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I Started My Own Business: by Matthew Shapiro

Matthew Shapiro headshot wearing a suit and tie and seated in his wheelchair

Matthew Shapiro

I always had a goal of working in the disability space but was never quite sure how I was going to achieve it. One night, in December of 2014, I was in my bed contemplating all the things that I desired to do to make an impact in the world around disability. I wanted to be a well-known voice around disability issues. Like a lightning bolt, this idea popped into my head: Why don’t I start a disability consulting business? I had 15 years of experience in the disability space, public speaking, and mentoring young people. The idea of Six Wheels Consulting was born. I took a deep dive into the world of entrepreneurship.

I took this idea of starting my own disability consulting business to my parents and their first reaction was one of doubt. “I don’t think you can do it,” they said. “I don’t think there is stability in that. Maybe you should continue looking for jobs.”

Up to that point, I had done many interviews in DC and other places trying to work in the disability space but was never offered employment at any of the places I interviewed. I always thought that my interviews went well and that I interviewed well. Interviews are basically conversations and that is where I can talk about my passions and my interests. However, none of those interviews ever brought a job opportunity. I went back to my idea of starting a business. I talked to my parents. They knew it was going to be challenging and they knew there was going to be a cost, but they were on board.

I love every second of my entrepreneurship journey. There is nothing more powerful than starting from nothing, cultivating relationships that bring about a job opportunity, getting to do incredible work, and receiving a decent paycheck to put in my bank account—the Six Wheels Consulting bank account! My name is attached to the project, I have cultivated a relationship, and I can be proud of my hard work.

There has always been a high unemployment rate for people with disabilities, so why not explore creating a business? From a disability perspective, entrepreneurship makes sense. People with disabilities can create their own businesses, earn a decent income, and feel the joy of ownership by doing the work they love.

I would challenge people, particularly people with disabilities, not to be afraid to start their own businesses. Start with getting an LLC certification. It’s very easy—you can just go online and get it yourself. I still have the first certificate that reads, “Six Wheels Consulting LLC!”

Exploration with a job coach or family members can help you figure out what you like to do. Be willing to seek help. My parents did that and took that leap of faith with me to become successful as an entrepreneur. It makes all the difference.

Something that I quickly learned is that your clients or customers can be your greatest cheerleaders. If you do a great job with your entrepreneurial effort, they are going to sing your praises. They are going to recommend you to other people who will pay you to do work for them. Relationships are a vital component of the entrepreneurial process.

I highly encourage anyone who doesn’t know about entrepreneurship or is afraid to start to trust that the decisions you make and the things that you do will lead you in the right direction. Having ownership and the sense of something that belongs to you is so gratifying. When you get that first paycheck, when you get that first person saying “Yes, I would love to work with you,” or when your business becomes profitable, that is so much more impactful than if you were working at a basic unfulfilling job. There is a huge sense of ownership and pride when it comes to entrepreneurship. You are making all the important decisions.

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