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

Laura Jackman (Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)
Laura Galloway (Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)
Isla Kapasi (Leeds University Business School, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)
Rebecca Stirzaker (Department of Business, Strategy and Political Sciences, University of South-Eastern Norway – Campus Drammen, Drammen, Norway)
Andreea Mihut (University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 12 October 2021

Issue publication date: 2 November 2021




This paper aims to explore experiences of poverty in the enterprise amongst people with a disability or long-term health challenges. This 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 a business where that business is providing income-poverty. In so doing, it subscribes to the idea that the enterprise involves reflexive engagement of an agent in context where value(s) of the 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 these participants and a thematic analysis with specific reference to Theory of Venturing, which proposes that the value of enterprise is reflexively and idiosyncratically understood and morphogenetic, was used to explore itinerant issues, experiences and challenges.


In line with the theory, findings include that disability and poor health are observed to be both prompters and shapers of an 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.


This 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. This 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.



Jackman, L., Galloway, L., Kapasi, I., Stirzaker, R. and Mihut, A. (2021), "Good option or only option? Poverty, disability, health and enterprise", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 27 No. 8, pp. 2079-2095.



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