A Florida Secretary of State Business Search and coming up with a business name are the first steps in starting a business. The name you choose for your business should make the type of business clear as well as be unique. This means you also need to decide on a business type in the first step. If you plan to file as a partnership or sole proprietorship, you may need to file a “doing business as” name with the Secretary of State. Creating a limited liability company or corporation may also require a “doing business as” name. Regardless of the business you decide on, you must register your new business with the Florida Secretary of State. You should also open a business bank account on behalf of the company. The requirements to file apply for those creating home-based or online businesses as well.

In the state of Florida, the main governing body is the Secretary of State. This office may be referred to as the Department of Commonwealth or State.

Beneath the Secretary of State is the Business Division, a sub-department handling:

  • Business formations
  • Changes
  • Dissolutions
  • Recordkeeping for all businesses registered in Florida

When you start a business, it makes the most sense to register it in the state in which you live or will do business.

Choosing a DBA Start a Business

When you register your “doing business as” name, also referred to as the DBA name, you can then use that name to do business across the state of Florida. For small business owners, starting with this step is easier. You can always choose to incorporate later in the process. If you opt for the DBA name for filing purposes, that business name can be used by either company. The DBA name is not guaranteed to belong solely to you in the state of Florida. Something to think about is the fact that filing a DBA does not limit the liability. If someone sues your company, your personal assets could be at risk without limited liability.

When you have filed your DBA with the Secretary of State, the next step is publishing a legal notice in the newspaper of the local area in which you plan to do business. After completing this task, you will need to obtain a business license. Most counties in Florida require a business license or business tax receipt before you can start doing business. Before you start the process, check with the local tax collector to get a list of the requirements. 

Choosing to Incorporate a Business

If you decide to incorporate your business, step one is choosing a name for the company. In order to create a limited liability company or corporation in Florida, the name must be unique. No two companies can have identical names, so it's important to use creativity and come up with a unique name for your company.

A few things you should think about when you choose the name for your LLC:

  • The LLC name cannot be the same as any existing business and it must be distinguishable
  • Florida also has restrictions around the use of certain abbreviations and words within the business name.
  • Adding suffixes that relate to the business type will not make a business name unique from another similar name.
  • Changing to a different form of a word will still be similar to an existing name. Punctuation also does not make the name different.
  • Using symbols or words like “the” or “and” is not unique enough.
  • Including the name of the state (Florida) or abbreviation (Fl.) in your business name will not make it different either.

The name of your LLC is available for use if no other similar names are registered. You can look at the status and determine if a name is available by performing a search in the state database. When a similar business name is inactive (or inact.) under the status, you can use it. An inactive business is a former business with a name that has expired, so a new company can use the name. When the status shows “active,” “act.,” or “inactive/un,” you cannot use it for your business. Active names are currently in use by registered businesses, while inactive/un names are not yet available for use by new companies. 

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