How to Start a Business in North Carolina

Ranked 1st in the nation by Forbes for ease of doing business, starting a business in North Carolina is a great choice for entrepreneurs. Start your business today with our simple step-by-step guide and get on the fast track to financial and personal independence. If you get stuck along the way, connect with a business resource in your local area for help.


To Start a Business in North Carolina, follow these steps:

Step 1: Choose the Right Business Idea

The first step toward business ownership is deciding what kind of business to start. Look for an idea that suits your interests, your personal goals, and your natural abilities. This will help you stay motivated when the going gets tough and will greatly improve your odds of success. We have assembled a comprehensive list of small business ideas to help you get started. Need inspiration? Here were the most popular ideas among our North Carolina visitors in 2020:

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Find the Right Business Idea for You

Our free Business Ideas Generator will help you identify great businesses that match your interests and lifestyle.

Business Ideas
Generator

Step 2: Plan Your Business

Successful businesses are built through careful planning. Before committing a significant amount of money and other resources toward your business, critically analyze your idea and create a game plan. At a minimum, you should have good answers to the following questions.

Business Name
Naming a business can be challenging. You'll want to choose a brand name that follows North Carolina naming rules, resonates with your customers, and is available as a URL.

Product Development
What problem does your business solve? What will set your product or service apart from the competition?

Sales & Marketing
Who are your potential customers? How will you get their attention and convert them into buyers?

People and Partnerships
What roles will you need to hire and what professional relationships will you need to form in order to succeed?

Financial Planning
How many clients or sales will you need in order to break even? How much money will it take to get there, and where will you get the funding?

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Start Planning

  • Create a robust business plan to help navigate the early years of your business. To use this free tool sign up for the Business Center.
  • Need Help? Find organizations in your local area that can assist you with planning.
  • If you’re a solo-entrepreneur, setting up a virtual office can add credibility to your business by having a business address on Google search, protect your personal privacy, and provide you with a business phone line and a live receptionist to answer your calls. Save $200 on a virtual office today.
  • If you’re a woman in business, find funding, tools and resources with this great new series Women in Business.

Step 3: Form Your Business

Registering your North Carolina company as a legal business entity, such as an LLC or a Corporation, has two major advantages:

  • Increased credibility
  • Protection from personal liability in the event your business is sued

For most small businesses, registering an LLC is a great option. In comparison to other business entities, LLCs are easier to set up and manage and they have favorable tax treatment. You can set up an LLC in North Carolina for as little as $75.

If you choose not to register your company as a business entity, you will be held personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of your business. In addition, unregistered business owners may need to file a Trade Name, also known as a "DBA." Find out if your business is required to file a DBA.

Secure Your Domain

We recommend that you check online to see if your business name is available as a web domain. Even if you don't plan to create a business website today, you may want to buy the URL in order to prevent others from acquiring it

Not sure what to name your business? Check out our Business Name Generator. Then, create a logo with our free Logo Maker.

Find a Domain Now

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

Step 4: Register for Taxes

With limited exceptions, most businesses require an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Tax ID Number. An EIN is used to identify a business in its federal tax filings. Without an EIN, you can't hire employees or open a business bank account.

Obtain an EIN

You should also be aware of important north-carolina taxes that may apply to your business:

  • If you are selling a physical product, you’ll typically need to register for North Carolina Sales Tax.
  • If you hire employees, you will have to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax and Employee Withholding Tax on behalf of your employees. 
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Register for North Carolina State Taxes

Sales Tax | Unemployment Insurance Tax | Withholding Tax

Step 5: Create Business Banking and Credit Accounts

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.

You can protect your business with these two steps:

1. Opening a business bank account:

  • Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
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Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.

2. Getting a business credit card:

  • Helps you separate personal and business expenses.
  • Builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise capital (e.g., small business loans) later on.

Step 6: Set Up Accounting

An accounting system helps you track the performance of your business and simplifies annual tax filings. Quality accounting software lets you download your bank and credit card transactions, making accounting fast and easy. Learn more about the importance of accounting and how to get started with accounting today.

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Recommended: QuickBooks has all the accounting features your small business will need.

Try QuickBooks for free

Step 7: Obtain Permits and Licenses

To operate your new business legally, you will need to comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. In many cases, this involves obtaining one or more business permits and/or licenses. For example, a restaurant will likely need health permits, building permits, signage permits, etc.

Step 8: Get Insured

Business insurance helps you manage risks and focus on growing your business. The most common types of business insurance you should consider are:

We recommend that all small businesses, including home based businesses, purchase a general liability policy. Businesses selling professional advice or services, such as consulting and accounting firms, should also consider a professional liability policy. In North Carolina, businesses with three or more employees, excluding business owners, are required by law to have workers compensation insurance.

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Our recommended insurance provider can set you up with an insurance policy that is right for your business

Get a Quote

Step 9: Define Your Brand

The strongest and most memorable businesses are built on a solid brand. When developing your brand, you should consider:

  • What your business stands for?
  • What are your core values?
  • What will earn customer trust?

Once you feel confident about your answers to these questions, it’s time to move onto your business name. Your business name is the cornerstone of good branding and a successful business. To learn more about creating the best name for your business, read our How to Name a Business guide.

Last but not least, try our Free Logo Generator to get a unique logo for your business. Our logo maker is free (no sign-ups or email address needed) and it comes in all social media sizes. It’s easy and hassle free--with no design experience required!

Step 10: Establish a Web Presence

A professional website is critical to the long-term success of your business, regardless of what industry you are in. A website allows potential customers to find your business online and discover the products or services you offer, and it also enhances your business’s credibility.

In addition to a website, you should also consider other avenues for promoting your business online:

  • Setting up social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
  • Creating accounts on review sites (Yelp, Google Reviews, etc)
  • Registering for a local Google profile

North Carolina Formation Guides

Get Help From Local Resources

To help you start your business, we have identified the best resources across the state of North Carolina that can support you in your entrepreneurial endeavors.

Select your Region

Asheville Local Resources

Mountain BizWorks

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Fundraising
  • Financial

Offers Free Service

Description

This funding organization heavily emphasizes financial literacy and planning, offering many educational resources to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to better understand the financial decisions they'll need to make when starting a venture. Tailored business coaching is provided through a peer-to-peer network while three flagship courses teach vital skills for people at the planning, launch, and growth phases. Additional classes teach financial literacy and Quickbooks.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

153 S. Lexington Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
828-253-2834
info@mountainbizworks.org

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Asheville Resources

Charlotte Local Resources

Carolina Textile District

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Research
  • Product Development
  • Networking

Description

This organization is a network of independent, US-based companies that are a part of the textile industry. Entrepreneurs looking to launch a clothing or other retail product that involves textiles can utilize this network to locate companies that specialize in low-volume, contract work so that you can launch your product without a massive capital investment. This paid service can source materials, hire designers or patternmakers, and set up contracts with manufacturing centers to produce products. They also host frequent educational classes so you can engage with the network already knowing the industry basics.

Restrictions

Must be in a textile industry.

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Charlotte Resources

Fayetteville Local Resources

Center for Economic Empowerment and Development

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Business Planning
  • Financial
  • Networking

Offers Free Service

Description

The CEED is a development organization boasting over 25 years of experience promoting the economic vitality of the Fayetteville area. They operate women's and Hispanic business centers to serve historically underserved communities as well as the New Choices program. The New Choices program advocates economic self-sufficiency through employment. Advisors help participants through job readiness training and life coaching. CEED also houses The Training Room, a culinary incubator with shared-access commercial kitchen space and the business support services needed to start a company. A large part of CEED is small business consulting, a free service provided by on-staff consultants that covers a wide range of topics.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

230 Hay Street
Fayetteville, NC 28301
910-323-3377
info@ncceed.org

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Fayetteville Resources

Greensboro Local Resources

The Nussbaum Center For Entrepreneurship

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Mentoring
  • Business Planning

Offers Free Service

Description

This organization is a multi-faceted entrepreneurial support center that offers many direct services to startups, as well as a network of local assets that they leverage to help ventures succeed. Startups at the idea or planning stages can use several in-house organizations like SCORE or the SBDTC to refine their idea and create a business plan. Counseling is provided by both the Nussbaum center and the other organizations housed within. Incubation services and coworking spaces are available to companies that require them. 

CONTACT INFORMATION:

1451 S. Elm-Eugene St.
Greensboro, NC 27406
336-379-5001

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Greensboro Resources

Raleigh Local Resources

North Carolina SBTDC

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Mentoring
  • Business Planning
  • Financial

Offers Free Service

Description

The greatest strength of the SBDC is their free, confidential, 1-on-1 business mentoring for anyone who seeks it. Sometimes in order to be considered for mentoring from one of their professional business advisors, you may have to attend a class/workshop or at least present your business plan. SBDC's are located all throughout the state and you should use the SBDC closest to your location if possible, but you can often transfer to a different location if they do not fit your needs.

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Raleigh Resources

Wilmington Local Resources

Brunswick Community College Small Business Center

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Mentoring
  • Business Planning

Offers Free Service

Description

The SBC at Brunswick Community College offers mentoring and educational seminars to help local entrepreneurs start a successful business. Mentoring is free and confidential, offering anyone the opportunity to talk about business decisions and get advice on any question, big or small. Seminars are offered on a variety of topics, including business plans, marketing, and finance. 

CONTACT INFORMATION:

2045 Enterprise Dr
Leland, NC 28451
910-755-7306
scotta@brunswickcc.edu

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Wilmington Resources

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