Good option or only option? Poverty, disability, health and enterprise

Laura Jackman, Laura Galloway, Isla Kapasi, Rebecca Stirzaker, Andreea Mihut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper explores experiences of poverty in enterprise amongst people with a disability or long-term health challenge. The paper departs somewhat from established wisdom about economic or financial drivers of enterprise by exploring why a disabled individual would start and continue to operate in business where that business is providing income-poverty. In so doing it subscribes to the idea that enterprise involves reflexive engagement of an agent in context where value(s) of enterprise other than financial may be prioritised.

The research draws from a larger qualitative study of self-employment and poverty in which half the sample (21 individuals) identified as experiencing disability or poor health. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants and a thematic analysis with specific reference to Theory of Venturing, that proposes that the value of enterprise is reflexively and idiosyncratically understood, was used to explore itinerant issues, experiences, and challenges.

In line with theory, findings include that disability and poor health are observed to be both prompters and shapers of enterprise, and that the value of enterprise is not always primarily associated with financial wealth for the participants in the sample. Flexibility and autonomy are attractive features of self-employment for some in the face of an inflexible and sometimes hostile labour market.

The paper demonstrates that engaging in enterprise is motivated by an agent’s reflexive evaluation of value(s) and how that enables them to navigate their structural condition(s); this contribution enhances theoretical approaches to enterprise and business creation by illuminating some of its diversity. The paper also contributes some much needed data about a group who are under-represented in the enterprise literature, despite being over-represented in practice. There are implications and recommendations for policy and practice in the exposure and analysis of the issues emerging.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Sep 2021


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