by Mike Bullis
From the Editor: Mike Bullis loves to help people start businesses or get jobs and has been doing so for most of his professional life. He has owned a motorcycle shop, several restaurants, and now works throughout the US as a disability employment consultant.
Frustrated with employers who won’t hire you? Well, there’s a possible answer: hire yourself. In other words, go into business. No, it’s not easy, but neither is hearing no after no from employers. Yes, you have to have a service or product to sell, and you won’t be able to blame the boss when things go wrong, but the upside is that when you make money, you can give yourself a raise. The other upside is that you can start out small and build your business to the level that works for you. If you need an extra four hundred dollars a month or four thousand, it’s your choice. If health only allows you to work five hours a day, or different hours each day, build your business around those requirements.
You’ll hear lots of stories about how start-up businesses fail. That’s usually because the person starting the business didn’t learn the basics. I failed miserably in my first retail business because I was sure that all it took was a dream and the will to make it come true. What I learned was that it takes understanding the basics of business. Blind folks are lucky in this regard because there are two places where you can get excellent free training.
My first recommendation is the Forsythe Center for Employment and Entrepreneurship training course sponsored by the Hadley Institute. They have an online series of courses that will teach you everything you need to know to start a small business, go to https://www.hadley.edu/fce.asp to check it out. For the past two years they have held a competition for new business ideas and awarded fifty thousand dollars in prizes. One more upside is that the courses are free!
My second recommendation is the Business Enterprise Program in your state. These programs have been around since the 1930’s to help blind people learn to operate snack bars and cafeterias. No, you may not ultimately want to operate a snack bar or cafeteria, but the training you can get from the program will help you understand the business fundamentals you need to know to be successful. These two programs are worth tens of thousands of dollars in training you don’t have to pay for.
It’s difficult to tell how much blindness will play a part in how you operate your business. Some of it depends upon how much you intend to hire other people to do and how much you will need to do yourself. Many small business startups find that they don’t have the money to hire employees, so the burden falls to you to have practical electronic access skills through screen enlargement or speech software. The nice thing about starting small and doing all the work yourself is that as you grow, you’ll be able to explain the details to new people, and you won’t be one of those clueless bosses who doesn’t understand. The other thing that’s nice about doing it yourself is that you can work any time, day or night, not having to wait for a pair of eyes to show up.
Finding solutions to blindness challenges in business shouldn’t have to be a lonely process. Whether you take the Forsythe courses or the Business Enterprise training, meet the people who are solutions finders. Blindness is just a problem waiting to be solved. When you meet those solutions finders, grab on to them and steal every good idea you can. You’ll be happy you did.
Business ownership isn’t for everyone. It requires discipline, and in some ways your business can be the worst boss you ever had. It doesn’t care whether you’re sick or tired. It tells you what to do, and you either do it or you don’t. On the other hand, your business will never tell you that you shouldn’t try something because you’re blind. It doesn’t really care about your blindness. It will never pity you, speak in a condescending manner, or help you find stairs that you were perfectly able to find for yourself. In that sense, it’s the ideal boss.
I’ve spent twenty-five years in business. Some times were good, and some times were bad. But, through it all, being in business can teach you self-reliance and a personal pride of accomplishment when it works. So, if you’re frustrated by hearing all those no’s from would-be employers, just hire yourself.