How To Name A Business In Alabama

Smiling Alabama deli owner with arms crossed, wearing white apron

Naming your business involves more than choosing a catchy name. 

Business owners should follow these three steps:

  1. Follow the naming rules for your business structure
  2. Create the best brand name for your business
  3. Check if your business name is available

When you put it all together, you get a great name and the cornerstone of a successful business.


Naming your business is one of the most important and challenging steps for entrepreneurs. How you decide to brand your business will play a large role in the success of your business.

In this video, we break down the process of naming your Alabama business into three steps: choosing your business structure, picking a branding strategy, and making sure your name is unique.


Steps to Naming Your Alabama Business:

Our guide will take you through the 3 key steps to finding your perfect business name. 

First, you’ll need to choose your business structure; this will make a difference when choosing a name because there are different naming rules for each structure. Next, you'll brand your business; this will show people who you are and what you are about. Lastly, you'll complete a business name search to make sure your name is unique.

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

If you'd like to explore business name ideas for your new venture right away, check out our Business Name Generator tool.

Step 1: Follow The Naming Rules For Your Business Structure

Choosing the best business structure for your new venture is an important first step because different business structures have different naming rules.

Business structures can be formal or informal and are the way your business is set up, operated, and taxed. We cover the following business structure naming rules: 

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC, or Limited Liability Company is the simplest way of structuring your business to protect your personal assets in case your business is sued.

Alabama LLC Naming Rules
  • You must reserve your LLC’s name online or by mail before registering it.
  • Your name must include the phrase “limited liability company” or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.).
  • Your name cannot include words that could confuse your LLC with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
  • Any banking-related name needs a letter from the Alabama Banking Commissioner’s Office, and any insurance-related name needs a letter from the Alabama Insurance Commissioner’s Office.
  • Any name using a professional designation in the name (i.e., engineering, attorney) requires a copy of the license of one officer/member or a letter from the governing agency allowing the use of the name without licensing.
  • Your name cannot include any words that indicate or imply that the LLC is engaged in a business that is not authorized by law to pursue.
  • Your name must be distinguishable from any name on the record with the Secretary of State (words or abbreviations indicating the type of company such as LLC, Inc., etc. are not taken into account when determining distinguishability).
A cube with LLC printed on its sides

Recommended: Learn How to Form an LLC in Alabama using our free guide.

Corporation

A C Corporation (C Corp) is a separate legal entity from its owners with a basic operational structure consisting of shareholders, officers, directors, and employees. A C corp business structure will protect your personal assets.

Alabama Corporation Naming Rules:
  • You must reserve your corporations' name online or by mail before registering it.
  • Your name must contain the word “corporation,” “incorporated,” or an abbreviation of one of these terms. Exceptions are: nonprofit corporations, banks, trust companies, savings and loan associations, and insurance companies.
  • Any banking-related name needs a letter from the Alabama Banking Commissioner’s Office, and any insurance-related name needs a letter from the Alabama Insurance Commissioner’s Office.
  • Any name using a professional designation in the name (i.e., engineering, attorney) requires a copy of the license of one officer/member or a letter from the governing agency allowing the use of the name without licensing.
  • Your name must be distinguishable from any name on the record with the Secretary of State (words or abbreviations indicating the type of company such as LLC, Inc., etc. are not taken into account when determining distinguishability).
  • Your name cannot include words that could confuse your corporation with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
  • Your name cannot include any words that indicate or imply that the corporation is engaged in a business that is not authorized by law to pursue.
A cube with LLC printed on its sides

Recommended: Learn How to Form a Alabama Corporation on Startup Savant.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest business type in Alabama. A sole proprietorship is an informal business structure and it doesn’t provide personal asset protection.

Alabama Sole Proprietorship Naming Rules:

This business structure must operate under the surname of the owner. To use a different name, the business owner must file a DBA (doing business as), also known as a trade name in Alabama. 

General Partnerships

General partnerships are similar to sole proprietorships. The difference is that a partnership consists of 2 or more people. A general partnership is an informal business structure and it doesn’t provide personal asset protection.

Alabama General Partnership Naming Rules:

General partnerships must include the surnames of the partners. The business name must contain the words “General Partnership”, G.P., or GP OR “Not For Profit General Partnership”, N.G.P., or NGP. To use a different name, business owners must file a DBA (doing business as), known as an trade name in Alabama.

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

In Alabama, you can operate your sole proprietorship or general partnership without filing with the state. This can simplify starting your business, but these structures will not protect your personal assets.

If you are forming a general partnership or sole proprietorship, then you will need to file a DBA to use a name other than you or your business partner’s surname(s).

For step-by-step directions for filing your DBA, visit our Alabama DBA How-To Guide.

S Corporation

An S corporation (S corp) is a tax classification, not a business structure. Both LLCs and corporations can be an S corp.  

If your business is taxed as an S corp, you should follow your state’s naming requirements for either a corporation or an LLC, depending on your business structure.

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Step 2: Create the Best Brand Name For Your Business

Now that you know the rules for naming your business in Alabama, it’s time to work on your business’s brand.

Choose Your Branding Strategy

The next big decision you will need to make is whether your legal business name will be your brand name or if your brand will be separate from your legal name.

Most business owners prefer to use the business’s legal name as their brand name.

Legal Name: Your business's legal name is the name that is listed on your formation documents. 

Brand Name: Your business's brand name is the name that you use to market your company. It is the name that clients see and use.

Informal businesses, like sole proprietors and general partnerships, are almost always required to use their surname(s) as their legal name.

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

Recommended: Check out our most popular Online Business Ideas and Low-Cost Business Ideas if you’re still looking for a business idea to put a name to.

There are Three Main Branding Strategies:


1. The business's legal name is also the brand name.
If you are forming an LLC or corporation, you will register your legal name when you file your formation documents.

diagram showing legal name is the same as brand name

2. The business has a legal name that is different than its brand name. If you choose to have a different brand name, you will need to file a DBA. To learn more, visit our easy step-by-step Alabama DBA guide.

diagram showing legal name is not the same as the brand name

3. The business has a legal name and multiple brand names. If you choose to have multiple brand names, you will need to file for DBAs. To learn more, visit our easy step-by-step Alabama DBA guide.

diagram showing a legal business name and three brand name examples beneath it

DBA

When a business uses a name besides their legal name, they create a DBA (doing business as). A DBA is sometimes called an assumed name, fictitious name, or trade name.

To learn more about using a DBA to brand your business, read our What is a DBA article on Startupsavant.com.


Brainstorm Business Names

You should start by brainstorming at least 4-5 potential names. The goal is to come up with at least a few catchy and creative names. Then, we will help you make sure the names you chose are available.

A good brainstorming session lasts for about 15-45 minutes and it’s important that you are comfortable in all ways— think snacks and water, a comfortable chair, your favorite pen.

Use a timer and then stop when it goes off. If you need more time, take a 15-minute break and start your timer again. The more you brainstorm, the better.

Creative Brainstorming Techniques:

  • Free Writing. Keep your pen on the paper until your timer goes off. Don’t limit your ideas, don’t analyze whether they are good or bad. Just keep writing.

  • Word-association. Start by writing a couple of random words. Next, write down words that tie your two random words to your business's mission, service or product. This exercise is meant to tease-out buried ideas.

  • Mind Map. Start with a circle containing the words “my business name”. Draw a line off of the main circle with each new idea. A web of ideas will form during your brainstorming session.

Naming Tip

If you don’t love the name you choose the first time, you can set up a DBA later. A DBA allows you to operate your business under a different name without doing a full legal name change.


12 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Brand Name

Now that you’ve come up with name choices, it’s time to think about some important tips for naming a business.

12 Important Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. Is my name simple?
  2. How does the name sound when I say it out loud?
  3. Is the name easy to pronounce and spell and does the acronym look ok?
  4. Is my business name shorter rather than longer?
  5. Did I include a geographic location in my name? Usually, you shouldn't.
  6. What do other people think of the name?
  7. How does the name compare to other business names in the industry?
  8. Does the name convey my mission as a business?
  9. Did I avoid trends?
  10. Does my name contain obscure words?
  11. Is my name too narrow or too literal?
  12. Is my name memorable?


CONSIDER USING A DBA TO BRAND OR REBRAND YOUR BUSINESS

In Alabama, a DBA (doing business as) is known as a trade name. An Alabama trade name allows you to use a name other than your business’s legal name.

If you don’t love the name you pick the first time or if things change that make your name obsolete, you can usually create a DBA name and legally operate under a new name.

DBA For Your Business Structure

Owners of formal business types like LLCs and Corporations sometimes choose to brand their businesses with a DBA. Most sole proprietors and general partnerships need to use a DBA to create a brand other than their surnames.

To learn more about DBAs in Alabama, visit our How to File a DBA in Alabama.

Step 3: Complete Name Searches

The final step for naming your business is making sure it's unique on the state and federal levels and as a domain name.

We will give you the step-by-step instructions to search:

The first and most important search is on the Alabama business name database. Search requirements can vary depending on your business structure.

LLC

You can search the Alabama business name database on the state’s Secretary of State website to see if your desired LLC name is available.

This tool is also useful if you decide to register a DBA, or trade name, for your company. To learn more about setting up a DBA for your Alabama LLC, read our guide How to File an Alabama DBA guide.

Not sure what to name your business? Check out our LLC Name Generator.


Corporation

You can search the Alabama business name database on the state’s Secretary of State website to see if your desired corporation name is available.

This tool is also useful if you decide to register a DBA, or trade name, for your company. To learn more about setting up a DBA for your Alabama corporation, read our guide How to File a DBA in Alabama guide.


Sole Proprietor

A state-level name search is not required for a sole proprietorship in Alabama. However, if you decide to register a DBA, or trade name, you can search Alabama’s business name database and trademark database to see if your desired name is available.


General Partnership

A state-level name search is not required for a general partnership in Alabama. However, if you decide to register a DBA, or trade name, you can search Alabama’s business name database and trademark database to see if your desired name is available.


Domain Name Search

We recommend that you check to see if your business name is available as a web domain (URL). Even if you don't plan to make a business website today, you may want to buy the web address in order to prevent others from acquiring it. It’s free to search.

Find a Domain Now

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

Federal Trademark Search

Next, a quick search on the U.S. Trademark Electronic Search System will tell you whether someone else has already trademarked your name. Once you know the name is available, you can choose to apply for a trademark for your business although the cost is sometimes too high for a startup or fledgling business.

Regardless of whether you will be registering, it’s good to know if your name is already taken.

To learn more about trademarks and the steps you will need to get one, read our How to Trademark Your Business article.

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