CHARLOTTE, N.C. — More people are starting their own businesses than ever before in North Carolina, according to state data.
The North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said her office is processing applications for the formation of new small businesses in record numbers.
"Small business creation has taken off like a rocket, I mean a jet-propelled rocket," she said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, Marshall thought her office would be quiet. Instead, she said she couldn’t have been more wrong -- and the reasons behind all the new businesses surprised her.
"I thought when the state government closed down, we'd go into a lull," she said. "I was so wrong it wasn’t funny."
Marshall has been North Carolina’s Secretary of State since 1997 and said she's never seen numbers like she's seeing now.
In 2020, more than 127,000 people applied to start a business in North Carolina. That's a 27% increase over 2019. This year, the numbers are even higher and are on pace to set a new record of 185,000 applications.
"We asked people what motivated you and a lot of people said it was because they saw an opportunity," Marshall explained. "We thought maybe you lost your job would be the reason but that wasn’t the case. People wanted flexibility. They wanted to be their own boss, or it’s a part-time gig for them to have a second job."
Lauren Bryant was a makeup artist who was laid off at the start of the pandemic and realized she wanted the flexibility to pick her son up from school. She started a side hustle designing floral creations.
"It turned into a full-time job and it’s been amazing but definitely not something I planned for or ever even dreamed of owning a business," Bryant said.
The Rooted Nest has become a huge success and the Secretary of State's office said they are not alone. Bryant's office found 89% of applicants who started these new businesses are still operating a year later.
Bryant is thrilled she made the leap.
"I'm totally enjoying it and so thankful," she said.
Marshall is excited too.
"I'm just delighted to see this trend."
The Secretary of State's Office is working on making the process easier. They have a FAQ page on their website and encourage people to visit community colleges, many of which have free sources for small business owners.
Starting your own small business in North Carolina
The North Carolina Secretary of State's website has resources for those looking to register their own business.
Choose a Business Structure
Choose a Name
Register Your Business
Starting your own small business in South Carolina
Like North Carolina, new small businesses can be registered online in South Carolina with the Secretary of State's office. South Carolina has an online portal to submit and review documents.