Small Business and Self-Employment
Self-employment or small business ownership can open the door for people with disabilities to realize their full potential while becoming financially independent. Some of the benefits of self-employment include a flexible work schedule and the satisfaction that comes from creating and implementing your own business plan. One approach to self-employment is starting a home-based business, which can offer a great opportunity for people with disabilities to increase their income while avoiding transportation barriers or a lengthy work commute. Check out these success stories of some people with disabilities who have started their own businesses.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) offers many resources that can answer your questions about self-employment to find out if it may be right for you. One of these is the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). JAN staff offer information on a case-by-case basis about self-employment and small business development, including guidance on business planning, marketing research, disability-specific programs, home-based business options and small business initiatives specifically for disabled veterans. JAN also has a series of guides on self-employment and small business ownership tailored to each state and its available resources.
As you look into resources in your state, it is important to remember that people who are eligible for vocational rehabilitation (VR) services may be able to get help from their local VR office to become self-employed. Watch this YouTube video from the state of Nebraska VR about a woman with a mental health disability who started her own business with the help of VR.
U.S. Department of Labor Resources on Self-Employment and Small Business Ownership
- Self-Employment: What to Know to Be Your Own Boss
- Self-Employment for People with Disabilities
- Encouraging Future Innovation: Youth Entrepreneurship Education
Other Resources on Self-Employment and Small Business Ownership
- Find Your Local Small Business Development Center
- Got a Question? Submit a Self-Employment Question to “JAN on Demand”
- BusinessUSA – 10 Steps to Starting a Business
- U.S. Small Business Administration Local Assistance Finder
- Guide Government Resources to Access Financing for Your Business
- Resources for Veterans: Start Your Veteran-Owned Small Business
SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program can help qualifying minority-owned firms develop and grow their businesses through one-to-one counseling, training workshops, and management and technical guidance. The program also provides access to government contracting opportunities, allowing these businesses to become solid competitors in the federal marketplace.
How do I know if I qualify for the 8(a) program?
Some minority groups are presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged and can qualify for the 8(a) program. These groups include: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and Subcontinent Asian Americans. Individuals who are not members of one or more of these groups can be considered for the 8(a) program, but they must provide substantial evidence and documentation that demonstrates that they have been subjected to bias or discrimination and are economically disadvantaged. Firms owned by Alaska Native Corporations, Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiian Organizations and Community Development Corporations can also apply to the program.
How does SBA support 8(a)-certified firms?
After businesses are accepted into the program, SBA provides business development assistance and helps them maintain program requirements. In addition, SBA’s Mentor-Protegé program, a subset of the 8(a) program, pairs mentor firms with protégé firms to provide managerial and technical assistance as well as joint venture and subcontracting opportunities to help the protégé compete successfully for federal contracts.
How do I find out more about the 8(a) program?
Small businesses interested in the 8(a) program should contact their local SBA district office.
Small businesses seeking minority business certification should contact the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), which provides a direct link between corporate America and minority-owned businesses. It was created to increase procurement and business opportunities for minority businesses of all sizes.
Learn more about NMSDC certification.
2. Look for special financing.
People with disabilities might qualify for special loans and grants for entrepreneurs with disabilities. Check out the list on the SBA website to see which programs you might be a good fit for, depending on the state where you live. But be sure to read the fine print – some loan programs are only intended for existing businesses. If you are starting a new business, you might need to find a special loan or grant program that includes start-ups as well as existing companies.
3. Get help online.
Disability.gov is a federal government website with a variety of resources and advice articles specifically for entrepreneurs with disabilities. This site can help you think through every stage of the process of starting your business – from writing a business plan to designing your business website to finding a business mentor.
Another source of help for small business owners – whether or not they have a disability – is SCORE. SCORE is a great program that connects small business owners with mentors who help them build their business, with hands-on advice and practical help every step of the way. You can access live webinars and online mentoring sessions no matter where you live. There are also local events and workshops in communities throughout the country, depending on which city you live in.