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The Top 3 Places to Start a Small Business Nationwide: Right Here in North Carolina

Did you know that the top three places nationwide to start a small business are all right here in the Tar Heel State? According to a study from the LendingTree, North Carolina tops the list once again, with Raleigh, Charlotte, and Durham finishing in first, second, and third place respectively. If you’ve been thinking about taking the leap and starting your own business, there’s never been a better time to become an entrepreneur in NC. Let’s explore why.


LendingTree analyzed the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country and gave them scores in three categories: business climate, entrepreneurship, and local economy. Each category comprised three separate metrics for a total of nine. Here’s how NC’s top metropolitan areas performed:


  • First Place—Raleigh: Our beloved capital city tops the list once again after finishing in first place in 2021. Raleigh received high scores in all three categories (business climate, entrepreneurship and local economy) and ranked 25th or better in six out of nine key metrics. At 50.8%, the City of Oaks boasts the sixth-highest percentage of residents 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree, and the seventh-highest percentage of people within prime working age (25 to 54) at 42.9%.
  • Second Place—Charlotte: The Queen City and finance capital of the state came in second place, which comes as no surprise considering it is also NC’s largest metropolitan area. Charlotte scored among the top 20 in four of nine key metrics, including an impressive number of self-employed residents (4.6%), residents 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher (40.7%), and residents within prime working years (41.6%). Also working in Charlotte’s favor are the state’s business-friendly tax climate and strong survival rate for startups.
  • Third Place—Durham: Durham may have been the 10th smallest metropolitan area in the whole study, but that didn’t stop Bull City from nabbing the number three spot. Durham garnered high scores in several business climate and local economy metrics, including the percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree (50.6%), trailing Raleigh just slightly (50.8%). 


North Carolina as a whole came in at number 11 in LendingTree’s business survival rate metric: 82.7% of our state’s startups surpassed the critical one-year milestone, a full percentage point above the national average of 81.7%. This strong startup survival rate is not only a testament to the resilience of NC companies, but also to the supportive business ecosystem that enables entrepreneurs to navigate challenges and establish enduring legacies.


With a highly educated population, favorable tax environment for businesses, and wealth of economic opportunities, it’s no wonder business is thriving in the Old North State. North Carolina's growing prominence as a small business stronghold is further validated by LendingTree's in-depth study. The outstanding performance of Raleigh, Charlotte, and Durham showcases the state's commitment to fostering a positive atmosphere for entrepreneurship. North Carolina remains an increasingly attractive hub for aspiring entrepreneurs to launch and grow their ventures.


For anyone interested in starting or growing their business in North Carolina, or protecting their business's brand or intellectual property, contact the authors to learn more about how we can help.


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