Skip to page content
Office of Disability Employment Policy
Bookmark and Share
ODEP - Office of Disability Employment Policy - Driving Change Creating Opportunity

Encouraging Future Innovation: Youth Entrepreneurship Education

Entrepreneurship is an employment strategy that can lead to economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities. Self-employment provides people with disabilities and their families with the potential to create and manage businesses in which they function as the employer or boss, rather than merely being an employee. Oftentimes, people with disabilities are eligible and receive supplemental supports (technical and financial) which can serve as a safety net that may decrease the risk involved with pursuing self-employment opportunities.

Youth who want to become entrepreneurs rarely receive information on pursuing it as a career option. Entrepreneurship education offers a solution. It seeks to prepare people, particularly youth, to be responsible, enterprising individuals who become entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial thinkers by immersing them in real life learning experiences where they can take risks, manage the results, and learn from the outcomes.

Advantages of Entrepreneurship Education

Through entrepreneurship education, young people, including those with disabilities, learn organizational skills, including time management, leadership development, and interpersonal skills, all of which are highly transferable skills sought by employers. Other positive outcomes include:

  • improved academic performance, school attendance, and educational attainment
  • increased problem-solving and decision-making abilities
  • improved interpersonal relationships, teamwork, money management, and public speaking skills
  • job readiness
  • enhanced social psychological development (self-esteem, ego development, self-efficacy), and
  • perceived improved health status

Benefits of Entrepreneurship Education

Research regarding the impact of entrepreneurship education on youth with disabilities shows the following benefits:

  • Opportunity for Work Based Experiences
    • Work experiences for youth with disabilities during high school, both paid and unpaid, help them acquire jobs at higher wages after they graduate. Also, students who participate in occupational education and special education in integrated settings are more likely to be competitively employed than students who have not participated in such activities.
  • Opportunity to Exercise Leadership and Develop Interpersonal Skills
    • By launching a small business or school-based enterprise, youth with disabilities can lead and experience different roles. In addition, they learn to communicate their ideas and influence others effectively through the development of self-advocacy and conflict resolution skills. Moreover, they learn how to become team players, and to engage in problem solving and critical thinking -- skills valued highly by employers in the competitive workplace of the 21st Century. Mentors, including peer mentors both with and without disabilities, can assist the youth in developing these competencies.
  • Opportunity to Develop Planning, Financial Literacy, and Money Management Skills
    • The ability to set goals and to manage time, money, and other resources are important entrepreneurship skills which are useful in any workplace. For youth with disabilities, learning about financial planning, including knowledge about available work incentives, is critical for budding entrepreneurs with disabilities who are currently receiving cash benefits from the Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI).

How to Get Started

Entrepreneurship education can be provided in many different settings. There is no one right program or set of activities. Rather, it is matter of identifying what works for the young people served in a program. Before starting, consider the following issues:

  • the age of the young people
  • their interests and abilities
  • the time they have to devote to entrepreneurial activities
  • the available fiscal and human resources (i.e., community support, business support)
  • the expertise of staff and what kind of training and support staff might need
  • the effect program participation may have on youth supports and benefits
  • the availability of existing entrepreneurial programs in the area
  • the support of the program from organization's leadership
  • the intended outcomes of the program/activities

Including Youth with Disabilities in Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship Education

In order to fully integrate youth with disabilities in entrepreneurship education programs, it is important to consider accommodations and financial resources.

  • Accommodations

Some youth with disabilities may need accommodations in order to maximize their ability to benefit from the program. Accommodations are changes made in a classroom, worksite, or assessment procedure that help people with disabilities learn, work, or receive services. Accommodations are designed to alleviate the effects of a disability so that the person can perform effectively. For additional information about accommodations, contact the Job Accommodation Network (

  • Financial Planning

Special financial planning considerations exist for people with disabilities who are Social Security benefit recipients planning a career path that involves small business ownership. Several work incentives are available to assist them in their efforts, including a Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) account. It is also important that they understand the impact of their small business efforts on their entitlement to cash and medical benefits. For additional information, contact the Benefits Planning and Outreach Consultant in your local area.

Resources to Learn More about Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship Education

Coleman Foundation

Offers programs that focus on creation of entrepreneurs and the development of entrepreneurship as an academic discipline with a strong emphasis on programs that encourage independence and self-development for individuals with developmental disabilities.

National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education

The Consortium, whose membership includes local schools and school districts, universities, and community colleges, business organizations, and non-profit organizations interested in developing entrepreneurship education have developed 15 standards for entrepreneurial education premised on the philosophy that entrepreneurship education is a lifelong learning process.

DECA, Inc.

A national association of marketing education consisting primarily of students in marketing programs, as well as alumni, teachers, and professionals in marketing education and in marketing teacher education. DECA chapters attract students who are interested in preparing for entrepreneurial, marketing, or management careers.

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Foundation works with partners to encourage entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education and training efforts, to promote entrepreneurship-friendly policies, and to assist entrepreneurs and others in commercializing new technologies.

Junior Achievement

Uses hands-on experiences to help young people understand the economics of life. In partnership with business and educators, and through age-appropriate curricula, Junior Achievement programs begin at the elementary school level, teaching children how they can impact the world around them as individuals, workers, and consumers. Junior Achievement programs continue through the middle and high school grades, preparing students for future economic and workforce issues.


An innovative school design in which children create a microcosm of the real world inside the schoolhouse. Each student has a role in running that world. Young entrepreneurs produce goods and services, elected officials establish laws, CrimeStoppers keep the peace, judges arbitrate disputes, and reporters track down stories. All citizens earn wages in the school's "micro" currency, invest in product ideas, deposit and borrow money from "Micro" banks, and pay taxes, tuition, and rent. The MicroSociety program has been implemented in kindergarten through 8th grade, as well as in after-school programs.

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Young Entrepreneur Foundation

Educates young people about the critical role of small business and the American free-enterprise system and to help students interested in small business and entrepreneurship further their education. Among its programs are the Free Enterprise Scholars Awards which rewards high school students with monetary scholarships.

National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)

NFTE brings its entrepreneurial training to high school students, especially those from low-income communities. Through its programs, students gain an entrepreneurial understanding of basic workplace and life skills, often for the first time. NFTE provides its entrepreneurship training programs in a variety of intensities via a "mini-MBA" course, using a specially developed, proven curriculum.

Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE)

SCORE matches volunteer business management counselors with clients in need of expert advice. SCORE has experts in virtually every area of business management and maintains a national skills roster to help identify the best counselor for a particular client.

Social Security Administration (SSA)

SSA supports various funding tools for self-employment. Some of these tools/incentives include: Plans for Achieving Self-Support, Income Thresholds for Medicaid, Property Essential for Self-Support, Impairment-Related Work Expenses, and Blind Work Expense.


4-H has had a long-standing history of helping youth reach their fullest potential through developing life skills, and learning by doing. 4-H also fosters personal development and leadership through career exploration (learning about alternatives in jobs, permanent callings, and work preparedness), critical thinking skills, economics, business, and marketing (study of principles underlying commerce, merchandising, and entrepreneurship).

United States Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency

Offers entrepreneurship programs that reach minorities including youth. Also provides centers that offer electronic and one-on-one business development services for a nominal fee to minority firms and to individuals entering, expanding, or improving their efforts in the marketplace.

United States Department of Labor

The U.S. Department of Labor has information on Small Business and Self-Employment.

United States Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration maintains and strengthens the nation's economy by aiding, counseling, assisting, and protecting the interests of small businesses and by helping families and businesses recover from national disasters. It provides technical assistance to help entrepreneurs starting or operating a small business, provides assistance in financing and contracting, and information on laws and regulation.