Starting a business with a disability

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I have owned a Hawaii web development company since 2000 and have learned many lessons while running it. Prior to starting any new venture there are many uncertainties. Often these uncertainties are the reasons people don’t start their own thing. It’s too scary. Mix in the fact that you have a disability and it can be easy to say, “Oh I could never do that.” But in my experience, my disability has had little negative impact on my ability to start and run my business. In fact, I’d have to say that because of my disability I have found it easier to handle the issues that come up.

Flexibility

Mini challenges present themselves almost every day when dealing with a disability. Sometimes there are stairs that need to be worked around. Sometimes all the disabled parking spaces are full. Sometimes you need to wait for help. A business has its own mini-challenges as well. Sometimes a form needs to be filed. Sometimes a client needs extra special attention. Sometimes a contractor doesn’t deliver what they said they would. In dealing with both a disability and a business you need to be flexible and able to handle the things that come your way without freaking out.

Ingenuity

If you use a wheelchair or have a mobility problem, you might not even realize how creative you have to be in order to live your life. Sometimes you need to figure out how to get up off the floor. Other times you need to jerry-rig something to help you accomplish a household task like cleaning, laundry, or painting. Often this sort of creativity happens without even noticing it. In business, ingenuity is a key factor in making a business a success. Clients have needs and the vendors that can solve client problems in creative and cost-effective ways are the ones that will get the jobs. In dealing with computer programming like I do, a programming challenge seems like nothing after dealing with physical challenges like “How do I get up off the floor if I fall?” Whether it’s creative marketing, creative programming, creative product development, or creative networking, there are many parallels to the creative thinking required by disabled people.

Attitude

A can-do attitude is admirable and easily developed by people with disabilities. It’s also a positive quality in a business. Developing this attitude involves leveraging the two previously-mentioned items (flexibility and ingenuity) with an overall positive outlook on a project or task. People with disabilities who are able to live their lives in productive ways usually have this attitude built-in or develop it over time. In business, this attitude helps to put clients at ease, create trust that the job will get done right, and lead to word-of-mouth referrals. It’s as valuable in business as it is in life.

So if you are considering starting a business, or even finding a job, I encourage you to examine yourself and notice that you probably have flexibility, ingenuity, and a positive attitude already. Acknowledging these attributes is the first step towards using them to go out and do the things you want to do. If you feel like you need to develop these attributes further, then find a small project around the house and consciously approach tackling it with flexibility, creativity, and a positive attitude. When you run into an obstacle, decide to tackle it head-on. Inevitably you’ll have to be flexible and creative enough to solve the problem in a new way. Then once you have completed the task, you’ll reflect positively back on it and know that the next one will be even easier.

I look forward to sharing more of what I’ve learned running my company in the future.

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