By Melissa Lyon
Are you a person with a disability who is having trouble finding or keeping a job? Do you want a position where you highlight your strengths and feel valued? Do you want to have independence and choice in your daily work activities? Then entrepreneurship may be for you!
I touched base with three members of the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC who have experience with entrepreneurship: Marco Pasqua, Nathan Shipley, and Alexis Folk. Marco Pasqua is an inspirational speaker and co-founder of Meaningful Access Consulting. Nathan Shipley is also an inspirational speaker and the founder of Rolling With Nathan. Alexis Folk is a teenager who has started her own, very popular podcast called Meeting Mighty People. I asked them what tips and resources they would like to share for those who would like to start their own business or entrepreneurial project. These are some of their suggestions:
- Assess Your Strengths, Goals, and Capabilities: Nathan said that before starting his business, he contacted Work BC, where he did various assessments and was interviewed to analyze his needs and skills. There are several resources listed below that would be good places to start. Marco suggested that before starting any venture, do a SWOT analysis, where you consider your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Alexis pointed out that it is important to be at a place where you are accepting of your diverse needs and challenges, so that you have the mindset for moving forward and making the best of what you have to offer.
- Consider Your Passions and Interests: Alexis is a good example of this. She said that she paired her passion for inclusion with her skills in technology to create a podcast where she can make a difference. Marco made the good point, though, that having a passion for something is not always enough; you also need to consider your strengths and capabilities. He gave an example of having a passion for being a surgeon when he was younger, but then realizing that he didn’t have the stamina or hand dexterity to actually do the job.
- Consider Every Opportunity That Is Given To You: Marco reminded us of the importance of considering every opportunity that is given to us. You never know what will come to you or where an opportunity may lead. Marco also made the good point that even if you decide not to pursue an opportunity, make an effort to keep the connection and the communication open. Never burn your bridges because you never know when a connection may be useful to you or will be mutually beneficial in the future.
- Create A Strong Support Network: This was a strong message from all three of the entrepreneurs I interviewed. Take some time to consider how the people around you can support you in your endeavor. Also think about who you may not yet know, but could connect with to help you with your goals. Even once your business is established, making an effort to connect with others on social media or in person will help to spread the word about your business and what you have to offer.
- Surround Yourself With People You Trust and Can Count On: Nathan gave the good example of needing to hire someone to help him with typing and office work. He was very careful to make sure that the person he hired was passionate about his goals and worthy of the trust that is involved in such an important role.
- Trust The Process And Go With The Flow: Alexis suggested that you should always trust the creation process of your product or business. Not everything is going to be smooth at the start, but once you have the ball rolling, you should feel confident in how the product or business will grow. Problem-solving and flexibility are both necessary skills when being an entrepreneur.
- Protect Yourself: Marco makes the great suggestion of making sure that potential colleagues or investors sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect your idea and business from plagiarism. Small Business BCalso suggests that you get insurance and legally separate yourself from your company.
These are just a few of the suggestions that you may want to consider if you are contemplating becoming an entrepreneur. For more in-depth information and support, please check out the resources below.
I will close with Marco’s very wise statement for us all – If a door closes, don’t just accept your fate, take a sledgehammer and build a whole new building!! Maybe for you entrepreneurship is just that.
BC Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program – provides mentoring, business training and development, business loans, and help identifying specialized equipment requirements
Community Futures Entrepreneurial Development Program – provides skill development training and coaching for people with disabilities
Small Business BC – have created many wonderful resources and they provide workshop and advising services
Self-Employment for People With Disabilities – this is a tip booklet that was created by McGill University
** I would like to thank Marco, Nathan, and Alexis for their contributions to this article. If you would like to contact any of them for further information, please see their contact info below:
About the Author:
Melissa Lyon is a disability consultant for the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC. She has a master’s degree in Special Education and has worked hard to get to where she is now. As a person with mild cerebral palsy and epilepsy, Melissa is a strong advocate for people with disabilities. When not working, Melissa enjoys doing karate, where she is working on getting her black belt.