The day I created a DBA

Quick sum up:

  1. I’m making a movie called Pioneers in Skirts with my producer, Lea-Ann Berst.
  2. The concept of the film has been around for 3 years, but we threw ourselves into high gear the start of this year and have been filming tons of interviews and events for 3 months.
  3. I returned to Los Angeles in April to start the next steps for the film…

So, here’s where we are now.

It’s time to start fundraising, and I have learned a few ways to begin this:

  1. Create a relationship with a Fiscal Sponsor to be tax-deductible and therefore eligible for grants (and then apply for grants!)
  2. Create an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) in the movie’s name to receive donations
  3. Create a DBA (Doing Business As) in the movie’s name to receive donations but be less protected because it is still in my name
  4. Launch a Kickstarter campaign

Well, the truth is - we plan to do all 4 options during the lifespan of this film - but you may have figured out our first steps thanks to the title of this blog post…

You see, we are editing a “sizzle reel” (a short 5 – 7 minute video explaining the film and our goals) for “Pioneers in Skirts” to THEN go to Fiscal Sponsors, donors, etc., but we need to hire an editor and a graphics person first to make the sizzle reel. So, basically, we need money to make money.

Interested in being a financial supporter of the sizzle reel? Click here: #THANKS!!

We are holding off on doing a Kickstarter campaign for now. We may do one for finishing funds in the future! But, if you're interested in learning about my past Kickstarter campaign for my film Volcano Girl, click here.

Disclaimer: This is how WE have decided to make our documentary. Do you have other ideas? Other solutions or work-arounds? Please post below! This is our first feature, and the truth is, there is no step-by-step guide to making your movie. I’m writing about what works for us. Tell us what works for you!

We decided to create a DBA as an interim solution. There are so many more factors that go into creating an LLC - there is no “If A, B & C, then you should create an LLC.” Well, I guess if you’re receiving substantial donations, then you should create an LLC, but then you should probably hire a business manager, a lawyer and a tax person so you can just worry about the creative stuff. I firmly believe we will be creating an LLC in the next few months once we have raised enough money to afford it.

In the mean time, A DBA allows a clean paper trail for tax purposes and, if you keep good books on your finances, should be all you need until you can get a fiscal sponsor or need to upgrade to an LLC.

And now… My Day Creating a DBA

It was a warm sunny day in Southern California. Well, actually it was disgustingly hot. Later that night I bought another fan. But, back to the story.

I decided not to create the DBA through LegalZoom or some other online company, because I knew I was going to pay more than necessary – and I knew I wanted to do the research on my own to really discover the pricing and process. I've always been the type of person who wants to know exactly where my money is going!

So I very simply filled out the form here ( on the Los Angeles County website. Printed my receipt and drove to Norwalk (instead of mailing b/c that would have taken an extra week or two).

Create DBA in California

This is a screenshot of the LA County website. 

A 40 minute drive later, I arrived at the County Clerk’s building. Well, I missed the turn so arrived at a public library  - but THEN I was at the County Clerk’s building. As I parked, I saw all of these people standing outside with huge silver umbrellas. Above me were signs saying, “Solicitors are Not Employees of the County.” Hmmmm what are they talking about? I would soon find out…

As I got out of my car, I hadn’t even fixed my purse across my body yet, one of those umbrella people was yelling at me. She was about 100 feet away – I couldn’t understand her at all. Once I got closer to the building she told me she would help me through the DBA process. Now, I figured out right away she was one of those solicitors, so I asked questions.

Here’s the deal: When you first create your DBA in California, you have to publish that you have created this new company in a newspaper for 4 weeks and then send a “Proof of Publishing” to the County Clerk, who then sends you a note saying, "yes you are now officially a legal DBA" - in so many words or less.

The process should take about 2 months to complete. Keep that in mind.

These umbrella people solicitors who approach you work for 3rd party publishing companies who want you to pay them to handle all of that publishing stuff. They make it sound like the publishing process is this HUGE ordeal and that you have to complete everything within 30 days or you’re screwed and have to start all over. Wrong. In California, you have 30 days to FIRST publish your newspaper ad – then it runs for 4 weeks – and then another 30 days to send off the proof of publishing to the County Clerk. Once you have this ball rolling though, you can freely start up a bank account or whatever you need to start using this DBA.

So, super long story short, creating that DBA was fun. The guy behind the counter was nice and teased me about how long my real name is – welcome to why I just go by Ashley Maria. And my new umbrella solicitor friend was really sweet and helped explain everything. Once she got to costs of the publishing process, though, I could tell something was up – she was giving me opposite information than what I saw online. And it was the face she made when I said I wanted to think about it that turned me off completely. Not to mention that the second she walked away another solicitor approached me saying he would do the whole publishing process for cheaper than what she said. These people were hustling, and I was in no mood.

I went home, looked up one newspaper that was on the huge list of newspapers the County Clerk gave me and guess what? The process of publishing is super simple – most newspapers have a way of easily doing it through them and they even handle sending off the “Proof of Publishing” – all for a fourth of what those solicitors were asking.

All in all, I saved about $100 doing it on my own and it really didn’t take that much time or effort. Sure, if you have the money, go through LegalZoom and be done with it. But right now, $100 is a lot for me and my movie!

Now, what bank you choose to then create your Fictitious Business Name checking account is a whole other story.

Basically, I hate all of the major banks because of all their hidden fees or charges for stuff that used to be free. I’m not large enough yet to need merchant or payment services – maybe one day. I had to figure out what works for me and for the project at our current state – a young project just starting to really get its name out there. So, I’m going the Credit Union route.

It’s all a learning process, and really the only way you will learn is by doing – but hopefully this blog post at least prevented you from using one of those obnoxious solicitors! (Sorry solicitors…)

Alrighty filmmaking friends – did you create a DBA first for your movie? An LLC? Or is your movie created under an entirely different company? Do you have a lawyer Aunt or Uncle? Are they looking to adopt a new niece? Hmmmm…

Stay away from the umbrella people...




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