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How to name your co-op

One of the first steps to incorporating a co-operative is reserving a legal name for the business with the government. Most co-ops incorporate in a specific province, and each provincial government has different guidelines and processes for how to do this. Some co-ops incorporate with the federal government and need to follow federal rules.

Each government (provincial and federal) has its own “corporate registry” – a department that registers businesses. Co-ops usually apply for their legal name through their jurisdiction’s corporate registry, though this looks a bit different in different provinces. Often this can be done online.

What’s in a Name

One of the more fun tasks involved in starting up a business is coming up with a name. Once you apply for a name, the corporate registry to will check their records to make sure that no other business has a name that is the same as or very similar to the one you want to use. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have some back-up names, in case your preferred choice gets rejected. To try and avoid this, it’s important to come up with a unique name that captures what your business does.

To create a logical, unique name for the business, try the following formula:

Location or feature + purpose/type of co-op + legal requirements = Great Name

Let’s break these components down:

Location or feature

It’s a good idea to your community’s name or a significant identifying feature in the name of your co-op. (Is your community near to a well-known landmark? Or known for a significant event?) This will ensure that similar co-ops in other locations are distinguishable from yours. Using a word or phrase that has cultural significance would also be appropriate here (e.g. Turtle Island, Buffalo Narrows, Red River, etc.).

Type or purpose of the co-op

Although not required, it is helpful to include the type of co-op you’re incorporating in the name. This could reflect who the members are (e.g. example producer co-op) or the type of work the co-op will perform (e.g. sample farmers’ market co-op).

Legal requirements

Each jurisdiction has different naming requirements that new co-operatives must meet. This usually means including a word that indicates the business is a co-operative. Each province has different requirements and options:

Jurisdiction

Co-op’s name must include …

Corporate Registry and
reservation process

 

 

 

 

 

Manitoba

One of:

  • Cooperative
  • Co-operative
  • Coopérative
  • Co-op
  • Pool

And one of:

  • Limited/ltd.
  • Incorporated/inc.
  • Limité
  • Incorporée
  • Ltée

Create an online account with the Manitoba Companies Office to request a name reservation. The cost
is $45.

 

 

Saskatchewan

One of:

  • Co-operative
  • Cooperative
  • Co-op

And

  • Limited/ltd

Reserve a name
with Information Services Corporation (ISC) using your
corporate registry account. The cost to reserve a name is $50.

 

 

 

Alberta

One of:

  • Co-operative
  • Cooperative
  • Co-op
  • United
  • Pool

Get an Alberta Name Search report from a certified NUANS* member. Search for your community to find one
near you. The cost will depend on the member you use.

 

 

 

British Columbia

One of:

  • Co-operative
  • Cooperative
  • Co-op
  • Association
  • Society
  • Union
  • Exchange

Reserve a name with the BC Registry Services. The cost for this is $30 plus a $1.50 service fee (plus tax).

 

 

 

Federal

One of:

  • Co-operative
  • Cooperative
  • Co-op
  • Coopérative
  • United
  • Pool

Order a NUANS* name report, and submit to Corporations Canada with the incorporating documents. The cost of the report will be $13.80.

*NUANS stands for “Newly Updated Automated Name Search”

Here are some examples of descriptive, unique co-op names that include a location/feature:

  • Battle River Power Co-op
  • Park West Fibre Optic Co-operative
  • Indigenous Technical Services Co-operative
  • Kootenay Carshare Co-operative
  • Parkland Industrial Hemp Producers Co-operative
  • Bridge City Bicycle Co-op

For more information on other considerations when naming your co-op, check out our blog: 8 to-dos when naming a co-operative.

Legal versus marketing

The legal name you reserve with the government doesn’t have to be the name the co-op uses in its day-to-day marketing. Legal names tend to be longer and difficult to remember. Many co-ops shorten their names to something catchier that their customers will remember. For example, the co-operative gas bar and grocery stores in Flin Flon, MB is legally called “North of 53 Consumers Co-operative”, but simply markets itself as “the Co-op”.

Depending on the business you’re in, it may not be practical to include the word “co-operative” in your branding. Producer-owned farmers’ markets, for example, are often organized as co-ops, but market their services to consumers, not producers. There’s no need to market the co-op as a co-operative because the phrase ‘farmers’ market’ holds enough meaning that it will be instantly recognized by consumers. Similarly, if a co-operative buys a business from a retiring business owner, you may want to continue using the same name as it likely comes with an existing reputation and consumer base.

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