Deaf Entrepreneurs: Stories that Change Perception

By mmiller  |  May 23, 2022

South by Southwest is one of the most diverse, collaborative, and inventive conferences in the world, where visionaries come together and share their cutting-edge ideas for the future. At SXSW 2022, CSD CEO Chris Soukup and CSD Social Venture Fund President Rosa Lee Timm spotlighted the importance of investing in Deaf entrepreneurs in a presentation titled “Deaf Entrepreneurs: Stories that Change Perception.”

What perceptions is CSD Social Venture Fund challenging, exactly? The view that Deaf and disabled people are less qualified, less capable, or less worthy of opportunities that are available to the rest of society. Deaf people and Deaf entrepreneurs who dare to dream big must overcome inaccessible, inequitable systems and negative misconceptions about things like costly accommodations.

In reality, Deaf and disabled people are fully capable of anything and everything. The real barrier is bias.

From Seeking Access to Seeking Equitability

CSD was founded almost 50 years ago on the principles of providing accessibility and employment opportunities for Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, hard of hearing, and late deafened people. As CSD evolves, so do its strategies. In 2017, CSD established the CSD Social Venture Fund (SVF) to invest in and support Deaf-owned businesses that are making a positive impact in the Deaf community. Our team recognized that our community needed a resource where Deaf entrepreneurs didn’t have to fight for access to opportunities to grow their business. Accessibility for the Deaf and disabled community historically translates to "let's provide accommodations for this group of people we didn't include in our plans.” CSD SVF wants to build an equitable space where Deaf and disabled entrepreneurs are seen as being as talented and as capable as the rest of the entrepreneurial community.

That is where the work we are doing at CSD and CSD SVF comes into play. We are going beyond providing access to providing equitability and leading by example. We invite you to join us.

Watch the Presentation

Watch Chris and Rosa Lee’s SXSW 2022 presentation to get an inside look at:

  • SVF’s eight business partners, their products and services, and the impact they are making in their Deaf communities.
  • How SVF is changing its strategies to become more inclusive of the diversities within the Deaf community.
  • What you can do to tap into Deaf success and support the Deaf Ecosystem.

About the Presenters

Rosa Lee Timm joined CSD as Chief Marketing Officer in 2019. She became the Division President of CSD SVF in 2021 and has been transforming how this division supports Deaf entrepreneurs. As a self-identified BIPOC, Deaf, Queer woman from the Midwest who is also a well-known and successful entrepreneur, Rosa Lee is using her personal and professional life experiences to guide CSD SVF into new territories, including making more intentional, inclusive investments that prioritize BIPOC entrepreneurs.

Chris Soukup is the CEO of CSD and the Board Chairman of the CSD SVF. He became CEO of CSD in 2014 after working at the organization for 13 years. Under Chris’ leadership, CSD develops innovative solutions to the barriers that prevent Deaf and hard of hearing people from gaining and maintaining employment. CSD works in tandem with CSD SVF to support the hiring of deaf people, put more money into our Deaf communities, and boost financial independence.

Support the Deaf Ecosystem

Interested in supporting the Deaf Ecosystem? Visit our directory of Deaf-owned businesses to find businesses you can support through patronage or partnership.

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