North Carolina is a state filled with boundless opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Boasting a population of over 10 million, it's the ninth most populous state in the U.S. The Tar Heel State has a diverse economy, with a booming tech industry, a robust manufacturing sector and a thriving agricultural industry.
With a business-friendly climate, low taxes and access to funding, North Carolina is a top destination for new ventures to thrive. In fact, there are over 960,000 small businesses in North Carolina, making up a whopping 99.6% of all businesses in the state.
If you're ready to start a business, this guide will walk you through the process step by step. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or a first-time business owner, this guide will equip you with the tools and resources you need to succeed in the Land of the Longleaf Pine.
Once you’ve got your business idea, create a website to jumpstart your venture.
Need to create a business website? Build yours today.
Start a business in North Carolina in 7 steps
01. Come up with a business idea
If you're planning to start a business in North Carolina, the first step is to come up with a solid and distinctive business idea. The idea should focus on customer needs and cater to the specific market of North Carolina. For example, if an area is in need of plumbers, consider starting a plumbing business.
As an aspiring entrepreneur, you have the power to create something truly remarkable and leave a lasting impact on North Carolina’s economy and communities. Every journey has its challenges, but remember that some of the world's most successful businesses started with just a simple business idea and a strong desire to make it a reality.
Don't be afraid to take risks and think outside the box, as some of the greatest innovations come from unconventional thinking.
Here are some example business ideas that could work well in North Carolina:
Self-care services: North Carolina has a growing market for wellness and self-care services, as many residents want to reduce stress and maintain a work-life balance. Some potential business ideas include hair styling, skincare, hydrotherapy, massage therapy and meditation centers. Learn more about how to start a nail business, or an eyelash business.
Fitness studio: North Carolina has a thriving fitness scene—opening a fitness studio that offers a unique workout experience could be a great business idea. This could include anything from a boutique cycling studio to a yoga studio that specializes in hot yoga. Learn more about how to start a fitness business, or specifically start a gym business.
eCommerce: With the increasing popularity of online shopping in North Carolina, starting an eCommerce business could be a lucrative opportunity. Whether you currently have a physical store and want to expand your reach online, or plan to operate fully online, the potential for success is limitless.
Craft breweries and distilleries: North Carolina is home to a thriving craft beer and spirits community. Starting a brewery or distillery could be a great business idea for those interested in the industry.
Outdoor recreation: North Carolina offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing and camping. If you’re interested in the outdoors, you could start a business that offers gear rentals or guided tours to the best local spots or less-known secret treasures the state has to offer.
Eco-friendly cleaning service: As people become more environmentally conscious, there is a growing demand for eco-friendly cleaning services. Starting a cleaning business that uses eco-friendly cleaning products and methods could be a great business idea for entrepreneurs in North Carolina.
Education and tutoring: With several universities and colleges in the state, starting an education or tutoring business could be a great opportunity. This could include anything from test prep to language instruction.
Virtual event planning: With the rise of remote work and virtual events, starting a virtual event planning business could be a great opportunity for entrepreneurs in North Carolina. You could specialize in planning virtual conferences, networking events, party planning or even virtual weddings. This could be successful anywhere in the state, but could be particularly lucrative in areas known for tech innovation, such as Raleigh and Charlotte.
Home renovation and repair: As the population continues to grow, there is a strong demand for home renovation and repair services. A small medium business that specializes in this field could find success in North Carolina.
Virtual entertainment: With the increasing popularity of virtual events and entertainment, starting a business that focuses on this industry could be a great option in North Carolina. Your business could create and host virtual events, offer virtual tours of local attractions or even start a virtual reality arcade.
Food trucks and pop-up restaurants: The food truck market is growing in North Carolina, making a mobile restaurant and food truck business a viable option if you are interested in the food industry and like the variety that a mobile business could provide.
Pet services: With many pet owners in the state, there is a strong demand for pet services like dog walking (see how to start a dog walking business and how to start a dog walking business plan), grooming and boarding. If you’re good with animals, you might consider a professional training service.
Hospitality: North Carolina is a popular tourist destination with beautiful beaches, mountains and other natural attractions. Business ideas in this industry could include opening a bed and breakfast, a rental property, starting a tour company, or opening a restaurant (see how to create a food truck business plan) or gift shop.
Elder care services: As the population continues to age, there is a growing need for elder care services. Your business could offer in-home care services (see how to start a homecare business), meal delivery services, or even provide transportation to doctor's appointments and other important engagements. With a large elderly population in North Carolina, this could be a lucrative opportunity.
02. Choose a business structure
In order to register your new business with the state of North Carolina, you’ll first need to choose a business structure type. There are six types of businesses recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Your decision will impact your personal liability, tax obligations and management structure. Therefore, seeking guidance from a professional can help you determine the best structure for your business.
Sole proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is a business owned and operated by one individual. As a sole proprietor, you have complete control and are responsible for all debts and obligations related to your business.
Partnership: A partnership business consists of two or more individuals who share ownership and management. A partnership business can have general or limited liability partners or both, depending on the type of partnership chosen. It's important to have a partnership agreement that outlines the roles and responsibilities of each partner, and how profits and losses will be shared.
Limited liability company (LLC): An LLC business entity combines the liability protection of a corporation with the corporate tax benefits of a partnership. An LLC is owned by its members, who have limited personal liability for the debts and actions of the company. Additionally, an LLC has pass-through taxation, meaning that profits and losses are reported on the personal income tax returns of the members rather than at the entity level.
Corporation: A corporation is a legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners (shareholders). It has its own rights and liabilities and can enter into contracts, own assets and engage in business activities. A corporation is managed by a board of directors elected by the shareholders, and the shareholders' liability is generally limited to the amount of their investment in the corporation. This means that the personal assets of the shareholders are typically protected from the corporation's debts and obligations. Corporations can also issue stock to raise startup capital and can have perpetual existence.
Nonprofit: A nonprofit organization operates for the benefit of the public or a specific group of people, rather than for the purpose of making a profit. Nonprofits are typically exempt from certain taxes and overseen by a board of directors. Any profits generated must be reinvested back into the organization to further its mission.
If you're starting a small business, the process of choosing a business structure type can seem daunting. But don't worry—by considering a few key factors, you can select the structure that's right for your goals and needs.
Here are some additional factors to consider:
Think about your business goals: What are your long-term plans for growth and expansion? Are you planning to seek outside investors? The answers to these questions can help guide your choice of business structure type. For example, a C corporation may be the best choice if you plan to seek investors, while an LLC may allow more flexibility in how you manage your business.
Consider liability protection: Protecting your personal assets is crucial when starting a business. An LLC or corporation can provide better protection than a sole proprietorship or partnership, so be sure to evaluate the liability implications of each entity type.
Evaluate tax implications: Each structure type has different tax implications. For example, a sole proprietorship's income is taxed at the owner's individual tax rate, while a multi-member LLC can choose to be taxed as a partnership or corporation. One option may provide better tax benefits for your business over another. Consider consulting with a tax professional to fully understand your options.
Understand administrative requirements: The paperwork and reporting requirements for each entity type can vary, so consider the administrative burden of each option. Make sure the type you choose aligns with your resources and capabilities.
Seek legal and financial advice: An attorney or accountant can help you understand the legal and financial implications of each business type, and guide you toward the best choice for your business.
03. Name your North Carolina business
Naming your business is an exciting opportunity to showcase your unique vision and connect with your audience. To create a name that resonates with your customers, think about the products or services you offer and the message you want to convey.
Start by brainstorming a list of keywords related to your business and use them to create unique combinations and generate ideas. Choose a business name that fits your brand's style. Simplicity is key to making your business name memorable, so avoid overly complex words or phrases.
Once you have found the perfect name for your business, perform a business entity search through North Carolina's Secretary of State website to ensure it's not already in use. Additionally, you may want to consider registering it as a trademark to protect it from being used by another business.
Remember, naming your business is an exciting step in the journey of entrepreneurship. Don't be afraid to seek inspiration from tools like Wix's business name generator and have fun with the process of finding the perfect name to represent your business.
04. License and register your business in North Carolina
To register and license your business in North Carolina, you will need to complete the following seven steps:
Register your business: After performing a business entity search and verifying your chosen business name is available, it’s time to register with the state. Register your business with the North Carolina Secretary of State by filing the Articles of Organization for an LLC or Articles of Incorporation for a corporation.
Obtain necessary licenses and permits: Obtain any necessary licenses or permits from local, state and federal agencies required for your business activities.
Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): Before you can hire employees or file taxes, your new business needs a federal tax identification number. You can apply for an EIN online through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.
Register for state taxes: Register with the North Carolina Department of Revenue to pay state taxes, such as sales tax and use tax.
Register for local taxes: Depending on your location, you may need to register for local taxes, such as property tax or business privilege tax.
Obtain business insurance: Consider obtaining business insurance to protect your business from liability and other risks. If you have employees, you’ll also need workers’ compensation insurance.
Tip: It's always a good idea to consult an attorney or accountant when starting a new business to ensure that you comply with all legal requirements and minimize any risks.
05. Write a business plan
Writing a business plan is an empowering process that can help turn your dreams of entrepreneurship into reality. By crafting a well-thought-out plan, you can communicate your vision to potential investors, secure funding and set your business up for success.
A business plan serves as a roadmap for your business, outlining your goals, strategies and tactics. It's a document that helps you stay focused and motivated, providing a clear path forward as you navigate the challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurship.
A business plan can help you:
Clarify your goals and objectives
Develop a roadmap for achieving those goals
Identify potential challenges and opportunities
Communicate your vision and strategy to stakeholders
Secure funding or investment for your business.
As you can see, a business plan is much more than just a document. It's a tool for building confidence and credibility.
By demonstrating a deep understanding of your market, competition and target customers, you can position yourself as a knowledgeable and trustworthy business owner. This can be invaluable when seeking out investors, customers or strategic partners.
06. Funding a business in North Carolina
As a small business entrepreneur in North Carolina, you may be wondering how to raise money for a business. Fortunately, there are a variety of funding resources available to help you grow and succeed in business.
Small Business Administration (SBA) loans: The SBA offers a variety of loan programs that can help small businesses access the funding they need to grow and thrive. These loans often have low interest rates and flexible repayment terms, making them an attractive option for entrepreneurs in North Carolina.
Crowdfunding platforms: Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow entrepreneurs to raise money from a large number of individuals who are interested in supporting their businesses. These platforms can be a great way to generate buzz and build a community around your brand while also raising funds.
Angel investors: Angel investors are high-net-worth individuals who invest in promising startups and small businesses. In North Carolina, there are several angel investor groups that you can connect with, such as the Charlotte Angel Fund and the Piedmont Angel Network.
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants: If your business is involved in research and development, you may be eligible for SBIR grants from the federal government. These grants provide funding to small businesses to help them develop new technologies and products.
Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC): The SBTDC is a statewide organization that provides a wide range of services to support small businesses in North Carolina. The SBTDC is a partnership between the University of North Carolina system, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other public and private organizations.
Carolina Small Business Development Fund: The Carolina Small Business Development Fund is a non-profit organization that provides access to capital and business services to support small businesses in North Carolina. Their mission is to foster economic development and create opportunities for underserved communities.
Local business accelerators: Business accelerators like the Asheville Angels in Asheville provide funding, mentorship and networking opportunities to early-stage startups in North Carolina. These programs can be a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs and investors while also getting the support you need to grow your business.
07. Create a business website
Building a business website requires careful consideration of various factors. One of the most crucial aspects of any website is reliable hosting and high standards of online website security. Choosing a reliable web host that offers high-speed servers, regular backups and strong security measures is essential to ensure your website runs smoothly and is protected from potential cyber threats.
When designing your website, consider the user experience and how your site can be optimized to provide a seamless experience for your visitors. This includes everything from the layout and structure of your pages, to the placement of your calls-to-action. Additionally, you should ensure that your website is visually appealing and reflects your brand's personality and values.
Start by choosing a business website template, then customize it to your brand.
Remember that incorporating the right features into your website, such as a search function, social media integration and customer reviews, can help to increase engagement. By focusing on the user experience, visual appeal and online security, you can create a website that stands out from competitors and helps you achieve your business goals.
Business website examples in North Carolina
Find inspiration by checking out other small and growing businesses within North Carolina. Each business listed below uses Wix to launch its website and manage its business.
Sarah Sudol, LLC
Sarah Sudol, LLC is a mental health counseling practice that provides services to individuals in South Carolina and North Carolina. To help stand out from the competition, Sarah Sudol works closely with its clients to develop detailed treatment plans and offers group therapy sessions, workshops and other resources to help individuals improve their mental health and overall well-being.
Located in Triangle Park, a hub for technology innovators, Traitology is paving the way for life sciences and global crop improvement. Traitology’s vision is to advance technological advances to combat global hunger, climate change, nutritional insecurity and sustainable agriculture.
The Farm at Piper Hill
Nestled in the quiet countryside of Silk Hope, The Farm at Piper Hill is bringing a new concept to a members-only country club industry—on a farm. Their innovative concept includes everything from wellness programs to fishing. As they grow, they hope to provide members with an option to raise and keep their animals on the farm, or just enjoy the many critters that already call Piper Hill home.
How to start a business in North Carolina review
Looking to start a business in another state or find the best states to start a business? Check out how to start a business in Ohio in 7 steps, 7 steps to starting a business in Arizona, how to start a business in Virginia, starting a business in South Carolina and starting a business in Georgia.
How to start a business in North Carolina FAQ
Is North Carolina a good state to start a business?
It can be and here are just a few of the reasons why - North Carolina's location on the East Coast of the United States provides advantages for businesses. It offers access to major markets, transportation infrastructure, and shipping routes. The state has international airports and seaports, making it well-connected for domestic and international trade. It also has a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem with numerous resources and support organizations for startups and small businesses.
How much does it cost to start a business in North Carolina?
If you choose to form a legal entity, such as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or Corporation the filing fee in North Carolina is $125, while filing fees for corporations vary based on the type and structure. If you're a foreign entity this fee will cost you $250. Once you establish an LLC in the state, you must also pay $200 per year to re-file it. On top of this you'll need to consider the cost of your business license, permits and other registration must haves.