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Step 3: Showcase your strengths


This step is to help you appreciate all of the skills and abilities that you’ve developed in your life. These things will help you be successful if you decide to start your own business.

Have you ever heard people say to you, “you can’t do it?”

When you live with a disability and want to start a small business, you may hear a lot of those ‘can’t do’ comments at school, from friends, even from family. These comments may sound like a stream going to wash your dreams away. But, we are sure that in your life, you have done things that people said you could never do.

How did you do it? You were creative, and most likely you got inspiration, information, knowledge and help from people who inspire you. And then you did something only you can do: you took a chance and you jumped over the barrier. No matter what the result was, you grew from facing the challenge and got experience and wisdom!

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Many successful entrepreneurs have experienced a barrier to employment. You may be surprised that some of these people also have a visible or invisible disability. Did you know that some very successful entrepreneurs have used their experience with their disability to launch their own business?

Nick Vujicic: a successful entrepreneur with a physical disability

Nick was born without arms or legs. What kinds of careers do you think people would have supported him in with that disability? Well, watch this video on You Tube by Nick Vujicic.

Nick is a motivational speaker. He’s talking to high school students and inspiring them about how to overcome barriers. The video is just 3 minutes long, but it packs a punch. You can see more about Nick and the work he’s chosen to do at his own website, Attitude is Altitude.

See what Nick was able to accomplish? He is a great speaker, so he used this skill along with his personal experience to launch his business. Imagine what you can do if you look at the positive side of your own skills and experience!

Paul Orfalea: a successful entrepreneur with learning disabilities

Have you ever seen or been to a Kinko’s store? Kinko’s is one of the largest photocopying companies there is. It is considered one of the best companies in the United States.

The man who started Kinko’s and is still in charge as the CEO has both dyslexia and ADHD. His name is Paul Orfalea and he was expelled from four high schools, graduated at the bottom of his class, and never learned to spell past the third grade level.

So, how did Paul become such a successful entrepreneur? He turned his learning disability into a learning opportunity by looking at the bright side of his experiences. His inability to focus on details gave him a special ability to see the big picture. Where his colleagues would get stuck in the details of something, Paul could cut through all of that to see the end result. And that has made him a very successful businessman.

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So tell us, do you have the makings of an entrepreneur?

Exercises 3a and 3b will give you a good idea of those unique skills you have that entrepreneurs also have. The entrepreneur uses these abilities to successfully run a business. Some say entrepreneurs are born with entrepreneurial traits. Some say they can be taught. We think you can develop these traits when you dare to do new things. But first, listen up to these important messages!

Keep the business and the entrepreneur healthy!
A smart entrepreneur with a disability will pay close attention to their health so they do not burn out. The smart entrepreneur will consider their particular needs and disability supports so they can stay in healthy balance when they run their business. They will make a plan to maximize their health and to maximize their opportunity for business success. It’s another thing they do to showcase their strengths.

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Health is important!

Plan for your health success!  Consider the following when thinking about the business and your health:

  • How can I conserve my energy?
  • How can I best use my energy?
  • How can I stay safe on the job?
  • What adaptations will make the work more manageable?

Access and Accommodation are two important words when you live with a disability. The entrepreneur with a disability makes a plan for these ideas as well.

Access:

  • How and where will I carry out the business? Is it at home?
  • Do I have to adapt a workspace for addressing my disability?
  • Where am I going to sell my product or services? Internet? In other people’s shops?

Accommodation:

  • Can I make my work space safe for others?
  • Can customers safely come to me to buy my products and services?
  • How can I get to my customers without using all my energy?
  • Have I considered how people with disabilities will be able to safely use my products?

Here’s a link to a good book that describes Special Needs Accommodation Planning for people with disabilities who want to start a small business. Have a good look at Section 5: Access and Accommodation.

Step Three Exercises

The third step in this Toolkit is to make sure you are seeing the real you, with all of the unique skills and abilities you bring into the world and to your possible career.

Exercise 3a: Entrepreneurial skills you likely have

This exercise may be easiest to do with someone else who knows you well. It’s often easier for an outsider to see your many talents because we are often our own worst critic!

Download as Word document | Download as PDF

Exercise 3b: Your entrepreneurial traits, strengths and weaknesses
Every entrepreneur is different. But most people agree that to be successfully self-employed requires a few common traits. This exercise will help you determine which traits you are strong in and which ones you might want to develop a bit more.

Download as Word document | Download as PDF

Once you are ready, click here to go to Step Four: Which Business for You?