How To Start A Business In South Carolina
If you’re looking to start a business, South Carolina is a great place to consider. With a low cost of living, access to major transportation routes, and a large population of potential customers, the Palmetto State provides a supportive environment for entrepreneurs.
In addition to positive business factors, the state’s natural beauty, southern hospitality, and nearly perfect year-round weather make it a desirable place to live and work. Whether you’re starting a small retail operation or launching a new tech startup, South Carolina can provide the resources and support to help make your business a success.
South Carolina Small Business Stats
- There are 463,549 small businesses in South Carolina, which is 99.4% of all businesses in the state. (2022 SBA Small Business Profile)
- 43% of South Carolina employees work for small businesses. (Statistics of US Businesses)
- Exports by small South Carolina companies reached $2.8 billion. (2022 SBA Small Business Profile)
- While South Carolina was ranked as the 39th best state for business by CNBC, the state’s economy and low cost of living were ranked highly.
- Forbes called South Carolina the 19th best state to start a business, primarily due to low business costs and a positive business climate.
Steps To Start A Business In South Carolina
Embarking on your small business journey can be an exciting but overwhelming experience, but with our step-by-step checklist, you’ll have a solid roadmap to guide your journey. Navigating through crucial steps such as business planning, business structure selection, licensing, and more, our comprehensive guide will help you build a strong foundation from the ground up.
Step 1: Choose a Business Idea
Choosing the right business idea is different for every person and can depend on factors such as personal interests, skills, experience, financial resources, customer demand, and overall economic conditions.
Some people choose industries they are passionate about while others focus more on profitable sectors with less competition, but ultimately, the key to finding a winning business idea is to persistently seek knowledge, embrace change, and remain committed to delivering value to customers.
To help research, be sure to check out our library of business ideas to get detailed industry information, trends, costs to start, tips, and lots more.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
After honing in on an idea, the next step should be to start writing a business plan. The plan not only serves as a blueprint for your venture, providing a clear vision, and guiding you through each stage of your entrepreneurial journey, but it will be used to validate potential feasibility and to obtain funding.
Starting a business can be a challenging and rewarding experience. So, before you take the leap, and invest your time and money, make sure you have a strong business plan in place to help ensure the success of your startup.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Select a Business Entity
The next step to starting a South Carolina business is to select and form a business entity. A business entity refers to the form of organization that a particular business takes. Different forms offer varying degrees of asset protection, tax benefits, and compliance responsibilities for business owners. When forming a business, entrepreneurs must decide how the operation will be structured and registered within their respective states. The most popular legal structures for small businesses are: Sole Proprietorships, General Partnerships, Corporations (C and S Corps), and Limited Liability Companies (LLCs).
Sole Proprietorship: The easiest and least expensive entity to start, a sole proprietorship requires little paperwork (if any) to get started. You own and operate the business entirely and keep all profits after expenses are paid. However, there is a significant drawback as the owner faces unlimited personal liability for any debts or legal issues the business might incur.
General Partnership: Similar to a sole proprietorship, a general partnership is when two or more individuals pool money together to co-own a business. General partnerships are relatively easy to establish and have fewer regulations, but partners may face unlimited liability and potential disagreements over business decisions.
Corporation: A corporation is a separate legal entity owned by shareholders, providing them with limited liability protection. Corporations have more complex regulations, annual report filing, and tax requirements, however, they offer benefits like limited liability, easier access to capital, and increased credibility.
Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC combines the limited liability of a corporation with the tax benefits and flexibility of a sole proprietorship and partnership. Owners, known as members, are protected from personal liability for business debts, while profits and losses can be passed through to their personal income tax returns. LLCs have fewer corporate formalities compared to corporations, but even though the setup process is easier than a corporation, it is more complex than a sole proprietorship or general partnership.
Forming a corporation or LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular formation services include:
IncFile - Great service and free registered agent the first year.
Northwest - Privacy-Focused: Free registered agent and private business address for 1 year!
ZenBusiness - Easy to use and free registered agent for 1 year!
Step 4: Register the Business
There are several federal, state, and local rules and regulations South Carolina businesses need to register for and comply with. Some common registrations include:
Business Licenses: While the state of South Carolina doesn’t have a general business license, most businesses in South Carolina will need to obtain a business license from the local government where the business is located.
Employer Identification Number: An EIN is required for most businesses (partnerships, corporations, multi-member LLCs, or any business with employees) as it is used to identify your business for tax and reporting purposes. You can apply for an EIN online through the IRS’s website.
Retail License: Businesses selling products and certain services will need to register for a Retail License (also referred to as a sales tax license) from the South Carolina Department of Revenue.
Professional Licensing: Some occupations, such as barbers, massage therapists, and landscapers, require licensing through the South Carolina Department of Labor. While this isn’t a license on the business, licensing is required to provide certain services.
Step 5: Open a Business Bank Account
Maintaining a clear separation of business and personal finances is an important step when starting a new business. While it may seem cumbersome to manage dual bank accounts and credit cards, doing so can provide numerous benefits including improved financial protection, simplified bookkeeping, easier tax preparation, and improved transparency.
Step 6: Find Financing
When starting a business, it’s important to know the various funding options available to new companies and choose the one that best fits the specific needs of the business. Here are some of the most common ways to finance a small business:
Personal funds: Tapping into savings or investing personal capital represents the most straightforward approach to acquiring start-up money. Since nobody else shares ownership at this stage, control remains unrestricted. However, this option should only constitute a minority share of overall resources since it can put one’s entire net worth at risk if unsuccessful.
Conventional bank loans: Small business owners can apply for a bank loan, which can provide a lump sum of cash at a fixed interest rate. However, qualifying for a traditional bank loan can be difficult for new businesses, as they may require a business plan, personal investment, collateral, and good credit history.
SBA loan guarantees: The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loan guarantee programs to help small businesses access capital. These loans are backed by the government, making them less risky for lenders and easier for small businesses to qualify for.
Microloan programs: Microloan programs offer small loans, typically between $5,000 and $150,000 to small businesses that cannot qualify for traditional bank loans. These loans typically have more relaxed qualification criteria and may include additional benefits, such as business training and mentoring.
Investors: Startups can attract angel investors, venture capitalists, or private equity firms that provide funding in exchange for equity in the company. This allows entrepreneurs to fund their business without taking on debt, but it also means giving up partial ownership of their company. Investors typically seek high-growth potential businesses and may offer valuable expertise and connections.
Small business grants: Federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as private organizations, offer various grants for small businesses. Grants are an attractive funding option since they do not require repayment; however, competition can be fierce, and there are very few grants for startups.
Step 7: Hire Employees
There is a certain amount of excitement and challenges that come with hiring your first employee in South Carolina. To ensure a smooth process, there are several agencies to register with, such as the Internal Revenue Service, South Carolina Department of Employment, South Carolina Workforce, and possibly others.
Additionally, employers are responsible for reporting new hires, verifying employees are eligible to work in the U.S., income tax withholding, unemployment insurance, unemployment taxes, and payroll withholding taxes, including Social Security and Medicare.
Step 8: Obtain Business Insurance
Running a small business comes with a lot of risks, and even with the best precautions, accidents can happen. Just a few of the common risks that small businesses may face include:
Property damage: Your business property, equipment, or inventory could be damaged or destroyed by natural disasters, fires, or vandalism.
Theft: Your business property or inventory could be stolen by a burglar or employee.
Legal liabilities: Your business could be sued by a customer, employee, or other party for claims of negligence, injury, or discrimination.
Workplace injuries: Your employees could be injured on the job, leading to medical expenses and legal liabilities. In South Carolina, businesses with four or more employees (including part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers) are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This coverage provides medical and wage replacement benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses.
Each business has unique needs and having the right insurance coverage is crucial for protecting your small business. Assess your business’s unique needs and risks, and consult with an experienced insurance agent or broker to ensure you have the appropriate policies in place.
Step 9: Set Up Bookkeeping
Setting up a bookkeeping system for your business is an important step for every business owner to ensure long-term success. Bookkeeping is the process of tracking income and expenses in your business and it allows you to track spending and income, make informed financial decisions, and properly file taxes. Without proper bookkeeping, your business may face potential financial risks and poor decision-making.
To maintain accurate financial records, you need to keep track of various types of financial documents such as sales receipts, accounts payable and receivable, bank statements, and credit card statements. By doing so, you have a clear understanding of your financial health, whether the business is profitable or not, and you can make informed decisions on expanding or cutting costs efficiently.
Organizing and recording all of this information can be a big commitment, but there are several methods you can adopt to streamline the process. One way is to use cloud-based accounting software, which can help you record transactions seamlessly and update your financial records regularly. This software typically offers features such as automatic bank feeds and statement reconciliation, making it a popular choice for small business owners.
Another way is to establish a paper filing system, where you can categorize financial documents based on their types and keep them well-organized. This method may require more time and effort, but it is an alternative for those who prefer a tangible record-keeping system.
Lastly, outsourcing bookkeeping services can be an excellent option for small business owners who want to streamline their financial management process without having to allocate time and resources to it.
Whether you choose accounting software, a paper filing system, or outsource accounting, maintaining an efficient bookkeeping system is a critical aspect of managing a successful business.
Related: Setting up accounting for a business
This material is property of StartingYourBusiness.com
Common questions when starting a business in South Carolina
Is South Carolina a good state to start a business?
Starting a small business in any location comes with its unique set of challenges and opportunities. While no single state is perfect, many considerations come into play before committing resources towards launching a small business.
South Carolina offers several attractive advantages for entrepreneurs interested in starting a small business, and I’ll list a few factors supporting whether South Carolina is ideal for your startup plans.
Economic Stability: The Palmetto State has experienced steady economic growth in recent years, driven by a diverse range of industries, including manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, and tourism. The state’s GDP growth rate and unemployment rate are generally in line with national averages, indicating a stable economy for new businesses.
Available Labor Pool: South Carolina boasts a diverse pool of talent across multiple skill sets, ranging from technical expertise to creative thinking. South Carolina boasts a skilled and diverse workforce, supported by various technical colleges, universities, and workforce development programs. These institutions help ensure a steady supply of qualified employees for small businesses in the state.
Entrepreneurial Support Programs: South Carolina has a business-friendly regulatory environment with a focus on encouraging entrepreneurship and economic growth. The state offers several programs to assist small businesses. Partnerships like SCRA Technology Ventures, SCORE, SBDC (Small Business Development Centers), and the South Carolina Department of Commerce provide mentoring, training programs, research facilities, prototyping space, and low-cost financing assistance.
What are the steps to starting an LLC in South Carolina?
There are three main steps to starting an LLC in South Carolina. These include:
1. Making sure the LLC name is available
2. Appointing a Registered Agent
3. Filing the Articles of Organization
There are a few more details to learn about, so be sure to check out how to start an LLC in South Carolina.
How much does it cost to start an LLC in South Carolina?
The state filing fee to cost to start an LLC in South Carolina is $125 to file the Articles of Organization with the South Carolina Secretary of State.
What licenses do I need to start a business in South Carolina?
There isn’t a general business license required by the state, however, there are potentially several different licenses and permits a business will need to obtain before starting.