Disability Entrepreneurs are persons who don’t let their physical challenges hold them back from achieving their entrepreneurial vision. To be a successful disability entrepreneur requires commitment, tenacity and a healthy dose of creativity. In this post, guest author Patrick Young provides some useful information and tips for budding disability entrepreneurs.
Physical Limitations, Unlimited Business Possibilities
Disabled individuals are a highly underutilized asset in the workforce. Unfortunately, having a disability means you are statistically more likely than your able-bodied peers to suffer with un- or under-employment. Don’t let your disability stand in your way of success. We’ve got answers to your most common concerns about becoming a disability entrepreneur, starting a business, managing a business, and ways to pay for your entrepreneurial endeavors.
Here are a few tips on how to use your big ideas to become a disability entrepreneur and start your small business:
Consider sticking close to home
One of your greatest obstacles as a disability entrepreneur will likely be transportation and ease of mobility. If you have the space, you can always run the business out of your home. Options that don’t involve strenuous physical labor include accounting, crafting, graphic design, article writing, and marketing consultation.
If you choose a business that requires keeping up with inventory, consider investing in inventory management software. SquareUp explains that these programs can help you keep a close eye on your company’s cash flow, keep real-time track of inventory, and forecast upcoming needs. By paying attention to your supply chain, you can ensure you always have products available and in stock, so your customers aren’t having to wait. You can sell items from home through Amazon, Etsy, and the even the Facebook Marketplace. Shipping has been made remarkably easier over the last few years, and UPS now offers on-call pickup and will happily drop by your home office for same-day pickup, if necessary.
Seek out special funding
There are many loans and grants available for alternately-abled entrepreneurs. These will vary by state and may not be available for every type of business. Disabled World claims there are currently more than 1,200 grant programs available through the federal government and more than 55,000 available at the state level or via private foundations. If you are a veteran, you may also be eligible for special assistance through the VA. Military.com notes that a veteran-owned small business (VOSB) may be eligible for tax benefits that can make it more affordable to own and operate a business, regardless of whether it’s home-based or not.
Know where support is available
The process of becoming a disability entrepreneur and starting your own business is daunting for everyone. The Small Business Administration offers numerous entrepreneurial resources for people with disabilities that can help you make informed decisions and locate possible tax provisions and incentives. Depending on where you live, you may also have access to local support from your Chamber of Commerce or workforce development agency. SCORE is another invaluable pool of knowledge that can help you connect with a mentor in your industry. DIVERSEability, an online magazine dedicated to the professional advancement of people with all varieties of abilities, offers more information on resources available for disabled men and women.
Push your limits
They say that the first step is always the hardest. This applies to many situations, but especially when starting a business. But you don’t have to relegate yourself to plugging away at a computer in order to enjoy success. Surviving Disability asserts that disabled people have ample opportunities when it comes to more conventional careers. Baking, childcare, and doing home repairs are all areas that you shouldn’t be afraid to explore.
You don’t have to have full control over your body in order to control your financial future and become a disability entrepreneur. Some of the most successful people throughout history have had physical limitations to overcome. FDR, Ray Charles, and Stephen Hawking are just a few that come to mind. While you may never be president, play in front of sold-out crowds, or crack the code of the universe, there is nothing stopping you from being the boss.
Patrick Young is an educator and activist. He believes people with disabilities must live within a unique set of circumstances–the outside world often either underestimates them or ignores their needs altogether. He created AbleUSA to offer helpful resources to people with disabilities and to provide advice on navigating various aspects of life as a person with disabilities.
Financial Planning with a Disability:
Preparing for the Future
Financial planning is important on so many levels; not only is it necessary for making sure you’re comfortable and independent now, but it’s also crucial in ensuring that you will have everything you need down the road. When you’re living with a disability, however, preparing for your future can mean many things, from saving for retirement to making sure your home has the right modifications for your needs. It can also help you get the care you need should you fall ill or require medical equipment or hospitalization.
Although it’s a difficult thing to think about, it’s important to consider your end-of-life plans. Final arrangements can be costly, and even with health insurance, a long hospital, hospice, or nursing home stay can leave behind medical bills that your loved ones will be responsible for paying. Making plans now for grants or assistance to take care of those issues down the road will give you peace of mind and ensure that your wishes are properly carried out.
If you need more information, here are some things to consider.
Have “The Talk”
Having a conversation with your loved ones about your final wishes may seem like the last thing you want to do, but it’s an important part of planning for your future. Think about what you’d like in regards to your funeral and memorial arrangements, and start making preparations. You can choose some of the details now and have a conversation with your loved ones about how they can fulfill your wishes.
Find the Right Life Insurance Policy
Life insurance is a wonderful asset for individuals who are planning for the future. Not only does it give you peace of mind that your final wishes will be taken care of, but it will also help your loved ones pay for outstanding debts as well. These days, it’s easy to shop online for life insurance and compare monthly rates to find the right policy for your family’s needs.
Take a Look at Medicare
Many Americans who are living with a disability are eligible for Medicare before they reach the age requirement, so look at these plans to see if you qualify and what it will cover. In some cases, you may be able to find a supplemental plan that will help you pay for dental and vision care, which don’t fall under basic Medicare plans. You may also get some assistance with paying for short-term stays in nursing facilities should you need them in the future, which is a huge benefit since they can often be very costly.
Make Sure Your Home Is in Good Shape
Your home should be a safe and comfortable place for you to stay in regardless of your age or abilities, so take a look around and figure out whether any changes need to be made. Home modifications are common these days, but they can end up costing you a lot of money. Typical changes include upgrades to the bathroom and kitchen as well as the installation of ramps to cover stairs for individuals who are living with mobility issues.
Determine Your Home’s Worth If Selling
If you’re nearing retirement and are planning to move out of the family home at some point, it’s a good idea to start the selling process by figuring out how much your home is worth. Websites like Redfin deliver your home’s estimated value to you by gathering information about homes that were sold recently in your area. Though this can yield an accurate result, it’s still a good idea to consult with a real estate agent to get the best recommended list price possible.
Financial planning can be a stressful task if you’re unsure of what the future will bring, so give yourself plenty of time to complete the process. Talk to your loved ones about your preparations so that everyone is on the same page. With some careful planning, you can ensure that your financial future is on point no matter where the road takes you.
7 Key Business Functions Startups Should Outsource
It’s one of the most challenging dilemmas faced by every startup, how to build capability internally while managing the cash burn rate. Increasingly, the answer is to build a two-way relationship with a business process outsourcing partner and to outsource those key business functions, which are not critical to the growth of the enterprise.
If you’re running an early-stage startup, chances are you have developed an organizational roadmap, identified the key knowledge and skill areas amongst your core team and developed a strategy to ramp up your organization’s recruitment strategy.
Why Outsource Key Business Functions
While your team’s strengths may be focused on product innovation or technology, your business still requires solid Marketing, Customer Service, Financial strategy, Human Resources, Sales and Administration expertise.
The question is, “How prepared are you to manage your startup’s day-to-day operations, while onboarding new talent or capabilities and outsourcing business functions?” Effectively outsourcing key business functions enables a startup to be average down its staffing costs while keeping your internal resources focused on business gaps in your organization’s operational ecosystem.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Pitching a product or business idea to venture-capital investors requires a lot of courage and conviction. It also takes a significant amount of work, time and networking to get a meeting in the first place. Once you have that opportunity in hand, you don’t want to waste it by delivering a subpar pitch presentation, one that lacks a compelling story. Without that story, you risk failing to convince your investor audience to believe in your idea — and you.
I sat down with Andrew Braccia, partner at Accel and early investor in companies like Slack, PagerDuty, Lynda.com, Squarespace and Prezi (where I am CMO), to get his insights on how entrepreneurs can use tools like storytelling and imagery to engage VC investors during their pitch. He offered a rare glimpse into the components that he looks for when evaluating entrepreneurs and what makes a pitch presentation compelling. He also explained why less is often more when it comes to presenting information to VCs. Here is a breakdown of key takeaways from our conversation, with insights from Braccia himself.
“It depends on the entrepreneur and situation, but you want to make it interactive and give a clear command of the opportunity in an articulate way,” Braccia advises. “You want to make it as engaging as possible so you create opportunities for shared dialogue and questions. It’s a great indicator of the interest level of the receiving party. It sort of makes people buy more into what they’re spending time on. You don’t want to force it or make awkward moments either, or even look for confirmation.”
Use imagery to create an emotional connection.
“If you’re talking about your team, show pictures, [like] the schools they went to, icons of other companies they’ve worked at, their interests,” says Braccia. “Market trends — being able to graph it, chart it, or personify it allows for an emotional connection with the person or market.”
Be open to questions.
As Braccia puts it, “If you don’t have a lot of confidence and are constantly looking for reinforcement, that could be challenging. So you want confidence being able to be open to questions. Coming out with a strong sentence.”
Keep things concise.
“I don’t think length and detail of a presentation is synonymous with the success of that presentation,” says Braccia. “It kind of goes into clarity and their ability to extract complexity. Hold yourself accountable to keep things concise in a presentation or 45-minute discussion.”
Braccia suggestings bearing in mind that, at minimum, “It’s an opportunity to meet investors and influencers who may help you in the future, if not today. And that’s another reason why great storytelling is so important in the VC pitch: It makes you memorable.”
Have your backstory on deck.
“Many entrepreneurs are caught off-guard when asked to dive into their backstory,” cautions Braccia. “They haven’t practiced how to tell that story, or left enough time in their presentation to share that information. And that is a tremendous opportunity lost to make a connection with investors.”
As Braccia’s observations make clear, your VC pitch can be a pivotal moment in your business. Going through the process can help crystallize the story you want to tell, and it’s never too early to start developing that story.
Re-invention can be triggered externally, but must take place internally.Entrepreneurs must develop the power to create the impossible in order to realize their highest potential.
No entrepreneur is happy with maintaining the status quo, even if they’ve achieved success, accolades and comfort from their accomplishments. The “zone of genius” can become a golden anchor.
Most entrepreneurs have a huge vision for themselves that they’ve broken apart and watered down over the years because they are scared of the scope of their dreams. In doing so, they are settling for the smaller incentives that are within reach rather than striving for the bigger prizes on the highest shelves. They stop stretching.
The power to create the impossible is the ability to first acknowledge these huge dreams that feel completely “unrealistic,” declare them possible and then create the circumstances in your life that move those dreams from unreality to reality.
In order to create the impossible, the entrepreneur must undergo a period of complete re-invention in business, life and self — counterintuitively shedding themselves of old beliefs and habits in order to make room for the ideas that will actually help them succeed.
Re-inventing yourself is not about changing what you are “doing” — it’s about changing who you are being.
Re-invention is not a simple as a “pivot” or a new position in the market. It’s not just about doing better work. It’s about changing your relationship to the past, present and future so that you become capable of accomplishing anything you declare possible, regardless of your past or current experiences.
An entrepreneur cannot re-invent their products, company or culture without first re-inventing themselves. It takes courage.
As author Tracy Goss would say, “Re-invention is putting at stake the success you’ve become for the power of making the impossible happen.”
Anybody who seeks the power to create the impossible through re-invention can follow the guideposts until the road ends, but each re-invention is unique. Great CEOs, athletes, artists and world leaders have always endured the fires of change as they re-invented themselves.
You can study great leaders and icons to understand how and why their re-inventions happened — but you’ll never be able to copy the process. Re-invention can be triggered externally, but must take place internally.
Your re-invention will happen through a series of transformations that fundamentally change your understanding of who you are and what you’re capable of, creating quite literally a different person on the other side who has no recollection of the limitations of the past.
This article looks at why customers expect different interactions with you depending on where they are in the buying cycle. It also examines how specific events trigger them into a buying mode. It then explains how you can use this information to make your marketing more effective.
The Customer Buying Cycle
A simple way to look at the buying cycle is to break into three stages:
Awareness – when a customer first becomes aware of your product. Or could also refer to the point where a customer first becomes aware of a need that they want to fulfill.
Consideration – when a customer starts evaluating solutions to their need
How Buying Cycle impacts the sales approach needed
Imagine that you wandered in to a clothing store while walking around the neighborhood. You didn’t have a particular idea of anything you want to buy. You are approached by a hungry salesperson who is convinced they can get you to buy something. You are are annoyed by too much attention, and feel that they are ruining the peaceful browsing experience that you hoped to have.
Now imagine that you have gone into the same store. However In this situation, you have a urgent need to purchase a black sweater, and don’t have much time to waste. You want a salesperson to help you immediately, so you don’t waste your time looking for the item. However you can’t seem to get the attention of any of the salespeople. You are highly irritated by the lack of attention.
What’s the difference?
The difference between these two examples is where you are in the buying cycle. In the first situation, you are early in the Awareness stage, and in the second example, you are right at the end of the purchase cycle.
Depending on where you are in your buying cycle, your expectations for how the sales people in the shop should treat you are different. If you are early in the cycle, you want to be largely left alone to browse around and get educated. If you are later in the cycle, you want highly responsive help to complete the purchase. Using the wrong sales approach leads to buyer frustration.
How do you adapt Marketing to a buyer’s stage in the cycle?
In the online world, we need to provide different paths through the website that are appropriate for each stage. It turns out that visitors will self-identify where they are in the buying cycle by the paths they take, provided you give them the option.
What to do with visitors that are not ready to buy? (Lead Nurturing)
Since visitors who are early in their buying cycle are NOT likely to buy on their first visit to your web site, we need to know how to best handle them in case they do turn into buyers later on. This is a path that I am surprised to see is often not given the right level of attention and results in leads leaking from the funnel and lost marketing investment.
The key is to do a great job of staying in touch with them over a period of time, and building a trusted relationship (Lead Nurturing). Then if they do hit an event that triggers a buying cycle, your product is likely to be the top of their shopping list.
Once we have their email address, we can nurture them through the buying cycle using a customer success stories, a blog, newsletters, webinars, etc.
Lead nurturing is best done with marketing automation software like that provided by HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, etc. Those products allow you to segment your customers to make the messages you send most directly relevant to them, and therefore most likely to be read. They also allow you to track who is advancing in their buying process by observing whether they come back to visit pages, such as the pricing page, that indicate buying intent. You can then apply more expensive sale resources to those leads, knowing that they are qualified enough to warrant the additional cost.
Effective lead nurturing is all about accelerating leads through the consideration process. Customer success stories, product comparisons, etc. all help to provide the data and info that a prospect looks for in their own research. If you provide it for them you make it easy for them to consume that info and move to the step in the process.
How on-line lead sources relate to the Customer Buying Cycle
Different lead sources produce buyers at different stages of the customer buying cycle:
People that are later in the buying cycle are most likely to be using tools like Google, and review sites to search for vendors and products to solve a problem. Those leads are highly valued because there is a high level of buyer intent. They are usually in the Consideration or Purchase stages of the buying cycle.
Many other lead sources (e.g. social referrals, Twitter, Facebook ads, banner ads, pr stories, educational presentations at conferences, etc.) produce buyers that are earlier in their cycle, and frequently just becoming aware that there is a potentially interesting product now available.
Market maturity also plays an important role in the stage that your leads. For early stage markets where there is still a lot of education required, most leads will be very early in their buying cycles.