People with disabilities often experience higher rates of unemployment when compared to people without disabilities. Some disabled people struggle with the set hours of office life, while others find their workplace lacks tools and equipment to make their time spent at the office as comfortable as it could be. Some people deal with transportation concerns, and others are faced with discrimination issues. If you have a disability and you’re struggling to find a job that suits you or a comfortable work environment, consider starting your own business. Becoming an entrepreneur gives you the opportunity to earn a wage without the obstacles of a traditional job.
Find the Option that Best Suits You
As an entrepreneur, instead of opening a business that runs as a brick and mortar store, you can work from home. Many disabled veterans or people suffering with mental health disabilities find this option suits them best. This eliminates any transportation issues and also saves you money since you won’t be paying for rental space. You also likely have mobility measures set up in your own home, so it’s more comfortable and safe to work there. There are a variety of work-from-home business options, including selling your items on Etsy or Amazon, freelancing as a writer or graphic designer, or becoming an independent sales consultant for a business such as Mary Kay or Amway.
Of course, if you want to open a brick and mortar store or open an office to run your business out of, you certainly can. You can also determine how accessible it is for someone with a disability, and you can ensure it’s in a location that is easy for you to get to. If you like, you can opt to open a franchise store, although you’ll have less flexibility with this option when compared to opening your own business outright.
Finance Your Business
Unfortunately, federal and state government agencies do not have grants available exclusively for people with disabilities who wish to start a business. However, low-interest loan programs are available that help disabled people obtain startup financing. For example, if you live in Michigan, the Michigan Telework Loan Fund “allows you to apply for loans for equipment and home modifications” so you can either start an at-home business or work for an employer from home.
If you’re a disabled veteran looking to start a business, check into the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern Program. This federal program “provides procuring agencies with the authority to set acquisitions aside for exclusive competition among service-disabled veteran-owned small business concerns, as well as the authority to make sole source awards to service-disabled veteran-owned small business concerns if certain conditions are met.” If your business meets certain criteria, you could be eligible to apply for assistance, and instead of facing a pool of every entrepreneur in the United States, you’d only be up against other disabled veterans vying for entrepreneurship.
Bring in the Customers
You can have a great business idea with funding under your belt, but until you get your first customer, you’re not really in business. To bring in the customers, start by knowing who your potential customers are and finding out everything you can about them. Cultivate a detailed profile of your customers, including their age, education, gender, marital status, employment, hobbies, and the places they visit (both online and offline). Be sure you know what they watch, listen to, and read so you can effectively market to them.
Once you know who they are, find out your customers’ needs and wants. Don’t assume you know; meet with them and ask. One popular option is having a focus group. Offer free samples for people to try your product, or provide limited services free of charge. Always provide excellent customer service, and once you get a few customers under your belt, ask them to make referrals. Consider offering a special introductory offer to their friends and rewarding your old customers for the referral.
A guest article by Erica Francis