Starting a small business can be an incredibly rewarding endeavor. We’ve seen firsthand how starting a business can allow you to be your own boss, pursue your passions, and make a real impact.
However, launching a successful small business in North Carolina takes careful planning and preparation. Here are some essential tips to set you up for success.
Develop a Solid Business Plan
The first step to starting any small business in North Carolina should be creating a comprehensive business plan. This document will serve as your roadmap and help you think through key elements of your business before you launch.
Your business plan doesn’t need to be hundreds of pages long. But at minimum, it should outline:
- Your business purpose and mission statement
- Your target customers and market analysis
- Your competitive advantage and what sets you apart
- Your operations plan and business model
- Your marketing strategy and sales tactics
- Your startup and ongoing costs
- Your funding needs and sources
Taking the time to put together a solid plan forces you to define your business goals and strategy clearly. It also shows potential lenders and investors that you have carefully considered how to make your business successful.
We always recommend new entrepreneurs use the free templates and resources available from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to guide the business planning process.
Define Your Business Structure
One of the first legal steps you’ll need to take is choosing a business entity structure for your company. The most common options for small business owners in North Carolina include:
- Sole proprietorship – You and the business are the same entity. Simple and inexpensive to set up, but you have unlimited personal liability.
- Partnership – Two or more owners share control and profits. You’ll need a partnership agreement, but liability is still unlimited.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Mix of corporation and partnership benefits. Liability protection with pass-through taxation. A popular choice for small businesses.
- Corporation – Separate legal entity from owners. It is most complex and expensive to start but offers liability protection and additional credibility.
As your business lawyers, we’ll help you select the right structure based on factors like your liability risks, taxes, and ease of setup. Many small businesses opt for an LLC, which provides personal asset protection while avoiding corporate double taxation.
Choose and Register Your Business Name
Once you’ve settled on a business structure, the next step is officially naming and registering your business in North Carolina.
First, research name availability – you’ll want to ensure another business isn’t already using your chosen name. For LLCs and corporations, you can check name availability with the NC Secretary of State.
Next, you’ll register your business name by filing formation documents with the state. Your business law attorney can handle this seamlessly for you, ensuring everything is properly filed.
It’s important to follow naming and registration regulations – this makes your business entity official and allows you to open business bank accounts, apply for licenses, and operate legally in North Carolina.
Fund Your Small Business
With your business entity formed, it’s time to focus on funding. Sufficient startup capital gives you a cushion as you launch and ramp up operations.
Some potential funding sources for small businesses in North Carolina include:
- Personal savings – Funding your business yourself is low risk but limits how much capital you can access.
- Friends and family – Those close to you may be willing to invest, but make sure the terms are clear.
- Business loans and lines of credit – Financing from banks or the SBA. Require good credit and detailed applications.
- Business credit cards – Quick access to capital that builds your business credit history. But high interest rates.
- Crowdfunding – Raising small investments from a large number of people. There is a lower barrier to entry, but extensive marketing is needed.
- Angel investors and VC funding – Equity financing from high-net-worth individuals or firms. More feasible for high-growth startups.
A business lawyer can help you pursue financing options that match your business stage and goals. SBA-backed loans or business credit cards offer an accessible starting point.
Open a Business Bank Account
Once your North Carolina business is funded, opening a dedicated business bank account keeps your personal and business finances separate. This separation provides protection if your business is sued.
Choose a bank that offers features small businesses need, like low fees, remote deposit, and integration with accounting software. As you grow, you may want to consider adding business credit cards, a line of credit, or payroll services through your bank.
Properly tracking all income and expenses from day one is critical. Work with an accountant or use software like QuickBooks to manage bookkeeping. Good financial practices will serve you well as your North Carolina business expands.
Comply With Regulations
Before opening your doors, be sure you comply with relevant regulations for your industry and location in North Carolina. Common requirements may include:
- Business licenses and permits – Most businesses need a state business license and any local permits.
- Zoning approval – If you have a physical location, ensure it’s zoned for commercial use.
- Insurance – Liability insurance, at minimum, is highly recommended to protect your business.
- Industry-specific regulations – Healthcare, food services, professional services, etc., often have additional rules.
We advise sitting down with the NC Small Business and Technology Development Center to review what licenses, permits, and requirements apply to your particular business. Failing to comply can lead to fines or inability to operate in North Carolina.
Create a Marketing Strategy
With your legal and operational preparations complete, it’s time to focus on attracting customers. A key part of any small business’s success is marketing and promotion.
Some effective strategies we recommend for small business owners in North Carolina on a budget include:
- Building a business website – This establishes your brand online and allows customers to find you.
- Search engine optimization – Optimize your website and content to rank higher in search engines like Google.
- Social media marketing – Use platforms like Facebook and Instagram to engage customers and drive awareness.
- Networking – Join local organizations and chambers to connect with potential customers.
- Content marketing – Share valuable content that builds your credibility and authority.
Start by determining your ideal customers. Then, select cost-efficient marketing tactics that allow you to reach them. As your customer base and revenues grow, you can expand your marketing activities.
Secure Your Legacy with a Small Business Lawyer Today
Launching a new small business is an exciting but challenging process. Following the tips above will empower you to start your business on the right foot.
The business lawyers at Johnson Legal have years of experience advising small business owners in Wilmington, NC, and surrounding areas.
Whether you need help forming your business entity, reviewing contracts, securing licenses, or tackling any other legal needs, they’re available for you. Contact their team to schedule a consultation today.