Starting a business? Our number one pick for registered agent services is Northwest Registered Agent.
One of the first steps to take when starting an Illinois business is to perform an Illinois corporation search. The Illinois Secretary of State website keeps a registry of Illinois business entities that exist or have dissolved through the corporation division. 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 Illinois business names
Searching for Illinois businesses is done through the Illinois Secretary of State (www.cyberdriveillinois.com).
Illinois Corporations and LLCs are searchable by the following criteria:
- Corporate and LLC
Illinois business entity search
The “search by name” filter is the most commonly used when performing a name availability search.
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.
The categories for searching by LLC are:
- Key Word
- Partial Word
- File Number
One way to get ideas on business names that can be available is by performing a corporation/LLC search and considering names that have been dissolved. If a business has a certificate of good standing, it is not available to register. However, names that are dissolved or inactive can be used if approved by the Illinois Secretary of State.
One thing to remember is that even though the desired Illinois 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 company 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 Illinois 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 Illinois business entity
After selecting a business name, businesses can register their articles of incorporation with the Illinois Corporation Commission.
For further step-by-step instructions on how to file your LLC, check out this Illinois 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. Illinois 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
Illinois business structure naming considerations
When selecting an Illinois business name, it is essential to understand the different naming requirements for each entity type.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
In Illinois, sole proprietorships do not have to file with the corporation division to begin business operations. In addition, 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:
- Illinois business names must include the words “LLC, LLC, or the phrase limited liability company. “LLC” is most commonly used after a business name, so we recommend using that abbreviation when filing Illinois 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 an Illinois business name if it is not distinguishable from the other business.
Corporations, like LLCs, are separate legal entities that require filing with the corporation commission. Corporations are reasonably 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 registered agent is designated to receive official papers for your LLC, LLP, or corporation. Individuals can act as their 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 an excellent reputation in the industry.
Reserve an Illinois business name by filling out a name reservation form and filing it with the Illinois Secretary of State.
Business license information can be found on the www.Illinois.gov license site.
A trademark gives entrepreneurs legal protections over their brand. As your Illinois 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 can also grow in value over time as your business grows. If you are ever hoping to sell your business down the line, having a solid trademark can add to your valuation.
Suppose your business has a physical product that you are looking to sell on sites like Amazon. In that case, 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.
A DBA (doing business as), or trade name, is an assumed 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 is 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 publically.
Illinois business entities can dissolve if they’re longer active to avoid the accumulation of annual fees. Visit the Illinois.gov site to dissolve a business.
Illinois businesses and nonprofits are required to file annual reports to stay in good standing with the Illinois Secretary of State.