Self-Employment Steps for Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors: Helping a Consumer Start a Business

Roles and Responsibilities in the Self-Employment Process

The Consumer’s Role - The potential business owner ultimately is responsible for:

  • Deciding what business to pursue 
  • Conducting a feasibility study 
  • Developing a business plan 
  • Obtaining necessary permits, licenses, and insurances 
  • Hiring employees 
  • Securing business start-up funds 
  • Developing customers 
  • Locating suppliers 
  • Starting the business.

The Counselor’s Role - In addition to the counseling relationship, the counselor’s role in the self-employment process also includes:

  • Explaining VR’s, the consumer’s, and any other organization’s (e.g., 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 pursuing self-employment 
  • Communicating whether and how the agency will help with training, developing a business plan, and VR funding of the business 
  • Helping the consumer decide which business to pursue
  • Deciding which assessments, if any, will be used
  • Guiding the feasibility study including conducting or co-conducting any assessments and interpreting the results to determine whether or not to proceed
  • Providing information necessary to assist the consumer with developing a business plan
  • Supporting the consumer and being the liaison between him or her and consultants and lenders
  • Reviewing the final business plan to determine the agency’s contribution, if any

The Business Development Consultant’s Role - The business development consultant:

  • Does not develop the business plan, but guides the consumer through the process with expertise and a realistic perspective
  • Recommends potential funding sources
  • May help assemble a funding package
  • Readies the consumer for meeting potential funders
  • Suggests marketing strategies
  • May conduct a feasibility analysis
  • May make recommendations on the viability of the proposed business

The consultant should have experience in developing business plans. Be aware, however, that this does not ensure that he or she 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. 

July 1998, 1st Revision June 1999, 2nd Revision February 2001