When planning to start a Minnesota 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, 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 Minnesota, 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 Minnesota 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 Minnesota 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 may be required 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 Minnesota 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 a Minnesota LLC Name Search
Time to search for a business name. Whether you’re checking a name’s availability or looking for a specific business, go to the Secretary of State’s Online Business Services page. From here, your path splits depending on your final goal.
For name availability, you’ll need to create an account (if you don’t already have one). Then, scroll down and click “Limited Liability Company” (either domestic or foreign) under “File a New Business or Nonprofit.” You won’t actually be filing your business, but you can use this option to find a specific name. Enter your exact desired name in the search bar and choose your entity designation (LLC, Ltd., etc.) from the drop-down box. Don’t type your entity designation after the name! You only need to select it from the drop-down box.
When you execute the search, it may return results. If it does, your name is currently in use and you’ll need to come up with a new one. But if it doesn’t, the name is all yours! Feel free to reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization.
The process for searching an existing business is a little simpler. At the top of the Online Business Services page, there’s a section titled “Search Business Filings.” Enter the full or partial business name and hit “Search.” You don’t need an account to perform this search. This will likely present you with multiple results. If you click “Details” next to any of them, you’ll find the following information:
- Business Type
- MN Statute
- File Number
- Home Jurisdiction
- Filling Date
- Status (active or inactive)
- Renewal Due Date
- Registered Office Address
- Registered Agent Name
- Manager Name and Address
- Principal Executive Office Address
- Filing History
This info is useful if you’re trying to contact another business or confirming that your company’s information is up to date.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the Online Business Services page, 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 Minnesota), 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.
Is your business expanding to Minnesota from another state? The process for foreign LLCs is different. You’ve already been operating under an established name in other states, but if that name is unavailable in Minnesota, you need to register an “alternate name.” Fortunately, you can designate your LLC’s alternate name directly on your Certificate of Authority when you apply for foreign qualification.
How to Make a Minnesota LLC Name Distinguishable
When choosing your actual or alternate name, keep in mind that Minnesota, like other states, has certain business requirements. According to Minnesota Statutes 322C.0108, your LLC name must:
- Use the words “limited liability company” or the abbreviation “LLC”
- Be in the English language or a language expressed in English characters
- Not contain “corporation,” “incorporated,” or any abbreviation of either word
- Not use terms that would indicate it was formed for an unpermitted purpose
- Be distinguishable from every other business entity name on record with the Secretary of State
If your name is unavailable, you’ll need to distinguish it. But how? Making changes to the following elements will make your name unique:
- Plural vs. singular nouns
- Roman vs. Arabic numerals (IV vs. 4)
- Numerals vs. spelled out numbers (4 vs. four)
- Using contractions
- Unique spellings (quick vs. kwik)
- Using abbreviations (mister vs. mr.)
- Adding or removing prepositions and/or conjunctions
- Entity designators (LLC vs. Ltd.)
If your name is unavailable but you don’t want to scrap it completely, any of these alterations allow you to make your name distinct without coming up with a new one.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Minnesota, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
You have the option to reserve your business name if you want to protect it while you register your business. For $35 by mail and $55 online, you can hold your LLC name for an entire year.
However, if you’re ready to start your business, you can automatically register your name by using it on your Articles of Organization.
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.