Register your small business with your state
In the process of selling my granola business the women buying the business had to re-brand since the old name included my last name. She ended up submitting four or five names to the Secretary of State’s office and they kept getting rejected because they were too close to other business names.
This process was frustrating for both of us because it kept pushing the final sale out farther and farther. She finally got approval for a name and we were able to move forward. It was a good lesson in getting all your paperwork approved before you get anything printed or buy a domain!
Do you need a DBA?
It is important to register your business name with your state. It provides you with some protection that no one else will try to use that name.
If you are naming your business anything other than your personal name you will need to register your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name. The Small Business Association is a great resource for the legal impact of naming your business:
“It’s important to note that when you form a business, the legal name of the business defaults to the name of the person or entity that owns the business, unless you choose to rename it and register it as a DBA name.
For example, consider this scenario: John Smith sets up a painting business. Rather than operate under his own name, John instead chooses to name his business: “John Smith Painting”. This name is considered an assumed name and John will need to register it with the appropriate local government agency.” ~ sba.gov
Once you are pretty sure on a name check your County Clerk or Secretary of State’s office. Not all states require you to register a DBA but the majority do. You can find out your states requirements from this page at the SBA.
In NH the Secretary of State will let you search online for any names that are already taken in the state. I am not sure if every state will let you do that but check your state’s website.
If you find another business with a similar name you probably won’t be able to register your name and will need to choose a new one.
Setting up a legal structure
Before you get too far, make sure you talk to a tax professional to decided how you want to structure your business. You might stay as a Sole Proprietor, but you might end up as an LLC or a Corporation. You will get the best advice on this decision by finding a Tax Professional in your area.
If you become an LLC or Corporation you will not have to register a DBA name as long as you are using the legal name of your incorporation.
What is a Trademark?
From the United States Patent and Trademark office:
“A trademark is a brand name. A trademark or service mark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services.” ~ uspto.gov
Basically, a trademark is a national registration of your brand name that prevents other businesses from using your name, logo, or symbol in their business.
This is not a necessary step in registering your business but can be helpful in certain situations. Your best bet is to speak to a lawyer to see if it is necessary for your business.
Your Web Presence
Once your name has been chosen and registered you will be able to go online to buy your domain name. You will want to keep this in mind when choosing a name and check for availability as you are brainstorming your business name.
I recommend GoDaddy for buying your domain name. It is most common to use a .com but you can now get just about anything including .net, .info, .org, or .me. If you can’t get the .com don’t reject the name immediately, check for the .net or .info instead.
You don’t have to set up a website right away, but if you want to do it yourself Weebly is really easy to use. It is a drag and drop style website builder, very easy to learn and very reasonably priced.
RELATED POST: How to Build a Small Business Website with Weebly
Grab any social media pages you think you might want. I would at least get a Facebook page and Google+, maybe Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram depending on your niche.
Save yourself from trouble later on but registering your business in the beginning. It will save you money and time in the long run to have a name you know no one else is using. You will thank yourself later if you make sure you are legal from the start!
Still need small business help?
Check out the Guide to Starting a Small Scale Business!