Self Employment: the Spirit of Individual Enterprise, Part I

About This Episode

Sue Babin founded and runs a self-employment business incubator called “Self Employment: the Spirit of Individual Enterprise” in the state of Rhode Island. In this two-part interview, she goes over all aspects of the program: how the idea came to her, how she started the program, how she secured funding and transformed a pilot into a permanent program, how she produced customized training materials for people with disabilities on running your small business, marketing, the markers of success, case studies of people with disabilities who have created successful businesses for themselves and her advice on how to start such a program in your state.

Part two in this series can be found here.


A portrait of Sue Babin. She is a white woman with short, shoulder-length hair and narrow rectangular tortoise shell glasses. Behind her is a cabinet and an office plant.Sue Babin has been working in the field of developmental disabilities for 40+ years. She was the administrator of the Office of Quality Assurance for the State Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) for 30 years advocating for the human rights of people with disabilities and overseeing investigations on abuse, neglect and mistreatment; administrator for supported employment statewide grants; program manager for Rhode Island’s Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waiver; and responsible for designing and implementing monitoring and quality improvement programs for DD community agencies. For the last 10 years she has been a Special Projects Coordinator for the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council (RIDDC), staff to the Systems Advocacy Committee (SAC), and founder and Project Director for Rhode Island’s Self-Employment Business Incubator Project since 2018. Sue has a Masters Degree in Public Administration (MPA), is a graduate of Leadership Rhode Island’s Omnicron Class, and was a recipient in 2021 for Providence Business News (PBN’s) annual “Rhode Island Leaders and Achievers” Awards.

A portrait of Donald Taylor, a man with a medium smile and a mob of curly dark hair in a black collared shirt against a pattern of a blue pained wrought-iron gateDonald Taylor has been with TASH since 2014, where he is the Manager of Membership & Communications, responsible for membership and chapters, data systems and communication, and collaborates closely with other staff to make sure TASH systems support their work. Donald comes from a background of data systems, operations and business analysis, going back to the 1990s. Donald came to the world of disability while pursuing a degree in history. The history profession is deeply interested in the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century and fellow students studying biomedical systems of oppression inspired in him the desire to make a contribution to this aspect of social justice.


Announcer: You’re listening to the AoD Disability Employment Technical Assistance Center podcast, where we learn from people who are working to improve competitive integrated employment and economic outcomes for people with disabilities.

This is part one of our two-part interview with Sue Babin, the Special Projects Director with the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council, where she founded and runs the program, Self Employment: the Spirit of Individual Enterprise. We go deep into the nuts-and-bolts of how to run a self-employment program and the value of self-employment for people with disabilities.

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Donald Taylor: Sue Babin, welcome to the DTAC Podcast. Please introduce yourself for listeners.

Sue Babin: Okay. Hello everyone. My name is Sue Babin. I work for the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council, and I’m also the state Director for Rhode Island’s Self-Employment Project, which is called Self-Employment: the Spirit of Individual Enterprise. I’ve been here at the Council for about 12 years. And prior to that I worked for the State Office of Developmental Disabilities. I was the waiver manager and also oversaw the Office of Quality Assurance and Special Projects, and under special projects was employment.

Donald Taylor: And tell us about your program, Self-Employment: The Spirit of Individual Enterprise, and your other work on self-employment.

Sue Babin: Okay. So back in around 2017, I had a couple of different families approach me at the DD Council because their family members were having a really difficult time finding employment. They were going on interviews, filling out applications and not getting callbacks. And it was getting really frustrating for the folks with disabilities to not be able to obtain a job when they really wanted employment. And so one of the family members Claudia Lowe, who at the time happened to also be the director of the Rhode Island Down Syndrome Society, her daughter had a real big interest in music and she had over a thousand songs in her computer and wanted to be a DJ. And so her mom said, well, how can we help her to start this business up? She’s gonna need some startup money and she’s gonna need to know some things about business.

So they had approached the state Division of Developmental Disabilities as well as Voc Rehab and weren’t getting a positive response back from those guys. And so they came to the Council and said, how can you help us? And so what happened was we started to take some business classes together. ‘Cause When I, when I started to talk to Voc Rehab, I said, well, what’s the problem? Why can’t you guys give her some startup money to get this business off the ground? And their response was, well, how do we know that she’s really serious about starting a business? Right? And she hasn’t taken any business classes. She doesn’t have a business plan. You know, maybe this might just be a hobby. How are we gonna know it’s gonna be employment? And so I said, okay, well, we’ll, I’ll take the classes with her.

So we started to take some classes that were offered by the Small Business Administration here in Rhode Island that were in-person. But she was finding the material really hard. It was complex information. Sometimes the PowerPoints didn’t have any graphics on it. The instructor wasn’t really willing to kind of slow down a bit and explain different things. And lots of times she wasn’t even raising her hand and asking questions. So we did that for a couple of different classes.

And what happened next was I ended up approaching one of the community agencies here in Rhode Island that does small business classes. And I said to them, can I take your curriculum and modify it to make it more understandable to people with disabilities and potentially put some graphics in there, or pictures or things like that and you can approve the curriculum, and how about if I hire you guys to actually teach the classes? And they were like, yeah, we’ll give that a try. Okay. and so that’s what we did.

We, when we started with like, basically three different classes and it was the curriculum that came from the Center for Women and Enterprise, which is a small business agency here in Rhode Island. And once we had those three classes off the ground, we started a really small pilot project with five people. And we, we ran through the three classes with them. We got some feedback from them. We also worked on things like developing a one page business plan. And then we went back and approached VR and basically said, well, they’ve taken a couple of classes here, you know they need some support to start their business, to be able to buy some of the equipment and supplies that they need. At that point, they were more receptive because now they had taken three classes. They had a small business plan. Theydefinitely had the passion for what the business was.

And that’s basically how we got off the ground. And the word about that started to spread statewide that the Rhode Island DD Council was helping individuals to start up their business. So Katie Lowe became a DJ. She named her business, Katie’s DJ Business, and got some business cards, started to get some gigs lined up for herself playing music at different events. We helped her to get a grantor support from Voc Rehab for a couple of thousand dollars to buy the speakers and sound system and stands and all of the stuff that she needed to kind of get that. She had the computer, which she was funded by her DD plan. She used self-directed supports, and that’s how she got started. And then what ended up happening after that was we found out that there was some funds available through the Department of Labor and Training for job development and job training. And so we applied and ended up getting a grant. And that’s what turned us into a statewide project at that point. And that was in 2018.

Donald Taylor: Tell us about the ongoing program now that it’s established.

Sue Babin: Okay. So in 2018, we wrote and received approval for a grant from the Department of Labor and Training, which is the state agency here in Rhode Island. And every state has one that is responsible for workforce development, for any kind of an agency that’s interested in helping people obtain jobs within the state. I mean, typically what people do across the country that start up self-employment programs is they go to the DD agency. Well, we didn’t do that. We went to the Department of Labor and Training, which is, as I said, the primary entity for any sort of job development and training programs that a state would offer to any individual that’s seeking employment. And we got it. So our first grant was for $150,000 to run three rounds of the training that we had put together.

At that point, we had expanded out from three classes to six classes. So the classes started with, what does it mean to be an entrepreneur? What is that? What skills and abilities will I need to have? And who will I need to look for to assist me with my business? The second class is, what are the steps that are involved in starting a business? What do I need to do? What will my business structure need to be? What kinds of things will I need to have in place? The third class was, how do I write an elevator pitch? How can I talk to people about my business so that they understand what it’s all about and are interested in buying some supports or services from me? The fourth class was on social media. How can I use social media to really promote my business so that people find out about me? The fifth class was on accounting and keeping track of my sales and inventory and expenses. And then the last class was taking all of that information and putting it into writing a good business plan that has all of that information that I just said, as well as my future financial projections of income for the year and the next couple of years.

So we started with thatthis is prior to Covid now, so we were running some classes in person, and we found that people that had family involvement in helping them to run their business was the number one key to success. So if I were gonna start a business – and I did about 20 years ago, I ran a little restaurant. And at the time, I didn’t know all of the aspects of running the business. So I had my mother workin’ there, I had my sister workin’ there, I had a couple of my cousins workin’ there that knew some things about restaurant management. And I brought in people that had skills that I didn’t have or had a background that I didn’t have to help me to run the business. And it’s the same thing for people with disabilities. No one individual can run a business on their own, but if they have support from a business team of people that can help them in the areas that they’re weak or they don’t have experience in, then they’re gonna be successful. If they have family involvement, that’s gonna be really important to helping the person to really be a successful business owner.

If they don’t have family involvement, the next best thing is when you have agencies that are investing business development expertise in the staff within their own organization. And so, in other words, if an agency starts to see that there’s a small, that there’s individuals with disabilities that wanna run a business, and now they’ve got a handful of people that are small business owners, they need to provide that support to those individual business owners. And many people in human service would not have a business development background. So that means the staff that work in a community agency, they need to learn these business development skills. They need to know what’s a good business plan. They need to know a little bit about marketing or where you can get the resources for that stuff.

So another key to success is when an agency sees this and then basically designates an individual to be responsible for business development and to enhance their skills in that area. So that’s the second thing. The third thing that really helps a person to be successful with their business – and I know that many states have this support, which is called self-directed support, where an individual with a disability can purchase the services that they need themselves and take total control over who they hire, how much they’re gonna pay that person, write up their job description, train them, and then monitor what it is that they do.

So when an individual has self-directed supports, now they can hire an individual to assist them with their business. Maybe it’s somebody that has the same kind of interest that they do. Maybe it’s an individual that has a lot of networking skills and knows a bunch of storefronts or individuals in the community where they can help that person then go and sell whatever it is that they have to offer in storefronts across the state.

So those are the three kind of key things for an individual. So we help people to obtain those things. And the other area that we found that people needed support in is selling platforms. Okay, I’ve got a really good idea now for my business. I’ve got this support from my family or an agency or self-directed, but now I don’t know where am I gonna sell my stuff? And so another thing that we started to build into our program was participating in outside vendor events.

And Don, these outside vendor events have happened all across the country and are more prominent now because of COVID. You know, when states had to deal with the fact that storefronts were closing down because people couldn’t go into these community locations for fear of getting COVID, a lot of the small businesses had to pivot and figure out what am I gonna do? And so many states started to support outside, take it outside was what we called it here in Rhode Island, and taking businesses and opening up buying outside heaters and setting up small tables so that people could participate in stuff that was inside the store, but now it’s outside the store under a tent, but in the fresh air. And so we found that outside vendor events started to grow here, and now they’re even more prominent than what they were five years ago.

We connect with a couple of people that are the mastermind behind those outside vendor events, and we pay the fee for people with disabilities to participate in them. So in Rhode Island, there’s, there’s about 40 to 60 outside vendor events that go between April and November. And so we pay those outside fees. Typically they’re about 50 bucks for a person to come. We also have the tents and the table. They have 10 by 10 tents and outside tables. So we pay all of that stuff so that the individual can go to that outside vendor marketplace and then be able to sell what it is that they had to offer. So that was another area that we saw, okay, these classes are great. The person’s got the support, now they need, they need those outside marketplaces.

And then the next thing that we found out after that was that people need a lot of work and support for marketing. What you do today for marketing is different than what you do in the winter months. And what we, so we hired an outside communications agency to not only help us with individual marketing, with the people that were in our project, but also to publicize what we were doing statewide so that we got more visibility as a statewide project. And also the general public could see, wow, here’s some really cool businesses that are being operated by people with disabilities. This is awesome. So marketing and being able to provide each person with individual support so that they could sit down and talk to a marketing professional to listen to what they had to offer in terms of a product or a service, and then figure out, hmm, what’s gonna be the best way to help Don or Sue market their business.

So those are some things that I think we’re doing here in Rhode Island that make our project really different. We have an outside marketing agency. You know, we, we utilize instructors from the small business administration to teach the classes. People can have one-to-one time with those business instructors. And the other thing that we do here that is really key is provide people with mini-grants. So people can get a mini-grant of anywhere from a real low of, of $250 all the way up to $2,500 to be able to buy the things that they need for startup. And that could be supplies, it could be equipment, it could be a printer, it could be the membership fee, a join a chamber of commerce. So all of those things are absolutely instrumental for people to be able to start up a business.

Donald Taylor: Tell me about how your program is funded.

Sue Babin: How we’re funded. Right now 90% of our funds continues to come from the Department of Labor and Training. So I mentioned that we have we actually have eight classes. So we added two more classes. Another one was on social media. And the other class that we added in to make it eight is on figuring out who your target market is. So it’s eight classes. So we run three rounds of the eight classes three times a year. We’re funded by the department of LA of Labor and training approximately $200,000 a year. We get a little bit of money from a small foundation here in Rhode Island called the Fogarty Foundation to assist us with some additional mini grants for people. That’s about $5,000. And then the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council kicks in part of my salary for being the project director for the project.

Donald Taylor: Tell us about the partners you work with.

Sue Babin: Okay. so we have a lot of, of really different partners that are involved with us. We started with the Small Business Administration. So we started with agencies that typically do work in entrepreneurial training, the Small Business Administration, the Small Business Development Center, the Center for Women and Enterprise. Those are our three major agencies here in Rhode Island that would be involved in any kind of entrepreneurial training. Then we went to our community provider group. And in Rhode Island we have an organization called the Community Provider Organization that oversees C P N R I. They oversee the, probably about 80% of our community agencies. We started to talk with them about our project and have them hear some of the success stories of individuals because we needed to get referrals of people for the project. Word of mouth was one way, but getting referrals from community agencies was another way.

And what I neglected to say early on of how we got, how we got started back in 2014, as as many states know, Rhode Island was under became under a federal class action suit that resulted in a settlement case, but with stipulations for goals of employment for every year. And so the heat was really on our state and with our community providers to assist people to understand about employment options, customized employment. And five years ago, self-employment wasn’t really even on the table as an option for people today, five years later, because of the visibility of our project it’s a viable option that’s presented to all people that express an interest in self-employment. So we get many of our referrals from our community agencies, which I consider to be big partners. The other partners in our project are people that really work with us, the communications agency that I mentioned, communication Works.

We also work with local newspapers to help promote individual success stories of people. That’s really important. And one of our more recent partners is an agency called Skills for Rhode Island’s Future. They were an organization that started within the last 10 years to essentially help employers to figure out what their workforce needs were and to assist them in matching potential job openings with viable candidates. In the past few years, they decided to expand, to assist people with disabilities to obtain employment. And we partnered with that organization as well, because they didn’t, they weren’t working with folks with disabilities. And so they kind of saw us as a lead agency with respect to having expertise and being able to provide the individual attention that people needed for self-employment skills for Rhode Island’s future. Also recently received a multimillion dollar grant from the National Small Business Administration, as well as our Department of Commerce here in Rhode Island to set up a small business hub for small business owners to be able to provide individual entrepreneurs with technical expertise in one of 12 different areas, legal, marketing communications, web development it all social media, all different kinds of areas.

And they reached out to us and asked us if we would be a partner agency with them, so that if individuals came in and said, you know, expressed that they had a disability, then they could connect those individuals with our agency that has a lot more experience than others in working with folks with disabilities. So what that means is that individuals who have a small business are eligible for up to $10,000 in technical assistance support that they never had before. And they can use it for those. Marketing is the key thing, Don, you know, if you have a really good business idea but people don’t even know about it, then you’re not gonna make any money. And so you really need to know, how am I gonna market this and really think about things in terms of maybe key times of the year and adapting your product to go with themes like 4th of July is coming up, right?

We just had Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and Easter. And so you may wanna figure out how you fit in or what you can do with your product or your service to kind of go along with theme areas. And so what skills is going to be able to help us with is providing individuals with that more in depth technical support that they may need, might be on business structure, should I be an L L C or a sole proprietorship so we can help them with that, that legal expertise so they can come to us. We will, we will obtain the individuals that they need for that specialized business support, and they can get up to $10,000 each for that support that they need. So that’s like a really key partner. And the fact that the fact that, that we, that we’re using money from the Department of Labor and training from the workforce board here in Rhode Island, that they’re a key partner.

They established probably about 10 years ago that they want, they set up a fund for underserved populations, and they started to fund a few very small projects that involved individuals with disabilities. And then they found out about us and put the word out to someone that had connected with us that maybe we should apply for a grant to be able to assist people to be entrepreneurs. And so we had, so they’re obviously a key player, the state division of developmental disabilities because of the class action suit and because of their connection with our licensed community agencies are also key players with respect to this as well, because if we don’t get referrals, then we’re not gonna be able to provide the classes to people. So those are the major players that we have within our project.

Donald Taylor: Would you share a few stories of people with disabilities who became successful business owners or achieved self-employment through the program?

Sue Babin: Okay, sure. So, so one of the folks that I had mentioned early on, Katie, with her DJ business she was doing really well as a DJ and doing, doing five or six gigs a month and was absolutely loving it. And then Covid hit and then, you know, like I said before, when the stores started to close, she, those public events where people were hiring DJs were eliminated, and she had to stop and think, wow, okay, what am I gonna do now? She had a creative side to her and her mom is also pretty creative. And so they came up with the idea of a greeting card, creating three d greeting cards, not just a flat greeting card, but to actually decorate a card and put different things on items on the card to be able to make it different than just a hallmark or a flat one dimensional card.

So they started to go into that business, and they also came up with the idea of buttons on buttons that you wear, that people buy buttons that say everything you could have your kids’ picture on there or could say, you know, 4th of July or whatever, I voted on those kinds of things. So they shifted during Covid to come up with some other business ideas that would help Katie to be able to continue to generate an income. And that has worked out pretty well. So she’s named that business cheetah Greetings and more. And it’s, it’s doing quite well. Her cards are really amazing. I love the three D notion to them. And one of the other things that she did to kind of give herself a niche is that she reached out to different veterinary clinics who will often send sympathy cards to the pet owners when their pet has passed away.

And so Katie came up with a line of sympathy cards for pet owners who have lost their pet, and it’s got like the rainbow on the front and a dog or a cat on there, and it’s really, really cool. Again, three dimensional card. And she also came up with an adoption card to be able to sell those items to agencies here in Rhode Island that deal with adoption. So I think that niche was really a smart idea for Katie. And it makes her stand out as having something unique. And so she’s got a unique selling proposition, as they say in the business world to be able to, to sell her cards and make herself as something different and something that the public wants.

You know, the, and the other really interesting story here in Rhode Island is Michael Coyne. Mike owns two businesses now. One is called Red, white and Brew, it’s a cafe, and the other one is the budding Violet. Prior to having those businesses, Michael was attending a day program and not really doing much. That was in the line of being very productive. If his staff didn’t show up, then Mike would just sit at a table, maybe he would color, maybe he would just put his head down, maybe he’d even lay on the floor. And, and I even have a picture of Michael laying sleeping on the floor because his staff didn’t show up. When his staff did show up, he was going to a work in a restaurant here in Rhode Island. It’s not like the McDonald’s chain, it’s a, it’s a different type of restaurant. And he worked there volunteering for almost three years when he was between 18 and 21.

And then he applied for a job there, and they wouldn’t pay him, they wouldn’t give him the a paying position, which was really frustrating for Michael. His brother had a job, he wanted a job. He said, what the heck is this? I volunteer here for three years and you keep me as a volunteer, but yet you won’t pay me. And he went back to just sitting around at a table, not doing anything. His mom found out about our project and had approached me and said, well, what is this about? And I said, well, you know, if somebody has a a hobby or a particular skill, it’s possible we can kind of work with that and turn it into something that generates some income. You know, what does Michael like to do? She said, well, he likes to drink coffee, that’s for sure. Okay, well, how about a coffee business?

Maybe we could set him up with a mobile cart and he would be stationed in different areas in, in a, in a a, a a, a business that, that didn’t have coffee there and they could offer, he could offer the coffee to customers. And so she got Mike involved with our classes and I got him connected with one of our business instructors, Brian La Fauci, who was the former New England director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center. So he had a lot of experience as both an entrepreneur himself, but also as the New England Veterans Business Outreach Director. So working with a lot of veterans across the States and New England. So Brian had a lot of business expertise, and he said, instead of the coffee cott, what about a shop? What about a coffee shop? And Brian really helped them to think about what would be the right business structure?

What are all of the steps and things that Michael would need to take in order to open up that particular business? And they opened it up in November of 2019, right before Covid, oh no, here we go again, another Covid story. But yet, people were coming in and what they did was they started to deliver coffee, and they were delivering coffee to the local police departments, to the local hospitals and the outside pop-ups stations that formed to give out the ba the mass and things like that, and the testing sites. So they also were creative during C O V I D by getting their name out there. And then people started to come to their shop. Michael got a lot of national attention because of his entrepreneurial skills and the work that he was doing. He also had his family work in there, and this is a business that both he and his, his mom run.

They grew so well that they decided in December of, of 22 to close that shop and reopen in another area of the state that has triple the space of what they had up in Smithfield, Rhode Island. They’re about to open in another five weeks. And they are really excited about that. It’s really visible. It’s in the hub area of our state, a city called Warwick. It’s right near the airport, a really high traffic area. And they’re definitely gonna be really successful, successful. The other business that Mike opened with the coffee shop was they have a little retail shop that’s connected to the coffee shop. And so when you come in, you can buy gifts. So Katie’s got her cards there, and so do other people that have gone through project photography, candles, soaps, jewelry potholders knitted hats and scarfs, things like that.

As well as items from entrepreneurs without disabilities. And the name of that shop, it’s called the Bun Violet. So it’s, it’s two businesses in one. And that’s really, you know, awesome for Michael to be able to be able to, to be visible in the community. Another great example of, of somebody is a gal by the name of Renee Metro, and the name of her business is Fulcrum Stained Glass. She just had on Saturday night a grand opening for her first stained glass studio also in Warwick, Rhode Island. Renee had been doing stained glass pieces for well over 10, 15 years, but not doing really well with it. She always had a dream of someday opening her own business, but she has a disability and she grew up in an environment that wasn’t too pleasant. She had a difficult upbringing and people weren’t around her, were not very supportive of her ideas.

And so she had some depression and some other kinds of things going on in her life that got in the way of her really believing that she could accomplish this for herself. She came across some information about our project two years ago. She joined our classes. And what Renee says is not only did she learn the business skills, but because of the support that she received from the staff, our staff that work in the project, and the individual technical assistance that she received, she said she found a family that she never had before and the support to believe in herself that she could do this. She had approached VR five years ago for a grant to be able to get some startup money for this business, and they said no, she had not taken any business classes at that time. Renee approached vr in the last six months, and she got her yes, and they gave her almost $10,000 to be able to open up this storefront.

So she went from somebody that really didn’t believe in herself to actually learning the right business development skills, coming into contact with people that can continue to provide her with the ongoing support that she needed. She got the mini-grant from us. She got the grant from voc rehab. And another piece of our project that I hadn’t mentioned so far is every Thursday afternoon we run an entrepreneur class. It’s an open class for anybody that’s been through our project. It’s from three to four o’clock, and we mostly talk about marketing. Occasionally we’ll have a speaker come in and talk about something that’s really important that people need to know. And Renee goes to every one of those classes on Thursday faithfully. So she keeps in touch with our folks, and we have found that Renee is, is a whiz at Instagram. So we hired Renee to teach other people in the class how to use Instagram to market their business.

And so here she is now making some income from us. The other thing that she’s done with her business she opened the business about three months ago, but didn’t have her grand opening until, as I said this week, because she wanted to work some kinks out. She also always wanted to teach. She ran her first class about a month ago and was sold out with participants for that first class which I’m so proud of her, and she’s so proud of herself about that, that there’s no doubt in my mind she’s going to be a successful business owner. We also were able to connect her with an a, one of our news local newspaper vendors called the Warwick Post, who also did a feature article on Renee last week and about her grand opening, which when people have some sort of story in local media, that’s another marketing tool to be able to promote your business and for the people in the community to find out, Hey, I didn’t know that that was down the street.

And here’s all of the things that that are available within the store. When most people think about stained glass, they think about sun catches, but Renee does so much more than sun ca sun catches. She’s actually doing windows. She can do a drawing of your dog and turn that into a stained glass item that’s personalized and customized. She’s doing jewelry boxes, she’s making plant holders that are out of stained glass, absolutely phenomenal pieces. She really has an eye for artwork. So she’s a creative artist as well as just so meticulous about the colors that she uses, or the stained glass, I should say, that she buys for her items so that when the sun or the light catches them, the most amazing colors come through. So I’m so excited about Renee and her business. And also the other thing that we were able to do with Renee is she was on the National Disability Institute’s webinar last week.

It was a national webinar. And so Renee got her first national attention as a small business owner from Rhode Island by being on that podcast that n d i in collaboration with Griffin Hammis did for nationally. And, and it’s on their website now for anybody to be able to see. So hopefully that will result in some increased business for Renee. And I think the other thing that I wanna say about businesses that we’ve seen is just the incredible increase in people’s self-awareness of themselves and how their self-esteem has increased because they are a business owner. When people have jobs in the community, that’s really great, and people love to be able to go to the bank to cash their checks, but many times they don’t necessarily have friends in that job, and they don’t necessarily stand out. When you are a business owner, you are the focal point of the business.

You got people coming to you talking to you directly about what it is that you have to offer. And so business owners have these business cards that we’ve helped to create for them, and they’re presenting those cards to potential customers that are out there. They’re talking more. So their communication skills have definitely increased because now they have to talk to customers about their business. They’re getting out there in the, those vendor marketplaces that I mentioned earlier and interacting with people from the general community that maybe they didn’t have those opportunities when they were in jobs. And so people are seeing them in a different way. And it’s really, really incredible to see the changes in people that have happened as a result of, of having their own businesses. People have said this is like the best, you know, persons example of person centered planning because people are doing something that’s their passion. And as everybody knows, when you do a job that you really love, you’re gonna be more productive. When you do a job that you really don’t love, you kind of do just get by, right? And so what we see from family members or they say, oh my God, my family member is so much happier. They’re so proud of themselves. They’re talking more, they’re interacting with other people. They’re a business owner and they’re proud of of that fact.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to the AOD Disability Employment Technical Assistance Center podcast.

This is part one of our two-part interview with Sue Babin, a Special Projects Director with the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council, where she runs the program, Self Employment: the Spirit of Individual Enterprise. You can learn more about the program at riddc.org/self-employment-project.

The AOD Disability, Employment Technical Assistance Center, or DETAC, is a project of the Lewin Group and TASH, created by a grant from the Administration for Community Living to provide evidence based training and technical assistance to Administration on Disabilities grantees aimed at improving competitive integrated employment and economic outcomes for individuals with disabilities across the nation. To learn more about DETAC, visit AoDDisabilityEmploymentTACenter.com for news and alerts about upcoming webinars and podcasts. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Music for the DETAC Podcast is an original composition and performance by Sunny Cefaratti, the co-director and autistic self-advocacy mentor at the Musical Autist. You can learn more about the Musical Autist at www.themusicalautist.org.

We’ll have another episode on competitive integrated employment, notably part two of this two-part series, for you in the near future.

[music plays]

This discussion was originally recorded on June 26, 2023.

This audio recording and transcript has been lightly edited for content and clarity.

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