One of the most important parts of your brand’s identity is its name.
A great business name is memorable, engaging, and jumps out at customers. It’s what clients associate with your brand, and it’s one of your most powerful marketing assets.
If you’re running a small business or an LLC, you may have heard of the term DBA meaning “Doing Business As.” Registering a DBA for your company allows you to shape your brand identity. It empowers you to secure your rights as a business owner.
So, what does it mean to register for a Doing Business As name and how does a DBA work? Read on to discover if this is an essential step for your business and if you’re taking potential risks in not filing for one.
What Is a DBA?
A DBA allows you to officially register your company’s name with local government. In legal terms, a DBA secures your rights to conduct business under a name different from your own.
This registered name is also known as a trade, fictitious business, or assumed name.
In commercial terms, DBAs represent the consumer-facing name that you’ve chosen for your brand.
If you’re starting a business, filing a DBA is an important step in the process. It legally registers your business’s name and grants legitimacy to your brand.
For businesses just starting out, a DBA can be important for:
- Applying for loans
- Opening a bank account for your company
- Sending invoices
- Receiving checks
- And more
Filing is a legal requirement for business owners operating under a brand name. Technically speaking, it’s prohibited for most entrepreneurs to work under an alias different from their own, unless they’ve filed a DBA.
For example, let’s say business owner Jane Doe owns a flower shop. She could register the name “Jane Doe Flowers & Gardening.” This would be her DBA. Although it has her name, the full business name is her name plus the specialty of the company.
Ideally, your name should be unique and not match any other registered company names in Michigan.
Do You Need a DBA?
Anyone who is operating a business under a brand name should file a DBA. This is not only a requirement for most business owners operating under a different name from their own. It also gives legitimacy to your brand.
Filing a DBA also ensures you’re compliant with Michigan law. It can grant your company certain legal protections by registering your brand name.
Small business owners can benefit greatly from filing. It can give you lots of flexibility to market your brand as you’d like. Business owners who benefit from brand name registration include:
- Sole Proprietors. Sole proprietors are required by law to register their company under their personal name. However, if you are a sole proprietor, you can file a DBA to work under a different name. This allows you to choose a name for your business that is engaging, explanatory, and representative of your brand.
For a sole proprietor, it’s important to keep in mind that filing a DBA will not create a separate
business entity. Your company is still tied to your personal assets. This means that if someone sues your business, they are suing you personally. In this case, a lawsuit could lead to a seizure of your assets.
While a DBA will not create a separate business entity, it still gives you a lot of flexibility. It lets
you represent your brand and grants you certain legal rights.
- LLC and S Corporations. One of the most common questions from business owners just starting out is, “Do I need a DBA for my LLC?” Those who have already created a separate business entity, like an LLC or S Corporation, can benefit greatly from filing. Registering a DBA lets you test out a brand name before you fully incorporate. It also allows you to drop the “Inc” or “LLC” from your brand’s title.
Further, if your company goes by multiple titles, you can file multiple DBAs. For example, let’s return to the example of Jane Doe and her shop titled “Jane Doe Flowers and Gardening LLC”. As an LLC, she may also want to register a DBA for “Jane Doe Flowers”, “Jane Doe Flowers and Gardening” and “JaneDoeFlowers.com” She can file multiple DBAs for each of these variations. In doing so, she secures her rights to do business under various titles.
How to File a DBA in Michigan
Filing a DBA in Michigan is simple. Sole Proprietors will need to file a “Certificate of Persons Conducting Business Under Assumed Name” form with their county clerk. You will need to file a DBA form with the county where the business is located, along with any other counties where you have an office or transact business. LLCs, limited partnerships, and corporations will also need to file appropriate documents with the Bureau.
The individual steps can vary based on the county where you live in. However, there are a few tips that can help you through the process.
- Choose a Unique Business Name. A DBA is not the same thing as a trademark. However, the state of Michigan still requires you to have a unique title for your company. According to Michigan.gov, sole proprietorships and copartnerships cannot have names that are “the same or so similar to a name already on file with the county as to cause confusion or deception.” Similarly, limited partnerships, LLCs, and corporations have to have a unique name filed with the Bureau. This name must be “distinguishable on the records of the administrator from any other active name.”
Further, Not only is it mandatory to have a unique name, but it’s also a good idea in general. A unique name—one that doesn’t match any other registered brand—will allow your brand to stand out and prevent confusion. It will distinguish your company from competing brands.
Checking to make sure your DBA is unique is fairly simple. There are online databases that allow you to see whether a name is already in use. This is also important to avoid any trademark infringement.
Again, a DBA does not grant you protection like a trademark does. This also means you could potentially be sued or be incurred legal fees/complications if your name matches another enterprise.
- Check Domain Name Availability. After you’ve confirmed the availability of your name, you should also do a quick search for domain names. In the information age of computer technology, it’s so important for businesses to establish a digital presence. Before settling on a name, check to make sure that a domain name is available for your website.
- Know Your Renewal Requirements. The fee to file a DBA in Michigan has fluctuated over the years. In 2015, the division charged limited partnerships and corporations $10 to file, and LLCs $25 to file. If you have multiple names, you will need to register each one separately.
Filing a DBA is an important step for those starting a business! Overall the process is fairly simple, but if you need help, you can visit your local county clerk office. THere you can learn more about the forms, fees, and other requirements you may need. Remember, the rules for how to file a DBA will vary. In general, however, the process is simple—and an important step for those starting a business.
Getting Down to Business
Filing for a DBA may seem like just another piece of paperwork. In truth, it’s an important step for any start-up company or small business.
Choosing a name for your business is a big deal. We’ve met entrepreneurs who admit struggling more to name their company than their own kids. That’s why it’s important to properly register your DBA. It’s the best way to keep your brand-compliant and to put your business’s name to the test.