Turn your 4-H entrepreneurship project into a business by filing a DBA

One of the first steps in creating your own business is to file a DBA, or “Doing Business As” name.

Green and white nametag that says
Photo credit: Dave Radloff

Michigan 4-H entrepreneurship clubs and programs are designed to offer young entrepreneurs hands-on learning and real-life business experiences. The 4-H entrepreneurship program offers a safe environment in which young people can work independently and with others to develop a product or service and operate a business with limited financial risks. One of the major goals of the 4-H entrepreneurship project is for youth participants to eventually start their own independent businesses outside of 4-H.

The Michigan 4-H Entrepreneurship Guidelines provide best practices for 4-H entrepreneurship clubs and indicates a 4-H project becomes an independent business when young entrepreneurs formally separate themselves from the 4-H program. The easiest way to do this is to file a “Doing Business As” or “DBA”. In Michigan, you can file online with the Michigan Corporations Online Filing system.

A DBA is essentially a fictitious business name that an individual or company operates under that is not the individual’s legal name. If you are having trouble creating a name for your business, TRUIC has a great business name generator. You can also search the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs database to ensure no one else is using the business name you want to operate under. It is also a good idea to check with GoDaddy to see if a domain name is available for your business to function on the internet.

A word of caution: operating as a DBA does not offer legal protection, nor does it protect your assumed business name from being used by someone else. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Corporations, Securities and Commercial Licensing Bureau can provide more direction on choosing a business name and creating corporations, limited partnership and limited liability companies.

While operating a business under a DBA does not provide you a formal business structure, asset protection, flexible tax options or personal liability protection, filing a DBA does provide many advantages to the young entrepreneur. These include:

  • Making banking easier for the business. A DBA allows you to file for an EIN number, which identifies the business as an entity and allows you to open bank accounts.
  • Separating you as an individual from the business. This provides privacy for you.
  • Providing recognizability. Having a business name helps the young entrepreneur appear more professional and has much more marketing power than your name alone. People will tend to remember the business name, especially if it is a “catchy” memorable name.
  • Easy filing. The Chamber of Commerce Team provides an extensive step-by-step process for filing a DBA in Michigan.
  • Providing flexibility. It is easier and cheaper to change a business name when operating as a DBA. In addition, a business operating under a DBA can expand or change their products without having to start a new business.

Michigan 4-H entrepreneurship programs can help you take an existing project to new levels or assist you in bringing a great idea to life with the potential to make a profit. Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development helps to prepare young people for successful futures. For more information about resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, youth financial education or youth entrepreneurship, email us at 4-HCareerPrep@anr.msu.edu.

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