Colorado has a lot going for it. It’s gorgeous, has lots of outdoor activities available all year, and has a wealth of natural resources. You may think it’s the perfect place for you to start a business. Before you move ahead, you need to be aware of some rules, particularly those involving naming your business. Colorado, like every state, doesn’t just let people open up their doors under any name. You need to search to see what names are available in the state.
This great how-to guide will help you move through the name search process and understand what rules and regulations Colorado have for naming startups. Using it will allow you to get a headstart on opening up your LLC in Colorado.
How to check business name availability in Colorado
The first step to opening a business in Colorado is to check name availability. Colorado requires you have a distinguishable name that isn’t a duplicate of another business. Here is how to check.
1. Visit the Colorado Secretary of State website
The Secretary of State’s office has a search tool to look up registered business names in the state. Using it lets you see if the name you want is already taken or is available.
2. Type in your proposed name
You will do this in the block that says “organizational name.” You can also type in keywords..
3. Hit the search button
This will bring up all Colorado businesses that have your name or a name similar to the one you want. In the case of using keywords, it will bring up every business with those words in the name. This will give you a good idea of how to refine or change your name to be unique. You may need to do this several times before you find a completely distinguishable name.
4. Consider reserving a name
After running a Colorado business name search, you have two options: You can reserve a name or you can register the name. You should reserve the name if you aren’t planning to set up the business immediately.
Colorado allows business owners to reserve a name for 120 days for $25.
To do so, you’ll fill out a quick form and provide the payment.
Again, you don’t need to reserve a name if you plan to officially set up your business with the state of Colorado, but if you’re just doing some homework and plan to set up your business later, reserve the name now so it’s not taken when you’re ready.
5. Check domain name availability
We created a tool that makes it easy.
How to name your Colorado business
Now that you know a little more about the business landscape in the state, it’s time to start generating a list of names for your business. To do so, follow these steps:
1. Write down basic details about your business
Start by creating a verbal picture of your business. Think about what your business will offer and who it will serve. Will you sell a specific product or service? Who’s going to buy it? Jot down a few details about your company as a starting point.
Next, start creating a list of adjectives that describe your business. Think in terms of keywords. What keywords would your customer use to find the product or service that you offer? Write them down.
2. Stay away from initials and hard-to-say words
There are plenty of businesses that include initials, like A&J Plumbing, but consider upping your game with something a bit more creative and descriptive.
The same goes for names that are hard to say. If your last name is Stackowaski, for example, it’s not conducive to a business name because it’s too hard to pronounce.
3. Don’t pigeon-hole your business
Be careful not to select a name that limits your company’s potential growth. Think about where your business will be in five, ten, even twenty years, and take that into consideration when creating a name.
A company named Bob’s Bargain Books, for example, is a good name, but what if they plan to sell vintage records and cassettes down the road? The name only refers to books, so when vintage music is added people won’t associate it with the store.
4. Consider using a name generator
At this point, you probably have a list of a few ideas. Rather than brainstorm a bunch of different combinations, why not try a name generator? You simply enter a few of the adjectives that you came up with into the search bar and you’ll get a list of possible names.
Name generators can take some of the hassles out of creating a name. Most name generators will only show you available names too, which is helpful.
Check out some of Namechk’s name generators below:
What kind of business structure is right for your Colorado company?
As you research available business names in Colorado, you’ll also want to think about what kind of business you want to establish. There are a handful of options to choose from, but some of the most common are Sole proprietorship and LLC.
- A sole proprietorship is ideal for small businesses with no employees that want to test their business out. There’s virtually no paperwork to set up this kind of business, which is a plus. However, a sole proprietorship is not a separate business entity, which means you’re financially and legally responsible for any problems that might arise.
- An LLC, or limited liability company, provides a certain amount of liability protection. Your personal assets and your business are separate with this business structure, which means if the business is sued or goes bankrupt, you will not be forced to use your personal cash reserves to bail the business out.
Steps to register your Colorado business
Ready to set up your business in CO? Here’s what you do:
1. File your Articles of Organization
Visit the Colorado Secretary of State website and fill out the Articles of Organization. To fill this out, you’ll need to have an available business name, address, and contact information.
2. Name a registered agent
You’ll also need to name a registered agent. A registered agent is the point-person for your company who will receive important documents like tax notices or legal documents.
A registered agent must be trustworthy and be available during regular business hours when documents are delivered. The business owner can serve as the registered agent in Colorado, or another person or company can be named.
You might decide to name your accountant or co-founder, for example. You can also hire a registered agent service to serve in this role. Northwest Registered Agent, ZenBusiness, and Incfile are a few examples. These companies will receive documents on your behalf and notify you of their arrival.
3. Pay the filing fee
Every state charges a filing fee to file LLC formation documents with the government. In Colorado, the cost is $50. There is an additional $150 for expedited service.
4. Wait for approval
Colorado will review your application and typically provides approvals within five business days. Once approved, your business is officially set up.
Our picks of the best registered agent services
Colorado small business facts
You may be anxious to head to the mountains of Colorado to start your business but you will need to start by researching some facts about the state. Here are some facts from the U.S Business Administration:
- Small businesses in Colorado make up 99.5 percent of all of the state’s businesses. There are 630,113 small firms in the state.
- Colorado has more than 1.1 million people employed by small businesses. That’s 48.2 percent of all of the state’s workforce.
- The state’s unemployment was 3.7 percent in 2019, rising from 2.9 percent the year before.
- Small businesses created 46,224 jobs in the state in 2016 with 30,921 of those being in firms of less than 20 people.
- Colorado sees at least 5,582 businesses exporting goods with 87 percent, or 4,857 companies, being small firms. The small firm exports generated 28.1 percent of the state’s $7.1 billion in total exports.
- Top industries in Colorado include accommodations and food services, healthcare and social services, construction and professional, scientific and technical services.
To further help entrepreneurs, check out these frequently asked questions about starting a business in Colorado:
Why is it so important to check on business name availability?
Colorado will not allow two businesses in the state to have the same name. There are many reasons for this, but at its core, it’s to avoid any confusion. For example, if someone plans to sue Bob’s Fruit Stand and there are two of these companies in the state, things can get complicated quickly.
All businesses must have a unique name. And, you can’t just add a hyphen to a name to make it different. Each name must be “distinguishingly different.”
What do you need to reserve a business name in Colorado?
Colorado requires a little more to reserve a business name than some other states. The main thing it requires is a statement from the person applying that he or she wants to reserve a business name.
Unlike other states, you can reserve a business name either with the name of an individual or the name of another business entity. It is one or the other. You can’t use both. The state also wants a mailing address for the applicant.
Colorado also requires you to list all those who are responsible for the business on the reservation form. This includes both names and addresses.
Is Colorado a good place to start a business?
Most experts state Colorado is a prime state in the U.S. to have a business. It is a central location for many startups and expanding businesses and has an incredibly business-friendly culture.
Many startups in Colorado are established by young entrepreneurs and there are more being added daily.
Is there help for those trying to start a business in Colorado?
The Secretary of State has a checklist that can be helpful to those planning to start a business in Colorado. There aren’t any state grants available but there are other financing options.
What is a periodic report?
Colorado requires businesses, including LLCs, corporations, foreign entities, and non-profits to file a yearly report to the Secretary of State’s office. These reports are used to update the names, phone numbers, and addresses of principal officers and registered agents along with any other necessary information.
The report can be filed through the website and keeps your business in “good standing” with the state. The periodic report costs $10 to file yearly and will cost an additional $50 as a penalty if it’s filed late. Your reporting month is on your summary sheet for the entity that you received when you formed it.
What happens if I stop doing business in Colorado?
Ending a business in Colorado is a simple process You will need to file a dissolution form. The fee to dissolve the company is $10. After you file the dissolution form, you will no longer be required to report periodic reports.
Can I make changes to my business name once I register it?
Yes, you can make name changes, officer changes, or other changes to your business name or registration even after it is filed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. Changes including the business name, officers, registered agents, or filing other attachments with the amendments cost $10 for each change. You will be required to fill out separate forms for each change and all the forms can be found on the Colorado Secretary of State website.
Will I also need a business license?
Yes, creating a business in Colorado doesn’t include your business license. Each city or county requires a business license and other professional licensing, depending on your industry. Each state has different regulations so you will need to check for your occupation. Most business licenses in Colorado cost around $15 but costs could vary from different jurisdictions.
You will also need to get a sales and use tax from the municipality where your business is located along with any other special permitting licenses like those required to sell beer and wine, marijuana, and health and medical supplies.
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