With its stunning beaches and low crime rates, South Carolina is a great place to live and work. But if you’re looking to do something different other than working in an office for a big company, you might want to look into starting a business. But if you’ve never started a business before, how do you even begin setting one up?
In this article, you will learn everything about starting a business in South Carolina – from choosing your idea to marketing it once it’s been set up. This article will also go over choosing the proper business structure and setting up finances and accounting.
Step 1: Choose Your Idea
Every successful business, big or small, starts with the same thing: an idea. Your idea will form the foundations of your business, from which you will build the rest of the business. At this point, your idea does not need to be overly detailed or wholly mapped out yet.
To help you come up with a business idea, answer the following questions designed to help you get your gears turning:
- What are my passions, skills, and hobbies?
- Can these be turned into a profitable business?
- Will I enjoy running this business for the foreseeable future?
- Do I have the skills to run a business?
- Is there a need for my business?
- What consumer problem does my business solve?
- Are there any businesses out there already that are similar to mine?
- How do I plan on standing out from businesses that already exist?
Your answers should be able to guide and let you know if your business idea will actually work. You should also employ the help of your friends and family to bounce ideas off of them.
Step 2: Pick a Name
Picking a name for your business in South Carolina is a crucial step, as you will use this name for all your paperwork, branding, and marketing. Changing the name partway through the process is not generally recommended, especially once you start marketing.
The name that you choose should be easy enough for people to read and pronounce. It should be unique but still relevant to the industry you are in. The business name should give people an idea of your products and services.
In South Carolina, you cannot register a business with a name already registered with the state. To check if the name you want to use is still available, search for businesses on the South Carolina Secretary of State’s business name search.
Thinking up a good name for your business can be quite daunting, so why not try out these helpful methods below:
- Create a list of words that immediately pop into your mind when you think of your business.
- Hold a brainstorming session with friends and family.
- Create polls online to get other people’s suggestions.
- Use an online name generator.
Step 3: Write Your Business Plan
Once you have decided on a business idea and a name, you must write a business plan. South Carolina doesn’t require companies to write business plans. However, the business plan will have all your research and planning, information about your products and services, and relevant financial information.
Your business plan should be as thorough as possible, as you can use the plan to apply for funding or attract investors to your business.
While there are no set rules about what must be included in the business plan, you should aim to answer the following questions:
- What is the purpose of your business?
- What services or products are being offered?
- Who are your direct competitors?
- Who is your target audience?
- How do you plan on turning your target audience into paying customers?
- What costs are involved?
- How much will you need to start the business?
- How much will you need to break even?
- Do you have the money?
- Will you need funding?
- What roles will be available in the business?
- How will you fill the roles?
- What are all of your financial goals and predictions?
If you struggle to format your business plan, there are ready-made business plan templates available on the internet.
Step 4: Get Funding
To start a business, you need startup funds to pay for supplies, applications, registrations, equipment, and rent. These items all add up, and unless you have the money to fund all of this yourself, you will need to get funding for the business. There are three ways you can get funding in South Carolina: through a loan, grant, or an investor.
Grants are the best way to get funding, as the money does not need to be repaid. You can visit the South Carolina Department of Commerce’s website to check what grants South Carolina may have available.
If your business does not qualify for a business grant, you can apply for a loan instead. This can be done at any bank or registered financial institution. Loans differ from grants as they need to be repaid, and generally, financial institutions charge interest on loans. So, make sure to check the fine print of your loan agreement. Alternatively, you can get a loan from your friends and family. But no matter how close you are, make sure you get the agreement on paper!
Finally, you can also have an investor fund the business’s startup costs in exchange for some shares and profits in the business.
Step 5: Choose a Business Structure
Once you have written your business plan, you must choose a business structure. Each structure has its benefits, so choosing the right one for your business is crucial.
This informal business structure is the simplest and easiest business structure to set up. Sole proprietorships are businesses with only one owner, and there is no separation of personal and business assets, meaning the owner is liable for the company. This business structure is favored by low-risk businesses.
A partnership is also an informal business structure. It is similar to a sole proprietorship because there is no separation of personal and business assets. The only difference between the two structures is that a partnership has more than one owner, all with equal shares in the company.
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company, called an LLC, is a business structure popular among small businesses. LLCs are a hybrid business structure that combines the simplicity and ease of a sole proprietorship or partnership with the liability protection of a corporation.
C or S Corporation
Corporations are used by large companies that have multiple shareholders. The difference between this structure and the others is that corporations are completely separate entities from the business owners, and the IRS offers some tax benefits.
Step 6: Register the Business
In South Carolina, you may be required to register your business with the state before you can begin trading.
You do not need to file paperwork or register your sole proprietorship in South Carolina.
However, if you want to do business under a different name from your personal one, you can file an assumed name, also known as a Doing Business As (DBA), with the South Carolina Secretary of State.
This business structure does not need to be registered with the state either. But you have the option of filing a DBA with the South Carolina Secretary of State. If you want to, you can also have all owners of the business sign a partnership agreement in case of conflict. This does not need to be filed with the state, but it is a good document to have on hand.
Limited Liability Company
To register your South Carolina corporation, complete the Articles of Incorporation and submit them to the Secretary of State. The fee to register your corporation online is $110.
Step 7: Set Up Finances & Accounting
You should set up your finances and accounting before you open your business for trading. To do this, you will need to open a bank account for your business, apply for a business credit card, and set up a payment method for customers to use.
In addition, having payroll software when you have employees is an excellent way to stay on top of their salaries and employee taxes. Hiring an accountant to assist you with all of this is strongly recommended.
Step 8: Get Business Insurance
You never know when a disaster might strike, and when it does, it will help if you are prepared with some business insurance.
While there are many policies to choose from, you should at least have a general liability insurance policy. This broad policy will cover everything you need during the day-to-day running of the business, as well as any damage or injury on the business premises.
Other insurance policies you can look at getting are:
- Business owners insurance
- Commercial auto insurance
- Commercial property insurance
- LLC insurance
- Workers compensation insurance
Speak to your local insurance broker for professional advice on what is best suited for your business and your needs.
Step 9: Obtain Any Permits or Licenses Needed
There is no state-wide general business license that you need to apply for in South Carolina. However, each city and county within the state has its own requirements. To check if your city or county requires that your business has a license, you can visit the South Carolina Secretary of State’s Do I Need a License page.
Additionally, you must have a Sales Tax permit if you plan to do business in South Carolina. You can apply for this with the Department of Revenue.
Step 10: Build a Website
Every business nowadays should have a website as it is a great way to engage with consumers, promote products, and build a following. Moreover, you can sell products directly from your website using a platform like Shopify.
Whether you are building the website yourself or you are paying someone to do it, there are a couple of things you need to do:
- Always check if your desired domain name is still available.
- Ensure your business name is visible and stands out on the web page.
- Ensure that all the fonts used are clear and easy to read.
- Ensure that you aren’t using someone else’s images without permission.
- Avoid filling your web page with multiple images and animations, as this can drastically slow loading times.
- Make sure your website is mobile-compatible, as many people use smartphones to browse.
- Provide all contact information and a good call to action button.
- Link your website to other social media accounts.
Step 11: Hire Employees (If Any)
If you need help running the business, hiring employees is a good idea. To do this, you will need to draft up a job post and post it on some websites or even print them out and distribute them on job boards around your local area. Wait to hear back from some candidates and narrow them down to your top choices. Once you have interviewed your top candidates, offer the job to your preferred applicant!
You must report all new hires to the South Carolina Department of Social Services. This needs to be done within 20 days from the hire date.
Step 12: Market Your Business
Marketing your business is the final step in starting a business in South Carolina. When marketing your business, you should ensure all the content is relevant and that you are marketing consistently.
Here are some various ways to market your business:
- Advertise on your business website.
- Make use of free social media like Facebook and Instagram.
- Create a Google Business Profile and advertise on Google.
- Host events and competitions.
- Write a weekly newsletter.
- Attend local networking events.
- Advertise on your local radio and TV station.
- Attend local markets and business expos.
You can also hire someone to handle the marketing for you if you prefer to focus on other aspects of running a business.