Starting a Small Business

Frequently Asked Questions

Microenterprise (small business) is not the right thing for everyone, even though some people might say so. It takes a rare combination of qualities for a person to be able to take an idea, develop it as a business, and succeed with a profitable enterprise (make money).

Having a great idea for a business is only the beginning. Once you’ve got an idea, you need to think about:

  • Do I want to turn this idea into a small business?
  • Am I a good person to make this idea a reality?
  • Do I have the team of support I need to do it?

For some people, having a business is great. For others, it is better to find a job at a company where they don’t have to be responsible for everything.

Yes. A business plan is critical to starting your business, because if you don’t plan, your business is much more likely to fail. A business plan is not a fixed document that never changes. It is a flexible, working document that changes over time depending on your business’s situation and helps you develop your business. If you plan to use an Individual Development Account (IDA) or Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS), or want help from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), you will be required to have a business plan.

Before you decide to make your business dream come true, it is important to realize that having a business means doing a lot of work that people don’t always talk about. For example, you may have to make business plans, do marketing, get insurance, get licensing or permits, take care of accounting, pay business taxes, handle sales taxes, manage payroll if you have employees, pay payroll taxes, and an endless number of other tasks. Having a business isn’t just a matter of taking a hobby and making some money with it — it can bring a seemingly endless number of chores and responsibilities into your life. And of course, you’ve got to worry if you’re actually making money!

Who to include on your informal board of directors will largely depend on your personal situation. Here are some ideas about the type of people you might want to include:

  • If you get public benefits, people who know about benefits planning
  • People who know about the type of business you want to operate (SCORE may help you find somebody)
  • Accountants or tax professionals
  • Lawyers
  • Disability experts
  • Microenterprise (small business) experts
  • Assistive technology (AT) specialists
  • Credit repair or banking assistance experts
  • Marketing assistance and visual design specialists

When you find a couple of people who agree to help you with your business, ask them if they know other people with important skills or knowledge who might also be able to join your informal board of directors and help your business succeed!

Getting funding is a huge issue for anybody who tries to start up a business. Perhaps the most common way of getting funding is through credit. Credit is money you borrow. For example, if you have a credit card, you are borrowing money whenever you use your card and your are paying it back when you pay the bill.

Your credit score is a measurement of how well you pay your bills. If you don’t pay your bills on time, don’t make the minimum payments, or go over your credit limit, your credit score will go down. Your credit score is very important to lenders because it helps them decide if you are a “good risk.” If they are going to lend you tens of thousands of dollars so you can start a business, they want to be as certain as possible that you are going to make your loan payments each month.

The bottom line: You won’t be able to get a loan to start your business if you have a history of not paying your bills. If you have a low credit score, you should talk to a nonprofit that provides credit repair help so that you can get a loan in the future.

To learn if you have a good credit score, you can get a free copy of your credit report every year from each of the 3 main credit reporting agencies in the U.S. To learn more about how to get your free credit report, click here.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) has a $2,000 resource limit ($3,000 if you’re married). This limitation can make it seem hard to save for starting your business.

However, there are a few ways for you to get around this limit and save up money to start your own business. You can:

All of these can let you save far more than the SSI resource limit without losing your SSI benefits, as long as the money you save will be used for your business.

A Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) lets you save money for a work-related goal that will help you be more self-sufficient. Usually, your SSI benefits go down when you get income from other sources, like your own business or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). But with a PASS, Social Security does not count income or resources set aside in the PASS when figuring out your SSI eligibility or benefits amount. That means you can save up money and keep getting your SSI benefits at the same time.

You can use a PASS to:

  • Help pay for the cost of school or training
  • Start a business
  • Pay for equipment, support services, and other expenses related to your goal

An Individual Development Account (IDA) is a savings account for low-income workers that can be used for small-business development, higher education, or the purchase of a first home. Each time you make a deposit, the IDA program contributes an additional deposit called a match. Most IDA programs have a match that is 1 to 4 times the size of your deposit. For example, if you are in an IDA program with a 2:1 match, each time you deposit $25, your program sets aside an additional $50. If you keep your money in a federally funded IDA, the money in the account will not be counted against the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) resource limit.

Note: There aren't as many IDA programs as there used to be. Some are still active, but it can take a bit of effort to find one that is accepting applications.

Yes, there are several programs and work incentives that help people with disabilities become small-business owners. For example:

To see more ideas of programs and resources that can help you get started with your business, look at this article’s Next Steps page.

Learn more