Your North Carolina business venture begins with the right name. Follow our guide on how to conduct a business entity name search effectively.
How Do I Look Up an LLC in North Carolina?
North Carolina Business Entity Search
To look up an LLC in North Carolina, you can follow these steps:
- Go to the website of the North Carolina Secretary of State: https://www.sosnc.gov/.
- Click on the “Business” tab in the top menu and select “Business Entity Search.”
- On the Business Entity Search page, you can search for an LLC by its name, file number, or registered agent.
- Enter the name of the LLC you want to look up in the “Entity Name” field and click “Search.”
- A list of LLCs with matching names will appear. Select the LLC you are looking for by clicking on its name.
- You will be taken to the LLC’s detail page, which includes information such as its registered agent, date of formation, and status.
North Carolina Corporations and LLCs are searchable by the following criteria:
- Registered Agents
- Company Officials
- Assumed Business Names
Note that some LLCs may not be listed in the search results if they are newly formed or have not filed their annual reports.
What is a North Carolina Business Entity?
A North Carolina business entity refers to a business that is legally recognized and registered to operate within the state of North Carolina. The process for setting up and running a business entity in North Carolina is governed by the North Carolina Secretary of State.
Just as with other states, there are several types of business entities that can be established in North Carolina, including:
- Sole Proprietorship: This is a business owned and operated by one individual. The owner has personal liability for the business.
- Partnership: This can be a general partnership, limited partnership, or limited liability partnership. It involves two or more individuals who agree to share in the profits and losses of a business.
- Corporation: This is a legal entity separate from its owners (shareholders). A corporation can be a for-profit (C corporation or S corporation) or a nonprofit organization.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): This is a business structure that combines the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited liability of a corporation.
Secretary of State NC Entity Name Search
To establish one of these entities in North Carolina, one must file the appropriate documents with the North Carolina Secretary of State, and possibly pay a filing fee, which varies depending on the type of business entity.
Individuals can use a North Carolina Secretary of State business search to find specific information about existing businesses in the state. They can also check the availability of a business name if they are looking to start a new business.
North Carolina LLC Name Requirements
First, search the state’s online database for the name and compare it to existing entities to verify its availability. You will need to review the requirements and limitations of each state when forming an LLC.
The name of your LLC must include the phrase Limited Liability Company or the abbreviations L.L.C. or LLC. LLC is the most commonly used abbreviation.
An LLC name cannot imply that an entity is a corporation. These abbreviations and words are not allowed to be used in an LLC name.
Business names must be distinct from existing business names.
Different designators (the identifiers at the end of an entity’s name) can make a name distinct.
Names are not distinguishable because of differences in grammar. This includes variations like singular versus plural or possessive forms.
The following items don’t make it distinguishable:
- Conjunctions (or and).
- Instead of spelling out “and”, use ampersand instead
- Punctuation can be used to indicate periods, hyphens, or slashes.
- Numerical differences, such as spelling out numbers versus using digits.
A business name that is too similar to an existing entity’s name will not be unique.
These are the key points of all these rules and restrictions:
- Your business name should be original and not too similar to existing ones.
- You can use any name you like but think of something else if that’s not possible. A business name should be distinctive and not be confused with other names.
These are some additional tips to help you create a good LLC name:
- Make sure your name is easy to spell. Customers should be able to find you easily, so don’t name your business anything that is difficult to spell.
- A shorter name for your LLC is better than a more complex one. It is easier to remember short names.
- Names with positive connotations are best. Customers should have a positive impression of your business from the moment they hear it.
Search Business Names in North Carolina (NC LLC Lookup Guide)
When forming a new LLC, an individual will typically conduct a name availability search. A business entity search, on the other hand, is used to obtain the following types of information about an existing company:
- It’s long-standing good standing
- Whether the entity is legally formed
- Information about the business address
- Contact details for Registered agent
Visit the Search Page on the North Carolina Secretary Of State’s website to conduct a name search.
- Enter the name of the business you are looking for information about, then click “Search.”
- The next page will show you the results for the business that you are looking for.
- For more information, click on the entity name.
- Next, you will see a page with all the information that is currently in the file at the Secretary of State’s Office. You can purchase documents like a Certificate Of Existence if you have an account on the site.
You’ll see entities with different statuses when you check business name availability. You won’t be allowed to use the name of an existing business if any of these statuses appear next to it.
- Administratively Dissolved
- Auto Dissolution
- Reserved Name
You can find public information easily using the state database.
When searching for a business name, it’s important to note that availability doesn’t necessarily mean the name is free to use if it’s already a registered trademark.
To avoid potential complications down the line, it’s wise to conduct a thorough trademark search using the Trademark Electronic Search System before finalizing a business name.
Choose a Registered Agent
After you have chosen an LLC name that is distinctive and unique, you can now choose your LLC’s Registered Agent.
Business Formation Tips in NC
To create an LLC in North Carolina, one of the first steps is conducting a North Carolina entity name search to ensure your desired business name isn’t already in use. Once you’ve confirmed a unique name, you can get it registered during the filing process.
Next, you’ll prepare a North Carolina LLC operating agreement which outlines the organization and governance of your business.
During this setup phase, learning how to obtain an EIN, or Employer Identification Number, from the IRS is essential for future tax-related activities. If you need assistance with these steps, there are top LLC formation services in North Carolina that can make the process smoother.
Likewise, for those who prefer not to act as their own registered agent, the best registered agent services in North Carolina are available to handle legal notifications for your LLC.
Over the course of your business operation, you may need to know how to change your registered agent or how to close and dissolve a North Carolina LLC, both of which can be managed by your North Carolina registered agent.
Additional Formation Steps
1. Check if the Domain Name is Available
To check if a domain name is available, you can follow these steps:
- Go to a domain registrar website, such as GoDaddy.com or Namecheap.com.
- In the search bar on the homepage, type in the domain name you want to check.
- Click on the search button to see if the domain name is available or not.
- If the domain name is available, you will be prompted to purchase it. If it’s not available, the registrar will suggest some alternative options or you can try a different domain name.
It’s a good idea to check the availability of multiple domain name options as your first choice may already be taken.
Additionally, if you are considering registering a domain name for your business, make sure to also check for any existing trademarks that may conflict with your chosen domain name.
2. Check if Social Media Name is Available
To check if a social media name is available for a new business, you can follow these steps:
- Start by choosing a social media platform where you would like to create an account for your business. Some of the popular options include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and TikTok.
- Once you have selected the platform, go to the sign-up page and try to create an account using your desired social media name.
- If the name is already taken, the platform will display an error message indicating that the name is not available. In this case, you may need to consider alternative names for your social media account.
- If the name is available, the platform will allow you to create an account using that name.
- It’s important to note that just because a social media name is available, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s free to use. You should still do your due diligence to ensure that the name is not already a registered trademark or being used by another business in your industry.
3. Register North Carolina Business Entity
When you complete the required documents for filing a new business entity, you then register your business and business name with the state. The state of North Carolina will either approve your business name or reject it.
If you hire a good LLC service like Northwest Registered Agent, ZenBusiness or Incfile, these LLC services have business name tools available for you to do a quick search. I recommend using any of these 3 services to assist you with forming a new business. They can save you time and provide you with guidance through the formation process.
4. Register an Employer ID Number (EIN) With the IRS
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify businesses and other entities for tax purposes.
Here’s how you can get an EIN:
- Determine if you need an EIN: You’ll need an EIN if you have employees, operate your business as a corporation or partnership, file employment tax returns, have a Keogh plan, or are required to file any of the following tax returns: Employment, Excise, or Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
- Apply for an EIN: You can apply for an EIN online, by fax, by mail, or by phone. The quickest and easiest way is to apply online through the IRS website.
- Provide the necessary information: When applying for an EIN, you’ll need to provide your legal name, trade name (if applicable), business address, and the type of legal structure of your business (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, LLC).
- Wait for your EIN: If you apply online, you can receive your EIN immediately after completing the application. If you apply by fax or mail, it can take up to four weeks to receive your EIN.
Note that there is no fee to apply for an EIN. Once you receive your EIN, be sure to keep it safe and use it on all tax documents and forms.
5. Create a Brand Logo
Creating a business logo involves several steps. Here’s a general overview of the process:
- Define your brand: Before you start creating a logo, you need to define your brand’s personality, values, and mission. This will help you create a logo that accurately represents your brand.
- Determine the design style: Decide on the design style you want for your logo. Do you want it to be modern or classic, minimalistic or intricate, colorful or monochromatic? Consider your brand personality and target audience when making this decision.
- Choose the colors: Pick a color palette that reflects your brand personality and complements your design style. Colors have psychological meanings and can affect how people perceive your brand.
- Brainstorm ideas: Brainstorm several logo design concepts based on your brand personality, values, and mission. You can use online resources for inspiration or hire a professional logo designer to create a custom logo for you.
- Sketch your ideas: Once you have some logo design concepts, sketch them out on paper to visualize how they might look. This can help you narrow down your options and refine your ideas.
- Design the logo: Use a graphic design software program like Adobe Illustrator or Canva to create your logo design. Make sure it is scalable and can be used across different mediums.
- Get feedback: Share your logo design with colleagues, friends, or family to get feedback. This can help you refine your design further.
- Finalize the logo: Once you have incorporated feedback, finalize your logo design. Be sure to use high-quality images and files for your logo.
- Protect your logo: If you want to protect your logo, consider trademarking it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This will prevent others from using a similar logo and protect your brand’s identity.
6. Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan involves a comprehensive process that covers various aspects of your business, including the industry, market research, marketing and sales strategies, financial projections, and more. Here are some steps to guide you in writing a business plan and links to resources that can help you:
- Executive summary: This section provides a summary of your business plan, highlighting key information about your business, target market, products or services, and financial projections. It should be brief but comprehensive.
- Company description: This section describes your company’s mission, vision, values, and legal structure. It also includes information about the management team, business location, and history.
- Market analysis: This section provides a detailed analysis of your industry, target market, competition, and customer demographics. It also includes information about market trends and growth projections.
- Marketing and sales strategies: This section outlines your marketing and sales strategies, including branding, advertising, pricing, and distribution channels.
- Products and services: This section describes your products or services, their features and benefits, and how they will meet the needs of your target market.
- Financial projections: This section provides a detailed financial forecast for your business, including projected revenue, expenses, profits, and cash flow. It also includes a break-even analysis and funding requirements.
Here are some links to resources that can help you in writing a business plan:
- Small Business Administration (SBA): The SBA offers a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan, including templates and sample plans.
- SCORE: SCORE provides free business plan templates and guides, as well as mentoring and counseling services.
- Bplans: Bplans offers a wide variety of business plan templates, tools, and resources, including sample plans for different industries.
- LivePlan: LivePlan is a cloud-based software that provides business planning tools and templates, financial forecasting, and collaboration features.
- Canva: Canva offers a range of customizable business plan templates and design tools to help you create a professional-looking plan.
7. Open a Business Bank Account in North Carolina
A bank account is generally required for a new Limited Liability Company (LLC) or corporation to separate personal finances from business finances and to establish a clear record of business transactions.
Having a separate bank account for your LLC will help you keep track of your business’s income and expenses, which will be useful for tax purposes, accounting, and financial management. It will also make it easier to accept payments from customers and pay bills, suppliers, and employees.
To open a bank account for your LLC, you will typically need to provide the following documents:
- Certificate of Formation: This is a legal document that shows that your LLC has been registered with the state.
- Operating Agreement: This document outlines the rules and procedures for running your LLC and is required by some banks.
- EIN (Employer Identification Number) Confirmation Letter: This is a letter from the IRS confirming your LLC’s tax identification number.
- Identification documents: You will need to provide personal identification documents, such as a driver’s license, passport, or state ID, and proof of address, such as a utility bill.
Note that the specific requirements for opening a bank account for an LLC may vary depending on the bank and state where you are located. It’s best to contact the bank you plan to use to inquire about their specific requirements.
North Carolina Secretary of State Contact Info
Post Office Box 29622
Raleigh, North Carolina 27626-0622
2 South Salisbury Street
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601-2903
North Carolina LLC Name Search FAQ
How can I verify if an LLC is registered in North Carolina?
You can use the North Carolina Business Entity Search Tool to check if your business name is available.
Do I have to name my LLC after myself?
Although there is no prohibition against naming your LLC after yourself (most experts recommend against it).
An advantage of an LLC is that you can choose a different business name, which can make your business sound more professional.
What words are prohibited in North Carolina LLC names?
It is not possible to include words in business names that suggest that the company is a bank or financial institution, or that it is affiliated with a local or state government agency.
North Carolina also requires approval for any of these words to be used in an LLC name: banker, bank cooperative, co-op mutual, trust, architect and architecture, architectural, certified financial accountant (CPA), engineer and engineering, insurance pharmacy, prescription drug. Rx, apothecary. Realtor, surveyor, surveying, wholesale.
Do I need an LLC name generator?
An LLC name generator is a great tool to help you choose a name for your LLC.
What is a brand?
A brand name is a name that a company gives to a product line or product. It can be the exact same as the company name, or something else.
Do I need to include LLC in the name?
Yes. North Carolina’s LLCs must use the abbreviations “Limited Liability Company” and/or one of its abbreviations, such as LLC or L.L.C. in their legal name.
What do I need to do to renew my North Carolina business name?
North Carolina does not require LLCs to renew their names.
Is it possible for my North Carolina LLC to have a different business name than my North Carolina LLC?
Some companies prefer to operate under a different name than their legal name. You can call this a “doing company as” (DBA name) or an assumed business name.
North Carolina has a system where assumed business names must be filed with the county in which you do business.
Brian Wilson is the content manager and founder of LLC Radar.
Brian grew up in North Texas, just outside of Dallas, and has a bachelor’s degree in business journalism from Southern Methodist University. Since graduating from SMU, Brian has gained over 10 years of experience in business writing for several online publications.
Brian resides in Plano, Texas and he can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org