These resources can help prospective business owners living with a disability make their dream of owning their own business a reality.
Fact: Self-employment is a more popular choice among people with disabilities than it is with the general population. The Small Business Administration reported that 12.2 percent of the general population chose self-employment, and 14.3 percent of people with disabilities started businesses.
Alice Doyel, author of No More Job Interviews: Self-Employment Strategies for People With Disabilities, suggests five clear advantages of self-employment for people with disabilities.
- Work activities that fit personal interests and capabilities
- Control of the company
- Workplace supports and accommodations to meet needs and enhance success
- Connections with other community business members
- Long-term employment with the opportunity for personal growth
Any person with a disability who has worked in the labor force may be familiar with the concept of Customized Employment (CE). Customized Employment starts not with a job description, but by identifying the strengths, conditions and interests of a job candidate. After this process of discovery, an employer or job counselor can identify a position that matches the candidate’s profile.
The same framework can be applied to identifying self-employment opportunities.
Joe Steffy is a young adult with Down syndrome and autistic spectrum disorder. When Joe was in his teens, teachers and school administrators didn’t think he’d ever work – at best, he’d spend his days at a fully supervised workplace, also known as a sheltered workshop.
Then Joe worked with a Customized Employment expert, and together they discovered Joe’s interest in popping kettle corn. Joe’s family bought equipment, and he began popping and selling kettle corn at local businesses and farmers markets. He started when he was 15 years old, and in three years, teenage Joe’s sales grew to $50,000 with a staff of five part-time employees. Joe works five or six hours a day popping corn and delivering it to stores.
Joe is in his 30s now, and Poppin’ Joe’s Gourmet Kettle Korn is still going strong.
Going through the Customized Employment framework is a good first step for any person with a disability thinking about starting their own business.
Melony Hill, who has been diagnosed with PTSD, depression, anxiety disorder, dissociative identity disorder, and fibromyalgia, launched a successful speaking, writing, and coaching business called Stronger Than My Struggles.
A big part of her success came from identifying a profession that worked for her rather than one focused on money. “Instead, I sought to find ways I would feel I was living peacefully and doing things I enjoyed,” Melony says. Now she teaches others to do the same.
Once a potential business owner has identified their unique strengths and abilities, the fun begins – identifying a business that is a right for them.
- Joe Steffy’s Story as Told by His Parents to Start-Up/USA – The full story of Steffy’s rise to successful business owner.
- Self-Employment Q & A: Discovery – A guide to the Discovery/Customized Employment process.
- Q & A on Customized Employment: Self-Employment as a Customized Employment Outcome – Clearing up doubts and misconceptions about self-employment, especially among people with disabilities.
The PASS program
Usually, federal supplemental security income (SSI) payments are reduced or eliminated once the recipient finds a job. With the PASS (Plan to Achieve Self-Support) program, SSI recipients wanting to start a business can continue to accumulate SSI payments while they work and use the money to fund their startup.
PASS money can be saved up and set aside to pay for the following:
- Transportation to and from work
- Tuition, books, fees and supplies needed for school or training
- Attendant care
- Supplies to start a business
- Equipment and tools to do the job, and
- Uniforms, special clothing and safety equipment
The Social Security Administration will not count money set aside under this plan when they decide on an SSI payment amount, so recipients may end up getting a higher payment. However, they won’t get more than the maximum payment for the state in which they live.
To qualify for PASS, the intended recipient can’t have a net worth exceeding $2,000 or $3,000 for couples. However, assets or equipment to be used for the business don’t count toward this amount.
PASS participants must get their plan approved by the Social Security Administration. Examples of businesses that have been approved include a carpentry business, a music production business and a candy vending business.
To qualify, recipients must complete paperwork, including the creation of a business plan. Here’s more about the PASS program:
- Starting a Business Under PASS – A broad overview of the basic requirements for PASS acceptance.
- PASS Application – Initial paperwork required by the Social Security Administration.
- Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) – General information about the PASS program from the Social Security Administration.
Writing a business plan
Creating a business plan is a requirement of applying for PASS. It’s a vital step for any business owner.
A business plan outlines the goals of the business and details the steps needed to achieve them. The plan will include specifics like equipment needed, how the business will be promoted, and anticipated revenue.
Continue on to Business.com to read the complete article.