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 Kentucky 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.
Alternatively, if you’d rather just setup an LLC, we have a special discount running and will do it for $0 + state fee ($79 less than LegalZoom).
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 a Kentucky-based plumbing business called “Louisville Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond Louisville, you can register a DBA for “Lexington Plumbing” and use that name in the Lexington market.
The state of Kentucky includes more protections for DBA names than most states do because, in most states, there is no exclusivity for a DBA. If another business decides that they want to use your DBA as their own name, many states allow them to do just that. However, Kentucky requires that all DBA names be unique, and provides a five-year window of exclusivity regarding the rights to an assumed business name, after which you can renew your registration if you so choose. For this reason, the DBA is a better idea in Kentucky than in most other states.
How to Get a DBA for a Kentucky LLC
First off, we’ll note that Kentucky typically refers to DBAs as “assumed 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 Kentucky starts with a business name search to determine whether the name you want is actually available for your use. Once you’ve done that, you can fill out the state’s Certificate of Assumed Name.
This is a very simple document that requires less information than most states require for DBA registrations. All you need is the new assumed name you’re registering, your LLC’s official business name, an indication that your business is an LLC, the jurisdiction where you originally formed your LLC, your LLC’s mailing address, along with your printed name, title, the date, and your signature.
When you’re ready to file the form, you can submit it to the Secretary of State by mail or by hand. (Oddly enough, the state accepts online filings for assumed name renewals but not for initial registrations.) The filing fee for this document is $20. The typical turnaround time in this state is just 1-3 business days.
To be honest, we often say that entrepreneurs shouldn’t bother with DBAs because they don’t provide any exclusivity for your business name. However, Kentucky actually does a solid job in this regard compared to most states.
Kentucky’s pledge to provide five years of name exclusivity for any assumed name registered here makes the DBA an interesting proposition in this state, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this option to any of our readers.
If you’re looking for a new way to market your LLC in Kentucky, a DBA isn’t a bad idea.