How to start a business in South Carolina

10 Simple Steps

Step 1: Plan Your Business Idea

Write a Business PlanTruth be told, one way or another every new business has a plan. Some are just far superior and lead to much more efficient management and organization. Around here we’re big fans of professional business planning software that helps streamline the process, break it down into steps, and at the end you’ve got a presentation-ready plan to show investors, potential partners/stakeholders, lending institutions, or even CrowdFunders. But to get started you can take advantage of our free resource below!

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.

Step 2: Choose Business Structure & Register

How to Choose a Business StructureNow you should learn more about and choose the type of business structure you’d like to form. In the process you’ll secure a brand name, register your business with the state, and protect your personal assets like house and car.

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.

Take Action: Since this step is so important and expensive if it’s not done correctly, we highly recommend investing 10 minutes to go over your options through our business structure comparison guide. You’ll get a better idea of the advantages and disadvantages of each while building a solid legal foundation for your business.

Step 3: Sync With The South Carolina Tax Code

Small Business TaxesJust remember, SC is considered by many to be the home of Southern Hospitality. And while they’re very startup-friendly and their regulatory environment isn’t as complex as the system of branches in a giant Angel Oak at St. Johns, there’ll be some hoops to jump through. Just be sure to do your homework and understand what the state expects you to adhere to.

Take Action: If you’re doing this on your own be sure to bookmark the South Carolina Dept. of Revenue’s MyDORWAY system. Also, bookmark their free online PDF that fills you in on their Business Tax Credits.

Step 4: Obtain Proper Licensing & Permits

Business LicensesBefore you can begin marketing and advertising you’ll need to register your business offering with the state, request filings documents, get a general business license and potentially more depending on the nature of your business and where you choose to locate. If you don’t work with an incorporation provider, SC has a Business Filings option which is similar.

  1. For DYI’ers head over to the Licenses, Permits & Registration page on SC.gov. They have an online chat option which is great if you need help.
  2. For additional help finding the licenses you’ll need, a Business License Service is what we highly recommend looking into. They determine everything required on Federal, State, County and Municipal levels, get the forms, and provide step-by-step filing instructions.

Step 5: Create A Dedicated Business Bank Account

Best Business Bank AccountThis is the easiest step but it has some of the heaviest impacts on your brand’s future. First, pick a great banking institution based on benefits, waved/smaller fees, etc., then establish dedicated business accounts that are in NO WAY connected to personal accounts of any kind. Then once you link your accounts with a reliable accounting software, you’re set. Now it’s all about cash management.

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Step 6: Pick A Stellar South Carolina Location

How to Choose a Business LocationMost natives in this state were taught their manners before they learned to walk, so in general whether you set up shop in the bigger cities like Columbia or smaller coastal gems like Ridgeland, you’ll love it. Some of the most cherishes cities (in part because of lower costs of living) are Seven Oaks, Mauldin and Five Forks. What a great decision to have to make when choosing a business location.

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: Finance Your Business

How to Finance a BusinessFinancing should first come from good management of resources (profits/tax money/investment capital). After that, South Carolina has everything under the sun including vast VC networks, entrepreneur groups and foundations, state and county-level programs and funds, tax incentives/credits, you name it.

Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like Sweet Tea Vodka and Hugh Puppies. You can also browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas.

Step 8: Design & Publish A Business Website

Build a Business WebsiteNo one’s insinuating your business site needs to be a stilling and awe inspiring as Botany Bay Sunrise in Edisto Island. Listen, you can’t have warm homemade biscuits without butter and you can’t be serious about your brand if you aren’t sporting a responsive, functional, and easy to use website. Thankfully it’s much easier and less expensive to get one up and running these days.

Take Action: The first step is finding the right platform, which thankfully there are some very good options. If you’d like our recommendation, grab a free trial to Wix or Weebly. They’re the easiest to use and have the best prices. No previous tech-skills required.

Step 9: Market Your Business

Social Media ChannelOutsourcing, or team building, is the name of the game for most people just entering the startup era. Why? Because they lack the specific skill-sets it takes, whether that be in terms of digital marketing methods or on-the-ground sales. No shame in it! “Marketing” is moving too fast and expanding too quickly for most sane people.

Take Action: Looking for somewhere to begin other than a vapid social media profile page? Start local. Start with your neighbors. Start with friends at the local book club. Start by throwing a neighborhood BBQ. Start with your very first users/clients because they hold the keys to the hordes of others looking for a solution like yours right behind them.

Step 10: Continue Learning & Stay Inspired

Sign Up For Entrepreneur InterviewsOne of our favorite things about South Carolina are the southern gardens, for example Magnolia Plantation (especially during the annual butterfly release). In fact, we consider Startup Savant a sort of garden but our flowers are savvy tools and software reviews, interviews with fellow change-makers, guides and learning-based content, and more. Take a stroll!

Take Action: Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to tap into our daily feed filled with tips, lessons, and inspiring stories directly from entrepreneurs like you.

South Carolina Startup Toolkit

Out of all the resources available to help you start a business in South Carolina, here are the two we believe in most. With an incorporation service and business plan software, you'll take the first steps toward bringing your idea to life and having a solid plan behind it.

Incorporation services register your business with the state and handle all paperwork. For as low as $49, they'll bring your business to life by registering your LLC or Corporation in record time.

See The Top 7 Options
And

One of the most important aspects of starting a business can also be the most tedious: the business plan. A business plan software will walk you through the entire process in half the time.

See The Top 7 Options