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Iowa LLC Name SearchWhen planning to start an Iowa 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 Iowa, and a lot of names to check. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to go about it: performing an LLC name search.

Reasons to Perform an LLC Name Search

Checking for Iowa 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 Certificate of Organization and started your Iowa 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 Number (among other important information) which you may need for certain 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 Iowa 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 Iowa LLC Name Search

The Secretary of State offers a “one-stop shop” for business name searches. Whether you’re seeking information about a specific business or just checking a name’s availability, you can use the “Business Entity Search” function.

The page is pretty simple. It only has two search bars: one for business names and one for business numbers, and you can use either. However, if you’re just checking availability, enter your full desired name in the “Business Name” bar and hit “Search.” See any results? If not, the name is free, so go ahead and use it on a name reservation or your Certificate of Organization. But if the search yields any results, sorry! Your name is already in use and you’ll need to come up with something different.

On the other hand, if you’re seeking a specific business, you can either search for its full or partial name or its business number. Click on any business from the search results and you’ll find the following information:

  • Business Number
  • Legal Name
  • Status
  • Business Type
  • State of Formation
  • Expiration Date
  • Effective Date
  • Filing Date
  • Legal Name
  • Fictitious Name (if applicable)
  • Registered Agent Name
  • Registered Agent Address
  • Home Office Address

You won’t need this information when performing a simple name availability check, but it can be quite useful when you’re trying 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 Entity 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 Iowa), 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.

For foreign LLCs, the process is a little different. If your LLC is from another state, you’ve already been operating under a particular name there. But if that name is unavailable in Iowa, you’ll need to register a “fictitious name,” which you’ll use only for your Iowa business activities. When you foreign qualify your LLC, you’ll find a space designated for a fictitious name on your Application for Certificate of Authority. Entering a name in that space will register it with the Secretary of State.

How to Make an Iowa LLC Name Distinguishable

Remember that Iowa, like other states, has specific business name requirements, and they apply to all actual and fictitious names. For LLCs in particular, a business name must:

  • Contain one of the following terms: “limited liability company,” “limited company,” “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “LC.”
  • Be available and distinguishable from every other entity name registered with the Iowa Secretary of State.

You be asking: how do you make a name “distinguishable?” Good question. The state doesn’t provide specific methods for making a name distinguishable, but typically, the following changes aren’t enough on their own:

  • Business type indicators like LLC, L.L.C., Inc., LP, etc. (New Company LLC, New Company L.L.C., New Company Inc., and New Company LP are all considered the same)
  • Articles like “a,” “an,” or “the”
  • Singular vs. plural nouns
  • The words “and” and “or”
  • Punctuation
  • Capitalization

Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. There are, however, some strategies that will make your name unique without changing it completely. If your desired name is unavailable, try finding synonyms, adding or removing words, rearranging words, using abbreviations or acronyms, or using unique spellings. This way, you can keep a name that’s still similar to your original.

What’s Next?

What you do next depends entirely on what your goal is. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Iowa, you can proceed to reserve it or use it on your Certificate of Organization.

To protect your name while you sort out formation paperwork, you can reserve it for 120 days by filing the appropriate application and paying a $10 fee. But if you’re ready to start your business right away, it’s better just to use the name on your Certificate of Organization, which will automatically register it with the state.

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 three of the most popular companies right here.

  • ZenBusiness ($49) – ZenBusiness offers a well-rounded LLC formation package at a great low rate. Their standard LLC package includes a year of annual report service. 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. Northwest 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.
  • LegalZoom ($79) – For most people, LegalZoom is the first name that comes to mind for LLC services. With millions of clients, it’s easy to see why. LegalZoom’s pricing and features may not compete on an equal playing field with ZenBusiness and Northwest, but its brand power is second to none, it receives solid customer reviews, and it has a strong money-back guarantee.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which words are restricted from usage for LLC names in Iowa?

Iowa 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 Iowa LLC?

No. In fact, Alabama is the only state that requires entrepreneurs to reserve a business name before forming an LLC. In Iowa and the other 48 states, this is an optional and largely unnecessary step.

How many small businesses are there in Iowa today?

The state of Iowa is home to nearly 250,000 small businesses. Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and business types find that Iowa is a great place to own and operate a small business.

What are the top small business resources and websites in Iowa?

The Iowa chapter of the Small Business Development Center is a great place to start, as they offer a wide variety of tools and resources for Iowa LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Iowa District Office is another valuable resource, and the state’s small business resource page also has plenty of good info.

What Is the Total Expected Cost of Operating an LLC in Iowa?

The overall costs of operating an Iowa 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.