Business Programs and Resources for Entrepreneurs with a Disability

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Even the largest companies started out as just an idea. Successful businesses do not happen overnight; it takes hard work, collaboration, and strategic planning. According to the United States Small Business Administration, in 2015 almost 50 percent of the country’s workforce was employed by small businesses of less than 500 employees. Start-ups are a vital component of the U.S. economy and, while the number of new businesses opening each year remains steady, only ten percent or so will stay open. In order to be successful as a new entrepreneur be in that ten percent, it is imperative that you strategically leverage what resources you have available to you. You must have a plan.

Having a disability does not mean that you can’t become a successful business owner. There are plenty of resources available to level any disadvantage disabled individuals may have and to help you actualize your vision. Regardless of your disability, it’s important to develop a tangible business plan, marketing strategy, outreach and growth plan, and financial plan before you begin your endeavor.

No aspiring entrepreneur should jump into starting a business without first having a business plan in place. Potential investors are unlikely to take you seriously without one. A detailed business plan can help you determine if your idea is feasible, even before you’ve invested much in the way of time and resources and, once you do get off the ground, it serves as a manual or a guide.

Many new business owners have a background in business or have pursued an online MBA where they learned the details of creating a solid business plan. If you don’t already possess this information, proper research and diligence will help you to create a business plan, regardless of a degree. A good business plan should start with an executive summary that concisely states your idea to potential investors. It should include a description of the business and its products or services, the marketing plan, operations structure, and a financial summary.

It is equally important to have a marketing plan. Regardless of which marketing strategy you pursue, it should help you solidify exactly what your product or service is, who the target customers are, and how to reach them. In order to fine tune your product, you need to get to know your customer. That includes talking to your future customers to find out their opinions, whether that be via mass survey of a market sample, interviewing individuals, or another way of collecting that data.

Some new business owners may have a target market in mind already, but others may need assistance narrowing one down. There are several strategies to help you determine who you should aim to sell to. Tactics like SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and Blue Ocean Strategy are just a few marketing tools that can help a startup key in on their ideal customer.

Once you have your target market and their preferences identified, you can begin strategizing how to reach them. It is most often a good idea to diversify your approach and use a combination of online, paper, word of mouth, or other methods to make your business known. You may also use your creativity, or outsource it, to find a unique way to advertise using appealing language and visuals.

Even when you are just starting out, it is a good idea to visualize what the future of your business looks like in terms of growth and partnerships. For most entrepreneurs, the goal is to increase your net profit and continue to scale upward. In order to continue growing, your audience must grow steadily, and you must develop ties with other business owners and entities in your community. To maintain public good will you should consider what partners you would like to gain in the community, such as nonprofits, schools, or other community organizations you would eventually like to reach and support.

An entrepreneur also needs to consider financing. Funds are needed to fuel startup costs, such as materials, salaries, advertising, insurance, rent, and the technology you are going to need in order to operate. Before even approaching investors, you should have a clear idea of how much money you will need, where it will come from, and what your financial statements will look like for at least the first two years. If you are unfamiliar with financial statements, like income statements and balance sheets, taking some accounting classes or pursuing an online MBA could be extremely helpful in building up your knowledge. If you are not comfortable numbers, you may consider bringing on additional help or outsourcing your accounting.

To fund your startup costs, you have many options. Many new business owners turn to a local bank for a small business loan, others use lines of credit on existing personal assets, and others may draw from their savings. It is best not to use your personal funds, however, as a long-term strategy for funding your business. Some grants (money you don’t have to repay) may be available for aspiring entrepreneurs and for business owners with disabilities. Do your research beforehand to make the most informed decisions possible regarding finances.

Starting a business can be a daunting task, but there are many resources available. The sources referenced below can help as a starting point.

Business Plans
● Free Sample Business Plans
● Write a Winning Business Plan with These 8 Key Elements
● Small Business Administration Boosts Access to Deaf Entrepreneurs
● Disability Resources for Self-Employment
● Startup Resources for Entrepreneurs
● What to Include in an Executive Summary
● Free Small Business Tools and Templates
● Choosing Your Suppliers
● Small Business Insurance Basics

Marketing Strategies
● Think Like a Marketer – Use the 4 Ps
● The Importance of Marketing to People with Disabilities
● SWOT Analysis
● Blue Ocean Strategy
● Social Media Strategies for Small Business
● Powerful Marketing Strategies for Small Business Owners

Outreach and Growth
● Boost Your Small Business from Sponsorship
● Resources for Growing Your Business
● Community Outreach Ideas for Small Businesses

● Business Startup Costs: It’s in the Details
● Financial Literacy for Youth with Disabilities
● The Importance of a Financial Plan for a Small Business
● IRS: Tax Information for Businesses
● Beginner’s Guide to Financial Statements
● National Association for the Self-Employed Growth Grants
● 8 Startup Financing Options
● Pros and Cons of Using Your Own Funds for Your Business

Other Resources:

● Examples of Assistive Devices and How They Are Used
● American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. 
● Resources and Support for those Who Use Wheelchairs
● National Association of Blind Merchants
● National Association of the Deaf – Employment and Vocational Rehabilitation
● Social Security Business Services Online
● Evernote: Organization, Notetaking, and Electronic Filing
● Veteran Entrepreneur Portal
● Employing People with Disabilities
● Building an Employee Handbook
● Self-Employment for People with Disabilities

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