How to Find Out Who Owns a Business
If you need to know how to find out who owns a business, the process is fairly easy. In this article, we’ll walk you through different ways to look up business owners. You can use these tools to help you find the information you need for your business.
Reasons why you need to look up business owners
There are several reasons why you might need to find out who owns a business:
Search for available business names
Before you put effort into branding a business around a name, it’s a good idea to make sure that some other business hasn’t taken it already. Luckily, most states give you the ability to perform an available business name search through their secretary of state websites. (More on that later.)
While each state’s website may be a bit different, most allow you to determine if your desired name is still available. Some also allow you to reserve a business name online, so you can put a hold on it while you work on completing the rest of the registration process.
Learn more about how to incorporate a business.
Find out who you’re doing business with
Knowing who owns a business is a crucial part of complying with anti-money laundering regulations, especially the Know Your Business (KYB) identity verification requirements. KYB regulations help identify fake businesses and shell companies and determine if a business is from a country under financial sanctions.
Learn more about your clients or customers
It may sound paradoxical, but looking up who owns a business may also help you get more transparency about your customers and clients. Some businesses have complicated corporate structures that make it complicated to understand who you’re actually working with. Know Your Customer (KYC) is a set of compliance regulations that helps businesses in the financial and securities industries verify customer identity and mitigate risk.
8 methods for how to find out who owns a business
Here are eight ways to find out who owns a business.
When you want to find out who owns a business, your first stop should be to the company website. Often these websites will have staff directories that describe who owns and manages the business. Usually, the CEO is at least a part owner of the company. Sometimes owners can also go by different business owner titles, including:
WHOIS domain lookup is a public database that stores domain registration information for a webpage. Typically, when someone starts a business, they will register a unique domain, or website address, for company use. That information is public. As long as you know a company’s web address, you can use the WHOIS database to look up their domain registration information.
You can also submit a written public information request to find out who owns a business. Federal and state laws allow you to ask for public records information. All you need to do is submit a request with the local government office where the business entity is located or registered.
Each governing body will likely have a different process for handling requests, so you’re going to want to be sure to do your research first.
There are also additional public records databases that you can check to find out who owns a business. Although this is not an exhaustive list, they can include:
- Business licenses: Some industries require businesses to have licenses in order to operate. This business licensing information is often held with the state in which the business is located.
- Real estate records: If you’re looking for the owner of a business with a brick-and-mortar location, it’s likely that there will be a record of their real estate transaction. These records are usually held in the local county recorder’s office.
- Court documents: If the business has been involved in any legal matters, the business owner’s information will also likely be in any court documents. These records can usually be found online in a federal or state database, but they will also be available from the courthouse where the trial was held.
- Registered business database: If the company was around at the time of the last census, it’s likely included in the business register database. You can use this tool to search for registered businesses by location.
Each region has its own Chamber of Commerce, which is an organization run by local business owners to network and market their services in the community. Business owners are not required to be members, so you may not find every company on your local Chamber of Commerce business registry. However, many entrepreneurs choose to join because membership in these organizations comes with perks, such as networking opportunities and discounts.
If you’re unsure where to find your local Chamber of Commerce, you can start by looking at the national registry for more information.
Most established businesses are accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB is a longstanding nonprofit that grades businesses on their trustworthiness. Businesses registered with the Better Business Bureau are given a profile and overall trustworthiness rating. The profile contains a variety of information about the business, including the name and contact information of key business personnel.
Newspapers often cover information about local businesses in an effort to uncover what’s happening in the area’s economy. If the business you’re interested in has been covered in the news, the owners will likely be featured and named in the piece.
Each state’s secretary of state office is required to maintain a database of registered business entities within their jurisdiction. These databases are searchable and provide information about each company, including the name of the business owner. We’ve provided the links to all 50 states’ secretary of state Business Search databases below.
Secretary of state business search by state
Using a secretary of state business search tool is likely going to be one of the easiest ways to find out who owns a business. Each state has its own database for business registration. Find your state below.