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Starting a Business in North Carolina

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Starting a business in NC requires more than an entrepreneurial streak—as is the case with starting a business in any state, there’s a bit of elbow grease to put in and fine print to read before you can legally launch your small business.

If you’re thinking about starting a business in NC, you’ll be in good company: According to a survey conducted by the SBA in 2018, 99.6% of all North Carolina-based businesses are small businesses, and those enterprises employ 44.3% of the state’s private workforce.

In this guide, we break down the process of how to start a business in NC, as well as provide you with a few state-specific resources that can help you even further as you navigate each step. Let’s get to it.

A step-by-step guide to starting a business in NC

Step 1: Write a business plan

Starting a business without a business plan is a bit like going for a hike without following the trail: in both scenarios, you’re setting yourself up to get lost—and that’s totally unnecessary! With a solid business plan in hand, as you start your business you’ll be better able to see the clearing in the forest when things inevitably veer from your expected course.

Your particular business plan can be as broad or detailed as you want, but at the very least, it should address some major points about your business’s purpose, organization, financial goals and requirements, target market, location (whether that’s a physical location or an online store), and marketing strategy.

For a bit more guidance, here are just a few questions you should address in your business plan:

  • How will I set my product or service apart from my competitors?

  • Who are my target customers, where are they located, and how can I market to them most effectively?

  • How much money will I need to launch my business?

  • What is my source of startup funding?

  • How long will it take to break even?

  • How long will it take to make a profit?

Keep in mind that if you plan on applying for a business loan, then you’ll ultimately need to write a more detailed business plan for funding. But at the very beginning stages of your startup, just aim to be as thorough as possible in your plan, knowing that you can always flesh out your plan as you develop more experience and your resources, goals, and audience behavior become clearer.

Step 2: Name and register your business

Once you’ve nailed down your business plan, you can get into the nuts and bolts of starting a business in NC—and that begins with naming your business and registering with the state. Here’s how to do it:

1. Choose a business structure

Your business entity will determine how your business is taxed, who owns your business, and your business’s degree of protection in the event that a customer or stakeholder files a legal claim against your business—so choosing that entity is a pretty important decision! And while it is possible to relatively easily change your business’s legal structure down the line, you still want to start your business out on the right foot.

Sole proprietorships or general partnerships are the simplest business entity types, both tax- and registration-wise; but as these structures don’t differentiate between the business and the owners, they won’t protect the owner’s assets from potential legal action taken against the business. Instead, you may want to consider registering your business as an LLC. LLCs are simple to register and operate, you can choose how you’d like the IRS to tax you, and they provide owners the legal protections that sole props and GPs don’t.

But you have options beyond the business structures we’ve mentioned, too. Take a look at our comprehensive guide to the types of business entities to best determine which legal structure would work best for you.

2. Choose a business name

The process required for naming your business depends on which business structure you’ve chosen. If you’re a sole proprietorship or general partnership doing business under your legal name, then you can move onto registering your business with the state. But if you’re a sole prop or GP and you’d like to name your business something other than your legal name, then you’ll need to consult your county’s Register of Deeds to make sure your chosen name is available.

The process for naming a corporation, limited partnership, or LLC requires a few more steps. After you’ve come up with a business name, you’ll need to see whether that name is available for use. To do this, the state recommends that you consult some or all of the following resources to be absolutely certain that your business name is copacetic:

  • Your Secretary of State’s office, which will tell you whether your proposed name is available for use

  • Your county’s Register of Deeds office, chamber of commerce lists, and online directories to make sure there aren’t any businesses in your county operating under a name similar to yours

  • The North Carolina Secretary of State’s Trademark Registration search tool, which will help you determine whether the words included in your desired business name have already been trademarked in the state

If it’s available to you, you also have the option of hiring an attorney to guide you through the process of naming and registering your business entity.

3. Register your business

Once you’ve determined your legal structure and chosen a usable name, you can officially register your business with the state. If you’re a sole prop or GP then you’ll file with your county, and all other types of entities will need to file with the NC Secretary of State.

Step 3: Understand your tax, licensing, and employer requirements

The logistics attendant to starting a business in NC don’t stop there: Next, you’ll need to understand which state, county, and federal taxes apply to your business, and obtain the proper licenses and permits in order to operate legally.

1. Determine your tax requirements

The most efficient and foolproof way to determine your tax requirements is to consult a business attorney or an accountant. But know that your business will be responsible for some combination of the following taxes, depending on your business entity, what you sell, whether you have employees, and a few other factors:

  • Sales and use taxes

  • Employee withholding

  • Machinery and equipment taxes

  • State income taxes

  • Federal taxes

You might also need to pay a tax specific to the item you’re selling, such as alcoholic beverages, tobacco, or motor fuels. Take a look at the North Carolina Department of Revenue website for a full list of state business taxes.

Depending on your business entity as well, you might need to obtain an EIN (other than sole proprietorships, which can use the owner’s SSN), an NC Secretary of State Identification Number (SOSID), and/or identifying numbers issued by the NC Department of Revenue, depending on which taxes you’re responsible for.

2. Obtain the proper licenses and permits

North Carolina doesn’t issue one, universal business license. Rather, you’ll need to find out whether your particular business requires licenses and permits to operate legally, whether at the state, city, county, or federal level. You can call Business Link NC to learn more about your business’s licensing requirements, and if you need an occupational license, consult the directory of North Carolina occupational boards to find relevant contact information.

3. Understand employer requirements

If you plan to employ contractors or employees, you’ll need to go through a few extra processes. Depending on your business’ size and your employees’ individual needs, you’ll need to complete some combination of the following employer requirements:

  • Register with the state to withhold state income taxes from employee wages

  • Obtain unemployment, workers’ comp, and health insurance

  • Withhold child support payments from employee wages and sending them to the proper agency

  • Post a copy of the North Carolina Workplace Laws Poster where your employees can clearly see it

  • Report newly hired employees to the NC Directory of New Hires

  • Ensure that your place of work is OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act)-compliant

  • Verify employment eligibility

To see exactly how and where to complete all the aforementioned steps (and to determine which of these steps your particular business is responsible for), take a look at the State of North Carolina’s webpage on employer requirements.

Step 4: Get insured

Regardless of the state in which they’re based, we recommend that all new businesses obtain business insurance to protect themselves against potential legal claims.

The exact types of small business insurance you can or must take out depends on the type of product or service you’re selling, whether you have employees, whether your business operates in a physical location, and your industry, among other factors. On a state level, if you have employees then the state might require that you obtain unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and/or health insurance, depending on your business’s size and liability requirements.

Beyond that, we’d recommend looking into general liability insurance, which provides protection in case a client or vendor takes legal action against your business as a result of injury. Other types of business insurance you may want to consider include commercial property insurance, professional liability insurance, product liability insurance, employment practices liability insurance, and key person insurance. Consult our guide on small business insurance to better determine which types of insurance your business should have.

Step 5: Separate your business and personal finances

Next, you’ll need to take a few steps to separate your business and personal finances.

This separation is important for a few reasons. For one, it’ll protect your personal assets in case your business runs into legal trouble. And if you plan on applying for a business loan down the line, then potential lenders will have a much easier time coming to a credit decision with a separate tax return for your business, as without the numbers muddled with your personal finances they can truly understand your business’s financial solvency. Those separate tax returns will also make things much more efficient for you (or your accountant) when it’s time to file your taxes.

Luckily, maintaining that separation is pretty easy to do. To start, we recommend opening a business bank account ASAP, using that account solely for your business’s capital. As a startup, you’ll likely only need a business checking account to start, as they’re generally more accessible than business savings account—and you’ll need to access that capital as much as possible, especially in the early days. Check out our guide to the best banks in North Carolina for business.

If you plan on using a credit card for your business, which we also recommend, be sure to sign up for a dedicated business credit card rather than using your personal card.

Step 6: Secure startup funding

Once you’ve nailed down all the logistical necessities involved in starting a business in NC, you can begin to obtain funding to (finally!) launch your operation.

This can be the most difficult aspect of starting a business, as it’s notoriously difficult for brand-new businesses to prove to potential lenders that they’re financially solvent and savvy enough to be trusted with debt. And while bank loans’ affordability and generous terms are certainly desirable, banks are among the most risk-averse lenders you’re bound to find.

For that reason, your safest bet is not to put all your eggs in the brick-and-mortar basket—though if your heart is set on a traditional bank loan, we won’t discourage you from lobbing in an application with your local bank or credit union.

But you should also consider zero-debt financing methods, which is common for startups that don’t have the years’ worth of financial documents that banks need to make a credit decision. Crowdfunding, angel investors, and bootstrapping or self-financing are all popular startup funding methods that don’t require the creation of debt, and which, by extension, are a little easier for startups to secure.

Also, friends and family loans and personal loans for business are much more accessible to startups than business loans are, even they do involve the creation of debt. And don’t overlook the power of a business credit card, which is actually a type of loan. You should only use your business credit card for smaller, day-to-day expenses to make sure you’re staying below your credit limit and keeping your all-important credit score in check; but business credit cards typically have higher credit limits than consumer cards, you’ll have some more wiggle room there. Plus, if you’re using a cash back credit card then you’ll also rack up extra cash as you spend, which you can then invest right back into your business.

At the same time, look into NC-specific funding opportunities for new businesses. In particular, EDPNC has an excellent guide to funding resources for NC-based businesses, including private equity programs, financial assistance for rural businesses, microenterprise loan programs, SBA loans, and more.

Also remember that many startups (and established businesses, for that matter) use a combination of financing methods, so you’re hardly bound to choosing a single funding track. But the most important factor to take into account whenever you’re choosing a financing method is to be certain that you can pay your debt in full and on time. If you can’t, choose another method that won’t plunge you into a cycle of debt.

Step 7: Market your business

Ultimately, all the previous steps you’ve taken won’t amount to much if no one knows about your brand-new business. That’s why implementing a small business marketing strategy as soon as you start your business, or even right before your official launch, is absolutely crucial. (And if you’re a bit more right-brained, you’ll likely have more fun with this step than the previous steps!)

It’s likely that you’ve set aside only a small amount of your business budget toward marketing materials. But thanks to social media marketing, which is often low- or no-cost, plus other free marketing strategies, it’s easy to make an impact on that shoestring budget. (As you grow, you can begin to implement paid marketing strategies, like Google Ads.)

Start by creating a business website, which can be as simple or as complex as you want or need it to be. Depending on which ecommerce platform you choose, you can sell items on your website and/or social platforms; create and manage a standalone online store; or simply create an online landing page for your business that includes your store’s address and operating hours, or your service-based business’s contact information and appointment scheduling software.

Love it or hate it, the power of social media marketing is unavoidable—so be prepared to create a handful of social media profiles for your business, as well. A business Facebook page and business Instagram are key, but depending on which platforms your target audience engages with the most, you might also consider getting your business onto Twitter, Snapchat, or Pinterest. It’s a good idea to brush up on some basic SEO strategy, too. That way, all digital content you create for your business will have the best possible shot at ranking higher on search engines—which, in turn, increases the chances of a browser or shopper clicking on your link.

But don’t forget about old-school, in-person marketing tactics, too. Offering sales incentives, setting up a booth at your local crafts or farmers market, setting up a pop-up shop in a larger store in your area, offering workshops, tutorials, or tours of your facilities, and guerilla marketing tactics like posting flyers, are all effective and relatively low-cost strategies for getting the word out about your new business.

The bottom line on starting a business in NC

Ultimately, starting a business in NC is not so different from starting a business in any other state: Regardless of where they live and work, all entrepreneurs need a combination of grit, belief, and creativity, but successful entrepreneurs need the humility to follow the rules when necessary. And while we can’t really cultivate the first three traits in that list for you, we hope we’ve helped clarify the logistical processes involved in fulfilling the last.

This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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Everything You Need for Starting a Pressure Washing Business

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If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and feel ready to go into business yourself, the pressure washing business could be the best option for you.

Starting a power washing business doesn’t require lengthy learning and the startup costs are relatively low. Since the demand for such services is always high, this business can provide a solid flow of income if mastered and managed properly.

Like any other business, a successful power washing business requires proper preparation and planning and this article offers a step-by-step guide for embarking on such an entrepreneurial journey.

Research the Market

Doing some in-depth research about the pressure washing market, what customers you want to target, and how many similar businesses are already operating in your area is essential. Even though this business is expected to register decent growth in the coming years, you should still dig a little deeper to see if there’s more work than the existing pressure washers can take on.

You can choose to focus on residential accounts or take on commercial clients. If you feel that you can manage more work, explore opportunities for pressure washing in surrounding neighborhoods and towns.

Proper research and identifying what opportunities exist is a crucial step in establishing a flourishing pressure washing business.

Get Your License

The moment you decide that this type of business is a golden opportunity, you need to check the local requirements for doing business as a pressure washer.

Depending on the state you live in, you may or may not need a business license. However, you should apply and obtain one before getting started as it will cover you legally. Make sure to check with your local authorities on what the rules and regulations are to stay on the right side of the law. 

This is also a major plus when attracting potential customers as they’ll feel more comfortable and it will help establish trust in your business. It may also help in meeting the requirements of other parties, such as vendors, who might want to see your license before deciding to do business.

Get Insurance

Even though it sounds easy to start a pressure washing business, make sure that you develop the proper skills on how to pressure wash without destroying the surrounding area, damaging your client’s siding, and causing an injury to yourself or somebody else.  

However, accidents happen, so in order to protect your new business from claims of negligence, injuries, accidents, financial risks, and legal fees, you should purchase insurance coverage. Nowadays, insurance companies can provide you with a quote for pressure washing insurance online, so you don’t have to waste time standing in lines.

Not only is pressure washing insurance a safety net for your business, but new potential clients will also take this as a positive sign that you’re a professional who takes their job seriously and ensures customer satisfaction.  

Choose Equipment

Depending on your service offering and scope, the type of equipment you’ll need might vary. If you only intend on working for residential clients, then you’ll be good to go with a pressure washer with a force of up to around 4,000 PSI, but for commercial work, you’ll need stronger equipment that offers more functionalities. Since this business is physically demanding, choose equipment that is fast but safe and helps you get certain jobs done efficiently.

Practicing also plays a big role as you don’t want to accidentally damage someone’s landscape while power washing their siding. Regardless of how technologically advanced your equipment is, not knowing how to efficiently handle it can get you bad reviews and cause unwanted accidents and lawsuits.

Before making any big investments, rent a pressure washer and practice on your friends’ patios, or driveways as this will give you the best hands-on experience.

Price Your Services

Once you’re done with all the administrative work, decide on your pressure washing service prices. Since you’re a new business owner, you should start with lower prices while trying to attract new clients.

Test what hourly rate gets you most jobs and try to slowly but surely bump the price up every year as your expertise gets better.

It might feel overwhelming at the beginning but focus on mastering few services first and settle on a rate that works for you. As you improve your skills and your business grows, you can adjust your prices accordingly.

Final Thoughts

Market research, obtaining the right pressure washing insurance, choosing the right equipment, and pricing your services, are all important aspects on the road to becoming a successful business owner.

We’re sure that you’ll be glad to have considered all the above-mentioned steps once your pressure washing business is set up and running.

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A Basic Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business

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Starting a business in 2021 is much easier than it was twenty years ago. With advanced technology and digital marketing, anyone can step into the role of an entrepreneur. In some cases, all you need is an idea and a computer.

Becoming a business owner is a path to financial security. Even if you don’t give up your day job, starting a home-based business can lead to financial freedom down the road. 

Are you wondering how to start a business? Keep reading for an essential guide to getting started.

Choosing a Home-based Business

Choosing a business that’s right for you is vital to your success. You want something you’ll stick to for the long run. The best home-based businesses are those you can operate from the comfort of your home. 

Start looking at things you are good at and research to learn if there is a market for what you want to offer. For example, if you have certification in accounting, you can start a business performing accounting services for other small businesses.

Creating a Business Plan

Like any business, it’s essential to create a business plan. This document outlines what your business offers, competitor analysis, marketing strategy, and financial goals.   

The business plan is a great way to measure success and to remain focused on reaching your goals. If you’re starting a business and require financial backing, you’ll need a business plan to show lenders. 

You can maximize solar savings by creating a green business.

Incorporate Your Business

A home-based business is no different from starting any other business model. You want to incorporate your business to add a layer of protection. It’s also valuable for opening a business bank account. 

Separating your business from your personal assets is essential in growing a business. It will help you build business credit. Plus, if you are ever sued, you don’t want someone going after your personal property. 

Get an ECommerce Website

Once the paperwork is done and your finances are in order, it’s time to get your business website up and running. Most businesses can benefit from an eCommerce website. These websites help grow efficient businesses that do not require a physical location or multiple employees.

With an eCommerce website, you can sell products, take deposits on bookings, and so much more. 

Marketing 

A powerful marketing strategy is essential to a home-based business. Determine which social media platforms have the greatest reach for getting noticed by your target audience. 

Use your website’s blog options and photo storage as a launching pad for the information you’ll share on online platforms. 

Don’t be afraid to try different marketing trends, including digital ads.

It’s Time to Invest in a Business

A home-based business is an excellent investment. Once your business is up and running and turning a profit, consider a second start-up. The potential is limitless.

If you need more great tips and information on business start-up trends, we have you covered. Continue to browse our site and check back often for new content.

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How To Set Up a Successful Electronic Business

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Consumers can purchase a range of mechanical items and parts from an electronics company, such as cell phones, televisions, computers, peripherals, and components. If you aim to create this type of business, you should arm yourself with knowledge so you don’t end up like huge electronic retailers that collapse. Read on!

1.Examine Other Electronic  Businesses

Examine and comprehend the business models of existing electronics businesses before starting your own. This comprises the typical markup on commodities, overall consumer satisfaction strategies, and managing supplier relationships. You’ll need this information to determine competitive store policies and prices. Compare and contrast the success of successful electronics stores with those that have closed or failed.

2.Research Your Interest Area of Establishment

If you’re just starting, you’ll focus on the local industry first. It’s also possible that you won’t be the first to play the electronic game. You may be competing with a lot of other small businesses in addition to big stores.

Make sure you do your homework before deciding where you want to locate your business and whether it is a good idea to do so. If your neighbourhood is densely packed with stores, consider looking on the opposite side of town or imagining how you may stand out. People may be hesitant to go through your doors if you come in and offer nothing more than another store.

3.Obtain The Necessary Permits

Check with your state and city to determine if there are any additional criteria for opening your store. If you repair computers, you may be required to pass a state-licensed test to ensure that you are aware and capable of providing proper care.

You’ll also need to check into various business licenses and other forms of documents to ensure that you’re following all of the rules.

4.Have a Competitive Business Plan

Due to the competitive nature of the electronics retail industry and the high risk of failure, you must develop a comprehensive business strategy that focuses on your competitive advantages. Use the information you acquired from your initial case study in the market and business profiles, as well as any personal experience you have with electronics, to show why your electronics company would thrive. 

If you’ve managed an electronics store, for example, you’ll be familiar with the inner workings of this type of retail operation and may have an advantage over other new stores.

In your plan, you need to include the brands you’ll be selling. You need to ensure that they are of both quality and outstanding market performance. For instance, working with certified wholesalers of closures and boxes, guarantee you offer the consumers new brands that are outstanding.

Also, don’t forget to include other regular but essential products such as lights and screens. This is because it is always good to offer a pool of varied products to your customers.

5.Choose a Brand For Yourself

idea

Your company’s brand is both what it stands for and how it is regarded by the broader public. Your company will stand out from the neighbourhood competition if it has a strong brand.

So, while naming your firm, don’t go with a generic name like most electrical stores these days. Try to come up with a distinctive name because the right name is really important. You can begin by considering the business’s nature. In your absence, your chosen name will operate as an extension of your brand, representing you. Part of your brand representation in what you sell. You can add some wire connectors. They are always widely in demand by everyone.

We recommend checking to see if the business name you want is available as a web domain and securing it as soon as possible so that no one else does.

6.Get Startup Funds

banknotes

For starters, you’ll need thousands of dollars to launch an electronic business in the first few months, with a large portion of that money going for rent. A significant portion of the funds will be spent on getting certain in-demand electrical goods as well as marketing your new business.

Personal cash, such as savings, loans from financial institutions, and borrowing from friends and family who are interested in assisting you in starting your business are all options for raising capital for your business.

7.Promote Your Store

Starting a business takes time and effort, as well as determination and vision. If you’ve already decided to work in this field, you should first check into legal and technical issues. After you’ve successfully achieved the first two responsibilities, you should build your brand and sell it. 

You must stay up with the most recent advances and maintain high standards at all times. It isn’t enough to have good items. To expand and develop revenue, it must be adequately publicized. The advertising team must be ready to provide you with a marketing strategy that will interest the audience.

As a result, the two key techniques of attracting new clients are word of mouth and local advertising. Many electronic stores promote in local media and provide first-time customers discounts and advertising billboards. Keep in mind that customer retention is crucial. Take extra precautions with the newcomer. 

They are your billboards. They are ecstatic and will brag about your store for hours. Be friendly to everyone that walks into the store. It’s more difficult to keep customers than it is to get them.

The Bottom Line

Starting and maintaining a business to its success is not an easy task. You need to be dedicated to the course and understand that however hard things get, you need to surpass them. Electronic stores are quite demanding, but a nice business to invest in altogether. Best of luck!

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