When planning to start an Indiana 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 a 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, and 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 Indiana, and a lot of names to check. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to go about it: performing an LLC name search.
Don’t forget to get your business’ domain name so nobody else can use it. This will protect your brand and make things much easier for you later. Secure it easily through GoDaddy.
Reasons to Perform an LLC Name Search
Checking for Indiana 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 Indiana 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 Business ID, which is required for certain 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 Indiana 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 Secretary of State already has on file. A name search will take care of this for you.
How to Perform an Indiana LLC Name Search
When you’re ready to start searching business names, navigate to the INBiz website, which contains a comprehensive Business Search tool, useful for both name availability and existing business searches.
To see if a name’s already in use, enter it in the “Business Name” search bar and click the Search button. Any results? If not, the name is free and you can reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization. If so, the name is taken and you’ll need to find a way to distinguish your own.
There are several different ways to search for a specific existing business. In the “Business Name” search bar, you may search for a full or partial name. Or, if you know a company’s business ID, filing number, registered agent name, or principal name, you can search by any of those subjects as well. There’s even an advanced search option where you can enter the business type, status, and/or address to further narrow your results. Once you have a list of results, click on any business to find its:
- Business Name
- Business ID
- Entity Type
- Business Status
- Creation Date
- Inactive Date (if applicable)
- Principal Office Address
- Expiration Date
- Jurisdiction of Formation
- Business Entity Report Due Date
- Principal Name
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
If you’re simply searching name availability, you won’t need this information, but it can come in handy if you’re attempting to contact the members or managers of another business or check up on your own.
What if My Name Is Unavailable?
So, you went to the Business Search, plugged in your desired name, hit search, and there it was: your precious name, already in use. What now?
If your LLC is domestic (formed in Indiana), 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 either form your LLC or reserve the name for future use.
Is your business expanding to Indiana from another state? Foreign entities have a different naming process. If you’ve been operating under a particular name in another state but that name is unavailable in Indiana, you’ll need to register an “alternate name.” This is the name that your LLC will use for all your Indiana business activities. Simply indicate your alternate name on the Foreign Registration Statement when you foreign qualify your LLC.
How to Make an Indiana LLC Name Distinguishable
Every name on file with the Indiana Secretary of State, whether actual or alternate, must meet the state’s LLC naming requirements. They state that your name must:
- Use a term that indicates its business type, like “limited liability company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC.”
- Be distinguishable and available among all other businesses registered with the Secretary of State.
But what, exactly, makes a name distinguishable? If your desired name is unavailable, you’ll need to either come up with a completely new one or find a way to make your current one unique. The Secretary of State and state code don’t provide specific factors that make a name distinguishable, but typically, the following changes are NOT enough:
- Designators like LLC or L.L.C. (New Company LLC and New Company L.L.C. are considered the same)
- Articles like “a,” “an,” or “the”
- The words “and” and “or”
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. If your desired name is unavailable, you’ll need to distinguish it, but you likely won’t want to lose it completely. Try rearranging the words, using unique spellings, adding certain prefixes or suffixes, finding synonyms, adding/removing words, or using acronyms. This way, you can make your name unique while keeping it similar to the original.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal is. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Indiana, you can proceed to reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization.
You have the option to reserve your LLC name if you want to protect it while you prepare to start your business. Filing a name reservation costs $10 and will hold your name for 120 days. If you’re ready to start your business, however, you can just use that name on your Articles of Organization, which will automatically register it.
Need Help Starting an LLC?
As 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.
We invite you to take a look at our complete guide to all of the top options, but we’ll also quickly run down our top three picks right here.
- ZenBusiness ($39) – ZenBusiness offers a well-rounded LLC formation package at a great low rate. Their standard LLC package includes a full year of registered agent service and a customizable operating agreement. ZenBusiness also receives stellar customer feedback, plus it’s a public benefit corporation that gives back to the communities it serves.
- Northwest Registered Agent ($39) – Northwest offers a bit more of a premium service and we think it’s worth it. Like ZenBusiness and IncFile, Northwest also includes a year of its industry-best registered agent service with the purchase of any LLC formation package. They also offer the best customer support in this industry, with knowledgeable representatives who are familiar with the details of business formation processes in every state.
- IncFile (FREE) – That’s not a typo! IncFile really does form LLCs for free. Even better, they include 12 months of registered agent service in their free package. IncFile has a ton of experience and more than 500,000 satisfied customers, so they’re always a reliable choice. With tens of thousands of positive reviews, IncFile has an unrivaled customer feedback reputation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions Which words are restricted from usage for LLC names in Indiana?
Indiana doesn’t have too many restrictions regarding the terms you can use in your business name, but it does have a few. For instance, you can’t use terms that refer to other business entity types, and you need to avoid terms that imply an association with banking, insurance, or government entities as well.
Is it necessary to reserve my business name before forming my Indiana LLC?
No. In fact, Alabama is the only state that requires entrepreneurs to reserve a business name before forming an LLC. In Indiana and the other 48 states, this is an optional and largely unnecessary step.
How many small businesses are there in Indiana today?
The state of Indiana is home to more than 120,000 small businesses. Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and business types find that Indiana is a great place to own and operate a small business.
What are the top small business resources and websites in Indiana?
The Indiana chapter of the Small Business Development Center is a great place to start, as they offer a wide variety of tools and resources for Indiana LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Indiana District Office is another valuable resource, and the state’s Economic Development Corporation also has plenty of good info.
What Is the Total Expected Cost of Operating an LLC in Indiana?
The overall costs of operating an Indiana LLC can vary considerably based on the specifics of your business. However, we created a helpful guide to help you identify and plan for every expense your LLC will face in this state.
Should I Use an LLC Service, Hire an Attorney, or Form My Own LLC?
The answer to this question lies in your personal preferences, but we can give some general pointers. An attorney will cost the most by a mile, but also provides expertise you won’t find with the other options. The DIY route is free of charge but can require quite a bit of legwork and provides no peace of mind that the process is being completed correctly.
Using an LLC service means your business will be formed by professionals who know what they’re doing, while also costing significantly less than a lawyer. This “best of both worlds” attribute is what makes LLC services our preferred option.