For every state or commonwealth within the United States, the state’s office of the secretary of state is responsible for maintaining the database of all business entities registered in that state. Basic information from this database is a matter of public record, which can prove very useful for citizens, business owners, and aspiring entrepreneurs looking for information about a particular business.
But how do you perform a secretary of state business search, and what can you do with that information? We’ve got the state-by-state guide you need to use the business entity search function effectively.
Running a business entity search through your state’s office of the secretary of state can be useful for a few different reasons. Let’s take a look at a few different ways you can use this information.
Check for Business Name Availability
Before you can register a new business in any state, you must first make sure that your desired business name is available. Two businesses in the same state cannot be registered under the same name, so if you find that your name is taken, you’ll have to get creative with a new idea.
In addition to the typical business entity search, some states actually offer an online name availability search, meaning you can simply type in your desired name, check its availability, and move immediately to the next step of the registry process.
Verify the Status of an Existing Business
Whether it’s your own business or a potential vendor, customer, partner, or competitor, you can check the status of an existing business in any state using the secretary of state business search database for that state. This is a particularly smart thing to do before agreeing to a major contract with an unfamiliar business.
Obtain a Certificate of Good Standing
The secretary of state business search will typically be your starting point to make sure you are up to date on all paperwork or obtain a Certificate of Good Standing for your existing business, as may be requested by a business lender. Check out our article on certificates of good standing for more information about how to obtain this document from your state.
Regardless of your reasoning, the ability to perform a secretary of state business search is a useful tool for any business. Here’s our state-by-state guide to help you access your state’s business entity search database:
Business owners in Alabama can perform a business entity search online by business name, owner or incorporator name, or the date of incorporation. In addition to searching business registries, the Alabama secretary of state’s Department of Business Services also provides options to register your business, obtain a Certificate of Existence, or even reserve a name for a business you intend to create in the future.
Entrepreneurs in our nation’s last frontier have many services available from Alaska’s Division of Corporations, Business & Professional Licensing. In addition to performing a search of the corporations database by entity name or number, Alaskans can also access information, online services, registration and licensing applications for businesses; professional, nonprofit, religious, and cooperative corporations; limited liability companies; limited partnerships; trademarks; and more.
The Arizona Corporation Commission’s eCorp business entity search portal can provide information about both foreign and resident corporations, LLCs, and partnerships, as well as registered trademarks within the state. Search results may be filtered for both active and inactive results. Once you’ve found an available business name, follow the Corporation Commission’s simple, 10-step starting a business in Arizona guide to register your new business in the Grand Canyon state properly.
In the Natural State, you can perform a secretary of state business search for various types of business entities through this online database—either by business name or by registered agent name. Subscribers to the state’s information network can also build specialized lists of business entities—such as a list of competitors in a particular industry–for a nominal fee. Ready to get started with your new business? Dream It to Do It Arkansas is a great state-sponsored resource to help you begin the journey.
With new businesses being started in California every day, the secretary of state business search page is your go-to resource to browse names and registry information for existing corporations, LLCs, and limited partnerships. However, to formally check the availability of a business name in California, you need to follow these guidelines to mail a name availability inquiry letter to the state.
In the Centennial State, you can perform a Colorado Secretary of State business search by business name, trademark, trade name, or ID or document number. In addition to name availability, Colorado’s database also offers an advanced trademark search as well as business survey information. Ready to get your business started? Check out Colorado’s starting a business tutorial for all the registry information you need.
Starting a business in Connecticut? Visit the secretary of state’s business inquiry portal to search established companies by name, ID, or filing number. From there, Nutmeggers can go to the Connecticut’s business startup tool for next steps to register their new business.
Did you know that more than 60% of Fortune 500 companies are incorporated in Delaware? Favorable tax and legal statutes make the First State the first choice for many national companies. To follow their lead and incorporate your business in Delaware, start by visiting the secretary of state’s entity information search page to browse currently registered businesses, or use the name availability search to check the status of your desired business name.
Sunbiz.org is the online home of the Florida Division of Corporations, which offers both a basic business entity name search and a step-by-step guide for starting your Florida business.
All records for corporations, limited liability companies, and limited partnerships in Georgia are managed by the state’s corporations division. To perform a secretary of state business search of these records, visit the business search portal and enter a full or partial company name. Ready to start your business in the Peach State? Visit the First Stop Business Information Center for the guidelines you’ll need.
Search for a businesses entity registered with the Hawaii secretary of state through this business entity database. But if you’re seeking an available name for your new business, note that you’ll have to communicate directly with the Hawaii Business Registration Division for confirmation.
To perform a secretary of state business search in the Gem State, visit the business entity search page here. If you’re looking for a specific business, there is also an option to search by city, registered agent name, or business origination date.
CyberDriveIllinois.com is the online home of all government services for the state of Illinois, including the Department of Business Services. You can use the business services database to search through public records of Illinois businesses or obtain a certificate of good standing—or visit the business services page for additional information to registering your Prairie State business.
The state of Indiana has committed to making it easy for Hoosier entrepreneurs to launch their businesses. That’s why the office of the secretary of state has created INBiz, a one-stop resource for registering your business and ensuring it complies with state laws and regulations. You can start by running a secretary of state business search online using the INBiz business entity database.
You can quickly and easily perform a secretary of state business search in the Hawkeye State using the Iowa business entities database. We also recommend visiting IASourceLink—”where business begins in Iowa”—for information about getting started as an Iowan entrepreneur.
Use the Kansas Business Entity Search Station (BESS) to browse names of existing Kansas businesses and trademarks, check for name availability, and more. The online Kansas Business Center can also help you get started with other business services in the Sunflower State.
The Kentucky FastTrack Business Organization Search is the online database you need to perform a secretary of state business search in the Bluegrass State. Beyond this initial search, you can also create an account with the Kentucky OneStop Business Portal to access additional state-sponsored business services.
Search the Louisiana secretary of state database to view business entities registered in the Pelican State, including corporations, limited liability companies, limited liability partnerships, nonprofit corporations, trade names, and trademarks or service marks. Additionally, GeauxBiz.com is another excellent state-sponsored resource to check out for more information about registering your business in Louisiana.
Mainers can use the secretary of state’s corporate name search to browse businesses by name, charter number, or keyword. For more information about incorporating a business in Maine, go to the office of the Secretary of State’s interactive corporate services page.
To register a business, check your business status, or access any other business services in the Old Line State, you need to access Maryland Business Express. This site is also home to Maryland’s business entity search, which is managed by the Department of Assessments and Taxation.
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you can perform a secretary of state business search for business names, trademarks, or outstanding name reservations. Bay Staters can also register new businesses online through the corporations online filing system.
The Corporations Division Business Entity Search database in Michigan is managed by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. You can search the database by name, file number, or keyword; or see the name availability page for more information about reserving an available business name in the Great Lakes State.
Fortunately for Minnesotans, the office of the secretary of state makes it incredibly easy to perform a business name search, check business name availability, and even quickly register a new business in the North Star State. They even clearly provide the cost of registry for each type of business formation directly on the business entity database search page. Thanks, Minnesota!
According to the Mississippi secretary of state, “it’s all about business, y’all!” In fact, Y’all Business is the headquarters for all of Mississippi’s business and entrepreneurial services. You can navigate the business search portal by company name, officer name, or registered agent. Or create a Mississippi Corporations Registered Filer account to access registry options and additional services.
Use the Missouri business entity database to search existing Show Me State businesses or check for name availability. To file articles of organization for a new business online—or submit ongoing paperwork for an existing Missouri business—you first need to create an account with the state’s corporations online portal.
Go to the Montana business information search page to search through registered business records by name or secretary of state ID number. Ready to launch your Treasure State business? Use the office of economic development’s Montana Business Checklist to get started.
In the Cornhusker State, obtain information on the status of all entities, trade names, trademarks, and service marks through the Nebraska secretary of state online and corporate business search. To learn more about forming a new business in Nebraska, visit the state’s new business information page here.
Whether you’re a resident Nevadan or merely incorporating your business in the business-friendly Silver State, Nevada SilverFlume should be your first online stop in the business launch process. To view names of registered businesses in Nevada or find an available name, use the Nevada business search for the information you need.
Run a secretary of state business search in New Hampshire by business name here, including a search for similar sounding names. You then need to register with New Hampshire QuickStart here to formally file your company or take advantage of other New Hampshire business services.
To perform a secretary of state business search in the garden state, New Jerseyans can actually choose from a few different online portals. Go here to search currently registered businesses in New Jersey by name, perform a keyword search for similar businesses here, or jump straight to the name availability search to see if your desired business name is open for use.
You can search the New Mexico corporations database through this site to view names and additional information for registered businesses in the Land of Enchantment.
The New York corporation and business entity database is your online entry point to perform a secretary of state business search for New York businesses. Next, visit the division of corporations for more information on starting your business—or to file your required biennial report.
Consistently ranked among the best places to start a business, North Carolina offers several means of support for up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Start here for information on how to register your North Carolina business, or jump straight to the secretary of state business search portal here to browse names and registry information for current North Carolina businesses.
To run a North Dakota secretary of state business search, go to the business records search portal here. Along with currently registered businesses, you can also search contractor licenses by owner from this page.
In the Buckeye State, you can perform a basic secretary of state business search either by business entity name or by trademark number. New Ohioan entrepreneurs can register their businesses online through the Ohio Business Central e-filing page.
Did you know that both Tulsa and Oklahoma City were recently ranked among the top 10 best cities in the country for young entrepreneurs? It’s no wonder that this state has the third-highest rate of entrepreneurship in the nation. Aspiring business owners in the Sooner State can perform a secretary of state business search here and then visit the Oklahoma Department of Business Services’ entity filing page to register a domestic or foreign trade name, submit articles of organization, and more.
A healthy economy and growing “buy local” movement make it a great time to be an Oregonian entrepreneur. Ready to get your business started? First, use the Oregon secretary of state business search portal to browse business names by availability, exact match, partial search, or even sound-alike keywords, and then use the online Oregon business registry to make your company official!
In addition to the traditional secretary of state business search options, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations offers a few unique and useful features through the Pennsylvania business entity search portal. Along with searching names of existing businesses in the Keystone state, Pennsylvanians can also browse partial name or “sounds like” name listings—or even jump straight to the corporate name availability function. Simply visit the search page and select from the drop-down menu under “type of search” to make your selection.
The Rhode Island Department of State’s online business portal includes one of the most comprehensive state guides we’ve seen for starting a business, including special services for minority and woman-owned businesses. Want to find an available name for your business or simply check out the competition? Rhode Islanders can use the secretary of state’s business entity search portal to browse through registered businesses by company, owner, or officer name, address, or even by business purpose.
To file a new business in the Palmetto state, simply enter your desired business name into the South Carolina secretary of state’s business name search portal. If your business name is available, a green bar will come up that states, “This name is available,” and you can click the blue “Add New Entity” icon to immediately begin the registration process. You can also use this business search portal to browse existing South Carolina business entities by full or partial name.
Go to the South Dakota business information search portal to search for both active and inactive registered businesses by name or secretary of state ID number. From the online business services page, you can register articles of organization for most business structures online—though certain structures still require a mailed physical application.
Because small businesses make up the majority of Tennessee’s economy, the secretary of state office offers a wide array of resources for new and aspiring volunteer business owners. Check out the Tennessee Smart Start Guide for information about launching your business and entrepreneurial resources in Tennessee, use the secretary of state business search to view currently registered business names, then follow the instructions in the business services online portal to form or register a new business in Tennessee.
As the largest state and home to six of the top 20 best cities in America to start a business, it’s clear that the great state of Texas is a fantastic place to be an entrepreneur. Aspiring business owners can perform an online search of taxable entities from Houston to El Paso to find an available business name.
Home to one of America’s lesser known tech industry hubs, Utah is a great place to start a business. In fact, Utah has the highest rate of entrepreneurship per capita in the nation! Start your journey as a business owner in Utah by performing a business name search here, then visit the Utah Division of Corporations & Commercial Code’s OneStop online business registration portal.
Performing a secretary of state business search is pretty simple in the green mountain state, using the quick and easy Vermont business search portal. Once you’ve chosen an available name for your business, check out the Vermont business start-up guide for help walking through the full registration process.
Residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia have two different options for performing a secretary of state business search. Use this business entity search portal to perform a search of existing companies in the Old Dominion—or use this name distinguishability portal to check the availability of your desired business name.
To run a secretary of state business search in the evergreen state, go to the corporations search portal here. Along with names of registered businesses, you can obtain additional information, such as names of officers and directors.
Use this portal to run a secretary of state business search in the Mountain State. You can also use this site to obtain a certificate of existence for your current business.
The Wisconsin department of financial institutions’ corporate records search can help you access entity names, dates of registration, and registered agent information for businesses currently registered in the Badger State.
It may come as a surprise that the last state on our list was also recently ranked as the best state in the union to start a business! In addition to no corporate income tax and a favorable sales tax rate, Wyomingites have one of the highest startup rates in the country. To start your business in the cowboy state, perform a state Wyoming business entity search to find your perfect business name, and then visit the Wyoming business division’s online services center to register your articles of organization.