How To Start & Grow Your Business

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How to Start a Business in North Carolina

If you’re looking to start a new business in the state of North Carolina, you’ve come to the right place!

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North Carolina’s cost of doing business is 10 percent below national average. With one of the highest net migration rates in the U.S., North Carolina also has the smallest union workforce, which means labor costs are also 10 percent below the national average. North Carolina has ranked in the top five overall states to do business on Forbes for 10 straight years! With a diverse geography of mountains and beaches, a moderate climate, and low cost of living, North Carolina has a lot to offer the new business owner.

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How to Start a Business

Starting a business can be both exhilarating and challenging. It requires your full attention and energy. It all begins with an idea, an observation that there is a problem and the belief that you have a new solution – or a better one. Allow us to walk you through the steps in this free guide: How to Start A Business.

General resources for starting a business in North Carolina

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Fun facts about starting a business in North Carolina

Famous business founded in North Carolina Family Dollar

Family Dollar is an American variety store chain founded in Charlotte, North Carolina. With 8,100 locations, it is the second largest retailer of its type in the U.S. Family Dollar is headquartered in Matthews, a suburb of Charlotte, where it employs 1,400 people.

Famous entrepreneur born in North Carolina Jermaine Dupri

Jermaine Dupri was born in 1972 in Asheville, North Carolina. He is a hip hop recording artist, record producer, songwriter, rapper, and music entrepreneur. He has worked with and produced some of the best talents in the music industry, including Mariah Carey, Usher, Jay-Z, Nelly, Janet Jackson, TLC, Aretha Franklin, Ludacris, and Alicia Keys. He is the CEO of So So Def Recordings.

“All the records I’ve made have pretty much been big club turntable records. You need to feel the rhythm.”

Jermaine Dupri
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Which type of legal structure is best for my business in North Carolina?

We strongly recommend you incorporate, but you must consider the tax, legal, and liability implications carefully before deciding on the best structure.

Here are 5 helpful steps to determine what is the best legal structure for your business:

Click one of the buttons below to learn more about the different types of business legal structures and how to start them in the state of North Carolina.
LLC (Limited Liability Company)
A limited liability company, commonly called an "LLC," is a legal business structure that combines the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited liability of a corporation.

Steps to starting an LLC in North Carolina:

  • Step 1 — Choose a name for your LLC.
  • Step 2 — File Articles of Organization.
  • Step 3 — Appoint a Registered Agent.
  • Step 4 — Prepare an Operating Agreement.
  • Step 5 — Comply with any publication requirements.
  • Step 6 — Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 7 — File Annual Reports.
  • Step 8 — Register foreign LLCs doing business in North Carolina.

For help forming your LLC in North Carolina we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).

Or, you can visit the North Carolina Secretary of State website.

Other North Carolina resources for LLCs:

Secretary of State Business Name Database: Search for the availability of your LLC name here.
File your “Application to Reserve Business Entity Name” here.
File your “Articles of Organization” here.
File your Annual Report here.
IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your LLC here. If your LLC has more than one member, you must get an EIN, even if you have no employees.
Business Licenses and Permits: Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to obtain a license or permit. Search this site for more information.
Department of Revenue: If you will have employees or will be selling goods, you’ll need to register with this site.

Sole Proprietorship
A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common structure chosen to start a business. It is an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual, with no distinction between the business and the owner. The owner is entitled to all profits, and is responsible for all the business’s debts, losses, and liabilities.

Steps to starting Sole Proprietorship in North Carolina:

  • Step 1 — Choose a name for your business.
  • Step 2 — File an assumed name certificate with the county register of deeds office.
  • Step 3 — Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.
  • Step 4 — Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

For help forming your sole proprietorship in North Carolina we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).

Or, you can visit the North Carolina Secretary of State website.

Other North Carolina resources for Sole Proprietorship:

Secretary of State Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your business name here. A sole proprietor may use his or her given name, or an assumed business name.
Fill out your “Certificate of Assumed Name” here and file it with the Office of the Register of Deeds.
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office: Federal database for existing trademark registrations. Click on the “TESS” link to conduct a search.

Business Licenses and Permits: Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to obtain a license or permit. Search this site for more information.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your sole proprietorship here. If you hire employees, you will need an EIN.

Department of Revenue: If you will have employees or will be selling goods, you’ll need to register with this site.

Partnership
A partnership is a business operation between two or more individuals who share both management and profits. The two most common types of partnerships are general and limited partnerships. Each partner contributes to all aspects of the business, and shares in the profits and losses of the business.

Steps to starting Partnership in North Carolina:

  • Step 1 — Choose a business name.
  • Step 2 — File an assumed name.
  • Step 3 — Create a partnership agreement.
  • Step 4 — Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.
  • Step 5 — Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

For help forming your partnership in North Carolina we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).

Alternatively, you can visit the North Carolina Secretary of State website.

Other North Carolina resources for Partnership:

Secretary of State Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your business name here. A partnership may use the surnames of the individual partners, or a fictitious business name.
Fill out your “Certificate of Assumed Name” here and file it with the Office of the Register of Deeds.

U.S. Patent & Trademark Office: Federal database for existing trademark registrations. Click on the “TESS” link to conduct a search.

Business Licenses and Permits: Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to obtain a license or permit. Search this site for more information.
IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your partnership here. Partnerships must have an EIN, whether you have employees or not.

Department of Revenue: If you will have employees or will be selling goods, you’ll need to register with this site.

S Corporation
An S corporation (or S Corp for short) is a special type of corporation created through an IRS tax election. An eligible domestic corporation can avoid double taxation (once to the corporation and again to the shareholders) by electing to be treated as an S corporation. What makes the S corp different from a traditional corporation (C corp) is that profits and losses can pass through the shareholder’s personal tax return. Consequently, the business is not taxed itself.

Steps to starting S Corporation in North Carolina:

  • Step 1 — Choose a corporate name.
  • Step 2 — Prepare and file Articles of Incorporation.
  • Step 3 — Appoint a registered agent.
  • Step 4 — Set up a corporate records book.
  • Step 5 — Prepare corporate bylaws.
  • Step 6 — Appoint initial corporate directors.
  • Step 7 — Hold your first Board of Directors meeting.
  • Step 8 — Issue stock.
  • Step 9 — Comply with North Carolina Annual Report requirements.
  • Step 10 — Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 11 — Register foreign corporations doing business in North Carolina.

For help forming your S corporation in North Carolina we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).

Or, you can visit the North Carolina Secretary of State website.

Other North Carolina resources for S Corporation:

Secretary of State Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your corporate name here.
File your “Application to Reserve a Business Entity Name” here.
File your “Articles of Incorporation” here.
File Annual Reports here.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your corporation here.

IRS S corporations: Specific instructions for your tax requirements as an S corp.
Business Licenses and Permits: Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to obtain a license or permit. Search this site for more information.

Department of Revenue: Register with this site to fulfill business tax requirements.

C Corporation
A C corporation (or C corp), refers to any corporation that is taxed separately from its owners. A C corporation is distinguished from an S corporation, which generally is not taxed separately. From a legal standpoint, C corporations are separate entities that can sue and be sued. From a tax standpoint, they are separate taxpayers, paying tax at special corporate tax rates that differ from those applicable to individuals.

Steps to starting C Corporation in North Carolina:

  • Step 1 — Give your corporation a name.
  • Step 2 — File Articles of Incorporation.
  • Step 3 — Find a registered agent.
  • Step 4 — Set up a corporate records book.
  • Step 5 — Prepare corporate bylaws.
  • Step 6 — Appoint initial corporate directors.
  • Step 7 — Hold your first Board of Directors meeting.
  • Step 8 — Issue stock.
  • Step 9 — Comply with North Carolina Annual Report requirements.
  • Step 10 — Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 11 — Register foreign corporations doing business in North Carolina.

For help forming your C corporation in North Carolina we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).

Alternatively, you can visit the North Carolina Secretary of State website.

Other North Carolina resources for C Corporation:

Secretary of State Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your corporate name here.
File your “Application to Reserve a Business Entity Name” here.
File your “Articles of Incorporation” here.
File Annual Reports here.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your business here.

Business Licenses and Permits: Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to obtain a license or permit. Search this site for more information.
Department of Revenue: Register with this site to fulfill business tax requirements.

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Why choose North Carolina for my business?

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