I receive government benefits.
I work and own two companies.
I am not the stereotypical face of “Benefits Britain” * but I am a part of its reality. My business is my story.
Those who have been following me for a while have seen the beautiful growth of the Trail Blazing Wellness movement. From struggling to live to actually being able to – and then allowed! – to work (my first business email was titled, “I’m Legal, Celebrate With Me”) and finally, managing my professional business load with a fluctuating condition.
I know I am not alone in working with these constraints.
You aren’t alone either. (Happy aside: I’m working on a program to help entrepreneurs – and those who want to be – with chronic illness. Stay tuned! Or sign up here to find out when it becomes available.)
Lizzy Goddard, founder of The Pillow Fort, an online shop, magazine and blog to make chronic illness suck less, shared with me that in her experience:
Setting up a business, as someone with a disability such as mine
(CFS/ME/fibromyalgia), has come with a unique assortment of
challenges. For starters, I’m currently on Employment and Support
Allowance as I am too ill to work (at least in the ‘traditional’ sense).
It’s not possible for me to reliably be in a certain place, at a certain
time, or for any length of time. But, due to our disjointed benefits
system, and its old-fashioned approach to ‘work’, despite having
seen a small army of ‘personal advisors,’ no one seems to be able to
personally advise me on the effect setting up my business may have
on my benefits. That’s been extremely stressful.
Indeed, according to many disabled entrepreneurs I’ve spoken with, coping with benefits /insurance agencies and government systems is a huge challenge when working with ongoing illness. (For help in dealing with benefits agencies, see this article.
Still, there is reason for optimism for those with chronic conditions eager to branch out into an entrepreneurial life of their own. Lizzy notes, “There’s so much potential at the moment for people with disabilities to start up successful businesses; despite the additional challenges they face, I’d like to see more people giving it a go”.
We couldn’t agree more.
Are you a budding entrepreneur? We’d love to hear all about your goals and experiences! Hop on over to our Facebook page and share what you’ve learned along the way with your fellow Trail Blazers.
I’ve written, extensively on entrepreneurship with disability as a community reporter with UnLtd. Read the full article, along with integrated media here.
* Benefits Britain is an idea that is bigger than the UK. It’s the stigma placed upon people who claim government or disability benefits. The UK government has designated benefits claimants ‘scroungers’ and those who don’t claim ‘strivers’. I resist these terms. Read more here.