With more than one million new businesses each year, America’s economy depends on small businesses for its vitality and growth. According to the 1997 report of the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s 17 million small, non-farm businesses constituted 99.7 per cent of all employers, employed 52 percent of private workforce and accounted for 51 percent of the nation’s sales. Small business-dominated industries provided 11.1 million new jobs between 1994 and 1998, virtually all of the new jobs created during that time period. Small businesses are most likely to generate jobs for young workers, older workers and women, provide 67 percent of first jobs and produce 55 percent of innovations.
Thousands of people with disabilities have been successful as small business owners. The 1990 national census revealed that people with disabilities have a higher rate of self-employment and small business experience (12.2 percent) than people without disabilities (7.8 percent). The Disabled Businessman’s Association estimates that 40 percent of home-based businesses are operated by people with disabilities.
The University of Montana Research and Training Center on Rural Issues for People with Disabilities has documented that entrepreneurs with disabilities have successfully operated a wide variety of businesses: Accounting Services, Air Conditioner Repair Service, Auction Service, Auto Body Repair Shop, Bakery, Bicycle Shop, Boat Making Shop, Child Care Service, Chiropractic Practice, Contract Services, Counseling Service, Farming, Janitorial/Maintenance Service, Piano Refinishing Service, Real Estate Office, Restaurant, Free-lance Writing, Used Clothing Store, Weed Abatement Service and Welding Shop. The type of business that a person with a disability can operate is limited only by imagination.
Small Business Characteristics
Although the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) establishes industry-specific definitions, it generally considers any business with fewer than 500 employees, including self-employed individuals, to be a small business. The Federal Reserve Board’s report, “National Survey of Small Business Finances (1995),” found that small businesses were home-based 53 percent of the time. Twenty-four percent of all new businesses in 1993 began with no outside financing. The remaining 76 percent received funding from traditional sources, such as banks, credit unions, and finance companies, or from family members or credit card advances.
Although many people believe that 80 percent of all small businesses fail within five years, statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal a different story. The Census Bureau reports that 76 percent of all small businesses operating in 1992 were still in business in 1996. In fact, only 17 percent of all small businesses that closed in 1997 were reported as bankruptcies or other...