Thumbtack, a platform to connect small business owners with local professionals, conducts the survey from interviews with its service professionals who ranked states in different categories.
“Helping local small companies, especially in the service industry, were one of the motivations for the survey,” said Lucas Puente, economic analyst at Thumbtack.
For ease of starting a new business, N.C. small business owners gave a C+, which is the lowest grade the state received overall. Thumbtack’s annual survey reached nearly 633 small business owners statewide, focused in populated areas like Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham.
But Ted Zoller, UNC professor and director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, said he sees flaws in the methodology of the survey.
It only focused on single owner or sole proprietorship businesses, and the needs of small business are not well represented by sole proprietorships, Zoller said, in addition to the sample not representing the region and submission bias.
“Sole operators are unfairly burdened by regulation designed for larger enterprises,” he said.
Puente said the grade indicates the state is not doing enough to help small businesses get started. The state should be more straightforward in regulatory policies and providing information online, he said.
Holly Yanker, manager of the Business Counseling Team at Business Link North Carolina, said there are many organizations in the state to help small businesses that go unnoticed.
“Many people don’t know we exist — we are one of the best kept secrets because we are a free service and an extension of the N.C. Department of Commerce,” Yanker said. She said lack of advertising funds could explain unawareness of Business Link.
But Fred Barringer, regional director for UNC’s Small Business and Technology Development Center, said he would rather not have money spent towards advertising for these organizations meant to benefit small businesses.
“A small business person just needs to do research to know what is available to them in North Carolina,” he said. “In Orange County, there are many, many resources.”
In Chapel Hill, organizations such as Campus Y, Launch Chapel Hill and the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Kenan-Flagler Business School offer funding, counseling and education to support small business startups.
“Entrepreneurs are not super familiar with what’s available from the government, particularly if they are not advertised or marketed,” Puente said.