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Erica Francis

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A dream and a plan - Disability shouldn’t stop you from starting a business

Guest article written by of readyjob.org on Jan 5

In 2015, the Wright family of Wilmington, North Carolina, opened a small business, a coffee shop with a staff determined to make a go of it. A full list of specialty coffee drinks and a menu featuring breakfast and lunch items got the new venture off to a good start, but there was much more to the story. Bitty & Beau’s is run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). They’ve since expanded, opening a shop in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2016. Bitty & Beau’s progressive idea is such a hit that it’s been featured in Southern Living and Entrepreneur Magazine.

The Wrights are just one notable example of a growing national trend that proves disabled people can succeed at running a business. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that approximately 15 percent of disabled Americans have launched a new business. The Small Business Administration and state and local agencies are helping more disabled people than ever translate hopes and great ideas into lasting commercial success.

Skills and interests

The most successful businesses begin with a desire to make the most of one’s skills and interests. Today, there many opportunities for disabled people who want to use their abilities and knowledge to begin home-based businesses, franchises, specialty startups and more. Begin with a business plan that spells out how your business will be structured, lists initial costs and long-term objectives and identifies competitors and your customer population. Remember that when it comes to writing a business plan, the more detail the better.

Incentives and support

The government offers incentives to disabled people who want to start their own business. The Ticket to Work program puts disabled individuals in touch with Social Security disability insurance, employment training networks and other services. The Small Business Association and federal government offer grants and loans that help disabled business owners make their dreams a reality.

Thought starters

Consider starting an online business that assists other disabled people by providing mobility and assistive equipment like wheelchairs, walkers, and medical braces. This can be an expensive option (startup costs can be as high as $50,000), but there’s considerable revenue potential (to say nothing of the personal rewards). A costume rental business is a fun and profitable option that offers the flexibility of working from home or operating out of a storefront. It’s seasonal and requires aggressive marketing, but the earnings are potentially lucrative.

Home demolition has helped create a resale market for valuable leftover features like hardwood flooring and kitchen and bathroom fixtures. These can be marketed and sold to businesses, contractors and homeowners over the Internet. If you have an eye for composition and you love animals, pet photography is a growing business niche that could be perfect for you. If you own your own photographic equipment, getting started can be fairly inexpensive. Dog boarding or training service dogs are other pet-friendly opportunities that can earn you a nice income doing what you love.

Potpourri sales is a fun and hands-on business in which natural oils are combined with dried flowers and other aromatic objects to create distinctive fragrances. At the other end of the hands-on spectrum is welding art, which allows you to vent your creative impulses by fashioning unique pieces that can be sold online and at art fairs. If you’re experienced in the IT industry, think about starting a tech support consulting business, an increasingly popular option for companies looking to save money by farming out their networking and software support needs.

Go with what you know

For disabled people, starting a business is like launching any other commercial venture. If you have a skill set, hobby or interest, you can use it to get started in a profitable and rewarding business. There are abundant funding and ongoing financial opportunities for disabled people with an entrepreneurial mindset.

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