How to Start a Business in South Carolina

South Carolina has become a popular place for budding entrepreneurs. If you’re interested in starting a South Carolina business, use our step-by-step guide below.

Step 1: Create a business plan

Every South Carolina business requires planning. Write a business plan to explain what your vision is for the company and how it will make money.

You can find templates available online, but most include a company overview to explain your specific type of business, a list of SMART goals, and an analysis of the competition.

You’ll also want to explain the company’s target customers, how you plan to market to them, and how the company will be organized and run. 

Don’t be afraid to address potential problems and outline what you’ll do about them. The more detailed the plan, the easier it’ll be to attract funding because potential lenders will know you’re prepared. 

Step 2: Choose a business structure

One of the first decisions a South Carolina entrepreneur must consider is how the business will be structured. There are several different business entity types, but sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation are among the most popular choices for startups. 

Sole Proprietorship Information

A sole proprietorship is the simplest business entity to set up. All business income and losses are reported on your personal tax return, but you won’t have the same liability protections as an LLC or corporation. A general partnership operates the same way, but with multiple owners dividing the profits.

Corporations and LLCs

On the flip side, entities such as corporations and LLCs provide legal separation between your business and your personal property, protecting your own assets if the business is sued. To form one, you’ll need to file with the South Carolina Secretary of State.

There will be upfront fees, but talk with a trusted business, financial, or legal advisor about which business entity is the right choice for your startup.

We Can Help

We can file the paperwork to form a South Carolina LLC or corporation for you with our business formation plans. Your South Carolina business will be a breeze to start.

Step 3: Determine your startup costs for your South Carolina business

It’s important to calculate your business costs before you start a business in South Carolina. Consider one-time charges and ongoing expenses. 

Registration Fees

Part of your startup costs may include the cost to register your business and other state fees associated with business licenses or permits. Research the licenses and permits needed for a business like yours to get an idea of what you may need and the costs associated with each.

Employees and Office Location

When it comes to ongoing expenses, your company may have a lease for a commercial business location. Research what the costs per square foot are in the city where you plan to locate your office.

If your business grows and requires additional you to hire employees, plan to include estimates for payroll, healthcare costs, unemployment insurance, and South Carolina’s workers’ compensation costs.

Website and Marketing Costs

Also, keep in mind how you’ll market the business, such as your company website, social network posting, advertising (such as online, print, and broadcast), and industry events. Investigate what the costs of each marketing method will be.

While accessing funds to cover business costs may take some time, it’s an essential step in the startup process, so include it in your detailed business plan. 

Step 4: Choose a name for your South Carolina business

Do you have a business name in mind? In South Carolina, as in many states, no two companies can have the same name. So conduct a business name search on the South Carolina Secretary of State website. We walk you through the search process on our South Carolina business entity search page

Business Name Rules

South Carolina also has specific rules about naming companies, so you’ll want to research the naming regulations before you settle on a name.

Business Name Reservation

The state also gives business owners the ability to reserve a name for 120 days before filing the paperwork to start an entity like an LLC or corporation. This isn’t required, but it can keep another business from taking your desired name before you can get your paperwork together.

Website and Social Media

Once you’ve decided on your new business’s name, you can register a domain name for your business website and start creating social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms. We have a tool to help you do a preliminary domain name search, and our domain name registration service can help you secure the online name that will best serve your business. 

Step 5: Register your business and open financial accounts

Once you’ve chosen your business structure, you can apply for a federal employer identification number (EIN) with the IRS. Having this tax ID number is often required even if you don’t have employees or if you want to open a business bank account.

You can open an account yourself or have a partner do it by using a special document called a banking resolution. 

Dedicated Business Bank Account

Dedicated business bank accounts will keep the company’s finances separate from your personal funds. This not only helps you at tax time, but it can help protect your limited liability status if you have an entity like an LLC or corporation.

Licenses and Permits

Next, apply for any permits or licenses your business is required to have. Permits and business licenses vary by industry, and they can be needed at the federal, state, and local levels.

There’s no central authority to tell you every license and permit your business requires, so you’ll have to do some research or have someone like us do the research for you with a business license report.

Step 6: Market your business in South Carolina

It’s one thing to open your doors, but what will get customers to come through them? Create a marketing plan and think about advertising online via Google or Facebook, in print publications such as newspapers, on TV and radio stations, and/or other venues (for example, billboards).

Google My Business and Social Media

Also, optimize your company’s profile on Google My Business, so people searching for your services are more likely to find you. If social media is part of your marketing, regularly post content, and engage with people on networks like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Print Materials

Print assets remain powerful, too. Business cards, brochures, and postcards can get your brand at the top of someone’s attention.

Partnering with a South Carolina marketing firm can smooth your path to success.

Examples of Good Businesses to Start in South Carolina

Business-friendly South Carolina offers opportunities for many growing and trending businesses, such as:

  • Financial services
  • Car rentals
  • Fitness
  • Poultry farming

Benefits of Opening a Business in South Carolina

South Carolina has a host of tax incentives to encourage entrepreneurship. Among them are a favorable corporate income tax structure and a lack of inventory tax, wholesale tax, state property tax, and local income tax. 

You’ll also find a variety of workforce training programs like the readySC program, which provides recruiting and training assistance to companies that are looking to move to South Carolina, and the Apprenticeship Carolina program, which helps employers create their own registered apprenticeship programs.

Bottom Line

There are plenty of success opportunities for South Carolina businesses. The state boasts a business-friendly environment with a pro-business tax structure and several incentives to help companies thrive. Although it takes multiple steps to launch your own business in South Carolina, our services can ease the workload. We can help you form, run and grow your South Carolina business.

Top South Carolina Cities to Form Businesses

Charleston: Strong sectors include aerospace, automotive, tech, and tourism. Home to companies like Boeing and a significant port for trade and logistics. Fast-growing city with a burgeoning tech scene.

Columbia: State capital with a diverse economy centered on government services, healthcare, and education. Hosts the University of South Carolina, supporting an emerging technology and startup ecosystem. Strategic location for businesses leveraging government and educational resources.

Greenville: Automotive manufacturing hub with major facilities like BMW’s plant. Economic focus on advanced manufacturing, engineering, and technology. Significant development and growth in the business sector.

Spartanburg: Strong manufacturing base, especially in automotive. Benefits from proximity to major highways, ideal for logistics. Growth in education and healthcare sectors.

Myrtle Beach: Major tourist destination providing opportunities in hospitality, retail, and real estate. Attracts millions of visitors annually, supporting a large service industry. Focused on tourism-related business opportunities.

These cities offer a mix of industrial strengths, strategic locations, and supportive environments, making them suitable for a variety of business ventures in South Carolina.

South Carolina Business FAQs

  • With a mixture of rural areas and close-knit small towns and cities, South Carolina has metropolitan areas with some of the most successful entrepreneurs, including Seneca, Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Greer, and Beaufort.

  • According to the US Census Bureau, per capita income from 2015 to 2019 was approximately $29,400.

  • The agriculture, tourism, automotive, manufacturing, and aerospace industries are all important to South Carolina’s economy.

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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