Making Opportunities Limitless
For those who consider themselves entrepreneurs, the title is more of a lifestyle than a 9 to 5 job at the office. At the Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce (CFDC), their aim is to ensure that it’s a lifestyle available to all.
The CFDC began its operations in 2009, and since then the Chamber has grown substantially, expanding its services throughout the entire State of Florida. The Chamber sets a rational framework for growth to maximize potential for entrepreneurs with disabilities. It is a program that is in direct response to the growing number of adults with disabilities who are seeking non-standardized employment.
“The goal is to educate persons with disabilities who are interested in entrepreneurship as a career lifestyle option and offer a positive support system to avoid the pitfalls that can derail their lives. The focus is slightly different at each level but the goal remains the same: empower the individual to make positive changes in his/her life,” said Rogue Gallart, president of CFDC. “By having a connection such as this for entrepreneurs with disabilities, it opens more opportunities for job growth and creation here in Central Florida.”
The support that the CFDC offers includes providing an overview of the self-employment process, discussing advantages and disadvantages of both self- and wage-employment, considering potential team membership and supports, answering questions related to self-employment, and determining if self-employment seems a viable option. The CFDC also provides seminars on hot topics such as social media networking and technologies, as well as networking opportunities to invite entrepreneurs with disabilities to learn about success stories through the CFDC and to meet with potential investors or sponsors.
Youth Entrepreneurship Program
“Innovation and growth of entrepreneurship lies with our youth of today,” said Gallart. It is that vision that started the Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP) through the CFDC in 2010.
The CFDC’s individualized support program focuses on economic development, life skills and career planning for students with learning and cognitive disabilities. The goal of this program is to identify entrepreneurship with the youth in Central Florida as a career and lifestyle option, implement strong interpersonal skills and reassert a sense of hope in the future for students with disabilities. The YEP is the first entrepreneurship program instilled in Orange County Public Schools for students with disabilities in which they receive actual school credit for the class.
Current schools the CFDC is working with are Dr. Phillips High School and expanding to Jones, Oakridge and Timbercreek High Schools. The class can only accommodate 15 students per school due to class curriculum and staff, but last semester there were approximately 150 students that wished to participate in the program. This year, they expect to double on those requests.
“Through our Chamber’s projects, students will garner transferable business skills for both self employment and the job market, understand the relevance of education and choose to stay in school or pursue higher education, and develop life management and problem solving skills,” said Gallart.
Other outcomes for students include gaining a better understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur and why individuals (primarily youth) start their own businesses, learn how to recognize and take advantage of business opportunities, learn practical marketing concepts and their applications as well as the mechanics of developing a business plan.
The program is fully funded and made possible by its founding trustees at Florida Hospital, Orlando Health, Rosen Hotels & Resorts, Brighthouse Networks and Walt Disney World. Bank sponsors include Regions and PNC, who come in and teach students “better business financials.” The college partner this year is UCF.