DBA for Virginia LLCOne 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 Virginia LLC.

Keep in Mind: A DBA does not provide you with asset protection. However an LLC does and allows you to operate under the business name of your choice as long as it is not already claimed. Plus, it is fairly straightforward to file through an LLC formation service (like ZenBusiness) or on your own.
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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 a Virginia-based plumbing business called “Richmond Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond Richmond, you can register a DBA for “Norfolk Plumbing” and use that name in the Norfolk market.

The state of Virginia provides no exclusivity for DBA names. This means that you have no unique rights to your DBA name and if another entrepreneur decides that they want to use it for themselves, they are legally allowed to do so. Due to this lack of exclusivity, we’re not typically fans of registering DBAs in this state.

If you want an additional business name for your LLC, it might be a better idea to simply form another LLC. This is more work and costs more money, but we think the exclusive rights to your unique name make it worthwhile.

That said, if you still want to get a DBA for your Virginia LLC, you can read all about the process in the following section.

How to Get a DBA for a Virginia LLC

First off, we’ll note that Virginia typically refers to DBAs as “fictitious 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 Virginia begins with a business name search to make sure the fictitious name you want is available and hasn’t been registered as a formal business entity. Once you’ve determined the name’s eligibility, you can fill out the Certificate of Assumed or Fictitious Name – Business Conducted by an Entity form.

This form requires the following information: your LLC’s official business name, the fictitious name you’re registering, an indication that your business is an LLC, the jurisdiction where you originally formed your LLC, your LLC’s State Corporation Commission ID number, the date, your signature, your printed name, and your title.

When you’re ready to file this form, you can submit it to the State Corporation Commission online, by mail, or by hand. No matter how you choose to file it, this document has a $10 filing fee. Online filings are typically processed immediately, while documents submitted by mail or by hand will take roughly 5-7 business days. Virginia does not offer expedited service for documents filed on paper forms.

In Conclusion

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, Virginia specifically says that registering a fictitious name in this state grants you no exclusive right to use that name. 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 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 Virginia, a DBA might not be the best idea.

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