Frequently, entrepreneurs who are excited about their new business idea go out and spend money on a domain name, build a website, and select a Tennessee business name without following the proper steps.

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

How to search business names in Tennessee

Searching for Tennessee businesses is done through the  Tennessee SOS site. The Tennessee corporations division maintains public records of all business filings and is easy to navigate. 

Tennessee business entity search

Enter the business name and select “Search” to generate businesses associated with that keyword. The business search results are broken down into the following categories:

  • Business Name
  • Control Number

Tennessee registered agent or trade name search

  • The Registered Agent/Trade Name registrant and Reserved Name filters generate results for individuals with filed entities in the state of Tennessee
  • Enter a full or last name and select “search.”  

Tennessee name 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 Italian restaurant, they could enter “Italian” into the search bar and generate a list of ideas that are available based on the business status results:

If an expired business name in the search records is of interest, confirming that it is available is recommended by calling the Tennessee Secretary of State in Nashville at 615-741-2819.

What's next after finding the perfect name?

1. Check if the domain name is available 

After performing a Tennessee 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 familiar 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 Tennessee business entity:

  • Having a solid 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 Tennessee business entity

Businesses can file a new business entity through filing articles of incorporation through the Tennessee Secretary of State website

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 Tennessee 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. Tennessee 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.

Tennessee business structure naming considerations

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

Sole proprietorships and partnerships

In Tennessee, sole proprietorships do not have to file with the Tennessee 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 Tennessee Secretary of State and must be unique.

A few reminders when naming LLCs:

  • Tennessee 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 a Tennessee 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 Tennessee 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 a Tennessee Business name similar to an existing business name in another state. As long as a business name isn’t filed by someone else in Tennessee, 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 Tennessee business formation.

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

FAQs

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

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.

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Are their annual report requirements in Tennessee?

Tennessee requires an annual report to be filed through the Secretary of State website.

Where can I find information on Tennessee business licensing?

Business license information can be found on the Tennessee Department of Revenue site.

Can Tennessee business reserve a business name?

A business can reserve a business name through the Tennessee Secretary of State site for a $20 dollar filing fee with the state of Tennessee.. The name reservation will lock your name in place for a 120 day period. 

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

A trademark gives entrepreneurs legal protections over their brand. As your Tennessee 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 can appreciate in value as businesses grow. 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.

How are business licenses managed in Tennessee?

Business licenses are managed by the Tennessee Department of Revenue site.

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.