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Naming your business is one 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 South Carolina business into three steps: choosing your business structure, picking a branding strategy, and making sure your name is unique.
When Naming Your Business in South Carolina, Follow These Three Steps:
Our guide will take you through the 3 key steps to finding your perfect business name. If you’re unsure of the type of business you would like to start, check out our detailed list of small business ideas, a great resource to start a business.
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.
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
Formal Business Structures
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.
South Carolina LLC Naming Rules
Your name must include the phrase “limited liability company” or “limited company” or one of their abbreviations (LLC, L.L.C., LC, L.C.). “Limited" may be abbreviated as "Ltd.," and "company" may be abbreviated as "Co."
Your name cannot include words that could confuse your LLC with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
In some states, certain restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, University) may require additional paperwork and a licensed individual to be part of your LLC.
Your name must be distinguishable from any existing business in the state. This includes South Carolina reserved names. We will help with this step in the search for your business name section below.
You can read the South Carolina state statute about LLC naming guidelines on the South Carolina Legislature website.
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.
South Carolina Corporation Naming Rules:
- Your name must contain the word “corporation,” “company,” “incorporated,” or “limited;” an abbreviation of one of these terms; or words or abbreviations with the same meaning in a different language.
- Your name must be distinguishable from any existing business in the state. This includes South Carolina reserved names. We will help with this step in the search for your business name section below.
- Your name cannot include words that could confuse your corporation with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
You can read the South Carolina state statute about corporation naming guidelines on the South Carolina Legislature website.
Informal Business Structures
A sole proprietorship is the simplest business type in South Carolina. A sole proprietorship is an informal business structure and it doesn’t provide personal asset protection.
South Carolina Sole Proprietorship Naming Rules:
This business structure operates under the surname of the owner. The business owner can use a DBA (doing business as), but it is not registered with the state. The DBA cannot be the same as any registered business name. To protect a DBA name, the owner must file a trademark.
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.
South Carolina General Partnership Naming Rules:
General partnerships include the surnames of the partners. The business owners can use a DBA (doing business as), but it is not registered with the state. The DBA cannot be the same as any registered business name. To protect a DBA name, the owner must file a trademark.
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.
Step 2: Create the Best Brand Name For Your Business
Now that you know the rules for naming your business in South Carolina, 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.
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 (if allowed in your state).
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 (if allowed in your state).
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.
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:
- Is my name simple?
- How does the name sound when I say it out loud?
- Is the name easy to pronounce and spell and does the acronym look ok?
- Is my business name shorter rather than longer?
- Did I include a geographic location in my name? Usually, you shouldn't.
- What do other people think of the name?
- How does the name compare to other business names in the industry?
- Does the name convey my mission as a business?
- Did I avoid trends?
- Does my name contain obscure words?
- Is my name too narrow or too literal?
- Is my name memorable?
After you get your business name, your next step is getting a unique logo. Get your unique logo using our free Logo Maker.
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 South Carolina
- Domain Name Options
- Federal Trademark Records
State Business Name Search
The first and most important search is on the South Carolina business name database. Search requirements can vary depending on your business structure.
You can search the business name database on the South Carolina Secretary of State website to see if your desired LLC name is available.
Not sure what to name your business? Check out our LLC Name Generator.
You can search the business name database on the South Carolina Secretary of State website to see if your desired corporation name is available.
A state-level name search is not required for a sole proprietorship in South Carolina.
A state-level name search is not required for a general partnership in South Carolina.
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.
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 South Carolina 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.
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 South Carolina.
Form a Corporation
If you are setting up a corporation, visit our South Carolina How To Set Up a Corporation Guide on StartupSavant.com.
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.
Form a Sole Proprietorship or General Partnership
In South Carolina, 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.