Step 1) Verify & Secure Brand Name
To secure and register your brand name it must be unique, and should not contain any restricted wording. It also must include the word ‘Corporation,’ ‘Company,’ ‘Incorporated,’ or ‘Limited,’ or an abbreviation of one of these.
- Conduct a free business entity search through the NC Secretary of State website
- Use the TESS System through the U.S. Patent Office to check for potential trademark issues
If needed, you can reserve your name for 120 days ($30 filing fee). Otherwise, you can wait to lock it down until filing your Articles of Incorporation.
Quick Note: Before committing 100% to a name, you may also want to check that there’s a decent URL available for your business. Use WEEBLY to search your options. If there’s a quality domain name for purchase, we advise buying it right away. Even if launching a business website isn’t on your radar right now, you might as well nail down a domain name that’ll make it easy for customers to find you!
Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent
When incorporating in North Carolina, you are required to designate a registered agent to handle official documents on behalf of your business. They must be a resident of NC or a business entity legally registered to operate in the state. They also must have a physical address where they can be reached during normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm).
Action Step: You can designate a registered agent by electing someone within your company, hiring an outside professional, or incorporating through a provider like IncFile to get a full year of these services for free.
Step 3) File Articles Of Incorporation
To legally form your North Carolina corporation, you need to file Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State. Some of the information you'll need to disclose includes:
- Corporate name and address
- Name and address of registered agent
- Number of shares the corporation is authorized to issue
- Name and address of every incorporator
- Effective date
North Carolina allows you to submit your Articles of Incorporation online, in-person or by mail. (Learn more.)
Step 4) Get A Corporate Records Book
Think of this as the hard-copy records book where all critical corporate documents are kept, like the Articles of Incorporation, bylaws, meeting minutes, stock certificates, etc. It’s the ultimate company binder!
While it’s not legally required, having one is highly recommended for all serious business entities.
Action Step: You can find a sufficient corporate binder at a nearby office supply store or on Amazon, but we’re huge fans of corporate kits, which include gorgeous custom pieces like printed bylaws and a branded embossing seal.
Step 5) Elect Director(s), Meet, Discuss Bylaws
Appoint at least one director who, among other things, will oversee the corporation until the first shareholder meeting (when new directors will be voted in).
But first, you need to have an initial meeting with your director(s), during which you’ll:
- Prepare an “Incorporator Statement” with complete names and addresses of each director (keep it in your records book).
- Appoint officers & discuss/create corporate bylaws.
- Choose a bank & approve the issuance of stock certificates.
- Agree on corporate seal and adopt official stock certificate form.
- Approve s-corp (opt.). Record meeting minutes, have directors sign (and add to records book).
Step 6) Open A Business Bank Account
When starting your North Carolina corporation, it’s very important to keep all personal and business assets/accounts completely separate. This requires opening a separate bank account designated for your corporation’s finances.
That said, where you choose to bank is no small matter. Where will you start building the financial foundation of your brand? Who is offering the best overall services to corporate clients, relative to location and other conveniences?
Consider fee structures, perks, incentives, customer service, and any other features you care about when choosing a bank. You might want to start with a smaller bank for better deals, then switch to a larger bank when your volume demands it.
Action Step: Start your research with our breakdown of our favorite business checking accounts!
Step 7) Handle Business Taxes, Licensing & Permits
To legally operate in North Carolina, you’re required to be 100% compliant with all relevant local/state/federal agencies. Ideally you should work with an attorney, but at the very least you need to dedicate the time to knocking this out on your own.
Here are four resources to get you started:
- Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) easily and free-of-charge through the IRS Website
- Bookmark the Charlotte Small Business Administration and the state’s Biz-Dev Center
- To form an S-Corp (optional), submit Form 2553 with the IRS
- Consider working with a professional business license service to get some of the legwork taken care of for you
Note that this North Carolina incorporation guide isn’t a legal document or legal advice. It’s for informational purposes and the information above is subject to change. For specific legal questions regarding how to form a North Carolina Corporation, please consult with an attorney. We recommend K. N. Price Law.