Have you ever considered doing business under a name that is different from your existing business name? It may sound like a strange practice — why, exactly, should you do business under another name if you already have one? — but it’s actually much more common than many entrepreneurs realize.

A small business that is interested in conducting business under a different name needs to file for a doing business as name, or DBA.

Brewery business owner with brewing equipment

What is a DBA?

As mentioned before, DBA is an acronym for “doing business as” name. This name is also referred to as a “fictitious business name” and “assumed name.”

A DBA is the official and public registration of a business name. Entrepreneurs that intend on conducting business, marketing, advertising, or collecting money under a name or title that isn’t their own legal name may file for a DBA. This allows their company to do business under a made up name in the state or county they do business out of. If you don’t already have a DBA, try to avoid conducting business under another name until you have it. It’s a requirement for entrepreneurs in most states to register for a DBA prior to doing business with a different name.

What types of entities may file for a DBA?

Many entrepreneurs often assume that only sole proprietors may file for a DBA. These individuals call the shots and run their business entirely on their own. There may come a circumstance in which they will need to conduct business under a different name, so they would need to file and register for a DBA accordingly. This would allow the sole proprietor to receive and sign checks made out to that business.

Other entities may also benefit from DBAs. Those that have incorporated as LLCs or corporations may also file for a DBA if, like a sole proprietor, they plan on doing business under a different name. Filing for a DBA is a win-win here. It gives entrepreneurs the ability to do business under a fictitious name without going through the added paperwork of forming a new legal structure.

Where else would I need a DBA?

One of the most popular reasons for entrepreneurs to file for a DBA is if they want to open a business bank account. Most, if not all, banks require a DBA so that the owner of the business may collect checks and payments under their fictitious business name.

What happens if you don’t have it? Simply put, you wouldn’t be able to issue or receive checks under the assumed name. Think you could try by using your personal bank account? That won’t work either. Further, most entrepreneurs must have a DBA before they open a bank account for their business.

Small business owner filing for DBA

How to get started filing for a DBA

Ready to file for a DBA? Here’s what you need to keep in mind before getting started.

  • What kind of information is required on your application? You’ll need the applicant’s name, date of filing, the assumed name of the business, and the address for the business. The DBA must be filed in the state or county where the business’ principal address is located.
  • You must conduct a name search prior to filing for a DBA. It’s always a possibility that the name, no matter how made up it may be, is not available. You may use the online name search tools available with your local Secretary of State to determine if the DBA is available in the state you’d like to file in. Conducting a name search is a fairly easy process, and ensures that you do not accidentally infringe on existing names that have already been registered.
  • Once you’re ready to file your DBA form, keep in mind that you may need to pay an additional fee. Luckily, there tend to be pretty inexpensive.

I’ve obtained my DBA! Now what?

Congratulations! Now that you have a DBA, get in touch with your local Secretary of State to see if you need to publish information about the DBA. Some states require that you publish the DBA’s name in at least one local newspaper. This ensures other business owners have been given proper notice of the name.

Keep in mind that while a DBA does provide your business with an added bit of professionalism, it is also a name that identifies a business. If you want to protect it from being used elsewhere, consider filing for a trademark to ensure it is not plagiarized elsewhere.