Business Programs and Resources for Entrepreneurs or Graduates with a Disability

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Career opportunities for people with disabilities can feel extremely limited. Disabilities make functioning on a daily basis harder; many people find that their capacity for even routine tasks changes on a daily basis, depending on their level of pain, energy, or ability to concentrate. In addition, the external barriers that people with disabilities face at school and in the workforce can make accessing education and jobs much more difficult.

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is double that of people without disabilities. This statistic doesn’t include people who can’t work; unemployment is measured in people who are willing and able to work. This statistic is an expression of the systemic barriers that people with disabilities can face. It’s not surprising that many people with disabilities choose to be self employed or start a business, at a rate of about four percent more than people without disabilities.

If you’re interested in getting a business degree or becoming an entrepreneur and you have a disability, this resource provides information about accessing school, loans and financial aid, as well as helpful ideas for getting started as a business person.

Business Ideas for Entrepreneurs with a Disability

It’s now possible to perform various kinds of work from home. Meeting clients can be handled via video chat, there are a variety of platforms out there to help you ship products, and digital economies have created plenty of opportunity for work performed entirely remotely.

Home Based Business Ideas For People With Disabilities

  • Writer — Journalist, science writer, travel writer, technical writer, author — you can freelance for an online publication or share your work online independently.
  • Artist — Either as an independent commission artist, a graphic designer for businesses, an illustrator for projects such as children’s books. Artists are in demand in many areas of business, especially online marketing.
  • Maker / Creator / Craftsperson — From clothing to jewelry, to essential oil products and woodworking, there’s demand for bespoke hand crafted products, even online. You can make these items in your own home, and use an online service to sell them.
  • Digital Consultant / Service Provider — If you know how to code, are familiar with marketing, SEO, or any in-demand digital skill, you can usually sell your services online.
  • Venue Owner — If you have property that would be a perfect venue for an activity (weddings, camping, bed and breakfast, etc), managing it can be done without too much travel if you live nearby. Managing a property can be intense, and will probably require at least one employee, making it a more difficult business to start if you don’t already own the property.
  • Tutor — This can be done either online or in person, depending on your comfort level, the location of your student, and the subject being taught.

Other Business Ideas For People With Disabilities

  • Financial Service Provider — Normally these services can be performed remotely, in the comfort of your own home if you have the appropriate office space. These services can also be provided at the homes of clients, depending on your preferences and the location of the parties involved.
  • Realtor — Being a realtor requires at least some travel, but it’s also a flexible job in terms of working hours.
  • Event planner / Coordinator — This can require some amount of last minute travel, but is an excellent idea if you own (or are close to) a particular venue.
  • Gig Economy Driver — Rideshare apps can be a good way to make money as a self-employed person, but you’ll want to make sure you’re comfortable driving for dedicated periods of time.

Online Tools and Services to Help Run a Business Out of Your Home

  • Patreon — This is a service which lets fans and followers contribute a small amount of money to you monthly. This is great if you don’t sell products, but instead create things like art, videos, music, or writing, that you share online.
  • YouTube — If you’ve got a talent to share or knowledge on a particularly interesting subject to impart, YouTube is a potential income source. If the videos you create gain enough of a following, you can monetize them. People create videos on all sorts of topics; video games, gardening, pet ownership, DIY crafts, news, reviews, comedy, music, and more.
  • Etsy — If you handcraft, Etsy is a popular platform through which to sell your products.
  • Buy me a Coffee — Similar to Patreon, with a focus on those who create content online.

Business Careers for People with Disabilities

If starting your own business isn’t your thing, but you still want a career in business, there are resources out there to help you.

  • Ticket to Work — A program run by the US Social Security Administration focused on helping people with disabilities, who currently receive disability benefits, enter the workforce and remain in the workforce.
  • Americans With Disabilities Act — People with disabilities are afforded certain rights in the workforce, and not all employers are completely familiar with the accommodations they should be providing, or even aware of discrimination that may be occurring. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Act and the rights it sets out for self advocating. This resource provides phone numbers to call if you are being discriminated against.
  • American Association of People With Disabilities — The AAPD provides advocacy, events, and other programs for people with disabilities focused on career development and opportunity development.

Business Plans

The first step for any prospective business owner, especially if they need financial assistance, is to come up with a business plan. Business plans are required by most sources of financial aid, including loan lenders, investors, and grant organizations. The plan should include all the pertinent financial information you have available, as well as documentation outlining business operations.

The details of a business plan should include;

  • Audience and potential customer analysis, and proof of demand;
    • Market research is vital for any business plan, because it’s your main proof of concept: will people buy your products / services? This should include competitor research to see what others in the same field are doing and how they access audiences, to identify gaps you could fill.
  • Projections for initial sales;
    • Do you have an interest already sparked? A crowd-fund audience? Testimonials or proof of demand that you need more investment to keep up with? Solid numbers make for robust plans, so provide them if you have them.
  • Start up costs, and operating cost projections;
    • Be realistic about the start up and operating costs, and take into account “worst case scenario” figures. These numbers will inform how much money you need / are asking for, so they need to be as comprehensive as possible.
  • Any potential risks that could cause financial losses;
    • It sounds counterintuitive to include negatives when you’re trying to sell people on the merits of your business plan, but this is an important step. If you’ve identified risks and have a plan for managing them, your plan comes off as thorough and upfront.

A business plan should mention your status as a person with disabilities and explain how your disability may affect the running of the business, both in terms of positive results and in terms of additional costs for accommodations you might require.

Business Plan Resources for People With Disabilities

  • How to Register a Small Business — A guide from the US Small Business Administration on registering your business, what agencies you need to register with, and the documents and fees involved in the process.
  • Business Plan Guide — An introduction to writing business plans from the US Small Business Administration. Business plans have very specific language associated with them, so you’ll want to include all your information in a way that makes sense in a standard format.
  • How to Write a Business Plan — A flash player learning course from the US Small Business Administration. It’s a 30 minute guide through business planning and the actual creation of a business plan document.
  • Sample Business Plans — Free to use sample business plans to help you get started. They are organized by type of business, and provide a starting place for business plan creation.
  • Business Types and Structures — Information from the IRS about how different businesses are structured, to help you decide what type of business to create. This will help you understand business taxes, and how to define your operation.

Outreach and Growth

One of the most important ways to grow any new business is through outreach, both in the business community and directly to new markets and audiences. Many entrepreneurs find that professional networks are invaluable tools for seeking mentorship, clients, and other kinds of help along the way.

Outreach Opportunities for People With Disabilities

  • Chamber of Commerce — Your local chamber of commerce is an excellent first step for developing a professional network, no matter what kind of business you’re in. The chamber will usually run events, luncheons, meet and greets, which are often open to non-members.
  • Chamber of Commerce for Persons with Disabilities — This chamber is much the same as the chamber of commerce, except with a specific focus on assisting people with disabilities to succeed in their business goals.
  • Disabled Businesspersons Association — An organization run by current and retired business people with disabilities who share their expertise in order to help current business people with disabilities succeed.
  • Job Accommodation Network — This organization provides technical support and mentorship to entrepreneurs with disabilities. The resources are listed by “role” — job seeker, entrepreneur, business, so make sure to select the correct section.
  • SCORE — An organization made up of volunteer business mentors, connecting new business owners with people who can help and advise them. They also provide workshops and webinars hosted by their volunteer experts.

Training and Online Courses

Online learning opportunities can be a huge help to you as an entrepreneur. Online learning is appealing largely because of the flexibility it offers. Lectures can be accessed at any time, rather than only once at a specific time, making scheduling easier and allowing you to go back over the recordings.

Getting a business degree online can set you up for success as a business owner, giving you the tools and connections to start up right. Online education can make degrees more accessible, helping many people who chose not to get a degree due to the physical demands of traditional campus-based education.

In addition to a degree, there are a number of courses, webinars, and lectures you can access online to assist in developing your business skills. For continuing students, and for people who don’t want to pursue a full degree, they can be invaluable sources of knowledge.

Examples of Alternative Online Education

While an MBA can be a great platform for success in small business ownership, there are many ways you can continue to advance your knowledge and skills as an entrepreneur. Many training programs, seminars, or mini-courses are available online, making it easy to access resources and communities relevant to your particular business or field.

  • SCORE Workshops — The same organization that can connect you with business mentors also runs online workshops and webinars, in both live and pre-recorded formats.
  • Small Business Expo — These small business webinars aren’t free, but are relatively reasonably priced.
  • Edx Courses — Edx is a website that provides courses on a variety of topics, with business being one category. There are a variety of courses, many of which have a free access option as well as a paid option. Some courses of interest include:
  • My Own Business Institute — This website provides free learning and certification for people who wish to start a business.
  • Coursera — This platform delivers courses that are a mix of free and paid. Some courses have financial assistance options available if they’re out of your price range.

Financial Aid

There are various types of financial aid available to people who want to start businesses. People with disabilities may have access to additional types of financial support. Many entrepreneurs find that establishing sources of financial assistance is a local effort, done through networking and pitching state or municipal level organizations. Making use of local outreach can be an excellent source of funding. However, there are also wider programs available.

Different types of financial aid have different requirements. Small business loans come with interest and repayment schedules. Investors have an expectation of profit and will take a cut of it. Grants often require rigorous reporting before, during, and after the period of the grant itself.

Business Loans and Aid for Veterans with Disabilities

Small Business Grants

  • National Association of the Self Employed — Grants worth up to $4,000 for small business growth.
  • PASS Plan — A plan for people currently on disability benefits to help them transition to financial independence without losing their benefits immediately.
  • — A web portal that allows you to search and apply for government grants.
  • DHHS Business Grants — The US Department of Health and Human Services provides Information about the money available from the federal government, and how that money is passed out locally.
  • Local Small Business Development Centers — Much of the funding and assistance is delivered locally, so making use of local resources is a great way to access funds, mentorship, and training that you won’t find on federal websites.