NerdWallet: How entrepreneurs with disabilities overcome hurdles and rewrite the narrative

by | Nov 17, 2023 | Stock Market

This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet.  Inna and Vladimir Giterman tinkered with several business ideas before finding their niche — and their version of the American dream — with crepes. Both immigrants, and both deaf, the Gitermans started Crepe Crazy in 2007. What began as a mom-and-pop shop at festivals has grown into a full-blown family business with multiple food trucks, two brick-and-mortar restaurants in Texas and a franchise location in Baltimore.

Everyone who works for the company, including the Giterman’s two adult children, are either deaf or “deeply involved with the deaf community,” Inna Giterman said in an email. Staff communicate using American Sign Language. Customers who can’t sign still order with their hands: by pointing. Crepe Crazy is one of roughly 1.8 million businesses in the United States that is owned by someone with a disability, according to the American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau (though experts believe that number to be conservative). And while the path to entrepreneurship is rarely easy, business owners with disabilities often need to overcome additional challenges, like societal misconceptions, barriers to financing, extra living costs and lack of accommodations, among other things. Also see: Big changes to small-business lending rules are meant to improve access to loans: What it means for business ownersLayers of funding barriers Entrepreneurs often have to leverage personal savings, credit cards or even a personal loan to fund their business at the outset. But that’s complicated for founders with disabilities, especially if they rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid, which have income and asset limits, says Nikki Powis, director of small-business programs at the National Disability Institute (NDI). “ A person receiving SSI is only allowed to have $2,000 in assets,” Powis says. “That makes it very difficult to save money to start a business — and do it yourself — because you can’t have more than $2,000 in y …

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