Growing up with a disability I had to be creative and self-motivated in order to be successful. In the 80s and 90s “a significant percent of “normal” activities for kids were not accessible so I had to be creative to be able to be involved. I also spent a significant amount of my elementary school years, homebound receiving tutoring services. With about six hours of school per week and the expectation that I would do the same amount of work as my classmates, I had to do a significant amount of the work on my own. Although at the time creativity and being self-motivation were necessary for “just getting by,” they created a unique skill set that has allowed me (and I believe a lot of other people with disabilities) to be an entrepreneur and business owner.
I never really thought about owning my own business (of course I also thought I would be a marine biologist, but that surely has not happened). As a kid I was often told that I had extraordinary leadership skills (actually I think it was more like bossy but I will call leadership). Once I have completed my doctorate, I realized that getting a typical job at my educational level would likely not support my disability accommodation needs and would certainly put me over the income and asset limits for Medicaid and home and community-based service waivers. Private insurance does not pay for in-home care like nurses and personal care attendants in my care would likely exceed $300,000 per year, I knew that I cannot afford to be too successful. This was the birth of J Badger Consulting Inc.
Keys to starting a business
I have learned a lot since starting my business eight years ago and there is a lot that I wish that I would’ve known before starting this journey. I did most of the work to start the business by myself, with some input from my aunt who is a CPA. I do not recommend that. Consider the following:
Vocational Rehabilitation is charged with supporting entrepreneurship and business startups. Vocational rehabilitation can provide support with an initial fee, finding good lawyers and accountants, getting the right insurance, and so much more
PASS Plans allow individuals who receive government benefits to save money for a particular purchase or designated goal. By setting up a pass plan you can set aside funds for establishing a business.
Small Business Development Centers are fantastic to connect with to identify the pros and cons of creating different types of corporations; finding lawyers and accountants; and giving overall guidance. These organizations provide consulting for free.
Benefits counselors can help you figure out how much you can earn and save. They also may know of programs that will allow you to earn and save more while working. You should connect with a benefits counselor before starting the business and let them know what your plans are. There are a lot of regulations and “secrets” to business ownership while receiving benefits.
Benefits Of Having a Business
Owning a business is a lot of work and can be really stressful but it has allowed me to work, care for myself, and enjoy what I do. Through my business I am able to purchase assistive technology and services that support my disability needs and allow me to work. This has included my computer, cell phone, headsets, speech to text programs, and an accessible desk. It allows me to create my own work schedule so that I am able to start my work day after 9 AM and take the breaks that I need and throughout the day. Since I was out of my home it has also allowed for me to pay for my cell phone and Internet through my business, since they are absolutely necessary for the work that I do.
Barriers To Business Ownership
The process of starting a business is really complicated. Don’t try to do it on your own! It is important to create connections, do research, and document everything! Even eight years after starting my business I still struggle to find certain numbers or login information that I need for managing taxes and finances. There are a lot of dates and deadlines had a business owner has to keep track of, figure out what you need to be able to not miss a deadline. Although there are a lot of that need to be done and documented for a business, it is not possible and there are a lot of services available to help.
Considering starting a business?
Regardless of the reason that you may be considering starting a business, start talking to small business owners as soon as possible. Find out how they got it started, any services that they have found helpful, and what they wish they would’ve known when they started their business.
People with disabilities are creative and driven individuals, making us ideal entrepreneurs. We bring unique perspectives and skills to the table which are often underutilized in the job market. Business ownership may be the ideal fit for you an important fit for the void of disability home businesses in the world.
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