Pothole Pictures: Normally this name wouldn’t create a positive image for a movie theater. But in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, where glacial potholes in the Deerfield River running through the village are a cherished part of the landscape, the name works well.

When naming a business whose geographical reach and clientele are mainly local, you can use nicknames, regional or city lore, local in-jokes and historical references that might be lost on outsiders. Subliminally, these kinds of names drive home the message, “We’re rooted in your community.”

Besides features of the landscape, consider these sources of inspiration:

Homegrown industries and the mascots for high school and college athletic teams in the area can also inspire business names with a local aura.

What about locally inspired names for companies doing business nationally or internationally? In most cases, such a name won’t register meaningfully at a distance. It won’t hurt but won’t help the business, either. At worst, such a name can backfire.

For instance, Nobscot Corporation is named after an Algonquin Indian word meaning “rocky place,” and alludes to a hamlet in Massachusetts frequented by author Henry David Thoreau. Nobscot comes across respectably in the U.S. but evokes snickers in England, where “nob” is slang for a private part of the male anatomy.

Use my examples from Massachusetts to spark insights and ideas for your own locale if you have a local business to name!

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