Guest blog from Patrick Young
Founder of ableusa.info
Finding a reliable and rewarding job can be difficult for adults with disabilities. Holding down a job and juggling the stress of family life is a challenge for anyone, especially for people with disabilities, who are often underrepresented in the workplace.
Underemployment and unemployment are a common problem for people with disabilities, as are job satisfaction and opportunity for advancement. If you have disabilities and an entrepreneurial spirit, starting your own business is one of the best ways to avoid the frustration of having your skills overlooked.
Being a business owner offers the flexibility needed to accommodate your schedule and pursue work that’s meaningful to you. Here are some options to consider:
Working at home
In recent years there has been explosive growth in the number of home-based businesses in the U.S. The Internet has reduced the barrier of entry to establishing and marketing a business, finding new clients, and finding resources, all from your laptop.
Working at home in accessible surroundings can be considerably easier than trying to be productive in an office or warehouse that may be only minimally accessible to workers with disabilities. You just need a dedicated workspace, the equipment necessary to do your work, and the discipline and motivation to get started.
Like any job, you should pursue home-based business opportunities that closely parallel your experience and skill set. If your background is in IT, consider setting up a consulting business and seeking out clients through people you’ve worked with in the past.
If you have more of a creative background, there are ample opportunities to make money as a web designer, graphic artist, or a freelance writer. Or, if you enjoy making things with your hands, consider selling craft items on platforms like Etsy, eBay or Fulfillment by Amazon.
Social media channels (like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter) are ideal for promoting your business to target customers. One of the advantages of starting a business are the possibilities it offers for using your creativity to generate an income in a way that’s personally meaningful.
Financing and planning
People with disabilities have additional opportunities for business financing through grants and loans, including several offered through the Small Business Association. Begin by determining your eligibility based on SBA requirements. Then locate an SBA lender, organize your financial documents for the review process, and complete the application form.
You can also look for programs that serve startup companies, such as Grants.gov, Grantsnet and FedBizOpps.gov. If you opt for a loan, begin with the Abilities Fund, an organization that specializes in helping small business owners with disabilities find financial assistance to start and grow a business. Disability.gov can help you at every stage of the process, from developing a business plan to designing a website.
The government allots grant funding annually for individuals, including disabled business owners. There are also grants available from private groups and foundations who cater to people with disabilities.
Be aware that most grants are reserved for those who are already business owners, not those who are starting a business. However, there is grant funding available to help business owners with disabilities meet medical expenses, equipment and even housing needs.
Starting and operating a business is a challenge for anyone. It takes a high degree of self-motivation and personal discipline. For people with physical disabilities, becoming a business owner can open new possibilities for independence and personal growth that conventional employment can’t always match. And, once your business grows to the point where you want office space, Loudoun Economic Development is here to help. There are a number of co-working spaces where you can start, and when your business requires your own office, we can help you find the perfect fit. We’re committed to helping you find the resources to make your business success #LoudounPossible.