When planning to start a South Carolina 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 South Carolina, 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 South Carolina 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 South Carolina LLC, you can periodically check its status by searching for your existing name. This will confirm your business’ good standing with the state and your filing history, so you can review what you’ve submitted.
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 South Carolina 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 South Carolina LLC Name Search
When you need to find a business name, whether it’s to check availability or find a specific company, the Secretary of State’s Business Name Search is your go-to resource.
If you’re excited about a particular business name, you might want to use it on your Articles of Organization right away, but first, you should check to see if it’s already in use. Once you’re on the Business Name Search page, all you need to do is select “Exact Match” from the dropdown box and enter your desired name in the search bar. Click the search button and it will tell you if your name is available or not. If it’s unavailable, you’ll need to find a way to make it distinguishable (see below). But if it’s free, you can go ahead and reserve or register it.
There’s not a separate search tool you can use to find existing businesses, so use the same Business Name Search. Just enter the full or partial company name, hit “Search,” and you’ll see the page populate with results. Click on any of them to access the following information:
- Full Legal Name
- Entity Type (LLC, Corporation, etc.)
- State of Formation
- Effective Date
- Expiration Date (if applicable)
- Term End Date (if applicable)
- Dissolved Date (if applicable)
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
Whether you’re trying to contact another company or check up on your own, this information can be incredibly useful.
What if My Name Is Unavailable?
So, you went to the Business Name 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 South Carolina), 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.
For foreign entities, the process is a little different. This is because, as a foreign LLC, you’ve already been operating under an established name in other states, so if that name is unavailable in South Carolina, you’ll need to register a “fictitious name.” This is just the name that you’ll use for all in-state business activities. Use this form and pay a $2 fee to register your fictitious name when you foreign qualify your LLC.
How to Make a South Carolina LLC Name Distinguishable
You may have discovered an available business name, but remember that it also must adhere to South Carolina’s specific name requirements, so it needs to:
- Use one of the following terms: “limited liability company” or “limited company” or the abbreviations “L.L.C.”, “LLC”, “L.C.”, or “LC”
- Be completely distinguishable from all other registered and reserved names on file with the Secretary of State
The big question is: what makes a name distinguishable? The South Carolina Secretary of State and LLC Act don’t provide specific guidelines, but typically, changes to the following name elements will NOT make it distinguishable:
- Designators like LLC, Ltd., Inc., or LP
- Articles (“a,” “an,” or “the”)
- Conjunctions (like “and,” “but,” and “or”)
- Special characters
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. If your name is unavailable, you likely won’t want to scrap it entirely. To distinguish it without changing too much, try finding synonyms, rearranging keywords, using unique spellings, adding prefixes or suffixes, or adding/removing words. This way, you can have a unique name that isn’t far from your original idea.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal is. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in South Carolina, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
When you’ve got an ideal, available name, you’ll probably want to lock it down right away. But if you’re not ready to start your LLC, you can place a name reservation for $25, which will hold your name for 120 days. But if your LLC is ready to go, you’re better off skipping the reservation and using the name on your Articles of Organization, which will register it automatically.
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 South Carolina?
South Dakota 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 South Carolina LLC?
No. In fact, Alabama is the only state that requires entrepreneurs to reserve a business name before forming an LLC. In South Carolina and the other 48 states, this is an optional and largely unnecessary step.
How many small businesses are there in South Carolina today?
The state of South Carolina is home to more than 430,000 small businesses. Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and business types find that South Carolina is a great place to own and operate a small business.
What are the top small business resources and websites in South Carolina?
The South Carolina chapter of the Small Business Development Center is a great place to start, as they offer a wide variety of tools and resources for South Carolina LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s South Carolina 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 South Carolina?
The overall costs of operating a South Carolina 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.