Iowa Self-Employment (ISE) is a program designed for job candidates of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services or Iowa Department for the Blind (IDB) whose vocational goal is self-employment. 

While most of Vocational Rehabilitation Services focuses on helping job candidates get hired by someone else, the ISE program provides technical and financial assistance to help individuals with disabilities achieve self-sufficiency and work at their optimum level by starting, expanding, or purchasing a business. The business itself must be "for-profit" and Iowa-based. Referrals to the ISE program are made by VRS/ IDB counselors.

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What Kind of Assistance Does ISE Provide?

In addition to business counseling services and technical assistance from the Business Development Specialist, ISE provides two kinds of monetary funding: Financial Assistance and Technical Assistance. This funding is provided through one of two different programs: Microenterprise ISE or Full ISE.

Financial Assistance

Financial Assistance (FA) is used primarily to provide tangible assets to your business. This can include but is not limited to:

  • Business equipment,
  • Flyers,
  • Supplies,
  • Inventory,
  • Computers and software,
  • Advertising,
  • Insurance, and 
  • Business-related rent costs for up to six months.

Up to $10,000 of assistance can be received, based on an individual's Dollar-for-Dollar Match.

Technical Assistance

Technical Assistance (TA) is used to purchase specialized services that are above the expertise of the Business Specialist and counselor. Some common uses for these funds are: 

  • Paying for legal fees,
  • Help with accounting,
  • Website developers, and
  • Graphic designers.

Up to $10,000 of assistance can be received.​ No Dollar-for-Dollar Match is required.

Microenterprise ISE

Microenterprise ISE is used for individuals that want to start, or have, a business that needs less than $1,500 in FA and less than $1,500 in TA. No Dollar-for-Dollar Match is required.

Full ISE

Full ISE is used for individuals who are or want to become entrepreneurs and who own their own business. Individuals can be the sole owner or have co-owners in a partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), or corporation. Feasibility of the business idea must be investigated with the team.

Full ISE is best suited if your business needs are greater than $1,500 for FA and $1,500 for TA. ISE FA is based on a Dollar-for-dollar Match for up to $10,000. For ISE TA up to $10,000 max, no Dollar-for-Dollar Match is required. A comprehensive business plan is required in order to determine the feasibility of the business concept. The Business Development Specialist's primary role is to assist individuals with business planning.

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What Businesses Does ISE Support?

What Businesses Does ISE Support? ISE supports most businesses. However, there are a few that cannot be supported. These include:

  • Non-profits,
  • Multi-level marketing,
  • Illegal businesses, and
  • Businesses inconsistent with community standards.
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Is Self-Employment Right for You?

Your VR/ IDB counselor can help you explore ISE to find out if self-employment is the right strategy for your career success.

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Contact Us

Find an VRS office nearest to you, or call us at (515) 281-4211 to be referred to an IVRS counselor in your area. People who are blind or severely visually impaired should contact the Iowa Department for the Blind at (800) 362-2587.

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