Step 1) Verify & Secure Your Brand Name
To secure and register your brand name it must be unique, not too similar to another registered name in North Carolina, and shouldn’t contain any restricted wording. Keep in mind your LLC name should contain the words like ‘Limited Liability Company’ or ‘Limited Company.’ Abbreviations for these words like ‘L.C.’ or ‘L.L.C.’ are also acceptable.
TIP: If needed, you can file an Application to Reserve a Business Entity Name that’s good for a decade.
- Conduct a free Business Entity Search through the Secretary of State’s Office.
- To check if there are potential trademark issues, conduct another quick search through the U.S. Patent Office.
Remember, this isn’t optional in North Carolina-- it’s mandatory.
Quick Note: Before you commit 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, it’s going to be soon, and you might as well nail down a domain name that’ll make it easy for customers to find you!
Step 2) Designate A Registered Agent
A North Carolina registered agent is a major player who receives and helps to process all important documents on behalf of your brand. This includes state filings, legal notices, tax forms, etc. Some basic requirements include:
- Must be a natural citizen of the state of North Carolina,
- Must have a street address or office address in North Carolina (P.O. box isn’t considered a street address),
- Must be available during business hours (9am to 5pm) Mondays-Fridays.
Action Step: Appoint and find a registered agent. You can hire a 3rd party professional and expect to pay up to $160/year, or get a NC Registered Agent free of charge when you start an LLC through IncFile. They handle this along with much more depending on your startup package.
Step 3) File Articles Of Organization
Download and file the Articles of Organization (Form L-01) with the NC Sec. of State’s Office through mail or Online Filing System only when you’re ready. If you’re going to reserve the name do that BEFORE filing the articles which declare the basics of your LLC for the public record:
- LLC name and address (if you have a principal location),
- Complete name of North Carolina registered agent and address,
- Hours of operation and nature of business.
- Complete name and address of signatories in the articles.
Action Step: File your articles of organization with the North Carolina Secretary of State.
Filing Fee: $125
Step 4) Get An EIN
Your EIN, or FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number), is almost exactly like a social security number but for your business.
State and federal agencies use this number to track your business activity, so it’s essential. You’ll use it to open business bank accounts and legally hire employees among other things.
Step 5) Open A Business Bank Account
Now you get to decide where to set up your brand’s financial groundwork. And this isn’t personal banking, so if you’re new to this then shop around. Look at an assortment of local, state, and national banks. There’s plenty of great deals, perks, incentives, and kickbacks to be leveraged.
The other big important thing to remember is to completely separate your brand’s financials from data streams and bank accounts of any kind.
Action Step: Open business bank account. Here’s a quick breakdown article of Small Business Checking Accounts from some of the biggest banks to begin your research.
Step 6) Draft An Operating Agreement
Do you have to have one of these in your brand’s “important documents” folder? Not by law, but it’s a good professional move to have one. Why? Because not only do they put down on paper the basic rules of operation, but managerial/owner duties and financial responsibilities as well, which includes any profit sharing, ownership percentages, etc.
This adds layers of protection for everyone involved, including your new company’s LLC status, but it also trumps default North Carolina state rules which take over if you don’t have this document in place.
TIP: If you are forming a multi-member LLC, consider seeking legal guidance regarding a buy sell agreement.
Action Step: Draft or seek assistance with drafting the operating agreement. To get started, consider checking out an online template which you can customize your own Operating Agreement.
Step 7) Handle Business Taxes & Licensing
Complying with state taxes and obtaining business permits and licenses are mandatory requirements to start a North Carolina LLC. So depending on the nature of your business, how many employees, where you’re located and a number of other things it’ll either be a cake walk or take some time. If there are legal questions, consult an attorney.
- Check on and comply with licensing and permit requirements.
- Check on and comply with tax requirements.
Start by bookmarking the Charlotte district office of the Small Business Administration and the state’s Small Biz Development Center because they’re likely going to be go-to sources. Also, consider professional Business License Research packages that can quickly source all needed documents for you.