Starting a new business in North Carolina is exciting, but to launch a successful business, it’s important to get started in the right direction. Each state has its own unique regulations and requirements for businesses, especially those starting up. In this article, you will learn the steps to starting a business in North Carolina.
14 Steps to Start a North Carolina Business
To start a business in North Carolina, you’ll need to follow the same steps as any other state. There are a few specific things you need to do to register your business in North Carolina, and you’ll also need to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations that apply to businesses in the state.
- Determine Your Business Name
- Write a Detailed Business Plan
- Choose a Business Structure
The first step to starting a North Carolina business is choosing a name. You can choose any name for your business as long as it isn’t already being used by another company. The best way to do this is to check the North Carolina Secretary of State’s website for existing businesses in the state and make sure that your desired business name is available.
Complete the filing application for your business name with your Local County Register of Deeds here.
The next step in starting any business is to conduct market research and write a business plan. This document will outline your business goals, strategies, and how you plan to achieve them. It’s important to be realistic in your planning and to include all the necessary information, including financial models. A well-crafted business plan can help you secure funding from investors or lenders, and it can also be used as a roadmap for your business.
Before you start a business in North Carolina, it’s important to choose the legal structure that is right for your company. There are several different structures available, and each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks.
Each structure determines how profits are taxed, who can invest in the business, and how much control each owner has over their respective portion of the business. You should consider all of these factors when choosing a structure for your company.
The most common business structures are:
- Sole Proprietorship – An informal business structure where there is a single owner who owns and operates the business. Advantages of this structure are the ease of setup and flexibility, while disadvantages are that assets are held personally, all profits are taxed as personal income, and there is no separation between the owner’s assets and the business assets.
- General Partnership – A partnership is another informal business structure where two or more people own and operate the business. Advantages of this structure are that it’s easy to setup and there is no requirement to file any legal documents with the state, but disadvantages include that all partners share personal liability for company debts and decisions, profits are taxed as personal income, and each partner has unlimited liability (meaning they are personally responsible for all business debts).
- Limited Liability Company (LLC) – An Limited Liability Company is a formal business structure where the owners of the company are referred to as “members.” An LLC offers its owners limited liability protection, meaning personal assets are protected from business debts and liabilities. Advantages of an LLC include that it offers tax advantages, managerial flexibility, protection from creditors, and ease of setup. The main disadvantage of a Limited Liability Company is that it requires filing articles of organization with the state, which entails paperwork and a filing fee.
- C Corporation – The final formal business structure is a C corporation. A corporation is considered a different legal entity, so like an LLC, you have personal asset protection from business debts and liabilities. Advantages of this company include limited liability for shareholders, separate taxation from the owners, and ease of setup. The main disadvantage of this type of corporation is double taxation for shareholders (dividends are taxed as personal income and then also as corporate income).
- S Corporation – An S corporation is a special type of corporation where the company meets certain requirements for tax elections. Advantages of an S corporation are similar to advantages of a C corporation, but the main disadvantage is that the shareholders must be US citizens.
Once you’ve chosen your business structure, you will need to register with the North Carolina Secretary of State. Apply online here.
Choose a Business Location
Once you’ve chosen a business structure, it’s time to choose a location. In general, the best place for a small business is near where its customers or employees live or work. A central location will make it easier to meet with your clients, and also be more convenient for your customers.
Small businesses can open in commercial office spaces, but they are usually very expensive. A better option is a retail space or shared office space that offers short-term leases or month-to-month leases. Make sure the space has the appropriate equipment and utility services for your business.
Licenses and Permits
In North Carolina, there are no generic business licenses. Instead, you need to apply for one or more of the 950+ specific occupational or business licenses available from the state and possibly a local license depending on the requirements set by the local County Clerk. While some North Carolina businesses will require several licenses, others may not require any.
See the full list of business and occupational licenses to operate a business or perform work in North Carolina.
Depending on the type and size of your business, you may also need to apply for other types of licenses or certificates including:
- Sales & Use Tax – Apply Here
- Privilege License Tax – Apply Here
- Franchise & Income Tax – Apply Here
- State & Local Tax Registration –Apply Here
- State Withholding Taxes – Apply Here
- Unemployment Insurance Tax – Apply Here
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance – Learn More Here
Learn more about each type to determine if they apply to your business.
Finally, unless you are a sole proprietor or partnership using your own Social Security Number, you will need to apply for a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) for federal tax purposes. You can easily apply online on the IRS website here.
Open a Business Bank Account
Once your business is set up, you need to open a business bank account. Opening this type of account will help keep your personal and business expenses separate. Keeping your funds separate also helps maintain good credit for the business’s financial needs, such as receiving accounts receivable or obtaining loans.
To open a business account, you will need to provide the required paperwork for your business structure, including articles of incorporation. The best option is usually to use an existing personal checking or savings account as the initial funding source for your new business account, so it’s important to choose a financial institution that provides accounts with low minimum balances and monthly fees.
Learn About Intellectual Property Ownership
Once your business is up and running, you may consider investing in intellectual property protection to protect your ideas, inventions, brand, etc.
First, determine if your idea is patentable and to whom you want to assign the rights. If you don’t file for a patent yourself, someone may steal your idea and apply for one instead. You can file your own patent or hire an attorney or agent to assist you with this process.
Before filing a copyright for your creative work, ask yourself: “Is it original and am I the first person to create this?” You can file for a copyright online or by mail using an application available on the US Copyright Office website.
Trademarks are easier to obtain but they are limited to protecting words, phrases, symbols or designs used in connection with goods and services. This can include your company logo, your product’s name or even slogans. You can file an online application for a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office, but it must also be filed in each individual state where you plan to use your mark.
Get Business Insurance
Before you launch your business, it’s important to get the right type of business insurance. It isn’t always easy to know which types of insurance you need and where to find them at affordable prices.
It’s very helpful to speak with an independent agent who specializes in small businesses. An independent agent can advise you on what types and amounts of insurance are best for your business.
The most common types of business insurance include:
- Commercial property insurance: Covers damage to the property of others or your own business, such as fire and natural disasters
- Commercial auto insurance: Helps cover vehicles used in the course of doing business, including cars and trucks
- Workers’ compensation insurance: Pays employees who are hurt on the job or have a work-related illness or injury
- General liability insurance: Helps pay for any injuries and property damage your business may cause to others
There are other types of insurance you may want to consider, including product liability insurance, professional liability insurance, and business interruption insurance. Be sure to discuss all your options with your insurance professional.
Establish Your Accounting and Tax Filing System
It’s important to make sure you are keeping accurate records of all the money you earn and spend in your business. This will help you keep track of your earnings and ensure that you’re meeting your tax obligations correctly. Keep the following types of information in an accounting system:
- Your business bank statements
- Receipts for expenses incurred for business use
- Logs of business income earned from various sources, including personal savings or loans
If you need help with setting up an effective accounting system, ask for assistance from a tax professional. It’s often best to hire a business accountant who is familiar with working with small businesses.
Create a Marketing Plan
It’s not enough to simply start a business – you also need to make sure you are getting the word out about your products or services. A marketing plan will help guide all your decisions related to promoting your new company, including what type of promotional tools to use and how much money should be spent on advertising.
The most basic steps in creating a marketing strategy include:
- Deciding what you are trying to achieve
- Identifying your target audience
- Developing ways to reach your target market
- Creating a budget for advertising and other promotional tools, including the types of media to use when advertising (radio, television, print, digital)
Read more about creating a great marketing plan.
Obtain Funding For Your New North Carolina Business
One of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs face is raising enough money to get their businesses off the ground. While you can always bootstrap your business, borrowing money from friends and family, or even asking customers to pay early, often isn’t enough capital to grow a successful company.
If you need additional funds, there are a number of business funding options available for businesses in North Carolina:
- Banks and credit unions: Look for small business loans, lines of credit, and/or a business credit card
- Venture capitalists or angel investors: Find investors who will give you an infusion of cash in exchange for partial business ownership
- Crowdfunding platforms: Make a pitch on online platforms such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe to raise small sums of money from many people
For more information on these funding options, read our Ultimate Guide to Startup Funding.
Recruit and Hire Employees
No North Carolina business can expand or succeed without a team of committed employees. Make sure you hire the right types of people for your company, including workers who are fast, efficient, and able to adapt quickly to different situations.
It’s also crucial that you effectively motivate your workers so they are responsible for their tasks and deliver quality results. To keep your team engaged, consider holding regular meetings to update employees on company goals and plans.
Make sure you understand your responsibilities as a North Carolina employer.
One of the most important ways to succeed in business is by staying organized. Having an effective system for managing your money, marketing plan, and employees will help ensure that your small company continues to grow. We’ve outlined the essentials of staying organized below:
Financial organization: Use an accounting system to keep track of your business expenditures, income, and tax records. Set up a separate bank account for your company so you can easily transfer funds between accounts. Keep an itemized list of all equipment purchased for the company in case it may need to be replaced or repaired at some point.
Organization of your marketing plan: Create a document where you can keep track of all promotional tools being used to advertise your North Carolina business, including details such as the date each item was purchased and its estimated lifespan. Having this information readily available makes it easier for you to budget for future advertising expenses or replacements.
Employee organization: Create a file where you can keep track of all employees’ contact information, job descriptions, and training hours. This information will be helpful for recruiting new workers in the future or if any former employees need to be contacted.
Open for Business
Once you’ve created a solid business plan and obtained the proper permits, licenses, and funding for your North Carolina business, you will be ready to open your doors.
For more information on starting a business in North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Secretary of State website.
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