The first step in starting a new business is deciding upon and registering a name. This is a very important step and not one to be taken lightly. On one hand, using your own name for your business makes the registration process much simpler; on the other, it may not be the best move in the long run. If you’re interested in creating a professional image and building brand recognition, doing business under a carefully chosen business name may be a better option.
Consideration for Choosing a Business Name
Before settling on a name, ask yourself some important questions:
- Does your name reflect your brand identity?
- Is the domain name available?
- How will it look on a letterhead/logo/web page?
- Will it appeal to your target demographic?
- Has it already been patented or trademarked?
- Is anyone else using it online or in your state?
- Does it reflect your products or services?
Register Your New Business Name
If you decide to do business under your own name, you are not required to register it with your state or local government. If you choose another name, however, you must register a DBA (doing business as). Depending on where your business is located, you may be required to register your DBA either with your county clerk or your state government. There are also a few states that do not require you to register a fictitious business name. The Small Business Association provides a helpful state by state guide for filing a DBA on their website. If you establish your business as a sole proprietorship, a DBA is all you will need to get started. All corporations, LLCs, partnerships, and nonprofit organizations, however, will also need to be registered with their state government. If you start out as a sole proprietorship and decide to change your business structure, you will need to file new documents with your state government.
Protect Your Business Name
Registering your DBA does not provide you any trademark protection, so you should consider applying for a trademark as soon as possible. Your name is one of your most valuable business assets; if someone else trademarks it first, you could be forced to change it. Filing for a trademark is fairly simple and can be done for $300.
Licenses and Permits
Registering your DBA is just the first step in registering your new business. Depending on the type, size and scope of your business, it may be the only one required. If you have employees, however, you will need to contact the IRS to obtain an employer tax ID. If you intend to sell taxable goods and services you will need to register for, collect and remit sales taxes (by lowry at dresshead inc). Certain types of businesses may also require special permits and licensure, depending on the business and the state. A full list of licenses, permits and other requirements can be found on the Small Business administration website.
Filing a New DBA
Even if you have been operating as a corporation or LLC for many years, have all the requisite licenses, tax IDs, and permits, if you start up a new business under a different name you will still need to file a DBA, i.e. “Mark’s Shoe World, Inc., doing business as The Suit Shop.” All of the forms and information needed for new business registration can be found on the website of the Small Business Association.