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One of the first steps to take when starting a Georgia business is to perform a Georgia Business Search. The Georgia Secretary of State keeps an organized log of Georgia business entities that exist or have dissolved.
How to search Georgia business names
The Georgia Corporations division maintains a database of corporations that are registered in the state of Georgia. The database maintains a list of active and expired businesses that is free for the public to search.
The corporation’s database is easy to navigate with the following business entity search options:
- Business Name
- Control Number
- Registered Agent Name
- Officer Name
For each of these main categories, search filters including “Starts With,” “Contains,” and “Exact Match” are options.
The most popular search method for Georgia Corporations and LLCs is to perform a business name search. Partial or Full Names can be entered to generate results. To perform a search, simply follow the steps below:
- Enter in the name of the desired business name
- Select “search”
The results will populate the following information for each entity name result:
- Business Name
- Control Number
- Business Type
- Principal Office Address
- Registered/Designated Agent Name
The sos.ga.gov database generates data on all the different entity types which makes it easy to find all possible entities with similar names in one place.
To search by Control Number:
- Enter the Control number
- Select “Search”
The Database will generate results for any Control Numbers entered.
Registered Agent or Officer Name
Searching by a Registered Agent or Officer Name is very similar to searching by a Control Number
- Navigate to the search by Registered Agent or Officer section
- Search by first or last name.
Georgia businesses can be searched by trademark name as well. The search options are broken down by:
- Registration Number
- Mark Name
- Registrant Name
- Class of Goods
- Class of Services
- Identification of Services
- Mark Description
Only one category needs to be filled out in order to generate search results for trademarks.
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, if someone wanted to open up a new coffee shop, they could enter “coffee” 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/Compliance: Indicates that the business is in good standing with the state and the name is not available.
- Inactive, Expired, Terminated, or Dissolved: The business name is not active and the name may possibly be available if a reinstatement form has not been filed. The best way to check and see the status in situations like this is to call the Georgia SOS office in Atlanta at 404-656-2817.
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 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 a Georgia 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 Georgia business entity
Georgia Corporations can be filed online on the Georgia Corporations Division website.
For further step-by-step instructions on how to file your LLC check out this Georgia 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. Georgia 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.
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Plan on running your business well
Georgia business structure naming considerations
When selecting a Georgia business name, it is essential to understand the different naming requirements for each entity type.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
In Georgia, sole proprietorships do not have to file with the 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 Secretary of State and must be unique.
A few reminders when naming LLCs:
- Georgia 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 Georgia 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 Georgia business name if it is not clearly distinguishable from the other business.
Corporations, like LLCs, are separate legal entities that require filing with the Georgia Secretary of State. 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.
A name reservation is filed by visiting the Secretary of State site and filling out a Name Reservation application. The fee is $25 and the name is reserved for 30 days. The name can continue to be reserved for an additional $25 fee per month.
A name reservation is not required for registering a corporation, limited liability company, or limited partnership.
Each business entity filed with the Georgia Secretary of State is required to file an Annual Registration. This can be filed electronically through the Ga.gov site.
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 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.
The Georgia Secretary of State requires corporations to use a registered agent and a registered business address to fulfill the 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. We recommend Northwest Registered Agent.