For many with disabilities, the thought of starting your own business is both exciting and scary. Small business ownership is difficult for anyone, and the special challenges that come with having a disability can make it even tougher.
But there are also many benefits of being your own boss and working at your own pace in a field where you feel 100% comfortable. If you’re considering starting your own small business, here are a few things you need to consider.
How to best accommodate your disability in the workplace
With the proper accommodation, there’s no reason why your disability should prevent you from opening up the small business of your dreams—but you will need to make considerations about the physical workspace (ramps, service dog access, accessibility) if you’re opening a brick and mortar.
“Choosing self-employment or starting a small business in many cases enables an individual with a disability to build workplace accommodations into the design of their business. This ability to customize is one of its key benefits,” notes the Job Accommodation Network.
Many people with disabilities find the freedom of working from home and starting an online business to be the most suitable for their particular disability. The main thing is to consider your specific limitations, and be realistic about them.
What type of business should you start?
In some cases, you’ll want to follow your heart. It’s important that your business is one you care about deeply, and that you offer goods/products/services that you’re qualified to be an expert in.
But passion does not necessarily a good business make, and you need to be realistic about the demand for your product/service, possible competition, your limitations (both physical and financial), and your ability to reach a satisfactory client/consumer base.
“Before you do ANYTHING—buy product, set up a website, etc.—you have to evaluate the need for your product or service. Conduct surveys of potential clients, find out industry statistics, analyze the competition. Once you determine which idea has the best chances for success, improve upon those chances for success by developing a full-blown business plan,” says TheDisabilityDigest.com.
How can you get help with financing?
Despite what you may have heard, “federal and state government agencies do not provide grants to people with disabilities for starting a business,” says the U.S. Small Business Administration. “However, there are a number of low-interest loan programs that help disabled people obtain startup financing.”
You can start with this loan and grants search tool, and then expand your search to private organizations like the Abilities Fund. It takes some capital to start a business, and if you’re low on that you may want to consider low-overhead options like creating an online marketplace for your goods or offering professional services online – at least at first.
Or, you can always choose a trustworthy partner to help you out.
“Consider a partnership with someone who’s passionate about the business end of your business. That way, you’ll be able to spend more of your time doing what you love. If you decide to partner, be sure to choose your partner carefully and define clear expectations in the beginning,” suggests The Abilities Fund.
When it comes to owning a small business, there are hurdles that anyone must clear. Oftentimes, those with disabilities find a few extra hurdles put in front of them. But in reality, owning your own business as a person with a disability provides you a sort of flexibility that you can’t get as an employee. As long as you take the time to make careful preparations, do your research, and be realistic, there’s no reason you can’t have a thriving small business.