Self-Employment Overview



Self-Employment may be considered in the wide array of employment options available for eligible clients of Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) and the Iowa Department for the Blind (IDB).  It is not an appropriate goal for everyone so it is essential that a client is well-informed of potential risks, and efforts are made to minimize those risks when considering the IVRS/IDB

Iowa Self-Employment (ISE) program. 


ISE is designed for the IVRS/IDB client whose goal is complete self-sufficiency through the operation of a business.  Self-employment is a vocational option available only to profit-making businesses intended for operation within the State of Iowa.  Because the purpose of ISE is to support an employment outcome that will significantly contribute to a client’s self-sufficiency, individuals who are not interested in achieving that level of economic independence are encouraged to explore opportunities through the Medicaid Infrastructure or similar types of quality-of-life venues.  ISE requires 51 percent ownership by the client in a for-profit business that is actively owned, operated and managed in Iowa.   


The entire Self-Employment process should be a joint venture between Rehabilitation Clients and Counselors, in collaboration with IVRS Business Development Specialists. Other individuals such as IVRS/IDB Supervisors and Administrators, along with consultants and or service providers, vendors and those responsible for providing financial or technical support may also be involved.  Communication between the client and IVRS representatives is an ongoing process and is essential to ensure common understanding of the intricacies of self-employment.


ISE is a tiered system in which an eligible client is afforded an opportunity to explore options before actual business planning begins.  Continued involvement in this program can be considered as the client progresses through each step outlined in the five step Self-Employment process. 


Funding for Self-Employment is allocated by the Iowa legislature and consistent with the authorized use of Title 1 Vocational Rehabilitation funds and policy.  Financial assistance may be awarded based upon demonstrated need and evidence of business progression.  A client must provide a dollar-for-dollar match of the funds requested to start, expand or acquire a business up to a maximum of $10,000.  Technical assistance funds may be used for specialized consulting services as determined necessary up to a maximum of $10,000 per applicant.


From October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2011, there have been 141 successful businesses assisted through ISE after funds were awarded to support business operations for IVRS/IDB clients. Click here to view a map of businesses.  


Examples of businesses assisted by the ISE program include the following:


Accident Re-constructionist

Auto Repair




Coffee Shop




Custom Air Brush Service

Day Care

Dog Breeder

Doggie Daycare

Exotic Animal Breeder

Furniture Finisher

Optical Finisher

Over-The-Road Trucker


Shuttle Services

Sound Technician

Stained Glass Manufacturer

Tax Services



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