Entrepreneurship: Is It for You?

By Ardis Bazyn

headshot of Ardis Bazyn

Ardis Bazyn, blind since 20, is an inspirational speaker, coach, writer and owner of Bazyn Communications. She also volunteers as an AFB CareerConnect Mentor. Other volunteer activities Ardis is involved in are Secretary of the California Council of the Blind, President of the Independent Visually Impaired Enterprisers, and Secretary of Randolph Shepherd Vendors of America. To contact Ardis with questions about entrepreneurship, please email abazyn@bazyncommunications.com.

The first step in choosing entrepreneurship as an option is to decide whether entrepreneurship is really right for you. Do you have the motivation to focus on setting up a business, marketing a business, and making priorities as necessary to keep it moving forward? As a business owner, you will not have a supervisor watching over you to make sure tasks are accomplished or give you jobs to do. You also will not have a steady income immediately. If you have lots of energy, like meeting new people all the time, and feel your personal life can be made more flexible, entrepreneurship may be a good choice.

The second step is to choose the right type of business to start. Do you have skills that could be marketed as a business? For example, if you have the skills to fix or program computers, you might be able to sell these services to others. Do you currently work for another company doing a particular service such as styling hair, giving massages, giving nail or facial treatments, taking photos, making videos, or selling products and services? If so, you might feel like starting your own business offering these same services to your own customers.

Another viable option is to sell products and services for a large networking products company. There are numerous ones from which to choose: Avon, Mary Kay, Arbonne, Party Lite, health and vitamin products, and many others. Each one has its own levels of earnings, most based on the amount of sales you make. Some require you to have inventory on hand and others do not. Check out several before deciding on the best one for you. Each charges you some upfront fee but the amount varies widely. Most do have training sessions to help you start. They also may want you to sign up other sales persons under you.

Another type of business is selling products or services for disability and accessibility related companies. Most of these use contractors —you get paid for the amount of work you do but you primarily set your own schedule. You likely will have training and possibly some leads to use in getting sales.

The next step is to consider family support and your education. Having your own business takes more than just having a skill. You might be great at that skill, but can you network with a variety of people and manage accounts, keep a schedule, and have a plan for how bookkeeping and financial records will be handled? Do you have the education necessary to accomplish these tasks yourself? Do you have a family member (spouse) who can assist you in this part of the business? Classes are available online and a good business coach can assist you in finding out what is necessary. Some accessible online classes are available at the Carroll Center in Massachusetts and some correspondence courses are given by the Hadley School for the Blind. SBA.gov also has many resources available.

The next step is to consider your financial resources and calculate the upfront cost of starting a business. All businesses take time to develop and become large enough to support you and your family. You will need some funding to assist you with living costs until you earn enough to pay your ongoing expenses. You may need to rent an office unless you are planning to have a home based business. Even then, you will need enough room for inventory, computers, marketing materials, and other equipment. You may need to purchase some equipment such as a new computer. Some funding is available through the Small Business Administration. Some statewide organizations may have funding for people with disability and may have employment related grants and loans.

You will need to research valuable online resources. You can do a search for other types of businesses, possible loans or grants, and other information relating to the industry you want to pursue. You may want to consult with someone else currently in that particular business —you can find others by searching for them on the Internet. The Independent Visually Impaired Enterprisers website has business related links and a list of members who own their own business. AFB's CareerConnect website also offers mentors.

You can explore grants and/or low interest loans online as well. Some funding is available for starting a new business, particularly if you are a veteran. Funds for minority based businesses are also available. You can contact veteran organizations and minority organizations for assistance in this area.

If you have a disability, you can get facts from vocational rehabilitation services in your state about how they can assist you in starting a business. They also can assist you with some technology needs, particularly during your education. The Social Security Administration can give you information on incentives available for business owners and assistance for living costs and health care until you earn enough to support yourself.

Another step in the process is checking state and local laws for starting a business. Depending on the type of business, there are licenses required. All states require you to have a sales tax license unless you sell products of a already established businesses. Other licenses may be required in the city and county in which you live. Local laws are different from city to city. Food services need health licenses to operate. Other retail establishments may need other licenses to sell liquor, over the counter drugs, and other items. Some counties require you to get a DBA- Doing Business As license and you will have to make sure another business isn't already using the business name you choose. It is important to know all requirements before you begin a business.

The most important step in starting a business is writing a business plan. It forces you to think about the elements of a business such as your mission or vision, your products and services, and how you are unique from others. You will have to define how you will market your business and set goals to build your business.

Finally, you will need to write a budget and plan how you will get the sales you need to pay the expenses. Consulting with people familiar with marketing will be beneficial in this process.

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