One of the first steps to take when starting a North Carolina business is to perform a North Carolina Business Search.
The North Carolina Secretary of State keeps an organized log of North Carolina business entities that exist or have dissolved.
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 North Carolina business names
Searching for North Carolina businesses is done through the North Carolina Secretary of State website.
North Carolina Corporations and LLCs are searchable by the following criteria:
- Registered Agents
- Company Officials
- Assumed Business Names
There are filter options to search by “Any Word,” “All Word,” “Exact,” and “SOSID.”
North Carolina company name
The “Name” search query is the most commonly used when performing a business entity search. 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.
The North Carolina Secretary of State search will generate results for both current and inactive businesses that are related to the search query entered.
The registered agent filter generates results for registered agents that have filed entities in the state of North Carolina.
- Enter a full or last name and select “search.” The search results will generate all corporations that are associated with the statutory name entered.
Assumed business name
The assumed business name generates naming results for both business names and owners and has search filters for county and date.
North Carolina 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 Pizza restaurant, they could enter “Pizza” 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:
- Current active: The entity is active and the name is not available.
- Multiple: The business is active with multiple locations and is not available
- Admin dissolved: The entity is inactive and the name be available
- Withdrawn by merger: The company is no longer registered in North Carolina
- Auto dissolve: Dissolved by the state for lack of compliance with state obligations
If there is a business entity name that is inactive that is of interest it is recommended to call the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office in Raleigh at 919-814-5400.
One thing to remember is that even though the desired North Carolina 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 North Carolina 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 North Carolina business entity
After selecting a business name, businesses can register their incorporation with the North Carolina Secretary of State office.
For further step-by-step instructions on how to file your LLC check out this North Carolina LLC Guide.
North Carolina business entity name reservation
If a business is not ready to register their entity but has a name picked out, they can register a business name with the Secretary of State’s office. The name will be reserved for 120 days and it costs $30 to file.
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. North Carolina 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
North Carolina business structure naming considerations
When selecting a North Carolina business name, it is important to understand the different naming requirements for each of the different entity types.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
In North Carolina, sole proprietorships do not have to file with the corporation’s 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:
- North Carolina 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 North Carolina 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 North Carolina 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.
If a North Carolina business has been revoked can they be reinstated?
Yes, there is an expedited requalification option for businesses that are looking to get reinstated quickly.
How do I look up my NC Secretary of State number?
Businesses can find their NC SOS number by calling 919-814-5400 or emailing [email protected]
Does North Carolina require a business license?
There isn’t a Secretary of State enforcement on business licenses, however different cities may require them depending on which industry the business operates in. Business link North Carolina (BLNC) can provide further information on potential licenses and permits a business may need.
Is a registered agent required to file an LLC in the state of North Carolina?
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.
Why should I file a trademark? How do I file?
A trademark gives entrepreneurs legal protections over their brand. As your North Carolina 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. DBA names are filed with the North Carolina Secretary of State 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 publicly.