Introduction to Micro Enterprise and starting your own business

Since 2011, Jayne Barrett has managed the design and trialling of CLP’s Micro Enterprise Project which assists people who live with significant disabilities to have their own small business as an alternative to attending day programs.

People who live with significant disabilities have traditionally only been offered recreation services in day programs, or possibly sheltered employment in segregated settings. CLP’s Micro Enterprise Project (MEP) is a new service which offers employment for people who have traditionally not been seen to have capacity to work.

The MEP framework is designed specifically using principles which underpin the goals of the NDIS and individualised funding, working collaboratively with the person, their family, personal networks and community members.

The MEP framework inspires and supports people with assistance to create a micro enterprise matched to their personal interests, gifts, talents and resources.

An MEP Consultant is contracted to work with each person guiding them through a process of enterprise Discovery, Creation, Operation and Maintenance, a process that usually takes around 3-6 months. In the Discovery phase the enterprise focus (product or service) is developed via understanding the person’s gifts, talents, interests and capacities; consideration of their personal stamina to establish the hours of business and tasks to be performed.

The person uses their individualised funding and is assisted to recruit a specific paid worker in the role of Enterprise PA (personal assistant). Recruiting a PA who has skills in the particular business focus is critical and they do not undertake any other home or community support role. The PA works during the enterprise business hours assisting the owner with enterprise tasks. Each person has an Enterprise Management Group (EMG) which includes invited community members with expertise in the enterprise focus, who give freely of their time. The EMG has an oversight management role, setting pricing of the enterprise product or service and marketing.

Benefits we see

Enterprise owners benefit from the pride they feel in providing a high standard of service or product, and having their contributions acknowledged by their customers and local community members. We see people building skills and increasingly being able to be involved in most, if not all, of the daily enterprise tasks. Having a little extra spending money or a growing bank balance is a direct reward for their work efforts!

Each enterprise is centred in local community, using local business for purchasing their supplies; having a base of local enterprise customers that are visited regularly; using the local banks and other utilities regularly.

Some comments from people involved

‘Now he has a role in life, that other people value -because everyone values a job’


‘Her enterprise gives her the opportunity to make connections and build relationships in her community’


‘He looks forward with keen interest every day about what he’s going to do. When he’s finished his work he comes in and says what a good day……. he has that inner feeling of accomplishment and he gets a lot of pride out of that’


‘What a buzz to make something that people like enough to buy’


‘I love to see people’s eyebrows go up when he says he has a business, and then they start talking about what it is’


‘He relates to the idea that he is working and has a business, like his Dad. He responds with a smile when this comparison is made’


‘She is making use of her strengths and attributes making a contribution in her community’


‘Working on enterprise tasks alongside his PA is a new life experience and learning which he is really enjoying’


Our vision is that all people with significant disabilities living in Australia have the option to choose to pursue their individual careers by establishing their own micro-enterprise. Through the enterprise support network created around each person, a key outcome has been the impact of changing community expectations and building community capacity.

When most of us meet somebody new one of the first questions we ask, or are asked, is “what do you do?” Our aim is to give people the dignity of having a good answer to that question.

Helen Neale

Helen Neale is the mother of Tom, who left school with the ambition of having his own lawn mowing business.

In the middle of 2016, I heard of CLP’s Micro Enterprise Project through a friend, and I immediately became interested in what they could offer my son who would soon be leaving school.
Tom was not at all interested in working in supported employment, and we felt that he wasn’t being encouraged by school to do anything but, so it was a relief to come across CLP who had the same vision for our son – to work in the local community doing something he was good at and loved!

Tom had been doing some work experience at a Nursing home helping the groundsmen, and he also enjoyed cutting our lawns, so with the assistance of the Micro Enterprise Project we helped Tom set up his own lawn mowing business, Ground Control by Major Tom.

Through a gradual transition, Tom was able to finish school and go straight into working in his own micro business. This really helped him feel less anxious about life post school, and it raised his self-esteem to be able to tell people what his plans were.

Because Tom is eligible for day options, we have been able to use this funding via CLP to employ Craig, as Tom’s Enterprise PA 3 days a week, from 9.30-3.

Having Craig assist Tom on the job means that he can offer a full, top quality service, as Craig does the things Tom can’t do such as drive to the jobs, whipper snip, and remember to bring home all the equipment!

Tom has been very fortunate to have lots of support from family, friends and the local community. The local Lions club donated Tom’s equipment, and he already has 12 regular customers. Ground Control by Major Tom has a facebook page with over 200 likes, and Tom also regularly does his own mail box drops to obtain new customers.

Being an outdoor job the major challenges have been the weather and stepping on dog poo (!) but mainly these are quite easily overcome and the benefits far outweigh any problems. Tom has lost weight, grown a foot in self-esteem, and generally is very happy.

We believe that Tom functions at his best when surrounded by supportive people in a mainstream environment, and our common goal is for Tom to be working in a satisfying role and contributing in a positive way to society. So far Tom having his own lawn business has fulfilled this goal, and he is enjoying his independence and post school life very much.

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