Explore Self-Employment

Starting a business can sound like a big deal, but there are a variety of self-employment work styles that can provide flexibility, independence and professional growth opportunities and which do not require significant monetary investments to start. Two examples: the student who starts a business tutoring high school kids in their neighbourhood; the new grad who does freelance graphic design or coding online. Many who venture into self-employment start small and grow as they go.   

Many people also have ‘side-gigs’ making and selling a product or managing a web site or blog which brings in advertising revenue while working in a more traditional company structure. Other business opportunities may involve becoming an associate earning through commission sales or growing a clientele with the support of an established business such as an investment company. There are a wide variety of non-traditional and entrepreneurial ways to earn money and gain valuable experience which can be good career-building steps for more traditional forms of employment or present a rewarding career path in their own right.     

Self-employment can work well for people with disabilities due to the flexibility and control being one’s own boss can present. That being said, growing a small business can require energy, and the ability to try, fail, learn and try again. Is self-employment for you? This handbook on self-employment for people with disabilities discusses the pros and cons and provides bios of successful business owners with disabilities. There are many government-sponsored programs to support students and grads to investigate and start their own businesses. Here are a few to explore.  

Rise Asset Development  

The Youth Small Business Program is designed for individuals aged 16 to 29 who self-identify as having experienced a mental health or addiction challenge (anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress, anorexia, ADHD, autism spectrum, addiction or similar challenges). This is a FREE course where participants develop entrepreneurship skills, gain practical tools and confidence while converting their business idea into a viable customer-centric business plan. The Rotman School of Management provides training and coaching in this program.  RISE - Youth Small Business Program  


Ontario Disability Support Program Employment Supports  

A Provincially funded one-on-one employment supports service for persons with disabilities providing help to get ready for work and find a job or start up a business. Choose a service provider in your local area and get supports to get working or start a business.  ODSP Employment Supports to start up your own business  


Business Enterprise Centres    

Learn from small business professionals to Start Build Grow your small business. Free business information and resources, free business plan reviews, low-cost business seminars and workshops, low-cost online business training courses, Young Entrepreneur programs and much more.  

Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre  

Find a Business Enterprise Centre in another community    


Job Skills - Build Your Business Program  

Do you have a disability? Do you want to start your own business? Discover the freedom, flexibility and independence that comes from working for yourself! Job Skills has been delivering Business Development programs and services across the GTA since 1997. More than 3,000 entrepreneurs have started their own businesses creating an immeasurable ‘ripple effect’, by creating hundreds of jobs, developing networks of supplies and customers and generating millions of dollars in sales annually. In 2014-15 alone, Job Skills helped launched 298 new businesses. Job Skills Self Employment for Persons with Disabilities (SEPWD)Programs.  


The Ontario Opportunities Fund  

This program provides funding for organizations and individuals who want to create initiatives to improve employment opportunities and outcomes for persons with disabilities. Got a big idea? Want to start a program or project for people with disabilities? This could be the program for you. Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities  



Making Self-Employment Work for People with Disabilities,  Cary Griffin M.A. , David Hammis , Beth Keeton and Molly Sullivan