Frequently, entrepreneurs who are excited about their new business idea go out and spend money on a domain name, build a website, and select an Alabama business name without following the proper steps.
Before starting a business, it is critical to perform an Alabama business name search. The Alabama Secretary of State Government Records Inquiry System keeps an organized log of Alabama business entities that exist or have dissolved.
How to search business names in Alabama
Searching for Alabama businesses is done through the Alabama Secretary of State site. The public records database maintains a log of all business filings and is easy to navigate.
Business entity search options are broken down into the following categories:
Alabama business name
The “Name” search query is the most commonly used search option to find Alabama businesses.
- Enter in the business name and select “search,” and the database will generate any names related to the name entered.
- There is no need to enter phrases like “LLC, Corp, or other naming designations as the database will generate results for every type of entity.
- Alabama businesses can be searched by entity type without entering a business name.
- Outside of the typical LLC, Corporation, and Partnership structures, the database can generate results for businesses in other entity structures such as Non-Profits, Foreign General Partnerships, and Homeowners Associations.
Agent or officer
- The Officer/Agent/Incorporator filter generates results for individuals with filed entities in the state of Alabama.
- Enter a full or last name and select “search.” The “Incorporator/Officer” officer type is pre-selected in the drop-down menu, with additional options to search by President, Registered Agent, and Secretary.
Month and year
- Month and Year search options can be used to find any business that has registered an entity in the state of Alabama going back to 1993.
- There is a drop-down menu that can be filtered by county if needed.
- Entity registrations can be searched by date of filing going back to January 1, 2011.
- Enter in the desired Registration ID and select “Search” to generate results.
What's next after finding the perfect name?
1. Check if the domain name is available
After performing an Alabama business search, performing a domain name search to see if the name is available is a good idea.
- Many of the .com domain names with six or fewer letters are already taken, so getting creative may be a necessity. Websites like Namechk and GoDaddy can help filter available domain names and suggest alternatives that may be a good fit.
- While a .com is the most common domain extension used, extensions like .co, .net, and .io are becoming more commonly used as the internet ages and can be a good fit once a business name is selected.
2. Check if the social media name is available
In the digital age, it is essential to have a solid social media presence. Customers will often check sites like Yelp and Google Reviews to gauge what others think about a business. Some other tips on social media for an Alabama business entity:
- Having a strong social media presence for small businesses is an excellent way to boost organic presence on the web, impress customers, and build awareness.
- Unfortunately, like domain names, social media handles are often hoarded. Make sure to check sites like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest to ensure the handle is not being used.
- If the handle is available, lock the username in place to make sure it is not taken.
- Software platforms like SocialPilot can help simplify managing various social media platforms.
3. Register Alabama business entity, or reserve name
After selecting a business name, businesses can register their business entity by filing their name reservation and the certificate of formation together with the Alabama Secretary of State.
For further step-by-step instructions on how to file your LLC check out this Alabama LLC guide.
Alabama business entity name reservation
If a business is not ready to register their entity but has a name picked out, they can submit a one-year name reservation request through the Alabama.gov site for a filing fee of $28. After a year, there is an option to submit a name reservation renewal request if they need additional time.
4. Register TAX ID/EIN with the IRS
An EIN is a nine-digit number that identifies a business for tax purposes. Think of it as a social security number for businesses. Filing your EIN for a limited liability company (LLC) is straightforward and can be done online. Alabama corporations can register for a Tax ID for $79 with Swyft Filings.
5. Create a logo
Similar to selecting a good business name, businesses with a great logo impress customers, help distinguish themselves from the competition, and create a positive visual memory of your unique business services for customers.
With the emergence of freelance marketplaces, it is easy to get a logo done on Fiverr in 24 hours or less.
6. Write a business plan
Writing a business plan can help organize business owners’ ideas and create a pathway for businesses to follow. Having a professionally written business plan also impresses investors and helps create accountability.
Liveplan.com is a business plan software that can help make the process easy as they have over 500 sample plans to choose from.
7. Open a business bank account
Having a business bank account is required for businesses as it helps keep business and personal finances separate. It also helps build business credibility in the event business loans are needed to grow the business in the future.
We recommend Novo Bank
Plan on running your business well
Alabama business structure naming considerations
One of the first decisions to make before selecting an Alabama business name is understanding business naming rules for different business structures.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
In Alabama, sole proprietorships do not have to file with the Alabama Secretary of State to begin business operations. Sole Proprietorships typically operate under a person’s name, so there is no need to perform a business name search in most situations.
Like Sole Proprietorships, Partnerships are relatively easy to file and generally include all partners’ last names (ex: Smith, Jones, and Lasalle).
LLCs are separate legal entities that separate owners’ business interests, debts, and liabilities from personal responsibilities. Names for LLCs are required to be filed with the Alabama Secretary of State and must be unique.
A few reminders when naming LLCs:
- Alabama business names must include the words “LLC, L.L.C., or the phrase limited liability company. “LLC” is most commonly used after a business name, so we recommend using that abbreviation.
- An LLC name should not include the terms Inc., Corporation, Corp, or Incorporated in the LLC name.
- The state may not approve an Alabama business name if it is not clearly distinguishable from the other business.
Corporations, like LLCs, are separate legal entities that require filing with the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. Corporations are fairly complex and typically used by large companies looking to issue stock and attract investors.
Corporation naming considerations:
- Corporations must include “corp”, “corporation”, “Inc”, “limited”, or “company” in the business name to indicate that it is a corporation.
- S Corporations are subject to the same naming requirements as traditional corporations.
- Professional Corporations must indicate that they are one by using “professional corporation” by using the letters “PC” instead of typical corporate designation.
There is a fair amount of confusion over whether it is possible to have an Alabama Business name similar to an existing business name in another state. As long as a business name isn’t filed by someone else in Alabama, registering a business name is a possibility.
- There is one caveat that could cause issues. Businesses often overlook checking to see if a company has a trademark for the intended entity name.
- Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a service mark on goods or services that can create confusion for consumers.
To avoid headaches down the line, perform a trademark search before completing the Alabama business formation.
Businesses can search for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office through the Trademark Electronic Search System.
Is a registered agent required to file an LLC in the state of Alabama?
A registered agent is someone that is designated to receive official papers for your LLC, LLP, or corporation. individuals are able to act as their own registered agent as long as a physical address (p.o. box is not allowed) is used in the state where your business entity is formed.
One of the main benefits of using a third-party registered agent company is that it adds a layer of privacy between the business and the general population. The registered agent company receives all documents on a business’s behalf and can mail them to you privately.
Northwest Registered Agent offers free mail forwarding and has a great reputation in the industry.
Starting a business? Our number one pick for registered agent services is Northwest Registered Agent.
If I expand my business out of Alabama do I need to register a new LLC in each state?
LLC owners in the state of Alabama do not need to file a new LLC in a different state if they expand outside of the state of Alabama. However, it may make sense to file a DBA in separate states if you want to create a unique brand for different locations.
For instance, if you started a dry-cleaning business in Birmingham AL called “Birmingham Clean2Go,” it wouldn’t make much sense if you ended up expanding to Atlanta, GA, and continue to use that name. Companies can file a separate DBA name in the state of Georgia and call the business something like “Atlanta Clean2Go,” while operating under the LLC filed in Alabama.
Some niche businesses prefer this model because they want to target geographies and feel like it connects best with consumers to have a specific geographical focus in their business name.
Where can I find information on Alabama business licenses?
Business license information can be found on the Alabama Department of Revenue website.
Why should I file a trademark? How do I file?
A trademark gives entrepreneurs legal protections over their brand. As your Alabama business grows, competitors tend to pop up to try and compete against you in the marketplace.
A trademark sends a message to competitors that may be looking into your niche that you mean business.
Trademarks also appreciate as your business grows and increases brand recognition. If you are ever hoping to sell your business down the line, having a solid trademark can add to your valuation.
If your business has a physical product that you are looking to sell on sites like Amazon, there are special features businesses can access with a registered trademark, which helps prevent infringement on your products.
- Because the database is very complex to navigate, some people prefer to pay companies like LegalZoom to do the work for them.
- Check out the LegalZoom Trademark options to see if it makes sense for your limited liability company once you have zeroed in on an entity name.
Should I file a DBA?
A DBA (doing business as), or trade name, is a fictitious business name that companies operate under for business outside of the formal LLC name.
Here are a couple of benefits of DBAs:
- Expansion possibilities: having a DBA enables businesses to expand past their original business and without starting a new business entity. Simply creating a new DBA and operating under the existing LLC is all that would be needed.
- Privacy: One of the best benefits of having a DBA is that it gives businesses the ability to operate under a fictitious business name and not have owners’ personal names revealed publicly.