How to Set Up a DBA in Hawaii

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A DBA (Doing Business As) allows individuals and businesses to operate under a different name or expand their brand presence while maintaining legal compliance. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of setting up your DBA in Hawaii.

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Starting a business may seem overwhelming initially, but taking small steps to achieve the goal is key. The first step in starting a business is determining the nature of your business, which probably starts with what you are passionate about and what you are good at. Once that is taken care of, the next step is thinking of an effective business name and setting it up with a DBA registration. This article will serve as a guide to getting your business name or DBA registered in Hawaii, which could be your start to achieving financial freedom as an entrepreneur.

What is a DBA?

A DBA is an acronym for “doing business as,” sometimes known as a fictitious name, trade name, or DBA name depending on which state you are acquiring, is a state-level name that your company can use to do business under. Or in simpler terms, a DBA is just another name you can use for your new business.

Sole proprietors can benefit greatly from using a DBA because instead of using their own name to run their business, they can use a DBA to operate under a different name, which makes your company look more legitimate and trustworthy to future consumers. 

If you are thinking about a unique business name for your startup as a sole proprietor, the next step would be DBA filing to make sure the name of the business you thought about could be the legal name for your business. Where you are registering for LLCs, general partnerships, or any type of business entity, the acquisition of a DBA is a good way to start. 

How to search DBA names in Hawaii (step by step)

DBAs are sometimes referred to as fictitious business names or assumed names, depending on which state you are registering. In Hawaii, DBAs are typically referred to as a trade name, which means it will be your trademark name, and no two businesses can operate under the same name. Here is how to search Hawaii business names to ensure that yours is unique:

1
Think of a business name

Before this step, you might want to think of business names that are appropriate for the nature of your business. For example, if you are selling ice cream, surf products, or any other business, you must make sure that your name is relevant to your business before searching. Make a list of names because some of the names you thought of might already be used by a different business. Note that there are some name standards and requirements for businesses in Hawaii, which you can check here

2
Go to the Hawaii Business Express Portal and search for business names

Now that you have created a list of names, it is time to check whether they are up for grabs or already taken. Go to the Hawaii Business Express website to search for existing businesses with their simple search tool. Once you open the search page, input the names you came up with for your business and click on search to see the results. 

3
Check results

If there are zero perfect-matching results for the names you entered, it means that these names are free to use and be registered. Note that one of the rules for a Limited liability company means you need to pick a name and add the acronym LLC as the suffix. If you choose an LLC as your business entity, make sure you put LLC at the end of the names you search. 

4
Consider reserving the name

If you are not ready to file for a trade name but want to reserve a business name for future use, you can consider reserving the name to make sure you can use it whenever you are ready. Note that name reservations in Hawaii only last for 120 days, and the filing fee is $10. You can go to the Hawaii Business Express Portal to reserve the name instead of visiting the county clerk’s office in person to do this step. 

Have a name in mind? Check on name availability first here.

Cost to get a DBA set up

The cost to get a DBA setup in Hawaii is $50 plus a $20 expedited fee to process the name certificate faster, and you can pay these fees with cash, check, or credit card. The DBA will last five years, and you need to pay the same amount to renew and continue to use the trade name for another five years. Note that all filing fees in Hawaii are non-refundable.

How to register a DBA in Hawaii

Now that you know the DBA meaning and why you need a DBA for your business, here are the easy steps on how to obtain a DBA for your new business:

1
For registering online, visit the Hawaii Business Express Website

Registering for a DBA or trade name in Hawaii is super easy. All you need to do is gather all the information about your business so you can fill out the online form. The application will require you to input your name, address, trade name, business entity type, nature of business, and other information you can easily access at home. 

2
Create a login page

You need to create an account on the business portal, which will only take about 5 minutes of your time. Having an account will allow you to manage and edit your application. You can also track your filings as you await approval from the state.

Unlike other states, Hawaii has its own business page, which means you don’t need to set up your DBA with the Secretary of State. 

3
To register in person or through the mail, you need to download the forms

If you are not comfortable filing online and inputting information on the internet, you can download the necessary forms. For trade names, you need the T1 Form, which you can take to the local county clerk’s office or mail to P.O. Box 40, Honolulu, HI 96810. As for the payment, checks should be made payable to the DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS.

4
Wait for your trade name to be approved

If you registered online, you can track your DBA approval with your login details, which takes around two weeks to arrive by mail. With the expedited service, you can expect your name registration and certificate to arrive within five business days. 

Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.

What comes next

After getting a DBA for your business, you are probably wondering what is next. Well, depending on what you have already done to start your business, there are a few more steps you might want to take so you can get your business off the ground as soon as possible, such as:

1
Get an EIN of Federal Employer Identification Number

Getting an EIN will allow you to hire employees legally in Hawaii or any other state, for that matter. It will allow you to file business taxes for your DBA and avoid unnecessary penalties. It also protects your DBA from identity theft and adds more credibility to your business, whether you sell products or provide freelancing services. Aside from all the benefits mentioned above, having an EIN will also allow you to establish credit for your business in case you want to improve or expand your business by borrowing money from lenders someday. 

2
Get the necessary business licenses to operate legally

Although you are not required to register a small business in Hawaii with the state, you still need to apply for business permits, especially for specialized occupations like barbers, accountants, veterinarians, and more. You can check the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs website to learn more about the business licenses and permits you need to operate. 

If you plan to get an EIN, you can do so on the IRS website.

Who is a DBA best for?

A DBA is best for a sole proprietorship that wants to operate or do business under a different name, other than its legal name. For sole proprietors, a DBA allows them to work under an assumed name of your business without having to file or open a separate LLC business structure.

Note that a DBA differs from an LLC or any other business entity. While your LLC is a formal business structure, a DBA is another name your business can operate under. However, an LLC is a legal entity that can benefit from having a DBA for business growth and creating separate entities within a growing small business. A DBA does not have java liability protection, but new businesses can benefit from having one in many ways. 

For example, suppose you already own a small business that sells one thing. In that case, you can also expand and create a separate legal entity with a DBA to differentiate between these two businesses regarding legal protections and liability. 

Why would entrepreneurs choose to set up a DBA in Hawaii?

There are many reasons to get a DBA instead of an LLC or any other business entity, especially when you are just starting. With that in mind, here are some of the benefits of starting a DBA in Hawaii:

  • Having a DBA allows you to apply for an employee identification number or EIN, which allows you to hire employees or freelancers.
  • Getting a DBA is the most affordable way to start a legitimate business as a sole proprietor.
  • A DBA will allow you to do business using a different name other than your personal name, which also allows you to create a business bank account and start credit lines with an assumed name, other than your legal name.
  • Acquiring a DBA is sometimes required by state laws to open a business.
  • Existing companies can use a DBA to rebrand without having to change their original name, whether it’s an incorporation or LLC.
  • A DBA offers privacy protection since you can do business under a different name.
  • A fictitious business name will make your business more legitimate and trustworthy, which is essential for growing your client base.
  • Having a separate company name or trade name is essential for small business owners to start a brand.
  • It allows you to separate personal assets from business assets.

FAQs

What is the difference between a trade name, trademark, and service mark?

In Hawaii, you can apply for a trade name, trademark, and service mark. These mean something different, so it is easy to get confused. However, the trade name is DBA itself, the trademark is for people who want to trademark products, and a service mark is for trademarking a service. 

Are there differences between a corporate name and a trade name?

Yes, a corporate name is used by an entity formed as a corporation. On the other hand, a trade name is a business name that a person uses to transact business. LLCs, corporations, general proprietorships, and sole proprietors can use a DBA to do business under a nickname or name that isn’t the original name of the company. 

Do sole proprietors need a business license in Hawaii?

Business registration is not required for sole proprietors in Hawaii, which gives them complete control, and they can make the decisions as they see fit, as long as it is under the parameters of the law. However, having a DBA is recommended for its benefits to businesses. Plus, depending on your business nature, you still need to get the necessary permits. 

Do I need a business bank account as a sole proprietor in Hawaii?

No, you don’t necessarily need a business bank account to operate a small business in Hawaii. Although having a DBA will allow you to open a business bank account, which allows you to transact business and manage your finances under a different name other than your given name. In Hawaii, you need a federal tax ID in order to get a business bank account. 

Find out how to set up your DBA

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