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New Business Checklist Please Note: This Checklist contains information and content supplied by third parties. Their inclusion does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the NC Department of the Secretary of State. It is your responsibility to verify and investigate providers and services.

Step through this checklist, which includes some of the key ingredients to help you succeed — including links to many free resources.

A downloadable PDF version of this checklist can be found here.

Business Plans

What’s your business plan? Product or service?
Did you know you’ll need a plan to borrow money?
Food for thought: guides and examples to get you thinking
People who can help you develop a plan — at no cost
Have you done any market research?
  • Who’s your customer? (target market)
  • What’s the market opportunity?
  • What are your industry’s trends?
  • Who’s your competition?
  • Who’s your supply chain?
  • How should you price your product or service?

Get free help with research - Marketing & Research Services - NC Small Business & Technology Development Center

NC LIVE is another free resource available through the North Carolina library system, with access to tools and databases that can help start-ups and existing small businesses conduct research on their industry and competitors and identify potential customers.

Do you need to build any skills?
  • Financial (bookkeeping, taxes)
  • General business/management/human resources
  • Technology (including cybersecurity)
  • Marketing (website, social media, other)
  • Grant writing

Events/Workshops - NC Small Business Center Network
Online Training - NC Small Business & Technology Development Center
Cyber Readiness Institute: Free Cybersecurity Training for Businesses
Free Business Lessons–Harvard Business School

Will you need a license to operate a business?
All licenses required by state law in North Carolina
Have you created business assets that need to be protected?
Is there any intellectual property involved—patents, copyright, trade secrets, trademarks, and/or service marks?
North Carolina Secretary of State Frequently Asked Questions
North Carolina Secretary of State Trademarks

Legal Assistance

Do you need help finding an attorney for legal assistance?
Many of the resources below offer pro bono (free) professional legal services to those who are otherwise unable to afford them.

Legal Clinics
Legal clinics are offered through North Carolina law schools. They are directed by faculty members and staffed by law students. Clinics operate on a semester basis; services are not typically provided during the summer months. And due to limited resources, you will need to apply before each semester and be accepted to become a clinic’s client.

Campbell University School of Law — Innovate Capital Business Law Clinic
The Innovate Capital Business Law Clinic – in partnership with incubator Raleigh Founded – works with clients across the area’s entrepreneurial eco system to help them solve real-world business and legal problems.

Duke University School of Law - Start-Up Ventures Clinic
The Clinic provides legal advice and assistance to entrepreneurs who have not yet raised significant amounts of outside funding. Law students can assist in a wide variety of legal matters including company formation, intellectual property protection, commercialization strategies, and operational issues. Law student assignments are made prior to the start of each semester in January and August.

Elon University - Small Business & Entrepreneurship Clinic
The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Clinic is a law office which provides business-related legal services to entrepreneurs and small business owners who are not presently able to afford legal representation.

UNC School of Law - Start-Up NC Clinic
Students in the Startup NC Law Clinic represent startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses from across the entire spectrum of North Carolina’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, ranging from hi-tech to textiles, from microbreweries to the arts.

Wake Forest School of Law - Community Law & Business Clinic (CLBC)
Startups and small businesses face a range of legal issues. From protecting your ideas from infringement, to the feasibility of your business model, choice of entity and even employment-related matters, navigating the legal issues of a small business or startup can be daunting. CLBC has a wide range of services available to entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Specialized Legal Clinics
Intellectual Property Clinic (IP Clinic) - NC Central University School of Law
The IP Clinic provides patent and trademark prosecution services to local entrepreneurs. The IP Clinic’s Patent Division provides solo inventors, businesses, and non-profits assistance in registering a patent before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The Trademark Division provides legal assistance and representation to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profits in registering a trademark before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Other Free Resources
NC LEAP (Lawyers for Entrepreneurs Assistance Program)
Coordinates attorney volunteers to provide pro bono business law advice and counsel to small business owners through webinars and clinics held in partnership with nonprofit organizations throughout the state. NC LEAP is no longer making direct pro bono case referrals for individual clients, but instead is focusing program efforts on workshops and counseling services.

NC Free Legal Answers
A virtual legal advice clinic in which qualifying users post civil legal questions to be answered by pro bono attorneys licensed in their state.

Referral Service
NC Bar Lawyer Referral Service
To reach the Lawyer Referral Service by phone, please call 919.677.8574. If you use the LRS, it will cost you $50 for an initial 30-minute consultation with the attorney.

Business Taxes

Do you know what your business tax obligations are?
NC Department of Revenue (NCDOR) and U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Other Tax Information

Hiring

Will you be hiring any employees?
NC Works offers the following free services; Find a Center Near You
  • Recruitment Services - Post job openings, find qualified candidates, and access a wide variety of information designed to help a business succeed.
  • Education Services - Find a suitable training or educational program, as well as information on training providers and schools.
  • Labor Market Services - Access information about labor market trends, statistics, and economic and demographic data.
What are your additional responsibilities as an employer?

Other Services

Do you need the services of a bookkeeper?
Bookkeeping or recordkeeping is a critical component of running your business. If you do not possess bookkeeping skills, there's likely someone in your community who does. Reaching out to friends and associates can help you find the person who's right for your business.
Recordkeeping—IRS
Do you need the help of a CPA?
Do you want to sell goods or services to federal, state, or local government?
What additional resources are available if you’re a historically underutilized business (HUB)?
To qualify as a HUB, a business must be at least 51% owned, controlled and managed by one or more citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States who are members of one or more of the following groups: (1) Black, (2) Hispanic, (3) Asian American, (4) American Indian, (5) Female, (6) Disabled and (7) Disadvantaged.
How will you let people in your community know about your business?
Professional/civic clubs and community organizations typically charge a fee and offer a variety of benefits for members.

Important Due Dates

Annual Report (NC Secretary of State) – does not apply to nonprofit corporations
The Office of the NC Secretary of State sends reminders to LLCs before the annual report is due. (If your email address has changed since you registered your business, please update it when you file your annual report.)

For other business entities, the annual report due date depends upon the type of business entity your company is, as well as your fiscal year end date. Click here to determine your due date as well as the associated fee: North Carolina Secretary of State Business Registration Annual Report Due Dates

Learn more about how to file your Annual Report online at North Carolina Secretary of State Business Registration File An Annual Report
State and Federal Business Taxes
The NC Department of Revenue (NCDOR) works with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide information that is relevant to both agencies. The business tax calendar, produced in conjunction with the IRS, aims to help businesses keep up with important reporting dates for the IRS and NCDOR.
Tax Calendar | NCDOR
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