North Carolina State Policies
Department of Health and Human Services
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (Division):
To ensure that resources are successfully invested and to increase the likelihood of success of the self-employment venture, the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (Division) uses the Self-Employment Evaluation and Direction Setting (SEEDS) process. The SEEDS process lays the foundation for determining if the Division will support the enterprise.
The SEEDS begins with a Preliminary Business Assessment or more recently the completion of a “Lean Canvas,” which is a one-page template that helps an individual deconstruct and analyze their business concept. To complete this assessment, clients provide an outline of the business concept or idea, detail their skills and experiences which will lead to success, demonstrate that they understand who their customers will be and what their customers need, and identify the expected wage to be earned. If the Preliminary Business Assessment indicates self-employment is a realistic direction, a Small Business Specialist becomes involved. Next, two major areas of assessment are completed as part of the SEEDS: a Fit Evaluation followed by a Feasibility Evaluation. The Fit Evaluation focuses on the client’s Personality Fit, Vocational Fit and Financial Fit. The Financial Fit assessment also involves a credit report and score, a Personal Financial Statement and Monthly Personal Budget Plan which are internal documents. Each area has specific questions to answer and specific guidelines for rating. The Fit Evaluation must be approved by the Unit Manager to move on to the Feasibility Evaluation.
The Feasibility Evaluation focuses on Market Feasibility, Revenue Feasibility and Long-term Profit Feasibility. The Business Plan, developed by the client with assistance from the Small Business Specialist, Counselor and perhaps outside consultants e.g., SCORE, serves as the basis for the Feasibility Evaluation. Additional information contained in the Business Plan is a list of equipment, materials, licenses, training and other resources needed for success.
The ratings from the SEEDS evaluation can indicate that an alternative employment goal needs to be selected, or gaps are noted and corrective action steps are identified, or the process can move forward. If ratings indicate to move forward, the Self-Employment Application package is completed.
The Self-Employment Application package compiles the information gathered through the process, with more information around purchasing of equipment, the client contribution, and a cover letter summarizing the rational for approval. This is submitted to the Small Business Specialist who then forwards it to the Chief of Policy for approval. Once approved a Self-Employment Agreement is signed by the counselor and client. This internal document details the agreements made and the obligations of both the Division and the client.
Once operating, monthly Business Performance Reports along with monthly business financial reports, must be submitted for a minimum of six months. The case can be closed when these reports indicate that the profit target set in the Self-Employment Agreement is met.
For individuals who have been designated as Most Severely Disabled (MSD) and want to pursue self-employment, the Division will support ventures that have identified a support team and show that the client is performing at least one of the essential functions of the business. Analysis is made of the specific support the client will need to be successful, the skill and experience of the support personnel and their reliability and commitment to the business and person.
This process is required for any venture requesting $2500.00 or more. Funding request for lesser amount can be approved at the Unit level with the Small Business Specialist. Additionally, for ventures requesting $2499.00 or less, a business plan is encouraged although not required.
The Division uses a sliding scale to determine its’ contribution, but in all cases the client must contribute at least 10%. Clients must contribute more than 25% for funding requests between $2500.00 and $9999.00 and more than 50% for requests between $20,000.00 and $50,000.00. The client contribution can be in-kind (equipment, office space etc.,)