1. Making a Dream Reality. Starting your own business is not without risks, but there can be many financial and personal rewards as well. For many people with disabilities self-employment and entrepreneurship offer the chance to become financially independent and to set a more flexible work schedule. So how can you decide if your napkin sketch is destined for success? Start by researching the industry and competition. The Abilities Fund suggests “10 Ways to Research Your Business Idea” and SCORE recommends you ask yourself four key questions. As you come up with your answers, the business model canvas can help you develop a clear plan. This tool doesn’t replace the need for a traditional business plan – rather, it helps you quickly figure out whether your business idea can get off the ground. Find inspiration in the Iowa Department of Human Services’ stories of entrepreneurs with disabilities who have successfully used their skills and creative ideas to turn a business idea into a reality.
  1. Finding a Mentor. Yoda and Luke Skywalker. Dumbledore and Harry Potter. Mr. Miyagi and Daniel. Similarly to these famous pairings, a mentor-mentee relationship will prepare you for small business success. Connecting with mentors, with years of experience behind them an important step early in the process. How do you determine who should be your mentor? A mentor should be someone who can provide you with objective guidance and honest advice. Maybe you know someone who is a successful business owner, or you have a friendly relationship with a former boss. All you have to do is ask. Organizations like SCORE and your local small business development center (SBDC) can also connect you to potential mentors. A mentor relationship should be developed like any other relationship: keep in touch, ask questions and work together.
  1. Building Your Foundation. One of the most important decisions you’ll make is how your business will be structured. There are several business structures, but two facts to note when deciding are that more than half of small businesses are home-based, and nearly three quarters are sole proprietorships. Read this Internal Revenue Service factsheet for a quick look at the differences among the most common forms: sole proprietorships, limited liability companies, partnerships and corporations. You should also consider your future needs, choose a business name, register your company and obtain businesses licenses, if needed. With so many things to keep in mind, you may feel more comfortable with experts who can guide you through the process. Get in touch with your local SBDC for help developing your business plan, information about loans and other business advice.

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