South Carolina is an exciting place for entrepreneurs who want it all. Not only does it have a beautiful coastline and moss-covered oak trees—but its bustling cities and quaint towns are brimming with opportunity. The state supports economic growth with its pro-business tax incentives. Think: no state property tax, no inventory tax, no local income tax and no wholesale tax.
But as promising as starting a business in South Carolina sounds, it can also be daunting without some guidance. In this blog post, we’ll detail the seven essential steps for getting started.
Start a business in South Carolina in 7 steps
01. Choose your business idea
South Carolina is known for its diverse economy and rich history, providing opportunities for a wide range of business ideas. Here are a few examples:
Tourism: South Carolina is peppered with countless historical sites and natural attractions. If you want to highlight all that the Palmetto State has to offer, consider starting a business that caters to tourists, such as tour companies, hotels or vacation rental properties.
Food and beverage: South Carolina is known for its Southern cuisine, particularly its seafood and barbecue. Starting a restaurant or food truck that specializes in these types of dishes could be a good opportunity.
Healthcare: South Carolina has a growing and aging population, leaving room for many healthcare-related businesses like home health care, assisted living facilities or telemedicine.
Manufacturing: South Carolina has a strong manufacturing sector, particularly in the automotive industry, providing opportunities for businesses that supply parts or services to manufacturers.
Logistics and distribution: South Carolina is a major hub for logistics and distribution, particularly in the port city of Charleston. Consider starting a business that provides logistics or distribution services.
Construction and real estate: As South Carolina’s population continues to rise, so does the demand for construction and real estate business. If either of these fields interest you, consider a career as a home builder, real estate agent or property manager and create a construction website.
02. Define your business type
Each type of business has a unique set of pluses and minuses which will have far-reaching impacts on your business. Everything from your business plan, to the funding you seek, to how your business is registered ultimately stems from the model you choose. So, you’ll want to make sure you do your research before landing on your choice. Common options include:
Limited liability companies (LLCs)
Beyond this, you’ll want to think about your core business model and how that impacts your structure. Popular models include:
Online business model: With the growth of eCommerce, starting an online business can be a lucrative way to reach customers in South Carolina and beyond. If this sounds like a good fit for you, consider starting an online store where you sell your products and/or offer your services via a fully branded site.
Subscription-based business model: Subscription-based businesses offer a predictable revenue stream and an opportunity to build a loyal customer base. Examples include meal-prep delivery services, monthly clothing subscriptions and content streaming services.
Franchise business model: Franchising enables you to start a business without having to start from scratch. You can leverage the reputation, business model and other resources from the franchisor to get your business off the ground faster.
Home-based business model: Many savvy entrepreneurs are starting home-based businesses as a less expensive, yet more flexible alternative to working in an office. This can include online businesses, consulting or an at-home daycare.
Service-based business model: Service-based businesses include professional services like consulting or coaching; personal services like nail salons, cleaning services and hair styling; and home-based services like pet sitting or childcare.
Cooperative business model: Cooperatives are businesses owned and operated by the people who use it. This model can be particularly effective in tight-knit rural areas where you may lack access to outside goods and services.
03. Pick the best name for your South Carolina business
Your business name is the front-line ambassador for your brand. It immediately signals to potential customers what the personality of your business is and if it’s one that they want to interact with. Check out Wix’s free business name generator and refer to our tips below to get your wheels turning:
Incorporate location or state-specific references: Consider using a reference to the state or a specific location in South Carolina in your business name.
Use a play on words: Think of a clever play on words that relates to your business, such as "Palmetto Pies" for a bakery or "Lowcountry Lobster" for a seafood restaurant.
Use a reference to nature: South Carolina is known for its natural beauty, particularly its beaches and plantations. Consider referencing nature in your business name, such as "Myrtle Beach Bikes" for a bike rental company or "Plantation Tours" for a tour company.
Personalize it: You can use your name or initials in the business name, such as "J.B.’s Golf Lessons" or "The Thompson Family Bakery.” This is a great option for small businesses as it creates an intimate, personal feeling around your venture.
Keep it simple: The easier your name is to remember, the better. You want people to be able to easily reference and recommend your brand without having to look up your name every time.
Be creative and unique: The name of your business should be memorable and unique. It should be different from other businesses in your industry so that there’s no confusion or trademark infringement. You can check availability and register your business name with the South Carolina Secretary of State. You’ll also want to check the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website to search for registered or pending trademarks.
04. Write your business plan
When writing your company’s business plan, you’ll want to set the foundation as well as strategies for managing your business once it’s up and running. Make sure to include an executive summary, funding plans, management and hiring best practices. You’ll additionally want to include your marketing strategy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take it section by section. Remember, your business plan is a living document that you can adjust as needed.
05. Register your business in South Carolina
Now that your business is starting to take shape, there’s some paperwork you’ll need to take care of. Follow these general steps to register your business in South Carolina:
Register with the South Carolina Secretary of State: You can register your business with the Secretary of State on their website or by mail. Make sure to file the appropriate paperwork for your specific business type.
Register for taxes: You may need to register your business with the South Carolina Department of Revenue for sales tax, employee withholding taxes and other taxes that may apply to your specific business. In order to do this, you’ll need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) online from the IRS.
Obtain any necessary licenses and permits: The type of business you’re starting will determine the specific licenses and permits that you’ll need to obtain from the state, county and/or city. For example, if you’re starting a restaurant, you will need a food service permit from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Word of warning: You should always check with your state and local agencies for the most up-to-date requirements in your area, as requirements are subject to change.
06. Secure funding for your business
It can be expensive to challenging to raise the capital to start your own business. But there are resources out there to help you with this step. We’ve gathered a list of government resources available to help fund a business in South Carolina:
Small Business Administration (SBA) loans: The SBA gives out various loans that can help small businesses with financing for working capital, equipment and real estate.
South Carolina Department of Commerce: The Department offers various funding programs for businesses, such as the Rural Infrastructure Authority and the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR).
South Carolina Small Business Development Center (SBDC): The SBDC provides counseling and training to small business owners. It can also help with funding through SBA loans and other programs.
South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA): SCRA provides funding and resources to technology-based startups and small businesses through its Applied Research Center and Venture Capital program.
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund: The CDFI Fund provides financial assistance to CDFIs, which in turn provide loans and investments to underserved communities and populations.
Crowdfunding: Platforms such as Indiegogo, GoFundMe and Kickstarter allow you to ask people to donate to your business.
07. Create a business website
Think of your business website as the heart of your brand. It’s a great place to keep people up to date and serves as a central landing pad for consumers who discover you through other channels. With a business website, you can expand your reach and better control the messaging around your brand.
To get started, take a look at these business website templates and find one that suits your needs. Customize your template as desired, aiming to create a smooth, on-brand experience for your customers.
Once you launch your site, you’ll want to make sure to have a marketing plan in place. As the saying goes “Just because you build it doesn't mean they’ll come.” You’ll want to invest in search engine optimization (SEO), advertising and other methods for driving traffic to your site.
Business examples in South Carolina
If you’re looking for inspiration, check out these South Carolina-based business websites, which are all built on Wix.
Coastal Snack Bar
Coastal Snack Bar is a family-owned restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. They serve burgers, tacos, sandwiches, salads and more made with high-quality local ingredients. Also, be sure to check out their sister businesses: Vintage Coffee Cafe, Coastal Crust and Coastal Crust Design.
The Bradbury Bistro
The Bradbury Bistro is a small bistro in downtown Anderson, South Carolina that is sure to impress. Enjoy specialty coffees, teas, wines, spirits and bites in this beautifully curated space.
Marsupial provides a variety of services from digital marketing and analytics to public relations and customer experience. The agency believes that every business should be able to access quality marketing expertise at an affordable rate, and that “our planet is the most important resource that we have.” As such, they donate 5% of all net profit to the National Geographic Society.
How to start a business in South Carolina review
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How to start a business in South Carolina FAQ
Is South Carolina a good state to start a small business?
It can be because South Carolina offers a business-friendly environment with favorable tax policies, low regulatory burdens, and incentives for economic development. The state government is committed to supporting and attracting businesses, particularly in sectors such as manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, logistics, and technology.
How much does it cost to start a business in South Carolina?
If you opt for an LLC the filing fee for an LLC in South Carolina is $110, while filing fees for corporations vary based on the type and structure. You'll also need to factor in the cost of all relevant licenses, permits. and insurance plans.