A unique business name is important for branding, but it’s easy to get lost in all the South Dakota business name rules.
This page will teach you how to look up your LLC name and make sure it’s available to use.
South Dakota LLC name
If you file your South Dakota LLC paperwork with a name that is already used by another South Dakota business entity – or that doesn’t meet the South Dakota name rules – your filing may be rejected.
The first step to checking if your LLC name passes is to make sure your name is not already taken by another business.
You can do this using the Business Information Search (aka Business Entity Search). And you need to do this because two business entities in the state can’t have the same name or be too similar.
The second step is to make sure your LLC name follows the South Dakota Secretary of State’s rules, which we’ve broken down below.
How do I search the South Dakota business entity name database?
You can use the business entity search to search your business name against the existing business entities registered in South Dakota.
Note: This tool is sometimes called the South Dakota Business Name Search or the South Dakota Business Entity Search. They both refer to the same website and get you the same search records.
Visit the South Dakota Business Information Search page:
South Dakota Secretary of State: Business Information Search
It’s simple: enter your desired LLC name in the search bar. Click “Contains” for the search type. Then click Search.
Why use “Contains”? If you select “Starts With” you might miss a similar name which adds a filler word. For example, if you searched “Gutter Guy” using the “Starts With” setting, you’d miss the existing business called The Gutter Guy Inc. You can’t name your company “Gutter Guy LLC” if The Gutter Guy Inc. already exists.
- Leave out “LLC”, “L.L.C.”, “Limited Liability Company”, etc., when doing your searches.
- Leave out any commas, periods, apostrophes, etc.
- You can search using uppercase or lowercase letters.
Tip: It’s best to enter only the main part of your desired South Dakota LLC name in the search bar. For example, if your desired LLC name is Riverwalk Studios LLC, first do a search for the words “Riverwalk Studio”. And then do a search for “Riverwalk”. This helps make sure that you see everything that is potentially similar.
How to interpret the South Dakota LLC search results
If the results show names that are not too similar to yours (meaning yours is distinguishable), then your Limited Liability Company name is available for use.
- Let’s keep using the example above. If your desired name is Riverwalk Studios LLC, and the only similar names you saw were “Riverwalk Rentals” and “Riverwalk Studio Starters”, then your name should be available.
If no results show up, that means your LLC name is unique and it should be available for use. To be safe, run your search again using only part of your LLC name (to double-check that there are no similar names).
- For example, search just the word “Riverwalk” instead of Riverwalk Studios.
If your exact LLC name appears in the list of search records, your LLC name is not available for use because another South Dakota business entity is already using it.
If the results show a name that is very similar to yours, your LLC name may not be available for use.
- If your desired name is Riverwalk Studios LLC, and the search results show a “Riverwalk Studio”, then your name is not available.
South Dakota Business Name Availability Search
The South Dakota Secretary of State also has a Business Name Availability tool. You can use this to confirm that your desired LLC name is available. However, because the Business Name Availability search only checks the exact business name you want to use, it’s only useful as a final check before filing. It won’t show you similar business names that may not be distinguishable from yours.
Note: The Business Name Availability check doesn’t guarantee that your name will still be available when you file your Articles of Organization.
What if my desired LLC name isn’t available?
If your name is not unique, you’ll need to come up with a variation or a different name for your LLC.
Tip: Wait until your LLC is approved before you apply for your LLC EIN Number or purchase any other marketing materials. This way you don’t spend money on business supplies you can’t use because your business name isn’t available.
South Dakota Secretary of State Contact Information
You can call the South Dakota Secretary of State to ask questions about whether your LLC name is available.
Representatives at the South Dakota Secretary of State can help you use the South Dakota Business Name Search. They can’t guarantee that your LLC name will be available when you file, however.
The Business Filings Division phone number is 605-773-4845. Their hours are 8am to 5pm Central time, Monday through Friday.
South Dakota Limited Liability Company Name Requirements
As per Section 47-37A-105 of the South Dakota LLC Act, there are a few rules and requirements for naming a South Dakota business entity that you need to know.
Do I have to use a comma in my LLC name?
No, you don’t have to. You can file your LLC name with or without a comma. Both versions are accepted by the Secretary of State.
For example: If your desired business name is Grandpa Joe’s, you can file it as:
- Grandpa Joe’s LLC
- Grandpa Joe’s, LLC
Or, instead of having “LLC” as your designator (ending), there are a few other options in South Dakota.
What designators (endings) can I use in my LLC name?
Your South Dakota LLC name must contain one of the following designators at the end:
- Limited Liability Co.
- Limited Liability Company
- Ltd. Liability Co.
- Ltd. Liability Company
Note: Most people choose “LLC”.
The following designators are not allowed
Your South Dakota LLC can’t make itself sound like a South Dakota Corporation or any other business entity besides an LLC.
The following words and designators can’t be used anywhere in your LLC name:
- Ltd. (without “Liability Co.” or “Liability Company” after it)
What words are not allowed in my South Dakota LLC name?
Your South Dakota LLC name can’t contain words and abbreviations that are restricted by law.
For example, you can’t make your LLC name sound like it’s a bank, part of the government or a government agency, or anything else that misleads the public.
You also can’t use words that are reserved for licensed professionals. These vary by state, but some common examples are accountants, architects, attorneys, dentists, and engineers.
Your South Dakota business name must be distinguishable (unique)
When you use the South Dakota Secretary of State Business Information Search, you will compare your desired LLC name to existing businesses in the state.
If your name is not unique, you’ll need to come up with a variation or a different business name.
Below are rules and examples of LLC names that are not distinguishable.
Differences in designators (endings) don’t create distinguishability.
If your desired LLC name is Coyote Coats LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found in the South Dakota Business Name Search results:
- Coyote Coats, Inc.
- Coyote Coats, Corp.
- Coyote Coats, Limited Liability Company
Changing the spelling of a word won’t create distinguishability if the words still sound the same.
If your desired LLC name is Donut Basket LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:
- Donnutt Basskett Inc.
- Doughnut Basket Limited Co.
- Doughnut Ba$ket Corp
Spaces and Punctuation
Because South Dakota determines distinguishability based on how names sound when read aloud, differences in punctuation won’t create distinguishability. And adding or removing spaces between words usually won’t create distinguishability either.
If your desired LLC name is Wheat Grass Juice LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:
- Wheatgrass Juice Corp.
- Wheat-grass-juice Inc.
- Wheat Grass “Juice” L.L.C.
And capitalization doesn’t matter in South Dakota business names. The name Wheat Grass Juice LLC isn’t available if any of the following are found:
- WHEAT GRASS JUICE LLC
- wheat grass juice corp.
- WhEaT GrAsS jUiCe Inc.
Numerals or Spelled Out Numbers
Using numerals (like 5 or 101) instead of spelling out the number (like “five” or “one hundred and one”) doesn’t create distinguishability.
If your desired LLC name is 25 Fiddles LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:
- Twenty-Five Fiddles LLC
- Twenty 5 Fiddles Inc.
What if my South Dakota business name is rejected?
If you file your South Dakota Articles of Organization (the document that creates your South Dakota LLC) and the business name is not available, don’t panic. The state will notify you and tell you why your filing was rejected.
You will just need to file again with a variation of your LLC name or a different LLC name.
South Dakota Business Name FAQs
Do I need a name reservation in South Dakota?
No, a name reservation isn’t required to form an LLC in South Dakota. It’s an unnecessary step and a waste of money.
You can just file your LLC’s Articles of Organization with your desired LLC name.
Does South Dakota require LLC in the name?
Yes. Your South Dakota LLC name must contain one of the allowable designators at the end. The most commonly used designators are:
- Limited Liability Company
- Ltd. Liability Co.
Does my South Dakota LLC need a DBA?
No, you’re not required to file a DBA (“Doing Business As”) for your business entity in South Dakota.
A DBA (also known as a Fictitious Name in South Dakota) lets your LLC conduct business under a name which is different from its true and legal name (the name on your Articles of Organization).
If you want your LLC to do business under a name that’s different from its true and legal name, you have to register a DBA Name online and pay an additional fee of $10 to the Secretary of State.
If you are going to file a DBA for your South Dakota LLC, it must also be distinguishable from existing business names in the state.
There is no limit to the number of DBAs an LLC can have.
For more information, please see Does my LLC need a DBA?
When would my LLC use a DBA?
Let’s say you form an LLC called Rodeo Saddles and Spurs LLC, but you also want to use a friendlier, catchy name, like Rodeo Saddles. In this case, your LLC would need to register a DBA to use the name Rodeo Saddles.
If you don’t file a DBA for a different name, you can only use your legal entity name of Rodeo Saddles and Spurs LLC.
Similarly, if you want to do business under the name Rodeo Saddles and Spurs, just without the letters “LLC” in the name, you will need to file a DBA for Rodeo Saddles and Spurs.
How do I get a business domain name?
Once you’ve found a business name that you like, it’s a good idea to check if your domain name is available before forming your LLC.
You can search for available domain names with GoDaddy:
Find a domain name
What does “distinguishability” mean?
Each business entity name must be “distinguishable upon the records” of the Secretary of State.
This means that no two businesses can operate with the same exact name. Said another way, if a business already exists with your desired LLC name, you can’t register your LLC with that name.
For example, let’s say you want to form an LLC called Black Hills Landscapers LLC. But there is already a business in another town called Black Hills Landscapers, Inc. Because your desired LLC name is the same as that existing South Dakota Corporation, it is not distinguishable. You can’t use it and must choose another name.
How do I come up with a business name?
Business names are important for branding and recognition. The name of your South Dakota LLC can be your company’s brand name, but it doesn’t have to be (please see the FAQ about DBAs above). Either way, picking a good LLC name is an important decision.
Here are some quick tips for coming up with business names:
- First, write down the features of your company and things that you want to be associated with.
- Then list out as many business names as you can think of. Don’t edit or analyze them. Just get as many names on the page as you can.
- Now go back and read through them. Write down any variations that come to mind.
- Next, set the list aside. Do something else, like go for a walk or get groceries, or sleep on it for the night. Then come back and review the list of names. As you go through it, write down additional ideas and variations.
- Read the whole list out loud. If you want, get input from friends, business partners, and family.
- Repeat the process: sleep on the ideas, write down new variations, read them out loud again.
- The best business name will often “rise off the page” and present itself. If it doesn’t, you can try this trick: Close your eyes and count to 10. When you get to 10, you must choose a name. When you open your eyes, force yourself to make a decision. Sometimes we know the best name deep in our subconscious, and this trick can help it come out. Trust yourself and go with what feels best.
Can I use the name of another South Dakota entity?
No. You can’t use the same name as another South Dakota business.
And it doesn’t matter what entity type it is – your LLC can’t have the same entity name as another corporation, LLC, or any other entity type.
But if a business is dissolved or cancelled, they no longer have rights to that name. This means you can form an LLC with the same name. Below is a full list of the entity statuses that you’ll see on the South Dakota Business Entity Search.
If the name you want has any of these statuses, the name will probably be available for use:
- Revoked (Administrative)
If the name you want has any of these statuses, that name isn’t available for use:
- Good Standing
How do I change my LLC name?
You can change your LLC’s name later by filing an Amendment form with the Secretary of State.
We have step-by-step instructions on how to change an LLC name in South Dakota.
How to start an LLC in South Dakota?
Here are the steps to starting an LLC in South Dakota:
- Choose an LLC name and make sure it’s available
- Choose who will be your South Dakota Registered Agent
- File the South Dakota LLC Articles of Organization
- Complete and sign an LLC Operating Agreement
- Get a Tax ID Number (EIN) from the IRS
- Open an LLC bank account
- Check whether you need a business or sales tax license in South Dakota
Matt holds a Bachelor's Degree in business from Drexel University with a concentration in business law. He performs extensive research and analysis to convert state laws into simple instructions anyone can follow to form their LLC - all for free! Read more about Matt Horwitz and LLC University.