How to Register a Business Name in Michigan

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If you are starting a new business venture in Michigan and plan to operate under a name other than your personal legal name, you will need to register it with the state. 

This process is relatively simple and can be completed online. In this article we will show you how to register a business name in Michigan. 

You will need to provide some basic information about your business, such as its name, address, and type of business, and also pay a small filing fee. If you are planning to start a business in Michigan, I recommend registering your business name as soon as possible. It is a simple process that can provide you with many benefits.

Why Register a Business Name in Michigan

Once your business name is registered, you will be able to use it on your business cards, website, and other marketing materials. You will also be able to open a business bank account and obtain a business licence.

Here are some of the benefits of registering your business name in Michigan:

  • It protects your business name from being used by another business.
  • It gives your business credibility.
  • It makes it easier to do business with the government.
  • It can help you avoid legal problems.

Assumed Name: The Business Alias

In the world of entrepreneurship, an ‘assumed name’ is like a stage name for your business. Also known as a ‘doing business as’ (DBA) name in Michigan and anywhere else in the US.

A DBA is the name under which you conduct your business, separate from your legal business name.

For instance, if John Smith’s Catering Services wants to do business as ‘Gourmet Delights’, then ‘Gourmet Delights’ is the assumed name. This allows businesses to operate under a name that might be more marketable or descriptive of the services they offer. 

So, the Legal name is the one you register with the state of Michigan, and it’s what you’ll use on all your official paperwork. A ‘trade’ name (or DBA – ‘doing business as’) is the name you’ll use in your day-to-day operations. These can be the same or they can be different.

As someone who has registered my fair share of DBAs over the years, I’m here to walk you through the process step-by-step. While it may seem daunting at first, registering your Michigan business name is actually quite straightforward if you follow the proper steps. 

Let’s get started.

Choose and Verify Your Business Name

Coming up with the perfect business name is an art and a science. You’ll want it to capture the essence of your brand while also being catchy, unique and memorable.

Once you’ve settled on a business name, it’s time to verify that it’s available for use in Michigan.

Michigan Business Name Search

The Michigan Corporation Division provides an online business entity search tool where you can check if your desired name is already taken. You’ll want to search not just exact matches, but also minor variations that are similar. 

For example, if you wanted to register ‘Blue Sky Bakery’, you’d also want to check availability of ‘Blue Skies Bakery’ or ‘Blue Sky Baking Co’.

In addition to making sure another business isn’t already using your name, you also need to verify that your name complies with Michigan regulations.

There are certain words that are restricted from being used in business names in Michigan unless your business meets specific requirements. These include bank, trust, co-op, university, etc.

The full list of prohibited words can be found on the Michigan Corporation Division website.

Also, don’t forget to check if the name is trademarked. The last thing you want is a cease and desist letter from a company with a similar name. Trust me, it’s not the kind of mail you want to receive.

And as a final tip I would suggest you also check if the business name you chose has a corresponding domain name that is available. you can search these at domain registrars like Namecheap. They are a web domain provider, and they have access to all the domains available on the internet. 

Complete the Business Registration Application

Once you’ve settled on an available name, and confirmed that the business name is available, it’s time to complete the application provided by the State of Michigan, which you will find in the Michigan Corporation Division website.

The business name registration process may vary slightly depending on the business structure you chose.

Carefully read over the instructions and fill out all required fields on the application, including:

  • Your business name
  • The county where your business is located
  • The name and address of the business owner(s)
  • Business owner signature(s)
  • Signature of the person completing the form, if different than the owner

You’ll also need to write in the appropriate application fee. As of July 2023, the fee to register a DBA in Michigan is $25.

Triple check that all information provided on the application is complete and accurate before submitting. Any mistakes could lead to processing delays. I once forgot to sign my DBA application and had to resubmit it with my signature, tacking on an extra week of waiting around.

File the Name Registration Application

Now comes the fun part submitting your application.

You’ll need to mail the completed form and registration fee to the address provided on the application instructions.

A key thing to note is that you must file in the county where your business is located. For example, if your business address is in Wayne County, you need to submit to the Wayne County Clerk’s office. Mailing it to the wrong county will delay the process.

Once received, the Michigan Corporation Division estimates it takes about 5 business days to process a DBA application. You’ll receive a certificate of registration in the mail once your application is approved.

I like to recommend submitting your application at least 2-3 weeks in advance of when you need the registration approved. That way, even if it takes a little longer than expected, you’ll still hopefully get it in time. I’ve found government agencies notorious for taking more time than estimated!

Post Registration: What are the Next Steps?

Congratulations, you now have a registered business name in Michigan. With your certificate of registration in hand, here are some important next steps to take.

Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits

Depending on your type of business, you may need to apply for additional county and state licenses with the Michigan department of licensing and regulatory affairs (LARA).

For example, restaurants need health department permits, construction companies need building licenses, etc. Use the resources on the Michigan Business One Stop website to find any licenses relevant to your industry.

Open a Business Bank Account

Every business needs a separate bank account to keep personal and business finances organized. Bring your DBA registration certificate to your bank as proof of your business’s legal registration. This will allow you to open an account using your business name.

Understand Tax Implications

While DBA registration doesn’t automatically register you for taxes, it’s important to learn about your potential business tax obligations.

Most businesses need to register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS as well as state taxes. Talk to an accountant to ensure you have all the right registrations and understand how your taxes will be impacted.

And that wraps up the process of properly registering your business name in the state of Michigan.

With your snazzy new business name in hand, you’re now ready to take the plunge and start your own business in the Great Lakes State. Hopefully this guide has provided you with the information you where looking for to get your Michigan business registered. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Disclaimer and Conclusion

This article is meant to give a brief overview of what steps you need to follow in order to register a business name in Michigan and is not meant to act as legal advice.

Registering a business name in Michigan can get quite complicated, so I always recommend spending some money on an experienced attorney who can guide you through the intricacies of the legal and tax set up.

Attorneys will be able to advise you on the best set-up for your business. This helps avoid any future legal problems and optimize your tax planning structure. Just make sure you choose an experienced attorney.

Good luck with your business venture and please feel free to leave any comments or questions you might have, below.

For more guides on how to register a business name in the USA, please click here.


I am a branding and naming consultant with 16 years of experience. I believe in building a strong brand name that identifies your visions and that of your business. A brand identity motivates you and your team to achieve success.