Born For Business is a new groundbreaking docuseries focused on the talents, innovations and impact of entrepreneurs with varying disabilities. Many highly successful entrepreneurs have disabilities, including Richard Branson and most of the sharks on Shark Tank. Born For Business shines the spotlight on four emerging entrepreneurs: Chris Triebes, Qiana Allen, Collette Divitto and Lexi Zanghi.
Entrepreneurship and self-employment can be a valuable and viable option for people with disabilities looking to enter the job market on their own terms. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with disabilities are self-employed at a rate nearly twice that of their non-disabled peers. As of the 2019 American Community Survey, approximately 700,000 workers with disabilities were self-employed, enjoying the flexibility and opportunities that entrepreneurship provides.
Approximately 70 percent of people with disabilities want to work, and thousands could become entrepreneurs if they can develop their skills and access capital. Potential entrepreneurs with disabilities need resources, assets and support in order to translate their entrepreneurial ideas into actual, viable businesses.
This toolkit provides an inventory of existing materials, advice and guides for those jobseekers with disabilities ready to become self-employed, launch a new enterprise, or develop their entrepreneurial skills.
Federal Disability Entrepreneurship Resources
The federal government has collected and published a wide range of information to assist entrepreneurs with disabilities to become successful. As published by the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), these assets include:
- Entrepreneurship Resources — Information about self-employment and starting a business from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a free service of ODEP.
- Small Business Administration (SBA) — Federal agency that provides assistance to current and prospective small business owners.
- SCORE Small Business Mentors — Seasoned business professionals help entrepreneurs start businesses, grow companies, and create jobs in local communities. Find a SCORE location near you.
- Self-Employment: What to Know to Be Your Own Boss — Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on self-employment.
- START-UP — ODEP initiated START-UP, a three-year grant project, in 2007 to identify policies and practices then in place that either made it difficult for individuals with disabilities to become self-employed or supported them in becoming self-employed. As part of the initiative, three states (Alaska, Florida, and New York) were awarded grants to pilot new innovative models for assisting individuals with disabilities to start businesses. A fourth grant established a national technical assistance center, Self-Employment Technical Assistance, Resources, & Training (START-UP/USA), to provide information and guidance about promoting self-employment for disabilities to the state grantees, as well as serving as a national resource for individuals and agencies wanting to pursue self-employment goals for people with disabilities.
- Self-Employment for People with Disabilities (PDF) is the final report of the START-UP initiative. It describes the barriers experienced by the four grantees, the self-employment models tested, the achievements of the grant programs, and case studies of several individuals with disabilities who successfully became self-employed. The report also makes recommendations for adoption by agencies and individuals for realizing self-employment goals.
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) — SBDC advisors provide aspiring and current small business owners a variety of free business consulting and low-cost training services.
- How to Write a Business Plan — Online training course from the Small Business Administration explains the importance of business planning, defines, and describes the components of a business plan, and provides access to sample plans and resources that can help you develop a plan for your business.
- USA.gov Start Your Own Business — Resources to help you start your own business, including information on programs to help military veterans and minorities become entrepreneurs.
State Disability Entrepreneurship Resources
Road to Self-Sufficiency: A Guide to Entrepreneurship for Youth with Disabilities is published by the National Collaborative on Workforce & Disability for Youth (NCWDB), and is a great resource for fans of Born for Business and anyone interested in local resources on disability and entrepreneurship. This guide is designed to support new entrepreneurs, their families and those who support them. Appendix A of this guide contains a special section detailing state specific programs to support disability entrepreneurship including:
- Iowa – Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program (EWD)
- New Jersey – Disability and Non-Profit Micro Loan Fund, Inc.
- Wisconsin – Dept. of Workforce Development Resources for Self-Employment Resources for Self-Employment
For California-based fans of Born for Business, the California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) can help clients with disabilities:
- directly through their dedicated Self-Employment Program
- develop their own Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE)
- access Assistive Technology (AT)
- connect to the California Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
The Chicago-based Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities (CEED) Project is an organization that is dedicated to the intersection of disability and entrepreneurship. Their resources include:
- Accessing Entrepreneurship: A Community Resource Guide for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities
- Understanding Disability & Entrepreneurship
- Entrepreneur Profiles
- Disability Holiday Gift Guides
In order to find more state-specific entrepreneurship resources to help you on your business journey, please visit the Job Accommodation Network (JAN)’s interactive resource map.
Resources for Individuals Receiving SSI or SSDI Benefits
For people with disabilities interested in exploring entrepreneur opportunities but are currently receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, here are some resources and options:
- For those on SSI – Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) is a program for developing your plans and achieving your goals.
- For those on SSDI – Social Security’s Ticket to Work (Ticket) program can be directed to help you launch a small business and become self-employment.
Understanding Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) Certification
In order for a new generation of entrepreneurs with disabilities to succeed, they will need resources and contacts to start new businesses. One such resource is a DOBE certification. DOBE stands for Disability-Owned Business Enterprise. As defined by Disability:IN, a national organization dedicated to business disability inclusion, a DOBE “is a for-profit business that is at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by a person with a disability regardless of whether or not that business owner employs person(s) with a disability.” DOBE certifications can also include veterans with and without service-connected disabilities.
Benefits of DOBE certification include:
- Nationally Recognized Certification
- Exclusive Information and Resources
- Networking & Business Matchmaking Opportunities
- Policy Advocacy
- Access to private sector corporations
DOBE certification is a recognized credential in the following localities:
- Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- Hoboken, New Jersey
- Jersey City, New Jersey
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Billion Dollar Roundtable
Disability:IN provides a certification documentation checklist, as well as a shorthand eligibility list to help prospective entrepreneurs get started. A full list of requirements and more information is available at Disability:In’s website. Other resources are available that give in-depth details about what DOBE is and its important contacts, including:
- Start Certification Process
- International DOBE Registry
- Supplier Diversity Standards & Procedures
- Supplier Certification Document Checklist
- Collette Divitto, one of the stars of Born For Business, teaches a class about how to become an entrepreneur. Learn more about the class at her website.
About Born For Business
Born For Business is produced by Shopify Studios and Bunim/Murray Productions, the Emmy Award-winning creators of Born This Way. Tobi Lütke, Pam Silverstein, Gil Goldschein, Jonathan Murray, Julie Pizzi, Erica Ross, Jonathan Stern, and Laura Korkoian serve as executive producers and Jacob Lane and Millee Taggart-Ratcliffe serve as co-executive producers.
All 10 episodes of Born for Business are streaming now on Peacock (USA) and CRAVE (Canada).
To learn more about the show and get started in entrepreneurship, please visit the official Shopify website. Follow #bornforbusiness on social media for more.
Additional reporting by Morgan A. Davis, an alumna of the RespectAbility National Leadership Program. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Davis has always felt a desire to help others impacted by disabilities. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2020.