When planning to start a New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire, 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 New Hampshire 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 Formation and started your New Hampshire 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 you may 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 New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire LLC Name Search
The New Hampshire Secretary of State provides a quick and easy search tool, which is effective whether you’re checking a name’s availability or looking for a specific piece of business information. Head over to the Business Search page and you’ll be ready to start your search.
If you’ve got a potential LLC name in mind but you need to see if someone beat you to it, select “Business Name” on the left side of the screen and “Exact Match” from the top. Then enter your desired name in the search bar, enter the captcha code, and hit “Search.” Do you see any results? If so, your name is already in use, so it’s back to the drawing board. If not, congratulations! You’re free to reserve that name or use it on your Certificate of Formation.
Checking name availability, however, isn’t the Business Search’s only function. You can also find a lot of useful information about existing companies. Simply enter a business’ full or partial name in the search bar, select any of the search options from the top, and click “Search.” Select any of the results and you’ll find the following information:
- Business Name
- Business ID
- Business Type (LLC, LP, etc.)
- Business Status
- Creation Date
- Principal Office Address
- Mailing Address
- State of Incorporation
- Last Report
- Next Report Year
- Business Purpose
- Member or Manager Information (name and address)
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
- Trade Name and Trademark Information
When you’re looking to get in touch with another business, this information can be incredibly helpful. It’s also a great way to check up on your own business to ensure that you have the most updated and accurate information on file.
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 New Hampshire), 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 New Hampshire from out of state? The process is a little different for foreign LLCs. Your business already has a name, and you’ve been using it in other states. But if that name isn’t available in New Hampshire, you’ll need to designate a different one. Fortunately, doing so isn’t complicated. If you need a name to operate under in New Hampshire, provide one on your Application for Registration when you foreign qualify your LLC.
How to Make a New Hampshire LLC Name Distinguishable
Like other states, New Hampshire has a set of requirements for business names, and you must adhere to them, whether you’re establishing a new or an alternate name. This means that your LLC name must:
- Use a term that identifies its business type, like “limited liability company,” “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” or a similar abbreviation.
- Be available and distinguishable from every other business entity name registered or reserved with the Department of State.
Distinguishable may seem like a broad and nebulous term, but the LLC Act Section 304-C:32 spells out guidelines for distinguishability. According to this section, making changes to the following elements will NOT make a name unique:
- Articles like “a,” “an,” or “the”
- Plural vs. singular forms of the same word
- Phonetic spelling of the same word
- Suffixes and prefixes
- Business type indicators like LLC, Ltd., Inc., or LP
- Punctuation or special characters
- Arabic vs. Roman numerals (4 vs. IV)
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. Although, if your name is unavailable, you likely don’t want to scrap the entire thing, so you’ll want to distinguish it subtly but not completely. Try finding synonyms, using unique spellings, adding or removing words, or rearranging words. This way, you can keep a name 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 New Hampshire, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Certificate of Formation.
When you’ve found an available name, you may want to claim and protect it while you prepare to start your LLC. If so, you can reserve it for 120 days by filing an Application for Reservation of Name and paying a $15 fee. Or, if you’re ready to start your business right away, just provide that name on your Certificate of Formation – this 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 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 New Hampshire?
There are several terms that New Hampshire restricts for business names, including those relating to the banking industry, architecture, other business entity types, and more. For a complete list, consult the state’s name availability guide and scroll down to the section on “What Is Prohibited or Restricted.”
Is it necessary to reserve my business name before forming my New Hampshire LLC?
No. In fact, Alabama is the only state that requires entrepreneurs to reserve a business name before forming an LLC. In New Hampshire and the other 48 states, this is an optional and largely unnecessary step.
How many small businesses are there in New Hampshire today?
The state of New Hampshire is home to nearly 135,000 small businesses. Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and business types find that New Hampshire is a great place to own and operate a small business.
What are the top small business resources and websites in New Hampshire?
The New Hampshire chapter of the Small Business Development Center is a great place to start, as they offer a wide variety of tools and resources for New Hampshire LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire?
The overall costs of operating a New Hampshire 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.