
Some skincare brands decide to use the founder’s personal name as their business name, so you may be considering that route. If you choose to use your own name, be prepared to be the face of your brand, front and center. Think about your long term game plan before you commit to turning your name into the business’ name. Give careful thought to whether the brand will survive without you, if you ever want to sell it.
Step 4: Preliminary Checks
At this point, you should have a nice shortlist of viable options. Hurray!
Before you decide on a name, you want to ensure that you have the legal ability to do so. You also want to make sure that no one else is already operating under the name. This step is one that many new soap companies skip and regret it later, so also err on the side of the caution. Clear the soap business name you want to use before diving in!
Google It Up!
First, rock a simple Google search to see if you can find anyone else using the name already. If they are, cross it off your list. Even if they don’t hold a trademark, they have been using the name longer than you and can win the legal right to the name.
Check for Trademarks
That brings us to the next search: trademarks! If you are in the US, use the TESS database to search for any similar trademarks or wordmarks. (If you are in another country, you will want to check your country’s trademark database.) According to my legal friends, you should be okay to use a name that is trademarked for non-similar goods. For instance, if there is a trademark for the name under telecommunications and you are going to sell skincare, it should be fine. Personally, I try to stay away from names that are trademarked to be on the safe side.
Check Business Registrations
In the United States, you can check most states’ business registry databases for registered business names. To find your state’s registry, google “statename business registry search”. For instance, in Arizona, I would search “arizona business registry search“. This would turn up the Arizona Business Entity Search. If someone is using a name from your list and you plan on incorporating it, cross it off your list and move on. Like trademarks, you may be able to use the name if they are dealing in a separate industry from you, so contact your state filing office to ask.
Check Online Availability
As a final check, you want to make sure that you can snag the domain registration, social media handles, and other association usernames/accounts with the business name you want to use.
It’s best to use the WHOIS search database when checking for domain registration availability. Some domain registrars are sneaky little brats. Without naming names, these domain registrars have been known to register domains that are searched on their website so they can graciously offer to resell them to you for a pretty penny (read: hundreds of dollars). If the domain name is available, you may want to snag it, just in case. I personally use NameCheap for my domain registrations, but there are plenty of other options out there.
Next, check for availability on common social media websites. You may need to shorten your business name to fit on particular platforms. As an example, you’ll find me rocking @modernsoapmakin as my full name is too long for user accounts on Twitter. Use logic here, as most services have an autocomplete feature which will suggest accounts when a user types. Instead of using “msoapmaking“, I went with “modernsoapmakin” for that exact reason. Again, if your names are available, you may want to snatch them up.
Step 5: Test it Out
Hopefully, you have finally landed on a couple of options that work great for you! You may think it’s time to choose a business name and get on with it, but there’s one more step to making a solid decision.
The big mistake new soap company owners make is asking their family and friends for feedback on a name, or worse, other soapmakers. You can read up on why asking the wrong folks for feedback is a bad idea! Ultimately, your business name needs to resonate with your target market, so the best way to ensure it does is to test it out! This step is optional and will cost you a little extra time or money, but I highly recommend it.
With the power of extreme ad targeting in this digital age, you can quickly test out a couple names in an efficient way while also bringing in a little jumpstart to your mailing list!
- Create a landing page for each business name on your final list. The landing page should be a simple announcement of your business, what you will sell, and what value you will provide. It should also include an option to sign up for your mailing list to get in on the ground floor. Make each landing page exactly the same except for the name of your business. Services like LeadPages or Unbounce make creating landing pages super easy. If you need a mailing list, I personally use Drip, and they have a free starter plan! (Or you can rock Mailchimp instead!)
- Create a custom audience on Facebook to serve up ads to your target market. Run an ad for each landing page you’ve created. You can spend as little as $5 per landing page, the goal here is to just test each one against your target market.
- Run your ads on Facebook to drive traffic, and then analyze the results. Which business name resulted in the most conversions (email sign-ups) and clicks (the number of folks who clicked on your link from Facebook)?
You can also use Google AdWords instead of Facebook, but I find Facebook to be easier to use. This kind of testing is called split testing, which is helpful to have a handle on! You can use this methodology to test product names, test interest for new product lines, and much more.
Step 6: Finalize & Protect
Once you’ve picked your new soap business name, you’ll want to secure as soon as possible.
If you are incorporating, register your business name with your state. If you plan on using a DBA (Doing Business As), you’ll need to register that with your state instead. For more information on the differences, check out the Small Business Administration’s guide on DBAs.
If you haven’t snatched up your domain registration and social media handles, get that crossed off your list, pronto!
And finally, consider registering a trademark to protect your name. In the USA, you can do it yourself for a little under $300. To do so, check out the information on the USPTO website. However, I recommend using an intellectual property attorney. A lawyer will be able to provide expert guidance and information, preventing you from wasting time or money. (If you need a recommendation, Andrea Hence Evans is a great IP attorney who is familiar with our industry and knows IP law like the back of her hand.)
And there you have it! The six solid steps I’ve taken to name every little thing, whether it’s my business or a product or a program. If you’ve already picked out a name for your soap company or have any extra advice to offer, share your story in the comments below. I love to hear from other soapmakers about how they settled in on their own business name!