Center for Human Services
Center for Human Services

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3 Tips for Future Entrepreneurs With Disabilities

By Ed Carter

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Perhaps it’s always been your dream to be a small business owner, or maybe you got bitten by the entrepreneurship bug after your current job in Missouri didn’t take into account your unique collection of skills and limitations. Read over the following tips to successfully start a business while navigating a disability.

  1. Start the Right Type of Business

If you’re living with a disability, you may need more time to complete tasks, or you might need to take days off to address medical issues. Your life may be unpredictable at times. Don’t make the mistake of starting a physical storefront that needs your constant attention, or one with tasks that you cannot delegate to others at a moment’s notice. You might want to start a business that you can run from home — at least at first.

Before you choose what products and services you’ll be selling, take a day or two to draft a business plan. This document should include a description of your business, its structure, and your marketing plan. It should also contain information that investors can look at and use to decide whether they want to give you funds or not. Take a look at ZenBusiness’ starting a new business guide for more guidance.

  1. Look for Grants and Disability-Specific Opportunities

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 26% of American adults have some form of disability. Many foundations and governmental organizations have taken note of this statistic and made it a point to offer opportunities. There are many state-specific career resources in Missouri available to you.

There are several foundations and grant opportunities for entrepreneurs with disabilities. Suppose you were disabled during your time in the service: In that case, you may be eligible for veteran-specific programs for vets who want to start their own businesses after leaving the military. Look for resources specific to entrepreneurs with disabilities and seek advice from mentors in your field as well.

  1. Understand How Your Disability Affects Your Work

You’re probably intimately familiar with how your disability affects your life overall. If it’s difficult for your to navigate town by yourself, you may want to conduct meetings and interviews through Zoom if these people can’t come to you. If you have a business partner, discuss who will take which office duties and take into account your physical limitations.

For example, perhaps your partner could take over the manual labor of setting up an office (such as unpacking boxes and setting up desks) while you register your limited liability company and order your business checks from the bank.

If you have a mental illness that affects your emotions and perception such as bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression, consider taking mental health days to regroup, review your medication with your care provider, or simply take some space to recharge. Entrepreneurship can be stressful, and while it may give you freedom another job can’t, the unpredictability and stress could potentially trigger mental health issues. Don’t overwork yourself in these early days and consider tracking your mood with a helpful app.

Your disability may make your life harder in many respects, but it also gives you a unique perspective as well as empathy for others that many entrepreneurs don’t have. Your business might be uniquely related to your knowledge of what it’s like to live with a disability. Use this knowledge and compassion to relate to your future clients — but don’t forget to take care of yourself in the process.

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