It can be frustrating to be out of work. If you find yourself in this position or are frustrated by your current job you might be considering starting up your own business.
One of the reasons you may feel ‘pushed’ into considering this decision could be that your disability is somehow holding you back from reaching your potential, perhaps due to a lack of support from your employer. Fair enough; but don’t necessarily think that starting up your own business will see all your troubles float away.
Here are our tips to giving your start-up the best chance of success.
You may well be looking at setting up a business in order to mitigate some of the factors that you feel are holding you back, perhaps specifically related to your disability. Indeed, being the boss will certainly mean that you get to choose the way the business is run, what kind of access and facilities the premises are equipped with and even, what time you open the shop and for how long. However, behind all of this, you will also need to make sure that your business isn’t just convenient for you – but for your customers as well.
All businesses have an idea at their core. Furthermore, at least part of that idea needs to be different, ideally, unique. What you need to establish is what is unique about your business vision and why nobody can get what you offer elsewhere, perhaps based on quality, speed, precision, price or personality – maybe even accessibility. Your idea needs to be compelling and provide the basis of your marketing message.
You might want to start a business serving the needs of other disabled people. Do keep in mind though that because this is a relatively small marketplace (albeit one with gigantic potential) it’s very competitive. You are chasing fewer customers than if you were in a universally inclusive market.
There may well be similar businesses to the one you have in mind operating in the area (aka: the competition). What do they do well and what do they do badly? Find a gap or a niche and you might be on to a winner. Similarly, if they’re all struggling, you might think of switching direction.
Not all businesses work out of shops or offices. Premises can be a huge outgoing and you might find working from home or even basing your business online a more feasible starting point.
It’s a good idea to get feedback on your proposed venture. A properly qualified business advisor or even your bank, will be able to spell out exactly what they think of your ideas; nerve-racking indeed, but better than throwing your money away.
You also need to think carefully about how running your own business will impact your life. Although you’ll have autonomy, business owners, especially in the early days, rarely finish at five o’clock. This is especially the case if you are aiming to improve your general wellbeing or change your lifestyle.
Starting a business costs money. The problem is that you don’t yet have customers to supply money to you. Get a grip on income versus outgoings and how long you can run potentially at deficit before turning a profit. Cash flow issues kill businesses.
Branding and marketing
You need to remember your USPs and consistently market your brand aligned to them through websites, social media and so on. You’re aim should be to get noticed and quickly.
Get it set up
Your business is not a hobby. For instance, don’t feed your business from your personal bank account but set up a proper business account. You also need to register properly in order to formalise your business. (Depending on your business, the list below may not be exhaustive.)
HM Revenue and Customs
Find out if you need to pay tariffs or get permission to trade. You may also need to register for VAT.
You may want to register your business as a limited company or limited liability partnership (LLP).
It is sensible to review your home and life insurance and check whether you need special business insurance.
This document should crystallise everything about your business, from how it will operate through to how it will make money and by when. The document is likely to be important when looking for investment or funding regarding your business since it describes your strategy and ambitions.
As your business changes so should the business plan, taking in new initiatives and ideas as your circumstances change.
Funding from banks is not as easy to find as it used to be. Nevertheless, they remain an important source of start-up money.
Naturally, the bank will want to be given certain guarantees regarding the safety of their money and will want to see a well presented business plan that stacks up properly. Saying that, they aren’t the only show in town: there are alternatives such as peer-to-peer lending, invoice discounting or angel investors. Even so, they will all want to see the business plan and your incredible business idea and unique selling points (USP’s) shining through.
Finding a local network of like-minded people through organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses or Disabled Entrepreneurs can keep you up-to-date with funding opportunities. (Also check your local council’s website to see if they have funding available for small business start-ups.)
British Franchise Association: www.thebfa.org
There are a number of support organisations available for disabled people aiming to set up a business.
Disability Employment Adviser (DEA)
A DEA can help you look into self-employment and see if it’s a viable option, as well as steering you towards sources of funding and support. You can find them via Jobcentre Plus.
The New Enterprise Allowance
This is a government scheme which helps people gain access to business advice and help with funding. The scheme offers a weekly allowance worth up to £1,274 (in total) and you can also get a low-cost loan to help you with initial start-up costs along with a mentor to help you develop your business. You must be aged 18 or over, have a business idea and get one of the following benefits:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (or your partner does)
- Employment and Support Allowance (or your partner does)
- Income Support, if you’re a lone parent or you’re sick
- You may also be eligible if you get Universal Credit.
The Prince’s Trust’s Enterprise Programme
If you’re aged 18 to 30 and have a good idea for starting your own business this programme can give you access to business skills training, planning, start-up loans, funding and support from a mentor.
The Disabled Entrepreneurs
Access to networking opportunities for self-employed disabled people and those setting up their own businesses.
MiEnterprise is a supported self-employment specialist that enables people with learning disabilities to set up their own businesses. It operates as a mutual marketing co-operative.
Community Catalysts is a social enterprise and community interest company established by and working in close partnership with the charity, Shared Lives Plus.
New Enterprise Allowance
Disabled people who want to set up their own business will be able to get help from Access to Work if they enrol on the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA).
The NEA provides expert coaching and financial support for jobseekers with a business idea. Access to Work support can help pay for specialised equipment, support workers and travel costs when setting up a business.