North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind
Current Effective Issue: 12/10
Issued: 05/06 Revised 02/08
North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind (DSB) values and promotes self-employment as an achievable vocational goal in rehabilitation planning for you if an employment outcome in self-employment is consistent with your unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interest, and informed choice. Self-employment may be appropriate if you have experience operating a business, require a work setting or schedule under your own control, or have marketable business ideas with sound prospects for success.
It is essential that you understand that part of being successful in business is to independently establish a business with securing funding as an essential step. The primary goal of the rehabilitation counselor is to provide you with technical assistance and resource identification. The Agency can provide guidance but should not be considered the only resource for training, technical assistance, or financial assistance related to your business venture.
You must fully understand from the beginning that your project must be reviewed and approved before it can begin. The counselor will document in your case file that you have been made aware of the procedures to be followed. In no cases, should you expect the counselor to make any commitment prior to the Agency’s review and approval.
What is Self-Employment?
Self-employment is defined as follows: the individual owns, operates, and manages a business selling goods or services for the purpose of making a profit. You cannot be an employee of another person, business or organization to be considered self-employed. A self-employment business is organized as a for-profit adventure and may be in the form of a sole proprietorship, partnership, Subchapter S Corporation, C Corporation, or Limited Liability Company.
DSB will not provide funding or be involved in assisting your planning for:
Reasons-Benefits-Drawbacks for Self-Employment
Early in the process when considering self-employment, it is essential you and your counselor discuss the reasons, benefits, and drawbacks of owning your own business:
The following is a list of necessary steps in the Self-Employment process:
1. ASSESSMENT OF POTENTIAL (PERSONAL AND BUSINESS)
When a business is proposed, it is important that you and your counselor take a realistic look at the plan concept. The initial assessment should include both a written personal feasibility and business feasibility to be included in your case file. This is not a business plan but it is an evaluation of your personal and business knowledge and skills to be considered before deciding to develop the plan.
☐ Work History and Determination - Determine to what degree your technical skills and knowledge of the industry is transferable by evaluating work experience and skills. To what degree do you exhibit the following behaviors: commitment of time, personal resources, skill of operating a business, desire to operate a business, research information, network with individuals and business organizations, independently seek professional consultation, and persistence in resolving problems and overcoming obstacles? Are you willing to accept accommodations necessary to effectively participate in business?
☐ Financial Track Record - To what degree do you demonstrate an ability to maintain a positive credit rating or present evidence of financial security? You will need to present to your counselor a written credit check.
☐ Training - You are expected to be knowledgeable about the product or service being offered and all aspects of developing and running a business such as personnel, management, marketing, bookkeeping, writing a business plan, planning for profit, identifying and developing markets and management strategies, developing the technical skills needed for producing a product or delivering a service. If self-employment is established as an objective of the vocational goal, you may be referred by DSB to resources for training, business counseling, and development of the business plan. Training to acquire knowledge or skills may be through whatever means appropriate such as attending school, attending seminars, taking correspondence classes, participating in a training program, apprenticing or working for a similar business.
☐ Concept Feasibility - You should clearly state your business idea, technical preparedness related to all aspects of the business operation, and management capacity documented by experience. To what degree do you possess the expertise to manage people, records, and finances? Consider your knowledge of, or expertise in, sales, marketing, operations, finance, and accounting.
☐ Market Feasibility - You should ask yourself how well does the information being presented support the need for my proposed business. The feasibility of the business must be assessed in the context of the product, the service, target market, competition, and market trends.
☐ Financial Feasibility - You will need to provide your counselor with written documentation of adequate capital stipulating all resources available to insure adequate capitalization of the business start-up and resources for ongoing capitalization. How will you receive a personal salary and benefits?
Six Attributes you should evaluate and discuss in some detail during the assessment phase with your counselor:
☐ Handling Stress and Difficult Work Demands - To what degree do you demonstrate the ability to cope effectively with multiple demands? Consider your ability to address customer concerns and resolve disagreements.
At this point in the process, both you and your counselor will have a good idea of your personal and business potential.
Choosing a Self-Employment Business
You may not be certain what type of business to pursue. If that is the case, you and your counselor may benefit from a “discovery” process. In selecting the right business, it is important that you take a good look at:
A well-prepared and honest business concept is the foundation for any successful business. Equipped with it, you will be better prepared for the next step in the self-employment process– creation of a Self-Employment Plan.
2. BUSINESS PLAN DEVELOPMENT
What is a Self-Employment Plan (SEP)?
The self-employment plan is your document that assesses the feasibility of the business you would like to establish and states your qualifications to manage that business. The self-employment plan starts with a comprehensive feasibility assessment and is a thoroughly researched and documented description of the proposed or existing business venture. The plan tells a complete, step-by-step, working story of why the venture will be successful, and demonstrates your competence and understanding of, and ability for running the business. A SEP is a continuously developing and changing document. It’s a blueprint of the best intentioned and thought-out plans and it is written in easy-to-understand and readable language. It ensures that you have wisely considered all relevant aspects of the proposed business venture and weighed the possible risks or liabilities of the venture.
It is your business, so it is important that you conduct the research and write the plan. Others (i.e., partners, consultants, and advisors) can assist with gathering information and with writing, but you should be prepared and be able to answer any questions about the business, its industry, the market, and the projections of economic success as described in the plan.
The process can be made less complicated and more straightforward with the use of this thorough outline:
☐ Complete Business Description/Summary
☐ Organization Plan
☐ Financial Profile
☐ Operating Budget
You are solely responsible to create your own SEP. An incomplete SEP, requiring clarification or additional information, will be returned to your counselor. DSB may provide support for your research and writing, including referral to a business consultant for technical assistance and readers/drivers, etc. At the beginning of your SEP, please include a cover sheet which includes: business name, names of the principle, address, telephone number, and a table of contents.
3. TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
You are responsible to research and obtain technical assistance for every aspect of your business, such as funding sources, loans, tax information, licensing, and use of attorneys, inventory, and insurance.
Sources of technical assistance include similar businesses, industry associations, chambers of commerce, banks, economic development programs, community colleges or universities, the Small Business Administrations (SBA) and other sources that may be unique to the area in which your business will reside.
DSB funds for your IPE for self-employment can allow for assessments, training expenses, support services, and partial business start-up expenses. The Agency may also fund disability-related expenses and services that you may need to be successful in business.
DSB policy may provide partial financial assistance with the start-up costs of an SEP. Start-up costs are defined as those for occupational licenses, tools, equipment, and initial stock and supplies. When providing financial assistance, applicable State and Federal laws, policies, and procedures must be followed, including State purchasing laws.
The following guidelines are to be used in determining the financial participation by DSB in plans for self-employment:
Total Start-Up Cost
Identified in Business Plan
% of Eligible Individual Participation
$1 - $5,000
Five Percent (5%)
$5,001 - $10,000
Ten Percent (10%)
$10,001 - $20,000
Fifteen Percent (15%)
Above $20,000 - $30,000
Twenty Percent (20%)
If personal financial resources are not available, the plan must clearly state the investments of in-kind benefits on your part, such as ownership of land, payments on equipment, etc.
Any exception to participation requirements must be approved by the Agency Director.
The Equipment and Computer Use Agreement (Form DSB-4016 Revised 09-2005) must be in place whenever DSB funds the purchase of equipment. In the event of a business failure or the equipment is no longer being utilized as part of the IPE, the equipment purchased by DSB will be returned to the Agency. This will not apply if the equipment purchased by DSB has been turned over to you during active status.
As a general rule of thumb, new business owners need enough money on hand or have other resources to compensate for their operating expenses through at least the first year or two. It is crucial to the business success that you accurately estimate your cash flow needs. To do so, begin by predicting your expenditures, usually with consultation from a reliable accountant.
5. SUBMIT THE BUSINESS PLAN
You should submit your SEP to your counselor for review and approval. Once approved, the counselor shall submit the SEP to the Rehabilitation Supervisor. The supervisor shall review the project and, if recommended, submit it in writing to the Project Review Committee (PRC) for approval. Once the approval process is complete, you will receive a letter of support or denial. The PRC shall consist of the Area Rehabilitation Supervisor, the Rehabilitation Counselor, and a business person with knowledge in the specific business area.
6. DEVELOP THE SELF-EMPLOYMENT INDIVIDUALIZED PLAN FOR EMPLOYMENT (IPE)
What is An Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE)?
An Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) is a written agreement between DSB, you, and your counselor. It identifies the job goal, lists the necessary steps to attaining that goal, records each party’s decisions and commitments regarding DSB services and activities, and serves as a plan of action. The standard IPE includes, but is not limited to:
If approved, you and your counselor will complete an IPE for your SEP. Your counselor will explain and work with you through this process. An IPE directed toward self-employment contains:
7. MONITORING BUSINESS PERFORMANCE FOR CASE CLOSURE
Once the business has achieved the self-employment goal that was agreed upon by you and your counselor, the counselor will continue to monitor the business for a minimum of 90 days before closing the case successfully rehabilitated. You will need to have regular meetings with your counselor to determine your satisfaction with the business, review profit/loss and income/expense statements and books. Your counselor will make site visits to the business to verify that it is operational.
8. DETERMINING CASE CLOSURE
When you and your counselor consent to a plan for self-employment (the IPE), you also need to agree upon the criteria for a successful employment outcome. The following criteria will be considered when closing your case successfully rehabilitated:
Responsibilities: Individual, Counselor and Consultant
The purpose and intent of this section is to further explain individual and counselor responsibilities.
1. The Individual’s Role-Your Role in the Process
2. The Counselor’s Role in the Process
- Explaining DSB’s, your, and any other organization’s (i.e., business development consultant) role in the self-employment process
- Clearly communicating the self-employment process that will be followed including how Agency decisions will be made for pursing self-employment
- Communicating how the Agency will help with training, developing a business plan, and funding of the business
- Helping you decide which business to pursue
- Deciding which assessments will be used including a technology assessment
- Providing information to assist you with developing a business plan
- Supporting you and being the liaison between you, consultants and lenders
- Reviewing the final business plan and writing a letter of support to the Project Review Committee
3. Consultant’s Role
After you have developed your SEP, the consultant may make recommendations for potential funding sources, marketing strategies, and viability of the plan.
The consultant(s) should have experience in developing business plans. Be aware, however, that this does not ensure that they will develop a realistic, quality plan. You should ask for an individual’s or organization’s credentials, interview past customers, and talk with local bankers or lenders. You and your counselor should not expect a consultant to rubber-stamp a business plan without explanation or involvement.
Supported Employment and Self-Employment
Self-employment is an acceptable employment outcome for you even if you choose supported employment as a service. Supported self-employment can be successful for you even if you are diagnosed a most severely disabled person. Also, self-employment may be viable for you if you have not been able to maintain employment because of your disability or if you require long-term support to maintain your employment.
Oftentimes, your particular small business may be suited for the home environment. Web publishers, dressmakers, and some consultants, as examples, are able to provide products or services directly from your home environment. Others, such as plumbers and musicians, use homes merely as a base of operation.
The option to work from your home is appealing for a variety of reasons:
Home-based businesses present a fair share of challenges, such as:
Since working from the home may impact so heavily upon both your personal and professional life, you as a new business owner should consider the relevant implications and ramifications when deciding if your home is the appropriate setting for your small business.
The following list of questions may provide insight into your decision-making process.
Once it has been determined that a home-based business is appropriate and preferred, there are still more concerns to be addressed, such as:
Self-Employment Resource List
In no way intended as comprehensive, the following is a list of resources for those participants who are interested in self-employment or starting and operating their own SEP:
The Abilities Fund
410 North 18th Street
Centerville, IA 52544
American Council of the Blind (ACB)
1155 15th Street NW, Suite 1004
Washington, DC 20005
Brochure “Journeys to Prosperity” for self-employment
American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
Career Connect (CC)
11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300
New York, NY 10001
Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.
4200 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 800
Arlington, VA 22203-1804
Braille Institute of America
741 N Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20580
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs (NABE)
1223 Lake Plaza Drive, Suite D
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
Office of Employment Support Programs
Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE)
409 Third Street SW
Washington, DC 20024
Small Business and Self-Employment Service (SBSES)
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
PO Box 6080
Morgantown, WV 26506-6080
Social Security Work Incentives
There are work incentive programs to consider for individuals who are either SSDI (Title II) or SSI (Title XVI) recipients. Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE) enables SSI recipients to recover some of the costs of work related expenses incurred as a result of the disability. Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) enables a recipient to set aside income and/or resources over a specific period of time to fund necessary goods and services to establish a business. Counselors must consider these work incentive programs when working with SSI/SSDI recipients.
Southeastern Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTAC)
Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA)
Georgia Tech University
490 Tenth Street
Atlanta, Georgia 30318
U.S. Business Advisor
US Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20201
Toll free: 1-877-696-6775
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
409 Third Street SW, Suite 7600
Washington, DC 20416
For questions or clarification on any of the policy contained in these manuals, please contact the local district office.