Small Enterprise Startup for
People with Disabilities
“Stepping into Business” is a course for people who wish to
become self-employed or otherwise to establish their own small
enterprises and who have disabilities. The course is offered in
modules, each module addressing a specific area of business startup in
the context of an individual's disability. The course is
wide-ranging in its content, covering aspects of business development
“Stepping into Business” is based on “Making the Road by Taking
It”, a workbook of self-employment training exercises developed at the
Rural Institute on Disability at the University of Montana. The
course comprises a series of modules, based on the original Montana
exercises. It has also been rewritten, where appropriate, to take
account of differences between the legislative and regulatory
frameworks in the United States and in the United Kingdom.
- you and your business;
- personal and business finance;
- products, services and prices;
- the language of business;
- business startup;
- business skills;
- business operation and
- Access to Work.
“Stepping into Business” is suitable for use by groups of trainees,
under the guidance of training professionals. The trainees will
be aspiring to set up new small enterprises in the United Kingdom and
will generally be people who have one or more disabilities. It is
expected that course participants will have appropriate computer and
adaptive technology skills to be able to use word processor,
spreadsheet, email and internet access software effectively.
“Stepping into Business” is available as a distance learning course
with a small number of short residential sessions. In this case
the time structure of the course will probably be considerably longer
as it will be necessary to devote additional time to discussion of each
module. It is, however, more likely that individual training
programmes will be constructed to meet the needs of each trainee;
such programmes can be delivered on a very flexible basis.
The modules included in the course are outlined below. The amount
of time that should be devoted to each module will vary from one
participant to another.
I should like to thank the staff at The Rural Institute on Disability
at the University of Montana, and in particular the Institute’s then
Director, Cary Griffin, for making this course possible. Cary has
provided me with an electronic version of the original “Making the Road
by Taking It” text and has granted me permission to anglicize the text
and to convert it to accessible form for use by people who are vision
impaired in the United Kingdom. Cary has also given me a great
deal of ongoing encouragement and support.
OUTLINE OF THE MODULES
Below are listed the modules that comprise “Stepping into Business”,
together with a summary of some of the issues that will be addressed.
Many of the modules can be delivered in the form of directed group
discussions. There are, however, exercises included in some of
the modules. It is expected that course participants will use
their normal means of writing to complete these exercises and to make
notes on the group sessions. Some of the activities will require
trainees to make telephone calls and to visit organizations and
agencies which might be of assistance to them in setting up their
Whilst some modules, such as "Access to Work", are generally disability
related, it should be noted that each module will be delivered in a way
which relates to each individual's disability. Thus, for example,
modules which require travelling will have to address the issue of how
effective travelling strategies can be developed. Participants
may often have their own solutions to such problems, but it is
important to highlight these so as to give them proper consideration at
an early stage.
This initial module allows you to explore yourself and your business
idea, with a view to defining where you are going and why. You
will look at the basic “what” and “why” of your proposed business, as
well as beginning to see yourself as a businessperson. Discussion
of these fundamental subjects will help you to begin to develop your
Personal Attributes Review
In this module you will conduct a detailed review of your personal
skills and attributes that might be called upon in your business.
To do this it will first be necessary to define your business
aspirations more clearly. You will then consider a wide range of
personal, technical and business qualities and characteristics that you
might bring to your business. You will also begin to consider
what resources you have available to you and what help and support you
might be able to find. Finally, you will consider questions that
you might have about starting or running your business.
Here you will look at the various models of small business that are
available to you, learning about how each might work. You will
discover that there are options other than self-employment from which
you may be able to choose. This will help you to decide which is
the most appropriate business model that is likely to fit in with you
and your business ideas.
Strengths and Weaknesses Analysis
In this module you will look at the advantages and disadvantages of
your proposed business. It is very important that you are honest
with yourself at this stage; if you identify a problem, there may
be someone who already has a solution. You should therefore look
at the possible supports that might be available to you and how you
might make best use of these supports. You will start to gather
information on what help is available and how you might access that
Personal Business Skills and Supports
This module contains a detailed list of business skills. You will
examine each skill and consider whether you have the skill, can learn
the skill, may need support in this area, might be able to develop an
alternative strategy or where you might get help or support.
Remember that, in addition to the general business skills covered here,
you will also need specialist skills in your own chosen line of work.
Personal Credit Affordability
The purpose of this module is to establish how much credit it would be
reasonable for you to commit to in order to run your business.
You will make a detailed list of all your outgoings (a basic list is
provided for guidance). You will then calculate the maximum level
of credit you might seek to raise, based on various levels of income
from your business.
Business and Disability Benefit
This module contains a comprehensive list of business and benefit
related words and phrases. You will learn how to define the most
important ones of these in general terms.
Product, Price, Placement, Promotion
This is a heavy module that guides you through a detailed look at your
products or services and how to market and sell them. You will
consider features of your products or services and the characteristics
of your potential customers. You will also look at ways in which
you might collaborate with other organizations in selling and buying in
products or services. Throughout this module the focus will be on
pricing and your intended position in the market.
Features and Benefits of Your Products
In this module you will make a list of the features of your products or
services and the benefits that these will bring to your
customers. You will also list potential features that you might
add later and the potential added benefits of these. The
objective here is to focus clearly on the products or services that you
intend to sell.
Pricing & Break-Even Exercise:
Personal Financial Statement
This module contains a sample set of costs for a fictitious
business. You will consider these costs, adding any that you
think are missing. You will identify which costs are fixed and
which are variable. You will learn how to calculate the
contribution margin on each sale. You will also look at how to
calculate how much product or service must be sold to pay for all
variable and fixed costs and what will happen to this calculation if
you change the price of your product or service. You will then
consider what assets and liabilities you have (a sample list is
provided for guidance). You will thus calculate your current
Refining Your Business Idea
In this module you will work through a series of questions that focus
on your business, its products or services and its customers. You
will seek to define your business more clearly, identify your products
or services, identify your customers and understand why they should buy
your products or services.
Target Market and Positioning
In this module you work through a worksheet that helps you to define
your target market and where you will position your business in the
marketplace. You will look at the detailed customer demographics
of both private individual and business customers who might buy your
products or services. You will also conduct a survey of
businesses in your geographic area and consider whether they might be
competitors, whether you might be able to work with them or whether
they might be able to help you.
Small Business Research and Resources
This module is intended to help you to determine the feasability,
viability and sustainability of your business. You will identify
the business sector within which your business belongs and then look
for specific supports and networks that might be of help to you.
Further searches will identify local and national supports that are
available to business in general and that might be of use to you.
You will also attempt to locate organizations through which you might
come into contact with potential customers. Employment Service,
economic development and social incentives will also be sought and
identified at this stage. You will then move on to identify
potential sources of supply of goods, materials or services that you
might need, as well as exploring ways in which these sources might
benefit your business. You will study the general and specific
economic and commercial characteristics of your area, as well as
assessing the performance of businesses that might be your
competitors. You will look at possible factors that might lead to
fluctuations in the performance of your business. Finally, you
will find out about legislative and regulatory controls that might
affect you and your business.
In this module you will look at the day-to-day operation of your
business. You will identify those tasks that are directly related
to your product or service, as well as those that are essential to
effective and legal operation of your business. Specific topics
to be covered include record keeping, communication, travelling, time
management and health and safety.
Access to Work
In this module you will learn how to make optimum use of the Access to
Work scheme. This will include obtaining Access to Work support
prior to starting trading, identification of disability related
problems that could be alleviated by Access to Work support and ways of
strengthening your Access to Work case.
In this module you will find out about possible funding sources to
which you might gain access. These will include European, UK
government and local government sources, as well as charitable and
other non-government sources. You will also consider the
advantages and disadvantages of borrowing money to start your business.
Using Employees and Support Workers
In this module you will attempt to identify those parts of your job
that you are unable to do yourself. You will then consider
options for having such work done for you. You will consider
options such as buying in products or services, employing staff and
making use of support workers.
In this module you will look at how you should dress and behave in your
chosen business. You will discuss how you might dress to do the
productive part of your work, when working directly with customers and
when attending professional or trade meetings. You will also look
at what forms of behaviour are generally considered acceptable in these
various settings, as well as considering those forms of behaviour that
are not considered acceptable. Finally, you will look at any
special clothing requirements that are associated with your chosen work
and whether you may charge these to the business.
© Brendan Magill, September 2005.