How to Become a DBA

by Lisa McQuerrey
A DBA allows a business to operate under an assumed name.

A DBA allows a business to operate under an assumed name.

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The acronym DBA stands for “doing business as.” A DBA is a business name your company uses that is different from the name of the company or the name of its owners. States have slightly different filing requirements and may use similar terms for the DBA concept such as trade name, fictitious name and assumed name. Not all states require registering fictitious names, but doing so will help eliminate potential confusion in the event another business uses a name similar to yours.

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DBA for Sole Proprietorships

A sole proprietorship is a business entity fully owned and operated by a single individual. Securing a DBA as a sole proprietor creates a sense of professionalism and legitimacy for a micro-business. The DBA selected can be a variation of the business owner’s name or something entirely different. For example, if Jane Doe opens a bakery called Jane’s Cakes, her DBA would be Jane Doe, DBA Jane’s Cakes. To secure a DBA for a sole proprietorship, register the DBA name through the appropriate government agency in your state, typically a county clerk, secretary of state or superior court.

DBA for Partnerships

A partnership is a business entity owned and operated by two or more individuals. A partnership typically creates a formal partnership agreement at its inception that outlines, among other things, the DBA, if any, that will be used for the business. Much like a sole proprietorship, a DBA for a partnership may be a variation on the partners' names or something different. For example, if John Doe and John Smith’s partnership business is named Doe and Smith’s Plumbing, the DBA would be John Doe, DBA Doe and Smith’s Plumbing and John Smith, DBA Doe and Smith’s Plumbing.

DBA for Corporations and LLCs

If an established corporation or limited liability company wants to do business under a name other than the one officially registered with the state, it must file for a DBA, typically with the secretary of state’s office in the state where the business is headquartered. In this instance it is the company doing business as the alternate name, rather than the individual or partners. An example of this form of DBA would be ABC Company, DBA Happy Dog Pet Supplies.

The Benefits of DBA

A DBA allows a sole proprietor or partnership to invoice and collect payment through a business name, secure business credit cards and register the company with trade organizations and professional groups using the business name rather than personal names. A corporation or LLC that uses a DBA has the opportunity to segment portions of its company under different DBA umbrellas. For example, a travel corporation named Global Travel may wish to differentiate its various lines by creating DBAs such as Corporate Global Travel and Vacation Global Travel.