In this issue:
About Us
The Business Launch initiative is a specialized service of the SBTDC that helps entrepreneurs to evaluate an idea, form the idea into a business model, and launch the viable idea into a new North Carolina business. SBTDC established this initiative in 2019 to help early stage innovators, particularly those around university ecosystems, move forward with forming a business and to keep our state on the forefront of tech business creation.
The Team
Heather McWhorter
Statewide Launch Director

Ben Robbins

Anthony Abney

Arden Rosenblatt

Kale Pasch

Jamie Stalfort

Tyler Lumley
Contributed by Heather McWhorter, SBTDC Business Launch Initiative Director
2020 has been a year full of unexpected events and has made many of us step back and look at life a little differently. While those of us who are on the frontline of helping businesses are witnessing business closures at alarming rates, we are also seeing something else: a surge in new business creation. This surge is giving us hope for an even stronger economy.
This is not just a feel-good story. The data shows that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolinians are starting job-creating businesses at a record-breaking pace -- with the largest spike in a decade in the third quarter of 2020. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau) Entrepreneurs are creating new businesses for a variety of reasons, but three factors are leading the surge: 1) new market opportunities due to our changed world, 2) extra downtime to take on new innovative businesses, and 3) a need to make a living due to layoffs and reduced wages. Whatever the reason, the surge in new business formation is good news for our future.
Why is now the best time to start a business? Most importantly, because action is at the heart of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is about taking an idea and doing something with it. Today. If you are ready to get started with your entrepreneurial journey, the statewide team of SBDTC Business Launch Specialists are here to support you.

Beginning in January, a bimonthly workshop series will be offered to help aspiring entrepreneurs across North Carolina to obtain the final "idea vetting" information they need before launching their start-up. The first Q&A session will be with John Austin, Senior Director of NC IDEA. John is the Founder of Groundwork Labs (now NC IDEA) and continues to work directly with founders who have been awarded NC IDEA grants.
Some topics to be discussed at the first Launch and Learn event:
  • The three things you will need to raise money for your business
  • Grant funding and if it's a good fit for your business
  • Self-funding, raising money from family and friends, and other fundraising options
John will start the session by sharing best practices and tips and tricks on fundraising. He will then answer common fundraising questions, followed by questions submitted by attendees.

Register now:
How to Raise Money to Start Your Company
January 12 noon - 1 p.m.

Contributed by Kale Pasch, SBTDC Business Launch Specialist at 
UNC Charlotte
Almost every new entrepreneur we meet at the SBTDC has two things in common: they have a vision and they want to know how to obtain money to build the vision.
Here's the truth. No one will give you money for your vision. They might, however, give you money to improve a product (or service) that you have already built. If you are really lucky, your "product" could simply be a few pictures of what you intend to produce. Regardless, you need to have something tangible and provable, not just a pipe dream.
Once you have something to look at, you then need to prove that anyone wants this thing. This involves your first foray into "taking your product to market".
You can go about this in two ways: actually sell your product or obtain pre-orders (wait-list members). You should begin this stage as early as possible as it will provide you with your first round of feedback to prove that your business idea will succeed. Building a basic website or listing your products on marketplaces is a great way to accomplish this step. If you make zero sales/pre-sales, adjust the product and try again until you do. Once you have done all of this, then you can reasonably seek money from investors to improve your market-proven product.

Contributed by Ben Robbins, SBTDC Business Launch Specialist at UNC Asheville
Note: This article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.
A question we Business Launch Specialists get a lot is, "Do I really need to register my business as a limited liability company (LLC)?" We get it, it seems complicated and potentially expensive to formally register your business as a company when you don't have any employees and you don't expect to grow much beyond your current size. But it's actually not that expensive ($125 for the initial filing, $200 per year for an annual report) or complicated; the form you use to file an LLC is only 2 pages and only asks for your name, address, email, and phone number, and the annual report comes pre-filled if you haven't changed names, moved, or changed ownership.
The benefits of creating a separate legal entity (as a sole proprietor there is no distinction between you and your business; what's yours is your business' and what's your business' is yours) for your business far outweigh the cost and complexity of creating and maintaining an LLC. But if you're not convinced, here are three situations where most definitely ought to set up your business at least as an LLC:
1. Your business is your primary source of income. If your business is more than a side hustle or hobby then you have a lot at stake in your company. That means you need to protect your personal assets like your home or savings from anyone who comes to collect on a debt related to the business. Creating an LLC isn't the only thing you should do to protect your personal assets, but for $125 and 15 minutes of your time, it's a no-brainer. An LLC works in reverse as well: an LLC would protect your business assets from personal debts; if you fall behind on your mortgage and you operate as a sole proprietor, then your business assets could be at stake which could totally deny you of future income you need to pay off that debt. 
2. You need a loan or line of credit to grow or sustain your business.  If you need a loan for your business, then lenders expect to lend the money to the business, not to you. That means it's very hard to get a loan as a sole proprietor. The longer you can demonstrate positive cash flow as an LLC, the better your chances of getting a business loan, so it's best to set up an LLC well before you think you'll need debt financing for your business.
3. You want to build legitimacy in the minds of your customers and partners. You can be in business forever as a sole proprietor, but a brand new business with LLC in its name is going to appear more legitimate; that's just how people's minds work. I'm not trying to knock your hard earned reputation and success as a sole proprietor, but there's just something about those three letters that gives the sweet ring of legitimacy, that feeling that "this business is a real business". It's largely on paper and may seem unfair, but if it's as easy and cheap as I say it is to set up an LLC, then don't you think it's worth it to take such a simple step to ensure the legitimacy of your business in your customers' and partners' minds? And if you're just starting out then don't you think it's worth it to take such a simple step to put your business immediately on par with already established competitors in terms of legitimacy? 
SBTDC Business Launch Specialists have helped hundreds of entrepreneurs navigate the process of establishing their business. Reach out today for free, confidential business counseling to get your business started right.

Now is your chance to sign up for a virtual Taking the Leap - Starting Your Business in 4 Weeks class to turn your big idea into the next great business. You will learn how to:

You will learn how to:
  • Identify potential markets
  • Discover your customer's needs
  • Create a business model or plan
  • Understand business finances
  • Develop an elevator pitch
  • Market your products and services
You will attend sessions online and work closely with mentors and peers in fun breakout activities designed to help strengthen your business ideas and prepare you for success. Classes are on Tuesdays from 6-8 p.m. via Zoom and Canvas and are FREE to qualified applicants. Apply today at:

February 2 - 23 | Applications open now
Thanks to Sequoyah Fund for putting together this Taking the Leap promo video for us. Check it out!

For additional information, visit

5 W Hargett St., Ste 600
Raleigh, NC 27616
(919) 715-7272