Skip to main content

#GROWCHARLOTTE

We Have The Resources Needed To Start Your New Business.

Small Business Resources

Charlotte's small business ecosystem is full of organizations that bring unique perspectives to helping entrepreneurs thrive. The community organizations, nonprofits, educational institutions, and government agencies that make up the Charlotte Business Resource Partners network represent a community-wide commitment to saving you time and money while seeking relevant business solutions. As you explore Charlotte's Economic Development site further, you'll find the connections you need to build and grow your business. From finding the right chamber of commerce to fit your networking needs to partners focusing on finding you funding, there is a partner in our collaborative for you.

Searching for help with your business can be overwhelming. There are a lot of different resources and guides online, but what do you do when those tips and tricks aren't enough? Here you will find connections to resources backed by the expertise of our partners. Every click is a message or phone call away from working with an organization ready to help you navigate starting and growing your business.

Image of cobbler air spraying a shoe.

Where to start when starting a business?

Chasing your dream, but don't know where to start? Did you know that twenty-six percent of small business startups are as a result of individuals stating they are ready to be their own boss? Being your own boss and managing a business takes more than a concept. From checklists to expert advice, our partners have the resources needed for transforming your business ideas into business plans.

Create Your Business Plan

CLT Alliance

The Charlotte Regional Business Alliance can help you get the data needed to support your business case. From market research to networking opportunities, members and non-members alike can benefit from the Charlotte Chamber's resources. One big benefit for new entrepreneurs is putting all the important data points at your fingertips. To learn more about our local population, projected growth demographics and more, check out this interactive dashboard, created by the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. If you become a member of the CLT Alliance, you will be eligible for a customized research report from the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance's research team.

By becoming a member of the Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, entrepreneurs have access to the contacts, opportunities, and tools they need to get started.

NAWBO Charlotte helps women by connecting them with training, education, and networking opportunities. Learn more about the benefits of becoming a member.

For women entrepreneurs developing their business plan, the Women's Business Center of Charlotte is available to review and offer feedback on written business plans. Learn more and schedule your one-on-one appointment now!

The Western Women's Business Center (WWBC) is an initiative established by Carolina Small Business Development Fund to provide startup and existing women-owned businesses with access to the needed resources and support. Through one-on-one assistance, in-depth business coaching and counseling, educational opportunities, access to capital and more, the WWBC works to meet the needs of women entrepreneurs. From drafting a business plan to marketing your business, the WWBC helps women entrepreneurs like you achieve your business dreams.

Latin American entrepreneurs can benefit from startup workshops provided by the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte. Learn more about their membership options and benefits.

Prospera offers educational and professional grants for Hispanic startups. Their Spanish-speaking experts connect business owners to subject matter experts and workshops in legal matters, accounting, planning, and marketing. See a full schedule of workshops on their event calendar!

Sample business plans, business research tools, searchable databases, and much more are all available at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. If you need to find information about your market and its consumers, the CharlotteMecklenburg Library has just what you need. Use Reference USA to find competitors. SimplyAnalytics can be used to discover local demographics. And, of course, ABI/INFORM is available to help you search for industry trends. View all of the Library's resources here!

If you are seeking background information on your target workforce, Charlotte Works provide the perspective and forecasts you need to help you make the most informed decisions about starting a business in Charlotte. They're a wonderful source for any industry, occupational, demographic or economic data. Access your in-depth analysis here!

What does it take to start a business in North Carolina? With Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC)'s Business Startup Resource Guide, you can take the first steps to planning your business, assessing yourself as a business owner, determining feasibility and more.

From expert industry research reports to one-on-one business counseling, the Central Piedmont Small Business Center makes things a little bit easier go from idea to execution. Take advantage of free small business webinars and seminars to build foundational skills with counselors available to evaluate your business plan and help you address specific concerns about your ideas. With this Business Structures Comparison Chart, you can quickly learn the advantages (and disadvantages!) of different business structures.

Charlotte SCORE will match you with a business mentor to guide you through creating your business plan, including a workbook that highlights the simple steps for starting your business. Visit their website to learn more or call SCORE Charlotte directly at 704-344-6576.

U.S. Small Business Administration

Not sure if you're quite ready to take the leap? The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a Small Business Readiness Assessment Guide to help you better understand how prepared you really are to start your business. And if you are not sure if you want to strike out on your own or start with an established brand, the SBA can help you weigh the pros and cons with a list of needed resources to provide helpful advice on buying and evaluating a franchise, including an online training module featuring franchising basics. Once you are ready to dive in, their Starting a Business Toolkit offers resources to help you learn what it takes to begin your business.

Becoming a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce (CMBCC) represents your commitment to your business and the community. CMBCC offers education, resources and networking opportunities to its members, as well as brand visibility in their Member Directory, and access to opportunities to grow.

The National Black MBA Association® (NBMBAA) Charlotte hosts professional development sessions throughout the year that support the small business community in the starting, growing, and thriving phases of the business lifecycle. Visit nbmbaacharlotte.org to register for upcoming events or to become a member today!

City Startup Labs teaches, coaches and advises individuals and teams on how bring an idea to market. Get the ball rolling by scheduling a meeting!

Do I need business licenses or permits?

Not every kind of business in Charlotte requires the same kinds of paperwork. Let's point you in the right direction for the licenses and permits you may need.

Create Your Business Plan

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library's Licenses/Permits Checklist is a full list of everything you need to know about licensing and permitting a business in Charlotte, down to the departments you need to contact.

U.S. Small Business Administration

Virtually every business needs some sort of license or permit to operate legally. On their website, the SBA lists everything you need to know about the federal, state and local permits, licenses and registrations you'll need to run a business. Find out which licenses and permits you'll need to get started!

Business Link North Carolina (BLNC) counselors can assist in identifying state licensing requirements for specific business activities, provide helpful links to business forms needed to register a business in North Carolina, and connect you with a wealth of information about service providers, resources and programs.

The information surrounding licensing and permitting can be overwhelming, but the City of Charlotte makes things more manageable with a portal dedicated to navigating permit requirements.

Hosting a special event, parade, or festival? You might need a permit for that. Check out what you need and how to submit an application.

Hoping to sell items in Uptown Charlotte? Start by checking out the City of Charlotte's Code of Ordinances about vending in the Congested Business District and the Tryon Street Mall. Charlotte Center City Partners manages vendors Uptown. Contact them for more information.

If you're operating a vehicle for hire in Charlotte, there are specific things you need to know about licensing, inspections, and operations. This also includes Uber and Lyft drivers!

Other topics to make sure your operations are on the up and up include: zoning, building inspections, registering alarm systems, and running a home-based business. Need a little more help? OpenCounter is a tool designed to guide entrepreneurs through permitting a business in Charlotte!

You've come up with the perfect name for your business; now you just need to register it. Contact the Register of Deeds and learn more about an Assumed Name Certificate in Mecklenburg County.

Mecklenburg County can also help you get set up to pay your taxes. For instance, did you know that the Privilege License Tax was repealed in North Carolina in 2015? Mecklenburg County Assessor's Office knows everything there is to know about taxes in Charlotte. They will guide you through identifying business personal property. This includes the personal property, income-producing property, supplies and leasehold improvements owned by a business or used by an individual for income purposes. The County also offers a variety of commercial property services, including information about the Commercial Technical Assistance Center, as well as the County Fire Marshal's Office.

If opening a daycare in Charlotte, there are some things you need to know before you can start. Start by making sure that you've provided the proper forms and applications, and make sure to schedule an inspection with Mecklenburg County.

If you are setting up a business that sells or serves food and drinks, you have another set of regulations to meet, including Food and Beverage Permits, Food and Beverage Taxes, Obtaining an Alcohol License, Operating a Food Truck or Push Cart, and permits for Hosting a Special Event.

If you are serving alcohol, the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Commission can help you get your permits to pour, manufacture, distribute, serve, and/or sell alcoholic beverages.

How do I prepare to seek funding?

You know you need funding, but do you know if you're ready to approach a lender? Whether it's startup capital or operating funds you need, it's important to understand what investors and lenders are looking for.

Create Your Business Plan

U.S. Small Business Administration

When it comes to financing, do you know what you need? Start by assessing your current situation with this financial guide from the SBA.

Prospera has Spanish-speaking industry experts on hand to help with your financial plans. Learn more about financing options, or call them today at 980-729-8273.

Carolina Small Business Development Fund provides financing solutions and guidance to help entrepreneurs like you achieve your goals. This means flexible terms and personalized assistance for all types of businesses in a wide range of industries. Learn more about loans and eligibility through Carolina Small Business Development Fund by visiting their website.

The Women's Business Center of Charlotte stays abreast of traditional and non-traditional funding sources and community loan programs to help MWSBEs get the financing they need. They are committed to working with you so that your numbers make sense to you and to your lender with loan packaging assistance, financial budget and projection overview, startup budget assistance, financial impact of hiring, competitive analysis resources, and market share resources.

If you want to gain some firsthand perspective on finding funding, Charlotte SCORE provides free and confidential small business advice for entrepreneurs and small businesses through their mentor program.

If you're unfamiliar with the steps of financing a business and just want a quick how-to course to do at home, check out the SBTDC online training portal that includes a module on the potential funding options available for your business.

In addition to helping you develop a business plan with financial forecasts, the Central Piedmont Small Business Center offers a variety of courses, seminars, and workshops that cover everything from financing your small business to accounting with QuickBooks.

How do I get a business loan?

Many small businesses start out getting loans from banks, but we can connect you to nontraditional funding partners through our partners.

Create Your Business Plan

The City of Charlotte offers a range of loans for small businesses to utilize. The Small Business Mobilization Loan is designed to assist owners of certified Small Business Enterprises (SBEs) acquire short-term, low-rate financing. The Charlotte Community Capital Fund is an innovative public/private fund established to help small businesses like you gain access to capital by guaranteeing up to 85% of a loan amount from another lender.

Mecklenburg County, in partnership with Carolina Small Business Development Fund, launched a Small Business Loan Program, offering up to $75,000 with prime + 2% fixed interest rates to small businesses in Mecklenburg County.

Carolina Business Capital finances small business enterprises with the SBA 504 Loan, a loan that gives business owners like you the resources needed to finance real estate and fixed assets. Start the Carolina Business Capital SBA 504 Loan process today!

BEFCOR provides streamlined service between their clients and lenders, with a focus on building relationships and creating community success stories. With an SBA 504 loan through BEFCOR, entrepreneurs can get up to 90% financing for owner-occupied commercial real estate space. Learn more about their loan process here.

With more than 30 years of lending experience, Self-Help Credit Union will work with your business or nonprofit to make the loan process as smooth and easy as possible. Learn more about Self-Help and how to qualify for their Small Business Loans, get an application, or call 1-800-966-7353, ext. 5. Additionally, the Self-Help Credit Union offers savings and money market accounts that allow entrepreneurs to park their reserves in a socially-responsible money market. Learn more about how you can earn dividends while you save with Self-Help!

U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration assists small business owners with starting and expanding their businesses by helping them get loans through private banks and financial institutions.

Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) is for entrepreneurs seeking to commercialize innovative biomedical technologies, helps entrepreneurs participate in federal research, develop life-saving technologies, and create jobs.

Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) is another highly competitive program for entrepreneurs seeking to commercialize innovative technologies. This one requires that the small business seeking this loan formally collaborate with a research institution.

Environmental Grants, Loans and Incentives from the SBA make it easier to find money to pay for energy-efficient upgrades to your facilities, environment-related projects and improvements, and financial incentives that can save you money, such as tax credits, tax deductions, sales tax exemptions, property tax exemptions and rebates.

The Self-Help Ventures Fund is dedicated to making your SBA process as smooth and efficient as possible. Self-Help Venture Fund's SBA 504 loan program provides up to 90% financing and a low fixed rate for owner-occupied commercial real estate.

How do I get a grant?

For further assistance the SBA offers LenderMatch, an online referral tool to link small business borrowers with participating SBA Lenders. Prospective borrowers complete a short online questionnaire, and the responses to that questionnaire are then forwarded to participating SBA Lenders that operate within the small business' county. If lenders are interested in the referral, the lender and the prospective borrower's contact information will be exchanged.

The ever-elusive idea of “free money.” We've all seen the headlines: “Millions in free government money for your business.” Late-night infomercials and online advertisements promise grants to start or expand a business. Sound too good to be true? It is.

Federal, state and local governments do not provide grants for:

  • Starting a business
  • Paying off debt
  • Covering operational expenses

However, there are grants available for other for some specific business purposes. Here are a few offered by our partners.

Create Your Business Plan

If your business is located within one of our Corridors of Opportunity, you might be eligible for a matching grant; these cover items like security and specific building improvements.

If you are starting a nonprofit, then your free library membership links you to The Foundation Center's collection of materials for nonprofits and grants.

U.S. Small Business Administration

Search the SBA Loans and Grants Tool for state and federal financing programs specifically available to small businesses. Another federal grant resource is Grants.gov, the government's searchable public database of over 1,000 grant programs that award roughly $500 billion annually. Use the Advanced Search tool to search for a grant by eligibility (e.g., for-profits or small business), by issuing agency, or category (e.g., environment or science and technology).

Where do I find information on Angel Funding and Venture Capital?

If you are seeking investors to provide capital for your business in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity, check out the connections these partners have.

Create Your Business Plan

U.S. Small Business Administration

The Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program works with private investment funds to provide growth capital to U.S. small businesses, and the SBA gives you a full directory of current SBIC Licensees in our state!

IDEA Fund Partners provides seed and early-stage equity funding, along with company building expertise to IT, software, materials technologies and medical device companies. We seek to serve as a bridge between angel and institutional investors.

Inception Micro Angel Fund (IMAF-Charlotte) is a local angel fund that considers investments of dollars, time and relationships in early stage, high quality and high growth companies in the Charlotte area for those companies to achieve success.

Where can I find networking opportunities?

Networking is an essential skill for successful businesspeople, helping them identify new revenue opportunities, potential strategic partnerships, and customers. One of the best ways to network is to get your name out there by meeting new people at one of our Charlotte Business Recourse Partner events.

Create Your Business Plan

If you are an international entrepreneur, you may be eligible for a Mayor's International Community Award. Charlotte Business INClusion hosts the Crowns of Enterprise to recognize small businesses that demonstrate exemplary leadership and sound business strategies.

Carolina Small Business Development Fund hosts the Small Business Week Awards luncheon held during Small Business Week, where the purpose is to honor small businesses in the state of North Carolina.

Each year NAWBO Charlotte honors two women business owners with the prestigious Rising Star and Woman Business Owner of the Year Award at the Annual Gala. Are you the next winner? Find out how to enter!

Another opportunity is to become a member of one of our Charlotte Business Resource Partner organizations, each bringing a wide range of network opportunities to their members along with other benefits. Speaking of membership, many businesses new to Charlotte seek to become involved with the Charlotte Chamber.

In Charlotte we have several Chambers which offer unique benefits to their members:

A few years ago, the Charlotte Chamber merged with the Charlotte Regional Partnership to create the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. The CLT Alliance offers opportunities for local entrepreneurs to meet people, make contacts, exchange ideas and interact with others.

The Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce offers monthly networking opportunities through its second Wednesday Morning Mixer and Fourth Tuesday evening event to highlight topics relevant to professionals and business owners within our great city!

One of the many ways the LACCC supports new and existing Latin American businesses is by providing networking opportunities for Latin and non-Latin American businesses and organizations. Join the LACCC at their next networking event.

Who can help me with hiring and training employees?

Employment and training services are continually being designed to meet the specific needs of businesses to ensure the availability of a trained and productive workforce.

Create Your Business Plan

We continue to make talent development one of our priorities at the City of Charlotte. We have two programs that could help you find the right people to hire. The Renewable Energy and Efficiency Workforce (RENEW) Training Program is a partnership between the City of Charlotte and the Urban League of the Carolinas. Participants will receive heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry-certified credentials required for entry-level technician positions for careers in commercial and residential energy, including renewable energy and energy efficiency. HIRE Charlotte is uniting the employment ecosystem around a shared vision, related goals and an intentional pathway to help employers find workers and develop a long-range talent pipeline.

CLT Library

As a Federal Depository Library, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has a variety of workforce data. Visit them today for help looking up statistics from the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics and more. They also have free computer classes that you can send your trainees to in order to learn Microsoft Office, Excel, PowerPoint and more!

Did you know that Charlotte Works can help with training grants for workers of all stages and skillsets? Learn more about the training and recruiting programs offered by Charlotte Works.

Central Piedmont's Corporate Learning Center can build a custom program that meets the learning needs of your team. They can also build tailored co-ops, apprenticeships and internships.

Hiring is a major part of business growth and Catapult provides a wide range of human resources services. From compliance advice to sample policies, Catapult serves as a resource and sounding board for entrepreneurs seeking HR support at startup and beyond.

Where should I start if I want to relocate my business?

There are many factors you need to consider before you choose the location for your business. From zoning to demographics, the resources below will help you find the perfect location where your business will thrive.

Create Your Business Plan

Let our team in Economic Development know if you need any help finding a new location here. We love seeing our businesses grow and have of the needed resources to help you find the perfect location. If you are looking to move into one of our Corridors of Opportunity, you may find supportive programing that can lead to funding for revitalization and prospects to partner. Tap into the power of data by visiting Virtual Charlotte. With this tool you can find property zoning, real estate tax values, voting districts, eligibility for financial incentive programs and much more. The City also has property for sale; the Real Estate division will be happy to tell you about the bid process.

With Mecklenburg County's Property Ownership and Land Records Information System (POLARIS), entrepreneurs can search properties by parcel or address to obtain ownership, sales and tax information. Also, check out Site One, a mapping system that allows you to find vacant land and leasable building space!

U.S. Small Business Administration

Most businesses choose a location based on its exposure to their customers, but there are other, less obvious factors that need to be taken into consideration. Here are the SBA's tips for choosing your business location. The SBA also offers tips for leasing commercial space, featuring expenses, maintenance and repair, and negotiation.

The Small Business Center at Central Piedmont can help you find many answers to your real estate questions. Register for their free site selection seminar, and learn the basics of leasing and buying. To further help you with the process of site selection, the Small Business Center has provided factors to consider when selecting a location, as well as the pros and cons of leasing versus buying.

If you've found the perfect location to grow, but need financing, BEFCOR can help you out. They offer SBA 504 loans to emerging and expanding businesses in North Carolina that can provide a lower down payment, low fixed interest rate, and a longer payback.

Want to use data to pick your new location and look at workforce needs at the same time? Reach out to Charlotte Works. They can provide the tools and hard data you need to help you make a better, more informed decision on the location of your business.

Charlotte Center City Partners offers economic development and site selection services for businesses relocating to Center City. They also manage the 7th Street Public Market at which vendor opportunities are available for select goods including fresh and affordable regional foods.

Through its online business resources, like Reference USA to find competitors and SimplyAnalytics to discover local demographics, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has compiled useful links to help with all your market research needs, including economic conditions, industry research, demographics and marketing. Learn more about the services and resources offered by the Library.

Business owners seeking to leverage university resources can consider locating in the PORTAL Innovation Center operated by the Charlotte Research Institute. To learn more, visit them online.

Self-Help Credit Union owns and manages several commercial properties in North Carolina. They lease office and retail space, providing affordable options for new and established businesses, nonprofits, restaurants and professionals.

How do I explore new markets?

Use these resources to find new customers in Charlotte or discover new markets in other countries to sell your goods and services.

Create Your Business Plan

When it comes to Charlotte's population, economy and industry trends, the CLT Alliance gives entrepreneurs access to the research and data they need to start and grow their business on their interactive dashboard. For even more information about economic and demographic trends in Charlotte, contact the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance's research team for custom research.

If you need to find information about your market and its consumers, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has just what you need. Use Reference USA to find competitors. SimplyAnalytics can be used to discover local demographics. And, of course, ABI/INFORM is available to help you search for industry trends. View all of the Library's resources here!

The Small Business Center is a member of the IBIS World community so that it can provide expert industry research reports to the clients it serves. To receive no-cost targeted industry reports to help you understand industry trends, visit the Small Business Resource Center or meet with a business counselor.

If you've got an innovation that could serve national and global markets, it's important to undergo customer discovery and validations before you create your business plan. Ventureprise Launch, supported by NC IDEA, is a cohort-based, selective initiative that guides entrepreneurs through customer discovery and business model generation. Learn more to determine if this is right you!

Did you know that the Women's Business Center of Charlotte can point you in the right direction for assistance with your exporting needs? They have partners and resources needed to help you with this process. Reach out for assistance with documentation, legal and regulatory compliance, intercultural awareness, and technology resources.

The SBTDC is North Carolina's City-State Partner with the US Export-Import Bank. Their International Business Development Specialists are all highly trained, Certified Global Business Professionals with extensive experience in international business development. Find out how the SBTDC can help you achieve success with exporting!

U.S. Small Business Administration

When it comes to taking your business global, the SBA can help. Through counseling, training, and financing, the SBA offers a variety of resources that support small businesses with exporting opportunities.