It’s hard enough for any would-be start-up business owner or entrepreneur to find new business ideas in any economy but have you ever considered how hard it is to come up with business ideas for special needs children?
I know of two young men who despite their mental disabilities have come up with an idea for a small service business of their own. The business began work from very humble beginnings but slowly they have painstakingly and with much determination and ingenuity come up with a computer repair and servicing business. One of the biggest challenges is to find customers who will take them seriously and let them do the work. With no money to advertise their service, they rely on word-of-mouth advertising and making business connections in their small personal networks.
But you should see the excitement they possess when they do find a paying customer and complete the repairs to the customer’s satisfaction. Such work builds self-confidence and self-esteem and gives them purpose and meaning to their lives.
The outdated, traditional way of thinking about work for people with special needs is usually arts and crafts or assembling components. With certain mental diseases young adults are still not attracted to such mundane, menial work, which does little to motivate them and capture their imagination.
In years gone by young people with special needs would be given a place in their parents’ business and would be accepted in the community. I remember when I was growing up the local butcher had a son who was a special needs child but found work in the butchery delivering customer orders to homes. Such community support for young people with disabilities has been snuffed out in a fast-paced, hyper competitive world, children with special needs have been increasingly isolated from the local business community. They find themselves frustrated, lacking in self confidence and disenfranchised. One young man with a special disability recently told me that he was desperate to find some sort of work that could bring meaning and purpose to his life but no one was willing to try him out and give him an opportunity.
Even when trying to secure basic low-level jobs in local businesses such as supermarkets people with disabilities battle. In one case a young woman was hired by a local supermarket to do basic admin work. She didn’t tell the supermarket manager about the full extent of her disability for fear that she might not get the job in the first place. Unfortunately, after about two weeks she was let go and that led to a spiral in her self-confidence and behaviour that got her into difficulties.
One inspirational story I came across recently was of a man who in addition to his present small business, started a home business using his wife’s popular cookie recipes. His son, a special needs young person, works at a local bakery. This business owner wanted to come up with a business that his special needs son could eventually take over. After much preparation and planning, the entrepreneur built an extension to his property and built a small commercial kitchen located in the back of the house for making the cookies. The business is now up and running and selling home-made cookies in the local community and from a website.
It’s never going to be an easy proposition to find ideas for small income-generation activities for those with special needs. But doing so is worth the effort and cost because it can bring much fulfilment, increase self-esteem and sense of purpose for those people in our communities who through no choice of their own are unable to meet society’s expectations. The way a society responds to its most needy reflects its values.