How To Name A Business In Ohio

A man standing in front of his own deli

Naming your business involves more than choosing a catchy name. 

Business owners should follow these three steps:

  1. Choose A Business Structure
  2. Consider Your Branding
  3. Complete Name Searches

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 Ohio business into three steps: choosing your business structure, picking a branding strategy, and making sure your name is unique.


When Naming Your Business in Ohio, Follow These Three Steps:

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: Choose a Business Structure

First, you need to choose the best business structure for your new venture. This is the first step because different business structures have different naming rules.

Business Structure refers to the way your business is set up, operated, and taxed. Each business structure has its own set of unique naming rules.

There are two categories of business structures:

  • Formal Business Structures
  • Informal Business Structures

diagram explaining different types of formal and informal businesses


Formal Business Structures

LLC

LLC stands for Limited Liability Company. Forming an LLC is the simplest way of structuring your business to protect your personal assets in case your business is sued.

Ohio LLC Naming Rules

  • Your name must include the phrase “limited liability company” or one of the following: LLC, L.L.C., limited, ltd., or ltd.

  • Your name cannot contain profanity or words or phrases that are generally considered a slur against an ethnic group, religion, gender, or heredity.

  • Your name cannot incorrectly or improperly imply that the business is affiliated with a government agency.

  • Your name cannot include any of the following words without prior approval from the superintendent of financial institutions: bank, banker, banking, trust, or words of similar meaning in any other language.

  • Your name cannot include the following unless the LLC is registered as a cooperative: cooperative, coop, co-operative, or co-op.

  • Your name must be distinguishable from any existing business in the state. This includes Ohio reserved names. We will help with this step in the search for your business name section below.

You can also read the Ohio state statute about LLC naming guidelines for more information.


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.

Ohio Corporation Naming Rules: 

  • Your name must contain the word “corporation,” “company,” or “incorporated” or an abbreviation of one of these terms.
  • Your name must be distinguishable from any existing business in your state. This includes Ohio reserved names. We will help with this step in the search for your business name section below.
  • Your name cannot imply that the corporation is connected with a government agency of Ohio, another state, or the United States.
  • Your name cannot include any of the following words without prior approval from the superintendent of financial institutions: bank, banker, banking, trust, or words of similar meaning in any other language.
  • Your name cannot include the following unless the corporation is registered as a cooperative: cooperative, coop, co-operative, or co-op.
  • Your name cannot contain profanity or words or phrases that are generally considered a slur against an ethnic group, religion, gender, or heredity.

You can also read the Ohio state statute about corporation naming guidelines for more information.


Informal Business Structures

Sole Proprietorship

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

Ohio Sole Proprietorship Naming Rules:

This business structure operates under the surname of the owner. To use a different name, the business owner can file a DBA (doing business as), also known as a trade name in Ohio. Businesses can also operate under a fictitious name in Ohio, but they are not registered or protected in any way.

One state law that applies specifically to sole proprietorships in Ohio is that a sole proprietor operating an insurance agency under a fictitious name that is not or cannot be registered as a trade name must register the fictitious name with the Secretary of State.  

For easy step-by-step instructions for filing a DBA in Ohio, visit our free state DBA guide.


General Partnership

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.

Ohio General Partnership Naming Rules:

General partnerships do not have to register in Ohio if they are operating under the surnames of the partners. However, general partnerships have the option to register a fictitious name or trade name. Trade names must be distinguishable from other registered business names in Ohio, but fictitious names do not.

For easy step-by-step instructions for filing a DBA in Ohio, visit our free state DBA 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.



Learn More About Business Structures 

To find the business structure that's best for you, read our What Structure Should I Choose for my Business article.

Have a question? Leave a Comment!

Ask us a question, tell us how we're doing, or share your experiences. Join the conversation in our Comment Section.

Step 2: Create the Best Brand Name For Your Business

Now that you know the rules for naming your business in Ohio, 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.

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 Ohio 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 Ohio 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 Ohio, a DBA (doing business as) is known as a trade name. An Ohio 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 Ohio, visit our How to File a DBA in Ohio.

Step 3: Complete Name Searches

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

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

  • Business Name Availability in Ohio
  • Domain Name Options
  • Federal Trademark Records

State Business Name Search

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

LLC

You can search the business name database on the Ohio 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. For detailed information about setting up a DBA for your Ohio LLC, check out our How to File an Ohio DBA guide.

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


Corporation

You can search the business name database on the Ohio 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. For detailed information about setting up a DBA for your Ohio corporation, check out our How to File an Ohio DBA guide.


Sole Proprietor

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


General Partnership

A state-level name search is not required for a general partnership in Ohio. However, if you decide to register a DBA, or trade name, you can search the Ohio business name 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.

What's Next? Starting Your Business In Ohio Is Easy!

Now that you’ve created a name for your business, it’s time to make it official!

Forming your business will help protect your name from being used by another business in your state.

How to Form Your Business

There are two types of business structures: formal and informal. We will give you directions for starting both types of businesses.

Formal Business Structures

If you will be using a formal business structure like an LLC or corporation, you will need to file your formation documents in order to secure your legal name. 

If you’d like to operate a formal business structure under a brand name that’s different from your legal name, you will need to file for a DBA.


Form a Limited Liability Company

If you are starting a limited liability company (LLC), visit our Form an LLC in 5 Easy Steps guide for Ohio.

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


Form a Corporation

If you are setting up a corporation, visit our Ohio How To Set Up a Corporation Guide on StartupSavant.com.

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


Informal Business Structures

If you will be using an informal business structure like a sole proprietorship or general partnership, your legal name will be your personal name. To secure a brand name, you will need to file for a DBA.


Form a Sole Proprietorship or General Partnership

In Ohio, 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 Ohio DBA How-To Guide.

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