When you meet someone new, what’s the first thing you want to know about them? Their name. Your name is unique—it’s how people remember you.
The same goes for your Alabama business: choosing your name is the most important step of forming your company. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just picking the name you like best from a list. That works for babies, but not businesses. Alabama has several requirements that you’ll need to follow as you pick a name.
Fortunately, this five-step guide will help you pick a name that is both perfect for your business and compliant with state laws. We’ll also cover how to reserve your name once you’ve picked it. Let’s get started.
NOTE: If you have found the perfect business name and would like to begin the process of registering your business with the state, there are a lot of business formation services — like LegalZoom and Zen Business — that can do it for you.
1) Review Alabama Name Requirements
Alabama has two primary requirements for naming your business. First, your name must include a designation of the type of company you’re forming. For example, if you’re forming a Limited Liability Company, you’ll need to include “LLC,” “Limited Liability Company,” or an abbreviation of those terms. Corporations must include “Inc.,” “Incorporated,” “Corporation,” etc. Regardless of what kind of entity you make, your name should reflect your business type.
Second, your name must be distinguishable from other business entities in Alabama. If it’s too similar to another name, your filings could get mixed up with the paperwork for the wrong entity. And worse, a super-similar business name could confuse your customers.
For example, “Alabama Lawn Care Bros, LLC” and “Alabama Lawn Care Team, LLC” are too close. And in most cases, it’s not enough to change the business type from “LLC” to “Corporation,” either. (You technically can do so, but you’d need written permission from the original owner of the name to use their name under a different business type).
One last note: your business name cannot imply that you’re conducting any activities that are prohibited by law.
In Alabama, if your business name includes a professional occupation that is regulated by state licensure, you’ll need to do two things. First, make sure you have that license. Second, you’ll need to provide proof that you’re allowed to use that professional term in your name. You can do this by either showing a copy of your license, or by obtaining a letter of exemption. from an officer at the office which regulates your profession.
Similarly, Alabama banking entities and insurance entities will need to include a letter from the Alabama Banking Commissioner’s Office and the Alabama Insurance Commissioner’s Office, respectively.
2) Create the Perfect Name for Your Alabama Business
Now that we’ve covered all the things you can’t do with your business name, let’s focus on what you can do. Here’s where you can let your creativity shine. As long as you meet Alabama’s requirements, you can pick just about anything you like.
However, to make your business name perfect, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Pick a name that represents your business: Your business name is the first impression you’ll send to potential customers; you want to make sure it’s the right impression. So, be sure to include important aspects of your business in your name. For example, if you’re starting a restaurant that specializes in vegan fare, you’ll want that to be clear by your business name.
- Write it down and say it aloud: Your business name appears everywhere—business cards, your website, company signage, and more. A good name will look good on paper. But you’ll also say your name a lot, too, so make sure it sounds as good as it looks.
- Choose a name that you’re proud of: Do you like the name you’ve come up with? You love your business, and you should love the name that goes with it. If you love the name, then you’re good to move on to step three.
3) Search Your Chosen Name with the Alabama Secretary of State
Now it’s time to check that your business name is available in the state of Alabama. To do so, you’ll want to run a Business Entity Search by Entity Name.
Here’s how it works: input the business name you developed in Step 2. If the state’s search tool doesn’t find any results, then good news! Your name is available for you to use in Alabama. However, if it does find a match, you’ll want to start over or tweak your name a little to make sure it’s different from what’s currently in use in the state.
Want a pro tip to make the search tool easier to use? Once you’re on the Business Entity Search page linked above, type in only the first blank labelled “Name.” This blank is where you’ll type in your proposed name. You can ignore the other sections; those mainly reveal business records, which you won’t need at this point. The tool will pull up any existing businesses with names that are the same as or similar to the name you’ve developed.
While this step may seem like a hassle, it can save you time in the long run. You’ll need to put your business name on your formation documents; if you put down a name that’s already in use, the state will send it back to you, request a change, and you’ll need to file all over again. This could potentially slow down your start-up process by several days or even weeks. Searching your name ahead of time prevents that slow-down.
4) Reserve Your Business Name with Alabama
You’ve done the legwork to make sure your business name is free to use in Alabama. Now, let’s ensure that none of that work goes to waste by reserving your business name with the state.
In Alabama, you can reserve a business name by filing a Name Reservation Request Form.You can file this form by mail, in person, or online with the Secretary of State. This form includes some information about your business, such as your business type, requested name, contact information of the person requesting the reservation, and payment information.
Alabama requires a fee of $10 for this name reservation. Alabama also offers an expedited option for $25 if you need a quick turnaround. You can pay by check, money order, or credit card.
Reserving your name will protect your business name for an additional year. While it’s unlikely that another person will come up with the exact name you’ve chosen, this process prevents anyone else from using your name. The year-long reservation gives you plenty of time to get all your affairs in order and file your formation documents.
5) File Your Alabama Formation Documents
Even though filing a reservation gives you a year of exclusive rights to the name you’ve created, you’ll need to file your formation documents to make everything official. The document you need to use varies depending on the type of business you’re forming, but it’s often called the Articles of Incorporation or the Articles of Organization.
The Business Services Division of the Alabama Secretary State serves as a helpful starting point for forming your business. Here you’ll find the forms you need to start your business, including the Alabama Certificate of Formation. You’ll also find easy access to forms such as name reservations, amendments, registered agent changes, and more.
Conducting a business name search is an important part of forming your business in Alabama. The search saves you time and helps you set up a name that makes your business stand out. We hope this guide made it simple to name your business.