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, 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 Missouri, 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 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
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 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 either form your LLC or reserve the name for future use.
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 is. 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.
✔ Get The Best LLC Service
If you want to use a service to form your LLC, there are dozens of options. We invite you to check out our full list of the best available LLC formation services, but we’ll also share a couple of the most popular options below.
ZenBusiness (Starts at $0 + State Fee)
ZenBusiness is the best LLC formation service available. That said, ZenBusiness receives outstanding customer feedback, with more than 9,800 reviews available online and very few negative reviews among them.
LegalZoom (Starts at $79 + State Fee)
For most people, LegalZoom is the first name that comes to mind for LLC services due to their massive advertising budget. LegalZoom’s pricing and features may not compete on an equal playing field with ZenBusiness, but its brand power is notable and it receives good customer reviews.
For a side by side comparison, check out our LegalZoom vs ZenBusiness review.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which words are restricted from usage for LLC names in Missouri?
Missouri 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 Missouri LLC?
No. In fact, Alabama is the only state that requires entrepreneurs to reserve a business name before forming an LLC. In Missouri and the other 48 states, this is an optional and largely unnecessary step.
How many small businesses are there in Missouri today?
The state of Missouri is home to nearly 465,000 small businesses. Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and business types find that Missouri is a great place to own and operate a small business.
What are the top small business resources and websites in Missouri?
The Missouri chapter of the Small Business Development Center is a great place to start, as they offer a wide variety of tools and resources for Missouri LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Missouri District Office is another valuable resource, and the state’s Department of Economic Development also has plenty of good info.
What Is the Total Expected Cost of Operating an LLC in Missouri?
The overall costs of operating a Missouri 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.