What permits or licenses do I need?
The State of North Carolina does not issue a single general business license. However, depending on the nature of your business, you may need a special license to operate. North Carolina has occupational licensing boards that oversee businesses that require special licensing. You can reach out to Business Link North Carolina at 800-228-8443 to inquire about licensing. In addition, cities and counties have licensing and permit requirements for regulated businesses. Your business may also need zoning and/or health department permits.
Do I need a business plan?
If you are seeking a business loan or other outside investment, a business plan is mandatory. The Small Business Center offers templates, business plan reviews, and business plan seminars to help you put together a professional business plan. While a business plan is not required to start a business, a basic business plan can help you organize your thoughts and make sure you've researched the market, made reasonable projections, and have thought through how you'll approach sales and marketing your product or service.
Are there any government grants available to start my business?
The short answer is, probably not. Only in rare circumstances does the government offer grant money for business start-ups, and it's usually in very specific categories like federal research and development. Grant money can be difficult to find and you will likely face a lot of competition for any available funds. Check online at Grants.GOV, through your local library, and with your local economic development organization to see if there is anything that might apply to your business venture.
Where can I get help with my business?
The CCCC Small Business Center has locations in Lee, Chatham, and Harnett Counties. If your business will be located in Chatham County, you can reach Jon Spoon at (919) 545-8013. In Lee County, you can reach Terri Brown at (919) 718-7558, and in Harnett County, you can reach Mari-inetta Pavlic at (910) 892-2884.
How can I get money to start or grow my business?
There are many ways to fund your business including borrowing from friends and family, your own personal savings, low-interest credit cards, and crowdfunding. If you need a bank loan or are looking for investors, you'll first need to prepare financial projections to determine how much you'll need to fund your project. Next, you'll likely need a full business plan. The Small Business Center regularly offers seminars on preparing a business plan to help you with this process. If you haven't checked your credit report in the last year, go to Annual Credit Report and get a free copy of your report to check for any errors. The SBC can offer assistance with finding business loan sources. We recommend making a 1-on-1 appointment with one of our counselors to discuss your loan needs.
How can I get more customers/clients?
Businesses that lack a steady flow of customers or clients typically haven't been doing enough of the right kind of marketing. While the SBC offers many marketing seminars and webinars on topics ranging from social media to email marketing, singular marketing tactics usually won't solve the problem. We recommend making a 1-on-1 appointment with one of our counselors to discuss creating a marketing plan for your business.
I want to open a business. Where do I start?
If you're ready to open your business, we recommend you make a 1-on-1 appointment at the Small Business Center to go over the basic steps you need to take to get started. If you're thinking about launching a business but aren't quite ready, the best place to start is signing up for the core business seminars listed as CBS in the seminar descriptions. These seminars will help give you a basic understanding of business topics like starting a small business, business taxes, bookkeeping, market research, marketing, writing a business plan, and small business lending.
How do I manage my time to get it all done?
There never seems to be enough time in the day for a small business owner. Many owners find themselves so busy with managing the business, customer work, "putting out fires", and dealing with the day-to-day that they never seem to get around to the projects that would really move their business forward. A 1-on-1 session with an SBC counselor can help you to establish goals in areas like business growth, financial growth, marketing, and brand building and help you get it on the calendar so it gets done.
What taxes do I need to pay?
Taxes are collected at the federal, state, and local level. The taxes you will have to pay will depend upon the nature of your business and the number of employees you have. We highly recommend that you attend a "Business Taxes" seminar that is held multiple times a year through the SBC. You can also reach out to the IRS at 800-829-4933, the NC Dept. of Revenue at 1-877-252-3052, and your local county tax collector's office with tax related questions.
How do I keep track of the money in my business?
There are several small business accounting programs available that can help you with invoicing, credit card payments, payroll, receipts, and creating financial statements. If you're a one-person business that's just getting started, you may find that creating some simple spreadsheets will be enough to help you keep up with everything. Our "Basics of Bookkeeping" seminar will help you with creating those. However, there are free and low-cost software options available to you. WAVE Accounting is a free, cloud-based accounting software that will allow you to keep up with income and expenses and provide free invoicing and receipt scanning. The SBC offers seminars on getting started with WAVE a couple of times per year. Quickbooks is also a very popular small business accounting software that ranges in price from $10 per month to $160 per month depending on your needs. There are many other accounting programs that are also perfect for small businesses including FreshBooks, AccountEdge Pro, XERO, and more. The main thing to remember is "what gets measured, gets improved" so getting the receipts out of the shoebox and into a system that can track the finances in your business is critical to making good decisions in your business.