If you’ve got your business ready to start going, you need a business license, right? Maybe not. North Carolina’s business license setup is weird, even to me. I actually avoid filing for these for the most part. This article tells you what I do instead.
General Business License
Fortunately for everyone, North Carolina no longer has a general business license. Unfortunately, instead we have a system of licenses that depend on county, city, industry, and types of goods or services offered. See why I don’t do these yet?
According to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, there are “almost 950 regulatory, state-issued and occupational licenses and permits.” Who wants to remember all of those?
How Do I Know What Licenses I Need?
Fortunately, North Carolina has excellent free resources for you.
Firstly, you want to go to visit the BLNC. They have a toll free number (whatever that even means these days) you can call to learn what licenses and permits you might need. They also have partnerships with organizations to set you up with other resources. The one caveat I give is that they will also try to sell you on affiliated products like internet.
Hate phone calls? They also have a contact form you can fill out instead. BLNC is pretty prompt at responding to these inquiries.
Secondly, BLNC may direct you to a local government unit to call. Unfortunately, they don’t know every single local permit or license, so it is best to double check with the local unit they provide.
Thirdly, swing over to NCBOLD. This is the NC Business and Occupational License Database. Like SHIELD, I think someone wanted to make a fun acronym. I’m convinced because they omitted privilege licenses from their name altogether. I could be wrong. It doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that you should browse the 3 categories of licenses to make sure you don’t need one. These are the licenses the pertain to what you do. For example, if your business has an aerial tram, you need a specific license. I’m calling this one out because it is a fun name. It is the Aerial Passenger Tramways and Funiculars License.
Keep in mind, you may need multiple from different categories. Just browsing through, it is obvious that amusement parks need more licenses than they have funnel cakes.
Also note that most licenses are annual. Add renewing your licenses to your annual requirements.
A lot of the licenses are expensive. This can deter you from starting your business. My recommendation has always been to start a version of your business that doesn’t include the activity requiring that license first. Licenses should definitely be a part of your initial budget.
Richard is the managing attorney for Law Plus Plus, a local small business law firm. As managing attorney, he helps small businesses and nonprofits startup, creating the contracts, and navigate the legal needs of businesses. Some of his practice areas include: corporate, contract, mergers & acquisitions, corporate litigation, and estate planning.