One of the first steps to take when starting a Michigan business is to perform a Michigan corporation search.
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) keeps an organized log of Michigan business entities that exist or have dissolved through the corporation’s division
The database is free to use and makes it easy to find existing businesses or look to see if a business name may be available.
How to search Michigan business names
Searching for Michigan businesses is done through the Lara Corporations website.
Michigan Corporations and LLCs are searchable by the following criteria:
- Entity Name
- Individual Name
- ID Number
- Filing Number
Michigan business entity search
The “search by entity name” filter is the most commonly used when performing a name availability search.
- For an entity name or individual name you can search by “starts with,” “exact match,” “keyword” or “soundex.”
- The easiest way to search Michigan business names is by using the “Begins With” search option as that will pull the widest variety of entity names associated with that particular keyword.
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 individual name filter generates results for people that have filed entities in the state of Michigan.
- Enter a full or last name and select “search.” The search results will generate all corporations that are associated with the resident agent entered.
The individual name search filter also aggregates results based on first or last name so the full name is not required.
- Enter the desired ID Number into the “Search by Identification Number.”
- Select “search
- Enter the filing number into the “Search by Filing Number” field
- Select Search
Michigan 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 Italian restaurant. In that case, they could enter “Italian” into the search bar and generate a list of ideas that are available based on the business status results:
The search results will generate a list of names with the word “Italian” in them.
For instance, one name that could work is “Italian House.”
To see if this name is available, click the business’s name and a business detail page will appear. The “Italian House” was dissolved in 2002, which indicates that this business is most likely available.
It is recommended to call the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in Lansing to confirm the name you want to choose is available. They can be reached at 517-241-9223 or emailing [email protected]
One thing to remember is that even though the desired Michigan 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 a Michigan 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 Michigan business entity
After selecting a business name, businesses can register their articles of incorporation with the Michigan Corporation Commission.
For further step-by-step instructions on how to file your LLC check out this Michigan LLC Guide.
Michigan business entity name reservation
If a business is not ready to register its entity but has a name picked out, it can submit a reservation request through the LARA platform. Names can be reserved for 6 months and cost $25 to file a reservation.
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. Michigan corporations can register for a Tax ID for $79 with Swyftfile.
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
Michigan business structure naming considerations
When selecting a Michigan business name, it is important to understand the different naming requirements for each of the different entity types.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
In Michigan, sole proprietorships do not have to file with the corporation division 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:
- Michigan 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 Michigan 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 Michigan business name if it is not clearly distinguishable from the other business.
Corporations, like LLCs, are separate legal entities that require filing with the corporation commission. 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.
Is a registered agent required to file an LLC in the state of Michigan?
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 Michigan do I need to register a new LLC in each state?
LLC owners in the state of Michigan do not need to file a new LLC in a different state if they expand outside of the state of Michigan. 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 Detroit MI called “Detroit Clean2Go,” it wouldn’t make much sense if you ended up expanding to Columbus, OH, and continue to use that name. Companies can file a separate DBA name in the state of Ohio and call the business something like “CbusClean2Go,” while operating under the LLC filed in Michigan.
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 assumed name.
Where can I find information on Michigan business licenses?
Business license information can be found on the www.Michigan.gov license site.
Why should I file a trademark? How do I file?
A trademark gives entrepreneurs legal protections over their brand. As your Michigan 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 appreciate over time 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. DBA names are filed with the Lara site or can be filed with companies like Incfile.com.
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 publically.
How do I dissolve a Michigan LLC?
It is recommended to file a dissolution of a Michigan business entity if it is no longer active to avoid the accumulation of annual fees. Dissolution of a business can be done through the Michigan.gov site.
Is an Annual Report required in Michigan?
Michigan businesses and nonprofits are required to file annual reports to stay in good standing with the secretary of state corporation.