How to Start a Business in North Carolina

Interested in starting a business in North Carolina? Keep reading to discover the steps you need to follow, and find useful tips to help you along the way.

Step 1: Create a business plan for your North Carolina company

Before you spend time and money on a new business in North Carolina, first make sure your idea has a market that you can reach and then create a plan to attack that market.

Both of these objectives can be accomplished by crafting a well-thought-out business plan that includes market research specific to your locations in NC and financial analysis of your future business. 

Business Plan Considerations

Consider the following when writing your business plan: 

  • A clear business idea and overall mission
  • Specific milestone goals
  • Problems that could prevent your success and how you’ll mitigate those things
  • Details about your target customer
  • Full market analysis
  • Financials that budget out your business costs for at least one year
  • Information related to local grants or tax breaks that your business could qualify for, factored into your financials

North Carolina provides a collection of resources for creating a business plan in case you have more questions or need some help.

Need help creating a business plan for your North Carolina business? We put together a comprehensive library of articles and guides on business planning.

Step 2: Choose a business structure

In order to get a business license, you’ll need a business structure that works for your goals before you start selling.

Many North Carolina entrepreneurs choose to form either a North Carolina limited liability company (LLC) or a sole proprietorship.

Electing for a sole proprietorship is easier because there are less costs and paperwork to worry about, but it may or may not be the right choice for you.

Limited Liability Company (LLC) vs. Sole Proprietorship

An LLC provides a couple of key benefits over a sole proprietorship, such as liability protection (resulting in personal asset protection). An LLC is an official business entity that is separate from you personally.

This means that your personal finances and assets can be protected from your business activities. This is important in the event your business doesn’t work out and you owe creditors.

With an LLC, you won’t have anything at risk that is greater than the investment you put into your business.

On the flipside, if you run a sole proprietorship, creditors can go after your home or other personal assets in the case of business debts. 

Set up your LLC correctly

It’s easy and affordable to use ZenBusiness’s LLC formation services to establish an LLC.

Every state has slightly different rules, so if you’re looking for the liability protection that an LLC provides, let us help you make sure you get it from day one.

Still not sure what business structure to choose for your business in NC? Get 100% certain by reading our business structures page.

Step 3: Determine startup costs for your North Carolina business

When launching your business in North Carolina, it’s important to plan for how you’ll cover all of the associated business expenses and costs.

You can do most of the cost analysis while creating your business plan, but let’s look at the specific costs to keep in mind.

We’re breaking them up into two groups: One-time expenses and ongoing costs. 

One-Time Cost Examples

  • Fees for registering your business
  • Down-payment for office space
  • Equipment
  • Technology such as computers, printers, and software

Ongoing Cost Examples

  • Inventory
  • Insurance
  • Rent
  • Payments on any business loans
  • Marketing materials
  • North Carolina Small Business Taxes
  • Payroll, if you have employees

Does math overwhelm you? That is okay! We’ll walk you through business cost calculation in this guide.

Step 4: Name your North Carolina business

Before launching, you need to decide your business’s name. This is a crucial part of the registration process, and it lets the state and customers know who you are and what you’re selling. 

Business Naming Tips

Choose a name that is easy to understand and pronounce. New small business owners in N.C. often choose a name that relates to their business’s industry. 

Our world is becoming more digital by the second. It’s important for your business to be online, and to have a website and social media presence.

Choose something unique so your potential customers can easily find you. You can use our domain registration tool to snag a domain name while you form your business. 

Doing Business As (DBA)

Keep in mind that you can have a legal name that is different from your marketable name or the one you do business with.

In this case, you’ll need to register a DBA (doing business as) name with the state of North Carolina.

ZenBusiness can help you quickly register your DBA so that you can focus on what matters. You can also see what business names are already taken through North Carolina’s online tool.

Step 5: Register your business in North Carolina

Now that you’re prepared to launch your new business, it’s time to sort the legal and financial requirements with the state.

Your first step is to register your business under the business structure you chose.

Get an EIN

Part of this is applying for a federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS, which you’ll need before your registration can be submitted, and an operating agreement.

Acquire any necessary business licenses or permits

Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to register for a business license or apply for local permits and licenses in each city you’re physically doing business in.

You might also consult with the department of city planning or similar office to check local zoning regulations depending on your business location.

Open a business bank account and get business insurance

Then, consider opening a business bank account to keep your personal and business accounts separate. This is helpful when it comes to accounting and tax filing.

Also, many small businesses need general liability insurance and other types of insurance coverage. Certain business structures may even necessitate acquiring professional liability insurance.

Consider speaking with an insurance advisor to learn what is right for you as a new small business owner.

Step 6: Market your business

Now it’s time to let your future customers know that your startup exists!

Many businesses rely on referrals and word of mouth, but there’s much more you can do as a brand-new business.

Market to your customers wherever they are and meet them there, whether it’s in print, online, or a combination of both. 

Build an online presence

While your marketing strategy may include some in-person or “on-the-ground” strategies, it’s important to build a strong online presence.

Conduct thorough market research to identify your social media strategy across the relevant platforms for your industry (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.).

If you have a physical business location in North Carolina, sign up for a Google My Business account so you appear when customers search for your service on Google. 

Benefits of opening a business in North Carolina

North Carolina was ranked in the top 15 states in the U.S. to start a business in 2019 — for good reason.

The benefits include low business costs, a strong labor supply, and a relaxed business regulatory environment. All of these factors make North Carolina a strong competitor when deciding where to launch your new business. 

Personal Benefits for Business Owners

North Carolina also has many personal benefits for business owners. The state has a strong business climate and a diverse landscape.

You can go to the beach one weekend and easily head to the mountains the next. The quality of life is top-notch as well, and NC often ranks highly on lists of the best states to live.

A major reason why North Carolina is a great place to start a business is how easy it is to set up and maintain the legality of your business.

Every state has different rules and regulations, and following these six steps will help you get your N.C. business off the ground.

Examples of good businesses to start in North Carolina

North Carolina has so many great opportunities to help just about any type of new small business owner find success.

However, let’s take a look at some examples of businesses that are an ideal fit for the state’s customer base, climate, and geography. 

  • Real estate brokerage
  • Staffing firm
  • Cleaning services
  • Local bar or restaurant
  • Construction business
  • Handyman business
  • Event planning
  • Rafting or tour guide business
  • Any home-based or online-based business

For more ideas, read our guide on the best businesses to start in North Carolina.

For more information on small businesses in North Carolina, see the SBA’s profile of the state’s small business economy, which includes a breakdown of businesses by industry.

Bottom Line

North Carolina is more than just a beautiful state full of everything from stunning shorelines to gorgeous mountains.

It also offers many advantages to new business owners ready to make their mark on the industry.

By taking the right steps to launch your own business, you’ll be well on your way to maximizing your potential future success.

Ready to start your business in North Carolina? Reach out to us today. From formation to registered agent services to compliance, we’ve got your back!

Top North Carolina Cities to Form Businesses

Charlotte: Second-largest banking hub in the U.S., strong in finance. Diverse economy including technology, healthcare, and energy. Vibrant startup ecosystem and significant urban growth.

Raleigh: Part of the Research Triangle, renowned for high-tech research and development. Close ties to major universities enhancing sectors like biotech and IT. Thriving in clean energy and innovative technologies.

Durham: Also in the Research Triangle, known for its tech scene and entrepreneurial environment. Strong in health technology, pharmaceuticals, and biotech. Benefits from a highly educated workforce and research from Duke University.

Greensboro: Historically focused on textiles, now diversifying into logistics, aviation, and manufacturing. Central location advantageous for distribution and logistics. Developing economy with a focus on advanced manufacturing.

Wilmington: Major port city facilitating access to global markets. Strengths in manufacturing, maritime operations, and film production. Growing support for startups, especially in digital media and tech sectors.

These cities offer a blend of economic strengths, strategic locations, and supportive business environments, making them suitable for various types of business ventures in North Carolina.

Starting a Business in North Carolina FAQs

  • The costs of starting a business vary based on industry, due to equipment, licensing, and inventory expenses. The state filing fee to register an LLC or corporation in North Carolina is $125. Other business types have different fees.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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