Monday, May 1, 2017

"Taking the Plunge into Entrepreneurship with a Disability" by Erica Francis

Taking the Plunge into Entrepreneurship with a Disability

 Photo Credit: ferobanjo, Pixabay

A disability can happen to anyone, from veterans wounded in battle to a child born with a disability to an adult who suffers an injury in a car crash. Not all disabilities are visible; many people suffer from mental health issues, which are legally considered disabilities. Whether your disability is physical or mental, it shouldn’t stand between you and your aspirations to start a new business. Entrepreneurship is achievable. You just need a solid plan in place to find which business will suit you best, how to get funding, and how to find customers.

Choosing a Business

One of the first steps in your journey will be to determine what business you’d like to start. You can be scientific with your approach and select the industry in which you're interested, research the market, identify a need, and create a business to fill it. You can also choose to just dive into something you love and wait for the money to start flowing.

Unfortunately, neither of these approaches is ideal for most people. Combining a little bit of each is really the best option. You obviously need to be passionate about what you do, but you also need to be realistic about your capabilities (skills, money, time, etc.). Find out what you're truly passionate about and figure out how to make a business out of it. Also, be observant and constantly look for unmet needs. You want a product or service that you would buy if it were accessible and affordable.

Once you’ve figured out what you want to do, you can increase your odds of success by finding a proven business model and replicating it in a different market. You can also choose to buy a franchise, which provides you with a proven business model and outside support for your business. If you don’t decide on franchising, you’ll need to obtain funding.

Obtaining Funding

Although federal and state government agencies do not provide grants to people with disabilities for starting a business, low-interest loan programs that help disabled people obtain startup financing are available. For example, Illinois has assistance to entrepreneurs if the company will be 51 percent owned and managed by persons who are minorities, women, or disabled. Their program offers loans up to $50,000 or 50 percent of a total project cost.

Also, many private companies offer funding assistance for anyone who is disabled and wishing to start a business from the ground up. For example, Accion provides fairly priced, flexible loans to disabled people. They are a nonprofit organization that helps small business owners succeed and thrive. Search your local area for similar organizations.

Despite a lack of federal and state funding for the disabled, there is federal and state funding for veterans. If you’re a disabled veteran, consider seeking grants from the government for veterans. You can fill in any remaining financial gaps with assistance for the disabled from private companies.

Finding Customers

You’ve chosen your business. You’ve got the funds. You’re ready to launch your business. So how do you find customers to buy your product or use your services? There are tried and true methods to obtaining customers. You’ll need to advertise on the Internet (social media, Google search, etc.), television, radio, and print. Obviously, these methods will be what you spend the most money on, but they’re popular options for a reason – they work.

You’ll also need to network and get the conversation flowing about your business. Paying for ads is great, but you still need word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations (the original advertisements). Look for opportunities to team up with other businesses who are targeting the same customers. For example, if the hair salon you just started is targeting college students, and the local pizza joint is targeting college students, then strike a deal. They can attach a coupon for your service to their pizza boxes, and you can attach a coupon for their pizzas to your receipts.

A veteran’s health can be altered for life because of a disability. Some veterans are amputees, others suffer blindness, and some experience mental health issues related to their time in the service. Both physical and mental disabilities can affect civilians too. Regardless of your status or disability, you can successfully launch a new business. In the future, you’ll look back and be proud to know you didn’t let your disability hold you back.

Author: Erica Francis