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QUESTION: How can I figure out if my business name is available?

ANSWER: Running a name search is one of the easiest, and cheapest, steps in starting a small business. Any company that sells a product or service under a name other than the owner’s has to file for a Doing Business As name. DBA names are supposed to help prevent fraud, and are very useful when you begin to build your brand, but you can’t use the same DBA name as someone else down the road. Your state’s government keeps a registry of all active DBA names that you can search through for free. Just visit your Secretary of State’s website (as an example, here’s New York’s) and look for instructions on how to perform a name check. You may find yourself using a simple search engine or filling out a form or calling in.

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Are you looking to open a small business? Here are a few more helpful articles from Deborah Sweeney to get you started:

Can I Incorporate My Business Online?
What Are Copyrights and Trademarks?
What’s a Single-Member LLC?
What is an EIN and Why Do I Need One?