"Don't let what you cannot do get in the way of what you can do."  - John Wooden

What is BrainWorks?

BrainWorks is an innovative new project to assist individuals with brain injury in starting a business. This is part of a two-year research project funded by the Kessler Foundation. The BrainWorks program was developed by individuals with brain injury who are self-employed, self-employment facilitators who are knowledgeable about self employment and have experience working with people with disabilities, and research staff at the Center for Human Development.

Participants in BrainWorks will go through a customized self-employment process and will receive  assistance with:

  • Identifying supporters
  • Identifying a business concept
  • Writing a business plan
  • Preparing to launch a business
  • Maintaining a business

BrainWorks will not...

  • Be a source for or a link to business funding, but will help to identify and apply for funding
  • Provide long-term support, but will help to identify community resources and develop support teams
  • Do all the work for the participant, but will provide guidance so the participant can do the work


Who can participate?

Individuals with acquired or traumatic brain injury, aged 18-65, who are interested in starting their own business are eligible to participate. Participants do not have to have a developed business idea, but they should show a strong interest in starting their own business.

BrainWorks self-employment facilitators are located in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau which limits participation to those areas. If you live in another area of Alaska please contact the Juneau facilitator for other resources.

BrainWorks Facilitators 


Jackie Stewart
Business Works LLC
(907) 321-4643


Darlene Kawennano:ron Johnson, MSW, CRP
(907) 223-6866


   Pam Sprout,  M.Ed
   Employ Ability
   (907) 590-9824 Microenterprise Grant
A grant to support Mental Health trust beneficiaries start or expand small businesses
Application Deadlines
2014-2015 dates pending

How do I sign up?

There will be two opportunities to sign up for this program. The first sign-up is in July/August 2012 and the second is in January 2013. Contact the facilitator in your community for more information and to register (see facilitator contact information in the yellow panel above on the right).

What is the process?

After you contact your local facilitator, you will be invited to attend an Introduction to Customized Self-Employment. This is a requirement for anyone who wants to participate in the program. Support persons will have the opportunity to attend an orientation to the program at a later date.

If you want to continue with self-employment, you and your supports will complete a commitment form and a consent form to participate in the study. You will also have to provide documentation of your brain injury.

You will go through Discovery with your facilitator and supports. This will help you to determine a business concept. Then your facilitator will work with you on writing a business plan, finding a business mentor, and preparing to launch your business.

What is customized self-employment?

Customized self-employment focuses on an individual's strengths and works to design a business that fits the individual's unique lifestyle, strengths, and disability. It starts with Discovery, which is a method of uncovering an individual's unique abilities, passions, and ideal working conditions. Discovery can lead to business ideas that may not be realized through traditional vocational evaluation processes. Discovery guides the business type, operations, marketing strategies, and expectations.

Individuals with brain injury present unique challenges that may interfere with sustaining employment, such as memory deficits, fatigue, executive functioning impairments, physical impairments, and increased irritability and aggressiveness. Customized self-employment encourages an individual to recognize their strengths, engage natural supports, and develop coping skills so that they can be successful. The support team is an essential part of Discovery and customized self-employment. Both natural and paid supports can offer insight on an individual's strengths and can also help brainstorm business ideas.