Deciding if Starting a Business Is Right for You

Having a great idea is only the very beginning of starting a small business. 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?

Many people and organizations say that if you have an idea, you should run out and develop a business plan. While a business plan is definitely important (we’ll talk about creating one later in this article), the first thing you should do is think about whether you are really the right person to start your own business. It’s important to understand that microenterprise (small business) is not a silver bullet for success, even though some people might say so.

The single most important factor in the success of your enterprise is whether self-employment is a good fit for you. Being self-employed means being responsible for absolutely everything related to your business. That means a lot of work, a lot of stress, and a lot of things you may have never had to worry about. The reality is that having your own business just isn’t for everyone. 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).

Example

Bob didn’t plan to start a small business; he was just helping out a neighbor. But sometimes opportunity knocks and you just have to open the door!

Late in 2009, Bob heard a knock on the door and he rolled his wheelchair over to answer it. When he opened the door, his neighbor Susan and her 95-pound golden retriever Darwin looked a bit frazzled. Susan explained that she urgently needed Bob’s help watching Darwin, because her employer told her she couldn’t bring Darwin to work anymore. She had tried leaving Darwin alone in her backyard, but he trampled her flowers and the neighbors complained about him barking at squirrels all day!

Bob remembers, “That first day or two, I just watched him as a favor for a neighbor, but Darwin is one high-energy dog and I began to think I should charge something.” After a few more days, Susan agreed, and asked Bob what he might charge to watch Darwin five days per week.

“I had no idea what to charge,” recalls Bob, “it’s not like I had ever planned to be a dog-sitter!” Bob started researching what other dog-walkers in the neighborhood charged. Bob and Susan soon agreed upon a weekly rate. “It wasn’t a lot of money, but it definitely helped me out, since I was just living on disability benefits,” says Bob.

About 2 weeks later, Susan introduced Bob to a coworker who also needed a dog-sitter. Karl thought that Bob’s fee was fair, and he was happy that his black lab Emily could spend her days playing with Darwin. Once Bob had his second client, he began to wonder if he could make a real business out of it. “I thought, wow, I may have something here. How much money can I make doing this?”

Bob had started working on his business plan and signed up for an online course about starting a small business and that’s when he realized something, “I’m not really cut out to run a business. Watching a few dogs is one thing, but business plans, marketing, insurance, licensing, permits — that stuff makes my head hurt.” Today, Bob watches 2 or 3 dogs per week and is happy with that. It’s not a huge business, but it does give him some extra cash and he has fun with the dogs while helping out neighbors and friends.

Creating Your Team

If you think you want to go ahead and try to develop your idea into a full business plan, you need to create your team of support. While you will be the person who is ultimately responsible for all decisions, you must involve others so that you have a group of people who can advise and support your efforts. This is especially important for people with disabilities, because there are many more things to think about.

Here are some of the issues your team will help you figure out as you think about starting a business:

No businessperson can figure out the answers to all of their questions alone. The key is to build a team of advisors, an informal board of directors who can help you find answers, ideas, and solutions that can make your business a success.

Whom should I include on my team of advisors?

Whom 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 (The Service Corps of Retired Executives, or 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!

Do you want to make your dream a reality?

If you have read the information so far and still want to start your own business, keep reading. The rest of this article will help you find opportunities and programs that help people with and without disabilities develop, strategize, and fund their small businesses.