How to Search and Choose Your Business Name in All 50 States
One of the most difficult parts of starting a business is finding the perfect name. You need to find the right balance of functionality and appeal — letting your customers know what you do with a business name that’s memorable and builds trust. You’ll also need to conduct a corporation/LLC name search with your state to make sure it isn’t already in use before you can officially register your business. Read on for our advice on choosing the perfect name and how to run a business entity search in your state so you can get your business up and running.
Why the Right Business Name Matters
Before you start thinking about a good name for your business, let’s explore its importance:
- The name will help you build your branding, including logos, taglines, product names and promotional materials.
- A good business name can help you stand out from the crowd and can attract repeat buyers.
- The right business name can represent what your business offers and be associated with your products and services.
Your business name is your organization’s public identity, so it’s worth taking the time to get it right.
Questions to Ask When Creating a Business Name
Rather than creating the right business name from nowhere, it’s worth considering a few questions to get you thinking in the right direction:
- Who is the main audience for your business products and services, and what sort of name would appeal to them?
- How will your customers find you — will it mainly be online, through advertising, passing on the street or something else?
- Do you want a name that functionally describes what your business does or something a little more abstract?
- What elements do you really want to include in your business name?
- What do you want the name to accomplish?
Brainstorm Business Name Ideas
Now that you know what you want your business name to do, it’s time to start creating ideas:
- Ask your friends and family for suggestions on a good business name.
- Carry a notebook around with you, as inspiration can strike anywhere.
- Look into the names of competitor businesses, and see if there’s a theme.
- See what keywords are associated with the traits you want to bring out in your business.
- Try out some business name generators like Shopify, BNG, Oberlo, Namelix or Squadhelp.
We’ve also published three guides you may find helpful:
- 22 Resources and Tips for Coming Up with a Business Name
- How to Come Up with a Catchy and Creative Business Name
- Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Business
- Business Naming Strategies You have to Know
Once you have a few names, go down this list of questions for each one to help you build a list:
- How easy would it be to incorporate your business name into a logo or other branding?
- Is your business name easy to spell and pronounce?
- Is your business name easy to remember?
- Does the name you want match the intended tone, approach and image of your business?
- Does the name represent the products and services you sell?
- Is the website address available for your proposed business name?
- Are social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) available for the proposed business name?
- Have you searched for the name to check it’s not already in use?
Rules for Business Names
There are some rules about naming your business, which are common across all states:
- The name must be unique and not used by another business entity.
- The name must be distinctive from the name of another business entity.
- You cannot use things like definite articles (“a,” “and,” “an,” “&,” “the,” etc.), symbols, abbreviations, pluralization, fonts and similar to say your name is distinct from another business.
- If you think your name is confusable with another existing business name, you shouldn’t use it.
- The name will need to include certain words, depending on the type of business you’re creating.
Additionally, most states will not allow you to form businesses with names that:
- Are very similar to the name of a federal or state agency or organization (e.g., FBI, FDA, Department of Revenue, Police, Treasury, etc.)
- Suggest affiliation with a federal or state agency or organization
- Use the term “Olympic” or any terms that are trademarks of the Olympic organization
- Imply a purpose that would be illegal for your business to carry out
Conducting an LLC Name Search
Businesses, whether they’re an LLC or corporation, are formed at the state level, and every state requires that business names are unique. This means you must search for your business name to check that another entity in your state isn’t using it. You have a couple of ways to do this:
- Use the Incfile Business Name Search and Lookup Tool.
- Go to the website of the business formation agency in your state and do a search there. Look for the option to conduct a “business entity search,” “llc name search,” or “corporation/LLC search,” since the terminology may differ depending on the state.
Using Incfile’s Business Name Search makes the process quick and easy, and you can even choose to form your business immediately if the name you want is available.
Deciding on Your Final Business Name
Now that you have a short list of names that are unique and not used by another business in your state, you can decide on your favorite. For each name on your list, go through the questions again and make sure the name fits with your intent for your business. Talk to the people you know, speak with potential customers and get feedback on the name. Then, you can make the final decision and get your business started.
Don’t forget that Incfile makes it easy to start your business. If you use our Business Name Search tool, you can choose to form your business with us once you’ve settled on a name. Incfile provides unmatched customer service and has formed well over 250,000 companies. Our experience provides us with vast knowledge and experience in filing business entities, and we are familiar with the nuances of each of the 50 states.
Business Name Searches in all 50 States
Incfile’s business entity search tool is super easy to use, but you can also search directly with your state’s business formation agency.
- Alabama Business Entity Search: Alabama Secretary of State
- Alaska Business Entity Search: Alaska Secretary of State
- Arizona Business Entity Search: Arizona Corporation Commission
- Arkansas Business Entity Search: Arkansas Secretary of State
- California Business Entity Search: California Secretary of State
- Colorado Business Entity Search: Colorado Secretary of State
- Connecticut Business Entity Search: Connecticut Secretary of State
- Delaware Business Entity Search: Delaware Secretary of State
- District of Columbia/Washington D.C. Business Entity Search: DC Secretary of State
- Florida Business Entity Search: Florida Secretary of State
- Georgia Business Entity Search: Georgia Secretary of State
- Hawaii Business Entity Search: Hawaii Secretary of State
- Idaho Business Entity Search: Idaho Secretary of State
- Illinois Business Entity Search: Illinois Secretary of State
- Indiana Business Entity Search: Indiana Secretary of State
- Iowa Business Entity Search: Iowa Secretary of State
- Kansas Business Entity Search: Kansas Secretary of State
- Kentucky Business Entity Search: Kentucky Secretary of State
- Louisiana Business Entity Search: Louisiana Secretary of State
- Maine Business Entity Search: Maine Secretary of State
- Maryland Business Entity Search: Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation
- Massachusetts Business Entity Search: Massachusetts Secretary of State
- Michigan Business Entity Search: LARA, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
- Minnesota Business Entity Search: Minnesota Secretary of State
- Mississippi Business Entity Search: Mississippi Secretary of State
- Missouri Business Entity Search: Missouri Secretary of State
- Montana Business Entity Search: Montana Secretary of State
- Nebraska Business Entity Search: Nebraska Secretary of State
- Nevada Business Entity Search: Nevada Secretary of State
- New Hampshire Business Entity Search: New Hampshire Secretary of State
- New Jersey Business Entity Search: New Jersey Department of the Treasury
- New Mexico Business Entity Search: New Mexico Secretary of State
- New York Business Entity Search: New York Department of State
- North Carolina Business Entity Search: North Carolina Secretary of State
- North Dakota Business Entity Search: North Dakota Secretary of State
- Ohio Business Entity Search: Ohio Secretary of State
- Oklahoma Business Entity Search: Oklahoma Secretary of State
- Oregon Business Entity Search: Oregon Secretary of State
- Pennsylvania Business Entity Search: Pennsylvania Secretary of State
- Rhode Island Business Entity Search: Rhode Island Secretary of State
- South Carolina Business Entity Search: South Carolina Secretary of State
- South Dakota Business Entity Search: South Dakota Secretary of State
- Tennessee Business Entity Search: Tennessee Secretary of State
- Texas Business Entity Search: Texas Secretary of State
- Utah Business Entity Search: Division of Corporations and Commercial Code
- Vermont Business Entity Search: Vermont Secretary of State
- Virginia Business Entity Search: Virginia State Corporation Commission
- Washington Business Entity Search: Washington Secretary of State
- West Virginia Business Entity Search: West Virginia Secretary of State
- Wisconsin Business Entity Search: Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
- Wyoming Business Entity Search: Wyoming Secretary of State