Before starting a business, it is critical to perform an Ohio business name search. The Ohio Secretary of State website keeps an organized log of Ohio business entities that exist or have dissolved.  

When an Ohio corporation is formed, it is important to make sure that the chosen business name is distinguishable from existing names. Names chosen that are too closely related to existing Ohio entity names

How to search business names in Ohio

Searching for Ohio businesses is done through the  Ohio Secretary of State site. The public records database maintains a log of all business filings and is easy to navigate. 

Business entity search options are broken down into the following categories:

  • Business Name
  • Exact Business Name
  • Prior Business Name
  • Agent/Registered Agent
  • Incorporator
  • Number Search

Business name 

The “ Business Name” search query is the most commonly used search option to find Ohio businesses. 

  • Enter in the business name and select “search,” and the database will generate any names related to the name entered. 
  • The search options are filtered by All, Active, Cancelled, or Dead.
  • 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.

Exact/Prior business name

  • To search exact or prior business names enter the information into the search query and select “search.”

Agent/Registrant

  • The Agent/Registrant filter generates results for individuals with filed entities in the state of Ohio. 
  • Enter a full or last name and select “search.”  The “Incorporator/Officer” officer type is pre-selected in the drop-down menu, with additional options to search by President, Registered Agent, and Secretary.

Organizer/Incorporator

  • Options to search by location of Incorporation are also available.

Number search

  • Enter in the desired Registration ID and select “Search” to generate results.

Ohio business search status report

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. 

The Ohio Business search results status page is broken down into the following status types:

  • Active
  • Cancelled
  • Dead

If a business is active that indicates that the business is in good standing with the Ohio Secretary of State. 

Cancelled and dead status results indicate that the business name is most likely available. It is recommended to call the Ohio Secretary of State office in Columbus to confirm the status prior to moving forward with the business name. 

What's next after finding the perfect name?

1. Check if the domain name is available

After performing an Ohio business search, performing a domain name search to see if the name is available is a good idea.

  • Many of the .com domain names with six or fewer letters are already taken, so getting creative may be a necessity. 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 common 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 an Ohio 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 Ohio business entity, or reserve name

After selecting a business name, businesses can register their business entity by filing their name reservation and the certificate of formation together with the Ohio Secretary of State

Another option is to file with companies like Northwest Registered AgentIncfile, or ZenBusiness, who can take care of the filings for as little as $0 plus state filing fees

For further step-by-step instructions on how to file your LLC check out this Ohio LLC guide.

Ohio business entity name reservation

If a business is not ready to register their entity but has a name picked out, they can submit a one-year name reservation request through the Ohio.gov site for a filing fee of $28. After a year, there is an option to submit a name reservation renewal request if they need additional time.

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. Ohio 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.

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.

Lili and Novo are online banks that specialize in working with freelancers and entrepreneurs.

We recommend Novo Bank

Built for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers.

8. Setup an email account

Google Workspace can help set up an @yourcompany email address for as little as $6 per month.

Plan on running your business well

Google Workspace helps with email addresses, team collaboration, productivity, and more.

Ohio business structure naming considerations

One of the first decisions to make before selecting an Ohio business name is understanding business naming rules for different business structures.

Sole proprietorships and partnerships

In Ohio, sole proprietorships do not have to file with the Ohio 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 

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 Ohio Secretary of State and must be unique.

A few reminders when naming LLCs:

  • Ohio 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.
  •  An LLC name should not include the terms Inc., Corporation, Corp, or Incorporated in the LLC name.
  • The state may not approve an Ohio business name if it is not clearly distinguishable from the other business.

Corporations

Corporations, like LLCs, are separate legal entities that require filing with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office. 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.

Trademarks

There is a fair amount of confusion over whether it is possible to have an Ohio Business name similar to an existing business name in another state. As long as a business name isn’t filed by someone else in Ohio, registering a business name is a possibility.

  • There is one caveat that could cause issues. Businesses often overlook checking to see if a company has a trademark for the intended entity name
  • Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a service mark on goods or services that can create confusion for consumers.

To avoid headaches down the line, perform a trademark search before completing the Ohio business formation.

Businesses can search for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office through the Trademark Electronic Search System.

FAQs

What is an Ohio wild card search?

Wild cards allow for broader search results. To perform a wildcard search use the % sign after the intended search term. This will generate a wide range of results to help find the desired name.

Is a registered agent required to file an LLC in the state of Ohio?

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

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Where can I find information on Ohio business licenses?

Business license information can be found on the Ohio.gov website.

Why should I file a trademark? How do I file?

A trademark gives entrepreneurs legal protections over their brand. As your Ohio 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 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

Here are a couple of benefits of DBAs:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.