How to Start a Business in North Carolina

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starting a business in north carolina

North Carolina, with its diverse economy and vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, has emerged as a prime destination for aspiring business owners looking to turn their dreams into reality. Nestled in the southeastern region of the United States, this charming state boasts a unique blend of rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and a business-friendly environment. As the Tar Heel State continues to flourish, entrepreneurs find themselves drawn to its alluring combination of supportive infrastructure, skilled workforce, and access to thriving markets.

Whether you envision launching a tech startup in the Research Triangle Park, opening a quaint café in Asheville’s artistic haven, or venturing into any other industry, North Carolina’s enticing prospects make it a promising place to kickstart your entrepreneurial journey.

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Why North Carolina is an Ideal Place to Start a Small Business

North Carolina’s business ecosystem is teeming with innovation and growth, fostering an environment where entrepreneurs can thrive. The state boasts a well-connected network of incubators, accelerators, and coworking spaces that provide invaluable support, mentorship, and resources to budding startups. Additionally, the presence of top-notch research universities, like Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, fuels a steady pipeline of skilled talent, attracting both local and out-of-state entrepreneurs.

North Carolina’s commitment to nurturing small businesses is evident in its favorable policies and low tax rates. The state offers a range of incentives, tax credits, and grants, making it easier for startups to get off the ground and grow sustainably. Furthermore, North Carolina’s strategic location on the East Coast grants businesses access to an extensive transportation network, facilitating the movement of goods and services across the region efficiently. With a pro-business approach from state authorities and a welcoming community of entrepreneurs, North Carolina stands out as an inviting and supportive destination for anyone looking to establish a successful small business.

As of 2021, there were approximately 934,000 small businesses in North Carolina, making up 99.6% of all businesses in the state. These businesses span across various industries, contributing significantly to the state’s economic growth.

Steps to Start a Business in North Carolina

  1. Get a Business Idea That’s a Good Fit For You
  2. Research the Idea and Draft a Business Plan
  3. Get Funding – Venture Capital, Angel Investors, Friends & Family, or Bootstrap It Yourself
  4. Decide on a Legal Business Entity – LLC’s Are Simplest and Offer the Most Protection
  5. Search the North Carolina Secretary of State for an Available Business Name
  6. Register Your LLC
  7. Find an North Carolina Registered Agent
  8. Get Your Federal EIN and North Carolina Tax ID
  9. Open a Business Bank Account and Business Credit Card
  10. Get the Needed North Carolina Licenses and Permits
  11. Choose a Location
  12. Get Business Insurance
  13. Develop an Internet Presence

Get A Business Idea (That’s a Good Fit For You)

Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey is an exciting endeavor, but before diving in, it’s essential to discover a business idea that aligns with your passion, skills and the unique opportunities that North Carolina offers. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you find the perfect business fit for the Tar Heel State:

small business ideas in north carolina

Start by researching North Carolina’s market trends and identifying gaps or underserved areas. Look for industries that are flourishing in the state, such as technology, healthcare, tourism, and agriculture. Consider how your expertise and interests can be applied to meet the needs of the local community, providing a product or service that stands out in the market.

North Carolina’s diverse economy and geographical advantages offer fertile ground for specific business ideas. For example, if you’re drawn to the coastal region, consider opportunities in the tourism, hospitality, or water-related industries. If you prefer urban centers like the Research Triangle or Charlotte, explore tech startups, consulting firms, or creative ventures. Understanding the state’s strengths will give you a competitive edge in crafting a business idea tailored to its unique environment.

Reflect on your own skills, experiences, and passions. What are you genuinely enthusiastic about? What expertise do you possess that could solve a problem or fulfill a need in North Carolina? Combining your interests with market research will lead to a business idea that not only resonates with you but also has the potential to make a positive impact in the state.

Look for successful businesses in North Carolina that inspire you. Learn from their journeys, challenges, and triumphs. Engaging with the local business community can provide valuable insights and connections that may lead you to a business idea you hadn’t considered before.

By following this guide, you’ll be well on your way to finding a business idea that harmonizes with your passion, skills, and the promising landscape of North Carolina. Remember, the key to success lies in combining your personal strengths with the state’s unique opportunities to create a venture that thrives and contributes to the flourishing economy of the Tar Heel State.

Fueling Your Business Venture: Securing Funding in North Carolina

Securing funding for your new business venture in North Carolina requires strategic planning and leveraging the various resources available in the state. One avenue to explore is local venture capital firms, which are actively investing in innovative startups. Research and identify venture capital firms in North Carolina that align with your industry and business model. Prepare a compelling business plan and pitch that clearly outlines your vision, market potential, and growth strategy. Engage in networking events and entrepreneur gatherings to build relationships with potential investors. By showcasing your passion and dedication, coupled with a strong business case, you increase your chances of attracting venture capital funding for your venture.

north carolina business funding

Apart from venture capital firms, North Carolina offers several state-sponsored resources to support startups. The North Carolina Department of Commerce provides grants, loans, and tax incentives to qualifying businesses, especially those that contribute to job creation and economic growth.

Additionally, the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) offers invaluable assistance to entrepreneurs, including business counseling, market research, and access to training programs. Exploring these state resources can help supplement your funding needs and provide essential guidance for launching and scaling your new business in North Carolina.

Remember that securing funding is a competitive process, and perseverance is key. Stay focused on refining your business strategy, building a strong network, and leveraging the available state resources to position your venture for success in North Carolina’s dynamic and supportive business environment.

Choosing the Right Business Structure for Your New Venture in North Carolina

When starting a new venture in North Carolina, it’s essential to consider the various business structures available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are the four primary business structures to consider: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company (LLC).

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common business structure. In this setup, the business is owned and operated by a single individual. While it’s easy to set up and requires minimal paperwork, the main drawback is that the owner has unlimited personal liability for the business’s debts and obligations.


A partnership is formed when two or more individuals share ownership and responsibility for a business. There are two main types: general partnerships, where partners share equal liability, and limited partnerships, which have both general and limited partners. Partnerships can benefit from shared resources and expertise, but they also involve shared liability, meaning each partner is personally responsible for the actions and debts of the business and its partners.


A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners, known as shareholders. This structure provides limited liability protection, meaning the personal assets of shareholders are generally protected from business liabilities. However, setting up a corporation involves more paperwork and formalities, and it is subject to double taxation (profits are taxed at both the corporate and individual levels).

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

The Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a popular choice for many entrepreneurs due to its flexibility and the benefits it offers. An LLC combines the limited liability protection of a corporation with the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship. This means that the business’s profits and losses pass through to the owners’ individual tax returns, avoiding double taxation. Additionally, forming an LLC involves less paperwork compared to a corporation, and it allows for more straightforward management and operational structures.

Overall, while each business structure has its merits, forming an LLC is often the preferred choice for new ventures in North Carolina due to its liability protection, tax benefits, and ease of setup and maintenance. However, it’s essential to consider your specific business needs, consult with legal and financial advisors, and ensure compliance with all state and federal regulations before making a final decision on your business structure.

Registering your North Carolina LLC

LLC’s are the easiest business structure to start and also to maintain. With fewer headaches than any other business structure, you can simply form an LLC with six easy steps.

  1. Choose a Name For Your LLC
  2. Choose a Registered Agent
  3. File Your LLC With Your State
  4. Complete the State Publication Requirement
  5. Create an LLC Operating Agreement
  6. Receive an EIN

Naming Your North Carolina LLC

Choosing a compelling and unique name for your North Carolina LLC is an important step in establishing your brand identity and attracting customers. When selecting a name, consider factors such as relevance to your business, memorability, and legal compliance.

The first step is to select a unique and distinguishable name for your LLC. Ensure the name complies with North Carolina’s naming requirements and is not already in use by another business. You can check the availability of your desired business name through the North Carolina Secretary of State’s website.

north carolina business name search
Click here to search the North Carolina Secretary of State to see if your business name is available

When conducting your LLC name search through the NCSS’s database, it’s essential to search for both exact matches and variations of your desired name to minimize the risk of confusion. Additionally, consider including a unique element or keyword related to your business to make your LLC name stand out. Once you have determined an available name, it is recommended to reserve it promptly by filing the necessary formation documents with the NCSS.

Choosing a Registered Agent in North Carolina

Choosing a registered agent is a critical decision when forming an LLC in North Carolina. A registered agent is a designated individual or entity responsible for receiving important legal and official documents on behalf of the LLC, such as tax notices and legal notices. When selecting a registered agent, it is crucial to choose a reliable and trustworthy party that will promptly handle and forward such documents to you. You can opt to act as your own registered agent or enlist the services of a professional registered agent service, which can offer expertise, privacy, and convenience. Examples of reputable registered agent services in North Carolina include:

  1. Northwest Registered Agent: Known for their reliable and efficient service, Northwest Registered Agent provides registered agent services in North Carolina and across the United States. They offer a secure online portal, excellent customer support, and a commitment to privacy and compliance.
  2. LegalZoom: As a well-known legal service provider, LegalZoom offers registered agent services in North Carolina. They have a user-friendly platform, competitive pricing, and a range of additional business formation services to support entrepreneurs.
  3. Incfile: Incfile is another popular choice for registered agent services in North Carolina. They provide affordable options, fast document processing, and a user-friendly platform with helpful resources for LLC formation and compliance.

Filing an LLC in North Carolina

Filing an LLC in North Carolina involves a straightforward process that can be completed through the North Carolina Secretary of State (NCSS). OR, you can use a professional service and get it done for you.

To begin, you need to choose a unique and available name for your LLC and appoint a registered agent. Then, you’ll need to file the Articles of Organization with the NCSS, providing essential details about your LLC, such as its name, purpose, registered agent, and management structure. There is a filing fee associated with the Articles of Organization.

Once your LLC is approved and registered by the NCSS, it is important to fulfill any additional requirements, such as obtaining necessary licenses and permits, creating an operating agreement, and meeting ongoing compliance obligations. The NCSS website provides comprehensive resources and forms to guide you through the LLC formation process, ensuring that you establish your business entity in compliance with North Carolina laws and regulations.

Creating an LLC Operating Agreement in North Carolina

While North Carolina law does not require an LLC operating agreement, having one in place is highly recommended. This document outlines the rights, responsibilities, and relationships among LLC members, and establishes rules for decision-making, profit distribution, and member withdrawals or additions.

It helps prevent disputes and provides clarity in operating procedures, ensuring smooth operations and protecting the interests of all members. When drafting an operating agreement, consider consulting with legal professionals to tailor it to your specific needs, address any unique circumstances, and ensure compliance with North Carolina laws.

Getting an EIN in North Carolina

An EIN is a unique nine-digit number assigned to businesses for tax purposes. North Carolina-based businesses can apply for an EIN online through the IRS website or by mail or fax using Form SS-4. The EIN is required for various purposes, including hiring employees, opening business bank accounts, and filing taxes.

When applying, be prepared to provide information about your business, such as its legal structure, the reason for applying, and the responsible party’s details. Obtaining an EIN is free of charge, and the online application process typically provides an instant EIN upon completion.

Set up Business Banking, Credit Cards, and Accounting in North Carolina

Opening a Business Bank Account

Opening a dedicated business bank account is a fundamental step in managing your business finances effectively. By separating your personal and business funds, you ensure accurate bookkeeping and streamline financial transactions.

To open a business bank account, start by researching different banks and credit unions in North Carolina to find one that suits your business needs. Prepare the necessary documentation, such as your business formation documents, EIN, and identification proofs. Visit the bank branch or complete an online application, providing the required information.

Once your account is open, you can deposit business income, pay bills, and easily track your business expenses, improving financial organization and simplifying tax reporting.

Getting a Business Credit Card

Obtaining a business credit card offers several advantages for your North Carolina-based business. It allows for separate tracking of business expenses, helps build a credit history for your company, and provides a convenient means of making purchases.

Start by researching credit card options specifically designed for businesses, comparing features, rewards programs, and interest rates. Submit an application, providing the necessary business and personal information. The issuer may evaluate your creditworthiness and may require a personal guarantee, especially for new businesses. Once approved, use your business credit card responsibly, making timely payments and keeping track of expenses.

By utilizing a business credit card, you can better manage cash flow, earn rewards, and establish a credit profile that may be beneficial for future financing needs.

Setting up Business Accounting

Proper business accounting is essential for tracking income, expenses, and overall financial health. Establishing a system to manage your business’s financial records helps ensure compliance with tax regulations and provides valuable insights into your company’s performance.

Consider using accounting software or hiring an accountant to help set up your business accounting system. Track revenue and expenses, reconcile bank statements, and categorize transactions accurately. Keep all relevant documents and receipts organized for easy reference during tax season. Regularly review your financial statements, such as profit and loss statements and balance sheets, to gain a comprehensive understanding of your business’s financial standing.

By maintaining accurate and up-to-date accounting records, you can make informed business decisions, identify areas for improvement, and demonstrate financial stability to potential investors or lenders.

Get Business Insurance

Getting business insurance is a critical step in protecting your North Carolina-based business from potential risks and liabilities. Business insurance provides coverage for various scenarios, including property damage, liability claims, and business interruption.

To secure the right insurance coverage, begin by assessing your business’s specific needs and potential risks. Research insurance providers in North Carolina that specialize in business insurance and compare policies, coverage options, and premiums. Consult with an insurance agent or broker who can help tailor a policy to your business’s unique requirements.

By obtaining appropriate business insurance, you can safeguard your assets, mitigate financial risks, and have peace of mind as you navigate the entrepreneurial landscape in North Carolina.

Get Necessary Permits and Licenses

The specific licenses and permits required depend on the nature of your business and its location. To ensure compliance with state and local regulations, research the licenses and permits relevant to your industry and operations.

The North Carolina Department of Revenue and the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office are valuable resources for identifying the required licenses and permits. Contact the appropriate government agencies or visit their websites to understand the application process and any associated fees.

By securing the necessary licenses and permits, you can operate your business legally, avoid potential penalties, and build a solid foundation for success in the vibrant business environment of North Carolina.

Hire Employees

When growing your new business in North Carolina, hiring employees can be a significant milestone. Before bringing on staff, it’s important to understand the legal obligations and requirements involved.

Familiarize yourself with federal and state labor laws, including minimum wage and employment eligibility verification. Craft comprehensive job descriptions, create an effective recruitment strategy, and establish fair employment practices. When hiring, consider conducting background checks, completing necessary paperwork such as Form I-9 and Form W-4, and enrolling in workers’ compensation insurance.

By adhering to proper hiring procedures and staying compliant with employment regulations, you can build a talented and legally compliant workforce for your North Carolina business.

Build Your Web Presence

Building a strong web presence is crucial for your new business in North Carolina to reach a wider audience and attract customers.

Start by creating a professional website that reflects your brand and showcases your products or services. Optimize your website for search engines using relevant keywords and quality content. Leverage social media platforms to engage with your target audience and build a community around your brand. Claim your business listings on online directories and review sites to enhance visibility. Consider investing in online advertising to drive targeted traffic to your website. Regularly update your web presence with fresh content and respond to customer inquiries promptly.

By establishing a robust online presence, you can establish credibility, expand your reach, and effectively market your business to the digital-savvy consumers of North Carolina and beyond.

Promote and Market Your Business

Promoting and marketing your new business in North Carolina is essential for creating awareness, attracting customers, and establishing a strong foothold in the market. By utilizing various marketing channels and strategies, you can effectively reach your target audience and drive business growth. Here are some key areas to focus on:

Press Releases

Crafting and distributing press releases can help generate media coverage and increase brand visibility for your North Carolina business. Develop newsworthy stories about your company, such as product launches, milestones, or community involvement, and send them to local newspapers, industry-specific publications, and online news platforms. A well-written press release can create buzz and generate valuable publicity, driving traffic to your website and enhancing your business’s reputation.


Facebook is a powerful social media platform for promoting your North Carolina business. Create a business page and engage with your audience by sharing informative and engaging content, including updates, offers, and behind-the-scenes glimpses. Utilize Facebook’s advertising tools to target specific demographics and locations in North Carolina, maximizing the reach of your marketing efforts. Encourage customer reviews and testimonials to build trust and credibility, and actively participate in relevant Facebook groups and communities to expand your network and reach new potential customers.


Utilizing video marketing through YouTube can be a highly effective way to showcase your products or services and engage with your audience. Create informative and engaging videos that highlight the unique aspects of your North Carolina business. These could include tutorials, product demonstrations, or behind-the-scenes footage. Optimize your videos for search engines by using relevant keywords in titles, descriptions, and tags. Engage with your audience through comments and encourage them to subscribe to your channel, building a loyal community around your brand.

Google My Business

Claiming and optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) listing is crucial for local visibility and attracting customers in North Carolina. Complete your profile with accurate and up-to-date information, including business hours, contact details, and website links. Encourage customers to leave reviews on your GMB listing, as positive reviews can enhance your online reputation and improve your local search rankings. Regularly post updates, events, and special offers on your GMB profile to keep it fresh and engaging. Utilize GMB’s Insights to gain valuable data on how customers are finding and interacting with your business.

In addition to these channels, consider other digital marketing strategies such as search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, and paid online advertising. Tailor your marketing approach to your target audience, measure the effectiveness of your campaigns through analytics, and continually refine your strategies to maximize results. By implementing a comprehensive and strategic marketing plan, you can effectively promote your North Carolina business, attract customers, and achieve long-term success.