Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment
The Self Employment Starts with You (SESY) study used qualitative and survey data to examine self-employment as a strategy to improve career options and financial outcomes for individuals with a psychiatric disability. People who are labeled with mental disorders experience high rates of unemployment, discrimination, and lack of access to education and work opportunities. Self-employment can be a uniquely valuable option for improving career outcomes, and provide opportunities for creative and economic independence. The goal was to understand the experience of current business owners, and provide useful information to aspiring business owners.
Results are now available from the SESY study! Three research briefs addressing different topics in self-employment will be released in December 2017. These briefs are designed for the public, individuals with disabilities, policymakers, practitioners, and researchers.
About the Project
The people surveyed have a history of psychiatric disability, as indicated by having received mental health services or disability benefits and accommodations, and are operating U.S.-based business enterprises with fewer than five employees. The reports in this series include responses from the 60 self-employed individuals who qualified for and completed the SESY survey in the summer of 2017.
The SESY survey was an important first step in learning about small business owners who have experienced mental health problems. The project was conducted by individuals who identify as having a psychiatric history. This type of research is useful for raising awareness and identifying areas for future research.
First, using an environmental scan approach we reviewed the literature and interviewed experts in entrepreneurship, disability policy, and supportive business development -- including ten self-employed individuals with psychiatric disabilities.
Second, a nationwide survey identified how individuals with a history of a psychiatric disability overcame barriers and capitalized on their passion through self-employment.
The results of this study are intended to provide information to aspiring entrepreneurs with psychiatric disabilities and their support networks, and expand knowledge of policies, practices, and technologies that can inform business development strategies.
Project Technical Advisory Panel
The project benefited from an advisory panel of technical experts from academia, technical assistance, and small business. The Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) provided expertise in disability policy, mental health services research, and vocational rehabilitation practices, and included several individuals who have personally experienced mental health problems. The TAP provided input on research design, analysis and interpretation of the survey and qualitative interview data. Some of the members of the TAP also served as key informant interviewees in the environmental scan. Dr. Laysha Ostrow, PhD served as the Project Director.