One of the first steps to take when starting a Florida business is to perform a Florida business name search.
The Florida Department of State keeps an organized log of Florida business entities that exist or have dissolved.
The database is free to use and makes it easy to find existing businesses or see if a business name may be available.
How to search Florida business names
The Florida Secretary of State Division of Corporations maintains a database of business licenses that are registered in the state of Florida. The database maintains a list of active and expired business licenses that is free for the public to search.
The Corporations database is easy to navigate with the following business entity search options:
The most popular search method for Corporations and LLCs is to perform an entity name search. To perform a search, follow the steps below:
- Enter in the name of the desired business name
- Select “search now.”
The results will populate the following information for each entity name result:
- Corporate Name
- Document Number
There is no need to Enter LLC, Corp, or any other entity type into the search field, and the database does not generate results for Sole Proprietorships or Partnerships.
To search by a Document Number:
- Enter the Florida Document number
- Select “search now.”
The Database will generate results for any entity type with the document number selected.
Officer/ Registered Agents
Searching by an officer or registered agent follows the same process:.
- Navigate to the search by registered agent section
- Search by “Last Name, First Name, Middle Initial” when searching by an individual’s name
- Partial Names are acceptable.
- If the exact match is not showing us the “previous and next” list to view additional names
Trademark/Trademark owner name
Trademark searches are also an option through the SunBiz site:
- Select the Trademark Name Search tool
- Enter the business name and select “search now”
Searching by FEI/EIN is also an option in the database:
- Select FEI/EIN
- Enter in the desired tax identification number and select “search now.”
Street address or zip code
The Florida Division of Corporations also gives users the ability to search by business address and zip code.
- Enter the desired business address or zip code
- Select “search now” to generate results.
Name search status
If a business is struggling to think of a good business name, one way to generate ideas is to look through the search results list to see if any expired names could fit the business.
For example, suppose someone wanted to open up a new seafood restaurant. In that case, they could enter “seafood” into the search bar and generate a list of ideas that are available based on the business status results:
The status description will give business owners ideas of potential name based on how they are classified:
- Active: Indicates that the business is in good standing with the state and the name is not available
- INACT: The state dissolves businesses that have not filed the required forms per the Florida Statutes. If they have been dissolved for longer than five years, they may be available depending on if the business entity has filed for reinstatement or not. The best way to verify this is to call the Division of Corporation’s phone number in Tallahassee directly at 850-245-6000
- Cross RF: This business status name stands for cross-reference, which indicates the company uses an alternative name in the State of Florida than other states because it was not available.
Name search detail page
Once a business name is selected from the search results, the Corporate Detail page will show further information on the entity chosen. Below is a chart from the Sunbiz.org site that breaks down all of the information displayed:
One thing to remember is that even though the desired business name may be available, it could have a registered trademark.
Performing a trademark search through the Trademark Electronic Search System before selecting a business name could prevent headaches in the future.
1. Check if the domain name is available
- Many of the .com domain names with six or fewer letters are already taken, so getting creative may be necessary. 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 familiar 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 Florida business name is selected.
2. Check if the social media name 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 a Florida 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 Florida business entity
Business Licenses can be filed online with the Florida division of corporations.
For further step-by-step instructions on how to file your LLC check out this Florida LLC guide.
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. Alaska 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.
Businesses that form partnerships should consider having a professional operating agreement.
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.
Businesses must have a business mailing address in order to open a business bank account and are not allowed to use a po box as their primary mailing address.
We recommend Novo Bank
Plan on running your business well
Florida business structure naming considerations
When selecting a Florida business name, it is important to understand the different naming requirements for each entity type.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
In Florida, sole proprietorships do not have to file with the Division of Corporations 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.
If a sole proprietorship chooses not to operate under the owner’s legal name, they must register a DBA with the Division of Corporations.
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:
- Florida 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 when filing Florida articles of organization.
- An LLC name should not include the terms Inc., Corporation, Corp, or Incorporated in the LLC name.
- The state may not approve a Florida business name if it is not clearly distinguishable from the other business.
Corporations, like LLCs, are separate legal entities that require filing with the Florida Division of Corporations. 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.
What are examples of non-distinguishable business entity names?
Below are a few examples of names that Florida does not consider to be distinguishable entity names:
- Tallahassee BBQ Enterprises, Inc and Tallahassee BBQ Enterprises, LLC are not considered different entity names.
- Suffixes such as “A” and “The” before a business name is not considered different.
- Singular, plural, and possessive names are not different. Ex: Tallahassee Diner and Tallahassee’s Diners are not considered different names.
- Abbreviations of a root word are not considered different.
Should I file a Florida 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’ names revealed publicly.
Does Florida require a registered agent?
Florida Statutes states a Corporation continuously maintains a registered agent and a registered office for the purpose of a registered agent’s statutory requirements.
One of the main benefits of using a third-party registered agent service company is that it adds a layer of privacy between the business and the general population. The registered agent receives all documents on a business’s behalf and can mail them to you privately.
Starting a business? Our number one pick for registered agent services is Northwest Registered Agent.
Do Florida businesses have to file an annual report?
An annual report must be filed each year in order to stay in “active status” with the Department of State. For further information on the annual report requirements, check out the Department of State site for more information.