One of the most important parts of any business is its name. Your limited liability company’s name is your first impression with prospective clients, whether they hear about your business by word of mouth, drive past a billboard advertising your business on the freeway, or if they stumble upon your business as a result of a Google search.
One way to change your business name — or to add an additional name that your LLC can use interchangeably — is by filing a “doing business as” name application, commonly known as a DBA. There are many reasons to get a DBA — from marketing a new product line to granting a sole proprietorship the ability to use an assumed name — so this article will walk you through the process of registering a DBA for your Arizona LLC.
A solid name goes a long way in establishing your brand in customers’ minds. Doing Business As (DBA) names give you increased customization, flexibility, and versatility with your business identity. Once you're ready to lock it down, have ZenBusiness file all the paperwork.
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What Is a DBA?
To begin, let’s quickly run down what exactly a DBA is. One point of confusion we often hear about is that a DBA is not a business entity, like an LLC, corporation, sole proprietorship, general partnership, etc. Instead, you can think of a DBA as an add-on feature of sorts.
The DBA allows you to create alternate business names for your entity, which you can then use interchangeably with your LLC’s official business name. In addition, for informal business entities that don’t have exclusive business names (like sole proprietorships and general partnerships), a DBA can be a great way to inject some additional professionalism into a business venture.
But let’s talk strictly about LLCs, shall we? Why would an LLC want an additional business name? There are several potential reasons, although they obviously vary considerably depending on what your business does. One popular reason is to differentiate a new product line from a company’s existing offerings.
Let’s say that you own a business called “Fine Footwear, LLC” that produces high-end shoes. If you decide to also start a new product line that sells inexpensive flip-flop sandals, you might want a way to differentiate this brand from your core business. In this circumstance, you could register a DBA for “Flip-Flops by Fine Footwear,” and you can use this name to market your new products, while your original product line remains unaffected if your sandal side business fails.
It could also be helpful if you decide to expand your local business into a new market. For instance, if you own an Arizona-based plumbing business called “Phoenix Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond Phoenix, you can register a DBA for “Flagstaff Plumbing” and use that name in the Flagstaff market.
The state of Arizona provides no protection for the exclusivity of DBA names. This means that if another business decides that they like your DBA name, they can use it themselves with no penalty. In addition, the state explicitly says that they “cannot guarantee that chosen names will not conflict with existing business names, and that filing a DBA or trade name “does not grant exclusive rights.”
For these reasons, we typically do not recommend registering trade names or DBAs in this state. Instead, you can form a new LLC and officially register your exclusive business name. It’s more of a hassle, but at least this route prevents competitors from stealing your business name.
However, if you still want to get a DBA for your Arizona LLC, we’ll outline the process below.
How to Get a DBA for an Arizona LLC
First off, we’ll note that Arizona typically refers to DBAs as “trade names,” but for the purposes of this article, we’ll continue to use both terms interchangeably because most states use the term “DBA.”
The process for obtaining a DBA in Arizona is quite simple, and the entire process is completed online. Before you start filling out the paperwork, you should make sure your desired name is available. You can do this by checking the Arizona Corporation Commission’s website.
The state used to give entrepreneurs options to file on a paper form on through its online portal, but Arizona recently got rid of the paper applications for DBAs. You can access the online application form right here.
The first step is to provide the state with the trade name you would like to register, along with your email address. Then, you will indicate the date you first used the name for your business. For most businesses, you will merely indicate today’s date, but if you already started using your assumed name, you should instead indicate the date you started doing so.
You will then indicate that your business is an LLC and inform the state of the nature of your business. Then, you can provide your business address and phone number. Once you add your digital signature, you’re ready to file the form.
Instead of providing your $10 filing fee immediately, you will instead wait for the state to conduct its review of your filing, which they say takes roughly 2-3 weeks. When the state completes the review process, it will send you an email inviting you to pay for your new trade name. Once they receive your payment, the state will send your trade name certificate.
At this point, your filing is complete, and you can use your new trade name for five years before you’ll need to file a renewal.
The doing business as (DBA) name varies more from state to state than most other business filings. In some states, a DBA grants you exclusive rights to your new trade name, but in states like Arizona, that simply isn’t the case. Due to this lack of exclusivity, we’re not fans of registering DBAs in this state.
Instead, it’s probably a better option to form an additional LLC if you want to be able to use multiple names for your business. This is certainly more of a hassle that registering a DBA, but at least you’ll have exclusive rights to your name.
If you’re looking for a new way to market your LLC in Arizona, a DBA might not be the best idea.