Starting a business in North Carolina is easy, just follow these 11 steps
Step 1: Make A Plan For Your Business
Not all entrepreneurs are planners and not all startups “plan” the same way. Regardless, the first step is organizing your business idea and coming to terms with how it’s going to work.
Things like pitches, executive summaries and professional plans typically come into play once you reach step 7 (funding). No lending institution, angel network, or CrowdFunder will take a brand seriously without a solid plan in place.
Take Action: Check out our 100% free Business Planning Guide designed to get you from A-to-Z as pleasantly as possible. Plus, we provide access to tons of other great tools along the way.
Don’t know what kind of business to start?
Our friends over at howtostartanllc.com have compiled a massive list of business ideas, ranging from personal styling to axe-throwing businesses.
If you’re having trouble finding the perfect business idea for you, we encourage you to check them out!
Step 2: Register Your North Carolina Business
Your next major task is going to be registering your business with the state of North Carolina. Before you can do that, though, you have to figure out what type of business structure you want to form: an LLC, S corp, C corp, or sole proprietorship. Then, you can read our detailed guide on naming your business. Let’s take a quick look at each of the business structures:
Most entrepreneurs form an LLC because it has all the benefits of a corporation without the disadvantages like double taxation, board of directors or corporate officers. However if you're trying to take your company public or raise substantial outside capital, you should probably form a corporation.
Step 3: Determine Your Tax Obligations
Whether you do this yourself, hire a lawyer, or work with a professional incorporation service provider, in order to legally conduct business and avoid being fined or jailed you must be compliant with both state and federal tax codes. Thankfully, this isn't usually a huge ordeal for most startups.
Take Action: There will inevitably be forms to file along with their corresponding fees — some will need to be paid annually. To get started, bookmark the NC Dept. of Revenue’s Tax Information for Businesses page, the Charlotte Small Business Admin office, and the state’s Small Biz-Dev Center.
Step 4: Obtain Necessary Business Licenses And Permits
The regulatory environment is very startup-friendly in NC for a large variety of reasons, but the complexity of red tape you’ll have to deal with depends on what kind of business you’re in, whether you work with the public, and where you’re located.
- DYI’ers can head over to The Economic Development Partnership page on Business Licenses & Permits.
- If you need help with this step, a Business License Service is what we recommend. They determine everything required on federal, state, county and municipal levels, get the forms, and provide step-by-step filing instructions.
Step 5: Separate Your Personal And Business Assets
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
Now that you’ve made it through registering and setting up taxes and licensing for your business, you’ll need to take steps to protect your personal assets and establish your business as an independent entity.
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 go a long way in protecting your assets with these five steps:
- Open a business bank account.
A business bank account separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection. A designated business bank account also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
To open up a bank account for your business, you’ll need to obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number). You’ll use your EIN in place of your social security number so that this account is completely separate from your personal finances. After this, start doing your research on various business bank accounts. Local options and national banks, like Chase, both have their perks.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Startups and Entrepreneurs review to find the best online bank, eCommerce banks, the best for tech startups, real estate investment banks, and more.
- Get a business credit card.
A business credit card helps you separate personal and business expenses. A business credit card will also build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise capital later on.
- Designate an authorized representative.
Make sure all documents are signed by a representative of your LLC and not by you (or other LLC members) directly. This will help separate you from liability incurred by the LLC.
- Keep your accounting and bookkeeping up to date
Make sure to sync up your banking and credit card accounts with an accounting software like QuickBooks as soon as you get the chance. It’s never too soon to start organizing your business’ finances!
A good business credit score will help establish your business’s fundability. It can help with many things, including credit cards that are issued in your business’s name and score instead of depending on your personal credit score, better interest rates on loans, higher lines of credit, and more.
Step 6: Choose A Location For Your Business
From cities like Apex, Wake Forest, and Greensboro to the bustle of Charlotte, Raleigh, Fayetteville, you have a great choice to make!
Take Action: We know picking a spot can be tough if it doesn’t somehow happen naturally through your personal/professional networks. If you’d like to brush up on everything that goes into making this decision, refer to our friendly guide on How to Choose the Perfect Location.
Step 7: Fund Your Business
Money runs the show. Capital is king and for new entrepreneurs there just never seems to be enough.
Managing and organizing and staying on top of your financials is one of the most important factors of your success, along with your resourcefulness and ability to leverage all the many amazing funding options at your disposal in North Carolina and online in general. Don’t be shy.
Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like BBQ and checkered tablecloth. You can also browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas.
Step 8: Create Your Business Website
These days, it is necessary for your brand to have a presentable business website. Does it need to be as stunning as an afternoon gaze of Whitewater Falls? No. Just genuine and easy to use.
Take Action: Check out a business website builder like GoDaddy or Weebly. Both are extremely easy to use and out-of-the-box. All you’ll need to do is choose a template and make a few customizations that reflect what your business offers. Zero technical skills required!
Step 9: Market Your Business
The first step is truly understanding and embracing how good of a marketer you are… or aren’t. If you’re a natural born seller, awesome!
If, on the other hand, you couldn’t sling Stanley Cup seats to a Hurricanes fan, then outsource and focus on your strengths instead.
Take Action: We’ve interviewed armies of entrepreneurs and when we ask them about influencers that changed their game, about 70% of the time it’s the person/coach they brought in to help with marketing. Who can you turn to?
Step 10: Build Your Business's Brand
Now that you’ve taken care of all the essentials above, it’s time to work on building your brand!
There are an abundance of factors that impact your brand image, but two of the significant ones are your business logo and website. When you're ready to design your brand logo, keep the following ideas in mind:
- Capture the essence of your business. When thinking about a design, you should choose something that reflects the nature or mission of your company.
- Differentiate yourself. Check out the colors and shapes used by your direct competitors and consider heading a different direction to help you stand out in the market.
- Make it memorable. Select a sleek, bold design that will leave a lasting impression in people’s minds.
- Hire a professional. This is a very important step for your business, so it’s worth investing a few bucks to get your logo professionally done. (Sites like Fiverr can be great for this.)
You can also use our free logo maker tool to make one yourself! No design experience necessary!
Another hugely important aspect of your brand image is your business website — but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to build a website from the ground up. A simple way to craft a professional, inviting website is to use an existing web-building platform. These services can save you a ton of time and money involved in building a website from scratch.
Step 11: Continue Learning And Stay Inspired
From this point forward, where you turn for insight and motivation is going to play a big role in your success and determining where your brand is in a couple years. Right?
So please consider adding Startup Savant to your goodie bag because if anyone knows where you’re coming from, what you’re going through, and what you’re facing, it’s our community!