New Book Encourages Entrepreneurship for People with Disabilities
In today’s challenging job market, finding opportunities for people with disabilities often seems like an uphill battle. However, job professionals may want to consider another option when helping the person they support find meaningful work—starting their own business.
Rayna Verbeck, MBA, is the author of three books, most recently (with co-author Wheeler del Torro) Creating a Culture of Achievement Through Business: A Start-Up Guide for People with Disabilities (2015, Coffee Bean Publishing). An entrepreneur herself, Verbeck understands that the many challenges people face when opening a small business, especially if they have a disability. But the rewards are great
Verbeck earned an MBA at Babson College, and is now working toward a doctorate at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts-Boston (ICI). “As I started working at ICI, I thought that everyone could use entrepreneurship in their lives,” she says. “In the field of employment services for people with disabilities, entrepreneurship wasn’t coming up very often as an option. Even though throughout history people with disabilities have started businesses, run businesses, and been successful in the small business field.”
According to Verbeck, Creating a Culture of Achievement Through Business is made up of two parts. “To begin with, I wanted to prompt people to have a conversation about how to include social enterprise or entrepreneurship, including information about start-ups, in the realm of ideas for people with disabilities.” Verbeck notes that there are many people with disabilities out there starting businesses, and this first part examines the history of people with disabilities becoming entrepreneurs, in the hopes of inspiring them, boosting their self-esteem, and crafting the proper mindset.
“The second half of the book is much more practical,” she says. “These are the nitty-gritty steps that you need to get your business going, such as idea testing, market testing, finding your target audience, raising money, advertising, marketing, things like that.”
Creating a Culture of Achievement Through Business’ introduction reveals that the book is the result of a business run by a person with a disability. “Our publisher, Coffee Bean Publishing, is run by B. Keller, who is blind. He was really supportive of putting the story out.” As the introduction states, Mr. Keller is a “serial entrepreneur [who] is helping his daughter with her first business while continuing to operate his own.
Though challenging, for a person with a disability, starting your own business is often the best route to continuing, and satisfying, employment. “The best reason for a person with disabilities to become an entrepreneur is that it allows you the flexibility to design the workplace that’s best for you,” Verbeck states. “When you start your own business, you can design from the ground up what you want your work environment to be like, who you are going to bring onto your team, how you’re going to interact with customers, what sort of technology you’re going to use, what physical environment you’re going to have… all of those things are up to you.
“When you talk about bringing assisted technology into the workplace or making accommodations in the workplace, when you design it yourself, you can make it as perfect as possible for you to be successful.”
In addition, the entrepreneur with a disability is also creating the ideal jobs for people with disabilities. “Not only that but people are more inspired by role models who that they see are similar to themselves, so the more people with disabilities who become entrepreneurs and small business owners, the more young people who grow up with disabilities are going to see this as a viable option,” Verbeck says. “A lot of businesses and marketers overlook the huge population of people with disabilities as a purchasing group, so if you’re a person with a disability starting a company, you have a unique insight into the products that community is looking for.”
The DirectCourse/College of Employment Services (CES) courses explore multiple ways in which people with disabilities can find and keep fulfilling jobs. For many, starting their own business and becoming an entrepreneur can be the route to a great career, and perhaps create wonderful work for others. Principles of Career Development is one of our courses that offers strategies for overcoming career barriers and seeking out creative options for employment.