Registering a New Business in North Carolina

Starting a Business in North Carolina? Here’s Everything You Need When Registering Your Business in the Tar Heel State. 

North Carolina, an emerging southern hub, is home to one of the greatest sports rivalries, landscapes like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Wrightsville Beach, and a quickly growing population. The state offers urban hubs Raleigh and Charlotte, college towns such as Chapel Hill, and coastal escapes such as the Outer Banks. The diverse landscape offers the perfect homebase for all kinds of businesses. No matter where you decide, we have the resources to register a business in the great state of North Carolina. So if you’re interested in forming an entity, read on for our clear and simple Nine Step Guide to Starting a Business in North Carolina.

Want to skip the required reading and get a faster start? Reach out to one of our PRIME advisors for a free consultation! 

Starting a Business in North Carolina: Nine Easy Steps

When it comes to helping you register a new company, North Carolina is ready to help. Their Launching a North Carolina Business Guide is a comprehensive, state-specific website for forming your business. The Launching a North Carolina Business Guide is a terrific place to learn all the details about North Carolina entities. However, to speed up the process, we have narrowed down the main points into a simple nine-step plan. 

  1. Plan your business concept 
  2. Organize funding and designate a financial model
  3. Designate a business structure 
  4. Register your business entity with the state   
  5. Set up business accounts and cards 
  6. Obtain insurance
  7. Organize licenses and permits 
  8. Hire employees
  9. Promote and market your North Carolina business 


Step 1: Plan Your North Carolina Business Concept 

If you’re starting a business in North Carolina, the first step is to write a thorough business plan. This process encourages the owners to consider a strategy for setting the business apart from other North Carolina entities. Some important factors to consider are the purpose, value proposition, and how to model your finances. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)’s site is a great resource for concept modeling. Another option is to schedule a consultation with a PRIME advisor for personalized help setting up your business in North Carolina.

You must choose a name when creating a business entity. Your desired name must fit with the North Carolina naming rules. Additionally, you can check to see if your desired name is available through the North Carolina Secretary of State Business Registration Search. Finally, you should complete a Google search to make sure your desired name does not get confused with another business. 

Other important factors to consider before starting a business are finding a location and conducting market research. It is important to do research on these topics to make sure you are optimizing foot traffic physically and online. Some good research options are conducting surveys and doing SEO research. 

*Note—although the business name is important, it’s ok to pick a name now and decide later that you want to expand to new markets or do business under another name. In that case, you will simply file for a DBA, which allows you to legally operate your business under multiple names. You can check out this article for more information about DBAs, or schedule a consultation with a PRIME advisor for more information. 


Step 2: Organize Funding and Designate a Financial Model For Your North Carolina Business

Business entities can not become a reality without proper and sustainable funding. To account for all of the potential costs, you will need to choose a reliable funding source. The best way to move forward in this process is to create a detailed financial plan. Will the savings come from your current job? Will you use outside funding? Will you apply for a loan from your local bank or through the SBA (Small Business Administration)? 

No matter what route you take, PRIME advisors always recommend establishing business credit and keeping your business and personal funds separate when possible. To help our clients with that goal, we’ve developed a unique business credit program designed to help you build an attractive financial profile for your business quickly and efficiently. 

Two Funding Options: 

  • Bootstrapping: This option is fully self-reliant, as you fuse personal savings and current income to fund the entity 
  • Friends and Family: Obtaining loans from those you are close with avoids hidden bank fees. However, to maintain these positive relationships, it is important to create a written contract discussing repayment and interest if it applies. 


Step 3: Designate a Business Structure 

There are many advantages to registering your business as a legal entity with the state of North Carolina. Two of these advantages include personal liability protection and increased credibility in the marketplace. 

Some options for registering your business structure in North Carolina include as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, an LLC, or a corporation. These different setups come with various costs and filing requirements, so it is important to do some research. 

If you’ve spent any time exploring the information on our site or had a free consultation with a PRIME advisor, you know we normally recommend registering as an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation). This option provides individuals asset protection by creating a separate legal entity. To file an LLC in North Carolina, the cost is only $125. Sole proprietorship requires an individual to be an employee of the business, accepting all the risk and rewards of the business. Partnerships encourage the same structure, except the responsibility is split between two people. Finally, corporations are another option but require more intensive reporting requirements. 

If you know you want to use the LLC structure for your North Carolina business, check out our North Carolina LLC guide here. If you have questions about which business entity structure is right for your North Carolina start-up, reach out to one of our advisors for a free consultation!

Step 4: Register Your Business Entity with the State of North Carolina

No matter what business structure you choose, following these basic steps to register your business in North Carolina will set you up for success: 

  1. Choose a registered agent: A registered agent is an individual or entity that is designated to accept legal and tax documents on behalf of your business. 
  2. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): The IRS will assign an EIN to identify your business for tax purposes.
  3. File formation documents: The required formation documents, and the associated fees, will be determined by the business structure you choose. 

Reach out to a PRIME advisor and let us handle the entire process for you! Our experts know all the nuances and regulations involved in setting up businesses in North Carolina, and we can make the entire process fast and painless.


Step 5: Set Up Business Accounts and Cards 

To protect your personal assets, PRIME advisors always recommend establishing business credit. To help our clients with that goal, we’ve developed a unique business credit program designed to help you build an attractive financial profile for your business quickly and efficiently. 

Regardless of the path you choose to fund your entity, there are three basic steps that all new business owners should take to optimize their financial future:

  1. Open a business bank account: Protect your personal assets by separating them from your company’s assets. This will also make accounting and tax filing easier and more straightforward.

  2. Obtain a business credit card: Build credit and access funds by opening a business credit card. This step will help you separate personal and business expenses and build your company’s credit history.
  3. Set up business accounting: You can use business accounting software such as QuickBooks to help you handle the books yourself, or you can hire an expert to keep things simple and clean. Whether you use specialized software or hire a business accountant, having a dedicated process makes annual tax filings much easier and helps you track the performance of your business. Looking for an expert? PRIME has an experienced staff of CPAs who specialize in helping businesses in North Carolina and around the country keep more of their earnings through smart tax planning and strategies


Step 6: Obtain Insurance 

To protect your assets, business insurance helps you keep your risk under control and in the background. North Carolina residents must follow the insurance regulations set by North Carolina law. 

Types of insurance include general liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and professional liability insurance. A general liability policy is the most common. It is important to note that North Carolina businesses with 3+ employees are mandated by law to have workers’ compensation insurance. 


Step 7: Organize Licenses and Permits 

To move forward with the legal entity process, you must comply with the federal, state, and local mandates. Oftentimes, this requires obtaining specific permits and licensing. 

Depending on the type of business you are running, you will need to conduct a business license search. 

Some resources to use include the US Small Business Administration (SBA) guide and the North Carolina Secretary of State website.


Step 8: Hire Employees 

To create a successful business, you must curate a strong team. To ensure you meet North Carolina’s hiring requirements, you must ensure you are legally registered with the IRS to manage hiring reporting and employee taxes.   

To attract qualified candidates, think about the hiring benefits on behalf of the employees. What kind of compensation and benefits will you offer? How will you find candidates? Make sure you follow all of the relevant federal and state employer requirements. 

Step 9: Promote and Market Your North Carolina Business 

Here are a few factors to consider when promoting and creating marketing material for your North Carolina business. 

  • Brand Development: Before advertising, you should be clear on the core values, purpose, and customer return for your company’s products and/or services.
  • Marketing: Tell the world about your new business with a great website and attractive branding and signage. Don’t forget the power of good old fashioned word of mouth and excellent online reviews. Google My Business is a great tool to help generate online reviews and bring traffic to your business. 
  • Social Media: There are many social media platforms which allow your business to reach its potential audience. Some of the most important include Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. 

Take advantage of the large library of information and resources on our blog, or jump on a call with one of our advisors for a free consultation. We’ll help you bring your business to life and stay with you as your business grows, offering comprehensive tax and planning services.

Registering a Business in North Carolina: FAQs

How much does it cost to start a business in North Carolina?

Registering an LLC or a Limited Partnership in the state of North Carolina costs $125. Additionally, the cost for the North Carolina Annual Report Fee is $25. The cost to reserve a  corporate business name is $30. The fees for sole proprietorships and general partnerships depend on the county, but run an average of about $55 in the North Carolina area. 


What Type of Business Insurance Should I Get? 

Types of insurance include general liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and professional liability insurance. A general liability policy is the most common. It is important to note that North Carolina businesses with 3+ employees are mandated by law to have workers’ compensation insurance. 

What is a “Doing Business As” Name?

A DBA or trade name is a certificate which allows a business to run under a different name than its registered name. This is used primarily for branding purposes, and it doesn’t provide liability protection. This certificate must be filed in the county in which the business is located.


Where Can I File the Certificate for a “Doing Business As” Form?

You can find instructions for filing and the certificate form here on the North Carolina Secretary of State website. 


Registering a Business in North Carolina: More Resources

What is an LLC? Definition & Benefits | PRIME


What is a DBA?

Five Steps to Form a North Carolina LLC