New Business Resource Center
We know starting a new business can be challenging and daunting. You've got the idea down, but where to begin? Now, you don't have to. The Carrboro New Business Resource Center outlines the basics of starting a new business in 10 steps. Additionally, we provide access to great resources, many of which are free! The biggest mistake you can make is trying to start a business on your own. Let us and our partners help ensure you lay the foundations for a solid and successful small business. Schedule an appointment or contact us at any time if you have questions or would like a staff member to review your progress with you.
Entrepreneurship & Small Business Guidance and Training
When considering starting a new business, the Town strongly encourages you to seek out assistance either through the North Carolina SBTDC or the Small Business Center Network. Assistance from both of these agencies is free, provides you with a personal consultant, and can provide assistance with market research, developing your business plan, and finding financing sources. These Agencies also provide a series of free online and in-person training.
Taking a start-up or entrepreneurship course is also strongly encouraged. The Town may offer such in-person courses at various times throughout the year -- contact us to see when the next one will be. Alternatively, you can take a free, online, self-paced course such as FastTrac offered through the Kauffman Foundation or The Ice House Entrepreneurial Program (free with a Library Card) anytime.
Conduct Market ResearchIt's easy to get excited about your business idea, but it's important to make sure the market can support your business. Market research will tell you if there’s an opportunity to turn your idea into a successful business. It’s a way to gather information about potential customers and businesses already operating in your area. Use that information to find a competitive advantage for your business. Talk to business owners in neighboring communities with similar businesses about your idea and seek out their thoughts. Many times, they will be more than happy to talk to or even mentor you. Resources are available in the Planning Resources tab.
Write Your Business Plan and ModelYour business plan and business model are the foundation of your business. It’s a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your new business. You’ll use it to help explain your business and how it will make money to banks, investors, and others working with you in the next step. We recommend you start with a Business Model Canvas exercise before beginning the writing of your business plan (see Planning Resources tab).
PITFALL WARNING: Avoid the temptation to move through this step too quickly! Complete a business model and basic plan, seek input from potential customers, mentors, investors, and other business owners about your products and business, tweak your model and plan two to four weeks later based on the input, and repeat until you feel confident in your success from the feedback you are getting.
Fund Your BusinessYour business plan will help you figure out how much money you’ll need to start your business. Once you know how much startup funding you’ll need, it’s time to figure out how you’ll get it. Fund your business yourself with self-funding, through investors with venture capital, through crowdfunding from a large number of people in your community, or through a small business or SBA loan (see Launch Resources tab).
PITFALL WARNING: Inadequate financial preparation and under-resourcing your business is a common cause of failure for small businesses. Pricing your products or services correctly and guarding your cashflow are deciding factors for many new businesses. Thoroughly review and compare your revenue and price projections based on your competition, and double check and even overestimate your start-up costs projections. As an entrepreneur, it's important to have a team of expert and advisors surround and help you - use them during this step to ensure you have a solid financial foundation.
Pick Your Business LocationYour business location is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Whether you’re setting up a brick-and-mortar business or launching an online store, the choices you make could affect your taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Try to prioritize your potential locations in the event one location will not work. You should always check with the Carrboro Planning Department (919-918-7324) to confirm that you can operate your business at a specific location.
Choose a Business StructureThe legal structure you choose for your business will impact your business registration requirements, how much you pay in taxes, and your personal liability. The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a summary of various different types of business structures. We strongly encourage you to consult an accountant or attorney to help you identify the best structure for your business.
Choose Your Business NameIt’s not easy to pick the perfect name. You’ll want one that reflects your brand and captures your spirit. You’ll also want to make sure your business name isn’t already being used by someone else. The NC Secretary of State can help you find out if your name can be used in North Carolina. You may also want to check the US Patent and Trademark Office Database to make sure they is not a conflict with another business in the US.
Get Federal and State Tax IDsYou’ll use your employer identification number (EIN) for important steps to start and grow your business, like opening a bank account, paying taxes and registering your business. It’s like a social security number for your business. You can register for your EIN and NC Tax ID Number with the NC Secretary of State.
Register Your BusinessOnce you’ve picked the perfect business name and your EIN, it’s time to make it legal and protect your brand. If you’re doing business under a name different than your own, you’ll need to register with the state government. You can register your business with the NC Secretary of State. You may also want to file a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office to protect your business name (this is not required, however).
Apply for Licenses and PermitsKeep your business running smoothly by staying legally compliant. The licenses and permits you need for your business will vary by industry, state, location, and other factors. Generally, you should check with Business Link North Carolina (800-228-8443), Carrboro Inspections Division (919-918-7336), Orange County Health Department (919-245-2360), and Carrboro Finance Department (919-918-7300) (if you are serving alcohol) to see if there are any permits or licenses you may need.
Open a Business Bank Account and Get InsuranceA small business checking account can help you handle legal, tax, and day-to-day issues. The good news is it’s easy to set one up if you have the right registrations and paperwork ready. Business insurance protects you from the unexpected costs of running a business. Accidents, natural disasters, and lawsuits could run you out of business if you’re not protected with the right insurance.
You can also find other resources for Minority, Women, Native American, Veteran, and LGBT business owners from the SBA. Don't forget to contact The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro and the Carrboro Business Alliance for additional opportunities to get connected to the local business community. Lastly, make sure the Carrboro Economic Development Department has your contact information so you can be updated on the latest news and information related to Carrboro businesses.
Business Counseling Sources
If you are not sure where to start, in addition to the North Carolina SBTDC and the Durham Tech SBC, Helius is a non-profit business organization that provides business coaching and training for necessity-driven entrepreneurs. Triangle ArtWorks' ArtSwell professional development program includes workshops and training for artists, art businesses and nonprofits in topics such as entrepreneurship, marketing, business development, accounting, legal issues, as well as networking and other peer support events help our region’s art sector to thrive. Both Helius and Triangle ArtWorks may charge a fee for some of their services.
Market Research Resources
Google Search Trends - utilize this tool to find out if your business interest is a trending search term for our region
Claritas MyBestSegments - a free tool that can provide high level distinct lifestyle types (lifestyle characteristics) for different zip codes
Orange County SizeUp Tools - a free tool provided by Orange County Economic Development
Business Plan & Model Resources
PlanHQ.com - A free online business planning tool sponsored by Wells Fargo.
Financing and Capital Resources
Small Business Administration Loans - Federally backed loans to help get the terms and funds you need for your business
Connect2Capital - an innovative network that matches small business owners together with community lenders and traditional financial institutions
FundBLACKFounders/Kiva/Kickstarter/CircleUp/Wefunder- crowdfunding loan programs - there are many others that exist, the Town lists these as a representation and does not endorse any of these website or companies - PLEASE NOTE, crowdfunding, while a legitimate source of capital, can be fiscally dangerous if you have not appropriately completed market analyses and thoroughly tested your business idea. If you are unable to obtain financing through one of the previous resources, please reconsider your business model and idea and seek assistance from the SBC at Durham Tech or SBTDC at UNC before starting a crowdfunding campaign.
We understand that it is important to have your personal responsibilities in order before starting a new business. Below you can find a list of various resources that you may be able to take advantage of to help ensure stability in your personal life as you embark on the new adventure of starting your own business.
- Chapel Hill Transit is available in Carrboro and Chapel Hill fare-free!
- Routes and Schedules for Common Destinations
- Trip Planner provided by GoTriangle (please note, there may be costs associated with trips outside of the Chapel Hill Transit system)
- Use Google Maps for step-by-step, bus-by-bus directions to your destination. Just be sure the transit routing is selected above the directions (please note, there may be costs associated with trips outside of the Chapel Hill Transit system)
- GoTriangle provides transit services between the four transit systems in the Triangle - Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, and Cary. While there are costs associated with traveling between systems, this is an affordable option for employees and residents within the Triangle.
- Unsure about taking transit by yourself? Find a transit buddy with Share the Ride NC.
- Find a carpool to join with Share the Ride NC (please note, there may be affordable costs associated with carpooling)
- Find a vanpool to join with GoTriangle (please note, there may be affordable costs associated with vanpooling)
- The ReCYCLEry is a local non-profit on Graham Street that helps provide bikes at no/low cost to people who need them, primarily by having people help repair an old bike and make it ridable. They also provide further training/education related to bike maintenance.
- Consider applying with the Food and Nutrition Services Program in Orange County.
- Inter-Faith Council for Social Services - provides a food pantry and a community kitchen with meals daily.
- The Carrboro Farmer's Market offers double value for SNAP/EBT, WIC, and Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) Vouchers, so $20 from your card or voucher = $40 to spend at Market!
Personal Legal Assistance
- Clinical Legal Education Program of NCCU School of Law - Provides advice and assistance to clients while educating students in their last year of law school.
- Legal Aid of North Carolina - provides free legal services in civil matters in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity.
- NC Free Legal Answers - NC Free Legal Answers is a free of charge, web-based pro bono program that expands public access to legal advice and information about civil, non-criminal matters for financially eligible users. Sponsored by the North Carolina Bar Foundation.
- LawHelpNC.org - A joint project of Legal Aid of North Carolina, the North Carolina Equal Justice Alliance, the North Carolina Bar Association Foundation and Probono.net to provide our users with helpful, easy-to-understand legal resources and information in North Carolina.
Personal Financial Education Assistance
- Community Empowerment Fund - A non-profit organization that provides person-centered support, financial education, and asset building tools to individuals.
- Greenwood Videos & Podcasts - Essential personal finance content for the Black and Latino community.
- Michelle Singletary Q&A - An award-winning personal finance columnist for The Washington Post.
- My Money Five - Keep these five principles in mind as you make day-to-day decisions and plan your financial goals.
- 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy - a FREE PROGRAM of the nation's certified public accountants to help Americans understand their personal finances through every stage of life.
- Be sure to also check with your Credit Union or Bank. Many offer free financial training, services, and seminars to members or customers.