How to Set Up a DBA in Iowa

Last updated: March 18th, 2024
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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 Iowa.

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Starting a business and registering for a DBA in Iowa is not hard to do. If you have a product or service you want to sell, have a solid business plan, and have enough money to get your business started, DBA registration might be in order. If you want to become a sole proprietor but want to do business under a different name to add another layer of legitimacy to the business, an Iowa DBA could be the solution. To help, here’s what you should know:

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, it 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 business.

Sole proprietors can benefit a lot 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. When you register for LLCs, general partnerships, or any type of business entity, acquiring a DBA is a good way to start. 

How to search DBA names in Iowa

No two businesses can have the same name in Iowa, so if you wish to register for a trade name and get your trade name certificate for your business, you can do a quick business name search to find out if your name is available. 

Come up with a business name

Before searching for business names, it’s better if you have a list of possible names for your business. The name has to be relevant to your business, so when people search for something online, your name will pop up in the search results.

Do a quick business name search

Visit the Iowa Secretary of State website and use their business entity search tool to determine if the names you picked are free to use. The search tool is easy to use, and all you have to do is type in the names on your list and see the results for exact matches. 

See the results

If there are no results from your search, that means the name you’ve selected is free to use and register as your trade name or DBA.

Sometimes, results will still pop up because the term you searched is similar to existing businesses. If that is the case, you can check to see if the matches are exactly the same or only similar.

If they are quite similar with only a few differences, such as spelling, you might want to think of a different name to avoid confusion, especially if the two businesses are of the same nature. 

Name reservation (optional)

If your business name is available and fits all Iowa business name standards, but you are not ready to apply for a DBA just yet, you can reserve the name for 120 days. You can fill out a form at your local county clerk’s office and reserve a name for $10. You can also mail the forms to the Secretary of State’s office in Iowa to reserve the name you want for your business. 

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

Cost to get a DBA set up

Filing for a trade name in Iowa costs as little as $5, and it is probably one of the lowest prices to get a DBA in the country. You can pay with cash or checks made payable to the Secretary of State. If you wish to pay with a credit card, you might need to check in with your local county clerk if you are filing in person. 

How to register a DBA in Iowa

It is very easy to register for a trade name in Iowa, and it will only take a couple of hours of your time. Here is how:

Visit your local county clerk’s office and fill out the trade name form

You can visit the local county clerk or simply download the form here to get a head start. Fill out the form and submit it in person together with the $5 fee. All you need is to fill out your name and business name, and you are done.

Wait for your trade name certificate

After filing, it will take a couple of weeks for processing. As of now, there are no expedited services for trade name filing in Iowa, so you will have to be patient.

Ready to register your DBA? Fill out these forms.

What comes next

Now that you know how to register a DBA and get your name certificate ready for your small business, the next steps would vary, depending on what you need. If you offer products that you can ship anywhere in the United States or have services that you can provide remotely, maybe getting a website for your DBA is one thing you can do. If your business requires occupational licenses and permits, you will need to get the necessary business licenses and permits from your local county clerk’s office. Whatever the nature of your business is, here are some of the next steps you can take:

Get the necessary permits for your business

In most states, including the state of Iowa, some businesses are required to get the needed permits to operate, such as a liquor and tobacco license to sell liquor and tobacco, occupational licenses for architects, barbers, and veterinarians, and other permits your local county requires.

Although you don’t need to register the business with the state in most cases, getting these business licenses is necessary to legally operate your business.

Consider going online

Aside from creating social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, or Instagram, one more legitimate way of taking your business online is by creating a website. Plus, getting a website and optimizing it for more people in your city to see is one of the best ways to generate potential customers and ultimately increase sales. If you think your business needs a website, you can get a domain name for about $12/year and start generating more potential clients.

Make sure your domain name is the same as your business name or DBA. However, that may not always be the case if the name is already taken.

Get an EIN

Now that your business is getting more traction because of your website, marketing, and word of mouth, maybe it is time to hire employees. To hire employees, you will need to get an EIN or employer identification number. It is also known as a Federal Employee Identification Number (FEIN), which is a 9-digit code you can use for tax reasons and registering with the IRS.

Having one will allow you to hire employees to help you with your growing business. Note that an EIN does not provide you with liability protection. You still need to file for an LLC to get that benefit.

Open a business bank account

With a DBA, you can now open a business bank account using your trade name instead of operating your business under your registered name or legal name. People who do business with companies that have a business bank account may seem more legitimate than working with just a name. Another benefit to having a business bank account is that you can separate your personal income and expenses from your business finances, which makes accounting a breeze. 

File for a trademark

If your business produces unique products that you want to keep as your intellectual property, you can apply for a trademark so that no other business can copy your products, whether they are tangible or intangible. You can fill out this form here.

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 is different from an LLC or any other business entity. While your LLC is a formal business structure, a DBA is just another name your business can operate under. However, an LLC is a legal entity that can also benefit from having a DBA for business growth and creating separate entities within a growing small business. 

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 Iowa?

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 benefits of starting a DBA in Iowa:

  • 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.


Should I reserve a name for my business organization or DBA?

It is not required to reserve a name, but it is suggested if you worked so hard to come up with a name for your business and don’t want any others to use it until you register. It only costs $10 to reserve the name in Iowa, which is worth it if you are not yet ready to register.

Is a trade name different from an LLC?

An LLC or limited liability company is a form of business entity, while a trade name is a name you can do business under. The two are different, and LLCs with liability protection can have a DBA, especially if you want to expand your business or want to have a legal nickname for your LLC.

Is a trademark different from a trade name?

Yes, a trade name in Iowa is a name you do business under. There is nothing trademarked when using a trade name except for the name itself, that only you have the right to use it when registered. On the other hand, a trademark is something you can get for unique products that you produce to protect your intellectual property. 

Is registering for DBA required in Iowa?

No, getting a DBA is not necessarily required for all businesses, but only the ones that wish to operate under a different name legally. 

Find out how to set up your DBA

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