1. Making a Dream Reality. Starting your own business is not without risks, but there can be many financial and personal rewards as well. For many people with disabilities self-employment and entrepreneurship offer the chance to become financially independent and to set a more flexible work schedule. So how can you decide if your napkin sketch is destined for success? Start by researching the industry and competition. The Abilities Fund suggests “10 Ways to Research Your Business Idea” and SCORE recommends you ask yourself four key questions. As you come up with your answers, the business model canvas can help you develop a clear plan. This tool doesn’t replace the need for a traditional business plan – rather, it helps you quickly figure out whether your business idea can get off the ground. Find inspiration in the Iowa Department of Human Services’ stories of entrepreneurs with disabilities who have successfully used their skills and creative ideas to turn a business idea into a reality.
  1. Finding a Mentor. Yoda and Luke Skywalker. Dumbledore and Harry Potter. Mr. Miyagi and Daniel. Similarly to these famous pairings, a mentor-mentee relationship will prepare you for small business success. Connecting with mentors, with years of experience behind them an important step early in the process. How do you determine who should be your mentor? A mentor should be someone who can provide you with objective guidance and honest advice. Maybe you know someone who is a successful business owner, or you have a friendly relationship with a former boss. All you have to do is ask. Organizations like SCORE and your local small business development center (SBDC) can also connect you to potential mentors. A mentor relationship should be developed like any other relationship: keep in touch, ask questions and work together.
  1. Building Your Foundation. One of the most important decisions you’ll make is how your business will be structured. There are several business structures, but two facts to note when deciding are that more than half of small businesses are home-based, and nearly three quarters are sole proprietorships. Read this Internal Revenue Service factsheet for a quick look at the differences among the most common forms: sole proprietorships, limited liability companies, partnerships and corporations. You should also consider your future needs, choose a business name, register your company and obtain businesses licenses, if needed. With so many things to keep in mind, you may feel more comfortable with experts who can guide you through the process. Get in touch with your local SBDC for help developing your business plan, information about loans and other business advice.
  1. Young Entrepreneurs. Age is just a number, especially for youth and young adults interested in starting a small business. In fact, nearly 80 percent of potential entrepreneurs in the U.S. are 18 to 34 years old. Young entrepreneurs can develop life skills, find independence and become self-sufficient. Geared specifically towards youth, the Small Business Administration’s Young Entrepreneurs Essential Guide to Starting a Business is an online course that helps youth start on the path to owning a small business. Find an educational program to learn more about business ownership and management. The Road to Self-Sufficiency: A Guide to Entrepreneurship for Youth with Disabilities provides a detailed roadmap for young entrepreneurs. Just remember to be money-smart by learning how to avoid common financial problems and borrow moneywisely. Check out these resources for millennial business owners and read this story about a young man with autism who started his own business.




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