By Penny Pickett, Associate Administrator for Entrepreneurial Development, U.S. Small Business Administration, Disability Blog, July 11, 2011
More and more Americans with disabilities are going into business for themselves. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, people with disabilities are almost twice as likely as individuals without disabilities to start a business. (See the U.S. Department of Labor’s Entrepreneurship page for people with disabilities).
For many Americans with disabilities, self-employment can offer empowerment, control and the flexibility to succeed. Home-based businesses in particular can accommodate an individual’s unique needs in a way that a more traditional corporate workplace may not.
As for all entrepreneurs, starting and managing a business as an individual with a disability is a significant undertaking – not only for one’s finances, but for maintaining one’s agility, stamina and determination.
Building a business as a person with a disability presents unique challenges. For example, the potential loss of benefits that an established employer provides can be a significant hurdle to starting your own business.
Despite these challenges, the success rate among small business owners with disabilities is unprecedented. The Disabled Businesspersons Association, for example, estimates that 40 percent of home-based businesses are operated by people with disabilities.
To keep this percentage on the uptick, there are many government and government-sponsored programs to assist those with disabilities in starting, operating and growing a business.
Below is a summary of some useful resources for small business owners with disabilities, including business and market development advice, financial programs and business operation information.
Resources for Individuals with Disabilities Interested in Starting a Business
If you have a disability and are considering starting your own business, there are several in-person or Web-based resources available to you.
Financing your Enterprise: Small Business Loans for People with Disabilities
The federal government, through SBA, provides a number of loan programs that can help people with disabilities obtain startup financing. SBA maintains a list of loan and grant programs for people with disabilities from a variety of other sources. SBA also offers a useful Loans and Grants Search Tool. Once you complete a simple online form, the tool will direct you to relevant loans and venture capital programs.
In addition, many independent organizations such as The Abilities Fund, as well as state-sponsored loan programs, provide loans for individuals with disabilities.
More Resources for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities
For more information on entrepreneurship, visit the Self-Employment section of Disability.gov. Disability.gov also provides information on starting a business, writing a business plan and finding funding sources.
Penny Pickett is the Senior Advisor to the Administrator and the Associate Administrator for Entrepreneurial Development at the SBA. She served as an advisor on the Transition Team for the Obama Administration. Previously, she served as president and member of the Board of Directors of the Washington D.C. Technology Council, a member-driven organization assisting with strengthening the business environment for the technology community in the Washington, D.C. region.