So your catering business is finally taking off, and "Bob's Catering" needs a more appealing name. In order to legally do business under a name that is not your own or other than your legally registered business name, you have to file a fictitious business statement. Also commonly known as a "doing business as" or DBA statement, it is a name statement that is registered with the state.
A fictitious business statement is not an official business formation like a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) or a corporation, and doesn't need to be filed if you are using your own name in the name of the business. The only case in which you would have to file one while using your name in the business title is if you are a sole proprietorship and your business name is "Bob and Associates Catering."
State laws vary with requirements to file. Some states do a name check first to ensure that no more than one business files under a given name. Others may require publication of the fictitious name in a local newspaper. Unfortunately, filing this statement does not guarantee exclusivity of the name, and other companies can choose to use it as well.
Not only is it a legal requirement to register a fictitious business statement, but it is required by most banks in order to write and deposit checks using the name. After filing the statement, you can use the name legally in business contracts, advertising and business cards. Registering your fictitious name also notifies other businesses that you are using the name for your business.
One benefit of the DBA statement is that it allows a single business entity to operate under more than one name without having to establish separate businesses. For instance, a chain of restaurants owned and operated by one business entity can all have different names. When filing, make sure to do your research. Some states offer easy forms available online, while others require a much more involved process.