How to Start a Business with a Disability

Embark on a journey of empowerment with our guide for business owners with disabilities, offering tailored strategies, resources, and support to navigate the entrepreneurial landscape successfully.

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Having a disability shouldn’t stop anyone from pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams. Despite the challenges that come with launching a business, you can absolutely create a successful venture even if you have a disability. There are resources available that can help you start and run your business, from financial assistance programs to local entrepreneur groups to affordable business services like ZenBusiness. Our guide explains what entrepreneurs with a disability need to know about getting a business up and running.

Can you start a business if you’re on disability?

Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits doesn’t mean you can’t start a business, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) has guidelines for SSDI recipients starting their own businesses. Generally speaking, if your monthly earnings plus any unearned income don’t exceed $1,470 per month ($2,460 if you’re a person with vision impairment or low vision), then you can start a business without impacting your disability benefits eligibility or payment amount. However, if your gross earnings exceed those limits for more than nine months within a rolling 60-month period after you’re approved for disability benefits, then the SSA may deem that you have gone back to work and no longer need SSDI payments.

It’s important to note that even though earning above the limit can cause a temporary or permanent suspension in your payments, this would only occur once all other sources of income combined with your self-employment income exceeds the allowable threshold. To help ensure your eligibility is not affected, you should inform the SSA if you start a business and provide them with details of your earnings.

Business Ideas for Individuals with Disabilities

Deciding exactly what type of venture you want to start isn’t the most technical aspect of starting a business, but in many ways, it’s one of the trickiest. You have no shortage of options when it comes to the type of venture you can start, so a good first step is to give some serious thought to how you want to make a living. Ask yourself:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • What need is there in the market that relates to my passion?
  • Do I want a structured work schedule or one that is flexible?
  • How much time do I want to spend working each week, including commute time?
  • Do I want to work from home or out in the community?
  • Are there any challenges my disability presents that I need to consider?

Once you answer these questions, you can more confidently narrow down what you want to do. Depending on your unique needs and preferences, here are a few ideas you may want to consider.

Remote Business Ideas

  • Consulting services: Whatever skills you have from prior work experience or a formal education, there is likely a consumer base for them.
  • Virtual assistance: From busy executives to overwhelmed parents, assistant services have never been more in demand, and many tasks can be completed remotely.
  • Copywriting: Copywriters are always in demand for companies of all sizes and in nearly every industry.
  • Online store owner: Artisans can utilize online marketplaces like Etsy to sell their works of art with minimal overhead costs.
  • Dropshipping store owner: Dropshipping allows you to sell inventory on websites like Amazon without having to store it in your home or another facility.

Ideas for Businesses You Can Run in Your Home or Clients’ Homes

  • Pet care: Provide pet sitting, dog walking, grooming, and other care for your customers’ pets in your home or your clients’ homes.
  • House sitting: Even those without pets need a caretaker for their homes when they’ll be away for an extended period. As a bonus, house sitting can also give you the opportunity to work on other entrepreneurial ventures.
  • Tutoring: If you’re skilled in school subjects, you can host or travel to students who need educational support.
  • Life coaching: People from all walks of life are looking for an inspiring leader to help guide them to a successful new chapter. As someone with a disability, you can offer a unique perspective to life coaching clients.

Brick-and-Mortar Business Ideas

For those wanting to pursue more traditional brick-and-mortar enterprises, there are also plenty of viable options available. You can truly sell just about anything that interests you, be it goods in a retail store or food in a restaurant. You might also find it fulfilling to open a retail store specializing in products tailored to people with disabilities. From adaptive clothing and mobility aids to assistive technology devices, there’s no shortage of products that you could potentially sell.

Write a Business Plan

Writing a business plan is an essential step in launching a business. In order to create a successful venture, it’s important to take the time to develop a comprehensive plan that outlines your vision, goals, strategy, and financial resources.

A thorough business plan should include several key elements:

  • It should start with an executive summary that briefly explains what products or services you will offer, who your target customers are, and how your business will be different from the competition.
  • The plan should then move on to discuss the details of your business model, such as pricing strategies, unique selling points, and market research results.
  • Next, outline the various methods of generating sales and acquiring new customers you plan to use.
  • Finally, include a financial forecast. Having thorough financial projections can help ensure that you have enough capital available to keep your operations running smoothly during the early stages of launching your business. Your financial forecast should include:
  • Projected revenue and expenses for the next three years
  • Startup capital needed
  • Sources of financing and repayment terms
  • Expected cash flow
  • Projected profits and losses

A detailed business plan provides structure and purpose for a new company’s operations. It also provides investors with the necessary information they need to make informed decisions about investing in your enterprise.

Fund Your Business

When it comes to funding a new business, you have a few different options. Self-funding can be a great way to get it off the ground without having to take on large amounts of debt. When self-funding, you’ll need to have the necessary capital saved in order to cover start-up expenses like equipment and supplies. You may also be able to use assets, such as property and investments that can be liquidated, in order to generate the necessary start-up capital.

If self-funding isn’t an option, then seeking out additional sources of financing for your venture is likely the next best step. This could come in the form of outside investment from angel investors or venture capitalists looking for businesses with the potential for high returns on their investments. There are also grants and loans specifically designed to help fund businesses started by individuals with disabilities, which we discuss in more detail below.

Another avenue that could prove beneficial is crowdfunding campaigns. Launching an online campaign on a platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo can be a great way to attract attention and generate capital for your venture without having to give up any equity or take on significant debt.

Ultimately, choosing the right type of financing depends heavily on your specific needs and goals. While one option may work better for some entrepreneurs, another may be more suitable for others depending on their individual circumstances.

Set up a disability-friendly home office

Setting up a home office when you have a disability can be challenging. However, it’s worth the effort to take the time to research and find the right equipment and furniture that best suits your needs.

When creating your home office, one of the most important factors to consider is accessibility. This includes being able to move around the space easily with any mobility aids you require as well as access the files and documents you need to run your company. Investing in specialized furniture can make all the difference in creating a functional workspace. Depending on your needs, this could include adjustable desks and chairs with extra padding for comfort, ergonomic keyboards with large keypads for easier typing, or an adjustable monitor arm for better viewing angles. Additionally, having shelves or cabinets installed at an appropriate height can help ensure that storage is easy to access while still being out of reach of any curious pets or children.

For those using wheelchairs or other mobility aids, making sure there’s enough clearance in your workspace is essential. Having ramps installed near any steps leading into your home office provides easy access for anyone who needs it. Making sure there are wide enough doorways leading into the workspace can help ensure that those with wheelchairs can get through without issue.

Having the right technology is also critical. Investing in devices like voice-activated software or adaptive switches can allow users with a disability to operate computers and other electronic devices more independently, allowing them to accomplish tasks without having to rely on assistance from another person. Additionally, having an internet connection that is both fast and reliable is essential for staying connected while working from home; opting for fiber-optic internet service helps ensure minimal issues when sending large files or streaming videos online.

All of these details will help you create a comfortable and productive home office. Even if you’ll have an offsite workspace, entrepreneurs are rarely off the clock in the early stages of launching their business, so take some time to set up a home office you’ll enjoy working in.

Market your new business

Marketing can be one of the most intimidating tasks of starting a business. The good news is there are plenty of free and low-cost ways to market your venture so you can get the job done without breaking the bank.

Having an online presence is essential for any business these days, so creating a website should be one of your first steps when launching your venture. Using a CMS platform such as WordPress or Squarespace makes it easy to create a professional-looking website without needing any coding knowledge. Additionally, registering your domain name and purchasing web hosting will help ensure that your website is up and running quickly with minimal effort.

Social media can also be a powerful tool when it comes to marketing your business. Setting up accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms allows you to reach potential customers in an instant while also providing an opportunity to engage with them directly. Utilizing these networks by engaging in industry-related conversations and sharing informative content can help drive organic traffic to your website without spending any money on advertising.

Networking is another great way to market your business at little or no cost. Joining industry-specific groups and attending local events help put you out in the community and build awareness of your venture among potential customers or even investors. Having promotional materials, such as brochures and flyers, on hand allows you to give people something tangible they can reference later on when considering using your services or products.

Finally, getting involved in the local community is always worth looking into. Sponsoring events or charities provides not only marketing exposure but also helps demonstrate your commitment to giving back, which will resonate positively with your community. Additionally, offering discounts or other promotions for those living with disabilities is another great way to show that you are invested in their success as well as yours.

Connect with a mentor

Having the allyship of an experienced mentor can be invaluable for individuals with a disability who are launching a business. Working with a mentor provides you with access to expert advice and guidance that can help you on your entrepreneurial journey. A mentor can provide valuable tips for developing effective strategies for your venture, such as finding the right financing and marketing strategies. They can also offer insight into navigating any legal or regulatory issues that may arise and help identify potential areas of improvement for your business model.

In addition to offering advice, mentors also serve as a source of motivation and encouragement during challenging times. Someone who has already gone through the process of launching their own successful venture can offer invaluable support when it comes to dealing with inevitable obstacles along the way. Having regular check-ins with them will keep you focused and help ensure that you stay on track toward achieving your goals.

Finding the right mentor is key in order to maximize the benefits of working with one. When searching for a mentor, look for someone whose experience aligns closely with your entrepreneurial objectives. Look for someone who has been involved in similar ventures, and ideally, someone who also has a disability so you can get relevant first-hand knowledge from their past experiences. Networking events and online resources such as LinkedIn are great ways to find experienced professionals who are willing to act as mentors.

Grants for Starting a Business with a Disability

Grants are an excellent way for entrepreneurs with a disability to get access to much-needed funding when launching a new venture. There are grants at federal, state, and hyperlocal levels specifically tailored to entrepreneurs with a disability as well as those available to everyone. Here are a few you may qualify for: 

  • Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR): This grant program provides funding for small businesses to conduct research and development in areas related to national priorities such as the environment, health care, defense technologies, energy efficiency, etc. It’s specifically designed to fund startups owned by those with a disability. Visit sbir.gov for more information about their grant program.
  • Accessible Technology Grants: These grants are provided by the Department of Education and can be used to purchase technology that enables individuals with disabilities to access educational resources or increase their independence in the workplace.
  • Community Economic Adjustment Program (CEAP) Grants: This government-funded program provides financial assistance and technical support services for communities that have experienced economic losses due to external changes such as natural disasters. The CEAP grant is available to those living with disabilities who are looking to start a business within these affected regions in order to help rebuild their local economies through entrepreneurship opportunities.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Entrepreneurship Programs: Government vocational rehabilitation programs provide entrepreneurs with a disability access to training, counseling, and other forms of assistance they may need when starting a venture. This could include financing options, marketing advice, consulting services on structuring their business operations, and more.
  • Disabled Businesspersons Grant Program: The Disabled Businesspersons Grant Program provides financial assistance to individuals with disabilities who want to start or grow a business in the state of California. This grant program is specifically designed to help those living with disabilities purchase necessary equipment, receive training, and/or hire employees in order to further develop their venture.

Be sure to check with your local chamber of commerce for information on state, county, and city grants you may be eligible for, including those listed above.

Other Helpful Resources for Starting a Business When You Have a Disability

Along with financiers and mentors, there are a number of other resources that can help you on your journey as an entrepreneur with a disability. Consider these potential allies:

  • ZenBusiness: Among the most important decisions you need to make when starting your business is choosing a legal structure. While there are many to choose from, forming a limited liability company (LLC) offers several benefits that can help protect your personal assets, save you money on taxes, and make your business more attractive to potential investors. An LLC provides you with limited liability protection, which means that your personal assets are usually protected from business debts and legal liabilities. An LLC also offers significant tax advantages, including pass-through taxation and the ability to deduct business expenses on your personal income tax return. You also have the flexibility to manage your business as a partnership or a corporation.

    With ZenBusiness, you can start your LLC for as little as $0 (plus your state fee), and the process only takes about 10 minutes. You’ll also receive our guaranteed worry-free services, so you can be sure your LLC is formed quickly and accurately.
  • Local chamber of commerce: The local chamber of commerce is an invaluable resource for anyone starting a business. With its vast network of contacts and resources, the chamber can help entrepreneurs navigate the complexities of starting and running a successful business. It provides valuable information about market trends, competition, and the latest technology as well as access to funding and business support services.

    By partnering with the chamber, entrepreneurs can connect with other business owners, gain valuable insights into the industry, and get their business off to a strong start. The chamber is also a great place to gain exposure for your business through networking events, seminars, and workshops. Find your local chamber on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s website at ​​uschamber.com/co/chambers.
  • SCORE: SCORE provides access to a network of experienced business professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to guide new entrepreneurs. These professionals offer valuable advice and insights on a range of topics, such as business planning, marketing, and finance. SCORE is free of charge, making its resources easily accessible to anyone who needs them. Additionally, SCORE offers a variety of workshops, webinars, and online courses that cover important business skills and knowledge areas. Visit SCORE.org for more information.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration: Commonly referred to as the SBA, this government agency offers a wealth of information and support to entrepreneurs who are just starting out, such as advice on business planning, financing, marketing, and more. Whether you need help developing a business plan, identifying potential funding sources, or navigating the legal and regulatory landscape, the SBA is an invaluable resource that can help you achieve your entrepreneurial goals. Visit sba.gov for more information.
  • Job Accommodation Network (JAN): JAN provides free consultations and information on workplace accommodations, employment policies and regulations for those with disabilities, and inclusion strategies small business owners can employ for people with disabilities. By utilizing the services of JAN, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of how to make their businesses more accessible and inclusive to individuals with disabilities, which can ultimately lead to increased success and profitability. Visit askjan.org for more information.
  • National Disability Institute (NDI): The NDI is dedicated to promoting economic independence and financial self-sufficiency among people with disabilities. In addition to providing technical assistance and training on the business start-up process, the NDI also offers access to capital, business development services, and partnerships with private sector organizations and government agencies. As an authoritative and invaluable resource, the NDI helps empower individuals with disabilities to overcome obstacles and facilitates their success in business, thereby transforming their lives and the communities they serve. Visit nationaldisabilityinstitute.org for more information.

The entrepreneurial journey may have more challenges for those living with disabilities, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a path worth taking. Living with a disability doesn’t define you or your abilities as an entrepreneur — having a positive attitude and believing in yourself will go a long way toward helping you reach your goals. The key is to focus on what you can do rather than what you cannot and not let any perceived limitations stop you from pursuing your dreams. By using strategic planning, the ample resources available to aspiring entrepreneurs with a disability, and support from experienced professionals, launching your venture is within your reach.

Try ZenBusiness

If you’re ready to start and grow it a successful business, we can help. Starting at $0, we can help you form an LLC or corporation, and we offer many other services to help you run and grow your business while cutting down on the amount of red tape you have to cut through. Contact us today to learn more.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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