Getting Started

Getting Started – Planning

The first point to consider here is do you have the skills and confidence to begin the planning process? If not you might need to employ someone or find someone in your informal network to help you get started. Sometimes a professional facilitator can be very useful in stimulating conversation and squeezing ideas out of people.

What are your goals?
You must first begin this process by defining whether you would like to run a small business or you would like to volunteer somewhere. The process for achieving either a successful small business or volunteer role are very different, so it is important that you approach them in the correct way. This can be done by identifying your purpose and subsequent goals for seeking a valued role in the community. The statements below are things that are often heard from people with disabilities:

  • I need more money
  • I am lonely
  • I never see anyone
  • I have no purpose for my life
  • I feel I am not useful
  • I am bored

These types of statements can give you some ideas of where to start in your goal setting. If the goal is about having more money then a small business is a good idea. If the goal is to become more connected then a niche volunteer role would bring the same results as a business. If the goal is to encourage a sense of purpose you may want to run a small business, but the goal of that business may not be to make a lot of money but to make a little and achieve some level of community service. It is up to you to decide, what will work best to achieve your goals.

A Starting Point Framework:

Starting point framework: Gifts of the person - Relationships - Place

This starting point framework reflects a fundamental belief that all people have strengths and abilities and the framework can be used to illuminate those strengths and use them as the basis for planning a business or volunteer role for a person with a disability. The central element of this framework is identifying the strengths of the individual. Its important to remember that someone’s strengths are different to their interests, likes, dislikes and abilities. Some examples of strengths might be:

  • Easily adapt to any environment
  • Positive attitude
  • Self motivated
  • Self confident
  • Hard working
  • Goal oriented
  • Quick learner
  • Helpful nature
  • Time management skills
  • Stress management skills
  • Cooperative
  • Disciplined
  • Punctual
  • Good listener

After a persons strengths have been defined, the following four questions should be answered and listed separately.

  1. What are the interests of the person? (dogs, art, people, talking, drinking coffee)
  2. What are the abilities? (eg. Able to keep time, able to follow instructions, able to walk long distances)
  3. What supportive relationships do they have? (family, support workers, friends, people in the local community, old service providers)
  4. What is their connection to place/community? (where is the person known and how did they become to be known there)

Spend some time thinking about these questions and write your answers and ideas down. Try to list at least five answers; these could be strengths or challenges which you might face.

Assessing current skills, attributes, and resources

Think about the following questions:

  • Do you/the person you know already have a network or close supporters; do you/they have a plan in place for your/their life?
  • What financial means do you/they have to work with?

The starting point framework brings together the elements of the person’s life that are important to them and that will shape the business or volunteer role. The ideal outcome of creating a niche role will vary from person to person, but a sense of self worth and a feeling that the person is contributing in a meaningful way are essential. Finding the appropriate situation with people who care about the person’s success and can make time for them is also a must.
What are the important factors in finding the right role for you/the person you know? Take some time to think about this and write your ideas down. Try to come up with at least five ideas. Some examples are:

  • Must be accessible by public transport
  • Must be a mostly male environment
  • Must be outdoors
  • A support worker must be able to go with the person

Identifying the existing assets or resources
There needs to be some time spent thinking about the person’s network of support and friends. They may already have a strong support network; this may involve few or many people. If it is not possible to identify a close network of supporters, it may be necessary to begin to make connections and build a support network before beginning the business or finding a niche role.

In doing so, it is essential to find people who believe that the person can achieve the things they desire. They should believe in the process and in the success of the person; “Seek out people who are thinkers, doers, and above all believers!” (Lema & Lema) when forming your support network. As seen in Cameron’s story, the right support is everything. By taking time, finding the right people, and creating relationships for Cameron, it became possible for him to achieve all of the things that most young people desire. It also alleviated some of the worry his parents had about who would care for Cameron when they no longer could. They now have full confidence that Cameron is supported and that he can continue to have not only a good life but a successful business where he has more financial security.

Some people find it useful to begin a time limited circle of support (or group of people) while beginning a small business or finding a niche volunteer role. See this document from Pave the Way for more information “Information for families regarding developing and maintaining a support circle”. It can be found at this link

It is also useful to identify other relationships in the persons life, who may or may not be supportive, people who they know or people at the places that they are known in the community. This may be a regular hairdresser, doctor or local coffee shop barista. Listing these people may remind everyone involved in the planning process of possible assets who may be able to provide an opening or opportunity for the person.

People are not the only assets that are useful for running a business or finding a niche volunteer role. Things such as financial resources, community spaces or places, physical items, time or community owned assets should also be considered. This can be done before you have your final business/volunteer idea and in fact may even stimulate some additional ideas. Asset based mapping is a good tool to help you visualise what you have.

Click this link to find a great resource that explains asset mapping and gives and example of how it could be done.

Click this link to print and or view an assett analysis. This is can be used for information collection, which can then be used later in the process.


This capacity building framework aims to explore and explain the way a business can be planned around a person. The starting point should be with the individual, ask questions like:

  • What are the interests, talents, abilities and gifts that I/the person I know have?
  • What do I/the person I know have to contribute to the community?

This framework also draws a distinction between internal and external resources as per the table below.

Internal resources External resources
  • Gifts
  • Talents
  • Personality
  • Attitude
  • Abilities
  • Passions
  • Informal supports (friends, family)
  • Formal supports (paid workers, organisations)
  • Financial resources
  • Network
  • Assets (e.g. car, house, property, tools, machinery)

This aspect of the framework encourages you to look at the significant relationships that you or the person you know has in the community, family, or services. It explores friendships and the people who care for you/them. In looking at the relationships, the aim is to find the people who are or may be committed to the success of the business venture or volunteer role. The ultimate goal is to have diversity in the support network. The close supporters may be great in number or may involve just a few people. This will vary and there should be no expectation of numbers placed on the support network. We consider quality over quantity, the key being to ensure that all members of the support network are true believers. In the example of Katalin, a few key people were involved in helping to establish her role; whereas, many people are involved in Cameron’s support crew.

Many people report that asking family, friends and other community members to get involved is very difficult; they say that this can be a barrier to moving forward with an idea. However, the experiences of those that have faced this fear demonstrate that family, friends and others are often very willing to be involved, they just need to be shown how. If you are still feeling unsure about asking others to be involved, try seeking out encouragement from those that have been on this journey before you.

While looking at existing relationships, the potential to develop new relationships should also be considered. Ask questions like:

  • Who is already in my/their life?
  • Where might I find people who share my/ their interests?
  • How can I/they meet people who can help me/them to succeed in my/their business venture or volunteer role?

This aspect of the framework explores what is needed to start a business, as well as possible structures for the business. It may be useful to look at case studies and other people with disabilities who have set up small businesses already. A lot can be learnt from case studies, such as what has been useful and successful, what has been difficult, and what hasn’t worked. It can also illuminate supports and funding available to help create the business. The following websites contain further information:

You may also wish to seek legal advice or link up with local small business owners to seek advice, which has the added benefit of building your network.

Decision Making
The next aspect of creating a business is the decision-making process. Here there is a need to think about the capacity of the person with a disability and who is there to help with other aspects of the business, such as taxation, etc. It may be useful to use the person’s close supporters to help with the decision-making process. In order to ensure accountability in the business, it may also be useful to have a number of people involved in decision-making. For example, Cameron’s support crew of 11 people are responsible for business decisions relating to Cam-Can and Associates (outlined earlier), and they have a system in place that ensures all people have an equal say and equal responsibility in the decision-making process. Clarity of how decisions are made and who makes them will avoid confusion and potential heartache. There needs to be good communication around decision-making processes in order for the business to run smoothly. Also, legal structures will impact the decision-making process as well as the business structure. It may be useful to create legal documents to help ensure accountability and to keep everything above board.
After finishing the initial planning and research stages you should have defined if you would like to begin a small business or search for a niche volunteer role. Please click on the appropriate link below for the next steps.

Niche Volunteer Role

Small business