In honour of Small Business Week, we’re focusing on entrepreneurship. Small businesses are the backbone of a community. They stimulate economic growth, create jobs, and allow for creativity and innovation. Economies and societies thrive when entrepreneurship flourishes.
Small business owners are living proof that self-employment can be fulfilling and liberating. Many would-be entrepreneurs are intimidated by the obvious barriers: lack of funding, support, and/or expertise. Despite their inner drive to create something new, to branch out, to be brave, taking the first step is daunting enough to deter all but the most determined.
Still, regular employment comes with its own share of barriers. Those with disabilities, including mental health issues, face distinct barriers to employment, which are often overlooked. Disability doesn’t prevent these individuals from being efficient, productive employees, but employers may be unwilling or unable to accommodate their specific needs. Discriminatory hiring practices—not to mention inhospitable work environments—can make self-employment more attractive.
Entrepreneurship Demands Innovation
Dealing with these types of barriers can actually benefit an aspiring business owner. The essence of entrepreneurship lies in an innovative spirit and a unique worldview. Those facing barriers to regular employment may be more receptive to out-of-the-box thinking by default, because their various challenges require them to find creative solutions to everyday situations. A person with a disability already lives a life that requires different approaches to ordinary activities, so thinking outside the box may come more naturally to them.
Entrepreneurship Encourages Flexibility
Part of entrepreneurship’s appeal is flexibility, which makes it ideal for someone with a disability. Flexible hours make it easier for someone with chronic illness to work when they can, rather than trying to follow a strict schedule. Being able to customize the business’s location and work environment ensures a wheelchair user can navigate safely and efficiently. A visually impaired business owner can make sure information is available in accessible formats. Freedom from stigma can help someone with a mental health issue reach their full potential without worrying about employer attitudes. Self-employment eliminates many of the barriers that come with working for someone else.
Entrepreneurship Ignites Social Change
Entrepreneurship allows business owners to give back to their communities. Besides contributing to the local economy and job creation, those starting new businesses have an opportunity to do some social good as well. Someone with a disability is better able to consider inclusiveness and accessibility when designing their work environment and may be more inclined to hire those from diverse backgrounds. A business owner with a mental illness might offer superior mental health support to their employees. Those with disabilities might be more understanding of the individual struggles of others, working harder to help however they can. Business owners can enforce their values from the top down, promoting a business culture that is more accessible and accommodating to everyone.
The Bottom Line
Small businesses benefit everyone on all social and economic levels. An entrepreneurial journey, however risky, can lift someone out of unemployment and result in a challenging, exciting and rewarding career. That is why DECSA started Ventures: a program for entrepreneurs with disabilities. Through coaching and group support, would-be business owners get the skills and encouragement they need to pursue their business dreams. If you have a viable business idea and identify as having a disability, visit our site for more information.
Will there be barriers? Yes. Should they stop you? We don’t think so!