It’s not easy to start a business, let alone as someone who lives with a disability. Yet if you’ve taken those first few steps, you’ve also taken stock of the benefits. Entrepreneurship means freedom from stifling corporate structure and its accompanying hostilities. It means you can take a full audit of your needs and talents—and create a plan to maximize what you can offer the world. Though you’ll face a multitude of challenges, sustainable success is more than possible. What's more, you can leverage many resources and reliable techniques to shift the odds in your favor. Here are 5 tips for you to grow your business as a disabled entrepreneur.
Keep your business home-based
If your disability is physical, mobility barriers can be arduous when you have to travel to your workstation daily. It might be worth it, then, to keep your business remote, especially as an entrepreneur who has more control over where they locate their business.
If you offer products, consider selling them on a third-party website like Etsy or Shopify, or even make your own e-commerce website. You can also opt to open a business where it's easy to offer your services remotely, such as virtual assistance, translation services, or consulting.
Get support from disability entrepreneurship organizations
Disabled business owners confront a unique host of hurdles. For example, you may find it challenging to procure funding if investors lack confidence in your capabilities. Fortunately, you’re not alone. Entrepreneurs who face similar struggles have long banded together in disability entrepreneurship organizations to provide support, and you can take full advantage of this.
To find what might best suit you, examine three categories: business necessities, your disability’s specific needs, and location. If you require funding, for example, the Accion Opportunity Fund can loan your small business up to $100,000. You can also explore local government grant options. If you qualify, your state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation can help pay for things you need to become and remain self-employed, including accessible vehicle modifications, home office equipment, assistive technology, and more.
If you’re blind and wish to work with those who understand your struggles, you can go to the Independent Visually Impaired Entrepreneurs affiliate, which aims to broaden opportunities for visually impaired entrepreneurs. You can also connect with fellow disabled business owners at 2Gether International.
Expand your team to cover essential tasks
Collaboration is the key to success. You’ll want to delegate tasks effectively between yourself and your staff, as it will allow you to attend to your needs while concentrating on specific issues that require your authorization or supervision. Define the work that needs to be done and ensure you hire the right professional to take that load off you.
Two roles you can look at are administrative assistants and marketing managers. The job description of an administrative assistant entails duties such as managing your accounts, filing information, and coordinating travel and event logistics. Meanwhile, the marketing manager conducts and assesses marketing research and launches promotional campaigns. Filling these roles can make running daily operations and promoting your business much less challenging than doing so on your own, especially if your disability prevents you from accomplishing these tasks effectively.
Build your brand
In 2020, CEO Martyn Sibley launched Purple Goat, an influencer agency that showcases the talents of disabled creators. He was met with resounding success—but it wasn’t always that way. Sibley was born with spinal muscular atrophy. For over a decade, corporations didn’t take him seriously. What changed? His ability to articulate how his expertise and advocacies could help businesses thrive. In other words: marketing.
Don’t underestimate the power of a potent communication strategy. Identify the right platform to reach your target audience, whether it be LinkedIn or Facebook, and deliver your message in a personalized and consistent manner relevant to your customers. You might also want to consider affiliate marketing, which involves partnering with an influencer who can recommend your products or services. This way, you have an additional low-effort and powerful method to monetize your traffic and reach audiences. You can also hire disabled influencers to further help the community.
You are your own best asset. While running your own business gives you autonomy and feels wonderfully empowering, don’t push yourself further than what you know you can handle. Being disabled means that sometimes, your body will run on irregular or inconvenient patterns. It's important to respect and work around it rather than against it.
To do this, be sure to have clear, flexible work structures in place. Prioritize healthy eating and any medication you have to take in your routine. Schedule time for different kinds of rest like meditating or exercising, and have a clear endpoint for your work day. This will help you manage your condition and keep running your business sustainably.
Being a disabled entrepreneur is difficult but also extremely rewarding. If you keep these tips in mind and maintain your work-life balance, you’ll be well on your way toward growth and success.
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I'm Alice and I live with a dizzying assortment of invisible disabilities, including ADHD and fibromyalgia. I write to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental and chronic illnesses of all kinds.