Building a business is no easy feat, and for people with disabilities (PWDs), this endeavor can be significantly more difficult. About 15% of the world’s population have some form of disability, and they are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities. Since the typical workplace may not offer opportunities for them, most PWDs actually go into business because they’ll have more control over their working environment and financial freedom. It takes hard work to start and run an efficient business, but these entrepreneurs have proven that even if you have a disability, you too, can build a business.
Sumit is a 29-year old entrepreneur from Kolkata, India. He has cerebral palsy, which is a motor disability that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. There are communities out there that provide help and resources for people with cerebral palsy. However, according to CPFN, there are still barriers people with cerebral palsy need to overcome. For Sumit, he has battled a lot of challenges and had to deal with stereotypes since childhood. He was able to complete four degrees in college and hold multiple qualifications to become eligible for a job, but companies still rejected him. This is the case for millions of people with disabilities as according to reports, there are widespread attitudinal barriers towards employing PWDs.
So Sumit decided to take control and secure his future. He started his PR firm PR Signal, which currently has a small team that works with multiple clients. One of his missions as an entrepreneur is to give equal opportunity for all, saying, “I always wondered why to plead for jobs when one could give others one. I hope my life’s example can help others like me and their parents take a step.”
Charlotte Jones from England always dreamed about becoming a high-profile handbag designer. However, when she was 16 years old, she was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, so she had to leave school and stay at home. While Charlotte’s condition is debilitating, that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream. With some support, she was able to launch her own designer ecommerce website (charlotteelizabeth.com) selling her own exclusive designs. Today, her brand is globally recognized and has been name-checked by the likes of notable personalities such as Meghan Markle.
Founder of Austin’s Underdawgs food truck, Austin Underwood has always been passionate about food and wanted to become a chef. He has Down syndrome, which is a genetic condition that causes physical and developmental challenges. However, this did not stop him from pursuing his dreams of becoming a chef. Austin enrolled in a special services vocational program at Eastern New Mexico University when he was 21 years old. He then worked in the university cafeteria, but he wasn’t a contender for the chef position because he was never taught how to read. However, working in the cafeteria honed his skills to become a prep chef, and he started dreaming of opening his own restaurant. He turned it into a reality and started Austin’s Underdawgs, a food truck that sells hot dogs and hosts birthday parties.
Starting a business may have its challenges, but these inspiring entrepreneurs prove that when there’s a will, there’s a way. Take a leaf from their books and see what happens when you reach for the stars. They’ve proven that you can succeed, no matter what difficulties you face every day.