When planning to start a Hawaii LLC, first comes your big idea, your product or service, the meat and potatoes of your business. After all, that’s how you’ll build your dream business.
But after the initial rush of deciding to take your idea to market, you have to answer an important and pressing question: “what do I call it?”
Every LLC needs a name, preferably a catchy one, specifically one that isn’t already in use. After all, despite how clever it may be, you can’t steal someone else’s name.
“But,” you may ask, “how do I know if a name is already in use?” It’s a good question. There are a lot of businesses in Hawaii, a lot of names to check. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to go about it: performing an LLC name search.
Quick Note: If you’d like to save time, an LLC formation service (like LegalZoom and ZenBusiness) can perform an LLC name search and register the business on your behalf. No need to navigate confusing state-website portals or file anything yourself.
Reasons to Perform an LLC Name Search
Checking for Hawaii LLC name availability is the most common reason to perform a search, but it’s far from the only one. Here are a few other reasons you might search for a name:
1) Finding Similar Names
You don’t want potential customers confusing you with another company, especially if that company is a competitor. Your proposed name might be available, but there could also be multiple businesses out there with deceivingly similar ones. If you don’t want your LLC getting mixed up with other businesses, this might prompt you to find a new name.
2) Checking Your Business Status
Once you’ve filed the Articles of Organization and started your Hawaii LLC, you can periodically check its status by searching for your existing name. This will confirm your business’ good standing with the state and provide your File Number, which you may need for future filings.
3) Registered Agent and Office Information
At some point, you might need to send a business service of process. Or, more positively, you might want to partner with them. In either case, you’ll need their Hawaii registered agent name and office address, readily available through a name search.
4) Maintaining Current Business Information
When modifying your LLC’s information – like changing your registered agent or principal address to a member or a registered agent service – you will want to confirm the information that the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs already has on file. A name search will take care of this for you.
How to Perform an Hawaii LLC Name Search
Time to get down to business: searching a business name. Regardless of whether you’re seeking name availability or specific business information, you’ll use the Hawaii Business Express search tool.
To check a name’s availability, choose “Begins with” from the dropdown box labeled “Search Mode.” Next, enter your desired name in the “Business Name” search bar. If there are any businesses already using that name, they will show up in the results, and you’ll have to think up a new name. If not, you’ll see a “no results” message and you’ll be free to reserve your name or use it on your Articles of Organization.
If you’re seeking a particular business, you can search either their full name or keywords. You can then click on any of the results to access the following information:
- Business Name
- Business Type (LLC, Corporation, etc.)
- File Number
- Status (active, revoked, etc.)
- Business Purpose
- State of Formation
- Registration Date
- Mailing Address
- Manager- or Member-Managed
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
- Annual Filing Dates
- Manager/Member Names
- Trade Names
- Other Filings
You won’t need all of this info if you’re simply checking a name’s availability, but it will be important later in the life of your LLC, whether you need to check in on your own business or find information on another one.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the business search, you plugged in your desired name, you hit search, and there it was: your precious name, already in use. What now?
If your LLC is domestic (formed in Hawaii), your only option is to start brainstorming ideas for a different one. Just don’t use one that’s too similar. Then, when you’ve found an acceptable, available name, go ahead and reserve it.
You may run a foreign LLC and operate under a certain name in other states. You are required to enter your LLC’s name (exactly as it appears on your Certificate of Existence) on your Application for Certificate of Authority when you foreign qualify. But if that name is already being used in Hawaii, you may need to apply for a trade name that you would use only in the state.
How to Make an Hawaii LLC Name Distinguishable
Remember that, like all other states, Hawaii has certain restrictions on what you can name your LLC. To follow them, your LLC name must:
- Use a signifier like “limited liability company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC”
- Be available and distinguishable in the DCCA records
- Not use the terms “financial institution”, “bank”, “banker”, “banking”, “banc”, “savings bank”, “savings and loan”, “savings association”, “financial services loan company”, “credit union”, “trust company”, “intrapacific bank”, “international banking corporation”, or “trust” unless authorized by the state.
- Not imply affiliation with a governmental agency (unless specifically permitted by that governmental agency
- Not mislead the public as to the function of your business
Further, your business name must be distinguishable from every other name reserved or registered with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. But what makes a name distinguishable? The following changes, by themselves, are NOT considered enough:
- Spelling out numbers or using numerals
- Changing word spellings
- Changing the business type signifier (LLC vs. Ltd. Liability Company)
- Adding articles, certain prepositions, or their Hawaiian equivalents
- Changes in punctuation
- Making words singular, plural, or possessive
- Adding “Hawaii” or “HI”
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. Instead of the alterations listed above, try adding words or letters (other than a plural “s”), using synonyms, using a prefix/suffix that changes a word’s meaning, or rearranging the words. These strategies let you create a distinguishable name without changing it entirely.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Hawaii, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
You can reserve your LLC name for 120 days by filing an application and paying a $10 fee. Or, if you’re ready to start your business, you can use that name on your Articles of Organization, which will register it automatically.
Need Help Starting an LLC?
Like we mentioned earlier, an LLC formation service can take care of all the paperwork for you. Using a formation service guarantees that your filings will be completed and submitted correctly. It also eliminates the stress of doing it yourself and gives you more time to develop your business plan, network, or just relax.