The number of people with disabilities becoming business owners is on the rise. Doing something they love, pursuing their dreams, and bypassing the constraints of working for someone else is an attractive combination for many.
Anyone who has owned a business will tell you: working for yourself is a lot of work. There is a great deal of freedom, but with that comes a mountain of responsibility. Fortunately, there are many excellent resources available for new entrepreneurs.
A successful business starts with a solid plan. It sets the stage for everything that comes next. There are decisions that need to be made at the outset, like whether to incorporate as an LLC or an S corporation. There are startup costs to think about and often local or state forms that need to be filed. The Small Business Development Center is a great place to start. They are hosted by universities, colleges, private sector organizations, and state economic sector organizations. Do a zip-code search so you can find your nearest SBDC.
A new business is formed every 26 minutes, a new job created every 5.7 minutes, and there are $100,000 in new sales every 7.2 minutes.
Source: Small Business Development Center, 2022.
The Cost of Doing Business
Many different financing opportunities for people with disabilities who are starting a business are available. The federal government incentivizes self-employment with a number of different grants. Both the Small Business Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services maintain information about private organizations to offer different types of grants.
In addition, there are loans specifically designed to help businesses owners with disabilities get underway. Some states have loan programs for self-employment for people with disabilities. Loans can cover anything from rural businesses, to assistive technology, to loans for people from underserved communities.
Business planning is more than just set-up. To get backing from partners or financial institutions, new business owners need to know about their industry and their competition. In a business plan, they are expected to set goals and meet them, whether that’s selling a certain number of units or performing a service for clients.
There are tax and other forms that need to be taken care of every year. If the business is brick and mortar, there are monthly operating costs. Yearly reports and taxes are a part of administering the business. Having employees means knowing how to do so legally. Maintaining components or inventory for retail is important. Estimating, completing, and delivering services for various clients can be a balancing game – especially if clients have competing deadlines.
Running day-to-day operations is complex, and new business owners may have questions. Having a mentor can help new business owners get answers to their questions or advice from an experienced, retired business executive. The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) has volunteers all over the U.S. who are willing to provide guidance and answers.
Self-employment Resources for Veterans with Disabilities
The Veterans Administration is a great place to get information and assistance for veterans with disabilities who would like to be self-employed. The Veteran Readiness and Employment Program provides various learning tracks to get veterans ready for post-service careers, including a track for self-employment.
The National Center on Self-Employment, Business Ownership, and Telecommuting was founded to build the capacity of Federal and State public agencies and private entities to support people with disabilities in achieving self-employment. Their website is a rich resource for budding entrepreneurs to find information, training and assistance.
In addition, a person’s community – depending on the size – may have assistance, guidance, or funds to help get a business underway.
The center has developed and is providing training for VR counselors and professionals, so they can provide valuable advice and direction to new business owners. Training and tools are available to get a business underway; the site also has information on topics like ABLE accounts, and has answers to questions about working and disability benefits.
As you can see, though self-employment is not easy, help exists to assist with the planning, development, and growth of a small business. In addition, self-employment may be just the right fit for a person with a disability.