When planning to start a Missouri 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 Missouri, 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 Missouri 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 Missouri 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 Charter Number, which you might 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 Missouri 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 Missouri LLC Name Search
Let’s get started. To search a business name, you’ll need to access the Secretary of State’s business search tool. Whether you’re seeking name availability or looking for a specific business, this search is your answer.
If you’ve got a business name in mind and need to see if it’s being used, select “Name Availability” from the dropdown box and enter the proposed name in the search bar. Click the “Search” button and one of two things will happen: either you’ll see a list of results (your name is taken) or you’ll get a message that says “no records to display” (your name is free).
When searching for a specific business, you’ll use the same webpage, but you can search a few different ways. The most common is to search by a full or partial business name, but you can also search by registered agent name or charter number. You can then select any business from the list and view the following information:
- Legal Name
- Business Type (LLC, Corporation, etc.)
- Charter Number
- Domesticity (Domestic or Foreign)
- Home State
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
- Date Formed
- Previous Filings
- Registered Office Address
- Other Contact Information
This information comes in handy if you’re trying to contact another business or check the status of your own.
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 Missouri), 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.
Foreign LLCs have a different process. Running a foreign LLC means that your business has an already-established name for use in other states. But if that name is unavailable in Missouri, you’ll need to register a different one. To do so, provide one in section 2 of your Application for Registration when you foreign qualify.
How to Make a Missouri LLC Name Distinguishable
Don’t forget that, like other states, Missouri has a specific set of business name requirements. This means that your LLC name must:
- Use one of the following – “limited company,” “limited liability company,” “LC,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “L.L.C.”
- Not include the words “corporation,” “incorporated,” “limited partnership,” “limited liability partnership,” or any forms/abbreviations of these terms.
- Not use any terms that imply affiliation with a governmental agency
- Be distinguishable from every other business entity name on file with the Missouri Secretary of State
In the case that your name is unavailable, you might be asking: how do I make it distinguishable? Or, how can I distinguish it without getting rid of it completely? Both good questions. State law doesn’t give direction on how, exactly, to make a name distinguishable, but typically, changing the following elements isn’t enough:
- Business type indicators like LLC, Ltd., Inc., or LP (New Company LLC, New Company Ltd., New Company Inc., and New Company LP are all considered identical)
- The articles “a,” “an,” or “the.”
- The words “and,” and “or”
- Singular vs. plural nouns
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. Instead, you can try adding/removing words, using unique spellings, finding synonyms, adding prefixes or suffixes, or rearranging the words. This way, you can distinguish your name without getting rid of it completely.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Missouri, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
You may want to protect your LLC name while you prepare to start your business, in which case you can reserve it for 60 days by paying a $25 fee. Or, if you’re ready to start your business, save that $25 by simply using the name on your Articles of Organization, which will automatically register it.
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.