How to properly use a fictitious business name? [Q&A]

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

An award-winning small business attorney in New York City, Nina is a sought-after professional speaker and Entrepreneur Magazine online contributor. She is the go-to counsel for knowledge economy and creative companies, delivering legal services and educational resources that save them time, money, and aggravation.

Posted on November 17, 2017 in Form a Company

Q.:  Can you use “LLC” with your DBA names?

A.: No.

Here’s the fuller story.

You form an LLC for your social media consulting company:  Best Brains LLC.  Six months later, you start to offer blog copywriting services as a specific line of business, which you call Best Blogs.  That sparks an educational/coaching teleclass (or webinar–take your pick) that you want to offer as yet another income stream to small business owners on planning, writing, and implementing a business blog that generates revenue.  You call the course Biz Blog Boosting.

(Boy oh boy!)

You file a “fictitious name statement” (the legally fancy name for DBA–“doing business as”) with your state’s Secretary of State.  So can you refer to your blog writing services as “Best Blogs LLC”? Or your course as Biz Blog Boosting LLC?

Once again, no.

Why not?

In short, because your DBAs are not their own business entities. A DBA is simply another way of referring to your company (or, a division of your company). It is not a separate entity in and of itself. So you can’t use LLC (or Inc., if you have a corporation) with your DBA name.

And because your DBA name doesn’t immediately let people know that it’s part of a limited liability entity, you also want to be very careful how you use it.  If people think that your business is “Best Blogs,” they may assume that you are a sole proprietorship– in which case, they can reach your personal assets if there is a judgment against you. To make sure that you put the vendors (and others) on notice that you have limited liability shields in place, you’ll want to be careful to refer to your DBA in official documents as “Best Blogs, a division of Best Brains LLC” or “Best Brains LLC, d/b/a Best Blogs.

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