How to Start a Business in North Carolina

Rated by Forbes as having the second lowest business costs in the nation, North Carolina is a great place to launch your new business. 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 resources 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. Need inspiration? Here were the most popular ideas among our North Carolina visitors in 2017:

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Find the Right Business Idea for You

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

Business Ideas
Tool

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.

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

Step 3: Form your Business


Registering your company as an North Carolina 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 to see if the business name you are planning is available as a web domain. Even if you aren't ready to make a business website today, you may want to buy the URL in order to prevent others from acquiring it.

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 you 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.

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: Get $200 when you open a business checking account with Chase. Learn 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 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, think about what your business stands for. What are the core values that drive your business? Customers and clients are looking for companies that have a compelling brand, as much as they are shopping for high quality products and services.

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.

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’ 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
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More than ever, people are looking for reviews before doing business. Yelp is an important aspect of social validation for your business, claim your page today and get $300 in Yelp advertising credit.

Sign up for our Business Center

Sign up for a free Business Center account for access to tools, legal documents, and discounts that will help you start and grow your business

Signup Now

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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See more business resources in Wilmington

Wilmington Resources