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 South Carolina LLC.
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 South Carolina-based plumbing business called “Charleston Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond Charleston, you can register a DBA for “Greenville Plumbing” and use that name in the Greenville market.
The state of South Carolina provides no exclusivity for DBA names. In fact, this state doesn’t even maintain a database of DBA names, and they don’t require that you register one. You can simply start using your new assumed business name without bothering to file any forms with the state.
For these reasons, we typically do not think that DBAs are advisable for South Carolina LLCs. If you want another name to use for your business, you can instead form an additional LLC. This is much more work and costs more money, but we think it’s worth it to gain the exclusive rights to your name.
That said, if you still want to get a DBA for your South Carolina LLC, we’ll discuss the process in the next section.
How to Get a DBA for a South Carolina LLC
First off, we’ll note that South Carolina often refers to DBAs as “assumed names,” so for the purposes of this article, we’ll continue to use both terms interchangeably because most states use the term “DBA.”
The first step when considering a DBA for a South Carolina LLC is to perform a business search to make sure no formal business entities have registered your desired name as their official business name.
As we mentioned earlier, South Carolina does not require that businesses register DBAs. That said, each county offers DBA documents in case your bank or another institution requires proof of your DBA name. As an example, let’s take a look at York County’s Assumed Name Certificate. Keep in mind that each county has its own version of this form, so you’ll need to get the correct document from your county clerk’s office.
For York County’s form, you need to include the following information: the DBA name you’re registering, your LLC’s official business name and address, the date, and the signatures of your LLC’s owners. This form also needs to be notarized.
Because the state has no requirement that you register a DBA, there is no process for filing the document, and there are no fees involved.
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 fictitious name. However, South Carolina doesn’t provide any exclusivity for DBA names and they don’t even have a formal, required registration process.
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 than 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 South Carolina, a DBA might not be the best idea.