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VENTURES //

Shaheen helped battle unemployment among people with disabilities, which, he says, reaches more than 65 percent of the population. The number of self-employed people with disabilities, Shaheen says, is less than 1 percent. Start-Up NY aimed to train 150 people with disabilities in business planning and to assist 30 in business start-ups. In his first year, Shaheen worked on developing the program. He wanted to carefully build a comprehensive and integrated program that involved everyone from business consultants and doctors to family members and friends. Enrollment started in the second grant year and, by the third and final year, Start-Up NY served 150 disabled persons and helped start 50 businesses. Although the grant ended, the program continued — and so did its success. To date, 220 people have been trained and nearly 60 businesses started. Shaheen estimates there are approximately 68,000 people with disabilities in Onondaga County. “How many of those people are working?” he asks. “Roughly 35,000 people. Or more. Some of those people may want to start their own business — certainly more than the 220 people that we’re serving now.” Part of the project includes involvement from Syracuse University students. In spring 2011, 30 students enrolled in Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises, taught by Shaheen in the Martin J. Whitman School of Manage-

All Smiles // Brown works alongside one of her employees. In addition to the Tacolicious staff, she works with six SU students as part of the Inclusive Entrepreneurship program.

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ment. Students form teams based on interests, majors, and strengths. They play the role of business consultants, assisting Syracuse entrepreneurs from the Inclusive Entrepreneurship program and receive college credit for their efforts. The students meet with the entrepreneurs on a weekly basis to familiarize themselves with the businesses, the owners, and their strengths and weaknesses. They then develop and implement new business ideas. Brown works with six students who call themselves The Big and Cheesy. “They’re awesome,” she says. “They’re bright, creative, and know more about business than I do.” She’s implemented one of their ideas: Tacolicious now uses white slips of paper with a list of the taco toppings available and employees are required to fill one out according to customers orders. This helps Brown keep better track of inventory and food needs. Steven Noles, one member of The Big and Cheesy, enrolled in the class to get hands-on experience working as a consultant with a small-business owner. “We get to help these entrepreneurs develop their businesses, so they can improve and make a profit even after our work with them is done,” Noles says. At the end of the course, Shaheen surveys his students to find out how they’ve changed from the experience. “Most of these students don’t really have much experience working with people with disabilities,” he says. “Maybe they have a relative or a friend, but most students report that this was one of the first times that they’ve dealt with the barriers and obstacles associated with disabilities.” Brown, who has had debilitating problems with her feet and legs, thinks the driving force behind Inclusive Entrepreneurship is not the disabilities people have, but rather their ideas and business goals. She tucks herself behind the counter and watches her employees pile tacos and nachos with cheese, lettuce, jalepeños, and other toppings. She makes calls to payroll services; she’s recently hired someone and wants to get them started right away. “My husband was always bugging me to start my own business,” Brown says. “I knew how to cook, but I didn’t know how to run a business. They gave me the training and the tools. And now I’m looking forward to more marketing and getting my name and business out there.”

Volume 1: May 2011  

Page through a sneak preview of our debut issue, dropping next Wednesday at our new tumblr--get your adrenaline pumping with 4 summer advent...

Volume 1: May 2011  

Page through a sneak preview of our debut issue, dropping next Wednesday at our new tumblr--get your adrenaline pumping with 4 summer advent...

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