The Ohio Small Business Development Center at YSU is helping make dreams come true for aspiring entrepreneurs with developmental disabilities.
As part of the Ohio Microenterprise and Customized Employment Demonstration Project developed by the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, the SBDC has helped launch five new startups.
The program encourages self-employment for physically and developmentally disabled individuals, providing counseling services and funding to qualified, aspiring entrepreneurs.
The SBDC has been participating in the program for approximately 17 months and has provided business planning and consulting services for numerous physically and developmentally disabled persons.
Donna Walsh, SBDC business consultant and director of the Monus Entrepreneurship Center at YSU, emphasized the program empowers those with disabilities to create new ventures, which helps spur economic development.
“It’s a primary goal of YSU as an urban research university to help drive the economic revitalization and growth of our area,” she said. “It’s important to YSU and the College of Business to help with this.”
One recent success story is Jim Tricomi, 52, of Niles, who was able to realize his dream of starting a business – DJ Diamond Jim. To date, the business has committed to providing paid DJ services for monthly dances at both the Fairhaven Sheltered Workshop and the Creative Learning Workshop in Trumbull County.
Working hand in hand with SBDC experts, budding entrepreneurs like Tricomi participate in market and product research and help write the business plan.
Kimberly Budaker, employment coordinator at the Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities/Direct Link, worked with Jennifer Loue of the ORSC and Walsh of the SBDC, to finalize the business plan for Tricomi’s new venture.
Funding was procured through the ORSC to purchase Tricomi’s DJ equipment, laptop and software and for the creation of promotional brochures, business cards and advertising.
“The SBDC looks forward to continuing its work with Jim and others within the developmentally disabled community,” Walsh said. “Every entrepreneurial success that the SBDC is able to facilitate enriches our diverse community and provides increased economic growth.”
Story by Robert Merz