Do You Need a Sole Proprietorship Before Registering a DBA?

by Jeff Clements
A fictitious DBA name for a sole proprietorship can help it stand out from its competition.

A fictitious DBA name for a sole proprietorship can help it stand out from its competition.

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Operating a business as a sole proprietorship has very few formal requirements. Typically, all an entrepreneur has to do is start running the business under his own name to effectively be in business as a sole proprietor. However, some types of businesses in regulated industries, such as law, medicine and cosmetology, require a state occupational or professional business license before they can begin operations. Regardless of their legal structure, businesses often choose to use fictitious trade names for marketing purposes.

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DBA Name

A DBA, or "Doing Business As," name is a way for a business owner to operate under a name other than his own legal name. Sole proprietors usually select a DBA name because it helps their business from a marketing standpoint; it helps customers to more easily identify with the business and its brand.

Other Business Structures

A business is not required to be structured as a sole proprietorship to register a fictitious DBA name. Any business entity type can register and own a DBA, including a partnership, corporation, or limited liability company, so long as it does not create confusion with other business names and is not being used by another business in the state.

Business Purpose

Having a DBA name mandates that the name will be used for a business purpose. Accordingly, you should expect to identify that business purpose when filling out the fictitious name registration with the state regulatory authority. Also, to put the public on notice of its intended use, the state may require the registrant to certify that the name has been advertised for a specified period of time in a general circulation newspaper serving the area where the registrant's principal place of business will be located.

Sole Proprietorship

If you haven't formed an independent business entity, the DBA application will likely assume you intend to operate as a sole proprietorship, which typically doesn't have any formalities that must be followed as a prerequisite to start up. An exception is if the type of business you plan to operate as a sole proprietorship requires an occupational business license, such as with a regulated trade or profession. In this case, you may need to obtain this license before the DBA registration will be accepted and approved.