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Shanae's Story

Disability is no barrier to becoming a business owner

CCS Disability Action is about to launch ‘My Business’, an innovative new national programme which supports, connects and funds disabled people who want to become, or who already are, self-employed.

According to Statistics New Zealand disabled people within the working population have a higher rate of self-employment at 24 percent, compared with 17 percent of the non-disabled working population. Disabled people are more likely to embark on self-employment than the non-disabled population. This phenomenon is replicated internationally. For example, in the United States disabled people are nearly twice as likely to be self-employed. Disabled people therefore have substantial contributions to make to their community and to society through entrepreneurship.

One such person is energetic and driven 23-year-old Blenheim local, Shanae Yates. Shanae has had an interest in health and fitness since she completed an Outward Bound Course in 2014. Having a physical impairment means Shanae spends a lot of time in the gym for rehabilitation and strength training. It is the impact exercise has had on her own wellbeing that’s inspired her to want to train others and to open her own personal training business.

“Exercising has really helped me to mentally accept my Cerebral Palsy. Keeping active helps me to be more in control of my life and my body.” 

Shanae will be awarded a Certificate in Personal Training, on 31st May 2019 from Skills Active. It’s not been an easy road and she has faced many knock-backs along the way, mostly from people who underestimated Shanae’s inner strength and determination. “I learned to stand up for myself and have shown others that disability doesn’t brand a person incapable.”

The My Business programme is created by the team at CCS Disability Action, including Dr Jenny Douché who developed the Master of Innovation and Commercialisation programme at Victoria University of Wellington, and the Activate business start-up programme, delivered by the then Grow Wellington (now the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency). The programme is supported by the Open Polytechnic and Findex Community Fund.

My Business provides personalised recommendations, connections and funding for a wide range of business-related support services.  Shanae is in the planning phase of My Business and has already identified her business strengths and weaknesses.  Where she excels in physical fitness knowledge and is easily able to gain rapport and build strong relationships with her clients, she lacks understanding in financial and practical business systems, such as accounting, laws and taxes. The My Business programme aims to connect Shanae with the business experts in her community and strengthen these parts within her practice.

CCS Disability Action Service Manager for Blenheim, Wendy Greig works alongside Shanae with her My Business goals and says, “The My Business programme has created a new pathway for Shanae to get up and running by connecting her with people in the community to collaborate with and take her business to the next level without the pressure of having to know everything herself.”

Shanae believes her unique selling point is her lived experience of disability. Although her current clients are able-bodied, Shanae would like to serve both able bodied and disabled clientele. “I know what it feels like to be disabled and I understand what disabled people need, to feel comfortable.”

Shanae wants to create her own business over becoming an employee as she wants to educate people that she is capable and her disability doesn’t define her. When asked how she will make a difference, Shanae explains; “I’ve had so many people tell me I can’t do that because I have a disability. My fiancé jokes that no one should ever tell me that I can’t do something, because I’ll always prove them wrong. And now I’m on my way to becoming a business owner.” Shanae is careful to clarify that, while others’ lowered expectations have been a challenge, it’s her internal drive to succeed that keeps her going. “I’m not doing it to prove them wrong; I’m doing this because fitness is my passion and watching people transform and become confident is important to me.”

Jenny Douché will be presenting at the NZDSN Annual Conference, 29-30th May 2019 in Wellington on the topic of self-employment as a viable option for disabled people. The presentation is based on a research paper Jenny wrote, which was subsequently turned into a book authored by CCS Disability Action, called Disability and self-employment. Contact us for a complimentary copy.


For further information contact:

Jenny Douché

National Manager, Business Innovation

CCS Disability Action

MOB: 021 126 5555

DDI: 04 801 0214 ETN: 2172


Shanae Yates3

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