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 Rhode Island 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. Rhode Island 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 online LLC services — like LegalZoom and Zen Business — that can do it for you.
1) Review Rhode Island Name Requirements
Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island. 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, “Rhode Island Lawn Care Bros, LLC” and “Rhode Island Lawn Care Bros, Inc” are too close. A simple difference in entity type identifiers is not sufficient to make a name distinguishable if it is the only difference present. “Rhode Island Lawn Care Bros I, Inc” would also be insufficient. As a general rule, your name must both look and sound different from other names.
In a few instances, you may be able to use a name that is not distinguishable. But you’ll need to obtain consent from the original owner of the name and complete additional paperwork.
2) Create the Perfect Name for Your Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island’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 Rhode Island Secretary of State
Now it’s time to check that your business name is available in the state of Rhode Island. 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 Rhode Island. 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.
For your purposes, you’ll want to search by entity name. With this search type, you have several options. We recommend using at least two of them. First, you should use the “Exact Match” filter and type in the exact name you’d like to use. If any exact matches appear, you’ll need to make some changes to make your name distinct.
The second search is optional, but you may find it helpful to run a keyword search. Simply switch to the “full text” filter and type in a keyword from your proposed business name. The tool will pull up any businesses which include that keyword in their name. By knowing what names are being used by your competition, you’ll be able to make your name stand out.
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 Rhode Island
You’ve done the legwork to make sure your business name is free to use in Rhode Island. Now, let’s ensure that none of that work goes to waste by reserving your business name with the state.
In Rhode Island, you can reserve a business name by filing an Application for Reservation of Entity Name.You can file this form by mail or online with the Secretary of State. This form includes some information about your business, such as your business type, contact information for the applicant, a signature, and of course, the name you want to reserve.
The filing fee for this varies depending on your entity type; nonprofits will need to pay $20 and most other entities will pay $50. You can pay by check (made payable to the Rhode Island Secretary of State) or credit card.
Reserving your name will protect your business name for 120 days. 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 120-day-long reservation gives you plenty of time to get all your affairs in order and file your formation documents.
5) File Your Rhode Island Formation Documents
Even though filing a reservation gives you 120 days 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 Rhode Island Business Data Hub of the Secretary of 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 Rhode Island Articles of Incorporation. 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 Rhode Island. 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.