What is a DBA (and Does Your Business Need One)?
A company is DBA (or “doing business as”) when they operate under a name that is different from their legal name. Filing for a DBA certificate allows you to do business under a name other than yours, or the name under which your business is legally registered. Depending on where you're located, a DBA is synonymous with: assumed, trade, or fictitious name. - Fundera
BENEFITS OF FILING FOR A DBA
- Open a bank account
- Receive business payments
- Includes product/service in the name
- Able to get small business loans & credit cards
- Helps to avoid accusations of fraud or deceptive trade practices down the road.
HOW DOES A DBA PROTECT YOU?
Simply put, a DBA separates you from your business. In the unlikely scenario that your business is sued, you could offer up your DBA as evidence that your business and its assets are an entity separate from you and your personal assets.
New Mexico, Mississippi and Kansas have no DBA registration laws. In Arizona and Alabama, DBA registration is optional. It is mandatory in all other states.
HOW TO OBTAIN A DBA?
Most states will advise you to use an online assumed name search tool to see if your name is available. If available you can usually reserve the name(s) for a short period of time, then purchase a DBA online or in person at the county clerk office (often downtown). In some states, that's all you have to do. In others, you might also have to place a fictitious name ad in a local newspaper for a certain amount of time. This fulfills the “public notice” requirement for some states—giving the local area an official announcement of your business name (i.e. California). An active DBA registration in any county/state jurisdiction will prevent any other person or business from registering the same DBA in that state/jurisdiction.
Sole proprietorships or general partnerships require a DBA be filed only if you want your company to operate under a name that’s not your full legal name, or your partner’s name. If you will be using your name (or a documented partner's name) for you business, a DBA is not required.
DBA's typically remain active around 5 years 10 years before needing to be renewed depending on the jurisdiction. For example, California and Vermont DBA's remain effective 5 years, while Texas is 10. In Colorado, a DBA registration is limited to one year for a business operated as a sole proprietorship and doesn't need to renew as long as the corporation remains in good standing with the state. You can expect to pay anywhere from $10-$100 to register your DBA.
BBH ADVICE: Get the DBA. It is necessary in most cases for online boutiques and is super easy to get done. Get it as soon as possible to prevent someone naming a business with your intended business name. At the least, search your jurisdiction's dba search tool to be sure your business name isn't taken before going deep into your business.